Hot Anger Is Sometimes Less Useful than Cold Logic, Especially When You Have Tricks up Your Sleeve
Cal woke up cold, wrapping his arms around himself immediately. He was naked again and damp all over, laying on a hard bed.
He sat up, looked around the room. The walls, ceiling and floor were all metal, and there was a square window on one wall, a door set into the wall opposite that. A free-standing basin and a privy and that was it. The rest of the room was empty.
Shivering, Cal stepped off the bed onto the cold floor. He’d never been in a room that looked like this, but he’d been in rooms that had this feel, including recently in Narwhal Junction. He was in prison.
Trying to warm up, Cal paced the room back and forth. The metal was well worked, smooth on his feet, on his hands when he touched the walls. It was dull and colourless, and Cal didn’t see any signs of workmanship, no panels or nails or rivets or anything. It was just six sheets of metal, broken only by the window and the door.
The door didn’t open, not that Cal had figured it would. The metal all around it was solid, and banging on the door proved it just as unyielding. Was everyone else in a room like this? They must all be freaking out. Mick, Wes and Travis especially. Ray especially, fuck. He didn’t deserve this. None of them, but they’d just gotten Ray out of one cage, he shouldn’t be in another one so soon.
And by himself. They were probably all by themselves. Ray would be freaking out. Joey would be freaking out too. Shit, shit.
Okay, okay. Cal couldn’t be freaking out too. Somebody had to be level-headed. Someone had to get them out of this. Cal had gotten out of jails before, he’d get out of this one too.
He climbed up on the bed and used it to get to the window, which had no bars on it, just glass. It looked out onto a metal wall. Cal banged on the glass, found it as solid as rock. He let himself fall to the floor, landing hard on the metal. He crossed his arms, looking at the window. That wasn’t going to be a way out, or it wouldn’t be here.
The basin was solidly built into the wall, but it and the privy were the only places Cal could see a seam. They were sort of like the kind they had on Earth, Cal thought, but slimmer, more like pods than anything. The basin had a faucet controlled by a dial on its top and a drain that the water went down. The plumbing had to leave the room. The privy would be the same way, a pool of water that Cal was still annoyed about because it looked like a basin, but it and anything in it could be sucked away and replaced with clean water, though Cal didn’t see the handle that had done that with the privies on Earth. He ran his hands over the top of it and when he stepped away, the water whooshed away. Huh.
The water wouldn’t come through pipes big enough for Cal to fit through, but it was something. There was a way out of the room.
Now Cal turned back to the door, which didn’t have visible hinges. Unless they were planning to starve him to death in here, someone would have to bring food in eventually. The people here were humans, so it would be edible for him, at least. Bob hadn’t thought there should be humans here, they were supposed to be extinct. But they were, or they’d looked like it, anyway.
Cal probably couldn’t overpower an armed and armoured guard all on his own. The bed had a thin blanket on it, a little damp where Cal had been laying. If he fashioned it into a kind of noose or something, that could work. But they’d have thought of that.
Hopefully they wouldn’t have thought to check if Cal actually was unarmed and unarmoured, though. He rubbed the spot on his wrist, the one that let him summon Bob’s gun. He didn’t have any reason to assume it wasn’t working. He could call it here.
But not yet. They’d be expecting him to attack them when they eventually came. Cal hoped the rest of his team was smart enough not to attack a guard. He wasn’t convinced Joey and Sully wouldn’t. Beatrice at least had been arrested enough times that she was probably calm.
Cal went and sat on the bed, wondering why they’d gotten him wet. Washing him was the most obvious thing, but why? He hadn’t been dirty and why would they care anyway? Had they immersed him in something or poured something on him? Maybe for some ritual they had. An experiment? Cal pinched his hair, got a little liquid out of it onto two fingers. He smelled it, tasted it. It was just water. Or at least if it was something else, it seemed like water.
Without a sound, the door opened inwards and a guard in a grey uniform that matched the walls marched in. He wasn’t wearing armour unless it was hidden under the fabric of his clothes. He definitely looked human, maybe about ten years older than Cal, darker skin, a square haircut with lines on the sides. He was holding a tray and had a package under his arm, and was watching Cal like he might do something. “Can you at least tell me what crime I committed?” Cal asked, watching him. “I’m not sorry, but I can at least try not to do it again.”
The man put the tray down at the foot of the bed, and then took the package out and set it down as well. It turned out to be Cal’s clothes. He said something to Cal, nodding at the tray, the clothes.
Cal tilted his head. The language wasn’t like any that he knew, and that wasn’t surprising. If Bob was right and they were on Earth over five thousand years after it had been supposedly destroyed. Languages changed pretty damn fast.
Cal reached up, noticing that the guy flinched a little, and stuck his pinky finger into his right ear, pushing it pretty deep inside to clean it out. There was no earwax in there. He really hoped he got what he was reaching for. Bob had turned it off when Cal had left Earth, but Cal was pretty sure the language beetle was still in there somewhere. Bob had said when they’d been arrested that he’d be able to translate the language with a larger sample. “Sorry,” he said. “I didn’t quite catch that.” How large, he wondered, was a large sample?
The guy talked to him again, then turned around. “Where are my teammates?” Cal asked, raising his voice a little. “You’d better not hurt them or you’ll regret it.”
He got one more line, and the guy left. Cal watched him go, mostly looking at the door’s three hidden hinges, and at the metal hallway outside, and hearing the scuff of another pair of boots from his partner. They were talking to each other, and Cal strained to hear them until the door shut.
Ray and Sully and even Arky would probably be able to figure out some of the language all on their own, but Cal had Bob’s gifts to help him along. The beetle that translated languages for him, hopefully active again. The gun, some armour. He wasn’t as stuck here as he seemed. Hopefully.
But, he thought, as he moved forward to inspect the food, which was a grain he didn’t recognize, some colourless vegetables. But they’d known to bring this to him. It was hot, even. Had they heard him banging on the solid metal door?
More likely they were watching him somehow. Cal was careful not to touch his wrist again after that. He didn’t need them knowing that he had help.
And if they chose to think that isolating him and watching him meant they could contain him when they’d taken away his team, they had another thing coming. As soon as Cal had a chance, he’d be putting the fear of God into these assholes.