LORD OF THE RED THRONE
A New Day, a New Prison
Afraid of a little dark? Really now, what’s gotten into you?
The train car was completely silent, save for the low rumbling of the wind against its walls. Not a word was spoken by anyone on board – not the barely-visible figures of the prisoners slouched beside me, nor the armoured guards watching from the shadows, like eerie statues in a lost, dark temple. Within this stillness, the little nagging gadfly of a voice found ample opportunity to mock me from the back of my mind.
In truth, it wasn’t like me to be so unsettled by the cramped, dark space of the car, or the handcuffs gripping my wrists. I’d been in and out of jail more times than I could count, and when I wasn’t holed up in a cell, I spent most of my time hiding in the nooks and crannies of the run-down sh*thole of a district I called my home. Being stuck in places like this was almost second nature to me, and yet there was something about it that put me off. Maybe it was how hopelessly silent and motionless everyone was, ever since the guards herded us in here with their whips and rifle barrels. I’ve never had to deal with officers of this caliber before, looking like shock troops in their powered exoskeletons – I could hardly blame the others for not putting up a fight. Or maybe it was because I was stuck inside a windowless, unlit metal box packed full of other prisoners, taking me to some destination I could only guess at. Perhaps a combination of the two.
As the train came to a stop, and the doors opened onto the station, the outside air did very little to ease me up. Grey skies hung over me like a blanket, and as I breathed in, a harsh, burning sensation brushed against my lungs. When I was prodded out of the car with a buttstock to my shoulder, I was met with a decidedly un-picturesque view. On one side of the station were huge walls jutting out into the sky; on the other, towering dilapidated blocks of concrete lay before me like crude, massively upscaled termite mounds. Despite everything, I had never seen a place as intimidatingly ugly as this. After getting ordered to line up at the station platform, I watched as crowds of inmates from the cars in front of me were herded further into the station, beaten and prodded along the way like cattle, presumably to be sent into the city – if I could call it that, though doing so would be an insult even to the dump I grew up in – where they would be subjected to whatever was waiting for them in the giant slab-houses. As a new group of guards moved towards my platform, I noticed another, much smaller line of prisoners moving towards the opposite end of the station from the previous herds, before being taken down a stairway near the back of the train.
What’s up with them? I wondered to myself.
Off to the abattoirs, I bet, the voice morbidly joked in response. Poor saps.
Once the new guards arrived, they started combing through the assembled prisoners, briskly inspecting each one before moving on to the next with a dismissive grunt. Most were shoved towards the main crowd, getting dragged into their ranks and sent further into the station, while a few were sent the other way to join the smaller procession moving behind the train. Before long, it was my turn to be examined. The imposing, dull grey exoskeleton-clad figure stood before me, looking me up and down, gripping and pushing at my face and arms with a heavy, armoured hand, before branding my forehead with some sort of electric stamp and pushing me to the side. Another guard marched me into the secondary group, down the stairway, and into another, smaller train platform underground. A train car waited in front of me at the platform, its doors wide open, calling me into the darkness inside. After I climbed into it, the doors shut, and I once again found myself in a black box surrounded with silent, motionless inmates.
Been nice knowing you, said the voice, as cynical as ever. At least now you can feed your family.
That bastard really knew how to get to me.
Approved by Sovereign Oversight
The Emperor Watches