The Voice (interlude)
110-1106, Narmada, Red Sun City Detention Facility
“So far as cells go,” Rand Tyler said aloud to himself, “this one’s fairly nice.”
He was sitting on the padded platform that had been his bed for the past four days. There was a combination toilet, sink, drinking fountain and sonic shower in the opposite corner. Armored light panels in the ceiling lit the room with a soft hue resembling a hazy day. There were no chairs, no windows, no video or holographic displays, no computer terminal, no clock and nothing else to relieve the monotonous beige earth-tone of the entire room from floor to light fixture.
The only break in the monotony of his incarceration was the delivery of his synthetic food rations through the slot in the cell’s only door. The rotating dispenser didn’t permit him even a peek at what lay beyond that door. Three times a day he was presented with an unwrapped nutrient bar and a small handful-sized pile of soy-kibble. The light remained the same intensity day and night.
“Won’t work,” he said, mostly to break the silence. “Isolation won’t break me,” he added, not expecting an answer.
“You have a visitor,” said a voice that seemed to come from the ceiling.
Rand started, flinching at the sound of it. “Who?” he asked.
The door slid aside allowing a solitary man to step inside. The door closed behind him. The man placed his back against it and regarded Rand.
Rand sighed. “Your Grace,” he said with a nod. “You’re looking decidedly under-dressed.”
Marquis Toyama interlaced his fingers and popped his knuckles. “I could say the same for you,” he said.
Rand smiled. “Well, perhaps my next cell will have a closet to increase the variety,” he said.
“Doubtful,” replied Toyama. He paused to take a breath before he stood upright and took a step toward the prisoner. “Do you know why I’m here?”
“To take your bloody retribution?” mocked Rand. “That would explain the cheap outfit.”
Rand wasn’t exactly sure how it happened, but when he regained his senses he was laying face-down on the beige floor of the cell. His chest and the back of his head hurt. He couldn’t seem to draw a breath around the fire in his ribs. For several desperate moments, all he could focus on was trying to breathe.
Somewhere above and behind him, Toyama was speaking. “We’re going to have a talk, now,” the marquis said. “You’re going to tell me who hired you to murder Baron Alton Richards.” Hands grabbed Rand, hauling him up to his feet and then slamming him against one of the walls of the cell, pinning him there.
The marquis’ voice was close to Rand’s left ear. “I don’t have a lot of time to waste on this discussion with you,” Toyama said. Rand cried out at a stinging sensation at the base of his spine. The injection spread like ice as it mounted his spine.
“You can’t –“ Rand protested, but his legs were kicked out from under him and the marquis’ hands slammed him to the floor of the cell once again.
“I am,” replied Toyama through a growl. “The only reason I didn’t come here the very night of your sentencing and beat you to a bloody pulp is that I need what you know. I’ve spent the last four days trying other sources to find out who hired you. I’ve run out of sources and I’m almost out of time. They’re placing you in a hibernation berth in the morning. So here we are.”
Rand noticed the beige floor was changing color and whimpered. The truth drug was beginning to take effect. “They’ll kill me,” he whimpered.
“You honestly think I’ll let those responsible live?” replied Toyama. “Now tell me.”
Rand turned his head and instantly regretted it as the room swam around him. All he could focus on was Toyama’s lips. “Tell me,” they said.
Rand did. He couldn’t stop himself. All the names spilled out as the room twisted and spiraled around him. Toyama’s mouth was his anchor – it would speak and Rand would respond. Somewhere, a voice was screaming at him to shut up, but it was so very far away.
And as suddenly as they began, the drug’s effects wore off. The cell was solid and beige again; and Rand felt very ill. Toyama helped him to the toilet and steadied him while he threw up. The sound of the toilet’s operation painfully overwhelmed his senses. By the time he’d recovered enough to crawl back to his sleeping platform, the marquis was long gone.
He lay there for some time before he felt well enough to walk back over to the drinking fountain. As he drank, it struck him – his eyes widened with the realization.
“That was my voice,” he said aloud as his shoulders began to shake. “My voice,” he sobbed as he sank to the floor.