Recruit 010777, Formerly known as Naomi Lawless
Solitary confinement was reserved for the incredibly violent and disruptive. I wasn’t normally one of those types—knew plenty of them—but waking up day after day in this desolate place had broken me in a fundamental way, like a crystal goblet thrown on the floor, shattered into a million pieces.
At least that’s how I felt. On the outside, there was barely a scratch on me, just bruises where I’d been grabbed on my arms. But on the inside, it wasn’t just a war zone… it was a slaughter.
The sparkling white floors speckled with the crimson drops of blood still not dry—not mine, but still the scent of it filled the air. The dingy gray of the walls surrounded me, suffocating me….
I’d become one of those violent and disruptive types.
I barely recognized myself anymore. It was like I was on the outside looking in on the destruction.
Three days ago, I’d pulled a nice and easy, very profitable bank heist that no one had been the wiser about. I’d meticulously planned that fucker for months. Everything had been perfect. It had gone off without a hitch and I’d gotten everything stashed away in my secret places like planned.
I’d been set up for years just on that job alone. I was going to be free again.
I didn’t know what happened after that. Next thing I knew, I woke up in this gray room with its gray walls, and its gray doors, and the scent of stale hopelessness squeezing my last breath out of me. Some guy with scary eyes had welcomed me to my new life and I’d lost my shit.
Three days. Three days. Three days of sheer misery.
I only knew how long because of the sheer routines of this machine I’d been imprisoned in. Lights out. Lights on. Meals in and out. All at the same time every day. Nothing to do but lie in the darkness and wait for the light to come back. The first day, I didn’t think the light would ever come back. Hours had passed in darkness and loneliness. But it did come back, and it returned like clockwork, like a machine.
The machine suffocated me.
I needed out. I needed freedom. I needed air.
Something controlled that machine, and I needed to know what it was. If it was a computer, easy day. Tech was my specialty. It was why I’d never been caught in all the heists I’d pulled. I cleaned up after myself.
I had to do something. Force hadn’t worked. Two men now guarded my door, since the last escape attempt. It hadn’t been pretty. It had ended with a sedative injected into my neck and me strapped to a gurney.
At least—and I took some satisfaction in this—I’d left that guard with a way to remember me. I’d taken a nice chunk out of his arm. Even now, I could still taste the bitterness of the blood that had dried around my mouth, that faint metallic flavor that lingered on my tongue.
My stomach heaved with every breath, the hint of that taste traveling through my nostrils. I never had wanted to hurt people before, but this place was killing me already. Desperation reeked from my pores. I could smell it on myself. Combined with the stress of this prison, and the sheer emptiness of this room, an ache had developed deep inside my gut until I just couldn’t control myself anymore.
The metallic clang of the metal door boomed through my body, reverberating dread through me. Visits never ended up well for me. Sonya Patterson’s tall heels clicked across the floor, her presence like a sucker punch to my gut with every step she made.
She called herself a counselor. My advisor to this new life. She pushed every button I had, seemed to know exactly what would set me off. Sometimes, I thought she worked at finding them just to make me be out of control.
I backed against the wall, for my own protection. Last time she had come, I hadn’t been cautious enough. Her goons had snuck up behind me, overpowered me, and strapped me down and wheeled me to her office.
It had not been a pleasant one-on-one in there. My throat was still sore from the screaming. The things she’d done, torture with no questions asked, they’d haunt me like gum stuck to a shoe.
She didn’t speak at first. Silence deadened the room except for the click of her heels against the cold, hard floor. I flinched when the heavy door slammed shut.
Sonya placed her hands on her hips, her dark gaze sweeping over me, judging me in that sadistic mind of hers. Shivers rolled over me. I wanted to hide, but there was nowhere to go.
“I see you’re feeling more… well, I see you’re feeling better,” she replied, her calm and composed voice echoing through the room. Of all the things that could intimidate me about Sonya, from the painful metal instruments in her office to the way she walked… the calm way she spoke—the way nothing rattled her—that was the scariest part. Even in the midst of her last torture session, she never raised her voice, never changed her inflection.
She was always calm.
“How are you feeling?”
“Fuck you,” I spat back.
I wasn’t going to play, wasn’t going to succumb to her games. She kept talking about how eventually, I’d understand and revel in conforming to their ways. I wouldn’t let her break me. Not ever.
“You can’t keep me here forever. People will know I’m missing. They’re going to wonder, if they don’t already.”
The woman’s only response to my words was a slight upturn on one corner of her mouth. A knowing expression. I knew what it signified. Hope was dead. I just didn’t want to believe that. It would mean I’d lost.
“You are an impressive individual, Naomi,” she said finally. Her long blonde curls lay perfectly over her shoulders. The collar of her crimson dress swooped down to a deep V, revealing impressive cleavage. The material fitted tightly against her slim figure, flaring out at her hips. “I see such great things for you here.”
“I don’t want to be here.”
She continued in that calm voice, ignoring me. “Not many recruits with months of training could take down a guard twice her size so easily, and you’ve only been here for a few days.”
Easy? It hadn’t been easy. I’d operated on pure instinct. I’d seen the opening and I wanted out. The guy had simply been in my way. From the moment I’d woken up, my sole mission was to get free. I needed out. Everything here was wrong.
I didn’t even know who these people were. They weren’t government. I knew FBI procedures better than the FBI did and this wasn’t it. No local police, even the NYPD or LAPD would have the budget for what this place would cost. There were billions of dollars locked up in this complex. I could tell, from the cameras surveilling me to the alarm sensors on the door to the grade of the glass on the observation mirror.
“Superior training. Size. Strength. And yet, you beat him.” The smooth feminine voice coiled around me, squeezing my lungs tighter with every word she spoke.
“I want to go home.” My voice was weak, but filled with the desperation I felt.
“All you had were your instincts.”
And my teeth. I was oddly proud of that, really. That guard would have a reminder of me for years to come.
“Such spirit. I love it.”
Anger swelled in me, pushing back against the pressure from her voice. “Look, lady, I don’t want your praise or your analysis of my mental health. I don’t want to be in here. You can’t keep me here. I haven’t done anything. I want to go home.”
She moved like a demonic angel, coming to rain fire on me as she crossed the room toward me. She stopped by my cot, the cheap mattress I’d been relegated to sleeping on when they actually let me sleep. She showed no fear of me, no worry that I might attack her. Hopelessness dug into my chest so deep, my entire body ached with it.
“For established recruits, a behavioral infraction of this magnitude would warrant immediate termination.” Slowly, methodically, as she did everything, she ran her fingers along the crisp white sheets, the only thing that hadn’t been soiled recently. But like a good puppy, I’d realized quick that you didn’t shit where you slept.
Maybe that’s what she noticed. Who knew, really?
She talked about recruits a lot. The man I’d seen the first day had said that was what I was, said I was preparing to go through the intake process. Then he’d left, and I hadn’t seen him again. I didn’t want this “opportunity” I was supposedly getting. I just wanted to be free, something I’d worked my whole life toward, only to lose in a fraction of a second.
“But… you’ve only been here a few days,” she said, glancing at me briefly, looking for something I probably didn’t have. The corner of her lips upturned slightly, as close to a smile as she got usually. “Section Five is all about second chances, Naomi.”
“I wasn’t done with my first chance,” I ground out.
“You’re a different type of acquisition, actually,” she continued, like I hadn’t said anything. “But as with the other acquisitions, there was no future for you out there. You’ll have one here.”
“Let me go. Please.”
Her eyes rested on me, nailing me back against the wall with the hardness I saw in them that was in direct conflict with the softness she held herself with. “Of course. With time. When you are ready, you will reenter the world as a new person.”
“I like who I am now.”
“When you learn that force is never as effective as a subtle deception, you will rule your little corner of that world. You are so intelligent, Naomi.” She turned to face me straight on and removed her hands from the gentle slide against my sheets. “So intelligent. So strong. Or you’d have not been selected. You’re special.”
I didn’t reply. The words I wanted to say stuck in my throat like a hard lump, not coming out and not going away.
“What you could do with the knowledge you have… you could change the world. You just need a little guidance to tap into it.”
“I don’t have a choice, do I?” Finally, I managed to choke the words out.
“There is always a choice, love. You can be powerful and free, or you can be a wild animal stuck in a cage, waiting to be put down.”
“I hate you.” The words slipped from my lips before I knew they’d gone.
She didn’t waver. She gave me a soft smile, a knowing one. I was sure she’d heard that from her recruits many times in the past.
“Naomi, the thing you have to understand here is… There is no escape from Section Five. Not for you. You’re needed here, wanted here. The outside world didn’t want you or need you.” She exhaled slowly. “The sooner you realize that, the sooner you can flourish and thrive in your new life with us. Sure, you could walk out that door, but really, for you, beyond that door is just another room. And another. There will always be another room. You’ll never make it outside. The sun will never hit you. Section Five can help you find the sun again.”
A small satisfied smile from my silence appeared on her thin face. She turned away, and for a moment, I wanted to launch myself at her, choke the life from her and let her blood spill all over the white floor. But fear had immobilized me, bubbling within my blood like over-boiled water.
As the door boomed shut behind her, something released the fury my fear had frozen. I screamed, and I kept screaming until my voice was too tired to continue and I’d collapsed to my knees from exhaustion.
Tears streamed down my face, my body shaking with unrestrained rage. Wildness flowed inside me, like all the pieces of that broken crystal goblet were swirling around in a tornado.
They had me where they wanted me, and they weren’t going to let me go. That knowledge shattered me into a million pieces inside, broken beyond repair. I didn’t care who they were. I didn’t care what Sonya had said. I didn’t want to know what Section Five was. All I knew—all I could feel—was the hate burning through my veins, so hot it boiled.
They’d taken my life. They’d taken my freedom. They’d given me a choice in return, but was it really a choice?
Life or death?
Toe the line and become a slave to Section Five, or they’d make me disappear forever. It was a no-brainer. I didn’t want to die, but living like this was worse than death.
I’d have my chance. Of that, I was positive. When I did get it, every last one of this Section Five place would burn.
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