Future Ambitions

By Susan Riaz

Prisoner Alone

Tarrant was bored. It seemed the least of his problems, but it was better than admitting to himself that he was lonely, and even a little frightened. He was alone, in a small cell. It was a prison cell, like any other. A small bare room, painted white. Blank door; blank walls. Shelf-like bunk against one wall, with no blanket or any other concession to comfort; minimum hygiene facilities tucked away into one corner. That was where he had found himself when he had woken up. How long after it had all happened, he wasn't sure. Neither was he certain how long he had been there.

The small, sterile room, belied the chaos of what happened before he had, somehow, arrived there. It seemed to Tarrant that he had closed his eyes on the clash of colour and the garish scene of death and woken in deadly, condemning silence. The dreadful, reproachful silence of being alive. And, of not knowing who else was. Or worse, whether anybody was.

He was unable to remember anything that had happened between the chaos of Gauda Prime and now. Yet, there was a jagged scar on his leg which was a constant reminder of losing Scorpio and finding Blake. He tried not to think about that. The thread of finding Blake inevitably led to the disaster that had followed.

It seemed he had been there forever, enclosed in the small, sterile room. Never cold, never hot, never dark. Flickering light tube running the length of the ceiling, casting shadows on the walls as he walked. Six steps to cover the length of the room. Six steps back again. Cross to the wall and back to the door. To the small panel which opened to have food shoved through once a day. Back again to the blank wall.

Tarrant kept marching, backwards and forwards. When he had been at the Academy, his commander had always said that most of what cadets did at Space Force Academy was monotonous. Marching, drilling, learning to react as a group. He had been trained to react as a soldier; taught what to do if he was ever captured. Keep fit, keep active, don't think. He couldn't help thinking though, that was his trouble. And, he told himself, how could he not think? Not knowing where he was and never even being questioned. Seeing nobody and not knowing whether anybody else was alive. Locked in this cage and fed like an animal.

Don't think, he reprimanded himself, as frustration and anger welled up. Keep marching. Tiled floor, bare walls, silence covering him like a shroud. One day the food could simply stop coming and he would die. The panic threatened to rise then, to overwhelm him, but he fought it down. Avon could be just a wall away, thinking the same thing. Dayna too, or Soolin, or Vila.

The real problem, Tarrant reflected, was that there really was nothing to do, except think. He had tried to count how long he had been there. Had it been five weeks, or six? Nothing had changed, except himself. There was no mirror here, but when he shaved, he felt the jutting of bone along his jawline. Felt his ribs, sharp beneath his flesh.

The panel opened and a small tray appeared on the floor, containing what it always contained; a protein pack and a small container of water. Enough nutrients to keep him fairly healthy, but he was shedding his body weight at an alarming rate. He squatted on the floor and sipped the water slowly, then ripped open the protein pack. These were only usually used on ships, or bases, where fresh food was hard to come by. They were meant to supplement rations, not to replace them. Tarrant spooned the dark brown, foul smelling slush, into his mouth slowly. He was starting to smell of the stuff himself, he thought miserably, and ran a hand through his tangled hair.

He wandered over to the bunk and sat, heavily. Fingers drifted again to his tangled mass of curls. The panel the food came through was too small to even consider escaping through. He lay back on the hard bunk, allowing memories to drift over him. He thought of Avon, and of when he and Dayna had found him confronting Shrinker, in a cell uncomfortably similar to this. In identical prison garb; barefoot and zipped into a grey, monotone jumpsuit. Avon had looked awful. He wondered whether he looked that bad.

Avon had been tortured though, and that pleasure had been denied him; so far anyway. Perhaps that was to come. Then, he would discover for certain whose prisoner he was. Not that he really doubted who it was. The whole fiasco of Gauda Prime had her imprint indelibly marked on it. Servalan would have adored producing such a beautiful, theatrical ending. Blake staring deep into Avon's eyes as he fell forward. Arms and eyes locked together, as though in a final embrace. Avon, looking how Tarrant had never seen him before. Stricken, shocked; standing over Blake's body, oblivious to all around him. Avon, at least, had not been dead when Tarrant had fallen.

Suddenly, he sat up. A noise! He was absolutely certain that he had heard a noise. His stomach constricted with fear and excitement, Tarrant ran the few steps to the door. Fingers splayed against the metal; head crushed against the door, straining to hear something.

"I did hear something," he said, aloud.

The words seemed to echo in the silence, sounding distorted and strange. The cold metal of the door sent shivers through his body, but he simply pressed harder. There, he heard it again. Definitely a door opening, somewhere outside. Even when his food was brought, there was nothing. No footsteps that he could discern, no noises at all. So, if that was a door opening, then it was one that was not usually used. There was a change in the pattern.

Not only a change in noises outside this unknown room, but also a change in smell. Looking down, Tarrant saw the unmistakable swirl of smoke curling in beneath the door. He had not noticed even the tiniest gap, yet this faint trace of smoke had somehow managed to find a way in. Fire. There was a fire.

Continued in Frobidden Star Two...

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Last updated on 19th of December 1997.