Before you read this story, let me offer a bit of context. I'm running a Traveller RPG with a couple of my friends, and one of the recurring non-player character's in that game is Jessica Sorin. Jessica has a younger brother, Martin, and both their parents died when they were very young. Jessica has been taking care of her brother ever since, and they're now 42 and 37 respectively.
When she was 14 and staying in an orphanage, she started to notice her brother was acting strangely. When she did a little digging, she found out an underground drug cartel was using kids at the orphanage to do experiments on. She tried to stop them and failed, but they agreed to let both kids go and transport them to Mars if Jessica agreed to carry a package (which they stored in her head) of information they needed to send to someone. Seeing no other option to protect her brother, she agreed. This is the story of what happened when she arrived on Mars to deliver that package.
A strong grip squeezed the girl's arm as a hand the size of almost both her fists pulled her aside.
"Doctor!" the voice beside her yelled into the dark alley, echoing through the metal plated corridors in the sea of old warehouses. The girl pulled and writhed her arm, only to have her captor grab the other.
Ten feet to her right a door opened about forty five degrees and allowed a dim light to escape the warehouse. The light cast a sheet of illumination on the red dirt, drawing out a path for her and her captor.
He dragged her struggling body inside the building. As she passed through the door she squinted at the sudden change in light. A bright white lamp glared down at a rusty old table in the middle of a mess of haphazardly placed cargo containers. She stopped struggling for the few moments it took before she could force herself to look forward and see the backside of a lanky figure bent over the table, cleaning it with a white cloth.
A putrid warm stream of damp air carried a voice past her left ear, and she tried again to contort her body out of the grip.
"Package for you, Doctor!" it said.
The man by the table stopped cleaning and turned around to face them. He smiled at them, and tucked the cloth into a bag resting at the end of the table.
"Ahh yes. Good good. Bring her now... ah? What's this?"
The doctor stepped forward and pulled out a metal pipe the girl had tucked in her belt.
"Hey-" she said as he began examined it with a scrunched face and squinted eyes.
"Hrm... not very elegant. Personally, if I wanted to kill someone, I'd inject a hundred nanograms of botulinum and watch their entire nervous system shut down as they cry out in seemingly unending agony, until they finally come to a rest in a pleasant docile state." He smiled, still examining the pipe as if it was a something far more interesting than just a hunk of metal. The girl's body tensed as she watched him toy with her possession.
"Well, no matter," he said, and tossed the pipe on the floor behind him. The girl flinched at the sound of it clank against the floor, and followed it with her eyes as it rolled farther and farther from her reach. As she did so, the man lowered his head and looked straight into her eyes, with the same look of analysis he'd given the pipe.
"What's this now? It's just a pipe, little girl. When you first came in I saw on your face what I'd seen a thousand times across the underworld on Mars: the look of innocence jaded by a life of pain and lost hope. The others carry guns and knives and other weapons of intimidation, and yet you bring a pipe? Why do you care so much?"
The girl stopped watching the pipe and stared back into his eyes silently. He raised an eyebrow, turned back to look at the pipe on the ground, and kicked it away from the light’s reach and into the dark abyss of the warehouse.
"Put her on the table," he said calmly as he turned back to them, flashing a smile at the girl who now looked blankly into the darkness. The muscular man lifted her by the arms onto the table and pinned her by the shoulders. She heard rustling and clanking from the other end of the table, and tilted her head up to see the doctor looking through his bag.
"Just calm down, relax, and we'll be done all this soon. You volunteered for this, remember? It's irresponsible to volunteer your services and not come through in the end. That would make you untrustworthy. Trust is good," he said as he pulled a sharp needle out of the bag, "The world would be so much better if we all just trusted each other a little bit more."
"They said if I did this... if I came to you... to Mars... they'd leave my brother alone."
The man didn't respond, and was instead focused on holding a flame beneath the tip of the needle, moving it back and forth across its length.
“There; all clean of contaminants,” he said.
The big man took a hand off her shoulder and pushed her head back so it was flush with the table. All she could see now was the underside of his chin, and a black empty ceiling. She felt her pants being rolled up, and a sharp pin prick on her leg. Within moments a wave of relaxation splashed and forced itself onto her. She tried to hold onto the sense of danger of the situation, but that, along with her strength and will, was now washed away.
"I'm sure you're brother will be just fine without you."
She tried to rapidly shake her head to fight the instinct to sleep, but the other man's hand was still holding it in place.
Everything around her started to slow down, and the voices began to muffle like her ears had been stuffed with soft cotton. Every word she heard was stretched and distorted.
"Damn," she heard. "I didn't realize how difficult it would be to detect the section we need now that the sedative put her in such a state of ease. We need thought, activity... agitation.”
The doctor walked up beside her and bent over so that his face was just inches from hers, and his eyes stared at her without emotion.
"Don't worry girl. After you're gone your brother will not be alone. We will be with him."
"We know he could never survive without your help. He's just a weak poor soul who looks up to his sister, isn't he? Don’t you want assurances he’ll be safe?"
She tried desperately to make an arm, a leg, or even a finger move but they would only tense slightly. She felt as though her entire body was slowly disconnecting from her consciousness, and even that started to feel numb.
“Maybe if you hadn’t abandoned him by coming to us on the promise of cash and a new home, he’d never be in this mess. Maybe if you would have just let things be and try to be happy, he wouldn’t now be alone here in the Martian underground where no child leaves with their innocence intact. They’re all just tools for people like me to use and abuse.”
She rolled one of her lips between her teeth and forced herself to bite down as hard as she could. He looked down and smiled at her vain attempts to break her own skin, then quickly switched his expression to one of contempt.
“What kind of big sister are you anyway? Aren’t you supposed to protect him? Shelter him from danger? Hold him on a leash like a dog who’d otherwise jump in front of a moving truck just for the chance to play with a squirrel? I heard you walked up to our men on Terros with a pipe in hand like you could do something with it. I can just picture it... a cute little girl pretending she’s the hero - protecting the innocent from evil. I guess that means this isn’t the first time you’ve let him down.”
The girl suddenly realized that the only thing keeping her going right now was the sound of this man’s voice. To her, everything else had already melted away. She tried to block it out, but her mind was already too weak to deflect his assertions. His speech was her last attachment to the world, and it became her obsession.
“As I said though, despite your own failings you can be free of apprehension concerning his future. I have a plethora of connections to people who are looking for new blood in their organization. Not like he’s got anything else going for him, especially now. I mean, he’s a bit of a pushover, but fear not, for we’ve got just the stuff to change that. Unfortunately it causes some nasty brain degeneration as a side effect but, you know what they say: you can’t have everything. Brains or brawn, smarts or muscle. It’s like me and my friend Moe here.”
He looked up and smiled to his companion, then peered at something outside her squinted vision.
"Speaking of brains... looks like you've become just agitated enough! See? You just need to get the blood flowing. Blood blood blood. We now know exactly what we need. Wouldn't want to waste time cutting around at completely useless brain tissue... time is money after all..."
The doctor stepped back out of view, and she once again heard the sound of a rustling at the other end of the table. She felt the hand on her head move back to her shoulder, and she was finally able to look up again.
"Now... don't you worry about a thing." He said as he pulled a small drill out of his bag and turned it on. A loud metallic hum filled the room, but in her sedated state it seemed so slow and muffled. She could actually hear the pitch go up and down during each spin, making it seem to beat like a throbbing heart. She just watched blankly as he approached around the table in slow motion. He came around her right side, holding the drill in his right hand. He began to extend his arm and the tool toward her.
She blinked, and for a moment gave into the darkness. She felt the commanding urge to fight, but also the undeniable urge to sleep. She wanted to jerk and tear the world apart like a madwoman, but also to give up gracefully and collapse. When her eyes finally opened, she saw her right leg kicking the doctor's arm. As her leg slowly descended from the hit, his arm spun upward toward his face. Just as his expression slowly changed before her from one of arrogance to one of anger, when it seemed he was about to let out a yell, his hand came up to his mouth, and the drill bit came to his eye.
He let out a scream and the tool fell to the floor with bits of eye flying out of his socket. The man holding her down let go and rushed toward the doctor. Without even asking her body to do so, she sat up and used her legs to pull herself forward and off the table. Breaking into a run for the darkness ahead, she heard screaming behind her and then a freakish yell.
"Get her! Get her! The stuff in her head could get us a thousand eyes!"
She didn't get too far before she was too woozy to stand, and she fell face first into the concrete floor. She blinked again, and this time felt even longer than the last. When her eyes opened again, she felt a familiar iron grip clasp her leg, and pull her her back to the light. In desperation she reached forward trying to sink her nails into the floor, but instead found her hand wrapped around a coarse metal cylinder.
The hand on her leg let go, and another one grabbed the side of her arm and flipped her onto her back. Mid-spin, she lifted the pipe up and slapped the large man right across the face with it. The hit left him with a circular red bruise, and in his moment of confusion she began wailing on his face with the pipe. She felt more like an observer now, like she was in a state feigning consciousness as her body and her rage worked together to tackle the problem she lacked the willpower to solve herself. After a few hits, he fell to the floor and she smashed him one final time as she stood up.
Everything was blurry mess now, and she started to feel like she was trapped in the middle of a spinning whirlwind of colour and sound. She made for the door, hobbling from side to side while she tried to maintain her fleeting balance. She felt something touch her and stop her from moving, but she had no idea who or what it was. She felt herself spin, and fall to the ground and close her eyes. What she fell on felt soft and warm and everything faded away.
When she finally woke up, the first thing she noticed before opening her eyes was a sour taste. She pursed and licked her bottom lip and felt a strange viscous liquid that tasted oddly of metal. She quickly stood up, while in the same motion rubbing her hand across her mouth. She exhaled almost every ounce of air in her lungs when she saw the blood now stained across the back of her hand. Frantically she used the other hand to rub the rest of it off her face, and she turned around to see where she fell. Before her was the body of the doctor, still holding the drill. He was missing an eye, and his face was badly bashed and bruised. The girl grabbed her old pipe and she stood guard over the body and simply stared at it while quieting her breathing. After about a minute, she leaned down and put a finger to his neck, and quickly withdrew it when she felt cold skin underneath the blood. She then looked down at her shirt, and felt the last bit of innocence she’d kept dear slip away. She took three steps back and scanned the warehouse, seeing another body lying about twenty feet away. After spending another full minute in silence, she made for the door, leaving a sea of red blood behind her.