Sar waited in front of his cell, watching as the others pushed and fought over the newly arrived inmates like savages. Everyone wanted a piece of fresh meat, and sometimes newcomers were truly harder to come by than food.
Most of those doomed to Penal Station 05 were hardened by life, wild in nature, and had the stature to show it. Men who were more likely to kill you in your sleep than offer you their assets.
A tall blond with a boyish face was one of those. Despite his height and muscles, that face tempted even the strongest, and already he had four prisoners fighting for him. What they failed to take into account was his obvious lack of interest for being anyone’s bedmate.
The blond twisted the first prisoner who reached for him under his arm, and without blinking, snapped his neck. The sound was audible in the scuffle and enough for the other three to quietly slink away.
Like many others, Sar was patient, experienced. The last thing he needed was a foolish injury gained by rushing for the crate behind the struggle. Besides, he knew no one there was quite willing to challenge him for his loot.
The crate was forcefully opened with a cracking sound as the wood broke beneath the pressure, and those closest threw themselves at the boxes and dug for food.
Sustenance was certainly a priority, but Sar had deeper needs as well and had learned over time that one handful of reading material could hardly sustain him until the next shipment.
Using his significant size, he pushed through the crowd and picked up a cardboard box of cans, then pulled another on top of it. He could carry the load one-handed and didn’t restrain himself when it came to grabbing a bag of perishable goods with the other. His trip back to the cell was quick and practiced. He had enough to survive, but there was still a matter of books. So he pushed his spoils into the cell, locked it with a simple palm scan, and made his way back to the crate.
The food was already gone, as was to be expected, but in the back, behind the few quilts and pillows, was his goal. Only two boxes of books were left, and Sar was inclined to grab them both. One was firmly secured in his grip and Sar was reaching for the other when he heard a scream and, despite himself, turned around.
Three inmates surrounded a young man. There were scarcely any of his clothes still left, and his shoes were missing. Probably already set on a shelf for trade or warming up another guy’s feet. His skin was scraped and bruised, but the three fighting over him hadn’t gone unscathed. The little thing was struggling with all he had, kicking his legs despite another prisoner having a firm hold of his left ankle. He seemed determined to fight his way out or die trying. Sar respected that kind of will, but ultimately, it wasn’t his problem.
He turned to reach for the second box, when the young man screamed, “Let me go, you bastards! I’m a guard! I don’t belong here!”
“Motherfucker,” Sar growled, surprising himself with the curse. He squeezed his eyes shut for a moment, then turned and ran.
He dropped the box beneath his feet, grabbed one prisoner, and smashed his face against his knee. The far one lifted his arms right away, leaving off the kid’s legs and stepping away, but the last one wasn’t so easily deterred, not even by Sar. He lunged at Sar’s large frame and tried to defend his prey with brute force.
Sar moved out of the way, tripped him, then dropped down to one knee and effectively broke the man’s arm. There was no need to speak or threaten; they all knew how far each prisoner was willing to go.
Sighing, Sar looked at the kid who was almost huddled on the ground, watching Sar with wariness and unhidden fear. Sar supposed it was the usual effect he had on people and was hardly bothered by it. All this was such an inconvenience, and he could already see the repercussions of his poor decision.
Half angry and part frustrated, Sar crossed the distance to the kid and picked him up by his neck while the little thing flinched away from him. “Pick up that box and follow me,” he said in a muted voice and dropped the kid right next to his spoils.
Sar threw a cursory glance toward the crate, and though he expected it to be empty, he still growled at the lack of that one more box of books. Sar just knew the kid would be more trouble than he was worth.
He heard the kid shuffling one step behind as he limped and wondered again why he’d had to save him. Sar didn’t need such a burden, and he certainly didn’t need the additional obligation. He’d managed so far without succumbing to vile acts, and a pretty face would not deter him.
“In,” he grunted when he unlocked his cell.
The kid hesitated, looking at Sar as if needing reassurance. But he must have seen something besides Sar’s still-simmering frustration over the books, because he crossed the threshold and turned to wait for Sar.
Sar locked his cell once he was inside. He’d seen many lose their lives during sleep, not managing to wake up before someone had sneaked in and cut their neck, just for a prettier cell. In fact, he was hardly opposed to such a solution. It was a means to an end, and if not for his lovely home, he would have acquired another one in the same way years ago.
After sitting down, Sar pulled the food boxes to him and started sorting through his spoils, tucking things here and there, mindful of hiding them well just in case his cell was ever breached. The kid watched him with a careful eye, but Sar was used to it. There was always someone watching in prison, and Sar had never known a different life.
“Where do you want this?” the kid eventually asked, lifting the box in his hands slightly.
Sar looked at him again and then motioned with his head toward the shelves above his bed. There wasn’t sufficient room to hide the books too, and if someone was willing to break in for food, they would ransack the place anyway.
“So…” The kid trailed off, rubbing his palm against his torn pants.
Sar ignored him, continuing with his work as he silently cursed himself once more for giving in to his ludicrous impulse.
“What are you going to do to me?” The kid’s voice was soft and fearful.
Before Sar could even consider the question, the screams started. The kid startled so badly he almost twisted in the air in his urge to turn. Sure enough, one of the new ones was pressed naked against the bars right in their line of sight.
Steel liked to break them in, then pass them along when he was sated. But he always made sure everyone saw he was passing spoiled goods.
The kid’s eyes were as wide as airlock warning lights as he stumbled and fell, then scuffled on the floor until his back was right against the closest wall. He kept flipping his gaze from Sar’s face to the still-hollering prisoner until he hugged his knees and just trembled in place.
Sar thought about reassuring him, telling him he wouldn’t rape him. But someone could still take the kid, however unlikely, and if they ever did, that was exactly what would happen. So Sar shook his head and continued putting away the food.
Eventually the screams of one man stopped only for those of another to start. While the food crate was always a welcome event, the prisoners who came with it left a bad taste in Sar’s mouth. He would have been happy without the change in housing and would have requested only more books.
The task done, Sar had nothing else to occupy his time. He wasn’t inclined to leave his cell until the heads and hormones cooled down a bit; not to mention the kid—there was no way he was leaving the little burden alone inside his four walls; he probably didn’t even know what rationing meant.
So Sar picked up the scrubbing cloth from the shelf and threw it at the kid. “Clean yourself.” He nodded toward the back of the cell where he had a toilet, a water pipe, and a sonic locker where he cleaned whatever was necessary.
The kid still seemed confused and didn’t act until Sar took a step toward him. Then he was instantly moving, rushing to the back, trying to place as much distance as he could between himself and Sar.
The reaction made Sar grin as he sat back down on his bed. There wasn’t much to amuse him on a daily basis, so perhaps having some company wouldn’t be so bad. Besides, the kid hardly presented any danger and probably, as a guard, had a moral compass a mile wide. Not that Sar was likely to let go of his cautious nature. He was raised better.
The kid. What was his name, anyway?
Sar tilted his head as if he would be able to read his name just by looking at him. When he sighed, the sound was deep and carried enough for the kid to turn to him.
“What is your name?” Sar asked reluctantly, really not willing to speak.
“Adam Jared Baum. Jared,” he added fearfully.
Sar looked at him disbelievingly for a moment before he laughed with plenty of volume for the rest of the prison to fall into silence. Sar never laughed.
Through half-closed eyes, Sar could see Jared was looking offended, but even if he had been inclined to apologize, Sar just wasn’t one of those men who did. Besides, it was funny. Who would ever call their son a red-rose tree?
“Clean yourself, little rose. Do not make me do it for you,” Sar snapped when it seemed like Jared might seek a fight.