TW: strong language, rape (allusion)
Brody rolled out of a bottom bed in the men’s employee bunk room. It was in a back room on the bottom floor, the same floor as the prison. He was one of a few workers whose home wasn’t on Mars—yet—and tonight he slept there with just three others. Some kitchen help and another guard.
After his shift the next morning, he’d hitch a ride back home with his brother-in-law, Colin. He’d get two full days on Ptolemy, and then it was back to work. He kept a picture of Jillian and Maxine in a ring that acted as a data storage device, and anytime he wanted to see them he could bring it up on a reader. But nothing compared to the feeling of his family in his arms.
He rubbed his hands over his face and went to the bathroom across the hall to answer nature’s call. It was occupied. He growled under his breath. It was 2:00am, U.N. time, and he just wanted to get the hell back to sleep. He went back to the bunk, grabbed his shoes, and after a brief hesitation, his gun.
He didn’t expect a threat here, but years of life on Ptolemy had taught him to keep a revolver, at least, with him at all times. Maybe he’d attempt to recondition himself when they were finally gone for good from that hellhole. But not yet.
He was in his uniform pants and a plain white t-shirt. The palace was mostly quiet, but he nodded to the guards stationed in various places until he reached the next employee bathroom. Technically, the next nearest one was on the first floor, where the kitchens were, but the one on the third floor was right off the stairs. It would be quicker.
He opened the door and relieved himself. On his way out, he glanced down the hall, and he stopped. It was empty. There were supposed to be two guards at all times. He reached for his radio, to call Haddaway, but it was in the bunk room three floors below.
Brody was fully alert now. He tightened his grip on the gun and went to investigate. He debated for a brief moment between knocking on the door and keying in his code, and he decided on the latter. If there was an intruder, he wanted the element of surprise. The door slid open, and he caught a whiff of something chemical. He wrinkled his nose. Chloroform. Growing up on Ptolemy had taught him all the tricks of every heinous trade.
His heart beat harder in his chest, pumping adrenaline through his veins. He knew there was a threat, but where, and from whom? He moved quickly and silently through the room, looking first in Agatha’s room and then at each twin bed along the opposite wall. No one stirred. They were all knocked out. All of them except for one. The last bed was empty. A light shone beneath a nearby door.
The sounds coming from within the room made his stomach turn, but he didn’t hesitate. One second could mean the difference between life and death. He had to act, whether it was on the streets of Ptolemy or here. He braced himself for what he knew he’d find.
Red-hot fury was already bubbling in his chest when he burst into the closet. It only took one glimpse of Sullivan’s lily-white ass and Capri’s eyes screwed shut, bottom lip bleeding from her own teeth, for his fury to explode into a blind rage.
God, he hated being right.
He grabbed the ex-guard by the throat and hauled him back. He threw him to the ground outside of the closet and slammed a fist into his jaw. There was a crunching sound. A panicked cry. Mars was supposed to be safe. He unleashed the same fury he’d have done if he’d found the prick on top of Jill. On top of Maxine. The thought made him blind and he kept punching, but a scream brought him out of it.
Agatha. Brody was breathing hard, and he forced himself to show restraint.
“Call for backup,” he told her without looking away from the bleeding man at his feet. “And a medic.”
Her footsteps hurried away as she went for the call box by the door. He landed one last solid blow to the side of Sullivan’s head, knocking him unconscious. His pants were still around his ankles, and Brody left him that way. He stood, then, blocking the closet door with his bulk. Agatha spoke frantically into the phone. Some of the other girls were beginning to wake. A redhead vomited over the side of her bed.
He turned his attention to Capri.
She’d curled onto her side and had her face hidden in one hand. The other held the hem of her white nightgown down over her knees. She was trying to cover herself, trying to hide. A spot of blood was visible on the soft fabric. His heart ached for the girl. How had this happened? Sullivan wasn’t supposed to be anywhere near here. Brody had reported him, and he’d been fired. He should have been on the first ship back to wherever the hell he’d come from.
Brody took a robe down from a nearby hook and cleared his throat. Capri looked at him through slender fingers. Her eyes were red-rimmed, but she’d likely run out of tears long before he arrived.
He held the garment out to her, and she sat up slowly to take it from him. She wrapped it around herself and looked at the floor. Lady Agatha appeared behind him.
“More guards are on their way, and—Oh, my God, Capri, what happened?”
She pushed by him to get to the girl, and Capri threw herself into the older woman’s arms, sobbing afresh.
“Exactly what it looks like. Sorry I wasn’t here sooner.”
Agatha could only nod, tears pouring from her own eyes. He gave them a last glance before turning his focus back to Sullivan. He couldn’t do much for the girls he’d drugged, for Capri, but he could make damn sure the pile of shit paid for what he did. He gave him one last kick in the ribs before the guards ran into the room, guns raised.
Haddaway, his superior officer, led the team. He was just starting to gray at the temples, and the worry lines in his forehead creased.
“What the hell happened?” he asked.
“He knocked everybody out and then raped one of the girls.”
Haddaway’s eyebrows shot up. “He raped her? Which one?”
“If it’s all the same to you, I’ll take him down.”
Haddaway nodded and ordered two of his men to stay with Agatha and the girls and two to search for the missing guards. Then he and Brody dragged a semi-conscious Sullivan to the elevators. They passed the medics on their way.
The elevator took them to the main floor, and a hidden passage took them to a second elevator, which was used solely for the transportation of prisoners.
It landed in a room where an aging guard sat at a desk. He was barely awake, but he straightened when he saw the other men arrive. A prison didn’t get much use in what was supposed to be a utopia. Behind him lay a corridor lined with steel doors.
“Lock him up,” Brody growled. “No food, water, or fucking pants until we talk to Ekon.”
The old guard looked to Haddaway for confirmation, and he nodded his agreement. He shoved Sullivan towards the other guard so that he stumbled, and then he went with Haddaway back to the elevators.
“You’ll need a statement,” Brody said.
“Ekon wants to interview you himself.”
Brody ran a hand through his sleep-mussed hair. His white shirt was now dotted with red, his uniform pants wrinkled with sleep.
“He’s not going to care about appearance,” Haddaway said. “You were off duty, and you saved one of his beauties.”
Brody grunted. “Almost.”
He straightened his spine and tried to look presentable as they took the private elevator from the main floor to Ekon’s suite. The elevator opened into a parlor, which also seemed to act as an office. Brody had never been there before.
Alexander, the king’s advisor, rose from a chair to greet them. He was in a robe and had indents on his cheek from where he’d been asleep on his pillow. His white hair stuck up on one side.
“Hello, Shots. Haddaway. Thank you for coming so quickly.”
Brody nodded, and Alexander turned to a set of four guards. They blocked the closed, ornately-carved doors to the king’s bedroom. Real wood. It was a precious commodity on the kingdoms.
A muffled voice rose through the thick panels. “It was your goddamn idea!”
“I was only trying to help him! He’s my cousin! How was I supposed to know—”
Brody and Haddaway glanced at each other. They must be talking about Sullivan. The guards knocked, announcing their arrival and cutting off Marianne’s shriek. All went quiet for a moment, and then the doors opened. Ekon was there, looking grave. He was also dressed for bed, in pristine silk pajamas and a matching green robe trimmed with gold thread.
Behind him, Brody caught sight of Marianne, sitting on the edge of a huge bed. Her piercing brown eyes found his and narrowed. It wasn’t his business. He looked back to the king.
The room smelled like a fireplace and old books, though neither was visible or likely even existed. For him, being raised on a real planet with real smells, the whole ambience thing messed with him.
“Shots, thank you for coming.” Ekon moved to the large wooden desk in the corner of the parlor and motioned for them to follow. He sat down, and Brody and Haddaway sat on the other side.
“I’m only hearing rumors right now. I need to know what happened.”
His gaze was dark and serious. He was concerned. Maybe he really did love the girls, in his own fucked-up way.
Brody clenched his jaw, loath to relive the events of the evening, but he had no choice. “I was on the floor to use the bathroom. I saw the guards were missing.”
Ekon glanced at Haddaway. “Have they been found?”
Haddaway nodded. “Yes, King. Both were trapped in the Maiden bathroom. They’re injured, but they’ll live.”
Ekon nodded and turned his attention back to Brody. “Go on.”
“I smelled chloroform. None of the girls were conscious. I heard a noise in the closet and found Sullivan raping one of the girls.”
The King of Mars looked as if he might be sick. He’d have heard the details by now. He was just hoping they weren’t true. “Which girl?” he asked quietly.
“No.” His voice was a whisper. He appeared absolutely devastated, and he looked to Alexander as if the older man would tell him this wasn’t happening. But he only offered a look of sympathy.
“No,” Ekon said again. “She was perfect. What will we do with her now?”
The girls had to be virgins, of course, to remain a part of Ekon’s collection. It was clear by the king’s disappointment that rape counted against them. In his eyes, the girl was now worthless. He wasn’t hurting for her. He was hurting for himself.
Brody frowned, but he kept his mouth shut.
“King,” Alexander said. “She may still be of use to us.”
“Oh?” The king raised a perfectly-shaped eyebrow, but the advisor seemed hesitant to discuss his idea in front of present company. The king nodded. “Wait for me in the sitting room, Alexander. And tell Marianne to return to her apartment. It’s by her recommendation that Sullivan came to be here, and I’m unhappy with her. Haddaway, will you escort her back to her room?”
Haddaway stood and nodded. “Of course, King.”
A moment later, Marianne appeared, head held high and her pretty mouth in a thin line. She nodded coldly to her king and allowed Haddaway to take her into the elevator. That left Ekon and Brody alone, save for the four silent guards around them. He hadn’t asked him to go yet, which meant he must want something.
“Shots,” Ekon began, “can I get you something to drink? Tea?”
He gestured to the steaming pot and cups on the heavy desk. Brody spied a bottle of whiskey on a shelf behind him. He could use a shot after the night he’d had. Ekon followed his gaze and gave a knowing smile.
He poured a glass for Brody and a cup of tea for himself. Then he sat down again so they were on the same level.
“You do the occasional side job, is that right?”
Brody took a long sip and lowered the glass, eyeing Ekon warily. “Yes.”
“Moonlighting isn’t against the rules. In fact, your…particular skill set is one of the reasons you were hired.”
Brody said nothing. He still wasn’t sure where the conversation was headed.
“How much, on average, would you say you make per kill?” Ekon asked.
“Depends,” Brody answered. “If they’re important and hard to track down…maybe twenty thousand. If they’re sitting ducks, ten.”
“Do you dabble in torture at all?”
Brody shifted uncomfortably, the whiskey forgotten. “Not really my style.”
“Shame.” Ekon took a sip of tea, then looked straight at Brody. “As you know, a death sentence in the Kingdom of Mars is rare. But Sullivan will die for this. I’ll give you fifteen thousand to do the job.”
Brody relaxed and downed the rest of his drink. That was it? He’d wanted to kill the bastard the second he’d found him on top of the girl. It just hadn’t been his decision to make. He’d killed good men for less. He sure as hell wouldn’t lose sleep over Sullivan.