At first his rage over Dax’s betrayal blocked out all rational thought. He beat his fists against the door, screaming until his lungs trembled from the effort and his throat became a raw, quivering thing inside his neck. But the rage soon gave way to anguish. He had failed them—Lizzie, Cora, everyone. None of them were safe now. Not from Renford and not from Hammer.
Finally, Jeth forced his mind away from these thoughts, focusing instead on not giving up, on finding a way out of here. Only there didn’t seem to be any hope of that. Nothing short of a plasinum cutter was getting through these walls, and he didn’t have a clue how to hack into the security panel by the door. And no tools, either.
He supposed his best chance was to be ready when they came for him.
The minutes continued to tick by as long as days, the hours as long as years. Jeth caught himself drifting in between sleep and wakefulness. Telling the difference between the two grew harder and harder.
Finally he heard movement outside. He stood from the bench he’d been lying on and raced to the small space beside the door, taking cover. He held his breath, muscles tense in anticipation.
As the door slid open, Jeth charged through it, throwing a punch at the person standing just beyond. His fist collided with Sergei’s jaw. Pain tore through his knuckles, but it didn’t stop the pleasure he felt as Sergei’s head snapped backward and blood burst from his lip.
Sergei wasn’t alone, but the other guards with him, a mixture of Brethren and ITA, couldn’t get to Jeth; Sergei was too big and the space in the corridor too small. Jeth kneed Sergei in the gut, grabbing the gun from his hand as he fell.
Jeth aimed it at the nearest guards, keenly aware of all the guns trained on him. “Go ahead and shoot, but I promise I’ll take more than a few of you down with me.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” a familiar voice said from Jeth’s right.
He turned and saw Dax. He steadied his grip on the trigger. Killing Dax alone might be satisfaction enough. Only he couldn’t.
Sierra stood in front of Dax. Although she didn’t block much of him, he had his gun pointed at her. For a second, Jeth didn’t believe Dax would harm her, but he decided not to risk it. Dax had taken him by surprise once before. Jeth wasn’t about to let it happen again.
He lowered the gun, and one of the ITA soldiers yanked it from his hands while two others grabbed him by the arms and shackled his wrists. He didn’t bother trying to fight them off. There were too many of them and nowhere to go. No, he needed to be patient and wait for a better chance.
He took in Sierra’s appearance, seeing nothing outwardly wrong with her, other than the shackles on her wrists, too. Still, he asked, “Are you okay?”
She nodded, her expression grim. “Are you?”
Before Jeth could answer, a fist the size of a boulder collided with his stomach. He bent over, heaving in pain.
“Do anything like that again,” Sergei said, leaning over Jeth, “and I’ll cut off your feet with a dull saw.” Then he spat on Jeth’s face.
Struggling to catch his breath, Jeth wiped away the spit with his shoulder.
“Come on,” Dax said. “Renford’s waiting for them.”
The soldiers herded Jeth and Sierra down the corridor after Dax. Jeth moved in close to Sierra as they walked and whispered, “Any word on the others?”
She shook her head.
He sighed. He’d expected as much, but still the disappointment stung. Where were Lizzie and Cora? What about Shady? Did Flynn and Milton manage to get away on Avalon or had they been captured, too? Dax had known their position, after all.
“Any idea what’s coming next?” Jeth said, his dread increasing with every step.
“Nothing good.” Sierra’s voice trembled as she spoke, and any relief he’d felt at seeing her unharmed faded in an instant.
Dax led them into a large room not far from the brig. Strange devices filled the place, many of them outfitted with straps and shackles. Torture devices, Jeth realized. Some were simple items, like the row of vices in all different sizes hanging on the far wall or the large metal table in the center of the room. Others were more sophisticated, like what looked like a pair of large mechanized boots, the kind designed to shatter shinbones in small increments.
Jeth sucked air through his teeth. “Why do I get the feeling this room wasn’t part of the original cruise ship design?”
“This is the interrogation room,” Sierra said.
“No kidding.” Jeth had a feeling she knew the place well. He gulped, trying not to imagine what was coming next.
Renford stood near the middle of the room, not far from the table and in front of two identical metal chairs that resembled massive thrones. He waved at their entrance. “Good. Bring them over here and sit them down.”
The soldiers pushed Jeth and Sierra forward and into the chairs. Thin, nearly invisible lines forming small squares covered the chairs. They looked like tiny compartments. What those compartments contained—needles, knives, hot pokers—he was certain he didn’t want to find out.
Sierra glared up at Renford. “You’re wasting your time with this. Whatever it is you want from me, you’re not going to get it.”
He arched one eyebrow. “Why do you assume I want something? How do you know this isn’t just punishment for your betrayal?”
Sierra swallowed. “You wouldn’t bother doing it yourself if that was all there was.”
Renford sighed. “True. You do know me so well, don’t you?”