Chapter 10:

Consequence of Defiance

Veils: Under the Panopticon

My eyelids flutter open, a dark ceiling meeting my vision. A dull pain throbs at my head, restraining my movements. I try anyway, only to recoil in pain from a sharp sting in my stomach. I grip the frame of the bed, gathering my bearings. My head swims, the world blurring into view.

I prop myself up with my elbow, looking around. Where am I? I hiss out to the empty air, the pain in my head is dull but constant. The surges of stings on my body do nothing to clear my head. How long have I been out? I try to remember the last thing in my mind, but the pain keeps itself in the forefront. I fall back on the bed and the pain keeps me from trying again. I stare up the ceiling, watching the flickering light shift the dark hues. Sharp sensations keep me awake. Not like I could sleep.

I hear a door open and shut in the room. I turn my head to look, the pain in my head spiking at every small movement. It feels like someone threw a table at me.

“You're awake?” A view of someone's back shifts around, melding in the dark corners. The suppressed monotone is a voice I recognize.

“Whisper?” I say through gritted teeth. A pain on my chin keeps my words short. What happened to me? I watch her shoulders stop, her body turning around. Her face hadn't changed much, not that I was paying close enough attention before to notice differences. As much as I can see, nothing seems out of place. No missing eyes or any more replaced fingers.

“I expected you to be knocked out for a few more days,” she says nonchalantly, returning her attention to the table. “That, or you'd die from internal bleeding in your head.” Her words hold a longing tone. I try to sit up, my body screaming for me to stay down.

“Where am I?” I push through gritted teeth. My tongue tastes iron, my throat dry. Whisper walks over, carrying a bowl containing a liquid. “Thanks. You've been watching me all this time?” I take the bowl, downing the liquid. It's dark, powdery, and bitter. I force myself to swallow.

“Every now and then. Cass has been watching you since we dragged you in here,” she steps back to the table. The room is filled with the soft sounds of clinking metal. I take a deep breath, only to cough when a sharp pain hits my chest. “You shouldn't be moving. Harbour thinks you broke something, so you should keep still before we have to stick something in you.”

“Am I in my house?” Whatever that bitter drink was, it helps clear my vision. The room starts to look familiar. Glowing grates on the floor expel puffs of steam, but the air is chilly. “What do you mean, broke something? What happened to me?”

The noises at the table stop, Whisper turns to me, raising a brow. “You don't remember?” I stare, shaking my head. The dull ache reminds me not to refrain from doing rash movement.

“You've been out for almost a week, Hyde,” her words are sharp, hiding nothing. There's a look in her eyes I haven't seen before. A look of concern. “The Third Section is open again, and there are less guards in the other Sections.”

She clicks her tongue, crossing her arms as her tone dropped. “Everything that Journalist said he would do if Orion was the one that they were looking for.”

“What?” I sit up fully. Pain shoots through my body at the quick action, but I ignore it, looking at her across the room. “What did Orion do?” Whisper sighs, her hard glare softening for a quick instance before turning her back towards me.

“They took him away, Hyde,” she finally says, breathing out the words in an exasperated sigh. “It's been a week since then. They took him past the Outer Wings at this point.”

Everything hits me, the memories flooding back with a dull pain in my head. The guards and the firing with Workers. The library and the explosion. Orion and the deal he struck with the Journalist. I grit my teeth, my jaw creaking, aching.

“Everything seems like it's back to normal. There's even enough food coming from the Third Section now. Whatever they're doing in the other Wings, production of things to eat has increased. So has fuel for the boilers, and more Wet Workers are passing by.” She trails off into an inaudible drabble of whispers. I stop listening, staring at a spot on the wall.

Questions assault my mind, but I feel my mouth hang loosely. Anger fills me, but the pain dulls it to a futile frustration. I can't move without my body screaming to stop, but I want to get out of here. There are things I want to say, but only one leaves through my lips. “He's gone?”

Whisper says nothing, but the slow nod confirms everything. I try to heave my feet off the bed. Pain shoots through my stomach and I fall back down, groaning in pain. “You never listen, do you?” She says. I hear mockery in her voice. No, it feels more like disappointment. “Stay down and try again in a few days. Whatever Harbour wanted you to drink is working.” I spare a glance at the empty bowl in my hand. She turns to walk away but I call out, stopping her.

“Why do you sound like whatever happened was my fault?” I hiss out amidst the pain from moving my jaw. She doesn't answer immediately, a heavy silence falling in the room. I throw the bowl on the table to break it, clanging against the flat surface. “I actually did something, Whisper. You couldn't even get him away from there!” Each word is agonizing, but the frustration keeps me going. Across the room, she opens the door, looking at me behind her shoulder.

They are cold eyes. Similar to the gaze from when we met. Nothing is said as she leaves, closing the door behind her. Alone, the pain sends me down fully on the bed. I stare up, the anger still stewing in with the dull ache. Damn her. I risked everything to keep them away from Orion. Why was he even still there? He wouldn't have listened to me, but if Whisper was the one to explain, I'm sure he would've at least followed her.

I swallow, the bitter taste fighting back up my throat. No, he was out of there by the time I blew up the library, so he must've. So, why was he there? Damn it, where is everyone? Are there that so few people in my life that the loss of one is this devastating? And to think I wasn't the one holed up in a library for most of my days.

If I'm this bad, Orion must be taking it terribly. A laughter shakes my body, but it trails off with my thoughts. They took him away. From what Whisper said, the Third Section is open, and the guards have reduced their patrols. So, whatever work they wanted to fill, Orion was their perfect option. I imagine they wouldn't take anyone less than optimal. All to preserve the efficiency, the bastards.

I shift on the bed, laying on my side. I hiss through the pain, but it fades into a dull sensation if I lay still. As much as I want to get out and try to make sense on what happened while I was out, the pain is keen on keeping me down, left with nothing but my thoughts.

I try to remember that day. The faint ring of explosions come back in my ears, filling the silence. I shouldn't have tried to remember so much. Now that I do, it's hard to forget. The screaming in the streets, the piercing cry of weapon fire, even the damp metal floor when I got knocked down. It was the first time I ever touched the guard's weaponry.

Never have I felt a material as smooth and spotless. I expected it to be warm, but it was an icy touch. It was heavier than I thought, but I guess that's how they keep it off the hands of anyone else but the guards. Getting kicked back from a single shot was outside my expectations. I guess that explains the sore shoulder. Thinking about this won't help anything, even breathing is an ordeal.

I laugh, each puff of breath like a needle stabbed against my lungs. As far as I can tell, I have my body intact. It was a miracle nothing got blown off. I would've been like Old man Harbour, or short on a few fingers like Whisper. She still hasn't brought up the story behind that, no matter how many times I ask. Orion had called it insensitive, which was surprising coming from somebody as curious as he is.

The thought of him takes air out of me. He's somewhere out there with them. If that hostess was right, then we'll never see him again. Like hell I'd let that happen.

“Okay. Just, up on my feet.” I tighten my core to sit up, an immediate jolt of pain sends me back on the bed. This isn't happening. Damn it.

A knock on the door stills any further attempt. I watch it swing open, a single person walking in the room. The clack of his cane bounces against the walls, followed by a harsh slam of the metal door.

“You look like you're dying,” Harbour says in lieu of a greeting. I roll my eyes, falling back on the bed.

“I guess it's my lucky day then.” I sneer, training my eyes on him. He walks to the table, throwing a bag over his shoulder, thudding against the surface.

“Lucky? Even with the mess you left here?” Oh, great. Even he thinks it was because of me. Well, he has always thought that since the incident of the Third Section, I feel like the last week has done nothing but confirm that. “I lost a good place that kept something smart around here, and to top it off, the only few smart people here.” He coughs, his voice rising too loud. “Now, it's just Whisper.”

I would stand up and take offense if I could, but I just keep my glare, shaking my head. “I tried to do something so they wouldn't get to him, okay?” I say in defense. He scoffs at me, the table groaning against his weight. He points his cane to me. A frown is likely behind that unkept beard of his.

“And how did that end up? The only guy you can call your friend has been hauled away and you're bedridden like a sickly old man.” It stings particularly when he says it, an old man looking like he's on the verge of dying. “And it all started because you thought it'd be smart to sell to radical morons.”

I roll my eyes, irritation growing. “Instead of what? Slave in the boilers until I die? Until I blow a leg like you and work until I keel over?” I spit the words venomously, but he gives me the same stare, unaffected.

“I raised you to not think like a moron, Hyde,” Harbour slams his cane down, pushing off the table. “Both you and Hyde were like my sons. What thanks do I get? One blows up part of the Section and the other gets taken away.” He glares down, foggy eyes that stare into my soul with scrutiny. I look away, though the gesture is futile.

“Stay down and drink whatever I give you. Maybe you can get up in a few days.” He says with a gruff tone, reaching in the bag for a container. He lines it on the table before closing the bag. “From what Whisper saw, you probably bruised inside from the kicking,” Harbour pauses, facing himself back at the door. “Their boots are made of heavy steel. Count yourself lucky you didn't break anything, from what I felt.”

“You can tell if I broke anything?” I peer down at my body, lifting my shirt up. Dark spots of purple cover my stomach. I poke its center and hiss out from the pain. “Nothing needs replacing?”

“Maybe a new brain.” He returns with a loud laugh. I roll my eyes, taking the insult in silence. He walks to the door, feeling around the edge for the handle. At times I forget he's nearly blind.

“What's it like out there now?” I throw out. His steps stop at the doorway before turning to look my way. Dim light bleeds into the room, different to the low orange of the vents.

“It's quieter,” he starts, chewing his bottom lip. “There's more work, but people don't talk as much. Kids still play, but some as old as Cass are filling in the job of those who died.” A sour tone trails off. I swallow, ignoring the ache as I drop my jaw.

“How many died?” It's a stupid question, and the shift in his face tells me that he agrees. Yet, he draws a breath, preparing an answer.

“They say it was about twenty. Maybe thirty. That's not counting those who overdosed from whatever they were injecting until Third Section opened up.” My mouth dries, trying to remember from that day. That many people died? Before I can ask, he continues. “That's not counting the other Sections. Thanks to your little stunt, other people started throwing their own fits. Second Section seemed not too affected by it.”

“And why's that?”

“They turned the bodies into stew.” A chill goes up my spine, remembering a certain hostess.

“When did the Third Section open?”

He responds quickly, “Just two days ago.” In five days, that many people died? My head hurts trying to think about it. My lack of response turns him out the door, and he closes it before I could stop him. Outside, I hear him yell. “Get up as soon as you can! There's work for a moron like you to do!”

I groan, laying back on the bed. My breath is shallow. Talking seems enough to tire me out right now. I'm left alone, watching the ceiling as I listen to the distant hammers of industry. It staves off my thoughts, but my eyes soon grow heavy, consciousness slipping from my grasp.

The memory of Orion's back with the guards’ blurs in my mind, then my vision fades to black.