Ruth thrust her hand into the cold, night air and grasped aimlessly for the rope. The pressure of the steel bar jammed her arm painfully, tightening as she desperately tried to extend her reach. Grating her teeth together, she stretched her hand further, further, until she felt her knuckles would crack. The struggled breaths she took appeared before her in a cloud of fog, converted by the freezing temperature. She gasped for more air, more life, only to be met with a vacuum of frost rushing into her chest. Choking, as if the cold had frozen her very insides, Ruth fell back onto the damp floor. She was appalled at herself. It was so close, yet she couldn't do it.
The beacons of guards flickered in her peripheral and with effort, she turned her head towards the light. The torchlight did not become larger and so she leaned up, tossing her weight down onto one side and lifting her head to the scene below.
It was them alright. The guards. The pockets of conversation her ears could detect told Ruth that what was happening was not unique. It played out just as it always did. The provocative raps of the cane on the bars, the tormenting two man act, the spat out insults. And then silence. Nothing.
As she watched them drag the body away, as if it was some prized carcass, waiting to be judged, Ruth felt the presence of all the other eyes around her. They were just like her, the same in every respect. Their situation was identical. Ruth smiled bitterly to think of the saying, 'Nothing unites people like a common enemy'. She had always believed what the phrase prescribed, thinking her case study evidence worthy of proof. She had always believed it until she herself became part of a different kind of case study. Practical application can render the most elegant theories utter bullshit.
No, she was not united with those who owned the eyes all around. The hungry eyes, spectators of the night sport. To her, they were just another enemy, exterior altered but essentially the same. Something to be feared, hated and destroyed. The bloody trail left in the concrete by the guards' night's work shone under the roaming spotlight. All of the eyes saw it. Ruth knew that they all understood that eventually, maybe tomorrow, maybe years from now, that would be their blood etched into the pavement. The pin pricks of light reflected from those hundreds of pairs of eyes never seemed so cold to Ruth, than at that moment.
She had to get out.
Launching herself against the bars, she thrust her aching arm back into the cold night air.
Owen and Chester Wentworth sat in the driver and passenger seat of their '94 Skyline. Before them, the labyrinth of the city wound into the Lincoln Valley, delving into the mountainside for miles. The city seemed to be as old as the landscape it accompanied, or at least the surrounds both natural and man made, fused together in an unusual harmony. Tattered building facades were commonplace and the balmy summers caused the dilapidated streets shops to warp under the heat. The ravaged appearance of the buildings was only rivalled by the conflicts that erupted between district gangs regularly. The streets bore all the signs of a war zone; this was the downtown sector. The upside of the valley was somewhat different. Graced by a series of modern installations, the concrete silhouettes had been founded when the city became a metropolis for private business. The division of Third St could not have been more black and white if it was choreographed; suits to the left and delinquents to the right. The traffic lights, conveniently enough, coincided with an intersection of social interests. So as Chester and Owen lingered at this urban landmark, the day began.
"Penny is going in first. They don't know her yet. I told them we were getting a new accomplice for field work, so she won't be censored."
Chester paused upon a car alarm starting, obviously nervous about the proceedings.
"She's going to be fine, Ches," he reassured him.
His brother sat biting his index finger next to him, and Owen could feel the anxiety ripple through the interior of the car. He knew Chester was especially concerned for Penny, but they both realised the demand of the circumstances. It was a matter of 'for the greater good'; or something like it. She was one of their associates at first, a leader of one of the down town syndicates and one of their first targets. The day the downtown file had landed on Sergeant Wentworth's desk was the first day of the rebellion.