Knox stared aimlessly at the coffee in front of him – it wasn’t real coffee, just coffee flavoured milk – his mind wandering back to what had transpired four days ago, he still couldn’t get the image of the baby out of his mind or the look of disgust on the girls face or the young mother. He had nightmares about them, and when he woke up he found himself covered in sweat and emptying his stomach in the bathroom. He even cried a couple of times, but that was something he locked away in his heart, if he ever showed signs of becoming ‘empathetic’ to the slaves then the authorities would take him in and perform a “behavioural reassigning” which was a polite way of saying brainwashing. They erased memories and personalities and replaced them with more ‘desirable traits’ that would help the city of Agarta in the long-run.
Knox didn’t want that to happen to him, to become another faceless soldier, a statue of flesh among the buildings of steel.
“You shouldn’t worry about it too much,” Knox’s best friend, Rian, explained matter-of-factly, “the way you described it, it sounds as though that whore deserved it, and I mean it was quite selfish of her to have twins. She knew that she could only have three children and having one extra seems a bit… greedy.”
Knox nodded his head automatically, still looking down at his coffee and only half listening to what Rian had to say. He knew though that Rian had a point, the woman knew that she could only have three children, trying to have four was a little greedy; other women were only allowed to give birth to one or possibly two. To been given the responsibility of giving to birth to three children was a real honour and giving birth to a fourth was disrespecting the authorities.
“You’re lucky though that you got to be in Lt. Ryker’s faction and you should be happy that you get to be around one of the heroes of Agarta.” Rian explained with a touch of envy in his voice, it was true that Knox should be happy to be picked to be in Ryker’s team, but he couldn’t bring himself to feel the enthusiasm or the joy.
He could hear Rian sigh heavily and set the teaspoon down on the table, “look, you shouldn’t feel bad about the baby anyway,” there was a slight pause as Rian drank some coffee, “the way I see it Lt. Ryker did a mercy killing. That baby was destined for the science chambers, have you seen those freaks that they’ve experimented on?”
Knox had seen them, every highborn that wanted to be a soldier saw them, soldiers in training were forced to kill them to get used to violence and guns. The ‘freaks’ were slaves that had lost their ‘usefulness’ to Agarta because of old age, mental illnesses and birth defects, so instead of going into the incineration chambers and dying instantly, they put to use in the science chambers where they were experimented on to further medicine. Prolonged exposure to the experiments leads to blindness, hairlessness, engorged tongues, swollen limbs and constant rage.
Knox nodded in reply, “well then, would you rather the baby be dead now or would you rather it suffered for the rest of its life?” Rian asked and at that Knox looked up to meet his friends’ eyes.
Unlike, Knox who was considered rather handsome by a lot of people, Rian wasn’t the best-looking fellow in Agarta, his nose was too big, his brown eyes were too close together and he was one of the more scrawny soldiers in the force. But unlike Knox, who was considered average, Rian was one of the most intelligent people in Agarta; he could become one of the youngest Ministers one day.
“You’re right, as usual.” Knox admitted sadly, he could feel a lump rise against his throat as he said it, guilt or perhaps regret, but before Knox could fully realise the emotion he forced it down by drinking the rest of his coffee in one go.
“Of course I am…” Rian agreed dramatically as he and Knox got up from their seats and started towards the servants’ quarters. For some reason – a reason that Knox couldn’t quite understand – Rian enjoyed walking in the servants chambers, Knox suspected that perhaps his best friend enjoyed looking at the slaves fear or outright obedience whenever a highborn entered their quarters.
“So, was that other girl pretty?” Rian asked casually as the door to the Agriculture and Textile chambers opened to them. It reeked of sweat and fabric dye.
“Pretty,” he answered instantly, before quickly adding “for a slave, I guess.”
“You should arrange for a ‘private meeting’ with her, heaps of us do it so it isn’t looked down on as it was before.” Rian explained as they passed a group of girls dying fabric a vivid blue, Knox noticed Rian’s eyes watching the girls hungrily as if he was a fox preying on a few young lambs.
Rape, Knox instantly understood what “a private meeting” meant and he felt the familiar lump rise against his throat again. Some Highborns, not all of them, arranged meetings with young slave boys and girls; it was entertainment for some, for others it was merely fulfilling a fantasy and for people like Rian was it was a chance to feel god-like. A decade or so ago it was considered a taboo thing to do, but now it was just considered a bit like hiring prostitutes.
“No, that’s disgusting.” Knox stated firmly, there was one thing he was firmly against and that was having sex with them, he didn’t understand why some Highborns thought that having sex with the rats was sexy.
“Ugh, you’re so conservative, Knox, you need to get with the times.” Rian scolded, rolling his eyes as a girl, who had been running rather fast, collided into Knox.