It was two days until I was able to talk to Kris again. They didn't bring me up for another fight until then, and by the time they did I was feeling a little antsy. It didn't help that Vengeance and I were no longer talking since our angry exchange earlier, and the damp, stale silence was nearly unbearable. I was glad when they finally hauled me out of my cell for my next fight.
I wormed my way over to her immediately as soon as I entered the antechamber. She was waiting for me, sitting cross-legged on the concrete floor, her back propped against the wall.
"Took you a while," she said. "I was expecting you yesterday."
"Yeah, well, they didn't send me up for a fight yesterday," I said, sitting down next to her, "don't know why."
Kris's eyes darted around the room nervously. "Listen, I don't know how much time we have before they come to get one of us, so we'd best get down to business. What did you want to know?"
"Tell me what happened last time," I said.
Kris nodded and closed her eyes, her brow furrowing. "It was two years ago," she said. "I hated this place so much, I didn't know if I could stand it anymore. I thought about suicide, I really did. But then I said, no, I might as well go down fighting, right? They all told me it was impossible to escape, but what did I care? I was desperate. The worst that could happen was that I could die, and I wasn't afraid of that anymore.
"So I started keeping an eye out for opportunities. There had to be a way, I thought. If I was going to attempt a jailbreak, I wanted to at least think that I had a chance."
She stopped speaking. After a moment, I looked over at her. She no longer had her eyes shut, but instead was squinting up at the ceiling. I followed her gaze.
"You see those pipes up there?"
I spotted them right away and nodded.
"They carry water to everywhere in the complex," explained Kris. "Most of them are just small ones like those. But they all empty into a larger system, which links up to the municipal pipes."
"So you tried to escape through the plumbing?" I asked, not quite sure whether to be impressed or incredulous.
"Tried, yes, but I never did make it that far. Anyway, I realized that the pipes could be a way out. A way of avoiding the neigh-impenetrable doors to this place as well as the numerous guards and security measures stationed there."
"But how were you going to get into the pipes?" I inquired. "And if they're filled with water, how were you going to breathe?"
"Well that was the tricky part," Kris said. "Getting to the water pipes wasn't the difficult part -- I had already located half a dozen service entrances. It was getting into them that would be difficult. But I'm sure you've noticed that this isn't the most well-maintained establishment you've ever seen."
I nodded as I studied the moldy walls and leaky ceiling.
"Well," continued Kris, "the plumbing isn't in the best shape either. Most of the pipes are ancient and rusty and leaky besides. In fact, it wouldn't take much to cut a way into them."
"But then what?" I asked. "You still wouldn't have been able to breathe, and how did you get out of your cell in the first place to implement all of this?"
"I was just getting to that," said Kris, looking mildly annoyed. "Back then they only used to have one guard come to escort me to the fights. They don't do that anymore, though. Not with me at least.
"Now by that point, I had acquired a little shiv, and when the guard came to haul me out, I managed to get it to the guard's throat before he got behind me. I made him give up his gun and keys. Then I left and headed for the basement."
"Wait, what about the guard?" I said, though I thought I already knew the answer.
Kris's brown eyes met mine and a disturbing indifference crept into them as she said, "I killed him."
I swallowed. I don't know why I was bothered by this; I had killed more than one man in my time. Perhaps I just thought that Kris wouldn't stoop to that; she spared the lives of the opponents she faced in the arena. But she was a survivor, and survivors do whatever it takes.
"So why the basement?" I asked after a brief pause.
"There's a water shutoff down there -- manual. I told you this place was ancient. The plan was to shut off the water flowing into the pipes and then to take it down to the municipal storage chamber, where I'd hopefully be able to swim out. Of course, I never made it that far. They caught me on the way to the shutoff, and they've kept closer tabs on me since then."
Kris finished and sighed. "That's what happened last time."
My brain was going into overdrive, however. This plan seemed possible. There were certainly specifics that needed ironing out, but it just might work. I smiled.
"But that's not what's going to happen this time," I told Kris. "This time we're getting out."