Filth and disease, a mind bathed in crushing drudgery, a sea of skulls; Jaim dreamed and yet he did not dream, he saw without seeing. He awoke to silence, blessed, sacred silence he'd thought he'd never know again.
He was a living contradiction, his apparent freedom made a fallacy by this place, these endless tunnels. They'd done things to him and the others, terrible things with their instruments, blades and tubes. They'd put snakes in his veins, under his skin and wasps in his head.
But now, silence. Sweet silence.
Alone, he sat in a roughly hewn tunnel, somewhere near a waste disposal chamber. The thick stench of burning chemicals and decay tore at his nostrils as he sat up in the fetid pool of muddy water he'd collapsed in. He caught a distorted image in the water his face. Dark, tired and sweaty, a dark black scarab clutched over his right eye, sinking it's fangs into his skull and leaking a milky white fluid down his face. It tasted bitter.
He reached up to touch it, the dark, ribbed metal was unmoving and unforgiving, but felt obscenely living as if there was a beating heart beneath that metal shell that seemed to mock his own. They'd pay for what they had done, but first he must survive.
The ache in his head began to return, waves crashing over his consciousness light the beam of a distant lighthouse, over and over again. He turned in it's direction and knew it was one of the others instinctively, could see the ghosts hovering around them like hungry spiders. Light and pain, like heaven.
And then it was gone.
He'd been just another one of the workers, mining birthing pits for Them. Digging and digging so that they could raise more writhing maggots just like him. Until he was chosen and whisked away for a merry dance with the doctors scalpel. He'd disobeyed, he'd tried to run but They always caught him and when it was too much, They chose him for something worse than mere beatings. He touched his eye again and felt the vibrations of his fingers reverberate into his eye socket with a shudder.
So, onwards, to wherever freedom lead him. The only way that could lead was up, up out of these pits and into bright, clean skies. If they even existed, Jaim didn't hold any illusions that things were not as bad he had been taught to believe, hope was a luxury that he couldn't afford, a fairytale that would only get him killed or worse, captured. No, freedom was up, and so freedom was just as unobtainable as a clear blue sky. What Jaim wanted was far simpler, far more basic. He wanted revenge, he wanted to see the Emperor with a look of fear on his face and his entrails in his hands. He wanted blood and pain and the satisfaction only they could bring.
He could feel the voices pushing in on him, smothering him like a cancer. A thousand voices multiplying endlessly with a single word: obey. He hadn't listened before and he wouldn't listen now, so picking himself up from the filthy puddle he sat he headed towards the waste pits. One mans trash was another mans treasure, so it was told. He headed towards the thundering sound, fluid streaming down his stoic face and neck, staining his grubby overalls.