I gag and puke over and over again into the bucket as each new wave of pain washes over me. It's not the pain that responsible for the sickly stew dripping off me chin though. It's Grozny, it's rage.
I underestimated him, I played the game and I lost and that more than anything is what brings the bile into my throat. I was naive to think I could play the game against Grozny and win. At the end of the day, I have a soul and that was my weakness. I wasn't prepared to damn myself for the greater good.
As I lay here dizzy and sick, feverish from the pain, dreams of what might have been slice through my head like razors. I see myself secure in my power over the city, using my influence to make sure Grozny and people like him never have a hold over us again. I see myself shaking hands with FBI officials and receiving awards and recognition for my work. I see myself in my office, the benevolent dictator, keeping people safe from each other and from themselves with the power I've taken from Grozny's cold dead hands.
He was smarter than me, I think and I retch again violently into the bucket even as I admit to myself a certain admiration for his plan.
The sympathy vote, the puppet on strings, the tool to wield, the betrayer whose trustworthiness is beyond doubt. Grozny hit the ground running and any obstacles I threw in his way only have him more ammunition to use for this moment. It's coming was inevitable, I see that now.
I look down at my hands. The blood there isn't my own, at least not all of it. Most of it belongs to another of Grozny's victims. He brought me a gift and even though I knew it was a trap I needed something, anything to stop this, if just for a moment.
The poor child lies there, covered in blood and puke. I knew the cameras would be rolling, but I didn't care. I saw Grozny's face in that little boy's eyes and the rage took over, so now I don't even have my gift to play with.
I have nothing now. and I break down into sobs, lying against the corrugated metal walls and feeling the sharp grey dust of the floor crunching between my fingers as I clench my fists.
"It's time for your audition, Wilkerson."
I look up to see one of Grozny's heavies, the size of a house and a jaw like granite block looming over me. On the opposite side of the warehouse they have been busy. They have set up a little filming studio, thick white canvas is screwed to the walls, lights setup another camera waiting to see my broken visage.
I'm too tired to get up and the heavy, not pleased with having to wait, kicks over the bucket, spilling bile down my suit and trousers.
The heavy pulls me up and drags me to the set in the corner and another shoves a piece of paper in my hands.
"Stand! Read!" He barks.
I shuffle defeatedly into the heat of the lights and begin reading their script, mindful of the heavy holding his gun at me from behind the camera.
"We have the following demands..."
I work my way slowly through the list, stopping and starting as bile rises in my throat. Every one is a misdirection, another thread to be woven together to form an impenetrable story, to throw any any doubt that this could be something other than a terrorist threat. Lines of drivel and diatribe against the capitalist agenda, dropping names such as Grozny's as the enemy. In fact, as the list goes on I read out the names of several powerful men and women, Grozny's rivals no doubt. Hiding among the crowd perhaps, innocent by association. Or maybe he wants there to be an execution to give him even more power, his rivals eliminated by terrorists. In all honesty though, I can no longer care and so I read the lines one after the other without a further thought until the final one slides from my lips.
"We are the group Red5. You will meet our demands within 48 hours or there will be more deaths."