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The Story - Chapter 2

TWO

The Macee admired himself in his personal mirror. He marveled at his pilot's helmet, which dated from World War Two, and could not get over how well it matched with his late 20th century flight suit. Chicks dig pilots, Chris, his father had told him repeatedly as a child. He recalled every word his father said, until that last cursed day when both he and his mother were taken from him. He remembered flying in the cockpit with his father. He remembered everything; The Macee had a photographic memory.

He shook himself and continued his appraisal in the mirror. The helmet was a bit tight, but, what the heck, he still cut a dashing figure. Time to show that figure off once again, he thought.

The Macee grew up in what had been Athens Airport. His parents were pilots at the only airline that managed to survive the last desperate years of successive mergers, foreclosures, forfeits and bankruptcies. He became enchanted with the magic of flight when his father took him up at the age of three. Right then he decided to become a pilot himself. But the End caught up with his dreams, and his parents were lost in the riots.

He managed to survive, though. And in one of his expeditions to a forgotten basement of the airport, he found the flight suit and the old helmet in a trunk. The chest also contained a long-forgotten letter that described a very special type of machine that could teach him to fly, as well as blueprints for a new type of airplane that could operate on solar power. The Macee spent years studying the drawings, pillaging old libraries, teaching himself electrical engineering from the burnt scraps of aged textbooks. He discovered that the machine he was looking for was called a flight simulator. The old letter gave some references as to where it had been buried in a bunker beneath the ground. He discovered that the antique helmet and the flight suit had been enhanced with circuitry and microprocessors that would somehow interface with the flight simulator and unlock the secrets of the solar-powered airplane.

The Macee's real name was Christos Markou. When he reached the point where he could clearly understand all the material in the old textbooks he rummaged through, he reckoned that he could rightfully call himself an electrical engineer. Chris had then adopted the call name The Macee, which stood for "MArkou Christos Electrical Engineer," in honor of the old system in effect at the engineering university in Athens before the End.

Whether his ethics in awarding himself an electrical engineering degree were questionable or not was not really relevant - the Macee's IQ was off the charts, and in a 20th-century environment he would have been awarded multiple degrees long before his twentieth birthday. Chris was a genius - he could look at a piece of technology and intuitively understand what it did. That particular skill had made his services very desirable, a sales point he utilized shamelessly and with considerable arrogance until one particular employer, who happened to be the Dictator of Athens, thought him too valuable to wander free and made him a slave.

He was broken out of prison by the Sandmen, who were attacking Orchomenos at the time, and who took him with them on principle, since he was someone who Orchomenos wanted. They were also eager to get their hands on anything that had to do with old technology, and Chris's quest for the flight simulator struck a resonant chord within the rebel band. The Macee became a full-fledged Sandman without clearly understanding how; the nomads readily accepted his presence without much ceremony. They liked him. And The Macee could fight, too, a necessary prerequisite for becoming a Sandman. Chris suddenly found himself part of a large and tightly-knit family for the first time in his life. It was hard to imagine, but he was happier than he had ever been.

He pulled his flight cap down tighter and set off to find Trapped.


*****************


tRappED_7 slept in the nude. It seemed much easier to keep the fleas off her body that way.

She had hung up her sling in the aisle of an old bus that no one else wanted, desperate to be left alone, desperate to snatch a few hours of sleep, desperate to be away from people for a few hours. The ploy had worked for a few days, basically because no one ever came down to the junkyard anyway except for Max (and Max knew enough to leave her alone when she was trying to sleep). But that particular morning some fucking moron had left a fucking generator running so that he could repair some fucking thing in whatever passed for his fucking home out there in the fucking sticks. She was not getting any sleep, and she was getting more and more pissed off by the second.

She felt like pulling out her knife and introducing the good citizen with the generator to the Red7. Good thing that woman was dead and buried. She was a Sandman now, part of the Brotherhood, and the Red One was gone for good. To top things off, she was In Command this particular month according to their Charter. That meant, on top of everything else, that it was up to her to make a good impression on the local populace, since they were the ones who sheltered the Sandmen wherever and whenever they relocated their base. A screaming naked chick bursting into the good citizen's domicile repeatedly plunging a razor-sharp dagger into his carotid arteries probably would not make a good impression on the aforementioned local populace.

tRappED_7 snarled in what passed for sleep, wishing she really was a witch (she had been accused of that often enough) and could hex the generator dude into having a fucking heart attack and dying in front of his fucking wife and kids after his balls had blown off and his fucking head burst into flames.

Her name was Maria Laskari. Her father had been a Greek diplomat, an envoy to the Middle East. No one heard word of him after the nuclear strikes of 2018 in Saudi Arabia. Her mother was physically weak and fragile, but blessed with tenacity and a strong will. She died of radiation poisoning while searching for her husband in the Kingdom a few months after the Saudi Disaster.

Not many people expected that a 7-year old orphan would survive in the midst of riots, looting, rape, and the even more depraved acts of violence that destroyed organized society during the End. But she endured. She remembered being locked up in total darkness and being used as a sexual toy by gangs of men. She remembered being beaten and starved. She remembered.

She had grown up to become a compact, dark woman of indeterminable age, simultaneously lithe and voluptuous. Seven was the number that had haunted her whole life; she became a victim or rape and a bitter veteran of combat at the age of seven. She lived sick and hungry, she was beaten and imprisoned again and again, but still she fought back. Maria hunted and killed in order to survive. She became both a slave and a murderer. She spent two decades among beggars, thieves and adventurers.

But she also lived with hardened soldiers who taught her the art of war, men who gained power over others and became local rulers. She became a human chameleon, controlling these rulers in turn, playing on their passions and fears. She learned how to transform her personality and her appearance to match the people and circumstances around her.

But the sum of these experiences had a perilous impact on her. She forgot who she really was. The only time she could remember things from her past was when she was sleeping. But at that point, there, just when she would begin to remember, another story always began, and she became someone else.
She was tRAPpED when she was 7 years old and had nightmares of that time every night. She became the Red7 after slaughtering her master and six members of his family with a knife in a desperate bid to break free. The only thing from her past she could remember clearly were the nightmares. She would wake up confused, bathed in sweat, and jump out of bed screaming. She remembered being plagued by nightmares even as a child. She was sure that she had dreamed of The End before societal collapse had actually occurred. She could not recall when it had all started. Everything was mixed up in her mind.

One morning she woke up next to a total stranger, or rather next to someone who believed that she was a stranger to him, a random acquaintance, a one night stand. But Maria knew precisely why she had approached him and what she wanted from him. Except that it didn't work out the way she had planned. That man had turned out to be a Sandman, and had brought her in turn to the Admiral. And the Admiral had questioned her, listened to her words, heard her story, accepted her, welcomed her, healed her.

Let it go, Maria.

She became a Sandman then herself. The Red7 and Trapped merged and became tRappED_7, Maria having finally found a home, regaining a semblance of peace.

Which is why she didn't leap off the fucking sling screaming to sink her knife hilt-deep into The Macee's chest, even though the fucking asshole was leering at the outline of her breasts. For the thousandth time.

She opened her eyes. Chris was standing right over her, a large, nervous-looking man with spectacles in a flight suit and some kind of stupid old helmet with electrical plugs on his head. He wasn't staring at her breasts after all; he was staring at her toes. Unlike most of the women in the post-Decline era, she still painted her toenails. It was hell getting nail polish, it took months of effort, but painted toenails seemed to stupefy the men who saw them and drive them crazy. She had once shot a man through the forehead using that tactic to put him off his guard: he had been gawking at her feet.


"Have they ever tried to rape you while you were sleeping?" Chris said with a suggestive smile.
Jesus Christ. He actually thinks he's being charming
"No," she smiled sweetly, pulling the dagger out from underneath the sheet that covered her nakedness. "How about you?"
Chris's face dropped. He turned around on his heel, red-faced, looking down the aisle of the dilapidated bus.
"We've lost contact with both Shadowjack and Bobkid," he reported, suddenly serious, embarrassed by his faux-pas, sullen.
Maria threw the sheet off of her body and jumped down from the sling nude. She could see Chris tremble, and knew he was watching her in one of the surviving shards of the bus's mirrors. She dressed slowly, giving him a show for his trouble. He had saved her life more than once.
"And?" she said while getting dressed. "Bobby probably blew setting up the transponder array - you know how worthless he is with electronics."
"It would be difficult for him not to complete the array," The Macee said. "They're being watched over by John Damon."
"Sentient computer programs and mechanical men," Maria grumbled. "Our robot probably discovered some old library again and lost track of time."
"He's not a robot - he's a cybernetic organism."
"It's the same thing, sweetie. Shadowjack is a walking dead man." She finished buttoning her shirt.
"And he doesn't lose track of time," The Macee said.
"Sorry?"
"He has a computer screwed into his skull. It's physically impossible for him to lose track of time."
"There is that."
"So what do we do, Chief?"
"Let's go see Max. We need to borrow a car."


**************


Max was born in the time of plenty, the age of excessive goods. In a corrupt society whose moral values had long ago declined, the global economic recession hit doubly hard, and Greece's erstwhile centers of medicine and technology had crumbled in a day. Nothing could stop the vortex of decay. Politicians tried to patch up non-superficial wounds in the system without disinfecting them first, and despite summit after summit, society succumbed to the infection of insurrection. Countries transformed into medieval fiefdoms and old friends became foes. Greece ceased to exist.

The pre-Apocalypse, the period humanity had come to know as The Decline, began with a general breakdown in social order. A time of looting and lawlessness ensued, driving individual neighborhoods and small townships to fortify themselves and clash with armed gangs of thieves and raiders. It was not long before the global supply of fossil fuel was exhausted, and 'flashes' around the world knelled the beginning of The End. Roaming gangs plundered anything in their path in their quest for precious fuel, and gasoline became far more costly than diamonds.

In the sequence of those events, Max lost his family, and as a result of their deaths, his sanity. He forgot who he was and where he had come from, those memories too painful to keep. He became someone else entirely during a tearful evening spent cowering in the ruins of a movie theatre, hiding from raiders out for his blood, praying to the torn movie poster of another man whose wife and child had also been killed, a man who had faced a different End as a warrior armored in leather.

He woke up that morning convinced his name was Max. Everyone who knew his real name or history had been killed anyway, so there was no one around to contradict him. He became Max, and whoever he had been before was no longer important.

Insane with grief and caught in the middle of warring factions, Max faced marauders day in and day out, and in time became almost as savage and brutal as the gangs he tried to eliminate. One thing and one thing only brought a semblance of stability into his life: the smell of gasoline. He became obsessed with fuel and, as a consequence, obsessed with cars and engines. He could fix anything that had been designed to move. He didn't know or understand why; perhaps it was a remnant of his actual past, or perhaps simple talent. His skill repairing engines was noticed by the newly-formed Mechanics Guild, an armed group dedicated to preserving old knowledge, who quickly adopted Max into their association as a journeyman. Max was ecstatic; the smell of gasoline had evolved into a lullaby for him, and the only way he could sleep at night was with a tank of gas next to his bed.

The Sandmen and the Mechanics Guild had formed an alliance, and Max had become the Guild's representative to the Sandmen. The nomads had gained a mechanic capable of maintaining and servicing their vehicles in the bargain. In time, Max came to consider himself a Sandman, and the Sandmen to consider him as one of their own. He was not quite sure how that had come about. One morning he had been talking to the Admiral, who had simply said you're one of us now, bronze, and that had been it. Being with the Sandmen had given new meaning to his life, but not early enough to forestall his addiction. The fume accompanied him wherever he went even now, always.

Still, every Sandman did call him Max, though deep down he knew they considered him mad. He embraced his madness. That other person, that other fellow, whoever he had been, was gone. His son had never died in his arms. His wife had never been raped to death in front of him while he himself was held down screaming by a dozen men. That pain was gone forever. It had never happened.
That morning Max actually felt pretty good about himself.

He had about 40 jeeps arrayed in various stages of disrepair in the junkyard around him. He had actually managed to get four of them working, and was looking forward to increasing that number. He hummed an old song as he worked, a song about the Sandmen he had heard on one of Shadowjack's tapes. Max didn't speak English, so he couldn't understand the words, but it was apparent that the singers were repeating the verse "Mr. Sandman" again and again. He wondered how long the Sandmen had been around, to have had a song like that named after them. Max reckoned the song was released at least a decade before the End, maybe around the time he himself was born. Which made the song really old. Come to think of it, the Admiral was an old man, so the Sandmen must be a lot older than him. And if the song was in English, that must mean that our group must have spread all around the world before the End. Cool.

He saw tRappED_7 and The Macee approaching out of the corner of his eye, the woman strutting along full of self-importance. Fucking crazy psycho bitch from hell, he thought. What the fuck does she want? Max and Maria never really got along, which was fine with Max because the woman was like a fucking spider who ate her mates when she was finished with them. There were only two men she ever showed respect to: The Admiral, because he was her Daddy-figure, and Shadowjack, because he was dead and she knew that trying to control him was futile.

Max liked The Macee though. The Macee was his buddy. Plus, he was so uptight all the time that he was the perfect victim for Max's practical jokes. The Macee hated that, but he could never prove that Max was the practical joker.

The last time Max had filled the hot-water bag with spent radiator fluid while The Macee was taking a shower. Chris's face was green for a week afterwards. That was a good one, but it was hard keeping a straight face when an angry Macee interrogated him later, trying to find the culprit.
Max kept a close eye on them as they approached, weaving their way through the junked vehicles, banging on an open door here, a mirror there. He pretended to ignore them, humming "Mr. Sandman" as he worked.

The bitch sauntered up to him as expected.

"Max?" she said gently.
He paid her no heed, working on loosening an alternator coupling that had rusted shut. Maria glared at him.
"Maximilian?" she said even more sweetly, slithering forward to grab a plumber's wrench off the edge of the hood.
The Macee thought she was going to kill Max. "Come on, buddy," he growled for his benefit.

Maria was in fact entertaining the pleasant fantasy of cracking Max's skull open with the wrench and spilling his brains out all over the engine, but figured it wouldn't be worth it in the long-term. Besides, Bobby and the Machine were off missing somewhere and she really did need Max's help, so she dropped the idea.
Instead she hit the jeep hard enough to gouge a hole through the sheet-metal.

"MAX!" she screamed in her Red7 voice.

That got his attention.

"Lady, are you out of your fucking MIND?" Max shouted.
She smiled blissfully up at him. "We need your help, sweetie."
"So you trash my CAR?" he roared.
Maria looked down at the piece of junk that passed for a jeep. "It's already trash," she said.
Max glared at her.
"We've lost contact with Bobby and Shadowjack", she continued pleasantly. "Do any of your cars work? Do we have enough gas to go about a hundred kilometers? We need to go out and look for them."

Max had a panic attack and grabbed at the small vial of gasoline he always wore around his neck. The idea of wasting a hundred kilometers worth of gas was enough to make his heart skip. He glared at Maria.
She smiled dreamily and reached around with her left hand for the knife she always wore under her shirt.

"OK, ok," The Macee interjected hurriedly, trying to prevent one from killing the other. "That went about as well as expected. Look, brother, I know that gasoline is very precious to you, but I might be able to make the... sacrifice worth your while."
Max said nothing but a spark of interest flickered in his gaze. The Macee always had something interesting going on.
Chris purposefully turned his back on Max and leaned up against the jeep.
"I have a mediaplayer, a radio/CD/DVD player from 2014. I've managed to restore it completely."
Max said nothing, continuing instead to work on the jeep.
"It has FM/AM, shortwave and satellite," The Macee continued. "With two really good speakers and a very nice screen."
Max said nothing.
"It has a USB port for MP3 and MP4 players... maybe even MP5."
"OK, we're out of here!" Max suddenly shouted happily, the very picture of compliance, willing and eager to serve. He already knew which car was going to get the mediaplayer.
"Little boys and their little toys," tRappED_7 said. Both men noticed she was waving the wrench in their general direction, below the waist, when she let that particular barb fly. But she was smiling for real while she said it, showing actual affection for a change, so Max decided not to shoot her. Maybe she wasn't such a bitch after all.
Right. Maybe the sun occasionally rose in the west.
The Macee's PDA let out a vocal notice, an old song that had been given to him by Shadowjack, another one of those English melodies that no one understood. The cyborg seemed to be having a private joke at their expense with his choice of music.
Chris pulled out the PDA, pressing the button for "receive". "Hey, it's Bobkid!" he said.
Bobby's face appeared onscreen. He was wearing the Mask and breathing hard. Small arms fire could be heard in the background as he spoke.
"Brothers, we're under fire," he gasped. "We ran into a New Athens patrol. Impossible to disengage. Request immediate intervention based on Article Five of our Charter. Sending coordinates now. Please hurry - I don't know how long we can hold them off."
"Well, that's that," Maria said as the PDA's screen went blank. "Let's rendezvous in three minutes with full armament. Where's the Ukrainian?"
"The usual - probably somewhere around here watching us right now," Max said. "You know how he prides himself on being invisible until the last possible second, and then suddenly you feel him breathing down the back of your neck?"
"The problem with our group is that it's full of psychopaths," Maria mumbled. She raised her voice. "Yefim! Be here with all your weapons in three minutes. This is not a drill!"
"I've sent the message on to Headquarters," The Macee said. "It will take at least an hour for all our teams to assemble."
"The four of us will head out alone right now," Maria said. "We can't leave Bobby and Doni there. Send in a request to HQ for our team to perform immediate recon and engage only if absolutely necessary."
The Macee did so. The response was almost immediate.
"We're clear to go," he said. "They expect a 70 minute ETA. We can be there in 37 minutes."
"Agreed," Max said.
"Any message from the Machine?" Maria asked. "He must have seen that Article Five."
"Nothing."
"Damn him."
The Macee suddenly turned to Max, as if in hindsight.
"Oh, and buddy," he said. "Under the circumstances, the deal with the mediaplayer is off, right?"
"WHAT?!!" Max screamed.
"Sure," The Macee went on. "Bobby called an Article Five - 'every possible assistance and every possible resource, blah blah blah' - your gas is ours anyway."
Max almost fainted.

************

As the Decline grew more and more pronounced, the global demand for electricity forced national governments to turn towards the readily-available solution of nuclear power. Radioactive waste has the tendency to accumulate, however, and as such became a serious headache for many countries around the globe. Environmental groups in each nation did everything they could to prevent the burial of nuclear waste within their sovereign territory. A pro-industrial faction within the Ukrainian government came up with the perfect solution for this global quandary: since their country already had a the vast radioactive area (The Zone) created by the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, what difference would it make if they buried a bit more radioactive waste in that specific location, and made the State some money in the process?

Things quickly spiraled out of hand, however, as black-marketeering did away with any attempts to control the influx of fissionable material into the Ukraine. The Zone truly became a living hell, an enclave of Hades on earth, and all living things warped and corrupted in its vicinity.
Which made it the perfect target for environmental terrorists.

The corroded Chernobyl reactor Number Four sarcophagus was one of the primary targets of the terrorist strike of 2040. In a freak accident of physics, what started out as sabotage resulted in a nuclear explosion five times the size of the one that destroyed Hiroshima. The resulting devastation contaminated all surrounding territories, and life within what was once the Ukraine became impossible.

Yefim was born in Stanymyr, a small rural village in western Ukraine. The strike of 2040 did not leave him with many options in hand. With his family dying from radiation sickness and his village already contaminated, he soon realized that his only option was to run away. His mother's brother, Orest Volodimir, was a physicist who had been working on developing a nuclear power plant for New Athens in Greece. Yefim had no idea if Orest was dead or alive, or what conditions were like in New Athens, but he set off to find him anyway. It took him a year to cover the 1800 kilometers on foot, a feat many would consider a mythic Odyssey, but which Yefim considered all in a day's work.

In his long journey he soon realized that many other countries had suffered a similar fate to his homeland. The search for non-contaminated food as well as the constant effort to survive bandits and raiders changed Yefim forever. He learned to move and hunt silently and invisibly, becoming a sniper, an assassin, a Stalker in his own tongue. Whatever was left of human morality buried itself within the depths of his soul, leaving only the primitive instinct of the hunt for all to see.
He honed his skills daily. He was hiding in the junkyard, within earshot of the Mechanic, wondering how it was possible for the man not to see him or hear him. These Greeks were weak - if not for the debt the Slavs owed them for their language and religion, they would not have been worth bothering with. Certainly they were no big help against the Turks when it had come down to it.

He was brought out of his brooding by movement caught out of the corner of his eye, and shrank further into the shadows. Two people were approaching. One was tall. The other was short. He recognized them from their walk long before he could see them clearly.

Yefim watched the Vidma (Witch) and the Leleka (Stork) draw near to the Psykhichnokhvoryy Mekhanika (Insane Mechanic) while he worked on one of his pieces of junk. He knew they could not see him. Yefim liked the Mechanic, was fond of the Stork, and hated the Witch passionately. If only his Uncle Orest, who as it turned out was alive and working with the Sandmen, had not ordered him to take a vow of loyalty to the nomads, how he would have liked to hunt the Vidma! To make matters worse, for this rotation, she was his boss. Still, he had suffered worse things in life and would endure this as well.

The Vidma chattered at the Mekhanika for a while, holding a wrench and making threatening gestures; the Mekhanika roared back at her, then she tried to kill him, and then the Leleka said something and suddenly everyone was happy and smiling. Yefim knew that all Greeks were crazy anyway, and none of these ritual skirmishes worried him anymore. He heard Chris's PDA ring, and Bobkid's message for help. Bobby was a good warrior and Yefim liked him. Moreover, he was teaming with Doni on their current mission, which made the news all important, since together with Orest, Doni was the only other Sandman who spoke a civilized tongue. Yefim heard the Vidma order the team to assemble and slipped off to gather his gear. He was always ready to leave at a moment's notice anyway. With a bit of luck, he could get ahead of them and be at the garage before they arrived.

He heard the Vidma shouting his name as he crept away and grinned. Good, he thought. This was going to be amusing.

********

Agesilaus Dimitriou Orchomenos (born 29 July 2000, Kolonaki, Suburb of Old Athens), 190th Prime Minister of the Restored Hellenic Socialist Republic, First Marshal of New Athens, Head of Government, Archon of National Socialism, was sitting in a small corner room in a local taverna eating very good souvlaki and playing chess.

There were two chess boards in front of him, one for each of the men pitted against him. The party line was that there was an immediate promotion for the man who could beat Orchomenos in a game of chess. Unofficially, everyone knew that this policy also included punishment for those who lost, the severity of same depending on how well they played in the process. Agesilaus could find few willing opponents anymore, and both men sweated profusely as they tried to last as long as they could. One of them, an officer, had actually volunteered.

While he played, Agesilaus kept himself occupied by reading The Art of Strategy by R.L. Wing, a 1988 English translation of Sun Tzu's Art of War. The author had placed the original Chinese text in opposition to his translation, and Orchomenos, who had taken the time to learn ancient Chinese, could see that he had done a decent job with the text, although some concepts quite simply could not be translated into English. Still, he was lucky to have found the book in some good citizen's library in the first place, and referred to it often. It was one of his prize possessions.

He took a sip of bad whiskey, puffed on a dried-out cigar, and watched his men out of the corner of his eye. His main concern was encouraging his soldiers, trying to fortify their spirit while preventing them from sliding into savagery. "Wars may be fought with weapons, but they are won by men. It is the spirit of the men who follow and of the man who leads that gains the victory," General George S. Patton had written, and Orchomenos believed it with all his heart. He tried to lead by example, hence the offer of an instant promotion for whoever could beat him at chess.

He looked down at the boards and saw that one man had already lost, while the second was well on his way to ruin. So be it, he thought, and turned back to the book, his mind on tomorrow's briefing. To keep himself amused (all the while playing chess, reading, and preparing the morrow's briefing), he ran a parallel attempt at solving the Riemann mathematical hypothesis, but once again failed to get his nontrivial Riemann zeta functions close to the "critical line."

Just then his day took a turn for the better. One of his adjutants sauntered in, snapped to attention, and stood there waiting for him to address him.
Agesilaus responded with a two-fingered salute and raised sleepy eyes to look at the man. "What is it, son?" he asked.

The man "snapped to" even straighter, his spine tensing like a bow. "Sir, it is my honor to report that we have detected an encrypted signal coming from the old NATO base in Elefsina. We have identified the source as originating from the Sandmen. Archon Orchomenos, your orders state that we inform you personally whenever and wherever we establish the presence of those traitors, Sir!"

Orchomenos sprang up, his eyes shining.
"Perfect! Have a patrol ready within the next five minutes. I will take command personally."
"Yes sir!" The man fled.
Orchomenos turned to the chessboards.
"Checkmate," he said to the first man, making a single move.
"Checkmate in four moves," he said to the second man. "What are you going to do? We need to get going."
"I forfeit the match, Sir," the man said. "You've won."


Orchomenos turned to the first man. "Master Sergeant, place this man under detention for five days, solitary confinement." He turned back to the second man, whose eyes had gone round with fear. "We never surrender," he explained, "regardless of the circumstances. Not even to me."
He took a sip of whiskey and stubbed out the cigar, which was not worth retaining. "Let's see what the day brings," he said to himself, excited.