“Hey! Let us go!”
Cane perked up at the familiar voices before realizing that hearing them meant nothing good. Glancing to Ortzi, who was glaring at the door, as if daring them to put more people into the cell with them. For all his glaring made the other occupants cower, it didn’t impede the officers, who tossed two new bodies into the cell. Cane tried not to grimace when they hit the ground hard, but otherwise the two seemed uninjured because they jumped right back to their feet and to him.
“Gen!” Dodie exclaimed, reaching out to hug their squadron leader, who jerked back with a vague look of panic.
Before Cane could say anything, Ollie took in his flabbergasted expression. Seeming to take that as a lack of recognition, she groaned and curled up in a little ball. “He’s forgotten, Dodie,” the girl whispered, and Cane didn’t disabuse her of the notion.
Cane glanced to Ortzi, shrugging to play it off. He opened his mouth to reply when Dodie grabbed his shoulders and stared into his eyes. Cane raised an eyebrow, “Hey there,” he said cautiously, eyeing the taller boy for a moment.
“You don’t remember me, the Artful Dodge and his partner, Ollie?” Cane rolled his eyes at Dodie. Leave it to him to try to convince me of that stupid name when he thinks I’ve forgotten. “We’re part of your squadron? Come on, Gen. You can’t forget us now!” Dodie exclaimed, seeming genuinely distraught. Incapable of letting his friend be upset, he squeezed his arm as subtly as possible, and relieved, Dodie let go of him.
At his sudden silence, Ollie sat up, hugging her ribs. She glanced between the two men and when Dodie seemed calm, looked hopefully to Cane. He nodded slightly, but looked sideways at Ortzi, giving them a signal that he didn’t want them to talk so candidly in front of other people. While his instincts told him that he could trust Ortzi, he wasn’t going to stake the others lives on it. They were in an enemy zone with no mission and no idea how to get home. He wasn’t taking any chances that they—the infamous, anonymous They—were trying to get all of the squads together to do something horrible to them.
”Sorry, you’ve got the wrong guy,” he said with a shrug.
Ortzi raised an eyebrow, “They said your name. Wrong guy?” he asked.
Cane didn’t smile, but he looked to Dodie, knowing the answer. “Right. How did you know my last name?”
“What?” Dodie asked, playing purposely obtuse. “I didn’t call you anything?”
“Gin? His last name?” Ortzi pushed, glancing between Cane and Dodie mistrustfully. He knew that they knew each other, but he couldn’t understand why they would pretend otherwise. And while he wasn’t typically one to care about secrets unless they involved him, he’d been in the cell for a long time—and would be for even longer—and would pick at just about anything for some entertainment.
“What? That’s wild. I was saying General, though. That’s who I thought he was. My friend, General.”
While he didn’t believe that for a moment, Ortzi let it go for the time being and instead decided to change subject. “Crowds, I tell you. One dronger gets thrown in, bunches flow in after ‘im. Personally, I can’t wait for morning exercises. Counting up all of my bruises always brightens my days,” Ortzi said brightly, hiding a smile at the surprise on the strange trio’s faces.
“Morning exercises?” Cane asked hopefully. “So we do get out of this thing?”
Ollie jolted to her feet, stepping toward Ortzi in a vaguely threatening way. “So, now, what’s all this then?”
Ortzi rubbed the side of his face, eyeing this Ollie with vague disinterest. “We never leave the cell until we’re let out,” he answered Cane incredulously, still not sure how he wouldn’t know that. Everyone knew that. Except these three, he noted, seeing the discouraged looks on the new two. “No matter how many people are in a cell, everyone gets the privilege of exercising every day, space provided, or no. It usually causes sore limbs, broken noses, and fights, yet the kind officers enforce it daily, despite the problems.”
Ollie started and turned to Cane to say something, but Dodie gripped her shoulder and turned her away from their leader, to the wall. “Shut up,” he hissed warningly.
Ortzi smiled coldly, but remained silent. He had an inkling feeling that this cell-stay would be mighty fun.
Cane, on the other hand, scrunched up his nose, “How fun,” he said drily. He turned his attention to Ollie and tilted his head his head back. She couldn’t stay here for more than thirty-six hours or else the lack of sunlight would make her wilt like a flower. He had no idea how to get her out, but knew he had to before she got out of control.
Eyeing the reflectionless glass before him, he posed a question to Ortzi, “Is this the worst cell there is?” he asked.
Ortzi chuckled. “Of course it is. It’s kind of like time-out, if you know what I mean,” he said. “Who ever’s idea it was to stick all of the worst or the worst together needs a reality check, though. Gangs get in trouble on purpose so that they can all be put together in the same cell.”
Cane lay back on one of the “beds” to think. He kept a careful eye on the three, however. He had no idea how long Ollie had already been in these cells, but would wager it had been a few hours by how twitchy she was. Strangely, though, her aggression was on Ortzi and he didn’t know what to make of that, considering she was only ever aggressive to the one in charge, him.
Ortzi sat on the floor in front of Cane, which was as far as he could get from both Ollie and the other two kids. When Cane didn’t comment on his closeness, Ortzi let out a nervous breath and began to unwrap a bandage that was on his wrist, wanting to check the wound beneath, while quietly listening intently to the things happening in- and outside of the cell.
For his part, Dodie seemed all but oblivious to the growing tension in the cell as he helped steer Ollie to one of the metal beds, sitting beside her once she lay down. Her eyes kept straying to Ortzi, but she made no movement towards him and for that, Cane was thankful.
“How’s your ribs doing?” Dodie asked, breaking the silence. Cane started to answer, but Ollie answered first, making him aware that the boy had been speaking to her.
Ollie put her hands to her ribcage and gently rubbed a spot. “Bloody bastards,” she muttered. “Roughing me up for no reason.”
Cane’s voice was laced with amusement when he aimed his next question at Ollie, “Were you truly innocent?” he asked, knowing she had a penchant for getting into fights even when she wasn’t sun-deprived.
Dodie answered for her. “Actually, for once we were. We were trying to find y—Gen and this pink lady took us to this building where she said she’d sent him. Next thing we know, we’re being accused of stealing and pulled here.”
Cane jerked at the mention of the pink lady, wondering if it had been the same one to help him. If so, what was her game? What did she know? She’d sent him to Tanith and then he’d been framed and caught. She’d sent them to some building and they’d been framed and caught.
Ortzi snorted. “What did they accuse you of stealing to land you here?” he asked, beginning to rewrap his bandage.
“Um...some weird thing...I don’t remember what they called it,” Dodie muttered uncomfortably, looking to Cane.
Ollie jumped in when Ortzi looked up in interest. “Some lady’s jewelry,” she claimed.
Ortzi looked at them as if they were crazy, and when they still looked blissfully ignorant, he looked at the ceiling of the cell, shaking his head. He tried to imagine what they could have really stolen to land in here, then looked over to the wall, forcing his voice to sound casual when really, he couldn’t believe how stupid they thought he was. Really? Jewelry? Jewelry landed them in Exclusion? Maybe if they stole it from the Seer. “That must have been some pretty expensive jewelry from some very powerful and wealthy lady to get you guys in Exclusion, then.”
Dodie waved a hand dimly. “Naw, it’s just our twentieth time gettin’ in here.”
Ortzi nodded, growing quite suspicious. It wasn’t that they claimed to have been there so many times when the limit to being perm-celled was ten times—everyone had managed to get in and out of a cell without being properly booked. If he’d been properly booked every time, he would have been perm-branded six times ago. It was just that he had never seen or heard of them before. He knew quite a few people, more than enough for his suspicion was well merited. The City wasn’t large enough for criminals not to know each other, not the celled ones anyway.
A glance at the clock reminded Ortzi that the world didn’t revolve round mysteries and strnge trios. Some of it revolved around something far easier to get. He stood abruptly from his seat on the ground and walked over to the entrance to the cell. “Hey!” he shouted loud enough, to be sure, that several other cells would most definitely hear him. “Where’s my food?”
After almost a full second, the whole building was roaring as kids of all ages started screaming and shouting, creating absolute havoc for one lousy meal.
Ortzi walked back to his spot on the ground, smiling broadly and chuckling to himself. “I’ve still got it,” he said.
Dodie snickered. “Nice...”
Ollie rolled her eyes. “Whatever.”
Ortzi looked at Ollie with a raised eyebrow. It took most of his will power not to make a rude comment. “Be nice to me. I’m feeding you,” he said instead, keeping his voice fairly even and joking, though there may have been a slight edge to it.
“I’m not that hungry,” Ollie snapped, but Dodie pinched her lightly and Cane gave her a look over Ortzi’s head and she recanted, “But I haven’t eaten in a day, so...thanks...”
Ortzi strained a friendly smile. “Eating is healthy,” he stated before sitting down. “So, Cane Gin. What did you do to end up in here, anyways? I never did ask, did I?” Ortzi asked, moving to sit on the floor where his back could lean against the bench. He didn’t look at Cane as he asked the question, but once he was settled, he glanced up for the answer.
Cane avoided his eyes. “I was framed for a lot of things,” he stated, rubbing his branding through his sleeve. “Seemed like it was everything they could fit in.” He shrugged, “Guess someone had it in for me,” he said, skipping over the truth of the matter.
“Huh, it seems like framing is quite popular these days, eh?” Ortzi responded. He was about to say something else when someone slammed open the door of the cell.
Next part of Chapter Three: COPS
Next part of Cell: Chapter Four
Next part for Gary: Chapter Five