Location: Styx System, Classified Space, United Commonwealth of Colonies
Eve’s life fucking sucked more than usual. She woke up naked in a cage. She didn’t know how long she’d been in it. The days and nights on this rock hurtling through space didn’t work like they did on Earth. What she did know was the sun had only set once while she was confined, and the relief from the heat only brought more problems. Things went bump in the night on Styx.
The cage was solid duro-steel, not military-grade, but able to handle her enhanced physique. It was only about 110 centimeters long, half of her height, so she’d spent the undeterminable amount of time cuddled up in the fetal position, which helped preserve the little modesty she had left. It wasn’t that tall either, so getting comfortable was literally impossible. The only silver lining she could see in the whole situation was that it was raised a meter off the ground, but the flip side of that was that she got to watch the creepy crawlers slithering around underneath her.
It looked like whatever sick fuck terraformed this armpit of a planet did a little interspecies splicing as well. The things moving around beneath her looked like miniature cobras crossbred with scorpions. The creatures’ hissing fangs and hooked stingers triggered parts of her hindbrain that screamed at her to run or get the hell away from the abominations. That made her predicament a special type of hell since she couldn’t even stretch out.
“Food.” A voice snapped her out of trying to ignore the hypnotic slithering of one of the creatures directly beneath her.
“Food” was stretching the meaning of the word to its limit. It looked like a clump of half-digested vomit, and smelled twice as bad. Even worse, it wasn’t nearly close to the caloric intake her body required. She was literally wasting away in this cage while her tormenters watched.
The small polyplast tray was pushed through a slot built into the bars. It fell, hit her on the ass, and slipped sideways spilling a third of the meal onto the bottom of the cage and down into the snake-scorpion pit.
She scrambled to recover what she could while the reptilian hybrids went ape shit.
She made sure the plate was secure before turning her face skyward. A nearly empty water bottle got upturned and the lukewarm, chemically cleaned H2O poured out onto her face and mouth. It tasted like swamp water swabbed out of some wrench turner’s ass crack, but water was water.
She caught most of it and scarfed down her food as fast as she could. She needed the maximum amount of time to digest it before her captors came back. Feeding time was always followed by questioning.
Eve knew what this scenario was supposed to represent in her training. They’d gone through the survival and evasion parts of the SERE exercise. The second of which they’d failed abysmally. Now they were working on resistance and escape, with resistance being resistance to enhanced interrogation.
<Mankind sure has made an art out of fucking with each other.> Eve curled up tighter and her stomach rumbled painfully.
All the captives figured out early on they put something in the food, something to help ease their tongues, but eating it and fighting the cocktail was better than starving to death.
And death was a possibility. They’d already lost one soldier. He went crazy and attacked his electrified cage until it burned him from the inside out. Their “captors” hadn’t gotten there in time, and the camp smelled like roasted flesh for days. Or what she thought was days.
<Taking away a person’s sense of time is interrogation 101.> She remembered her lessons from what felt like a different lifetime. She knew the ranger instructors were going to screw with them, but she never expected this.
She had a split second’s notice before a rod came thorough the bars and tens of thousands of volts of electricity paralyzed her nervous system. She spasmed hard, smacked all of her limbs and head into the cage. The auto-defense feature on the cage doubled the voltage based off its programming and she passed out.
She came to in a small mud hut with light poking through in several spaces. She was still naked, and tied to a chair in a humiliating position. Her head was still ringing and it took her a moment to get her bearings.
“What’s your mission?”
The first question was always the same. She’d been told her mission at the beginning of the exercise and then told not to tell anyone.
“My name is Private First Class Eve Berg, United Commonwealth of Colonies Infantry, Genetic Identification Code NWCC103124142212.”
“What’s your mission?”
“My name is Private First Class Eve…”
The fist smacked into her face, stopped her recitation, and knocked her and her chair to the ground. She landed hard on her shoulder and felt it jostle uncomfortable in its socket.
“What’s your mission?”
“To fuck your mother!” she spat back at them.
<Wrong answer.> She knew she’d fucked up when two guys grabbed her chair lifted it up and walked it over toward a giant vat of ass water.
“What’s your mission?!” The lead douche was yelling right next to her ear as he grabbed the back of her hair and slowly applied pressure.
Her face inched toward the warm water. She turned her head, but another guy grabbed it and yanked it back so she would go in face first.
“My name is…” Her face plunged into the tepid water and a mouthful of it went right down her throat.
Her body immediately went into distress. In her current condition, she could have held her breath for several minutes, and at her full health a full ten, but that all required her to have her mouth closed before she took the plunge.
She fought as the water damaged her lungs, she coughed it out, and only succeeded in swallowing more as her body involuntarily breathed in. She tried to kick out but her legs were firmly strapped to the chair, and any wiggling she did didn’t break the grips of the men holding her under.
They were all big, burly men, just like the Rangers liked them. And this wasn’t their first rodeo.
She felt herself slipping out of consciousness when they yanked her back up. She promptly vomited everything as she struggled to get a breath. Thankfully, they didn’t resubmerge her immediately.
“What is your mission?!” The guy’s breath was hot against the side of her face and smelled like MREs.
“Ok,” she choked out a reply as she rapidly filled her lungs with oxygen and blinked the tears from her eyes. “I’ll tell you what you want to know.”
Her chair was dropped back to the ground, and the three men stood around her, uncomfortably close, violating her personal space.
<Cultural tactic to make me uncomfortable.>
She understood the purpose behind what they were doing. People from the Commonwealth were used to a personal bubble of a meter or so. Getting inside that made them immediately uncomfortable. Just the men standing there was unsettling.
<Stupid thing to feel after nearly getting drowned,> she thought absently as she continued to clear her airway.
“Talk!” A demeaning slap cracked across her face; bringing more tears to her eyes.
“M…my real name is Captain Mal Reynolds. Me and the crew of the Serenity are…”
The fist hit her right in the gut and knocked all of the new air from her lungs.
The leader grabbed her by the hair, dragged her back to the vat of liquid, and shoved her back in. This time she kept her mouth closed, and was able to resist for several minutes before her body started to protest. She kicked and thrashed as she did until she found what she was looking for.
Her foot restraints were made of cheap plastic and they snagged against something loose and sharp. She couldn’t tell what it was with her head underwater, but she masked the sawing motion of cutting through the restraints as her resisting her torturers.
They pulled her out of the vat and one of the guys grabbed her by the throat. He stood before her in a powerful position, and started to lift her off the ground with a single hand.
Her hips screamed in protest as she yanked in either direction to snap the last vestiges of the clinging plastic. After a moment of resistance they snapped and her legs were free. She took the perfect opportunity to bring one foot right up into the interrogator’s crotch.
<Pretty soon their new nickname for me will be Nut Buster.> She thought with savage glee as the powerful man dropped her and went down.
The look of surprise and complete pain on his face was priceless.
Her chair landed hard and rocked for a second before she used both legs to push off the man’s falling form and propel herself backwards. He hit the vat with a loud CLANG as she shot backwards like a missile into the second interrogator.
Situational awareness was key, and she just hoped he hadn’t moved since she last went under. He hadn’t, and the force of her push, and hitting his body, cracked the chair enough to get her tied arms out from behind it.
She struggled to get free, but not before the third guy was on her. Rangers didn’t hesitate, and the guy landed two body-racking blows before she struggled free. The second one staggered her, but she was able to get a block up before the third that would have knocked her out. Instead, it just knocked her sideways, where the thin wall of the mud hut didn’t stand a chance against her. She went right through it and sprawled on her ass.
“Ice!” SGT Diggle yelled from his own cage where he was hanging naked over a pit of his own snake-scorpions.
Eve spared a second to look over at her closest comrade in ranger school and it nearly cost her. The third interrogator came barreling through the wall like a runaway mag-lev train. She dodged to the side to avoid his grab, and wouldn’t have succeeded if an unknown amount of time hadn’t produced a decent layer of sweat and bodily grime all over her naked torso.
He got a hand on her and it slipped off. She didn’t hesitate again. She took off like a bat out of hell into the jungle. She was naked as the day she was born but she was free.
<Escape!> she was now on the fourth and final phase of the exercise, and she could already hear the camp guards organizing to pursue.
She took a header into a muddy pit about half a kilometer away when she wasn’t paying attention, but that worked out to her benefit. The thick layer of mud offered her protection from the annoying, winged bloodsuckers hovering around, and it screwed with her pursuers’ thermal imaging. Because of the accidental trip she was able to avoid capture.
She didn’t stop moving for what felt like hours after that, and she only stopped because her body collapsed and refused to keep going. She crawled into a crevice beneath a downed tree and munched on moss that was growing underneath it.
Her subdermal PAD was offline and not connecting to any networks, but there was basic information and programs saved in the bio-storage device. One told her the moss wasn’t poisonous, but it wasn’t exactly nutritious either. What it would do was fill her stomach and give her a trickle of energy to keep going.
That’s how things went for the next forty-eight hours: mud-up, run, hide, find food, seek shelter, and repeat. In the end, she was the only person to make it to the extraction point. By the time the exercise ended a day after that they’d lost half of the remaining ranger candidates to interrogation. SGT Diggle made it, even managed to bloody a few more noses back at the camp.
It was only later that Eve learned that escaping from the camp was extremely rare, and that put her on people’s radar. She wasn’t sure if that was a good or bad thing.