It’s been a loooong time, obviously. What I’ll be posting here for the next few days is the story ‘Babble-On’ that I failed to finish in time for a Greek-based story challenge. I hope you enjoy and please comment. 🙂

The world, as it started, was one of chaos. Zeus, in his power and wisdom, conquered the Titans and brought an era of peace to the gods and mankind. There was only one language, that of the gods, who taught it to humanity. Humanity, being all of one mind under the gods, selflessly toiled away to provide for themselves, and make sacrifices to their benevolent deities. Each knew their place. Each knew their responsibilities. Even the gods had sovereignty over their own particular aspects. Some gods had more than one. Some gods shared sovereignty over a particular aspect. All this was according to Zeus’ plan. And it worked. Sort of.

Many of the gods had, in afterthought, felt that Zeus had taken advantage of their euphoria at the defeat of the Titans, and that their own aspects and influence were restricted by the provisions they had agreed to within that joyous moment. They muttered about the ‘overlap’ of their influence with others in the divine pantheon.
One of those who seemed uncaring of the limitations was the young Hermes. Hermes was one of the more overlooked gods when it came to the war with the Titans. It was his cunning that waylaid and destroyed Argus. His cunning and ability to effect things indirectly served the gods well. He was the consummate scout and tracker, allowing Zeus to formulate plans based on the knowledge of the Titans location and activity. This intelligence was instrumental in Zeus’ strategy. Why and How is what we’ll see.

* * * *

Hermes lay on his stomach at the crest of a low hill. The soft grass tickled his belly as he watched the brown herd of cattle contentedly crop grass in the vale. Beside Hermes, the Titan Prometheus lolled on his back, hand raised towards Apollo’s flaming chariot. He was bare-chested, with a brilliant blue loin cloth, which was in stark comparison to Hermes’ saffron toga, golden belt, and leather sandals. Very much the affluent noble to Prometheus’ bare foot laborer.

“You’re here to check up on me for Zeus.”

Hermes chuckled. “That, and wondering where your mind is wandering. Zeus asked about that, too. He seems to think you like to meddle.”

Prometheus smiled as he laid his arm across his eyes, and saying with an overdramatic flourish of anguish, “Oh, woe! Woe! Woe! I, the Titan whom sided with the rebellious gods, distrusted as a spy, treasured as a turncoat, and then, when the war is won, distrusted for my unwavering devotion to the gods and my ‘meddling mind’ that won’t let Zeus rest peacefully with…” he stopped, then gazed up at Hermes, “who is he deciding to sleep with now?”

“Themis.” Hermes replied off-handedly, his attention still on the cattle downslope.

“…with Themis, and, ah, that pause ruined the moment.”

Hermes nodded. “Yes, and she’s pregnant with triplets.” Prometheus nodded, then rolled onto his stomach to determine what had so much of Hermes’ attention. He followed Hermes’ gaze down to the cattle, who were slowly cropping grass, then raising their heads to chew then swallow, before lowering their heads to crop more grass.

“It’s quite the sight, seeing them work so perfectly together, that each raises it’s head within and instant of each other, chew the exact same way, then lower in tandem for another mouthful. A simple design that yet whispers of a whole.”

Prometheus nodded at Hermes’ words. “Of course, it’s like the fish, the birds, and all plants and animals.” He began to wax poetic, like a schoolteacher who’d stumbled into a fascinating thought. “Each hints at being a separate piece, but each in truth is the tiniest pert of an enormous whole that works in harmony to promote harmony and contentment.” He glanced briefly to Hermes. “And you’re bored with it all because it is so precisely, harmoniously, unchanging.”

Hermes sighed, rolling onto his back to follow Apollo’s chariot. His elbow bumped the Petasos, his broad floppy-brimmed hat he never seemed without. Caduceus, with its twined serpents, representing his position as messenger and scout during the war with the titans, lay underneath the battered hat.

“In the war, it was chaotic, uncertain. There was a joy in the uncertainty, an understanding of what that chaos meant. How it shaped the lives it touched.”

“Yours, most of all.” Prometheus stated it as a fact, not an empathetic answer to a friend.
Hermes sighed at his words. “Yes, mine most of all.”
Prometheus chuckled. “Now who’s being dramatic?”
Hermes tried to glare at the Titan, but gave up a moment later, and draped his arm across his eyes. “I admit to drama, but you must admit, I have little to encourage any of my gifts, or skills.”
“Excepting your duty as the final Guide.” Hermes raised his arm and now he did glare at the lounging titan.

“Oh yes, we can’t forget the guide to the underworld. As if anyone died of something other than old age, or from food stuck in their throat”, Hermes rolled back to his stomach, and growled as his eyes strayed to the cattle, contentedly munching the grass.

“My pardon.” Prometheus gently replied. “Clearly, this is more than simple boredom.” The cattle seemed to pick up on the shift in mood. They all stopped chewing and seemed to turn as one and gaze upslope at the two gods. Hermes and Prometheus observed for a short while longer, then Prometheus stood as the cattle returned to the important business of eating.

“I shall take my leave, good Hermes, and will go visit the humans. Cattle are well and good to gaze upon, for a shepard, but I enjoy the human antics more.” He brushed bits of grass from hi loincloth, then strode purposely southward, towards the nearest human settlement. Hermes gazed after his friend, whom he had to deliver a report upon to Zeus.

The Jiminy part 30

‘I don’t make the rules, I just abide by them’ floated down the wall from the ceiling in block white letters.

“Ya don’t mind screwin’ around either, do ya?” Travis grumbled.

‘Perish the thought,’ came the dark blue letters from right to left. ‘I may be a little mischievous, but I am the soul of the work ethic. Everything for a reason and everything in it’s proper time and place.’

“Okay, so what got her here? I saw the botched burglary. What made her do it?” Travis felt this was important.

‘Oh it is important, and it is history, so sit down and I’ll lay the word upon your ears, Jiminy.’ The letters had that mocking attitude again, and the bright neon orange letters bursting on the wall screen made Travis eyes ache to look at.

‘Once upon a time,’ scrolled the letters in powder blue, ‘a little girl was born to a whore mother and a drug-addled gang-banger father. This little girl grew up in a house where neither parent looked after her, and only her drunken grandmother ever paid her attention beyond the occasional snarl and backhand from the girl’s parents. It was so, so, sad. The little girl went to school, with the other hard luck children from the desperately poor section of town, and found that the ‘normal’ kids had more everything than she did. Her juvenile delinquent friends showed her how easy it was to get ‘normal’ kids money from them, but she didn’t like beating people up. She found she liked learning things. This made her stay after school and ask questions about classes to her teachers. One day, the girl’s parents moved out, leaving her behind. She was a teenager, and didn’t have any way to support herself. She was all alone, the poor, poor thing. So, she found out that stealing was the only way to get food. She took from the supermarket, stuffing snacks in her pants, and waddling out of the store. Stealing money was easier, and her friends showed her how to sneak into a house *** and take valuable things to sell to fences or pawn shops. Oh, she was careful to case a place first, just like the big kids taught her. That way she could pick the best time to burgle a residence. It was easy. A little bit here, a little bit there was good enough for her, but not her new friends, who wanted more. So our larcenous little heroine took larger and larger risks to satisfy her ‘friends’ (the friends word was in dark red block letters) and they quit taking her money. Some time later, the friends decided that burgling a house wasn’t good enough. They felt ready for something…more. To keep her friends happy, she joined in. Her friend, Casey, drove to the liquor store they’d cased. Our heroine was the ‘new kid’, so she was chosen to be the first in through the door. She had picked up a cement block from a work site a few days ago for just such a opportunity. She threw the block hard at the window, and smashed it. A second throw carried away enough glass for her to wiggle in and start to search for anything valuable. She rolled over the counter, and started throwing cigarette cartons back outside for her friends to pick up. The cash register was locked, and she couldn’t pry it open. About this time she heard the car rev. It’s tires squealed and she was left in the store, frozen by their sudden disappearance. About this time a cop flashed a light into the dark store. Before he could call out she threw a metal can at the officer, catching him in the side of the head. He dropped to the ground. As she looked for an escape, the second officer spotted her in the store, and fired a taser gun. She was sent here to serve a year in juvenile detention for assaulting an officer. Oh the poor poor little poor bitch from gang-bangers. Who would have thought she’d sink so low to steal from a convenience store. Is there no shame in the world anymore? Why it’s hard to believe that any upright men and women actually exist.’

The Jiminy Part 29

Letters in green, yellow, and blue popped onto the screen in haphazard order. ‘Ask away, but I will warn you that the only real answer is one you find. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.’ An honest-to-Smiley Face formed on the screen. Travis thought it was the creepiest thing he’d ever seen. It made him think of a serial killer toying with his chosen target.

‘Melodramatic much?’ it mocked with orange letters popping up and disappearing.

“That was just creepy, and you know it” Travis snarled at the screen, which was still dark.

‘Oh my, actual banter rather than screaming fits and angry shouts? What are we coming to, detente?’

“De-what? Never mind. I have a question. You can answer questions, right?”

The letters took a coy, fuzzy pink texture as they appeared on the screen. ‘I can, within limits of course.’

We’re getting somewhere. “So what are the limits?”

‘The information can’t force you to change your actions. I am not allowed to lie or influence you in any way.’

“So if I asked for history about this girl, you can give it?”

‘Point for you, yes I can, and will give any relevant history when asked.’ The black letters outlined in orange had extra space between them, almost like they were saying something themselves, but Travis couldn’t figure if it meant anything or not.

“What about asking things like, uh, about the other guy?” Anything I can learn might help figuring out what his angle is, and how I could catch trouble before it got started.

‘Uh uh. No no noooo … no can do kemosabe. Information like that influences decisions. Influence is a no no. Same thing for the other guy.’

“So the other guy can’t use you to, uh,” Travis stopped talking and thought hard about what he’d heard so far. “Wait a sec. You can tell me about the girl’s history, but won’t that influence me?”

‘Point for you’, showed up in thin gold letters that reminded Travis of an ‘attaboy’ sticker his first grade teacher gave out to students that got a perfect score on their tests. ‘Since it’s history, it’s not something that can be influenced. It can be learned from. That’s your job, at least part of it. To learn. If it happens to influence your decision, then you’ve learned from the past, not from me.’

It made Travis head hurt a little. That it could, and would talk about the past, and yet not talk about now and other possible things going on. That seems a weird place to draw a line about what’s proper and what ain’t.

The Jiminy part 28

The girl, he felt, was also having second thoughts. I hope I can get through this time. “Hey, I know you’re upset, and things don’t feel like they’ll get better. You gotta understand something. You will see hard days,lol! and you’ll see good days. These are part of them hard days. If you keep on goin’ this way, with that blade, you’re gonna create more hard days, worse days than you can imagine. They’ll treat you like an adult, and throw you in with the real hard cases. This ain’t close to what’s waitin’ in real prison. You know that. It ain’t too late. Just throw that blade away, it’s nothin’ but trouble and big time prison if you keep it.”

“Put it away for now, no one will find it in those socks. Bed checks never look at socks. You’re free and clear. If you’re scared, I understand completely. Not everyone has the guts to stand up for themselves. You’ll be just another loser bitch who gets told to fuck prison guards to get things smuggled in. Of course that’s all you’re good for, obviously. If you wanted to take charge of your life, you’d be scoring some tape and a little bit of plastic to help make a handle” the voice whispered with poisonous sympathy.

Travis felt the sullen anger at the voice’s words. Fear was there too. He saw her put the blade back in the socks, and the socks back in the dresser. She lay down on the bed, the view showed Travis the ceiling, where some staples still held torn bits of colored paper. The view remained on the ceiling as a sense of despair settled through Travis. What do I do? How do I get her to listen? She’s going to get killed. He took deep breaths, and willed himself to calm down.

Travis focused on regular breathing, and realized for the first time that he hadn’t been breathing at all except for when he was shouting at the other voice. I am dead. I knew it before, but it keeps surprising me how weird things feel when I think about them. I need to keep her from dying, but how? I can’t get her to listen. She doesn’t want to. That creep has got her convinced that blade is the answer to everything.

How do I change that?

The rest of the day was spent observing the day of a teenage girl, which Travis had no want to watch, o take part of. He spent most of the day with the screen off, and in his own head. There has to be a way. Why can’t I figure out a way to convince her?

‘You know you’re cute when you brood like that. It makes me think you might actually have potential, Travis. Not that you’ve shown any, to be truthful.’ The tan letters seemed to actually contain a little sympathy, which made Travis suspicious. ‘Would I really try to mess with you, or influence you? I would lose my job if I did that. All I am is just an information device. With attitude so you pay attention.’

Yeah right, and I’m …

‘Do you really want to finish that thought? Remember the thong bikini.’ The letters were a glaring white with bikini tops and bottoms floating around the words as they rolled down from the top of the dome and down the sides. The mocking warning got Travis attention and he shut up.

“So got anything about this situation you can share without breaking any rules, or do I gotta guess that too?” Maybe there’s a way to get information from that guy. Maybe it’s how I ask it?

The Jiminy part 27

“Listen to me, please. This anger ain’t gonna work. You’re too mad, you’re lettin’ that guy rile you up so you don’t think. He doesn’t want you to think. That’s how he works.” I feel like a shoulder angel facing off a shoulder devil.

‘Got it in one, T. You are and he is’ the letters spelled out in bright neon blue floor to ceiling, surrounded by gold stars with ‘attaboy’ written on them.

Sheer surprise stopped Travis voice. A shoulder angel? Like in that animated movie?

‘Exactomundo’ the letters printed in block three-D in white and ivory. Somehow they felt pleased and mocking at the same time. The feeling had Travis gritting his teeth in irritation. Something about that screen makes me really pissed off. How does it know to do that?

‘I pay attention to how you answer, and your mood, just like anyone with a smidgen of sense would do.’ The letters had the mocking tilt as they marched in day-glow orange across the view, blurring Travis vision of what was happening with the socks.

“Get outta the way!” he screamed at the letters, which stopped for a moment, then seemed to smirk as they slowly faded away. She’d pulled the blade out of the socks, and turned it over in her hand a few times. It was like she was seeing something there beyond just the knife. He shut his eyes and listened for the other voice. He knew it would be saying something right now. “That’s it, a little tape, and some padding to set it between your fingers and a slap will open their throats, one at a time, easy as slicing cherry pie.”

Oh god, please no. Wait, why am I so…oh yeah, the feedback the sign talked about. The link between his reaction and what was on the wall had him torn. He knew rationally that the girl was trying to find a way out of a bad situation, but the method was going to get her killed. Using a blade meant you were going to have to kill the person. In here, a blade would not just scare them off, it would make them decide to kill her right then and there. No excuses. No mercy. No more shoulder angel job.

There was a sense of mocking irritation from the screen, then letters in bright red rolled up from the bottom of the screen. ‘Throwing in the towel already, JIMINY?’

“I ain’t throwin’ nothin! I ain’t gonna quit! Not now! Not ever! You hear me you sonuvabitch! Never!”

His anger started pushing him more and more. Travis wanted to rage at the screen, and the voice. Something made him keep holding both of the embedded ski poles. It was a good thing as there was a vicious whipping lurch that would have catapulted him into the wall. He stayed on the platform more scared than angry now.

The Jiminy Part 26

“NO! No no no no! You aren’t that! You don’t want to do that!” Travis found himself screaming at the wall as hands clasped and unclasped at the bottom edge. Panic filled him. How could you think that? Dying’s not an answer! If I could get hold of that miserable sonuvabitch I’d beat him into a bloody pulp! Travis clenched and unclenched his hands around the poles as he stood on the platform. His hands ached to have that smarmy asshole’s neck between them. He’d give it a…

Movement on the screen caught his attention. The girl had stood up, and moved to the bed. She threw herself forward, her face landing on the pale blue pillow. The view shifted black as she buried it in the pillow and began screaming. The rage resonated in Travis, burning the confusion and panic away. Girl’s a fighter. We got a chance to turn this around. It was odd to Travis that her getting mad would make him optimistic, but he accepted it as true. Anger is not a place where a person tries to kill themselves.

If she’s mad, then that slimy asshat can’t get her to cut herself up. Crud, but what about killing? That’s too easy to do mad. There’s gotta be a middle way. When the heck did I get so thoughtful? This ain’t me. I’m the walk up and throw punches kind of guy.

‘You WERE that kind of guy” the letters marched across the dark wall. ‘Now you’re dead. Your old life is not this existence.’

It was true. As much as Travis was caught up in all the tension and drama of this girl’s life, he kept hanging onto his own memories as they slowly lost the passion that they had engendered in him. The realization raised a flutter of anxiety. I don’t want to forget, I don’t want to lose all that Kimmy gave me.

‘Melodramatic much?’ The words displayed right to left. The mocking hues of pink and yellow drew a flash of anger and despair from somewhere deep inside him.

“I ain’t gonna forget, and I ain’t gonna quit feelin’ them, you piece o’ crap! They’s mine! You can’t take ’em from me! Tha’s MAH LIFE! It’s MINE!” Travis screamed at the wall, and he heard an answering scream of muffled rage from the girl as the hiccuping sobs grew back into a building anger. The other voice became clear as Travis quit his rant.

“That’s it. You can do something about them. The blade will make them stop hurting you. You should be mad. They’re trying to CONTROL you. No one controls you. You are your own boss, your own woman. Show them what it means to cross you. They’ll never do it again i you stick them with that blade.”

Oh crapola. Me getting mad got her mad and that slimeball took advantage. Travis watched as the top drawer of the low dresser was opened again, and the socks with the blade hidden in them was pulled from the back. “No one will give me shit like that again. No one’s gonna a lay a han’ on me if I don’t want ’em to.” The venom that she spat the words chilled Travis to the core. He could feel her hate, and resolve start to solidify. If he didn’t find a way to change it, there wouldn’t be a future.

The Jiminy part 25

The view changed to the corner the small desk there. The desk was built into the wall, with a small round stool that swung out for sitting. The wall screen moved closer to the desk, then shifted as the girl sat down. The screen leaned towards the desk and went dark. A moment later, faint shudders went through the room as a choked sob escaped. Oh man she is taking this all way too hard. She’ll make herself sick with all this. There’s got to be something I can do, or convince her to do. ‘That’s the job Jiminy. Oh, sorry, Travis-iny.’ The letters were like a kid’s scribble, in bright red.

“So what’s the deal with that other voice? That guy sucks, you know! He’s trying to get her to attack those thugs one at a time with that blade! What’re you gonna do to stop her?! She’ll screw her life up if she..” The letters suddenly loomed from the floor up the curved wall to meet at the top of the hemispherical room. The black was so intense with made the room seem light. ‘I will do nothing, Jiminy. That’s my job. You’re here to do yours, and I can’t help you other than how I have done so to break you into your job. I am not here to jump at your command. You, Travis Jefftown Hoad, are here to do it.’ Travis found himself cringing away from the letters. They seemed to pound down on him in with each word that formed. It left him shaken to the core.

What is this I’ve gotten into? It is like some monster in the closet. Kimmy, dear god I need you right now. ‘She has her life that must go on. You. are. dead. Suck it up, buttercup and DO. THE. JOB.’ The letters had that impatient feel like when he first got here. Impatient, and, worried.? He shook his head as the soft hiccuping sobs barely sounded through the room, but Travis felt each one like a ache in the heart. If she’s crying, she’s not certain it will work? I don’t know but I hope that’s right. I don’t want her to use that thing, and if she’s too scared, then we can dodge that bullet.

As if on cue, the sot, hissing voice started up again. “Yes, you are weak, and helpless, you stupid little girl. They’re going to come for you and you can’t stop it from happening. They will find you, trap you, and kick the ever loving shit out of you because you wouldn’t mule for them. Your only hope is that blade, unless of course, you want to fix it forever.”

Fix it forever?

“All you have to do is cut yourself, let it flow out, and no one can ever hurt you again” the voiced hissed with a poison-sweet purr. Sympathy laced with venom making despair. “It isn’t so hard. It’s not the end, it’s a transition. One from this world to the next. You can be free of this miserable, beat-down existence you’re in, that will never end. So why not end it now, and move on to the next?”

The Jiminy part 24

Travis tried to think past the panic he felt. “I don’t panic. I ain’t never panicked in my life.” He gritted his teeth and thought hard. Don’t panic. You’re okay. Get rid of the blade first chance you get and no one will be the wiser. “Just get rid of the blade girl. No blade, no trouble. You’ll finish up your time and you’ll be out, with nothin’ on your record. Juvey records will be sealed and expunged. You’ll be free and no record.”

“Are you sure about that?” whispered that other voice sibilantly. “You know they have it in for you. You’re black, a MIN-OR-IT-Y. You don’t have rights, you have the MAN telling you what to do all day long. You’re a WO-MAN, you don’t count half as much as a man’s. Just think of all the stupidity that we have to put up with. WE can take CONTROL of our lives. The first thing is take care of the biotches that are making your life miserable. Just take it and catch each one alone. Your blade will scare them. you won’t have to take a beating ever again.”

“No, you don’t want to do that. It’ll just lead to more hate and more pain. You know that. You KNOW that.”

The view on the curved wall shifted back to the bed, and shook as the girl got back in the bed, palming the surgical blade in her left hand. She’d just finished as another clatter sounded at the door as it was pushed open by a wheeled tray which had a sandwich and a glass of water. “Here you go, girl. Ham, cheese, and some water to wash it down. You’ll be released today. Looks like the most you got was some good bruises. You got off lucky.” The heavyset nurse continued to talk about the day, and the other inmates in the infirmary while the view followed her so intently that Travis thought the nurse would catch on how nervous the girl was. ‘Interesting situation, isn’t it?’ scrolled in bright orange across the view, temporarily blocking the display.

“Dammit! Get out of the way!” Travis snapped at the letters. “I gotta see what’s going on.”

Travis watched the progress to the bedroom, the door opening, closing, and a shift in perspective as the girl sat down on the edge of the bed. The little blue dresser with the white alarm were no comfort. The blade appeared in the left hand. The view centered on that image for a full minute. Both Travis and the other voice remained silent. Travis wanted her to think it through and toss the blade, but it felt like he was talking to an addict with a ‘fix’ in their hand. No matter how much she wanted to throw it away, she couldn’t make her hand do it.

The hands slid the top drawer open. Socks, t-shirts, bras, and panties lay in neat rows left to right. The left hand opened, then tore the paper of the blade, which gleamed a polished silver under the fluorescent lighting. a pair of blue socks were grabbed by the right, and the blade thrust into them, and put at the far back of the drawer. The socks and the other articles were straightened, then the drawer closed.

The Jiminy part 23

She doesn’t want to be heard. Why? The doors swung open silently and hands darted in and lifted various items for a moment, then placed them carefully back on their shelves. Travis closed his eyes and concentrated. I’m supposed to be able to feel things because we’re linked, so why can’t I now? He didn’t feel anything, so much as heard.

“Come on, there’s going to be something we can use here. Rooms have all sorts of things that can be weapons.” The vicious honeyed words made Travis stomach lurch. “It’s the only way, you or them. You can call it self-defense. No one will question it. It was something that just happened. You won’t get punished. Protecting yourself is perfectly fine. If we’re smart enough, no one will suspect a thing. Catch them all alone. A couple of quick jabs. It’s just protecting yourself.”

Oh god. She’s going to kill them if she finds a weapon. Panic had him babbling. “Don’t do it! Don’t do it! You don’t want to hurt anyone! You’ll be a killer and never be let go!” Travis watched the screen as hidden underneath a roll of gauze was a small paper package about the size of a single-serving sugar packet. The cover said, ‘Scalpel blade #12’. The yellowed paper showed a blade with a slight hook at the tip, like the back of a gutting knife. The hand covered it, picking it up, then transferring it close to the screen as the gauze was reset in the cupboard, and the girl returned to the bed.

“Yes! Good girl! We can make them pay for beating you so badly. Self-defense. That’s all it will be. You’ll be free. They won’t be able to hurt you again.” Travis heard another voice talking over the first one. He didn’t realize he’d started until the first one quit. The wall fuzzed a moment. The hand was still in the view, still holding the packet with the blade.

“Com’on, you don’t need that. Think, girl. If you get caught you won’t be just in here for a little while longer, you’ll be here a lot longer. And the longer you’re in here the more chances those girls will have to get you. Just put it back, and forget about it. There are other ways to handle what’s happening. You can’t let it control you. One bad step and it’s going to swallow you whole.”

Travis continued to ramble in a near panic as he watched the hand waver. Indecision kept the hand from moving as he tried to convince her to put it back. A clatter of metal on metal had the hand, still holding the small surgical blade, disappear from the wall screen. No. no no no no. She still has the knife. She’s going to get caught and that on top of the burglary, she’ll be passed on to the adult … wait.

The Jiminy part 22

There was silence for a moment then letters enlarged onto the screen. ‘My, my, my. Such a direct question.’

Travis ground his teeth and worked to stay calm. “Yeah, and what’s the answer?”

Letters put themselves together from blocks and splashed pink against a sudden yellow green. ‘More the opposite. You’re just the Jiminy, Travis. She’s the boss.’

That explained a lot to Travis. If she’s mad and I get mad, then she’s making me mad by being mad, right? So, if I try to be happy when she’s mad, will that make her less mad? And if that’s right, then I have to figure out how to keep it together when she starts to lose it?

He continued to gaze at the screen. The view remained on the window. it felt so wistful, and terrified at the same time. She knows they’ll be waiting for her out there. What can I do to change the situation? My first reaction would be to catch them alone and beat each one to a pulp, but that’s not gonna work. Size counts and this girl’s a twig compared to those thugs. I gotta be smart about this.

‘Point for you’ scrolled across the wall as Travis was concentrating.

“Yah, right,” he answered without really paying attention. There had to be a way. He was on a time limit. It might be, at most, another day that they’d keep her here. After that, she’d be back in the general population, which meant those girls would be looking her up again. Travis scanned the screen for things that could be used as a weapon, or modified into one. A sense of unease stirred as he studied the view on the wall. Why is this bothering me? If we have a weapon, we can protect ourselves better, right? He thought about that sibilant voice he’d heard earlier. The venom and hate hidden in the words, seemed to slap him in the face as he recalled them. The more he thought about them, the less palatable the idea of a weapon became. He was so deep int thought that he almost missed the slight tremor in the floor.

Travis looked up, and saw that she’d stood up. The perspective was much more ‘downward’ as the girl looked at the IV in her arm, then at the tray holding a paper cup filled with ice and a clear liquid. The hand appeared at the bottom of the view, and picked the cup up. There was a faint slurping sound, and the cup was set back on the tray as the view shifted left and up towards come closed cupboards. They slowly enlarged on the wall screen as she walked towards them. What’s she doing? The arms reached up to the leftmost cupboard doors, then slowly began to open them. The screen swung back towards the partly open door and back to the doors rapidly.