THMP THMP THMP THMP
Two words. He'd heard them spoken in tandem far too many times to count, and today shouldn't have felt any different. Identification was fished out of its hiding spot in Strevian's jacket and tossed onto the metal lip of the checkpoint booth, the faux-leather slapping off of the polished leather and settling a few inches from the edge. The wallet-like fold of the certification splayed open, showcasing the deadened expression of a recently-photographed Jacob to the woman running the checkpoint.
No. Today was different.
"State your business."
The fact there was even a second statement meant he was in the clear; with Jagercorp, they didn't bother asking questions or throwing suspicion-laden looks your way.
No, if you were fucking about, they went right for the jugular. If he was violating protocol, they'd have shot him already— or worse, incapacitated him for cube detainment.
Jacob snatched his I.D. from the little tray attached to the booth, closing the picture and badge shut with another slap before pocketing the certification in the same place it'd initially come out of. Silence hung between Strevian and the female Jagercop, with the latter's gaze to the former quickly hardening into a glare. He might have scoffed, had it not been considered uncouth of him to do so.
The fuck are you gonna charge me for, newt? Wastin' your precious time?
"Visiting a prisoner."
A pause. The woman's face twitched with confusion before she turned her head to the small computer monitor on the side of her booth, around the size of her head.
"Block letter and cell number?"
A single tap at the keyboard, then a click. Two taps, then a click. Her line of sight lingered upon the screen for a moment. Maybe she was looking at the path. Maybe she was looking at the name of the prisoner inside the cell. Regardless, the moment passed, and the woman looked back to Strevian.
"Clear." She muttered, a soft disappointment in her voice as if his approval was a negative. Jacob took a step forward, the grated metal gate grinding along the indentation in the floor to reveal a hallway nearly identical to the one he was currently in.
White, glaring overhead lights. Narrow corridor. Polished, whitened metal. Silence.
THMP THMP THMP THMP
After a moment of silent altercation, Jacob dug into his jacket and handed the certification over. This one was different. Chapped lips curled back to reveal a yellowed grin as the guard slid the tray into the booth, examining the wallet for a moment. The man was shorter in stature. Tanned skin, black goatee. The way his hair exaggerated the odd shape of his head made him look like a fuckin' dumbass.
"Promotion, eh. Whassa purpose of yah... visit, min?"
Talked like a fuckin' dumbass, too.
"Prisoner. Block B. Cell 56."
Single tap. The guard let his teeth glide over the top row of his teeth as he clicked the mouse once, then tapped two times again. Another click. He looked over to Strevian with a toothy smirk.
"Visitin' fam'ly, issat it? Gone vis'im 'n the cell?"
"Am I clear?"
"Yeah. Go'an, 'en."
The badge was slapped back onto the tray and slid back out of the booth. Strevian picked the identification up mid-stride, the metal gate being noticeably absent as he plodded further down the endless hallway of white.
THMP THMP THMP THMP
The walks back from the cells were arguably worse than the walks to them, but the overall experience was shit, regardless of the circumstances. There was a reason he only did this once a month.
"Mandatory I.D. check."
Maybe he felt pity.
Maybe he felt guilt.
"You're clear. Come with us."
THMP THMP THMP THMP
For once, there was a different noise besides the sound of boots upon metal. Groaning, softly leaking from the hatches bolted onto the side of the cubes; other times, there was the scraping, barely audible above the footsteps. Sometimes, the rhythm was slow. Other times, it sounded like people were trying to dig their way out of their cells, like corpses scratching at the lid of a coffin.
The latter always seemed to apply to cell 56.
"Keep doing that, and you're going to scratch your damn fingernails off," Strevian began, staring at the front of the cube like it was a face. The hatch stared back at him like a single, blackened eye. Unblinking.
"I already have." A voice called back. One Jacob could barely recognize anymore. He couldn't see into the cell— didn't want to— but he bet that if he did, the sight wouldn't be pretty. He'd heard stories about the cube prisoners, and he was glad his only interaction with the farms was the monthly visits. He'd never had to do patrols, given the favor his father's status granted him, so he considered himself lucky.
Silence hung between Jacob and the cell for a moment.
"I got the promotion." He said, his tone curt.
"Good for you."
"How many people did you backstab for the title, huh, Jake? Any other people you care about?"
Another pause. Strevian swallowed the lump in his throat and furrowed his brow, tilting his head a fraction to the left. The guards might have their suspicions, but he was untouchable, legally. There was no evidence against him. No testimonies that haven't already been proven false.
He was safe. He hoped.
"Evan. Come on. You can't tell me you're still—"
"Why do you even visit, still? To gloat? Is that it? You got where you are today by fucking over family, you cunt. Leave me alone."
"I came here to tell—"
"You know, you were always the fucking favorite, but even that wasn't enough for you, was it? I was a senior officer when you were still a fuckin' probie. You were the youngest, and you couldn't have enough, could you? I told dad about you, but he didn't listen. Couldn't see the shit happening right in front of him. You're a snake."
The words echoed a second longer than they should have, the hatch maintaining its constant glare towards Jacob.
"Isaac's dead, Evan."
A pause. Longer than the rest. Soft thumps from within the cell, growing louder as the inmate brought himself closer to the front end of the cube.
"Wh— what? How?"
"Car bomb," Jacob said blankly, his vision defocusing as he stared past the cell and retreated into his thoughts. He'd seen his father walking towards his car, getting inside, and then—
"What did you do?" The cell croaked, its voice cracking.
Strevian's brow knit as an expression of withheld anger slid across his face.
"Nothing. I never would have hurt him. You know that."
"He said he was going to g-get me out— he said—"
"I came here to tell you that I'm trying my hardest to lessen your sentence. It's not going to be easy, but—"
"FUCK YOU," The cell screamed, a mechanical whine only echoed further from the resonance within the cube prison. Jacob stared at the front of the containment chamber, eyes following the darkened lines where the metal had been melted and warped together. His eyes twinged.
"I'm done visiting you. I'll try and lessen your sentence, but I have my duties as an undercover agent."
There was a dull, singular crash against the side of the cell.
Louder, this time. Jacob had heard the stories about what the prisoners did to themselves to escape the cube farms. His eyes narrowed, tightened at the sharp clang of metal, but said nothing.
"We done here?"
Jacob turned and began to walk back the way he'd came.
THMP THMP THMP CLANG
His walking stopped, however, silencing his footfall so he could listen to the noise from cell 56.
CLANG CLANG CLANG
The bare hint of a rictus creeped upon Jacob's face before he quickened his pace, stepping back into the narrow hallway of white as the repeated smashing of head against wall reverberated across the facility.