Garran didn’t get any sleep for the rest of the night. Since the initial shock of discovering the paralysis in addition to his missing leg had worn off, he had resolved to make the best of the present situation and do what he did best—reconnaissance. He had engaged his roommate in conversation for a couple of hours without letting on that he really didn’t know much about how he got to be where he was. He also decided not to volunteer his name, concerned of what the consequences of such a revelation might be. But as it turned out he didn’t have to worry. Apparently the guards who had brought him had just given a number as identification. Apparently that was good enough.
A short while later he figured out why. His roommate’s name turned out to be DF, short for Delta-425. A slave from birth, he had been given that number and nobody had ever bothered to give him a proper name. So DF had stuck. DF was thirty two, four years younger than Garran, but looked much older. Being a slave obviously didn’t guarantee regular food and supplements. Most recently he had been a busboy, but had discovered he enjoyed cooking and was hoping to find a new master who would let him work in a kitchen. In time he hoped to acquire enough skill to get promoted to cook.
Even though it was day now, meaning the light panels attached to the ceiling of their room lit up like a sunny blue sky, DF had gone back to sleep and Garran was lying on his back with his hands under his head, psyching himself up to get out of bed and into that wheelchair that was parked next to it. He was naked under the blanket, but he could see some folded clothes on the table at the foot end of his cot. He regarded the room for a moment. Considering that this was a slave quarter it wasn’t half bad. Certainly better than the cell he had lived in for the last two weeks. Clean and functional for two people; two cots along the walls opposite each other, a small table next to each and two chairs. Straight ahead was a door that probably led to a corridor of dozens of other rooms just like it. On the right wall along which Garran’s cot was placed a door led into the bathroom and directly across from it another led into a walk-in closet. Or so DF had said. Not that slaves accumulated many possessions, but whatever they had was stored in there until they moved on to their new owner.
Finally Garran sat up and pulled the sheet away from his legs. For some reason he couldn’t quite fathom, seeing his legs unresponsive didn’t bother him nearly as much as seeing his left leg with the bandaged stump instead of shin, ankle and foot. He reached for the wheelchair to pull it closer, but the brakes seemed to be set and it wouldn’t move. Using his arms, he scooted himself backward until he was level with the seat then he lifted himself across. Not very elegant for a first attempt, but so what. His left leg didn’t need any adjusting seeing that it was hardly more than half a leg anyway, but he had to use his hands to move the right leg off the bed and onto the footrest. It took just a few seconds to figure out the brakes then he was off to the bathroom, collecting a towel, T-shirt, shorts and a pair of drawstring pants on the way.
When he finally emerged again an hour later, Garran was frustrated as hell. Using the bathroom on one leg and with crutches had been difficult, but manageable. Doing the same from a wheelchair, unable to stand and without any handholds anywhere for support had been nearly impossible. By Horlus what he wouldn’t give for half an hour with a good old-fashioned punching bag.
DF was up and awake and sprinted past him into the bathroom without a word. Garran swallowed the good morning he had been about to say and shrugged his shoulders. He rolled over to the table that, as he had noticed earlier, had a computer terminal embedded into its surface. To his disappointment it was a closed system that didn’t provide him with any access beyond information about the facility he was in. He figured out how to order breakfast, which arrived promptly and pre-packaged in what appeared to be a service hatch next to the door. It wasn’t any different from military ration packs and tasted just as awful, but worst of all it wasn’t nearly enough. He tried to order more only to be informed by a red blinking message on the display that he had already received his allotted amount.
Just then DF stepped out of the bathroom and saw the empty breakfast packaging and blinking message. “I told you your shouting during the night was gonna get your ration cut. Let’s hope they didn’t cut mine, too.” DF went to his terminal and ordered his own breakfast. It arrived within a minute and looked at least twice the size of what Garran had received. DF took two of his food packs and tossed them toward Garran who caught them with both hands. “Here. I don’t need that much.”
Garran nodded his thanks. “I’ll return the favor somehow.” While he ate the additional food packs in silence, DF busied himself with his own. Suddenly the clock icon on the terminal in front of Garran started blinking. “Hey, DF, this clock thing has started blinking. What does that mean?”
“It means they have loaded a schedule for you today. It tells you for example what time you are booked for the gym. That’s pretty much the only time we get to go outside of this room except for show times.”
“Show times? You mean like a movie theatre?”
DF laughed. “No. No. Show time is when you are being presented to a prospective owner. Sometime the buyers come here, but most of the times the handlers will take you to a location the buyer specifies.”
“Well it looks like I have an interview later today with somebody called Aurora MacCowan.”
DF frowned. “That’s quick. You haven’t even been here a whole day. I’ve been here a week and no show times so far. Maybe…” the frown on his face intensified.
“What’s your number again?”
“Your inventory number. The number in the top right corner if the display.”
“Ah, I thought so, that’s why.”
“Well, you’re cheap. You’re a one-legged crip in a wheelchair.”
DF’s words hit him like a punch in the stomach. Garran didn’t think he had ever felt so low.
Aurora - Part 5
Aurora - Part 5