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MT1023 eased to his feet. The figure in the doorway drifted sideways, not seeing the movement. He too was dressed in white.
MT1023 crept closer. "Israelis," he hissed.
The figure flinched.
"I knew it." MT1023's voice gnawed the words. Spat them.
MT1023 eyed the space beyond. Only one man to get through. A reasonable chance, even in his condition.
The other man's face darkened. Either fear or rage. Perhaps both. "Arab," he said.
MT1023 leapt. He plowed the man into the threshold. The man cracked into the frame and collapsed.
MT1023 threw his flopping limbs into a wild run. Freedom soared on his face.
He careened into another narrow white bed. Legs flashed out from under him. He twirled in midair and banged down onto his back. As he slid up to another white wall, a sink hovered over him. Foul stains dripped down the sides.
MT1023's mouth worked, but no sound came out. The other man pounced.
He grabbed MT1023's feet and dragged him away from the wall. MT1023 pushed up with his hands, but the stomp of a foot crushed one of them. MT1023 took a kick to the face, and the man flashed toward's MT1023's neck with hands like claws.
The room was shredded by a hideous scream. It wasn't a human sound. In the middle of the attack, the man curled into a shaking ball.
MT1023 wiped away pouring blood from his nose. He growled like a dog.
With the other man still shrieking, MT1023 crawled over and grabbed a fistful of hair. Arms stiffened, ready to smash his head into the floor, but before he could deliver the blow, MT1023's face ballooned scarlet. His legs clamped, and he doubled over.
Rushing noised croaked from his throat. He was vomiting with nothing in his stomach to vomit.
A few seconds later, the shrieking stopped, and MT1023's face relaxed. Both men coughed, clutching their privates. MT1023 probed and found the implant they tucked in the folds of his scrotum. Electrical conduction directly to the testicle.
Neither stirred, but MT1023's eyes were open. He gazed at the feet of the splayed man. A small line of text was tattooed on the center of one sole. MT1023's brow pinched in thought. It read JT1023.
Day 8, 3:24 P.M.
The two men glared at each other from the two ends of the long bed.
"What do you think they're doing with us?"
"You think I know?" JT1023 said.
MT1023 did not often look him in the eye. "How long have you been here?"
"I don't know. Days, I think. Lots of days."
"In this room?"
MT1023 looked around. "It's exactly like mine, except this has that sink instead of a toilet."
And no food. Nothing was hung over the sink.
JT1023 leaned forward. "You have a toilet?" He looked to the doorway.
"Don't get excited. I've had to drink from that toilet. You have a sink. You have been able to drink and wash."
"Do you see that? Look! I've tried to piss in there. And other things. It's too high. And I have nothing to clean with. Nothing but my own clothes, and it's much too cold to get them wet."
MT1023 stood and walked toward the plumbing. He looked along the wall. "There is writing here."
"Yes, I've seen it."
"Do you know what it means?"
"Some kind of code. MT1023."
"Does it mean anything to you?"
MT1023 returned to the bed. He crossed his left leg over his knee. The sole of his foot pointed away from JT1023. Without drawing the other man's attention, MT1023 stole a glance at the bottom of his left foot. Recognition flickered on his face, then disappeared. There was a tattoo matching the number on the sink, just like the Israeli's tattoo matched the one on his toilet.
"Have you seen a code like this anywhere else?"
"No," JT1023 said. "But enough of this. I want to see your room."
"My room is the same."
"I want to see it."
"No. I want to ask you more questions first."
"I don't care about your questions. For all I know you are part of this. You are here to try to gain my trust. To get me to talk."
MT1023 smiled an obviously forced smile. "I'm a prisoner like you. Of course, maybe you are the person planted to trick me."
"I wish I were." JT1023 rubbed his eyes. Time dragged endlessly in the bright light. "I'm going over to the other room now."
"Maybe we should start with this first. Tell me your name."
"Don't you already know?"
"How could I know? I told you. I'm a prisoner like you."
JT1023 smirked. "Chaim," he said.
The air punched out of JT1023 before the name stopped vibrating on his lips.
Another blast from the implant. MT1023 caught him before the convulsion pitched him to the floor.
"Stop it! Stop it!" MT1023 yelled.
JT1023's jaw muscles bunched, rock hard.
"Stop it! What did he do?"
MT1023's hands moved along the other man's body. Helpless. He shook his head. grabbed fistfuls of the man's shirt.
Then, MT1023's face shot toward the ceiling.
"His name! His name! His name is JT1023!"
Like a switch thrown off, the man in his arms deflated. His face dropped into the cradle of MT1023's bent arm.
MT1023 held him while he wept.
On to Part 5.
Go back to Part 3.