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45 Novoslobodskaya Street
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Black dreams faded to flashes of light. Bumps and jostling rumbled the inside of an unpleasant vehicle. He rolled his head aside, but a swarm of nausea washed his stomach weak. His eyes scrunched shut. Holding back the bile by strength of will, he swallowed it back down and tried to move.


But he was too weak to fight them. Shadows hovered. Men in helmets and riot gear, but the patches were Custody, not States. Memory slipped and so did his consciousness. The black void of empty dreams returned.


A gurney held his body when next he woke. More restraints. A ceiling rolled overhead, cloaked in shadows and slicked with grime. Arms lifted him. Grunts of frustration for his weight. Iron bars gonged, loud locks rolling and smashing shut again. He was dumped on the floor, which he clawed at, seeking something to hold onto.

Then a kick to the stomach. He groaned. More kicks. His back flared hot. His chest and abdomen crushed. He pulled his arms in, curling around in a ball protecting softer tissues. The beating went on a while. Or until he passed out again. He wasn't sure how it ended.

When next he woke, his pants were at his knees and his ass was on fire. Fury worse than what he unfurled on Oriena lit hellfire within when he realized why. He stretched for the pain-fueled ancient power, intent on leveling the building with a look, but Oriena’s wall remained intact. His fists pounded the ground as though it may shatter the shield. It didn’t work. Instead, he snarled and looked around. The demon that blazed from his eyes was beaten and overthrown, but it rattled the cages as he searched this new hell. 

A small room meant for ten occupied dozens – maybe a hundred men swallowed life as he knew it. Others were unconscious near him. One laid in blood pooled under a broken jaw, the eyes empty. Shouting mixed with screams of terror echoed in the distance. 

He crawled away, pulling his pants upward as he did. This wasn’t a jail.

It was worse.

Shit. I’m in the goddam Butryka.

*Butryka is a predetention holding center in the middle of Moscow City along 45 Nvovoslobodskaya Street. The building is nondescript unless one knew what to look for. There is a subway across the street. Regular neighbors and businesses flank it. It is probably the most feared "center" in Moscow, if not all of Russia, which is saying something given the notoriety of the prison system there.
Marcus found it interesting how smell could convey the feel of a place. In hindsight, it was a rather obvious thing he'd learned growing up and being shuffled from home to home. You'd walk in the door and a barrage of odors would hit you- sometimes must, sometimes cloying perfume; the rancid smell of fried food that somehow always took on the aspect of fish no matter what it was; the stink of bleach and pinesol.

Like a fingerprint, each place was unique. And yet the underlying meaning was the same, in most anyway. The last home had been curiously...unnoticeable. Which also meant something.

The mood of a place, the rules and requirements, the extent of pain and limits of tolerance, all of it would come to him in a moment.

Butryka's stink spoke to him. Ascendancy's Dominion offered freedom in ways unheard of in times past. Aside from a few restrictions regarding what could be said about the man himself-and whether you fomented any sort of rebellion- people in general could pursue their dreams to their hearts content.

Which meant that to run afoul of the secret police, and to, even worse, find yourself behind these walls, meant you truly had fucked up.

Ascendancy knew that an outlet was needed, a bleeder valve that ran along back channels, to allow for those who might not operate strictly within the lines. A blurring of vision.

Tradition and appearance, unspoken and yet as rigid as if inscribed on iron tablets, governed the underworld and the mighty alike. Inside or outside the law proper, there were rules.

And Butryka was for those who did not follow them. At times it was punishment. At other times, it was to set an example. And for still others, it was a lesson.

He knew what Ascendancy wanted. He had been surprised the man had asked him to handle this personally. Not that he minded. No. In fact, he was rather interested to begin, especially now that he felt whole. The Consulate was running smoothly for now. His absence would not cause it to grind to a halt. He'd be a poor administrator if it did.

The question was what Ryker would prove to be. He smiled to himself, a distant memory of the Van Patton's and their never ending church TV. The parable of the sower. The seed lands on the road, where birds pick it up and it never sprouts. It lands among rocks and thorns where it sprouts but doesn't root deep and whithers away. It lands among the good soil and yields fruit. "Who decides what the soil is?" the pastor asked. The crowd murmers various ideas. God. The sower in where he cast. The devil place birds or rocks or thorns. "No. It is the listener, by their lifetime of choices." The people nod. Yes, they can make their hearts hard. They can allow thorns to root. Or they can soften or weed their hearts. They choose.

An easy way to brush off anyone who didn't want to hear, in Marcus' opinion. But not necessarily without some kernel of truth, he supposed.

What would Ryker be when he cast his seed?

Marcus passed through the entrance, scanned for any weapons. He smiled of course. He hadn't brought his lightsaber, of course. Not because he was worried it might be used. Simply because it was unnecessary here. He was the weapon.

He'd read the file. Ryker was sedated from the Force. The video had been enough. They couldn't take any chances. From his sources, he knew there was something more...elegant than drugs that might soon be available. He had his own researchers looking at it as well. At least from a channeling perspective. He knew how to shield. But could it be held indefinitely? Channelers would need to be able to controlled.

He sat in a single small room, metal table bolted to the floor, steel rings welded into its center for cuffs to be linked through. He didn't see a camera but likely it was there. More than one fiberoptic lens peeking through pinholes in the ceiling. The days of a one way mirror had been left to old television shows.

The room smelled of bleach, though he imagined the tang of copper or iron could be tasted. Interrogation rooms were interrogation rooms, after all.

He waited, dark brown wool suit jacket open to reveal a cream shirt and a dark purple tie, the symbol of his Consulate a tie pin. He did not need the Force to hear the movement of chains in the hall.
Ryker sat in the corner between a metal bunkbed and the wall. The bunks were previously claimed, and he had no interest in fighting anyone for a piss-stained mattress. Besides, he wasn’t sure he could win a fight in present conditions. One or two faces looked familiar, though he couldn’t place from where. The other inmates mostly ignored him, although he gave them no reason to draw attention. He wasn’t suicidal. The time passed mostly without incident excluding when someone came to stand square in front of him. He was a clean-shaven man with a tattoo of the grim reaper on his neck, sickle slicing up toward his eye. His foot nudged Ryker’s as if checking to see if he was alive. A long stare upward, and his milky gaze hovered on the assailant’s face.

“What is it? You like me mother fucker?” Ryker snarled.
The man tilted his head, then squat in front of him. He pushed a finger into Ryker’s cheek, which he allowed mostly because he was too tired to punch him out.
He replied with a jagged Russian accent, “I know who you are,” he said with a threat.

Ryker shrugged, “then you should know to leave me the fuck alone.” He honestly did not remember this guy. If they crossed paths before, then he was a nobody.

Grim reaper laughed, “you’re not in the best position to threaten anyone. The Syndicate won’t forget what you did to them.”

Ryker gave a flying fuck about the Syndicate. They could burn for all he cared.

Grim Reaper leaned closer. The heat of his disgusting breath snarled Ryker’s nose. Seriously. This asshole had no respect for personal space. Ryker was on the verge of punching him out when the banging on the bars turned everyone’s attention to the exit.  Noise dulled as his name was called out.

Ryker wondered how long it would take before the Custody made this right.
Chest swelled, he climbed to his feet. Syndicate guy wasn’t moving out of the way despite his attempt to push past. His scrawny chest puffed up, thinking himself the big man of the room.

Ryker grumbled, grabbed his shoulders and thrust his knee to the groin. Fucker collapsed but nobody came to his rescue.

He left the cell to the sound of death threats (and worse) echoing behind him.

He walked with a slight limp as he entered the interrogation cell, chains clanging with the motion. He remembered the black man who waited for him, probably ten years his younger and a thousand years uglier. Oriena’s blood still dotted his face as he arranged it to stillness while the jailor anchored his chains to the table. His knuckles were slashed gruesome and broken open at the bends as he laid them forward.

Once the door closed them in, a snarl rumbled the back of his throat. “Well shit. We have a celebrity in Butryka. I assume you’re here to deliver Ascendancy’s apologies. You can tell his high and mighty Ass-fuckery, I accept them.”
Marcus raised an eyebrow, allowing a small smile to form on his lips. The man was imposing enough, to be sure. The scars on his face, the bruises on face and hands, the blood spatter still on his face, and most of all, the rage he exuded told the story of a man who was at the end of his rope. The question was, was he strong or was he brittle? One was an asset, the other a simple tool.

Ascendancy trusted this to him. And he knew he was capable- mostly. People were not things, not truly predictable in the way equations of matter and energy were. While the masses could be counted on to behave in specific ways, individuals were another thing entirely. And no file truly captured the deepest essence of a man. A person could be counted on to behave in a certain way, given their past, only until it was no longer in their interest to do so. And determining that shifting point was nearly impossible before the fact.

And so Marcus knew that he had his work cut out for him. That he had not one goal but rather a number of them. Some more preferable than others. Above all, to Ryker. It would not be Marcus who paid the price, after all. He considered the seething mass of anger and hatred, feeling a kinship with it. A kinship, but also disappointment. The man was a slave.

His voice was unperturbed. "An apology...Heh. No, I think not." His look took in the room- and the entire facility, really- and his face relaxed. "The Ascendancy's...guests here are usually the ones to apologize. Not that I expect you too. Though..." he looked to the folder in front of him. It was an affectation, really. Marcus had read and memorized his record. Still, it provided a focal point. He touched it, flipped it open, read for a moment before looking at him again. He had his suspicions as to what had happened in Ohio, especially with the tsunami so fortuitously timed with Ascendancy's latest travels. "First San Quentin. And now Butryka."

A small smile appeared as he considered his scars, the single milky eye. "Out of the frying pan and into the fire, no? One would almost think you liked being in lock up." The man was ego, at this point. That much was obvious. But if he was to be more than cannon fodder or a suicide bomber, he'd need to gain the mastery. "I am curious. Why did you choose to come here?" The question was deliberate. His actions were his own. The fruits of those actions were his to own as well. All of it.

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