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datatime: 2022-09-25 16:37:14 Author:lRzjhJxl

"But what if it all goes wrong?"

"I've managed to infiltrate some of my own people into the incoming security forces, and I've convinced some of the braver cyberats to run a jamming storm to coincide with our attack. They'll run interference while we get our people out and keep security from calling for outside help."

"Not many have. The Empire doesn't like to admit its conditioning fails as often as it does. Most espers and clones used to die trying to break free of their conditioning, hut an increasing number are surviving. The Empire's tried augmenting the usual mental blocks and controls with tech and chemical implants, but they kill as many as they cure, and there's always a pressing demand for more espers and clones. We're so useful. Most failures are locked away in the usual prisons until they can be disposed of. They don't bother with trials. Clones and espers are property, not people.

"He runs Silo Nine. He was human, once. Now he's become something else, though whether it's more or less than human depends on who you talk to. He has artificially augmented esper abilities far beyond anything that's ever arisen naturally. He makes the prison the hell it is and enjoys every moment of it. The suffering and despair of others makes him strong. It's because of him that no one ever leaves Wormboy Hell alive."

"You never asked. As long as there were always more clones and espers for you to use up as you chose, you never questioned the system that produced them. And you never asked what happened to the garbage you threw away, did you?"

"That's not strictly true," said the abstract pattern in a cool, expressionless voice. Looking at it too closely made Finlay's head ache, so he looked at it sideways and concentrated on the voice as it continued. "We have contact with one of our people in Silo Nine. She volunteered to be captured and sent there. We spent some time preparing her so that she would appear to break under their interrogation, but still keep the deepest part of herself free and separate. We can listen in, but we can't speak to her. She knew she was almost certainly going to her death, but she still volunteered, just on the chance that we might be able to make use of her. She was ready to wait for years, if need be. Have you ever cared about anything that strongly in your life, Finlay Campbell?"

"Then it goes wrong We can't miss out on a chance like this; it might not come again for decades. You can't conceive what it's like in that hellhole, Finlay. None of us can."

"Not many have. The Empire doesn't like to admit its conditioning fails as often as it does. Most espers and clones used to die trying to break free of their conditioning, hut an increasing number are surviving. The Empire's tried augmenting the usual mental blocks and controls with tech and chemical implants, but they kill as many as they cure, and there's always a pressing demand for more espers and clones. We're so useful. Most failures are locked away in the usual prisons until they can be disposed of. They don't bother with trials. Clones and espers are property, not people.

We've dreamed of this for a long time, Finlay. A lot of blood debts are going to be settled today."

Evangeline fell silent, and Finlay couldn't think of anything to say. They looked across at Hood, who was talking persuasively again.

Hood nodded quickly with his empty cowl, turned away without acknowledging Evangeline and Finlay, and strode quickly out of the chamber. Finlay looked at Evangeline.

"This is all happening a bit fast for me. You're really going to launch an attack on a maximum security prison just on that man's word?"

"But what if it all goes wrong?"

"Fill me in, Evie. A maximum security prison just for espers and clones? How come I never heard of it before this?"

"Very well. For a long time now, we've been discussing various ways of freeing our fellow espers and clones held in prison and condemned to death for their rebellion. Most are held in Silo Nine, also known as Wormboy Hell. A maximum security prison, with esp-blockers by the dozen and a small army of guards. Long considered impregnable, none of our people have ever broken in or out and lived to tell of it.

"All right," said the hog. "We're convinced. Set things in motion. We'll spread word throughout the esper network. You organize the clone forces. We'll begin our attack on Silo Nine in one hour from now. Get moving."

"Not many have. The Empire doesn't like to admit its conditioning fails as often as it does. Most espers and clones used to die trying to break free of their conditioning, hut an increasing number are surviving. The Empire's tried augmenting the usual mental blocks and controls with tech and chemical implants, but they kill as many as they cure, and there's always a pressing demand for more espers and clones. We're so useful. Most failures are locked away in the usual prisons until they can be disposed of. They don't bother with trials. Clones and espers are property, not people.

Finlay looked at her steadily. I thought you said I was your life. "You've lost someone to Silo Nine, haven't you? Someone close."

"Silo Nine is where they send the hard cases, the ones who fought back. Who questioned their orders or dared to think for themselves. And, of course, anyone found guilty or even suspected of being members of the underground. Officially, Silo Nine doesn't exist. Which means they can do anything at all there that they feel like. The prisoners become just so many warm bodies, used for experimentation. The Empire's always interested in improving its stock, or learning better ways to control or discipline it. We're talking about psychological conditioning, genetic tinkering, and every kind of mental or physical torture you can think of. Some of it works, much of it doesn't, but there are always more warm bodies to work with. Sometimes, the Empire works changes on them in the name of scientific inquiry. There are monsters in Silo Nine."

"Fill me in, Evie. A maximum security prison just for espers and clones? How come I never heard of it before this?"

"But what if it all goes wrong?"

"I've managed to infiltrate some of my own people into the incoming security forces, and I've convinced some of the braver cyberats to run a jamming storm to coincide with our attack. They'll run interference while we get our people out and keep security from calling for outside help."

"Very well. For a long time now, we've been discussing various ways of freeing our fellow espers and clones held in prison and condemned to death for their rebellion. Most are held in Silo Nine, also known as Wormboy Hell. A maximum security prison, with esp-blockers by the dozen and a small army of guards. Long considered impregnable, none of our people have ever broken in or out and lived to tell of it.

The esper leaders turned to each other, and though they were apparently silent, Finlay could all but sense the telepathic arguments crackling between them. He moved in close beside Evangeline and kept his voice low.

"All right," said the hog. "We're convinced. Set things in motion. We'll spread word throughout the esper network. You organize the clone forces. We'll begin our attack on Silo Nine in one hour from now. Get moving."

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