(If you want, buy their previous rampages for $2 by clicking on the covers below.)
For the third day straight, Cassidy wakes up to the pitted ceiling and a banging on the metal door of her cell. She sits up and shivers, her clothes having been confiscated after her capture and never replaced with anything. Having searched the room, the mercenary is confident that nobody has been watching her, but she still feels exposed and vulnerable. Part of her wants nothing more than to stay in bed and think of a way to escape. Cassidy finds it impossible to concentrate due to the delicious smell wafting off her breakfast, the food being the only positive part of the experience. Sliding out of bed, the mercenary casually heads for the hot meal that is covered by a glass case. Lacking her tools, the blinking lock is impossible to break and she is forced to pick up a children’s book that came with the food. With a tired sigh, Cassidy puts her lips a few inches away from the mouth-shaped keyhole and reads as quickly as possible. She is nearly tripped up when Lloyd begins doing the same next door, the serial killer going the opposite route and projecting like he is an actor on a stage. Fighting the urge to laugh, which will force her to start over, the mercenary gets her food and snatches it away from the case. Returning to her bed, Cassidy knocks on the wall to get her partner’s attention.
“I’m so happy all the dogs are happy,” Lloyd says, his whimsical voice hiding the brewing rage in his head. His bed creaks as he jumps onto it, a sign that he is close enough for them to talk normally. “As far as prisons go . . . This one sucks cat dick. You know that’s bad since those things are barbed nightmares. I mean, we have no clothes and that window is too high for us to enjoy any of the breeze. We can’t see out the door and the food is delicious, which is a problem because it makes us temporarily forget we’re prisoners. Don’t even get me started on the toilet and personal shower.”
“These must have been hotel rooms before they were repurposed,” Cassidy explains, her eyes falling on a barely covered outlet. Looking at all of the open space, she can easily imagine where the furniture and the bathroom walls used to be. “That means we’re still in Custer’s headquarters, which still doesn’t sound right. I saw a sign in the lobby saying Custer’s Castle, but he can’t possibly use such a stupid name. Ugh, why are we wasting time talking about this stuff? We’re naked and locked up.”
“At least we aren’t dead,” the serial killer calmly points out. The wall shakes from the sound of him hitting it with a chair. “Take this advice from an expert, kid. You wait and bide your time when in prison. Impatience will drive you insane and get you killed. An opportunity always appears when the heroes aren’t able to make one themselves. Besides, I’m curious to see what they’re planning. Maybe a parasite put on our heads to make us obedient or the doors will open to reveal clones, which we’ll have to fight to the death. That’s why they’re keeping us fed and clean.”
Cassidy chuckles at the ideas while she examines her final bite of food, which drips syrup on her knee. “What if we’ve been chosen for breeding stock? Can’t believe I said that with a straight face. More than likely, one of the Custers thinks we have use and will join them. This isn’t torture though, so I’m betting on us being sent to Battle Mountain. After all, Commodus is the one who brought us here. I really hope they’re taking care of my baby. Got a guard to talk yesterday about it. She’s in the underground garage with all of our stuff, which is another reason why I assume they expect us to turn.”
“How did you get a guard to talk?”
“Let him touch my boob through the door slot, but it was really my elbow.”
“He fell for that?”
“Yes, and I’m still a little insulted that it worked.”
“Remember when using sex appeal was disgusting to you?”
“Well, my mom was right. You have to do whatever it takes to survive.”
They jump when someone knocks on their doors and fresh clothes are shoved through the slot. Not wanting to be seen, Cassidy moves to the sink where she washes up and listens to the faint movements outside. A bigger panel moves away and a pair of sneakers are tossed through, both of them scuffed and showing signs of previous use. The stench of cleaner wafts off the shoes, which makes the mercenary thankful for the clean socks that are on top of the clothing pile. Her mild joy is killed when she realizes that she holds up a pair of tight shorts, ugly boxer briefs, and a t-shirt with a local high school mascot emblazoned on the front. Cassidy curses under her breath as she gets dressed in the uncomfortable uniform, her skin crawling from contact with the sneakers. Looking at herself in the mirror, a pang of worry settles into her chest and grows when her door swings open.
Stepping outside of their cells, Cassidy and Lloyd share silent expressions of disgust at their matching clothes. Finding themselves in a refurbished ballroom, the partners try not to groan at the Custer family portraits that line the walls. The polished floor reminds them of a school gymnasium and there is one set of bleachers that is partially open. Eleven metal doors lead to other rooms, only one of them with a window that shows a connected hallway. A guard occasionally walks by the glass and looks inside to make sure the prisoners are where they should be. Cameras are on the ceiling and their motors hum with every slow swivel, one of them repeatedly sticking for a moment when it changes direction.
“This thong is going to be the death of me,” Lloyd whispers as he shifts uncomfortably. He tries to get back into his room, but the door slams shut in his face. “Fine, but I’m not going to be held responsible for my actions. Don’t even get me started on the sports bra. Don’t think I need any support there. The hell were these idiots thinking?”
“Sounds like they mixed up our underwear,” Cassidy mentions while casually revealing the checkered waistband of her boxer briefs. Her legs twitch from the tightness of the pants, which threaten to cut off her circulation. “Maybe we should just go commando. I’d say switch, but I’ve no interest in being violated by a thong. Give me a minute to get behind the bleachers and . . . Did you just get your underwear off without removing your pants?”
“The magical secret is snapping one of the sides,” the serial killer declares as he turns his back. He spins the broken thong on his finger while waiting for Cassidy to change, the silence making him nervous. “They’re sure giving us a lot of time to get ready. Be nice if they forgot about us. I can’t think of anything to say to get the ball rolling here.”
The glass door opens and a guard wearing full SWAT gear walks in, two shotguns clenched in his hands. He aims the weapons at the prisoners and tries talking through the helmet, but his voice is muffled. Lloyd points at his ears while Cassidy apes taking the headgear off while their eyes remain locked on his trigger fingers. Whenever the guard looks like he is about to fire, they leap to the sides and prepare to run around him. The blasts never come and the man seems oblivious to what is going on, his attention entirely on trying to speak clearly. Frustrated with the delay, he throws the shotguns down and takes the helmet off, the weapons going off and blowing holes in two of the portraits. Covered in sweat and gasping for air, the guard opens his mouth to talk and abruptly collapsing from dehydration.
“As your temporary teacher has just said, we expect both of you to jog to your classes today,” a woman’s voice says over an intercom. Oblivious to what is going on in the room, the person continues talking as if Cassidy and Lloyd have already been given instructions. “This will accomplish the physical education portion of your studies. Upon arriving at your designated room, you will change into your regular attire and avoid sweating on your desk. We recently had to fire our janitor for sleeping. Now, go to your designated room for your first lesson, which will be overseen by our very experienced and knowledgeable headmistresses. There’s nobody more qualified to be in charge of your reeducation than this woman. Oh, and tardiness is answered by a severe caning done in the public square. Please listen to the pledge of allegiance as well and stand for the morning announcements. Wait, I got that mixed up. Did we do that already? I’m sorry about the mistake. Please don’t fee-”
“So, do we leave or not?” Lloyd asks while Cassidy searches the unconscious guard. She holds up a piece of paper that has a room number on it before picking up one of the shotguns. “I don’t think you can hide that in those clothes. Neither of us have that superpower, which is fairly overused in fiction. Then again, I still can’t figure out how we fit so much into the jeep and still have room to move around. Not like either of us have an interest in space or time travel unless you have a secret life you never told me about.”
“Like I have the time for something so complicated,” Cassidy replies as she stretches. A gentle nudge to the guard proves he is still alive, but will not be waking up in time to explain anything. “Let’s play along until we get this magical opportunity you were talking about. I’m taking the first one that we find, so be ready. Not knowing what’s going on really has me on edge. How are you doing?”
Lloyd jogs over to the glass door and runs in place while opening it for his friend. “I’m calm and cool, kid, because I know our adventure has only just begun. After all, it doesn’t really get moving until we get chased out of somewhere. Happened with Long Island and Dallas, so I’m patiently waiting for it to happen here. If it doesn’t then I’ll take out my frustration on everyone with a heartbeat that doesn’t sound right. Do you think we should have brought an apple for this teacher?”
“Where would we have gotten an apple?”
“I don’t know, but I think I see an idea coming up.”
“You have got to be kidding.”
“I never joke about scholastic traditions that involve produce.”
“Go for it. Not like this day can get any stranger.”