Red Cells

Free Red Cells by Jeffrey Thomas

Book: Red Cells by Jeffrey Thomas Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jeffrey Thomas
sent it after me,” Stake said, “didn’t he? He told the thing I was a threat to it somehow.”
    Zaleski smiled thinly. “I’m sure he manipulated the poor lost soul with some rationale, Mr. Stake. But I can assure you, I was not a party to that plot. Nor any of it. I was horrified, frankly, by much of what Cirvik confessed to me. But do you think I could have swayed him to act in any other way than he did?”
    “He didn’t act at all,” Ploss grumbled. “He just let this situation go on, waiting for it to solve itself. Meanwhile, how long did he think the prisoners’ deaths could continue before he really had to answer for that? And how long did he think he could satisfy this monster with an occasional offering while it waited for what it really wanted? And now, here we are paying the consequences…wondering if this thing is going to shut down our life support!”
    “We need to find a way to kill this thing!” Hurley said. “Maybe I did hurt it when I shot it. We should set a trap, or some kind of ambush.”
    “And if we take a stab at that and fail? We’ll sign our death warrant for sure,” Stake said. “I say if Cirvik could talk to it, so can we. I think we need to try to reason with the thing.”

    Klaus, the chief of maintenance, contacted Assistant Warden Conant on his wrist comp when he couldn’t get through to Warden Cirvik. After being apprised of the warden’s death, the maintenance chief said, “Oh my God. Well, sir, I wanted to tell the warden that I still can’t bring up the power to full. Ironically, there are firewalls up that were installed as an antiterrorist safeguard, so an enemy couldn’t gain access to our power systems. They’re seeing me as the enemy, so I haven’t got around those firewalls yet. But anyway, on my monitors I noticed some funny activity going on in the chapel. I sent a tech down there to look into it in person and…well, he said some scary stuff is going on in there.”
    “What scary stuff?” Conant asked, peering down at his wrist comp’s tiny screen.
    “Jesus was talking to him.”
    Conant looked up at the others gathered close, and Ploss said, “I’m going there to have a look myself.”
    “Let me come with you,” Stake said.
    “Why? You should be back in your cell, I think.”
    “I’m trying to help you out here, isn’t that plain? I saved your man Flaquita’s life, didn’t I? If this thing is a collective working together, then we need to do the same.”
    “What’s in it for you, dick? No one’s paying your fee.”
    “I could be paying soon with my life. All of us might.”
    The Choom security chief nodded slowly. “All right, whatever you say, war hero—let’s go.”
    * * *
    The Trans-Paxton Penitentiary’s chapel was a single room, not very large, close to the prison’s recreation yard. Just as in the rec yard, every wall—but also the ceiling and floor—was a vid screen. Depending on a schedule, dictated by a relevant day of the week or time of day, the chapel’s screens could be changed to transform it into a Christian church, a mosque, a synagogue, or a place of worship for any number of nonhuman races.
    When its door slid open and Security Chief Ploss, the guard named Hurley, and Stake stood at the room’s threshold, they found that currently it was in the semblance of the Sistine Chapel in miniature. The ceiling, featuring Michelangelo’s paintings God’s Creation of the World , God’s Relationship with Mankind , and Mankind’s Fall from God’s Grace , gave the illusion of being vaulted. Along with this artist’s The Last Judgment there were frescoes by other artists such as Botticelli, and mock windows along the walls, and the floor was mock tiled in marble and colored stone. The men stepped into the room with wariness more than reverence. The few rows of pews were all empty. The maintenance tech had fled long before they’d got there.
    “Hello?” Stake

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