Summary: Jack has a special meal in prison in China
A/N: I've got to post this tonight b/c I'm out all day tomorrow at my workshop, and then a par-tay in the evening. My first China fic! It's kind of long and a bit crack!fic because I have no self-control. Enjoy.
The little door near the floor slid open and a thin brown hand pushed a tray inside before abruptly withdrawing, sealing the opening again.
And that was his human contact for today.
Jack sniffed the air. There was something familiar about that sweet-fat, slightly rancid odour, but it was difficult to see in the dim light. Evening had filled the three inches of sky he could see through the air vent. When its soft grey faded to black, he would be in darkness as well.
In place of the usual bowl of watery rice and tofu, there was a paper bag in the middle of his tray. When he realized what it was, Jack took a step back. He lowered himself against the cold cement wall as he thought about what to do.
This was obviously one of Cheng’s mind-fucks, but they had him down to one meal a day, and this one was late. Jack was too hungry to really care what his tormentor intended. It was useless; he was already salivating. He’d lose this round either way.
His arm shot out and grabbed the bag, anticipation mixed with disgust. He crouched over it, scrabbling through the contents. He pulled out a single French fry and sniffed it, at first suspiciously, then slowly, as if he were inhaling the scent of a fine cigar, hand-rolled on the warm, tanned thigh of a girl in
This was ridiculous.
He allowed himself to take a bite, delicately nibbling with his front teeth, feeling its crispness yield to a softer texture. He held it to the roof of his mouth for a moment, pressing out the flavour and assessing. Was it alright? Should he send it back? Jack gave a small snort of laughter at his own lame joke.
Cheng wouldn’t use a poison he could detect, and even then, there were so many other, more direct ways to be killed or drugged. Poisoned food wasn’t Cheng’s style. Jack stuffed the rest of the fry into his mouth and followed it with another as he pulled out the familiar, paper-wrapped mound of a Big Mac.
It tasted different, but that was no surprise. They weren’t quite the same even up in
He’d let a few pieces of wilted iceberg fall to the floor and he eyed them with regret as they lay there glowing white in the fading light. Something for the cockroaches to eat tonight.
Jack ate a few more fries as he reached into the bag for the drink, curious. Would Cheng have gone for a shake or Coke? The rattle of ice against the waxed cardboard gave it away. Coke. Carefully placing his burger back on its paper, He unwrapped the straw and slid it through the plastic lid. They hadn’t forgotten a single detail. He sipped. Meh. He’d always preferred cans or bottles. Still, it was cold and Coke-like. He took a few fast gulps and burped, the sound reverberating around his cell like a monk’s chant.
Jack smiled. He hoped Cheng had been listening, because that was the only sound he would be getting out of this dinner date.
After the initial few bites, Jack ate quickly. He knew this wouldn’t get better with age. There was no point in trying to hoard it. The ants would find it in no time, and they might tell the rats.
His hunger satisfied, Jack sat back against the wall, arranging the thin blanket over his legs against the dropping temperature as he turned the situation over in his mind.
What was Cheng up to? The physical torture seemed to have stopped, although it might just be a reprieve. The threat was certainly always there, and smaller beatings were common at any time. But it had been nearly two weeks since he’d been taken to the interrogation room. Maybe they were just giving him time to heal. Or maybe they’d decided that head-games gave better results.
Jack couldn’t blame them; he’d proven it to be true. He regretted that day. It had been careless of him to allow himself to hope. Until then, he’d been able to anticipate Cheng’s next move reasonably well based on what he himself would do if their roles were reversed. The ‘rescue’ had been a surprising and brilliant move.
Then Cheng had blown it by putting Lee in the same cell block as Jack. At first, this had puzzled Jack. Did Cheng honestly believe that listening to Lee’s screams would make him afraid? He’d been hearing the cries of other prisoners since he got here, and had given more than enough of his own for them to listen to in return. Lately there had even been a woman’s voice, someone new. That had been enough to keep Jack awake at night. Probably someone from Falun Gong, but maybe not. She was too far away for him to make out what language she spoke. Just the high-pitched and feminine tone of her terror.
Then he realized Lee’s proximity was punishment, pure and simple. If he had given up the information willingly, he wouldn’t have had his nose rubbed in the guilt. But Cheng obviously didn’t understand that the Lee incident had put Jack on alert. He had to improve his mental game or Cheng would get what he wanted. It was clear that if he gave up or let himself slide, more people would suffer because of his laziness. Jack couldn’t stand the thought of that.
Now he spent several hours a day in meditation, trying to find new ways to open the space between stimulus and response. If he could stand in that space, he could beat Cheng, because he would be able to choose. He may not have liberty, but he would have freedom.
Jack gave a wry smile. There was obviously room for improvement in his technique. First sign of food, and he’d scarfed it down like Pavlov’s dog.
So what was this meal about? Was it a reward? Was it a bribe? Jack scratched his beard absently, picking out a louse and crushing it between his fingernails, wiping it off on the floor. A shave and a haircut would be a better bribe. God, what he’d give for a proper shower. The splashes of cold water from a tap were not enough to rid himself of nits and bedbugs. His skin was so covered in sores his main objective on wash day was simply to prevent infection.
He studied the bag again. There was nothing noticeably unusual printed on the paper. He opened it and stuffed the garbage back into it but stopped when his fingers brushed something at the bottom. What was this? He hooked a fingernail around the thin plastic envelope and fished it out. A trading card of some sort. Did they put toys in adult meals in
He held it up to the air vent, and could just make out that it was one of those 3-D holograms, where the picture changed depending on the angle of viewing. This one had a photo of… Anikin Skywalker? Jack shifted the card and Anikin morphed into Darth Vader. Huh. Well. God, the universe was weird sometimes. He wondered if they’d let him keep it. Someone would probably get in trouble for letting it get through in the first place. He tucked it under his blanket.
“You have done well, young Skywalker. You have conquered your hate, but not your anger.”
An eight-year old Graem swung the translucent plastic tube towards Jack, turning on the flashlight handle.
He breathed again. Horrrr-ihhhh. Horrrr-ihhhhh.
Jack swung back, turning on his own light saber. Schwup, schhhwup. “You killed my father!”
“No, Luke. I am your father!” Graem intoned majestically, parrying Jack’s blows. “Embrace the dark side and together we can rule the universe as father and son.”
“Never!” Jack swung a little too hard and knocked his brother off balance.
Luke wasn’t the only one who hadn’t fully conquered his emotions, because Graem struck back angrily, knocking Jack’s light saber from his hand. He swung again, hitting Jack squarely in the stomach, the laser suddenly real enough to sear through his flesh.
Jack looked up to see Graem’s papier mache mask fall off. But it wasn’t Grae, it was Phillip. Jack pulled his hand away from his stomach and saw the blood on it. He turned to his father, wanting to ask him why, but he couldn’t speak. The pain was intense and he fell to his knees as his father and Graem stood above him, laughing.
Jack woke to cramps and a cold sweat. He clutched his stomach in agony, hobbling to the far corner just in time, reaching out to the wall for balance as he squatted above the hole in the floor. Maybe the food had been poisoned after all. Or maybe it was just too much for his system. He hadn’t had meat in what? Six months? A year? There were large chunks when he hadn’t had access to daylight and he had the feeling the guards had altered the schedule so the days didn’t line up. A long time, anyway. Fast food always made him queasy, no matter how good it seemed while he was eating it.
Jack found his small pail of drinking water and poured a little bit on his right hand, splashing his face before he took a drink. He huddled against the wall, cold, but wanting to stay close to the corner for a minute just in case. The stench was overpowering, if not unfamiliar. He would have to ration his water to last until morning.
Maybe the food had been a statement about
On the boat and when he first got here, he had wanted to die. He had known what was going to happen to him. He should, he’d done all of these things and more to his own prisoners. His reasons had been different, but he wasn’t innocent. He deserved what he had coming to him. That didn’t mean he welcomed it.
He had refused to eat, but they force-fed him.
He’d tried to will himself away during the pain, but his spirit clung to life with bleeding and missing fingernails.
He’d hoped his heart would give out during the electrical shocks, but Cheng was skilled and made sure his men never took it too far.
Finally he had survived long enough that he didn’t want to give Cheng the satisfaction of having him die. Jack knew the longer he lasted without talking, the bigger the headache he caused for Cheng. Every unsuccessful interrogation attempt was a black mark on Cheng’s record, and Jack wanted to make that file as dark as the night that enveloped him.
Panting, he pulled himself back to his drinking pail and scooped a few sips. He was already so weak. He did what he could to maintain his muscle tone and reflexes – push-ups and sit-ups helped fill the time – but the lack of food was having its effect. He sat back against the wall, leaning his head on its cold, damp surface, his eyes closed.
The clatter of keys outside the door jangled him to consciousness. Thin shafts of light from the air vent illuminated the far wall. Jack hauled himself up, using the wall for support. The cramps had passed but he would have to take it easy today.
The door opened and a guard entered, his nostrils curling at the smell emanating from the open drain on the floor. He motioned for Jack to come with him and bring his water pail. It was time for Jack’s weekly trip to the wash house. He gathered his pail and the rag that served as his towel and followed the guard. Another guard was waiting in the hallway to bring up the rear. A few times he had tried to use this chance to escape, but he had failed. That didn’t stop him from looking for a new opportunity, and his eyes scanned the hallway as they walked.
There was one other prisoner in the wash house. Lao, a university student and on-line gold miner who had been caught posting a dissident blog on the Internet. The idiot had used his real name, and posted from the same Internet café every time.
Jack knew all this because the kid would not stop talking. Even though Lao was aware that Jack would not respond, he liked to practice his English. As the son of a high-ranking official, Lao had a bit more freedom than the other politicos, and Jack was always interested in his news.
“How are you today, Uncle?” Lao enquired politely. If Jack could speak, he would tell Lao to stop treating him like an elder. He wasn’t ready for that, yet.
Jack nodded, stripping down and approaching the low concrete trough that stretched down one wall. He turned on the tap and quickly splashed icy water on himself, then turned it off again. Leaving it on too long would earn him a smack from the guard’s night stick.
“I heard you had special meal last night,” Lao said excitedly. “Uncle Yao told me. MacDonalds.” He sighed dreamily. “I had MacDonalds sometimes, when I was outside. Very good American food!”
Jack snorted and took the hard grey bar of soap from the shelf above the tap, working it into a weak and slimy lather.
“There was an execution yesterday,” Lao’s voice was low, conspiratorial. “Lee.”
Jack’s head snapped up as he looked at Lao, eyebrow raised.
Lao nodded. “Very sad for him. He was a spy, selling secrets to the Americans.”
The guard in the corner shouted at them, and Lao started washing himself more quickly. Jack picked up his drinking bucket and filled it with water, then poured it over himself to rinse away the soap. So that’s what the meal had been about. Cheng’s celebration of Lee’s execution. What a bastard.
The guard shouted again and Jack rubbed himself dry, stepping back into his dirty clothes before filling his bucket again to carry water back to his cell. As he walked between the guards, Jack could hear the low moans of the woman coming from across the compound. Poor thing. This was no place for a woman. He wondered what her story was.