Chapter 5

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Mintaka almost finished stitching up the deep cut on her friend Kadin's hand. "You really should have gone to the medic station for this, Kadin," she said as her hands deftly moved the needle in and out of her friend's skin. "You know fucking well I can't do that, Mint," Kadin replied through her teeth, trying to withstand the pain. "It will get recorded and then there will be questions. Questions we can't afford." Mint frowned. "You and your damn war, you'll all end up dead. I only got these primitive tools to work with," she said. "Me? You're part of this just as much as I am, Mint. Or did you forget? And this war was forced on us. If we don't do something about it, the balance around here will go haywire, and we'll be on the ass-end of this place!"

"I know, Kadin, I know. Well, I've done what I can for your newest scar-to-be. Take this pill, it should make sure your wound doesn't get infected." They sat in Mint's home-space as it was called, or cell as it was. It provided some sense of privacy if you forgot for a moment that you were constantly being monitored. This surveillance was the reason they were in the small corridor between her tiny bedroom and cleanse-room. They hoped this small nook could provide some sanctuary from the probing eyes of their electronic wardens.

"How did you get this one anyway?" Mint inquired. Kadin lowered her voice to almost a whisper and answered. "We were taking over a service drone, and the little fucker fought back. We got it in the end. Pura blocked its communication channel; my job was to plug the override. I didn't realize they fitted those bastards with protection spikes."
"And you think no one noticed or that it didn't alert anyone?" Mint asked, whispering as well. "We were quick," Kadin grinned widely, "and we did it in a known blackspot, so Monitoring shouldn't have been able to see us. Plus, the override's first job is to delete the last ten minutes of the unit's memory. So worst case they'll catch on to the override, but they won't know who placed it."

Kadin jumped to her feet, "Come, we should get to dinner, or they'll send an Enforcer to get us. And babe, thanks for the stitch job, it hurts like shit, but it looks like you did a good job." She offered her non-injured hand to help Mint up. Mint took the hand and felt how her friend practically lifted her. Whereas Mint was tall and slender on the verge of malnourished and fair-skinned, Kadin had a relatively small, ebony, muscular body. It wasn't Kadin's first earned scar in this place and most likely wouldn't be the last. On many, Mint had the chance to work on, and at times try to make sure her friend didn't bleed to death.

They had very little contact with actual human personnel. In all the years Mint had been serving her punishment, she had seen in person a human guard or another type of facility member perhaps a dozen times. The giant prison station was run with brutal efficiency. Constant monitoring provided by specialized computerized systems and enforcement provided by their mechanical abettors made sure the inhabitants kept a high degree of obedience. The isolated human personnel made sure everything was running smoothly from behind fortified walls.

The facility's personnel didn't intervene with the internal power struggles between the inmates. They were content as long as there was an appearance of orderliness. Scheming and vying for control had always been a part of life on the Shell. The last year or so had been more difficult than any Mint could remember. Ever since Xici arrived.

From the moment she set foot inside the Shell, Xici had been trying to assert her control over everyone else. The problem was that she had been gaining ground very quickly. This was scary as she didn't intend to rule in the same manner the current group did. Mint's faction had been in control long before she got there. Their method was to make sure things didn't get worse, and inmates didn't get in each other's way too much. At times they had to exert some power and punish the more troublesome inmates, but for the most part, they had just let things be. Xici sought to change all that. So they had no choice but to fight back.

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