Cassil glances morosely at the cell door as she hears the buzzer sound. Safris again takes up position by the entrance as a short, mousy woman in civilian dress steps into the room.
“Hello, Comrade Cassil,” she says brightly, plastering a smile across her face. “I’m Mirvit, with Internal Review. Would you mind terribly answering a few questions for your exit interview?”
Cassil stares at the ceiling. “Exit interview?”
“It’s just a quick questionnaire we like to get filled out before we discharge those in our custody,” Mirvit says quickly. “It’ll only be a few minutes of your time.”
“Does this mean I’m going to be released soon?”
“Your release papers are being worked on, yes. It shouldn’t be too much longer.” Mirvit clasps her hands, stepping closer to the cot. “In the meantime—?”
Cassil waves a hand. “Yeah, whatever, go ahead.”
“Thank you so very much.” Mirvit presses a contact on her slate. “This interview will be recorded for archival purposes, so would you be so kind as to state your full name for the record?”
“Uh… okay. Cassil Mirsali Roshi Tegvari Vaniari.”
“Very good.” Mirvit scribbles something with a stylus. “Now, I must make absolutely clear, this interview is completely voluntary and you are not required to answer any question you do not wish to; however, depending on your needs or if you feel you have been mistreated, it may be in your interest to do so. Do you understand?”
“Excellent.” Mirvit clears her throat. “Firstly: do you believe that you are currently in a lucid and sober state of mind, able to make rational assessments and decisions for yourself, or do you believe your memory or judgment to be compromised by fatigue, trauma, psychotropic substances, psychiatric injury, or any other factor?”
“No, I’m fine.”
“Then in that case, did you experience any bodily injury or harm during your arrest and detention, whether accidental, self-inflicted, or inflicted upon you?”
“Um… I guess not.”
“Did you attempt self-harm during your detention?”
Images of Niltar’s years of accumulated scar tissue flash through Cassil’s mind. Please, please let her be okay. “No, I didn’t.”
“Good to hear. Did you feel detaining personnel violated protocols for treatment of detainees in any way or were unnecessarily cruel?”
“They made me stand in a cold shower after they fucking stripped me.”
“And that’s all?”
“…that’s ‘all’, yeah.”
“So ‘no,’ then. Very good. Next, do you feel that detaining personnel took all appropriate action to prevent unnecessary physical or emotional harm coming to you?”
For a moment, Cassil’s eyes are fixed on Safris in the corner. Then she blinks, looks away, and mumbles, “y-yeah, she— they did.”
“So glad to hear it! Were you at any point subject to inappropriate sexual contact or any other form of bodily violation?”
“N-no! What the fuck, does that happen here?”
“This is how we make sure it doesn’t, comrade. Now, do you feel that you were provisioned adequate rations during your detention? —‘Adequate’ means we didn’t starve you, dear,” she adds, as Cassil starts to open her mouth.
“I… guess so, then.”
“Were you at any point denied necessary medical care?”
“Excellent, excellent. Do you feel like you were treated in an age-appropriate way during your detention and any interviews that may have taken place?”
“…I… I don’t know.”
“That’s fair. Were any methods that involved intentional infliction of pain or distress required to effect compliance during interviews or alter your behavior at any point during your detention?”
“I wasn’t tortured this time, no.”
“Oh, good. I’m so glad it wasn’t necessary. Now, do you feel safe and comfortable leaving this facility and being released directly into the civilian population?”
“Wh— y-yes, I definitely do.”
“Do you expect that you will be fully able to care for yourself and function normally after release?”
“Do you feel in control of your own actions?”
“Do you wish to be released on your own recognizance or would you prefer to be released into the custody of another, whether a formally recognized vartash or otherwise?”
“On my own, thank you.”
“Would you like any medical or psychological attention prior to release?”
“Nope, I’m fine. The sooner the better.”
“Do you need to be supplied with any medications beyond those which may have been included among your personal effects upon intake?”
“…maybe some painkillers for the trip back.”
“Migraine abortives, anti-inflammatories, or exorphine agents?”
“Um. Which one is fent again?”
“That would be an exorphine. Noted. Do you feel physically and emotionally safe returning to your rantal of origin?”
“Is there somewhere you would feel safer?”
“Uh… not really, no.” Maybe the opposite end of the galaxy.
“Would you like any kind of Shevran or Homeguard escort during any part of your return trip, or are you comfortable travelling by yourself?”
“Yeah, I’m gonna go with the latter.”
“Very good. Now, I see here you were taken into custody along with a number of personal effects; do you wish these to be returned immediately to you upon release, shipped back to your assigned dormitory, or disposed of altogether?”
“I’d really like them back, please. Now.”
“Do you wish to be issued any extra clothing prior to your discharge, or are you comfortable leaving in just the clothes you came in?”
“I don’t need anything ext—” She pauses. “…where are we?”
“The planetary capital.”
“Oh. In that case, um. Maybe a jacket. And leggings?”
“That will not be a problem. Are the current sizes on file for you up to date and correct?”
“Excellent! Are there any other comments, concerns, or requests you would like to be entered into the record?”
Cassil barely restrains her instinct to mouth off again, and mutely shakes her head. I need to get out of here and back to Nili as fast as possible. That’s all that matters. Don’t fuck this up again, you stupid bitch; don’t let them goad you. I used up all my good luck for today already.
“I’m sorry, but can you please answer verbally, shevan?”
“Um. Sorry. Uh, I don’t have anything else to say.”
“Very well! Then that concludes this interview.” Mirvit inclines her head, and touches a contact on the slate. “Thank you so much for your time, Cassil-shevan. I wish you a pleasant and uneventful journey home. Cir a tar.”
“Atar,” Cassil mumbles, leaning back on the cot and pulling the sheets up to her shoulders. The door clangs shut as the two women leave the cell.
She’s awoken by the buzzer sounding again and sits up so sharply that her vision goes momentarily fuzzy. She turns her head, heart pounding as she rubs the sleep from her eyes, and sees Safris stepping through the doorway, followed by another Shevran officer.
“Comrade Cassil.” Safris beckons. “Come with me, please.”
“Wh-what— where are you taking me?” Cassil flinches as the two women take her by the arms.
“You’re being discharged,” Safris replies gently, helping Cassil to her feet. “We’re taking you to outprocessing.”
There’s no armed guard this time, and the two officers lead her out of the cell down a long corridor filled with identical doors. They pass two guards in full body armor carrying combat rifles, and stop before a heavy blast door. The other woman steps back and pulls an iron gate shut in front of her, leaving Cassil and Safris alone as an alarm begins to blare. Safris adjusts her grip on Cassil’s body, stepping behind her and taking hold of her waist with her free hand; Cassil shivers at the touch, and her muscles seem to slacken on their own.
“I’m starting to think you like being manhandled, comrade,” Safris murmurs, and Cassil feels her cheeks heat up. She stammers uselessly in protest for a moment, but trails off as the huge blast door starts to slide open, its bulk grinding loudly against the concrete floor beneath.
“Wh-what did you mean by ‘outprocessing,’” she manages finally, eager to change the subject.
“It’s just some paperwork, you get your stuff back, and then we put you on a train to the nearest rantal. Don’t worry,” she adds teasingly, “the shower’s an intake thing only.”
“…good,” Cassil mutters as Safris presses her gently forward. There’s a small area on the other side of the blast door that’s gated off from the rest of the stone corridor; otherwise, there’s nothing but a pair of laundry carts, filled with white rancalar. Two more officers — one in armor, the other in a dress uniform — move towards her as she steps into the hallway; she flinches as the alarm rises up again and the blast door starts to close behind them.
“Please remove your prisoner uniform, shevan,” one of the officers instructs her. Cassil stares at him.
“H-here? Right now? Where’s my clothes?”
“They’ll be returned to you as soon as we’re done here,” the man replies. “We need to make sure you’re not carrying anything out of the detention block.”
“…you’re going to make me strip? Again?”
“If that’s a problem, I’m happy to help,” Safris murmurs teasingly. Cassil flushes.
This time, at least, the guards don’t touch her, only visually inspecting her once they’ve taken her rancal. One nods curtly to Safris and keys his handset, giving a quiet command. The fence across the exit clatters as it rolls back, and Safris takes hold of the shivering Cassil again to lead her through.
The sensation of Safris gripping her bare body with her soft, strong, half-gloved hands is intensely distracting, and Cassil can feel her cheeks burning like a furnace, her limbs trembling, as she’s led into a tiny numbered changing stall. She lets out a breath she didn’t realize she was holding when she catches sight of her own rancal, sandals, and armwraps neatly layed out across a metal table in the center of the room; they smell like they’ve been freshly washed.
“Would you like some privacy,” Safris asks quietly, stopping by the door and turning to face her, but keeping one hand on her shoulder, “or would you like help getting dressed again?”
Cassil takes a deep, shuddering breath, struggling to regain her composure. There’s a growing, burning sense of need spreading through her body, a manic longing for… touch and catharsis that she’s having trouble keeping down. “Answer me something?” she manages.
Safris grins. “If it’s not a state secret.”
“Are you all talk,” Cassil murmurs, stepping closer, gazing up into her eyes, “or are you actually going to make good on all that teasing?”
Safris giggles, and reaches out to pull the door shut. Cassil takes a sharp breath; the room seems to darken and close in around them. “What ever do you mean, comrade?” the officer says softly, taking Cassil’s neck in her hand and smirking at the shiver that runs through the girl’s naked body.
Cassil blinks rapidly; she realizes she’s breathing hard and fast, feeling slightly lightheaded. “I—” She licks her dry lips. “Fuck, I’m— I am just so fucking stressed out and angry and overwhelmed right now, and… I really need to blow off some steam, so— like— if, if—”
Safris runs her fingernails along the curve of Cassil’s jaw, gently teasing her lips with a thumb, and Cassil trails off with a frightened little sound. Safris steps closer, pressing Cassil’s back up against the cold stone wall, lips curling upward in delight at the look of desperation and longing in her eyes. “Anything for a comrade in need,” she murmurs.
The feeling of Safris’ soft lips on hers sends a jolt of pleasure and excitement through Cassil’s body; she lets out a quiet gasp as the officer slips a knee between her thighs and presses firmly upwards. She effortlessly pins Cassil’s wrists to the wall with a single hand, massaging the girl’s breast as she teases her lips with her teeth and tongue, giggling at Cassil’s futile attempt to break free. Within moments, she’s reduced to a gasping, squirming mess under Safris’ hands, helpless in the grip of a woman who knows exactly how to keep her agitated and desperate. How to draw out the sensation exquisitely, hurting her just enough that she can’t lie back and take it, how to make her struggle reflexively against Safris’ carefully honed and vastly more powerful body.
After toying with her for a few minutes, Safris releases her wrists, and giggles, shivering a little, as Cassil slips her cold hands through the warm folds of her Shevran uniform to caress her soft, bare skin. Safris moves closer, slowly dialing down the cruelty and pain, letting Cassil relax in her arms. She kisses the girl’s forehead softly as her eyelids flutter and she slowly closes her eyes, muscles going limp in Safris’ tight, warm, unbreakable grip. Her soft murmurs are punctuated by occasional gasps and yelps of pain as Safris draws her closer and closer to climax with the finesse of an expert.
“You like being on top, don’t you, Cassi?” she teases, interspersing her words with soft kisses to the girl’s lips. “I can tell you’re not used to the submissive role at all.” She swats Cassil’s rear, eliciting a yelp of protest. “Pity. It suits you.”
“You say that, but you sure seem to like being restrained.” Safris rubs a knuckle gently against Cassil’s clit, squeezing her neck tightly as her muscles spasm. “Have you even heard the noises you’re making?”
Cassil glowers, trying to look away, but Safris catches her by the chin. “Nah-ah, nope. Look me in the eye, Cassi.” The girl squeezes her eyes shut, her cheeks bright red. Then she lets out a plaintive little cry, back arching as Safris pinches her nipple; Cassil squirms and struggles uselessly to try and break free. “Behave,” Safris commands, tightening her grip until Cassil finally gives up and opens her eyes, which are watering from the pain.
“There we go. Good girl.” Safris rewards her with a deep, forceful kiss. “That wasn’t so hard, was it?” She puts a hand over Cassil’s mouth before the girl can reply, pressing even harder as she rubs her thumb against her partner’s clit. She watches in delight as Cassil stares fearfully up at her, struggling to keep her eyes open, her gasps and moans muffled by Safris’ hand.
She draws the torment out for an entire minute before she finally relents. As the girl’s eyelids flutter and her body spasms with the force of the climax, Safris loosens her grip, sliding down to the floor and pulling Cassil into her lap. She holds her gently, stroking her lips and thighs as the aftershocks begin to fade. The exhausted girl leans back against her, resting her head against Safris’ shoulder, giggling quietly as Safris kisses her neck.
“Was that what you needed, Cassi?” Safris asks softly after a while, and Cassil nods.
“Y-yeah. Th… thank you. For… for everything.”
Safris giggles. “No, thank you. You’re a lot of fun, you know that?”
“You’re… you’re really good. I— thank you so much.”
“Feels good being under someone else’s control now and again, doesn’t it?”
“I— I didn’t say that!”
“Your body sure did.” Safris squeezes her neck and Cassil blushes hotly, looking away. “You were so pent-up — how long has it been since anyone gave you a good hard fuck, anyway?”
“Nobody’s ever treated me like… like that before,” Cassil mutters.
“…oh, Cassi. You poor thing. No wonder you needed that so bad.”
“It’s ‘Cas.’” Cassil squeezes her wrist awkwardly. “Th-that’s what people usually, you know, call me.”
Safris giggles, running her fingers through Cassil’s hair. “Do I look like I care, babe?”
Cassil makes a face. “The only person who ever calls me Cassi is this… psycho fucking bully back home.”
“So it makes you feel small and vulnerable, is what you’re saying?” Safris grins. “I think that’s exactly where I want you… Cassi.”
Cassil sighs. “You… you are such a piece of shit, you know that?”
Safris digs her fingernails into Cassil’s neck, smothering her mewls of pain with a kiss. “Careful, darling; that sounds like insubordination. I might have to punish you for that.”
“…you and that bitch Lisuan would get along so well.” Cassil slips a hand under Safris’ uniform and squeezes her firm little breast between thumb and forefinger, grinning at Safris’ yelp of surprise. “Can dish it out but you can’t take it, can you?” she murmurs, kissing Safris on the neck.
“Big words from a girl who was just flat up against the wall naked.” Safris takes Cassil’s wrists in her hands and pins her arms securely in her lap, ignoring her struggles to break free. Finally Safris feels the fight go out of her, and her muscles slacken as she nuzzles up against the officer’s neck.
“I’d like to see you again,” Cassil murmurs quietly, as if she doesn’t even want to admit it to herself. “I really would.”
Safris laughs delightedly. “Don’t you think that’s a little ideologically incoherent? The brave, outspoken rebel shacking up with the evil secret policewoman on the regular?”
“Maybe I’m just trying to seduce you to my noble cause.” Cassil kisses her softly on the cheek. “A member of the evil regime would be a powerful ally to the Rebellion, after all. Who’s to say I can’t fuck the love of liberty into you?”
“Is that how you thought that was going? ’Cos it looked more like I was fucking the love of submission and helplessness into you.”
“I was not helpless!”
“You just loved being pinned to the wall so much you couldn’t bring yourself to fight back?”
“I’ll show you a fight,” growls Cassil, slipping her wrists out of Safris’ hands and shoving her to the ground, straddling her prone body. Before she even realizes what’s happening, Safris grabs her by the shoulders and flips her, reversing their positions in a heartbeat and pinning her wrists tightly to the floor on either side.
“What even are you, grey-sash in UC? This is just embarassing, Cassi.”
“Black-sash, you prick.” Cassil tries to pry her hands loose again but Safris just tightens her grip until it hurts.
“With form that sloppy? I thought black was where they started teaching offense.”
“Ow! The fuck are you, gold?”
“White, actually.” Safris hauls Cassil to her feet and shoves her, forcing her back up against the wall again. “It’s a Shevran thing.”
“Fuck, can you all fight like this?”
“Pretty much, yeah. We’re specially trained to counter the kind of self-defense they teach you in UC.” Safris kisses her again, fingering her nipples idly. “Can’t keep a population of freedom-loving, highly-trained supersoldiers properly oppressed without some kind of edge, can you?” She winks.
“That’s cheating. You cheated!”
“Cassi, girl, I didn’t need to. You really need to spend some time at the sovrad and earn your sash back.” There’s a note of concern in her voice now. “You’re practically service-age; you shouldn’t be this far behind in your combat training.”
“I’m a gold-sash marksman, I’ll have you know. If I had a rifle—”
“—and I was a few hundred meters downrange, you might be able to take me?” Safris runs her fingers through Cassil’s hair. “Then you should never have let me close range. Rookie. Mistake.” She punctuates the last two words with bites to Cassil’s neck, and her eyelids flutter slightly as she gasps in pain.
“Nnh. Fuck you.”
Safris laughs, and pulls her into a gentle hug. “For real, though. Stop starting fights until you know you can win them. I don’t just mean with me.”
“I mean it.” Safris holds her at arm’s length and looks her straight in the eye. “You’re gonna get hurt real bad one of these days if you don’t. You’re brave, you really are. Brave and full of fire. But that fire will burn you right out if you’re not careful. If getting Seruan-nillas on your case is the worst thing that’s ever happened to you, you aren’t remotely prepared for the world that’s out there.”
Cassil rolls her eyes. “Since when do you care about what happens to random fucking prisoners?”
“Cassi.” Safris takes her softly by the neck with both hands. “You’re one of the People. No one here is a ‘random fucking prisoner’ — they’re all real people, with real lives, real, heartbreaking stories more often than not, and they all need some kind of help to get those lives turned back around. This isn’t just some birdcage, some hole for Rosie spies and prisoners of war. Everyone here matters, everyone here is worth fighting for, and on top of that I’m taking a liking to you.”
Cassil gazes into her eyes. “You really believe, don’t you?” she murmurs. “In the Society, I mean.”
“Yeah I do, little miss rebel.” Safris wraps her arms around her again, stroking her back as she speaks. “In my role, I see the absolute worst the People have to offer. Corruption and cruelty; rape and bloodshed. You know why I still believe?”
“Because when I walk away from an action, the wound is whole again.” Safris caresses her cheek. “See, a few years back there was this commune that went bad. Social structure broke down completely. Civil servants were enforcing labor quotas with beatings and public humiliation all while they built themselves mansions and hoarded food. The Homeguard took what they wanted from whoever they wanted, right outta the Imperial Guard playbook. There was looting and rioting. Rampant drug addiction. It was like something out of a nightmare. The opposite of everything we’re supposed to be. The civvies couldn’t do anything because they were too fractured. The civil service was too incompetent to run the place correctly even if they’d felt inclined to, and they sure as shit didn’t.”
“So what happened?”
“What happened is the Shevran found out. I was fresh out of the Academy when they put me on the task force. It was one hell of a first mission, let me tell you. The Section Head called blank slate. They packed five whole railcars with soldiers, and sent us in on the Core Line. We took control of the whole rantal by force, arrested damn near the whole civil service, sent most of the Homeguard off for reeducation. I swear, that week was damn near the worst of my life. I saw things I still have nightmares about. There was this one boy—” She stops, shakes her head. “We got him out. We got them all out.” All of a sudden, it’s like she’s talking more to herself than Cassil. “We emptied out the commune and resettled the people who used to live there where we thought was best. They all lived. They all got second chances.” She closes her eyes, and for an uncharacteristic moment, Cassil feels Safris’ arm tremble. “That’s what matters. That’s what I gotta remember.”
“…‘resettled’? You mean you dragged them out of their homes and forced them all to move to different communes?” Cassil glowers, shuddering. “I can’t imagine making a thousand people give up everything they’d ever known like that. That sounds like a nightmare.”
“That’s because Tegvar’s a good kind of place, sounds like,” Safris says quietly, putting her arms around Cassil’s waist. The tremor’s already gone, and she’s herself again. “That place… it was neighbor against neighbor. People had enemies. They wanted out. And they wanted to get away from the bad memories.”
“All of them? Really?”
“Not all of them. But nobody put up much of a fuss about leaving.”
“Who would when you’re pointing rifles at them, right?”
“Non-pen rounds and dusters only. We weren’t trying to get anybody killed.”
Cassil shrugged. “So what happened to the commune once you’d emptied it out?"
“It was a beautiful place when we built it. Lakeside dormitories, lots of arable land. It deserved a second chance. So after we cleared it out, we refounded it. It’s a thriving community now; thriving and productive. Grows near half of the grain in Region Five, without anyone getting beat for not doing their jobs, or slaving their whole lives away in the fields. It’s got one of the higher community cohesion indexes on the planet. That is why I believe in our system, Cassi.” She smiles faintly. "Sure, yeah, there’s some brutal shit that happens sometimes. But we make sure everybody gets happy endings eventually. We don’t take the whole damn Universe for granted like the Echoes, sitting around and letting robots pamper their asses all day long, and we sure as shit don’t starve and murder and torture each other to get on top like the Rosies. We work hard, we know what life is worth, and—” She leans in and kisses Cassil on the shoulder. “—we take care of each other.”
Cassil gazes up at her, narrowing her eyes. “I’m starting to think Seruan put you up to this.”
Safris slaps her ass gently and Cassil twitches in her arms, blushing hard. “And here I thought we were just having sexy pillow talk.”
“Propaganda is like. The opposite of sexy.” Cassil squirms, trying to get free; Safris’ grip tightens reflexively. “Also, we don’t have any pillows.”
Safris pushes her to the floor, pinning her arms and straddling her. She leans close, letting her lips brush against Cassil’s, then kisses her cheek and in a sultry voice, whispers right next to her ear, “From each as she is able—” She presses her knee sharply against Cassil’s mound. “—to each as she has need.”
Cassil’s giggling uncontrollably. “Get off!”
“Rise up against your oppressor and make me, bitch.” Safris nips her lip tenderly. “What, don’t you have the righteous will of the proletariat behind you?”
Cassil strains, squirming, trying to break free of the officer’s hold. Safris just smirks.
“Definitely gray-sash. You don’t even have the muscles for black, let alone green!” She ruffles Cassil’s hair. “We’ll have to do something about that.”
“You did say you wanted to see me again.” Safris loosens her grip as Cassil gives up on struggling. “Tegvar’s not too far from home — only what, three hours by surface rail? I could come visit when I’m off-duty, help you get back into shape — and make sure you don’t forget your place,” she adds teasingly, wrapping a hand around Cassil’s neck and squeezing gently. “How does that sound, Cassi girl?”
Cassil gives her a fragile smile. “That — that would be, um. That would be really nice.”
Safris grins. “It’s a plan. I’ll shoot you a message when I get off duty tonight, and we can figure out the details.”
Cassil rests her cheek on Safris’ chest. “Mmkay. Sounds good.”
“C’mon.” Safris reluctantly releases her. “As much as I’d like to keep toying with you all night, I have a job to do, and you have a home to get back to. Let’s get you dressed before someone kicks down the door.”
Cassil nods. “Yeah. Home.”
Safris carefully wraps Cassil’s rancal around her body, pulling it extra tight across her breasts, eliciting a blush and a squeak of protest. “You don’t show off your chest nearly enough,” Safris teases, batting away Cassil’s hand as she tries to loosen the robe. She slips the girl’s hands through her purple arm-wraps, making sure they’re nice and snug around her upper arms before letting go.
Cassil exhales deeply. “It feels so good to be wearing my own clothes again.”
“I’ll bet. Come on, let’s get you out of here.” Safris ruffles her hair, and takes her by the arm; Cassil sighs happily at the feeling of the officer’s hands on her body again.
“Lead the way,” she murmurs demurely, and Safris laughs aloud.
“Good girl, Cassi,” she replies, favoring her with one last kiss. “Good girl.”
As Safris reaches for the door latch, Cassil nuzzles her shoulder. “Hey. For the record?”
“It is totally ideologically incoherent for a fucking mega-patriot like you to be screwing an anarchist hellion like me.”
“I don’t know.” Safris grins. “I might fuck some loyalty into you yet.”