The First of Many

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Chapter 11

Hannah stood beside the men, wearing nothing except for her bloodstained pants, the rags that remained of her shirt, and an old piece of cloth, which had once been a large pillowcase, covering her back. She stood at attention as the others were. Her back was a torn and bloody mess, and she was covered with pig blood and grime. It hurt to breathe, it hurt to think, it hurt to stand with her shoulders pulled back, but she stood there, letting the voices zoom in and out of focus around her. She hadn't lost so much blood in years, and was surprised at how well she could still bear it.

“Who here,” the instructor was saying in a deadly, quiet voice, “Is the jack-assed, cowardly, sadistic little fucker that stole Solomon's clothes?”

No answer. The only sound in the room was Hannah's breathing, uneven and ragged, but quiet.

“Nobody, huh?” the instructor snarled. “Her clothes just got up and walked away, did they?”

Nobody answered. The whole assembly was quiet as a graveyard as the instructor walked amidst the trainees.

Hannah bit the inside of her cheek to keep herself from making a sound as a draft hit her back.

“Oh, I get it,” he snarled, “You all think you're so much better than her. You're no better, you lying sacks of shit!” He turned suddenly to face a man whose name Hannah didn't know. “Did you do it, you scumbag?”

“No sir,” he said.

“I'll bet you did,” he answered. “I'll bet you fucking enjoyed it, didn't you? You didn't stop staring at her all day!”

"Sir, I didn't do it," the trainee said, looking panicky.

"Then who did?” he snarled, “Nobody leaves until they tell me who did it. Nobody sleeps until someone tells me who the fuck did this. I don't care if I have to make you stand here until you graduate, you hear me?"

Silence.

The instructor snarled. “Solomon, get over here and face me,” he said.

Hannah closed her eyes for a moment, getting up her courage, and forced herself to walk as normally as she was able until she stood directly in front of the instructor, facing him.

He moved away from her and made his way so that he was beside her.

She got no warning before he grabbed the corner of the pillowcase and ripped it off her back, newly opening all the cuts on her back. Unable to hold it back in her shock, she let out a brief scream of pain, and immediately bit her tongue. No. She wouldn't be weak.

There were gasps and other shocked sounds as they saw the extent of the damage: Clearly, they knew the prank had gone far out of hand.

“Now,” the instructor said, “I want to know who is responsible for doing this to your teammate.”

Still silence. Angry as she was, Hannah, forced herself to keep her mouth shut; she knew the pain she felt was nothing compared to what would happen if she ratted out the culprit.

“Fine,” the man said after a moment. “I gave you a choice. Now, it's going to have to get ugly. This is your fault. Solomon!”

Hannah turned back around, face blank and expressionless. “Yes, sir?”

“On your knees.”

Nothing changed in her face, but her pupils dilated in fear. He wouldn't... do anything, would he? Surely he wouldn't... She knelt and sat back on her heels, hands folded in her lap, allowing herself to slouch enough that the cuts didn't burn so badly. She decided that if he tried anything, she would just bear the pain and fight him off. She could kill him – he wouldn't be too hard to beat.

“Last chance,” he told the men.

Silence, although Hannah heard a shuffling that she knew meant the men were getting uncomfortable. She kept her eyes down, and couldn't tell what was happening.

“Solomon. Pushups. Until I tell you to stop.”

Hannah's eyes widened, but she kept her eyes trained down, pulling herself into a plank. She squeezed her eyes shut and held her breath so that she wouldn't make a sound. She wouldn't give her tormentors the satisfaction of hearing her scream.

She began, slow and agonizing. Whenever she pushed up, her cuts split open further, and whenever she pushed down, they would burn as they were squeezed shut. Blood began to flow again as the clots were worn away, and its heat burned even more. She felt dizzy and charred: her consciousness existed only in her back, her vision dancing red with agony.

“See what you're doing to her?” the instructor said. “Any of you can stop this. Just tell me who did it.”

Blood pooled in the hollow of her spine and ran down over her shoulders, dropping to the floor with a rhythmic plunk sound. Her arms were shaking, she couldn't hold out much lo-THUMP!

Hannah's arms gave out and she fell face-first onto the floor with another shriek, but pushed herself back up before being told to, her anger giving her strength, overshadowing her pain.

"Come on, you douche bags. Who. The. Fuck. Did. This," the instructor said angrily.

“Stop!” a twin's voice called out. "Jesus, stop this already! She's injured enough!"

"I’m giving the orders here. Now who the hell did this to her? You tell me and you can all go get some food. You don't, that means pushups."

“Michaels,” The other said instantly. “It was Michaels, we all saw him. Please, let her get up.”

Merek snarled. “He's lying,” he growled. “I didn't do shit.”

“If not you, who?”

“No clue,” he answered coolly. “I was sleeping.”

The instructor turned to Hannah, who had risen. “Was it him?”

Hannah blinked at him hollowly a few times, weighing her options, before she nodded once.

The instructor nodded. “Michaels, you're coming with me. Powell, Powell, take her to Med. Rest of you, chowtime. Move it, all of you.”


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