For three years, the screams could be heard like thunder throughout the region. The waves around the harbor village rose and sank in tune to the sounds of whips and groans. The bandit village was nothing more than an outpost for slave trading and black market dealings, as the people quickly had realized. Since the moment they had arrived, they had been “trained”. They were beaten for mistakes, beaten for insubordination, beaten because it was Tuesday, beaten for any reason that could be made up on the spot. Whenever a group of slaves were removed for trade or “extreme discipline”, a fresh batch of newly-suckered slaves was brought in from that boat. The attempts at breaking the slaves took serious toll on them, cowering in fear even as their friends and loved ones were taken away to be sold…or worse.
The slaves who weren't sold, as well as the “disciplined” slaves, were put to work around the village by building and repairing structures, producing food, or working in one of the expansive mines around the area. In the deepest part of the biggest mine sat Xavier, bruised and bloody and covered in chains. He was used to the treatment, as it had become routine to him over the years. When he wasn't working, he was locked in chains and left in the mine. As the only one left who didn't cower from the conflict, he consistently battled for the departing slaves and was consistently punished for it with beatings and imprisonment. This day marked the end of his recent run, which spanned a month and a half; a punishment for trying to free the recent slaves being sold at one of the human auctions in the area (and something he had successfully done before, adding to the punishment).
The imprisonment of Mr. Mason was so common that the jailers and guards all knew his name. The jailer on that day in particular had had many conversations with him in that mine. They talked together about the situation outside, but mostly about random things in general like sports. They even shared a few tips and tricks for the next time they ever had a chance to play basketball together, though it was never likely to happen.
On this day, the jailer had a quicker pace than normal as he marched to the makeshift cell. Without a word, he removed the chains and led Xavier to the entrance. “What, nothing to say today?” asked Xavier, “You mean you won’t tell me who won the Super Bowl this year?” But the jailer remained silent.
Xavier was lead to the entrance, and into a cart. It wasn't the cart that Xavier was used to. The usual transportation to and from the mines were rickety, wide wooden carts able to fit a hundred people or so. The cart today was much smaller, and much more luxurious. Silk of red lined the padded seats, and golden sill added to the red on the smaller interior. Inside Xavier, who was handcuffed before entering, was met by Mr. Arthur and his two bodyguards. He smiled with his usual proud smugness, and greeted Xavier, “Mr. Mason! Good afternoon! It is a pleasure to see you again, my friend. I see the years have not been kind to you. Or have they? You look much more fit…”
“The beatings help with that, I get a lot of exercise,” Xavier retorted, “So let’s not pretend this is a catching-up visit. You don’t usually visit me. What’s the special situation?”
“Do you know why you’ve been kept alive, Mr. Mason, despite your constant insubordination? Why others have been executed for far less than what you’ve done? Why you’re still alive despite the profits you have cost us these past few years? We like you, Mr. Mason. Many have gone against us, and have been executed. But they rose up out of fear. They were afraid of us, of their futures, and tried to save their closest friends and family alone. You on the other hand have never shown fear to us. You do what you can for everyone, at the COST of your future. Your spirit is impressive. We want you to use that for us. We have a place for you in or organization as a warden. We’re hoping the people will work harder seeing what you went through. We’ll head to your new area as soon as you grab your stuff.”
Xavier was taken aback. Out of all the things that he could guess, that had never crossed his mind. He spoke slowly, partly as an insult and partly to recollect his thoughts, “No. I don’t plan to do that. I do not plan to help the people who beat me and locked me away, I do not plan to be friendly with those who left these scars on me, and I do not plan to help terrorize these people, so you’ll have to look somewhere else.”
Mr. Arthur sighed and leaned forward. His big smile was long gone. He removed his aviator style sunglasses, and his face was as stern as even his bodyguards had ever seen it. He stared into the eyes of Xavier and spoke without emotion, “Mr. Mason, here are the options. Option A is that you agree to join us and do as you are told. Option B is that you decline the deal, and we will execute you. It will be slow, it will be painful, and it will be gruesome. Then, we will use your corpse as a message, to make sure another you will never appear. THEN, we will execute one person every week from the group you arrived with, just because we can. We’ll find someone else to keep control, and you’ll be gone. I’ll give you a week to think about it. Your death will solve nothing. Make the right choice.” The cart arrived at the village housing area as he finished the sentence. As Xavier was removed from the cart, he turned to Mr. Arthur one last time. Mr. Arthur had returned to his leaned back position, with his sunglasses back over his eyes and his smug grin reappearing on his face, “Take the deal, Mr. Mason. It would be a shame to have to kill you.” And with that, the cart was off again, returning Mr. Arnold to his home.
The cuffs on Xavier’s wrists were removed by a village guard, and he was escorted into the large housing building. He looked around the dining area and saw a lot of gazes in his direction, many from faces he did not recognize. He passed by a shelf where he grabbed a few pieces of paper and a pencil, and took a seat in the back corner of the room. The gazes returned to the conversations that were already taking place, aside from a few onlookers who were making their way towards Xavier. Sitting down next to him, he recognized them as some of the passengers that arrived on the island at the same time as he did.
“Welcome back. Hope it wasn’t too bad this time,” the tall, slender one said.
“What, no souvenirs this time? What a shame…” said the stockier, long-haired one.
The third of the trio, a shorter, tanned young man, was busy watching Xavier write. “What are you writing?” he finally asked.
“Plans,” Xavier replied, “I have a week to either free us all or die and get us all killed. Soooooooooo that’s a thing.”