As expected, I’m separated from Rosemary and Rose and hauled into a separate vehicle as them. I only manage to yell to Rose that I love her before she’s ripped from my sight. With a heavy heart, I come to the horrible realisation that I might not ever see her again.
The ride back to the facility is silent, with the occasional murmur from one cop to the other. I want to point out that it’s going to be highly suspicious if a bunch of police cars show up in an abandoned carpark late at night, but it’s none of my business now. Even if my voice denies it, my actions have proved I’m on the opposing team. There’s no going back from this now.
I’m hauled into the elevator and then into the conference room where Riles sits in his chair, drinking his coffee with a permanent frown on his face. Around him are Gordon, Marcus and Thomas, all talking amongst themselves until they hear my arrival.
Marcus looks away while Gordon stares at me in puzzlement. Thomas glares at me, eyes ferocious.
“It’s nice to see you again,” he says calmly and I shrug.
“I just can’t seem to leave without you.”
His scowl deepens and he looks away.
Riles gestures for the authorities to leave and they do without a word. At his beckoning, I take a seat at the end of the table, trying to keep my body from showing any sign of the discomfort I feel as I await my judgement.
“This is a surprise,” Gordon says. “I thought there would be a possibility of you switching sides, but attacking someone and then trying to run free with an inmate?”
“Daughter,” I correct him. “Rose was my daughter.”
“She was still an inmate,” Riles sighs. “That’s why this situation has to be looked at as such.”
“So kill me,” I shrug. “Put a bullet through my head or rip out my throat.”
“Enough,” Riles tells us loudly. “I have enough going on without having to worry about you’re petty arguments.”
“I want to go home,” Marcus sighs and I wish I could second his statement. How nice it would be to collapse on the couch next to Rose and watch the tv as Rosemary bustles around us. How simply, but how untruthful. “Let’s just get this over and done with.”
“I say we charge him with assisting an escape and assault,” Thomas says, sitting up a little higher. “That and refusing the orders of an official.”
“And speeding,” Gordon adds.
“Then I guess I’m going to be locked up,” I shrug but Riles shakes his head.
“I’m not going to charge you with anything.”
All of look at him, mouths open. Mine in surprise, the others in complete disagreement. Thomas’ face flushes bright red in rage.
“You can’t do that!”
“Yes I can and you know it so if I were you I would keep my mouth shut!” Riles slams his palms on the table, making an awful smacking sound. “Let me talk and shut up for once.”
He turns his furious eyes on me.
“Frankly I want to stick a gun to your head and pull the trigger but I’m not going to do that. It’s to quick, to simple. Locking you away for the rest of your life is appealing, but again, what you want. Doing the same to your family isn’t going to be enough either. I’m going to make you pay and what I pay you with won’t be what you want. Got it?”
I nod tightly, but my anxiety is building up ferociously.
“I’m going to make Thomas change you,” he says, “And then you’re going to be our model for all the press conferences and the announcements. You will be named as the man that created this and you’re going to do it or your daughter and grandma will discover what real pain feels like, you understand?”
My mouth feels metallic and my blood is boiling in rage. The pain from straining my hands against the handcuffs are almost enough to keep my focused and without emotion. Nearly.
“Anything you want,” I say quietly. Riles lip curls into a cruel smile.
“You’re going to be the poster boy you’ve been trying to be for years, Jonathan Charles only this time you’re going to wish you could crawl out of this place and live like one of the street rats on the outside.”
I keep my face composed, but let my eyes fall downwards. I don’t want him to see the shame that’s creeping up my body. No doubt he senses it though.
Around me the chairs shuffle, but I still refuse to look up. That is until I feel a hand grab my hair and slam my head down so it smashes against the table.
Lurching to my feet, I stumble backwards as a squirt of blood pours from my nose and ultimately trip of the chair behind me, sprawling onto the ground. Thomas stands over me, a smile on his lips.
“I don’t get to harm you after this meeting so I’m using this time for my good.”
Before I can move his foot kicks out and connects with my side, squeezing the air out of my lungs and up my throat as I gasp in pain, curling in on myself.
I can tell Thomas wants to do more, but Riles calls him away.
“That’s enough. We want him to be able to go through the change without any injuries.”
Thomas sits back down, looking appeased nevertheless.
Gordon helps me to my feet, a grimace on his face.
“You’ve disappointed me,” he says quietly as he does. “I expected a lot better from you.”
“I think everyone did,” I say breathlessly and grimacing at the taste of the blood dripping from my nose, “But frankly, sir, I couldn’t care any less.”
Riles gestures to the three men.
“Time for you men to take a leave.”
They stand to their feet and shuffle towards the door. Marcus out rightly ignores me while Gordon spits in my direction and Thomas waves.
“See you soon,” he mouths before taking his leave.
When they’ve left, I turn my focus to Riles.
“Are you going to punch me too?” I ask and he shakes his head.
“I don’t want to be responsible for your harm and I want you all set to go the moment we can announce the Chocolate Society.”
“Then why am I still here?”
“Because I’m not finished saying what I need to say,” he tells me.
He gestures for me to sit and I do, grunting a little as I clutch my side. Even though deep down I’m sure he does, no evidence of glee at my distress can be seen. Part of me does feel guilty for betraying such a man.
“I understand why you did it,” he tells me. “I understand why you betrayed us for the sake of your family. A long time ago, I would have done the same thing.”
“What changed?” I grimace at the pain.
“I came to realise life is a lot easier if you comply with those in charge,” he tells me. “I think after this, you will too. We all want to be the hero, but heroes don’t exist.”
Even though I hate to admit it, he is making sense.
“You’re going to have a comfortable life after this,” he tells me before fidgeting with his communicator. Immediately the door swings open and authorities arrive, holding what I suspect to be a Come-Gun. Created by Telcorp, it can put people into a temporary sleep or into a deep coma. I highly doubt they would grant me the dignity or the final wish to suffer the Change unconsciously. Riles voice distracts me from my thoughts as he continues. “You’re going to go on living, with a daughter at your side and the old lady, although she won’t be able to serve you anymore, not in the Chocolate Society.”
“Why are you doing this?” I ask finally. “Why try and change things in the first place instead of letting human nature do what it wants?”
“Because if human nature had it’s way we’d all be dead by now,” he sighs. “We’re self-destructive. I have an obligation to protect myself and my own family, just as you would do the same.”
He moves forward and holds out his hand. After a moments hesitation I reach for his and we shake hands, solemnly staring into each other’s eyes.
“It’s been a pleasure working with you, Jonathan Charles,” he tells me.
“It’s been a pleasure working with you, Riles Granger.”
And that’s when the officer steps forward and presses the Come-Gun to my head.