Brandon I. Jones
Wellington, New Zealand
Brandon I. Jones
Chapter One - Barrabas
You may have heard of me, though I guess it depends on
whether you frequent moral or immoral social circles. I am
the one they called Barrabas, and I was the most infamous of
thieves to grace the Earth since Jesse James. If you don't
know who he was, think Robin Hood, and that will do just as
well. My habitually reckless albeit inventive feats earned
me quite a bit of renown and-- well, let's put it this way--
if the Mona Lisa had survived the War, I could've absconded
with it and been back at home asleep before Lisa herself was
even aware of the deed. But I was never really one to boast,
so I'll spare you anymore of the pissing contest. Now, if I
am indeed this Barrabas of legend, then there's a rather
large kink in my little tale. You see, his story came to an
end. Barrabas Madzimure died more than thirty years ago.
Currently I find myself blindfolded and bound fast to a
cold, metal chair. In defense of my captors though, I am
sitting here because I deserve to be. My actions of late
have been quite caustic, and as a result I killed a man
today. I'm not a murderer by nature, though there has been
more than one occasion where I found myself in a you-or-me
type situation. It's not so much that I mind dying, but I'll
be damned if I'm gonna let another man take my life from me.
The point is, I don't enjoy killing and I never have, but
life in the mines is hard on any man.
I've been sitting here long enough now that I'm
beginning to wonder if I might die from boredom. Or maybe
I've not been here long at all, it's hard to tell since my
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head is still swimming from whatever they hit me with.
Still, this is the first time I've been outside the mines in
years, so part of me can't help but feel a small bit of
gratitude. It's then that a very obnoxious and quite nasally
sounding voice from somewhere in the room calls out to me.
"State your name, prisoner."
It's definitely a man, and I don't recognize the voice
either. When I don't answer, something the size of my own
head plows right into my mid-section. I may lose a kidney
over that one. I do my damndest to hide the pain, and after
a momentary fit of gasping and gagging, I rasp out the name.
"Surname?" asks the voice.
I hear fingers snap together followed by a quick shuffle
of feet, and then the shroud over my head is snatched free.
Seated opposite me is a slender man I'm certain I've never
laid eyes on before today. His hair is dark brown, and from
the looks of it seems to be held in place by a sort glossing
agent. Hair product is an extreme rarity here. By that I
mean it's non-existent. He's got a rather scrawny mustache
as well, which is the same color as his hair. All that and
to boot, he's wearing the nicest damn coat I've seen since
coming into exile. Without so much as a glance in my
direction he continues with his run of the mill questions.
"You are no doubt aware that you have only six days
remaining until your execution?" he asks.
"Six days, huh? The charges?"
The slender man taps his fingers briskly on what looks
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like a digital ledger of some sort lying on the steel table
set between the two of us. The display is nearly
translucent, like a sheet of crystal. Try as I might though,
whatever is displayed on it is illegible from my vantage
"It says here that you aided in the murder of one Leroy
Baxter, not but nine hours ago. He was prison warden number
five dash six. Am I correct in my information, or do you
wish to deny the deed?" he asks.
"I bore him no ill will, but the man had it coming," I
The slender man continues to eye his tablet, and frowns
for half a second, as if debating whether there might be any
truth to my claim.
"So, you do not deny it?" he asks.
"I didn't say that."
The slender man bites the inside of his cheek while
continuing to key the ledger with a quiet precision.
"Why have you brought me here?" I ask.
"Ah. Well, those such as yourself always visit with me
before meeting their scheduled demise. It's company policy.
You understand, I'm sure," he says, continuing to tap hastily
on his ledger, all while managing to still avoid any eye
contact with me.
"And who were you prior to your transference trial?" he
Now we've come to it. I pause for what feels like an
eternity to reflect on the question. The pores on my
forehead open, and I can feel the sweat beginning to build.
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"The name please, prisoner, or your brain will be on the
wall in less than five seconds," the slender man says
impatiently. The muscle-head behind me edges closer, and my
voice cracks almost pubescently.
The slender man finally looks at me from over the top of
his thick, black-rimmed spectacles. What do you know, a
reaction at last.
"That's impossible. Nathaniel Kilraven is dead.
Everyone on Earth knows that," he says, barely keeping
himself from smiling. I muster a sort of lazy smile in
return for his disbelief.
"He is dead. And we're not on Earth," I say.
"There have been a handful of others who made these
claims in the past," the slender man says.
I don't respond and he simply squints his eyes. He is
studying my face. If I'm not mistaken, there seems to be a
certain level of delight in his eyes that's barely masked by
his unreadable countenance. He glances up at the sentry
behind me, nods curtly, and then excuses himself. I am
astounded at how quickly and almost imperceptibly he exits
from the room.
"Just you and me now, bub," I say, turning my head as
far as I can, trying to get a look at the sentry. He decides
that it's time to reassert his clout and seizes the back my
neck with a icy, gloved hand. It's a left hand too.
"Don't you friggin' move criminal," he says gruffly,
tightening his grip.
I count six fingers. He must have been made fun of in
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school for that. Probably was a low-level service goon back
on Earth. I don't recognize his voice either, which means
he's more than likely not a warden. After a few torturous
minutes of silence, the slender man returns, and the heavy
hand gripping the nape of my neck loosens.
Taking up his seat once more, the slender man gazes at
me curiously with one eyebrow raised, and the two of us set
about waging a silent war. His gray eyes are the first to
"As a representative of the company, I have been charged
with the task of... shall we say, speaking to you at length,"
he says. I shake my head and try to shrug my shoulders as
best as a man can when he's constricted from head to toe.
"I don't know anything, Doc," I say. I call him that
because he reminds me of a man I saw in a film once.
The force of a freighter lands square at the base of my
skull. As I'm blinded by the red lights dancing in my eyes,
I can hear the slender man sighing heavily.
"Tsk tsk tsk. You know something, or you would not be
here," he says.
The red lights fade and then I thank the sentry for
reminding me of who and what I am. The six fingered ham-fist
hits me again, harder this time. When the screeching in my
ears subsides and I regain my eyesight, I get a sense that a
few minutes have passed, because the air in the room has
"He's been dismissed. You'll be talking only to me from
here on in, that is, unless you continue to be verbally
unpleasant," says the slender man. He reaches across and in
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the center of the table places a device about the size of a
"This is merely a precaution, for quality assurance
purposes, of course," he says. I quickly recognize the
familiar patented logo on the device, which no longer has a
chunk missing from it.
"I haven't seen one of those in a long time. They're
smaller than they used to be," I say.
The slender man licks his thumb and affixes what looks
to be some kind of stamp to the corner of the ledger.
"Indeed. A lot more has changed," he says.
"I'll wager it's still the same, Doc."
"Here's a suggestion that I'm only going to make once.
Do not call me Doc again, or I'll be forced to invite the
sentry back inside so that he can have words with you. I can
already tell he doesn't like you," he says.
"What do you want me to call you then, Doc?" I ask.
"That's the last time. Do it again, and I'll remove
your tongue," he says.
"Then you'd have a hard time getting me to talk, man
with no name," I say.
"If you feel the need to address me directly, then call
me Corvus," he says, removing his frames and placing them on
"Gray eyes... A name like Corvus? You must be from one
of the city-states in the East," I add slyly. Corvus places
his forearms on the table and leans towards me slowly.
"Pay attention please, because I'm also only going to
say this once also. I'm not here to be civil with you. I
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have spoken at length with the Chief Operator, and he and the
wardens have agreed that I can end your life today if you
desire only to waste my time," he says.
Then he leans back in his chair, and what he says next I
am altogether unprepared for.
"And afterwards, when the gooey clumps of your
reprehensible face have been scooped up off of the floor, the
company will ship the Kilraven family here. And, along with
his other cohorts, they will no doubt suffer the same fate as
you," he says.
My heart quickens. My stomach and entrails gnash. I
feel the warm sting of tears longing to be loosed, and it
takes all the strength I have left within me to keep them at
bay. Luckily Corvus continues to avoid eye contact with me,
and looks down towards the floor with both eyebrows raised.
"You see, even now the family of Kilraven lives, under
our supervision. And you could possibly hold the means to
their freedom. They are innocents in all of these matters,"
The lump sitting at the back of my throat feels like an
apple, and it takes more than a moment to settle.
"We are aware of your friends in the mines as well. I
have list here," he says, looking at the ledger. "Iyov...
Melissa... Mmm, let's see now... one named Tarsil. Shall I
go on?" he asks.
"They mean nothing to me. What else have you got?" I
ask, and Corvus adjusts his posture.
He knows that was a lie, and I can already sense that
he's going to call my bluff.
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"What does it matter? You are a dead man regardless.
You get to live a few more days and have time enough to make
peace with your Maker, and we'll leave your friends out of
this. That is all," he says, shrugging.
The echo of those words within the sterile room pound
against my eardrums. In my mind's eye I'm instantly
transported back to the moment I last held my wife. If there
is any chance she is still alive, then I must do what I can
to find out whether she is or not. For the first time in
decades I feel something I thought had departed from me...
"If you want some kind of promise or assurance,
everything that you say and do will be fed back to the
company. I'm sure you have learned by now that they honour
their agreements," he says with a reveling smile.
I know all too well that he speaks the truth. Corvus
fastens his glasses back on and sets the ledger on the table.
"We have access to more than you guess, but some...
vital components are still missing from the Kilraven file.
And if you are him, then there are things only he could know,
which we may come to in due course," he says.
"What do you suggest then?" I ask.
"Well then... now we're getting somewhere. I suggest
that when we resume first thing tomorrow, that you start from
the beginning. Leave nothing out. I want your entire life,
as you recall it, yes?" Corvus asks.
"Corvus, was it? I'll tell you what, why don't we just
get this over with now?" I ask.
Jones / Transference / 9.
"Because I have other prisoners to see, and some of them
have less time left than you do. You are not the only one
here, and frankly, you smell so bad it's making my eyes
hurt," he says.
Every instinct I have tells me to not to oblige the
worm, and that I should just tell him to go straight to hell.
"You cannot save yourself, whoever you are, but you have
this one chance to do some final good with your pathetic
existence. Every single thing you've done, right or wrong,
has led to this moment. Think of them, and not yourself," he
He's pleading with me now. So... I do exactly what he
tells me to do. I think of them. The choice I must and will
make is obvious. I imagine it's the same thing anyone else
with half a heart would do in my situation.
"Well... dying sooner rather than later is very low on
my priority list," I say in the most nonchalant tone I can
"We will proceed first thing tomorrow morning. Good day
to you," Corvus says, plainly pleased with himself. He looks
at me one last time before adding, "You have six days left to