by Jen

Fuckin' hacks. Lucky they ain't already been airholed. Only cause they had more value with a pulse. Better than the hacks ever treated them. All the same, every single fuckin' one of 'em.

'Cept Whittlesey, she had a pussy. Padre, cause he was Padre. And McManus, the principal, gave up his freedom to watch the kids takin' over the school.

Miguel dropped to his haunches, fingering the radio controls absentmindedly. Like he was at a firing line, waitin' for the squad that was never gonna come. Knew he got the shit job, baby-sitting the hostages. Only suggested it cause he wasn't gonna let himself get picked. Knew he hadn't even taken over his gang cause of anything but right place and damn good time. Knew an hombre with a bigger set woulda beat Mineo 'til his chest stopped moving, face in a pile on the floor.

And Miguel didn't give a shit.

This was his day. He pushed the doubts away, tried to get a good grip on who he was before Oz, before the baby. This riot was all about borrowed time; he wanted his minutes so bad. He fucking deserved them.

Smiled, slapped McManus' cheek, not too hard, not too soft. McManus had spent all this time starin' into space, finally glared after he felt the sting.

Miguel nodded upward, holding that bony chin in his hand.

"Whatcha fuckin' lookin' at, huh? Life passin' before yo eyes?"

Nada. No comebacks, no bitching, nothing. Kinda pissed Miguel off, much as he loved McManus keepin' his mouth shut.

Only reason he didn't kick his ass was a few memories of how nice McManus tried to be after the baby was born. McManus was damn lucky to have him in charge. Much as Miguel tried to shut out the past, he saw these flashes, shit he could never do anything about, questions he could never get answers to. He had one question, didn't expect an answer, but he needed the rush, that power over havin' McManus against the wall, squirming under his big talk and big threats.

"Groves was so weird, so fucking weird. Why didn't you send him out, to the psych ward or whatever? Ain't you supposed to see that shit? Ain't you supposed to be better than us?"

McManus shifted his body, not able to break Miguel's stare, but facing away from the other hostages. Like a dead puppy feeling a few more kicks.

Hunt snorted.

"Listen to this, tough guy broken up over a cannibal. You only remember his name cause he killed a hack."

Miguel shrugged.

"Ain't my fault Smith was dumb enough to jump in front of a shank."

Sneered through the blood.

"At least he wouldn't have killed his..."

"I have to pee."

"Callate bruja!"

Heard himself screaming at Whittlesey. Miguel gripped the radio tighter, rage seeping in all those places he wanted to shut down. Miguel towered above that ratface cabron, gathered up all his spit, watched it rain down on Hunt's scowling face and wrinkled forehead, mixing with the blood and shit.

"Killed what?"

"I need..."

"What's wrong motherfucker, can't talk all a'sudden?"

Whittlesey stood up. Not like she could go anywhere. Maybe she don't know women don't piss standing up. Miguel balled his hand into a fist, leant down, grabbed Hunt by the collar of his torn hack threads.

"Please Miguel. Don't do this."

Mukada. Those pleading eyes, worried about Miguel even after the beating. Miguel used to hear old Roy down at the bodega say chinks had slits above their nose, but that wasn't true. After the baby died, Mukada had been nothin' but a set of eyes, as much sadness in them as Miguel saw in his own. Padre was always real.

Miguel kicked Hunt's leg harder, pointing a hand toward his face.

"Yo, keep your fucking mouth shut."

Saw the flash of *relief* in Padre's eyes, close to bringing back all Miguel wanted to bury. Grateful that he didn't go crazy, just some wild dog to be chained up, kept on a leash by it's masters.

Fuck that.

Grabbed Whittlesey's elbow, pulled her up, scuff sounds when she struggled.


Huh, never knew her first name.

"Let me go with her."

Fuckin' McManus, hobbling and squirming with his hands tied behind him, ass sliding up the wall for support. The man never stopped fighting. Mighta been admirable if he'd ever accomplished anything worth shit.

Her hands pushed against his chest. Felt pretty good, skin on his bare skin. He tightened his arm around her shoulder. What was she gonna do? Headbutt him? Strange way to react to a favor.

Miguel clucked his tongue at McManus before he led Whittlesey out of the room. Looked so damn desperate, and that's what it was all about. Grab hermano's bitch and all that concerned, fightin' in your corner bullshit was pissed away, replaced by the same old terror.

She'd stopped struggling, kept a calmer face on while they walked through the madness.

Clothes all over the place, trash littering the wide open spaces, blood in his nostrils, only covered by sweat. Sweat everywhere, almost dripping off the rails. Sensed this hum, violence laid aside but ready to come back at the first wrong word, fist, sniffed tit. Miguel sucked in a breath, refused to be frightened.

Heard the catcalls when he and the lady hack walked by clusters of men. A few made eyes at her, none moved in cause of Miguel's position. Hard to believe he had real jizz. He wanted to believe that could last.

"This is insane. If we stay out here, some lunatic's gonna..."

Stepped in front of her, ran a thumb over her mouth. He thought she might quiver or something, but she kept cool, only let the fear out by how rigid she was. Not even a breath. Almost afraid he'd break her skin off.

"Hey bitch, I don't remember lettin' you talk."

And his voice sounded so husky in his own ears, skin so smooth against his fingers. She had that smell. Woman smell, easy to trace even in the middle of a wasteland.


She broke the eye contact, Miguel staring at her ass as she walked toward a pod. Walked beside and in front of her, cool, seein' his hands on her breasts, dick inside her, instead of slicing into his thigh. So easy to keep her in there a few minutes longer, nobody'd ever know, if they did, they wouldn't care...

Made it to the pod. They had company.

"We don't need another hero..."

Miguel cut his eyes at Beecher, almost grabbed his arm, then had a flash of what happened to that old Nazi fucker.

"Whittlesey has to take a piss."

Beecher laughed, hollow and raspy, eyes gleaming in the mirror, pudgy gut straining his dirty white t.

"Well, Vern's mouth is upstairs, can she make it that far?"

Miguel looked at himself in the mirror, tried to smile at Beecher's joke. Cringed at his own reflection. He'd aged like five fuckin' years. Yeah, he was still one of the hottest guys in here, but what's that worth when you got men packed on top of more men? Cheap sash and crown, pick of his choice of prags? Too busy gettin' fucked up the ass by life to ever want a prag.

All Beecher had to do was shut down. Loco Beecher, lucky sonuva bitch. Miguel never got rid of his demons, not even here, where the past was dead and the future was in flames.

Looked away from the mirror, toward Whittlesey doing the piss dance.

"Yo, Ryan said he wanted to see you."

Beecher swung his stick around, over and over, as irritating as he was.

"About what?"

"I didn't ask."


"Cause I didn't give a shit."


Beecher had some head game going on, finally figured it out.

"If you don't go, I'm gonna shove your pale face all the way in that toilet."

Poked at Miguel with the stick, right in his chest. Miguel shoved it away, clanking into the quad.

"Hah! I can take you any day of the week Taco Miguel."


"Cause I'm fucked in the head, everybody knows it."


"Because Vern's an asshole."

Miguel let himself smirk, arms crossed over his chest.


"Because he doesn't remember the calendar changed to 1945...hey, I know this game. I started this fucking game! Copycat. I'm going home!"

Pushed Miguel against the top bunk, hard, growled, then ran outta the room. Stupid motherfu...

"I can't piss."

Shook the other thoughts, walked over to the sink.


"Free my hands so I can unzip my pants."

Said, O'Reily, all of 'em would hate this. She was a hostage. But what was she gonna do? He was stronger than her. Main reason he hadn't let her help with Mineo was cause so much of him wanted that old man to die, whether he got a needle in his arm or not.

He'd watched her tiny lips move when she talked, so many places those lips should be. Nobody since Maritza, no women to touch, nobody.

Suddenly beside her, running a hand through her hair, real blonde for once. Brushed his lips against her forehead, smelled the blonde, fumbled with the binding on her hands.

Finally managed to get the shit off, stepped back, waited for her to coldcock him or whatever. Didn't, so he stepped outside, guarding at the door. Heard a few hisses against the silver bowl, didn't look back. Never got any thrills outta chicas in the middle of takin' a shit.

Walked back in when she was zipping up, hands slow and half-numb.


Shit, a woman thanking him. Half-whispered, leaning against her door in a sheet, whiff of his cum on both sets of her lips, best-looking food in her fridge lining his stomach, beer in his hand to help when the sex high wore off. Long, long time ago.

Cupped Whittlesey's chin, he swallowed, seeing the fear in her eyes and pushing forward anyway, cause that's what he needed to do.

No lipstick, not even a little taste. Pressed her body against his, mound on top of his screaming cock, licking her bottom lip, demanding entrance.

Finally got in, gently sliding over her tongue, savoring every warm space in a woman's mouth. Tasted perfect to Miguel, sugar and spice and tits cupped in his hands, finding and tugging her left nipple through the layers of clothes.

Pulled away, saw the shimmer on her lips, muted eyes, fear choking her. Course she wouldn't want this, he was just some prisoner, too bad for her blood, right?

Hand looked so huge on her zipper, barely believed it was his own. This wasn't gonna be rape, he'd paid and paid, he was gettin' a reward. He was owed a reward. He unzipped his fly. She'd never tell anybody, and his hand was shaking, and he smelled her cunt begging him to fuck her, and...

He couldn't. Wished he could, be Ross or Adebisi or even Torres, but he'd never be tough like them.

Shoved her hand into his pants. He wasn't Adebisi, but he wasn't no fuckin' saint. And her dainty fingers and trimmed nails were enough, any fist but his own was enough, moaned when she squeezed harder, shot all on her hand, in his shorts.

He closed his eyes, even that small release sending him to another place, not Em City, place with real air and women lining up to get a taste. 'Stead of standing by with spunk dripping off their fingers.

"Yeah, go on."

He pushed himself back in his pants while she washed her hand. Glad most of the assholes were gone, only Hill and a few Christians even less important than him.

Searched his pocket for a smoke, only two others left, but it just wasn't the same without a smoke. Saw Whittlesey out of the corner of an eye, turned his head, smoke circles breathed in her direction. They were both calmer now, jittery calm, relief almost.

What was her first name? Fuck, couldn't remember. He knew, if they both lived through this riot, they'd return to the old system. Number and hack, shit and shoe. Bothered him a little, not that much. He'd seen so many chicks who acted tough but were all gooey at the first touch. Diane, she was tough, didn't need to show it either. He admired that.

Least he got a hand job from a woman, better than anything else he'd been through in Oz.

Had to go back to the hostages. Voices that couldn't tell the difference between whining and mocking. Even when they weren't talking, they scowled, didn't even think 'bout how the prisoners felt day after day, year in and out, in conditions no better.

The hacks knew they were better. And they were, 364 days out of the fucking year. Miguel took a final puff on his cigarette, flicking ashes.

Saw the hungry look Whittlesey couldn't mask. Ex-smoker, huh. Handed her the cig with a smile. Closest he'd ever get to bein' in her body.

Even shits and shoes could have a common bond every once in a while.


Dying a slow death from cancer wasn't Diane's first choice. Compared to a jagged shank, gang rape, or bullets from the SORT team, she had few complaints.

That was a crappy thought to have, especially since she quit smoking after Mom and the lung cancer. But this was an out of control situation; she had a really hard time feeling guilty for a few inappropriate thoughts. Diane took her third, maybe fourth drag off the unfiltered cigarette.

Her gaze was drawn to Alvarez's painted arms, not wanting to make eye contact, afraid of his reaction if she made that too blatant. He was somewhere above Ross and Adebisi, below Said and O'Reily. Not dangerous enough to run from at the first chance, but too dangerous to piss off.

The boys in Oz thought every hack saw them as the same piece of shit. That wasn't true. There were varying degrees. She had to treat them equally, but she'd never lumped Rebadow and Wangler into the same category.

Now the tables were turned, and Diane wasn't treated equally. She was a very rare commodity: Woman. She'd sold herself for money when she had to buy food and clothes for Didi. She'd let a man control her body. That wasn't rape. Rape was what she saw glistening in the rotting teeth of con after con, just waiting for the right opportunity.

She'd let him go as far as he did, maybe from shock, more from fear of setting him off. He'd sliced his face up, would he have done worse to her if she'd fought back?

Alvarez had stopped, thank God, before she had to test her mediocre hand-to-hand combat skills.

"Yo, I ain't Joe Camel."

Diane passed the cigarette back to him, scrubbed-clean hand brushing against his tan fingers. Rough to the touch, no different from that sandpaper feel when he had caressed her mouth earlier.

After she handed it to him, he let his tough stance down, smiling. Really nice smile, deep dimples with gaunt cheeks. The scar was more distinctive than ugly. Gave him character. Yeah, like her cracked ribs had given her character.

Alvarez was a great-looking guy, his eyes were some of the most beautiful she had ever seen. They gave away every emotion.

"You got a daughter, right?"

Diane ran a hand through her hair.

"Yeah. Didi."

He hadn't moved from his spot, cap backwards, that back-and-forth cigarette perched between index and middle fingers, six-pack teasing through the vest he must've ripped off of a hack's body. Very sexy. She allowed herself to feel the desire, knowing she'd never act on it. This wasn't Diane Does Em City. Enough guys viewed women as depositories without encouraging. Especially during a riot. One eyelash blowing toward Adebisi or Mark Mack and they'd make her their personal, unpaid whore.

Alvarez's free hand slid down his stomach with casual strokes. Diane felt the minor electricity herself, the deceptive ease in such a nightmarish situation. She knew the calm had to be fake, and as different as she was from this man, she had this need to be on his level, show herself as more than a frightened hostage. The thought of leaving this room again scared the shit out of her. In here, she was almost safe.

She'd considered a thanks, but why the fuck should she thank someone for not raping her? This wasn't much better, but she let that control slip long enough to speak.

"I don't think I ever told you, but I'm sorry about your kid."

More ashes flicked onto the hard floor, more screams and general noise disturbances from out there. Occasionally, those freshly-grieving brown eyes hit her face, the eyes told Diane he wasn't going to flip out. But no words. No words for what seemed like hours.


"Yeah. I was sorry too, not that it made a fucking difference."

All those times Glen had used her face to exercise his fists, Diane had known it was her fault. She'd known until the last time she'd tried to hide double 8-balls around her eyes, and realized she hadn't punched herself in the face, or been wrong in asking why he never came home before 2 AM.

"I'm all for people accepting responsibility. But you can't let the past take over your life. You made decisions then. Maybe they sucked, maybe they were wrong. Maybe they weren't. Whatever the case, you have to deal with it and try to move on."

His head flew up from staring at his shoes, and she shook her head in turn.

"No. Wait. I know this sounds like self-help shit. I've made my fair share of mistakes. This is the only way you're gonna survive. The only way."

He shrugged.

"Whatever. Gotta get your hands behind your back."

The fragile peace was gone. It had lasted longer than she expected. Back to the guys she worked with every day, who probably thought she was bein' raped, or worse, that she'd consented to save herself. And Tim, who had always believed the worst in her, disappointed in her even though she could feel his love every time he pressed her down in his vise-grip of judgment.

She and Miguel turned their heads toward the glass door, smelling a pungent stench different from anything else in Em City. Sort of the granddaddy of all rank smells, the calling card of...

"What the fuck is this? Tsk, tsk, Diane, I'm ashamed."

Scott Ross, her other man. She'd despised him for so long, this chemical fueling that he'd churned into an obsession. Not love, Ross had never known how to love. But she'd turned to Ross when she wouldn't turn to Tim, and that said more about her than any pointless attempts to end the smoke smuggling had.

Diane threw her hands behind her back in the brief seconds he eyefucked Alvarez, praying he hadn't seen her untied. Alvarez had kept him busy, now they were circling each other, small space stinking of testosterone, and Ross's usual collection of odors.

"Diane, I expect this from him, but you? Unacceptable. Somebody's getting a spanking."

Diane swallowed, she had nothing to say. His poison stare shot back to Alvarez.

"As for you, Miguelito, I warned you before. Don't touch my woman. But you didn't care. She's just a taco shell for your hot dog."

Teasing, but not funny. Scary as shit, even if she'd trained herself not to let any fear show.

"Alvarez, he's got a knife!"

Goddamn, that sounded stupid, almost as stupid as she felt with her hands clasped to her butt for no reason.

Grunts, yells, Alvarez's teeth flashing with his arms wrapped around the paler, skinnier man. She'd always heard crazy people had more strength, that explained Ross lasting this long. He kneed Alvarez in the groin, smirking, even his stubble seeming evil. She saw the shank, flashing in Ross's hand and the mirror by her head. If he got Alvarez, he'd rape her, had to...but what...

Like she'd fallen into a Three Stooges movie, Diane charged forward, her head connecting to Ross's back and shoulders.

Only distracted him for a minute, but Alvarez recovered, punching two and three times, leaping on top of him to turn the shank against it's owner. Hand over Ross's throat, arm raised, about to stick the blade in...

"What the fuck is going on here?"

They'd taken over Em City, but these guys and their entrance lines weren't exactly bursting with originality.

O'Reily pulled Alvarez off Ross, Ross cursing at Alvarez, Alvarez spitting and flipping birds, O'Reily smooth-talking in that slick way that managed to soothe even the biggest beasts. Ross stared at her as he walked out, backwards. That stare was more frightening than any quips, touches, or words had ever been.

"I expected better from you Alvarez."

Alvarez reversed his cap, muscles straining and hands clapping from adrenaline, bill of the hat just about poking O'Reily in the eye.

"Yeah? Gimme a reason to be good."

"Any time, any place."

She thought they were going to bump chests, voices husky with sweaty rage, too many different charges and bolts to separate.

O'Reily gave her a short smirk as he strolled out, maybe trying to prove he was better than her. If he had been, he wouldn't have had to prove it at all.

She let him turn her around to tie her up, the callused hands almost comforting after so many fights and threats of fights.

"It's starting to hurt."

Hoped she'd made that pathetic enough. If her hands were tied tight, but not as tight as they had been, she'd have a better chance of loosening the bonds. Better way to survive if she were in an even more dangerous situation.

He patted her arm, semi-condescending, throwing his own muscled arm around her shoulder. She refused to look at the disaster site that had overtaken Em City, refused to give any of the prisoners that opening.

"I was gonna kill Ross."

Spit out while he sucked on his own tongue.

"I know."

"If you were in my place, would you?"

Said more hesitantly, almost afraid of her response. The way he'd twisted his hands together, the raw pain on his face when she'd brought up his baby. A scared, needy child. The way he'd almost carved into Ross. A hardened, violent man. He went back and forth between the two constantly. She almost wanted to tell him to hide the blatant switches in emotion, that that was why he'd never been given as much respect as he craved.

But he was a prisoner. She was a hack. Never shall the two meet. And that's why, while he opened the glass door that took her back to the people she didn't want to see, she looked him right in his face...


...and lied.

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