This story is by Julia Filali and was part of our 2021 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“Hello again, Griffith.” Commander Renfrow said.
Griffith let his eyes wander around the room. A traditional interrogation cell, the well-lit white box had no exits, no windows, no way to get out. He leaned back slowly in his chair, no chains around his wrists to hold him to the table.
“Oh,” He answered, nodding his head, a crooked smile coming to his face. “This isn’t real. We’re in virtual this time.”
The Commander’s face twitched into a smirk. “Yes.”
“You didn’t think I would catch on that quickly, did you?” He winked at the Commander and sighed. “In that case, I’ll take a beer if you’ve got one.”
The Commander smiled and with a wave of his hand, a beer materialized on the square metal table in front of them.
Popping the bottle cap on the edge of the table, he leaned back and put his bare feet up, taking a long swig.
“Oh gods,” He exclaimed. “You have no idea how long it’s been.” He took an exaggerated sip of the beer, letting out a satisfied sigh.
“Ten years.” Renfrow said.
Griffith let out a low whistle, lifting his eyebrows. “Damn, time flies when you’re a human popsicle.” He tipped the beer back for a long chug.
“Yes, well,” Commander Renfrow shrugged, a satisfied smile curling along his face. “We thought you’d enjoy sometime to cooldown since our last meeting. You seem to have taken well to stasis.”
Griffith shook his head and stifled a laugh. “You know you don’t dream in stasis? There isn’t much to do in there at all, actually. Just thinking.” He sat upright, chugging the rest of his beer, and let out a loud burp. “That’s why the beer is much appreciated. I’ll take another one, please.”
“Hopefully,” Commander Renfrow started, another beer appearing on the table with a wave of his hand. “You’ve had time to think about our last conversation then.” The pop of the bottle opening sounded off. “All we want is information.”
“Mm,” Griffith nodded, swallowing a gulp of beer. “That’s right.”
“That’s right.” Renfrow confirmed, his lips lifting into a smirk as he wove his fingers together. “You give us some useful information, something worth our leniency.” A thick silence hung in the air between them. “Tell us where she is.”
Griffith’s eyes flicked across the table, the playful glimmer in them disappearing. Commander Renfrow leaned his elbows on the table. “That’s right, all of eternity in stasis, and you still couldn’t forget about her, could you?”
Griffith sighed, a devilish smile creeping along his face. “You know, the longer I sit here. The more I’m remembering the last time we spoke. You remember it, don’t you?” He cocked his head at the Commander. “I distinctly remember our exchange, right before you sent me away to the freezer.” Griffith’s lips spread into a wide toothy smile as he met Renfrow’s eyes. “I told you, you’d never catch her. And you, remember what you said to me? Of course, you do, and yet here we are, ten years later.”
“I will find her.” Renfrow assured him, shifting slightly in his chair. “But there’s no need for you to suffer for her, and if you tell us, we can guarantee she’s taken alive.”
Griffith dumped the rest of the beer down his throat, a deep burp following. “Why? So, you can lock her up in virtual and torture her?” He shook his head and slid the empty bottle across the table. “Be honest, it pisses you off, being back in here with me.”
Renfrow’s eyebrow twitched.
“Hah!” Griffith snapped his fingers, a beer materializing on the table. “I knew it.” He popped the beer open.
“Things are different now, Griffith.” Renfrow snarled at him. “We’re in virtual now, nothing is off limits here.”
“Oh,” Griffith swallowed a gulp of his beer. “So, your plan was to torture me, so that I would tell you where she is?” He shook his head and smiled. “Not the most creative, are you?”
“Last chance, Griffith. Tell me where she is, or you’ll spend the next ninety years in here until I break you.”
Griffith sighed, leaning back in his chair. “You know, I’ve had a lot of time to think about things. Thinking about you, me, but always, thinking about her. While I was thinking, I had this epiphany.” Griffith smirked. “In stasis you sedate the body, to preserve it.” He motioned with his hands, catching the Commander’s eyes. “But what about the mind, everyone knows,” He tapped his temple. “The mind, is where the real power is.”
Griffith laughed, sweeping his arms wide. “That’s why we’re in here. You can break a man’s body, but if you really want to break him, break his mind. Virtual, it’s a good place to put a mind, easy to maintain and monitor.”
Renfrow’s forehead twitched, his face flinching in anticipation. The look in Griffith’s eyes had changed, flickering to life as his hands moved about him like a conductor for his thoughts.
“Don’t worry, I’m not mad about it. No, not once I figured it out.” He sighed. “But what is a mind, Commander, without its body? Just a wandering intellect, trapped in virtual, you can’t even die.”
Commander Renfrow shot out of his seat, slamming his palms on the table. “What’s it going to be, Griffith? I’ve had enough of your games!”
Griffith raised a single finger as if to stop him. “This isn’t a game, Commander. You came to virtual with me but, I’ve had lots of time in here just, thinking.” Griffith smiled, another beer materializing on the table at the snap of his fingers. “I’ll be honest. It was difficult not to go completely insane at first. But after a while I realized a few things.” He mused, popping the beer open, and brought it up to his lips for a sip.
“Enough of this.” Renfrow growled, pushing off the table.
Griffith snapped his fingers. The chains materialized around Renfrow’s wrists, snapping against their holds on the table as he pulled away. Renfrow’s eyes bulged, staring down at the gleaming silver restraints.
“Like I said,” Griffith interjected with a shrug. “A lot of time.”
Renfrow struggled against his constraints. “Pull me out of here!” He hollered, eyes turning up to the ceiling, and the ones listening on the other side.
“No doubt they’re trying.” Griffith muttered into the opening of his beer.
Renfrow screamed, pulling back against the chains, but the table remained unmoved. He continued to struggle, the veins in his face swelling as he exerted all his effort.
“Might as well have a beer.” Griffith interjected, sliding an open beer across the table towards the man. Renfrow grabbed it and threw it against the wall, glass shattering to the ground. “Or not.” He sighed. “You’re not doing so great, must be your first time in prison.” He took another swig from his bottle.
Renfrow grit his teeth, ceasing his fervent struggle. Sighing breathlessly, he sank back down into his chair; the chains rattling against the table.
“That’s better.” Two more beers appeared on the table at the snap of Griffith’s fingers. He helped himself, once again sliding one across the table to the Commander, before taking a long swig of his own.
He couldn’t restrain the smile that spread across his face, meeting Renfrow’s worried eyes. “Don’t worry, I’ll give you a choice, just like you gave me ten years ago.”
Griffith pushed out of his chair, circling the table to perch against it beside the restrained Commander. “You thought you were just going to waltz in here, work me over and jack-out back into your body with exactly what you came for.” A devilish twinkle in his eyes as he spoke. “You hooked my body up to the construct so you could use whatever means necessary to get what you wanted, have to be careful though, can’t do too much, because then you might kill me. Now there’s an idea, Commander.” He laughed and took a swig of his beer.
A gun materialized on the table in front of Renfrow, its sleek metal body catching on the bright lights above. His eyes flared to life, flicking between them.
“Go ahead, pick it up.” Griffith said, gesturing towards it. “It’s your only way out of here. You can shoot me, take back the construct, lose the last viable option for intelligence gathering you have.” Griffith shrugged, pushing off the table.. “And she’ll remain far out of your reach. Or you can put the muzzle in your mouth and pull the trigger. It’s that or ninety years of being my prisoner, and in here, nothing is off limits.” He stifled a laugh. “So, what’s it gonna be?”
Renfrow’s eyes flicked between the gun and Griffith, who made his way back around the table and into his seat, a satisfied twinkle in his eyes. A beat passed, silence filling the space as he snapped forward and snatched the gun off the table.