It was a crisp May morning when the sun blinked out.
And it's a go! came the cry and with a mighty heave the silver-braced elevator moved up, choked, and shivered to a stop. Inside, Jupiter worked her cuffs off with her teeth, sighed in the storm of siren silver dust, and tried hard to think.
Above her, the immense pale yellow light flared down, smiled with all its teeth, and shut out. The outline burned in her vision long after the sunned light forced to a stop.
Throughout Thrush Building came confused shouts and tortured screams of both tortured and torturer. Jupiter spun in blinded, boxed circles, holding in her shudders, eyes painfully wide to a reaching blackness.
And Lord don't let me break this, let me hold it lightly. Give me arms to pray with instead of ones that hold too tightly.
The floor had started to heat very gently in the seconds before the sunned elevator light went out. With the light went the Heat Chamber power. The floor cooled. Jupiter's heartbeat slowed.
"They say you shouldn't try to prolong it," Westley said. "It only hurts more. Lie flat on the floor and try to get it over with. It heats to thousands of degrees in a couple of minutes. If you're only exposing your feet, it'll take hours. You don't want that."
Jupiter nodded. A grey-belted guard came in and unfastened the latch around her neck. He read out her number and sentence, snapped the cuffs loosely around her wrists, and led her out toward the elevator.
She did not look back or try to escape. There was no use, and it would make death ache even more.
The light did not come back on. The cuffs lay blankly in a discarded corner. They hummed vaguely. Jupiter did not look at them.
"Oh, Jupiter, Jue, Jupiter, my baby, Jupiter! No! Don't let them take my baby away! No! She's only a child, please, don't hurt her! Where are you going, what are you going to do to her, Jupiter, no!"
Her mother's screams faded like the burning light above her.
And then it's just too much, the streets they still run with blood. A hundred arms, a hundred years, you can always find me here.
Sweet sweeping May beauty shut off like bile in the throat when faceless glass doors sealed behind her. Jupiter was not afraid. Her shoulders were straight, body tight to absorb pain. The receptionist processed her and her papers like the clicking of the tongue.
The tsk of a tongue and Jupiter was latched into a cubicle to wait for the elevator to be free.
My heart bends and breaks so many, many times. Hurts in ways I can't describe. And is born again with each sunrise.
As she waited in the darkness, the creaking of Thrush Building reverberating around her, she closed her eyes. It helped to block out the sound of the buzzing cuffs. Jupiter was glad, at least, for the slice on her wrist bone she'd gotten that morning. The guard had given it to her as she looked back for her mother, weeping in a horrible crumpled heap.
"Not her too, oh God please!"
I cannot get you close enough. The streets, they still run with blood.
The blood had slicked her wrists and she had tugged them out of the cuffs. The words the guard had given her still rang in her head, like a hollow thump on the skull. Madam President wanted it this way. Thrush Building was merely the closest processing and completion site.
Jupiter was glad, at least, that she had not been transferred over land to another, more appropriate site. She had heard terrors about the WhipTrains.
People stacked in coffins, still alive, in boxcars. Black bread that melted your mind and made you weaker to the torture awaiting at the processing location. Billets and bullets and people tied on top of the Whip if their screams were too loud.
Thrush Building went completely silent. Even the cuffs burned to quietness. Once her uncle had told her, a few days before he was processed and completed, that the whole of Thrush City was powered by radiation and cybernomics.
"One slip up," he'd said, "One wire yanked out, and the Building and City freezes."
Jupiter had been too young to understand, at the time, what he meant.
Sitting in the blackness, one bare bloodied foot crossed over the other, Jupiter thought that must have happened. Silently she opened her eyes and was glad that death was shoved back a couple of minutes.
She had not been looking forward to a death if melted flesh, compacted, white-hot bones and brains, her soul scraped off of the silver braces floor of the elevator once it reached the top floor.
Jupiter 78irBq3, of 78B3 gene, sentenced to die by order of Thrush 63bb800, of 63800 gene. Signed, 63bb800 and Madam President.
It was a simple scrap of paper, barely filling her palm in the moments they had allowed her to read it, and yet it filled her mind. She recited the words to herself over and over again, trying to forget and failing.
Dear Mom, she would have written if she could. I love you. I don't remember ever telling you. I thought you didn't care. Now I know you did.
Try not to die. Binny needs you not to die. I am sorry. I should have tried harder than I did. I hope you will have enough to eat now that I am gone. Please know, despite what they say, I didn't suffer. Dying hurts less than tearing off a hangnail.
She would have lied through her teeth if she could. Even after a few seconds on the heating silver floor she knew she would scream. And they would watch, even though they'd promised that death would be private, and they would know that all her bravest had been nothing.
In death she would be a coward, and that hurt her.
"Mama," Jupiter mumbled. She let her head slide to the floor and rest. It felt good. She wondered when the power would turn on and she would die.
Still the Building was silent, like the evening May wind gusting through a peaceful graveyard. Her ears were empty and it was different from the loud and crowded Thrush City streets. It was strange, being alone.
It was strange, she thought, dying.
And is born again with each sunrise. Jupiter's mother sang it through bruised lips and tear-swollen cheeks.
Jupiter sang it through bruise colored darkness and untrembling, patient lips. She hoped they would not forget her.
You can always find me here. It was peaceful, sitting alone, dying, waiting to die. Jupiter rubbed her throbbing feet and pretended she was not hungry.
It was a crisp and quiet May evening when the sun shuddered back to life.