If you want to read the rest of the series, here are the links to Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14, Part 15, Part 16, Part 17, Part 18, Part 19, Part 20, and Part 21.
Pepper managed to get the worst kicks to land on her extremities. When the cell's door happened to open at the same time Doug kicked her in the shoulder, she took the opportunity to pretend he'd got her in the head. She faked a shuddering seizure and lay still, eyes closed, breathing shallowly. The breathing was the worst part, since at least two of her ribs were cracked.
She could hear scuffling while Doug shouted random swear words over the sounds of at least two men doing the same.
"What, the FUCK, do you two think you're doing?" The voice was easy to identify. Munroe must have been watching the A/V monitoring room on the seventh floor and come in to stop the proceedings.
"I can't stop him on my own," said Alex. The last Pepper had been able to observe him, he'd been sitting on the cell's bed-slab.
"And you," said Munroe, ignoring any response he didn't like as usual, "do you have any idea of the paperwork you're causing? A little roughed up, that we can write over. But beaten to death.... that'll take forever to explain upstairs. They'll want a fucking Crown enquiry."
Pain was radiating from so many points on and in her body that she couldn't count them all. She pictured the pain sensations as energy waves, causing interference patterns. She was back in school, doing a physics experiment with a water table and strategically-placed speakers, and the sound vibrations were travelling through the water, making predictable, yet chaotic, ripples. She was watching the wave table twitch to the beat of her own heart, and in the background she could hear men talking.
"Look what she did to my fucking fingers on the pier," said Doug's voice. "Fucking sociopath."
"Did you even glance at the dossier I gave you?" said Munroe. "Do you know how hard it is to get information like that without logging it? She's so far above you in hand-to-hand combat scores it's hard to believe you're the same species."
"Oh bullshit," said Doug. "You guys all think I was new when I started here. I had years of experience before."
"Plural indicating at least two?" said Alex.
More scuffling, as Pepper resisted gasping. Doug must have made a lunge at Alex, unsuccessful through some combination of Alex dodging and Munroe restraining.
"We can't just kill her," said Munroe. "Not in this building."
"We're supposed to kill her!" Doug shouted.
"Not here. Too much attention and too much paperwork."
"DeBussy didn't say no." Doug was sounding petulant again.
For Pepper, the room had started spinning clockwise, very gently. She wanted to squeeze her eyes shut to help clear the vertigo, but she didn't dare move.
"DeBussy said it was our responsibility to keep things clean," said Munroe. Pepper recognised the tone of voice from when she'd questioned him on intel his team had given her.
"Why is this door open?" A woman's voice now, and the sound of high-heeled shoes entering just as Munroe said, "Now is a bad time." Then a screech.
"What the hell happened?" Pepper couldn't pinpoint this voice. Someone in the bureaucratic arm. Stacy. No, Veronica. No. She suppressed another gasp and half-recollected an argument about an expense report...
"Lana, this isn't your area. Just go back to your desk and let us finish this."
Lana, right. It would figure they would need someone on board from Finance to cover up this thing. Even through the pain Pepper remembered it had been way more than one disputed expense report.
"I can't," said Lana. "They've already taken that area. We have to get out of here."
"Who the hell is 'they'?" said Doug.
"They're in military uniform. Well, sort of military, sort of police... a SWAT team, maybe?"
"You came from the freaking Ministry of Defence and you don't know which uniform is which?" Munroe sounded like he was going to lose it.
"I didn't — " Lana started to say, and then shrieked.
"This way," a voice called from down the corridor. The heavy tread of many pairs of boots came towards the cell.
"Fucking dead-end floor plan," said Doug. Pepper heard metal snapping against metal. Probably he was checking his gun was loaded. "We'll just have to shoot our way out."
"You can't," said Alex. He sounded calmer than before. "When boots make that sound, it means the people wearing them have body armour and assault rifles. Geoffrey told me that," he added, with a little tint of wonder in his voice. "It's over."
The room lurched into a spin on a different axis at that point. Pepper had to exert all of her concentration towards not vomiting, and to keeping her breathing even and shallow. She desperately wanted to take a deep breath, but she knew her ribs wouldn't let her.
Air rushed over Pepper from the direction of the doorway. Everyone was talking at once, but she heard Lana shriek again and Doug say, "Oh thank God! We were tending to our colleague here, and we didn't know when backup would show up... what do you mean?!?"
Suddenly someone's body heat was very close, which made it that much harder not to throw up. A gloved hand pressed into the side of her neck, and a voice shouted, "Call for a stretcher! And tell them to hurry the hell up!"
Her eyes were closed, but she could tell from the changing of the light that the person with the gloved hands was leaning over her. She risked letting her eyelids open. It took more effort than she expected.
The new person was a blonde woman wearing fatigues. "Don't try to talk," the woman said. "We're going to get you some help. You're safe." As if to underscore the point, a man shouted — Munroe? Doug? hard to tell them apart without words — and the woman was knocked forward, probably by a random kick as whoever it was got dragged out the door.
"Sorry," said the woman, even though she'd managed not to knock into Pepper.
"7F," Pepper gasped. "Audio visual recording. For this room."
She got half a moment to wonder if she'd been intelligible enough, and then she really did pass out.
To be continued...