The kid’s a fucking wildcat.
He has no real fighting talent, but he has passion and fear, and Travis has always found that to be a far better motivator than any actual acquired skill. The unknown is a dangerous thing. He looks around and he can tell the bidding would be ruthless. Several of the gathered already have a mercenary look, moving money around in their heads, equating the kid with dollar signs.
Travis pushes a button on the console in front of him. “Anthony. Secure him.”
Anthony is as good as invisible, but the noose goes easily around the kid’s neck and tightens, the hard metal pole keeping him from lashing out at Anthony. Travis nods and an electric current buzzes, making the air feel electric. The kid jerks slightly, but doesn’t go to his knees.
“Gentlemen.” Travis smiles at the gathered mass of people. “Gabriel will supervise the bidding on our next display. I’m afraid this wildcat belongs to me.”
The kid is on his hands and knees and breathing roughly, crawling across the floor of the play room to get away from the door. The noose is still around his neck, the pole off to the side and dragging loudly across the floor. Travis carefully takes off his gloves sets them on the supply cabinet. He can tell the kid knows he’s there. There’s a different energy in the room now, a kind of cornered desperation. Travie wonders if the kid will attack first.
He really hopes he does.
“You were captured in forbidden territory.”
The kid mutters something in a language Travis hasn’t heard in years. Homeland. Dirty, rural, basic, guttural Homeland. He’s not even sure his vocal chords can make the noises required given the modifications he’s had done.
This is, quite possibly, the best thing that’s happened to Travis in six hundred years.
He walks over and fists his hand in the kid’s hair. It’s rough and untreated, nothing like the silken feel of hair now. “People like you don’t exist, boy.” He laughs, tightening his hand, watching the kid bare his teeth. “We don’t even know how to make you anymore.”
The kid bites the air, struggling in Travis’s grip. Travis brings his other hand to the kid’s head, tilting it, turning it, looking for seams, marks, telltale signs. He can’t be what Travis thinks he is, except he’s fairly certain he really, really is. “Anthony!”
The speaker comes on, activated by his voice. Anthony’s response is swift. “Yes, Travis?”
“Interrupt Gabriel. I have something he must see.”
The walls are thin, but no less strong than iron bars or steel plates. None of those things exist anymore, but their legacy lingers on in colloquialisms. The room is of decent size, but it seems small from the way the kid prowls it from end to end. They’ve provided him with entertainment – books unearthed from a time before, and he seems able to read them, the coarse scratches that they all know are words, even though it seems impossible. Patrick found a supply of ancient music from the time before refinement, caterwauls that reverberate through the room and make Travis’s ears hurt to hear.
“Quite a masterpiece,” Ryland informs Travis as he walks into the observation room. It’s evening, a private showing for those who have already paid Travis’s fee to see the kid once and for those who cannot be caught at an establishment such as Travis’s, even if his is the very highest of class. “The zoo board is beside itself. Your elevation has risen significantly.”
“How long before the games?”
“Several weeks. The public is clamoring to see him.”
“He’s secure here?”
“As nowhere else.” Ryland smirks. “I trust my staff implicitly. As should you. You trained most of them.”
“Before you stole them away.”
“As if you’d expect anything less of me.” Ryland watches the kid as he approaches the walls and scratches at them. There’s no way he can leave a mark, but it seems as though there are faint lines that shimmer in the polymer. “You’re quite the philanthropist, you know. Most wouldn’t have donated him. Most would have defiled him.”
“He belongs in a cage. He’s barely an animal.” Travis’s eyes stay on the kid. “He grunts and barks. Rages at walls that won’t break as if he can overpower them with sheer will. He’s rungs down on the evolutionary scale.”
“By that reckoning, he is an animal, and that is why most would have defiled him. That is why they bring their silk-slippered selves to your parlor. They’re tired of polite society and refined intercourse. They want to fuck the animals.”
“No more than three weeks, Ryland. Don’t let them tame him.”
He breaks out of his cage.
Travis is delighted.
He can hear the screaming from his parlor and he watches from the window. He’s no fool, of course, he had the kid tagged when he was caught as he does all of them. He’s only ever lost money on that decision once, and made more than enough to recoup the losses. He sends Anthony and Michael in pursuit. They’re careful and subtle and less likely to do permanent damage.
Travis waits in the playroom for them to return. The kid falls into the room, his limbs shaking. There’s a small red square at the base of his spine, an electrical injection. He fought back. Travis stays in his seat and watches as the charge filters out of his system, the kid twitching and then eventually going still. It doesn’t change the lines of tension in his body or the coiled muscles that tighten, ready to pounce.
“Bring it, boy.”
He bares his teeth and snarls at Travis. He’s naked, as always, but the training ring has been ripped free of his cock, and the flesh is semi-hard. It’s unnatural as well, or perhaps natural, it’s own shape and size and not conformed to the standards of the masses. This is what they’ve given up in the name of civilization. This is what Travis allows people to take back. For a price.
The kid moves then, faster than he should be able to, lunging for Travis’s throat. Travis slaps him hard across the face and he goes down, getting to his feet again quickly. The animal is growling at Travis, waking the animal inside him. He tangles his hand in the kid’s hair and tightens it, waiting for the moment of surrender. Defiant eyes hold his, and Travis feels it all pulsing inside him, between them.
“Anthony.” He drops the kid down and steps back, wiping his hands carefully on his handkerchief. Zoo and games be damned. This one is his. “Inform the zoo that since they can’t take care of my property, I’ll be taking it back. We can talk again when they can build a better cage.”