~*~ The events of this story will incorporate external added elements from the author's imagination into the already rich and exhilarating canon narrative of the HBO original series, Oz. For the most part, the canon of the series will remain intact to preserve a sense of realism to the plot, while also being sensitive of the time flow of events occurring within Oz.

~*~ Although the characters to be featured are prominently factual in their given genre, they are the sole property of Tom Fontana and Barry Levinson, and are copyrighted to Rysher Entertainment and HBO. All original characters are of the author's creation and belong to him alone and, as with the rest of the story, may not be replicated or redistributed in any way without formal consent from said author.

~*~ Underage reading or any other illegalities is neither encouraged nor condoned in any way by the author. He also will not tolerate any form of plagiarism towards any of the words to come, as they are his and his alone. The principal objective is that of enjoyment and entertainment to you, the reader.

~*~ Address any type of question and/or feedback to jc71883@hotmail.com, making sure to add a relation to the story on the subject line of the e-mail to guarantee its reception.

 

 

The warden's office was anything but inviting to Miguel Alvarez. He remembered all the bad memories the room held him against him. With the whole rape debacle and Glynn taking all his frustrations out on him, the Latino was weary of the office. He hated it. Their conversation had been put on pause because of an interrupting phone call. Alvarez looked around and waited for Glynn to be finished with him. The phone clicked down within a few minutes.

"You told me if I let you out of Solitary, you'd snitch on the other prisoners---by my informant. Well, you haven't told me anything I don't already know," Warden Glynn said, and began to reconsider his arrangement.

The Latino had to play the game carefully, but he was backed into a corner and said, "Morales won't let be back into El Norte unless I kill Redding."

"Then you're fucked, Alvarez, and no use to me. Hell, I might as well send you back to Solitary right now."

"Wait a second. He tells me to grease somebody, right? That's conspiracy, man," he knew he was grasping at straws but going back to confinement was going to kill him.

Glynn's voice was determined when he said, "I convict Morales on a conspiracy charge, so what? He's still in Oz---still running drugs."

"Give me a couple days. I'll try to figure out some other way to get into his good graces. Just a couple of fucking days."

He was up the creek and without a paddle in his damn hands. The warden was not going to remain patient for much longer unless he got some sound information and Morales wanted Redding dead already. Alvarez sat in the waiting area outside Glynn's office for an officer to escort him back with his mind fully wrapped up in everything he was in. He had to fucking prove himself to that asshole Morales. It was El Cid all over again and he was quickly running out of options. Again.

His last conversation with O'Reily started to make more sense the more he thought about it. The mick may have had another angle he was working, but practically everything he said that day in the pod was the truth. That was not his style and it made Alvarez even more defensive and agitated. There were a couple of looks after but nothing serious and no more conversations since. Almost like the Irishman was giving him time to digest it all---or feel out for the truth. Again, not his known style of manipulation. Alvarez had to be careful dealing with him---he was prepared to strike at any moment. O'Reily was a fucking snake. VÝbora venenosa.

In the quad, he had to put his conversation with the Irishman away because, as far as he knew, they were to only two who knew what it was about. O'Reily played his cards closer to his chest than he did so Alvarez assumed the conversation had not been brought up again. And Morales could stay in the dark for all he cared. He wasn't letting him in on anything and figured it best to play dumb for now. Men like Morales got off on the power they thought they had, but always failed to realize that it was just an illusion. He would be taken out eventually---like El Cid before him. But, no matter what, the loco Latino always came out alive. He saw Morales in the classroom and went to him.

"Miguel, Miguel---where you been?" he asked as if he owned him.

"I was kissing the warden's ass," Alvarez had to try a plan he came up with.

"That's funny."

"Not as funny as you think. You know he wants me to rat on you. Says if I don't give him inside info on drugs and shit---"

"Mm-hmm."

"I'll be going back to Solitary again," the words burned his tongue. "So I've been thinking, you know, maybe I could be like a double agent, right? I just give him the information that you want him to have, you know?"

"That's a brilliant idea," Morales said, condescendingly.

"Think so?"

"Except for the fact that there ain't no information I want Glynn to have."

"Misinformation."

"You tell him stuff that turns out not to be true, how long's he going to trust you? No, my friend, if I were you, and I'm glad I'm not, I'd prepare myself for the inevitable---spending the next fifty years all by your lonesome."

Morales got up to look down at him and resisted the urge to laugh in his face. A sick smile hung from his lips though---he did a poor job of hiding that. The walls were closing in on him, with every outlet he tried to take ending up as a dead end. Alvarez remained in the classroom to think about his next move. He was not good at coming up with moves---not like the vÝbora. He thought himself above the average inmate of Oz in terms of planning strategy and moves, but he was not on Ryan O'Reily's level of mind-fucking malevolence. The mick had the gift of never getting his hands bloody but always getting what he needed from this place.

Alvarez left the classroom and thought about returning to his pod but instead climbed down the stairs to the quad. Many were about their routine lives but again, Morales and the El Norte crew were nowhere around. Cyril was strangely watching TV without his brother being near him. It was a rare site indeed to see the O'Reily brothers separated but there was not much cause for surprise. The mick was in his pod and his eyes glanced over to his brother from time to time. Alvarez walked over to the glass and gave a half smile. He was beckoned inside.

"Why'd you approach me?" the Latino went right into it because time was not on his side.

"You came here, Alvarez," O'Reily said matter-of-factly. "Come to finish off my windpipe?"

"I meant the other day---in my pod."

"I don't know what you mean."

"Cut the shit, mick," Alvarez said as he was losing his patience.

"Fuck you!" he barked out. "And stop calling me that shit. I haven't called you hermano."

"You just did."

"What the hell do you want, Alvarez?"

"You want something from me---what is it?"

He knew he was right because of the way the Irishman remained quiet---he had already read him. He may not have been good at formulating strategic and muddled plans to keep his name out of people's mouths or his hands clear of blood, but he was good at reading people. He had read O'Reily that day in his pod and now he read him here. Alvarez knew something was going on and he had to figure it out before he made his next move. Especially if it was going to be against Burr Redding like Morales had ordered him to. The Latino may have been a little loco, but he was not going to go on some suicide mission---and definitely not for the likes of that bastard Morales.

"Shit. I don't want dick from you, herm---" the Irishman started but stopped himself.

"You and Morales plotting against me---to take me out?"

"If I wanted you gone---you'd be gone."

"You give yourself too much credit, papa," Alvarez said with a small smile.

"And you give me too little. Can't I just give a warning without being accused of working a fucking angle? What about `good deed for the day' and all that shit?" O'Reily was unsure of what he was rambling about.

"'O'Reily' and `good' should never be used in the same sentence."

"You're funny. Tell me---you got a plan to grease Redding yet?"

"Morales asked you to keep tabs on me---make sure I do the deed? And here I thought you were more than someone's lapdog, O'Reily."

Alvarez had to provoke him enough to get straight answers out of him. Otherwise, they would be dancing around in circles and there was no time for that. The mick knew something---he always fucking knew something. He was always a wealth of information and everyone in the prison system knew that. Squeezing information out of him was something entirely different, though. Glynn and Morales were both on his back and both wanted him in Solitary and out of the way. Now he had Ryan O'Reily and his games to deal with and not to mention Guerra with his crumbled rat poison plan.

"Ay, fuck you, hermano! I'm nobody's goddamn lapdog!" O'Reily said back and was a bit upset by the comment and its insinuation.

Goddamn spic!

"I fucking told you about that shit," the Latino slyly approached his face and said.

"Get the hell out of here, Alvarez. You're wasting my time," he looked past the other man and out to the quad to see if Cyril was all right.

"I'm not going to be your fucking project, O'Reily. I'm not going to let you manipulate me---you got that? Not going to let you control me," their faces were still close together with intensity guarding each pair of eyes.

The Irishman stepped back and said, "I wasn't aware I could. Control you, that is. Especially since Morales doesn't seem to be able to---and Hernandez never could."

"You're not them. I know you, fucker. You get off on that shit---controlling people and their movements like you're playing some demonic game of chess or something."

"A compliment was somewhere in there, right?" O'Reily smiled but kept his cool.

"Fuck you! Stay out of my business---El Norte business!"

"Was never in El Norte business, amigo."

"Yeah---like you're never in anyone else's business. Fucking Ryan O'Reily is a saint in this goddamn joint."

"If the halo fits," the Irishman said and knew their conversation was over.

"Look---I don't have a problem with you if you don't have a problem with me. Stay out of my way and I'll stay out of yours. And don't try to move me like one of your chess pieces," Alvarez emphasized the last part clearly because he was not going to be manipulated in any way. "I ain't your piece and I ain't interested in your games. Got it?"

"Yes, Mr. Alvarez, sir," his tone was mocking but more funny than anything else.

"Funny. Damn vÝbora venenosa."

O'Reily looked at him, not knowing what the words meant but he had already walked out of the pod and was back in the quad. He thought he knew all the Spanish curse words but that one was completely new to him. And, it probably was only his imagination, but the way Alvarez had said it did not make it seem like he was cursing at all. He obviously knew it was not something positive, but it did not have the air the other Spanish curses demanded. The Irishman brushed it off and went back into his mind.

Alvarez was running out of time and ways to keep himself from solitary confinement. The conversation with the mick was mostly a bust, seeing as he did not get much in the way of straight answers. The fucker could doubletalk his way out of the deepest pits of hell. He had to make a move because Morales wanted results. Quickly scanning the place, he noticed that the homeboys, with Redding, were in the laundry room so he headed there. The cold blade of a shank pressed against his hipbone made his skin tingle and twitch. He entered the laundry room.

"What's up? What you want, Alvarez?" the fool Poet asked as if he thought he had power.

"I want to talk to your boss," the Latino remained cold.

Redding eyed him over and replied in his husky voice, "We got no business with you."

"Morales wants you dead, man."

"That ain't no headline," the court jester spoke up again.

"He's ordered me to do the deed."

"I see," Redding took more of an interest in the conversation.

"I don't want to have to spill any more blood than I already done, man," Alvarez placed his cards on the table.

"I still don't see what it is you want," Augustus Hill said.

"I want to help you take out Morales."

"You're playing a dangerous game, son. Betraying your own skin," he said and he was right---but there were nothing but dangerous games in Oz.

"Hey, they betrayed me first, man."

"No doubt. But the trouble with getting into bed with a traitor is you never know when he might betray you. I appreciate your offer, but we're going to have to decline," Redding said firmly and dismissively.

"Decline," the jackass just had to chime in.

He looked at their leader one last time---another avenue that was cut off by a dead end. There were so few left now. Alvarez needed someone at his back he could trust and not have to worry about. Even though he was trying to get back into El Norte, he was alone in a place where forming groups was the key to survival. And if he ever made it back into the Latino gang, he was going to be alone because most of them wanted him dead or out of the gang. He left the laundry room behind to see one of the newer members of El Norte in front of him. The loco Latino never bothered to learn his name.

"What you talking to Redding for?" Vasquez asked as if he had clout.

"I asked to borrow some detergent," Alvarez said, uninterested in the small fry.

"Yeah? Well, we haven't forgotten that you shanked Carlo Ricardo."

"So?"

"When Chico Guerra gets out of the hospital, he and me are going to fuck you up," he said with a look of disgust in his face.

"Why wait until he gets out, chickenshit? Come on, baby. I ain't got nothing, man. Nothing to lose---nothing to gain. Let's do this."

Vasquez lunged forward to punch him but Alvarez dodged him and punched him at the side of his abdomen---his fist came in contact with ribs. A hand easily slipped into his pants to reveal a shank. The unknown member of El Norte cried out in pain when his side was punctured again and again. Blood smeared everywhere as he fought for his life. Alvarez's animal instincts took over and his body was high off adrenaline. He felt alive---the first time since being recaptured and sent back to this shithole.

"Yo, yo, yo!" Hoyt got the attention of some hacks.

A correctional officer ran in and attempted to subdue Alvarez but was not mindful of his surroundings and was stabbed as well. The crowd of prisoners were looking at him and yelling and cheering as if he was doing this for their entertainment. As if this was ancient Rome and he was a gladiator fighting for their amusement. The Latino had nothing left. This was not what he wanted to happen. Vasquez pleaded one last time for help before he died, and Alvarez saw the light leave his eyes. In his haze, another officer managed to get close enough to knock him out to the floor with his club. Blood mingled everywhere from Vasquez and the injured hack.

Back in Solitary and his soul was fragmented once more. One voice was in his head as he was curled up in that same corner trying to fight against his claustrophobia. Even the little window of the heavy metal door was slid shut. Alvarez could feel his sanity being threatened and pulled down by the ravages of madness. He slowly crawled on the floor over to the toilet and looked inside. It smelled horrid and he did not want to but he had to. The loco Latino stuck his hands out into the bowl to grab some shit that was there. There was no hesitation when he spread it around his hands and smeared it onto his face and arms. It was slightly warm. His brain pushed him further into his daze and he grabbed more shit from its source and began coating the walls and bars of the cell with it. The voice made him do it---had told him to do it.

 

O'Reily stood side by side with his brother and the other test subjects and waited for Dr. Nathan to examine them---examine if the drugs had started to affect their systems yet. He was in a foul mood but did not know the reason behind it. He had even snapped at Cyril earlier for asking him a simple question. The excitement of the morning had died down and he felt as if had fallen into a black hole. He watched the fight as it took place---watched him only defending himself from that bottom feeder lowlife. Still, it was not enough to keep him in Em City.

The Irishman had to go back and rethink his plan---something he rarely had to do, if ever. Somewhere along the way, his plan had changed. It was only supposed to be for pleasure at first, and maybe to gain inside information, but the scumbags in the place were never going to leave him alone. They had never given him a moment of peace. He always had a target on his back and O'Reily understood all too well how that felt.

He flew under the radar mostly---never craving power like the assholes that needed it for it to be their identity. Like Pancamo or Redding or Morales---or El Cid or Adebisi before them. And he was the same way too. They both had so many similar qualities that the original plan was starting to unravel. The plan had more than changed. It had crumbled to the ground and he was not sure how to feel about it. No plan of his had ever been destroyed this way. Changed, yes, but never destroyed. O'Reily needed to figure out what the hell those words meant. He needed to figure out what the fuck he was going to do. But he was banished back to Solitary.

"Let me ask you something," he shook his head of the thoughts and concentrated on himself and Cyril. "This new drug that we're testing, how long to we start feeling the effects?"

"Well, as I said before, it's never been tested on humans, but the lab rats began to age in about three days," Dr. Nathan gave her most professional opinion on the matter.

"If I get old and wrinkled, would you still love me?" O'Reily looked into her eyes but she avoided his.

"Next. Cyril, any complaints?"

"I have a tummy-ache," Cyril whined as a little kid would.

"Come on, sit down," Dr. Nathan led him to a hospital bed and fitted her stethoscope into her ears. "Okay, take a deep breath."

They finished their examination but the hacks were eyeing him so he was unable to get close to Gloria---to talk to her after everything was done. And with the mood he was in, if someone said something to cross him, he was probably going to go off. He and Cyril walked away to be escorted back to Em City. This checkup was late in the day because lights out was approaching soon. Sleep would clear his mind---it always did. The two O'Reily brothers returned to their pod and waited for lights out. It came but he rested on the top bunk and watched out at the darkened quad as Cyril snored lightly below him. Light and shadows danced across his eyes and face as he thought. Fucking spic!

"Count!" Murphy shouted the next morning as all the lights came back on.

"Cyril, come on, let's go. Come on, Cyril, get up," O'Reily jumped down and was shaking his brother to wake him. "Holy mother of Christ!"

"Ryan, I don't feel too good."

His hair was turning gray---his skin was wrinkly and pale. He touched his brother's face and then his hair to see if it was real. Cyril eyes looked worn and his body looked like it could barely move. Yesterday he was young and energetic but today, he was old and looking almost decrepit. O'Reily stared in shock until he ran out the pod to get any hack's attention. Cyril needed to see Dr. Nathan right away and Murphy gave them the go. The pair rushed out of Em City to laughs and rude comments.

He watched as Dr. Nathan performed her tests and told one of her nurses, "Be right back."

"Hey, so?" the worry was somewhere in his voice.

"He's begun to age."

"What about me?"

"Your body might metabolize slower, or you could be on the placebo," she told him while looking through papers.

"Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. The idea was for me and Cyril to go through this together. Remember, to get out of Oz together," O'Reily thought their plans were clear from the beginning of the experiment. "Are you trying to tell me---he's going to get old and I'm not?"

"Yes."

"No, you stop giving him that drug," he was adamant.

"No, I won't. You both agreed to take it."

"Well, now I'm unagreeing. Look, everything I've done has fucked up Cyril's life. I'm not about to sit by and watch him disintegrate."

"You signed an agreement," Dr. Nathan said coldly.

"I don't care."

"Well, I do."

"Fuck you. Cyril, put your shirt on, we're leaving."

"No, we're keeping Cyril here a few more hours for observation. Get him out of here."

A hack came to take him back to Em City. He stared at Dr. Nathan the entire time---it felt as if she had betrayed him. She was not that kind of person, but it hurt him that she did not want to stop drugging Cyril. He shrugged the officer off him and walked back to Em City in silence---thinking again. He didn't want to see Cyril like this. The drug experiment was a mistake. Gates pulled back and he entered the quad. Beecher called him up to the second floor and he complied.

"Okay, you see my brother's hair?"

"Pretty bizarre," Beecher said in his usual tone.

"This aging thing is out of whack, Beecher. You and me, we got to drop out. We got to talk to Robson and Kirk and the others and we got to get them to drop out, too," O'Reily was saying but Beecher interrupted him with a laugh. "What?"

"This is just like you, O'Reily. I gave my word and as terrified as I am about the effects of the drug, I'm sticking with it."

"Fine. I'll talk to the others myself."

"Yeah, well, I don't know if that's going to do much good. Mugs like Robson, Hoyt, and Wick, they're used the playing Russian roulette with their lives. My guess is they're going to laugh in your face."

O'Reily angrily huffed off because he knew Beecher was right. Those men didn't give a shit about their own lives, so it was a waste talking to them. He was antsy and was in an even worse mood than yesterday waiting for Cyril to get back from the hospital ward. He went to his pod and remained there to be in his own world. He had to figure a way out of this for Cyril. Yet another mess he made of his baby brother's life.

Nightfall hit Em City and that Irish luck had struck for him once again so his mood had improved. Shortly after Cyril had returned from observation in the hospital ward, Wick had bled out right there in the middle of Em City. Blood had gushed out from his nose and mouth---he was dead. That had to stop the drug testing. Cyril was going to be spared from possibly suffering the same fate. O'Reily was still upset with Dr. Nathan, though---and he had no idea what to do about his situation with Alvarez. His mind focused more on the latter for some reason, but he was fresh out of plans. He would figure something out. It was what he did after all.

"Remember when we were little? Mama would sing to us," Cyril said.

"Just try and sleep, Cyril," his brother said from the top bunk.

"I can't remember what song."

"Move over," O'Reily said as he got down from his bed, got into his brother's, and then softly sang. "Over in Kilarney/Many years ago/Me mother sang a song to me/In tones so sweet and low/Just a simple little ditty/In her sweet old Irish way/ And I'd give the world if she could sing/That song to me this day/Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ra/Too-ra-loo-ra-lie/Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ra/Hush, now don't you cry/Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ra---"

He had to sing the verse only a few times before Cyril dozed off to sleep. He kissed his brother on his forehead and easily slipped out of bed so as not to disturb him. O'Reily walked over to the door of the pod and put up both his hands on either side of its metal frame. He pressed his forehead against the glass and looked out at the darkened quad and all the blacked out pods. His eyes roamed everywhere they could see.

Thoughts crept into his mind about how Alvarez was doing in Solitary. It was no secret he hated the place. None of the prisoners knew why though. Maybe it was a psychological thing. Maybe it had something to do with his grandfather. The Latino had asked in each conversation what O'Reily wanted from him. He didn't have the heart to tell him he was mainly yanking his chain---playing with his mind for his own wicked amusement. But now, a more serious answer, and plan was churning inside his head.

"VÝbora venenosa?" he did his best to annunciate the Spanish words as Alvarez had---it was still eating him because he hadn't had time to look into what it meant.

Days past by without much incident and he was relieved to know that the aging pill experiment had been shut down due to Wick's sudden death. Cyril was slowly starting to revert back to his normal self---well, what was considered normal for him anyway. O'Reily took a stab in the heart at that one and he remembered that night he sang his baby brother to sleep. They were just both happy that they did not have to be a part of the potentially deadly aging experiment anymore.

He was in his pod with Keller after Supreme Allah had been released from Solitary. They had been sitting at a table in the quad talking shit when Allah had walked past them to be noticed and sat just a few tables away. O'Reily's eyes had met with Keller's because they both knew that Allah had wanted their attention---neither of them gave it to him though because it was the game. He had sat there and was talking to Redding but had glanced over at their table more than a few times during their entire conversation. It had been an intimidation tactic but neither O'Reily nor Keller seemed bothered by it.

"I'm telling you Supreme Allah knows we whacked Shemin and Browne and we pinned the murders on him," Keller was surprisingly freaked out for the level of manipulator he was.

"How could he? I didn't tell him, you didn't tell him."

"Hey, maybe he figured it out. Both of them were guys Beecher fucked."

"So maybe he thinks you did it, but not me," the Irishman said but he knew how it sounded.

"What, are you looking to hang me out to dry there, O'Reily?" Keller's eyes narrowed in on him.

"No. Look, maybe I can go see Allah, figure out what he really knows. You can trust me, K-boy."

"I got no other choice."

Keller was in a corner and he knew it. Beecher was connected to Shemin and Browne and he was connected to Beecher. He was more implicated in the crimes than O'Reily was and Keller knew betrayal was always a possibility. The Irishman had the upper hand on him now so he was forced to trust him and go along with what he said. He left the pod with that psychotic look he sometimes got but O'Reily did not care. Keller was letting his game face slip.

Ryan O'Reily decided to go to the computer room a few hours after his talk with Keller to look up the meaning of the words. It was gnawing at him and when he thought of it, he thought of the Latino---and when, if ever, his plan would ever get off the ground. The spic had to get out of Solitary before they could get off the ground, though. Sitting down in front of a screen, O'Reily grabbed the mouse to get started but the computer shut down on him. He smacked the back of the monitor as Supreme Allah walked in. Their eyes never met.

"Fuck! Such an idiot. Hey, Supreme, old pal," O'Reily looked as the man sat two computers away, but still eyes never connected. "This thing is crashing every time I try to boot it up. Can you take a look at it for me?"

"No," was the short answer.

"No? What, do you got PMS or something?"

"You know, I sat in Solitary plenty of hours, O'Reily," Allah said and finally looked in his direction. "Had time to put two and two together. Shemin and Browne plus Keller and O'Reily equals me almost on death row."

"Hm. Well, you added wrong there, cuz," he kept his game face on.

"Well, addition was never my best subject. Always favored subtraction. Let me see, Oz minus Keller and O'Reily equals justice."

Allah turned back to his computer, which was working, and said nothing else. The look on his face said revenge though and O'Reily had to come up with a plan quick. He was not in the mood to look up Alvarez's Spanish words anymore, not that he would want Allah or anyone else knowing what he was looking up anyway, so he pushed his chair back and left. He entered the quad and saw Keller coming off a phone call in the phone room so he entered. Redding was on the next phone over but now was not the time for eavesdropping.

"I'm telling you, we got to do something and fast," O'Reily spoke lowly.

"You know, I just got the funniest feeling the old man is going to take care of everything."

Keller turned and walked out of the phone room. Redding finished his conversation shortly after and left as well. O'Reily exited the room as well but did follow Keller to get answers from him. Not with Allah's eyes being around. He had talked to Redding---worked out some kind of deal with the leader of the homeboys when they were in the phone room together. However, this could have been Keller counting his chickens before they hatched again. They were not safe until Supreme Allah was in a pine box. And Keller smugly telling him they were out of the woods annoyed the hell out of him.