The concept of time had left him long ago. Meals were never at set times and what little exercise he received, was always in the dark. All he knew was that when the lights came on, The door opened and it was time to go.
The guard was not the same one as before, the green and red uniform shone in the harsh lights of the corridor outside his cell. The same aggressive manner was present though.
Words were spoken by the guard and he heard mention of his wife. The mist descended quickly and it took four other guards to stop him killing the first one. He feigned injury to stop the beating early but not before he had made sure that the guard would not forget him in a hurry.
Bundled into the white room, hidden jets did their magic and minutes later he was clean, de-loused with his beard and hair cut to the regulation length.
“Come on Nick, your uniform is over there”
He heaved a great sigh. That was not his name and they knew it. Closing his eyes allowed him a moments serenity. This was just how it was now. They had taken over and this was what he had to do to survive. Opening his eyes, he saw the uniform on a hanger in the corner. They had changed the colour a while ago, like many things, they wanted a corporate look. Gone were the days of the colours of the forest.
Why had he not stopped it back then?
He dressed as slowly as he could. The time was of the utmost importance to them and he was going to make them worry. Glancing out of the corner of his eyes, he could see the big clock on the wall. It ticked the time down until he was due to be returned to the darkness of his cell.
A door slid open in the smoothness of the white rooms wall and several guards inched inside. The lead one held a dull silver collar. He knew the drill and let them put it on him with no struggle. After what had happened the first time they had done this, he was not going to put anyone else at risk.
The guards surrounded him and they walked to the main entrance. Outside the snow was swirling around and the chill hit him hard. The uniform started to heat up automatically. At least that was an improvement on the old days, he thought. Far too many nights in freezing temperatures had left their mark on him. He was still far from the man he used to be but at least he was now warm.
His vehicle stood shining in the bases lights. It still filled him with pride when he saw it. It meant something still. Not what it did but still something important. The animals had been hitched and he spent some time stroking and talking to them. This was an important part of the ritual. While he may be a criminal, at least he had standards.
The leader stepped out of the snow and pressed a button on his belt. It was time.
“Kringle, you know what you have to do. Complete the task and get back in time and your wife and children will be allowed to live for another year.”
The Leader paused, a smile playing at the edges of his mouth.
“Of course….if you fail….well….you know how that will end. Don’t you?”
Only a master thief could ever get in and out of the millions of houses in the time allotted and he was the best.
He boarded the sleigh and with a shout, he was away.
Behind him on the ground, the timer ticked down constantly.