This cell wouldn’t be nearly as bad, if the floor and walls weren’t electrified the entire ‘lights out’ time. I could use my time more productively, but instead I have to remain on this logfir filled mattress. Logfir hay is said to be soft when it’s new, but becomes harsh and scratchy after a couple of years. By the feel of my mattress, it must be at least a decade old.
The sheets aren’t much better, they’re made of samts wool, which may as well be wet. Samts are a big animal, about twenty meters tall, with enormous necks that make up nearly half of their height, and long manes that hang from the top to the bottom of their necks to their torsos. They’re abundant on Bildel, a planet about 27 light minutes away from Hewor, where I’m in prison.
Hewor’s population is made up almost entirely of prisoners, about 80%, with another 15% working for the prison, and the remaining 5% being native Heworians who have stuck around because they’re unlikely to find much else on other planets.
In an hour, the star will rise, and the electricity in the walls and floors will be turned off. Then I get to go to breakfast, then I have a hearing over on the west hemisphere, in which they’ll determine whether or not the judge is going to hear my appeal. It’s my first appeal, so it’s nearly guaranteed that he will hear it.
I was caught on Marba, trying to jack a ship. Well, not just any ship, it was a Larft, which are still the fastest model non-custom ship on the market. They’re great for facilitating other criminals and such. I had hoped that I’d be able to help more hardened criminals escape off-world quickly after robberies, it tends to be a lucrative job.
Breakfast was the same dreck as every other morning, and by that, I mean that it tastes the same, like warm nothing, with the same textures mushy and dry, and we’re never actually told what it is.
I’m sitting on the transfer shuttle, next to the guard, Faljo, who has been nothing but fair since I arrived, but is still not particularly friendly. On my other side, is a row of seven other prisoners getting hearings.
Our bodies lightly sway as the shuttle speeds across whatever terrain surrounds us. Windows are a luxury not given to us in nearly any circumstance. The court itself being the rare exception. The court is seemingly wrap around glass. I imagine it’s to either give us hope if we think we’re going to be released, or to give us despair if we are unlikely to be. It was designed long enough ago, that I doubt anyone remembers why it was designed that way anymore.
We all remain silent, the only sound the whirring of air past our shuttle. For a few minutes anyway, then there is a deafening crack, and if our wrists weren’t shackled to a loop at our crotches, we’d all be thrown from our seats as the shuttle rolls violently.
Faljo lays on the ceiling, and I can tell he’s not conscious although, I can’t tell how injured he is. I’m hanging, and feel the blood rushing to my head.
I have become a master of staying calm and cool in chaos, as I imagine almost everyone here on Hewor becomes. I had only been here three months, and had already witnessed seven riots. I continued to hang and focus on my breathing.
Ipho, a youngin, who really should have been on the juvenile center on the western hemisphere, cracks something in his hands, and lets out a yell for a moment, before gently climbing down to the ceiling, and resetting his thumbs, without restraints on him any longer. He smiles up at the rest of us, and walks over to Faljo, and removes his keys, and stunner, and quickly he unlocks, Gil, who had been sitting next to him, and gives him the keys.
Ipho, keeps the stunner aimed at Faljo, while Gil unlocks everyone. None of the doors have been knocked open, and protocol states that Faljo isn’t allowed to unlock from the inside. When I’m unlocked, I sit on the ceiling, and move Faljo, so he’s sitting up, and check his pulse. He’s not doing great, but he’s alive.
“What’re you doing?” Ipho yells at me.
“Just checking that he’s ok, man.”
“I don’t care if he’s dead,” he spits back.
I nod in understanding.
“Look, when they come in here, and find us, they won’t be mad that we got out of the restraints, but they won’t have wanted us to harm their guards. Faljo’s a good man, and if we’re good to him now, he’ll vouch for us when they take us,” I try to explain, but Ipho looks back with a careless grin.
“Man, they’re not gonna find us. My dad knew about my hearing, and he should be opening that door—” he points to the locked door, our only exit, “—in a minute. Then, we’re out of here.”
All of the other guys seem to already know the plan, and I’m a little worried that I’ve been left out on purpose. I’m not only the new guy, but also well known for getting caught the very first time I decide to commit a crime, and now I’ve just helped a guard.
“Oh… um… ok.” They’re all standing around me, looking at me.
“Are you coming with us?” one of the guys I don’t know asks.
“If I’m welcome…”
Ipho looks me over for a minute. “You’re fine, just don’t slow us down.”
The lock on the door starts grinding, and it sounds as if it’s been damaged in the accident, but after a minute of struggle, it clicks, and the door swings open. Ipho’s dad, who looks just like him, but with greying hair, and a scar across his throat, pokes his head in.
“C’mon, we’ve only got a few minutes.”
Ipho had tried to lock Faljo in the shuttle, but I told him that Faljo would be fine with the door open, and we didn’t want to add to our charges if we got caught later. Somehow it managed to work, and now we’re sitting on some ship that his father managed to procure.
“Alright, we need to get of this ship, because it’ll get flagged quickly, and we don’t want to get caught. So, we’re heading to Oltera,” Ipho’s father said with a smile, as he pushed the throttle forward with his right hand.
“Dad, why are we heading to Oltera?” Ipho seemed nervous for the first time.
“About three months ago, there was a volcano that erupted on the south western side of the planet, and it’s made that whole hemisphere unlivable. A lot of people are evacuating, many of the locals are sticking around, and a ton of transports are entering with hundreds of kids trying to help out. You know, humanitarian stuff.”
“You want us to go help them?” Ipho, wasn’t really smart, even for his age. I had realized on the first day I met him, because he couldn’t seem to figure out how to get out of his own way in the prison’s hierarchy. He’d pissed off both of the rival gang leaders, and only had managed to survive due to solitary confinement.
“With all the chaos of people coming and going en mass, we’ll be able to find a different ship, and slip away without all the notice,” I told him, as his father’s plan materialized in my head.
“This one’s got the idea,” Ipho’s dad clapped his hand on my shoulder, the ship now on autopilot. We were at least 3 light hours away.
To be continued…
This is my first entry into the “Traversing the Infinite” opensource fictional universe. If you’re interested in learning more about it, click here.