Friday, 18 March 2016

Working Title (part 3)

Nimet had gone through every escape plan she had ever read, but almost of all them were useless. They all revolved around tunnelling through dungeon floors or abseiling down tower walls but such plans didn't work when you were so deep underground that you were almost out of the other end. Her head hurt from thinking so hard so she lay back to rest, only to then hear a deep bell ringing. For a moment, she hoped that it meant someone had started a fire. For a moment, she thought she could use the distraction to her advantage, she thought she could suddenly escape.
Then she realised that it simply meant it was lunch time.
A guard in a long jacket, armed with a plasma pistol and a sword, walked over and stopped outside of her cell. "Get up, newbie."
Nimet stayed where she was, staring at him. She'd been told that staring sometimes scared people. She hoped it worked the trick this time.
The guard looked unimpressed. "You know, we got a new shipment of equipment the other month. New vests, new shoes. My personal favourite? Electrocoils. They say, you wrap one around a prisoner's arm, it'll kill her in nought point one second. Nought point one! I hardly believe it." He frowned at her. "Do you want to put it to the test?"
Nimet stood up but she didn't stop staring. She wanted him feeling uncomfortable, or at least unhappy. The guard smiled a patronising smile and pressed a button to open the cage door. It swung open and Nimet stepped into the corridor. She saw that dozens of other guards lined the hall, and stepping towards them were dozens of other prisoners. She saw all the prisoners were offering their hands up to their guards, so she did the same and felt a pair of iron cuffs clapped around them. She winced as the guard pulled the cuffs tight, but the guard grinned at her pain and pulled them even tighter.
Once all the prisoners had been cuffed up, the guards turned on their heels and began to march down the corridor. Nimet didn't follow for a second but then felt her arms being yanked in that direction and realised she had to. The cuffs seemed to be chained to a moving track on the floor. She joined the massive snake of prisoners and guards, trailing mindlessly through the Gaol's corridors.
Eventually, the snake led into a huge hall full of tables. Chains were released by the moving track and people went about taking their usual seats. She stood for a second, staring around for a friendly face, anybody who looked like she could trust them. Then she caught a glimpse of someone beckoning her over. She frowned, mouthing, "Me?"
The person nodded and she hurried over.
Two huge men moved aside to allow her to sit down and Nimet did just that, opposite the lady who'd beckoned her over. She was exceptionally tall but wispy, not particularly glamorous but giving off the air that she never wanted to be. She frowned at Nimet for a second and then said, "Why are you here, girl?"
"You beckoned me over." Nimet replied.
The men on either side of her began to laugh, their huge frames bumping into her as they chuckled. 
The lady shook her head. "I meant in the Tower, girl."
"Oh. Possession of a Shakespeare."
"Which one?"
"Love's Labour's Lost." 
"Good play. I prefer the Cycle of Kings, but that might just be me." She offered her hand. "Emily. My parents named me after Brontë but I, unlike them, have taste. I like to prefer to imagine I was named after Emily Dickinson. What's your name?"
"Hello Nimet. How old are you?"
"Twelve. Wow. This bloody prohibition really doesn't have any mercy, does it? Tell me, Nimet, how'd you get a copy of a class B Shakespeare? It's hard enough to get a copy of Class Cs or Ds like Pericles, Prince of Tyre, never mind Love's Labour's Lost! I don't suppose you have Richard II in your pocket, do you?"
The two big men laughed. Nimet looked at their wobbling faces and realised they were twins.
"Well, little lady? How'd you get it?"
"My master gave it to me."
"Oh!" Emily grinned. "You're a writer! That is truly fantastic. Glad to see the trade hasn't died. I'm a poet myself but I admire you writers. So much devotion. What’s your genre?”
“I haven’t decided yet.”
“How exciting! You’ve got your whole life ahead of you! Who’s your master? Is it the Blind One?”
Nimet frowned. “How did you guess?”
“Most masters force a genre on their apprentice straight away. Is she coming to rescue you?”
“I don’t think she even knows I’m here.”
“Good.” Emily said. “She won’t be wasting any efforts then.”
Emily shook her head quickly. Nimet looked up and saw a guard pass by. She looked back down, staring at the bowl of cold soup that had suddenly materialised in front of her. She itched the side of her head and then, once the guard had passed, she looked back at Emily.
Emily grinned and swept a hand through her auburn hair. “We’ve got a plan to escape. It’s taken us five years but we think it’s pretty good.”
Emily looked around and gestured to the corner of the room. There was a table with a man sat on his own and then another table with a group of blokes all clustered together. “You see over there?”
“The gang of blokes?”
“No!” Emily cried, disgusted. “We don’t mix with them.”
“Why not?”
“Why not? What not!” Emily cried. “I shouldn’t have to explain it.”
One of the twins nudged her and whispered, “They write erotica.
“Oh.” Nimet said.
“Exactly.” Emily shuddered. “They deserve to be locked up. Now, you see the lonely man?”
“He’s an award winning writer of short fiction. He beat even Ernest Hemingway with his four word short story, ‘A Story of Love and Heartbreak’. Do you know it?”
“‘Once, I saved her.’” Nimet quoted, nodding. She knew the story well; the title was actually longer than the contents. “So, that’s Shaun Hemming?”
Emily nodded. “And you see those ladies over there? The ones with the steaming food.”
Nimet turned to stare and then nodded. There were a selection of ladies all sat together around a bowl of steaming soup. They were cackling like mad scientists. “Yes?”
“They’re ex-scientists turned science fiction writers. Again, not our usual crowd but we’re willing to work with these guys. We’ve all been brainstorming and we’ve devised a brilliant plan to get out of here.”
“Which is?”
Emily grinned. “All in good time, Nim. Now eat your soup.”
The curdled, orange slop didn’t look that appetising so Nimet decided to leave it for a bit. Instead, she looked up at Emily and said, “Why are you telling me all this?”
Emily shrugged. “You look like you’re a promising writer; such things aren’t easy to come across these days.”
Externally, Nimet beamed, but deep down she couldn’t help but wonder about Emily’s ulterior motives.

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