One more year! One more year of smiling, even when she wanted to scream. One more horrible year of silently bowing to the dictates of another. If she could keep it together for one more year, she would be free! One more year! One more year! Maybe if she repeated it over and over, she would get through the next twelve months in relative peace. Peace! That was all she wanted—not revenge, not payback, just peace. A chance to start over, to build a life somewhere, to make her own choices—wiser choices than she had made seven years ago!
After tossing another load of linens into the industrial wash, Talia arched backwards, attempting to relieve her aching muscles. Not more than an hour ago, Warden Leyman had called her into his office to remind her of the importance of the next year. He had the power—too much power, if you asked her—to add years to her time. Keep your mouth shut, do as you’re told, never complain or argue. That was what he expected. Otherwise, he might decide that she needed a few more years of ‘rehabilitation’. That was what society called it these days—rehabilitation. More like forced servitude, sanctioned by the government. With the extreme overcrowding down on the planet, prisoners’ rights had been voted away decades ago, and men like Warden Leyman took full advantage. She really should be thankful. Being an accessory to a crime, she had only been sentenced to eight years of rehabilitation. It could have been worse—she could have been sent to work in one of the off-world mines the warden oversaw. The idea of living inside what was really more of a rock than a planet, deep below the surface for any number of years, gave her chills.
Shaking off the unwanted thoughts, she continued with her work. Laundry, while physically exhausting, allowed her the freedom to move about Etoile City unhindered. If she was lucky, the observation deck would be empty and she would have a few moments to gaze at the stars. It had been her fascination with the stars and space travel that had ultimately landed her in prison. You would think, being imprisoned on an off-world space station, she would have had ample opportunities to see the stars, but that wasn’t the case. Prisoners were kept in the bowels of the roving city, well away from any sort of windows that would allow them to see outside. And all prisoners’ movements were controlled by the devices attached to their ankles and wrists. The warden programmed the codes that allowed access to different areas of the city. If a prisoner attempted to go somewhere that wasn’t allowed, alarms would sound and the device would inject a drug that paralysed the wearer until an antidote was administered.
Talia had never tested her boundaries, but others had, with dreadful results. The paralysis affected the body, but not the mind. The prisoner was left unable to move, but completely aware of what was going on around them. If the warden was in a particularly vicious mood, he would leave them that way for hours, sometimes days. Definitely not something Talia wanted to experience.
She filled a cart with clean linens and headed back towards the warden’s private rooms. She travelled quickly through the passageways, hidden from the view of any guest or person who lived in the city. It was the passageway that enabled Talia to stop at the observation deck. The warden had no real idea how long it should take to complete her task, and the passageways allowed her to travel faster than she could in the public walkways. Leaving her cart hidden, she could slip out on to the deck unobserved.
As she expected, the observation deck was deserted this late in the afternoon. Quietly closing the door behind her, she hurried over to the large viewing window. Stars, so close and bright, filled her vision for miles in every direction. She imagined reaching out and touching them like an infant straining to touch the bright mobile hanging above its crib. Back home, on Earth, she had never anticipated the amazing array of colours that flowed through space. As she watched, a rather large ship passed in front and quickly disappeared into the distance. Probably one of the many trading vessels that came and went daily, buying the different minerals from the mining planets. Sighing, she rested her forehead against the glass, wishing she was on that ship, travelling far away from here.
“It is beautiful, isn’t it?” The unmistakably male and slightly accented voice shocked her. She hadn’t noticed anyone when she entered, so he had either been hidden deep in the shadows or had come in after her. Either way, she was slipping—she should have been aware of him
© Nikki Lynn
Author: © Nikki Lynn
Publisher: Total E-bound
Genre: Sci-Fi/ Futuristic