Well, this past week took me for an unexpected trip. I’ve been forcing myself to sit and work on the edits for Valence Drive (Book 3 of the Isis Generation series), and thinking that if I get that done, I can reward myself by working on Berserker (The sequel to the manuscript I wrote for NaNoWriMo last year). Not a lot of either has been getting done, which makes me sad. I felt kind of like the depressed kid without his Lexapro, which isn’t good for my health or the health of my homework.
So, I decided that I needed to sit down and write what was on my mind. What came out doesn’t have a title yet, but I’ve been calling it Dieselpunk Gender-bender Antique nuclear Les Miserables (DLM for short).
I know what you’re thinking: The new Les Mis just came out. Who doesn’t remember Anne Hathaway belting out I Dreamed A Dream? Too soon?
Well, I did catch the Les Mis bug. I won’t lie on that one. But, I did my research, as any nerd is want to do. And I prefer the music from the original cast (Russel Crowe, pay attention to how this guy portrays Javert)
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With this, I get to add in my current interests: antiques. Megan and I have had a lot of fun finding out about uranium glass, carnival glass, and things like that. Little details that just make something beautiful.
And so, enough of me, let me give you what I’ve got on the table. Let me know what you think.
There are two facts immediately known when people hear the ti-clack, ti-clack of high-heeled shoes in the halls of the entrance to the Melbin Penal Colony. One, that Officer Meng Jakarta is on the premises and two, whatever she says is law.
“Good morning, Miss Jakarta.” A cheery officer at the front desk rose from his chair as she entered. “I take it you had a safe drive out here?”
“Are you bored, Officer Garrison?” Officer Jakarta snapped her clipboard on the desk in front of her.
“I beg your pardon?” Compared to Officer Jakarta, Officer Garrison looked untidy and un-mended. His uniform was washed iron regularly and by all means fit the standards of a clean officer’s uniform, but Officer Jakarta’s blouse was white enough to blind people and stiff enough to grate cheese. Her black pencil skirt lay sentinel against her legs, and her shoes shone as if Jakarta had issued a restraining order against scuffs. The only object on her that showed any personal preference were the two metal chopsticks that held her hair in place.
“Are you bored?” She enunciated slowly. “Is this job boring to you?”
“No, not at all.” Officer Garrison’s head shook, or rather vibrated slightly out of fear. “Usually this job keeps me on my toes.”
“I see. Then you should have remembered two things. One, that I am an officer and will be addressed as such. Second, I am never here on a leisure trip and so don’t have time for small talk. I don’t care about the weather, my vehicle is in perfect running order, and if nothing happened that means that I arrive at my destination on time. Do I make myself clear?”
Whatever Officer Garrison’s response was evaporated behind Jakarta reaching around his desk and hitting the electric buzzer that opened the doors beyond the desk. She marched past the entryway and into an open courtyard. Visitors remained separated from inmates by a cinder block wall with interspersed windows covered with a chain link fence.
The inmates that crowded the windows fell away like the wake behind a boat as soon as they glimpsed her through the wall. Jakarta examined them for the brief moment they allowed her and passed without slowing her pace.
“Bring me prisoner 11235.” Officer Jakarta’s voice never betrayed a hint of her Asian heritage. “I’ll be in interview room three.”
The secretary obeyed and spoke to a broadcast box on her desk. Officer Jakarta had already vanished into her promised destination.
Prisoner 11235 worked on watches. Of her eleven thousand dollar debt to society, ten thousand, nine hundred and ninety nine were carefully tucked away in a locked wooden cigar box in her cell. Her job, which paid thirty three cents a week, was to paint the dials of watches with a glow in the dark paint that was gaining popularity outside of the penal colony. She hadn’t even been told the brand of paint that she worked with, just sat down each day at a cramped desk in a cramped corner and painted dials.
Today there was a smile on her face, something rare to see in Melbin Penal Colony. She painted the numbers on a watch face with the precision of a surgeon, set it aside, and sucked on the brush tip until it had bore a razor thin point before picking up another watch face. She had sold the last possession she owned in the colony for two and a half dollars and today’s paycheck would be enough to set her free.
“Prisoner 11235, Officer Jakarta has summoned you.” A guard appeared behind her.
She stopped and turned, brush between her lips. “Seriously?”
The guard nodded, and pulled her off her seat by the elbow. She didn’t even have time to spit out the paintbrush before she was whisked into an empty room where Officer Jakarta offered an empty greeting.
“You’ve been keeping yourself busy, 11235.” Jakarta opened a folder and skimmed its contents. “No attempts to run since last time.”
“Yes, I believe twelve years was enough to teach a girl a lesson.” The prisoner tucked her paintbrush behind her ears.
“One would hope that the years of honest work would have taught you more.” Officer Jakarta flipped to the next page in the file without looking up. “Don’t laugh. It’s how the entire colony has functioned and it functions better than any other prisoner installation on this half of the planet.”
“What do they do on the other half?”
“Kill prisoners regardless of their crime.” Officer Jakarta spoke with little enough emotion she might as well have been talking about a baseball game. “But, the newly organized North Atlantic Treaty Organization has been extended to the United States and how she treats her own prisoners, so we established the colonies.”