Monday, July 27, 2009

Heist, Part Eight

And we're back into "Heist", my abortive Doctor Who novel! I'd be interested in comments on whether you'd prefer Chapter Two all in one big chunk like Chapter One was, or alternated with non-Heisty posts to keep you from being glutted with narrative. (Those of you who would prefer I not post it at all, thank you but it's going to happen anyway.)

So with that, let's pick up Chapter Two!

Chapter Two
The Perfect Crime

As she woke up, her limbs still heavy and uncoordinated from the repeated stun bursts they’d subjected her to for prisoner transfer, Amanda looked at the cell around her with blurred vision. It was different from her old cell back on Tinaria; the security measures were a little grimmer, a little more primitive, and probably a little less effective. They had to be. This ship probably wasn’t used to transferring prisoners as—modesty aside—brilliant and resourceful as her. Still, she could see five stun projectors through the transparisteel door, each on a swiveling mount that would allow it to track anywhere in the room. The guards, secure in their booths, didn’t seem even interested in her. They had a perfect view of each of the six cells that formed half of the circular holding cell, and cybernetic control of those stun projectors. They only needed to watch her if she tried to escape.

She looked through the transparisteel walls (prisons loved transparisteel—all the benefits of glass, and none of the downsides) at her fellow prisoners, and in a flash, it all came back to her.

* * * * *

The days after her arrest had passed in a blur for Amanda Delacourt. The Monitors wasted no time in obtaining a warrant to search her modest house on Shantar, which in turn uncovered evidence of a dozen other major thefts that Amanda had participated in. What they called “evidence”, Amanda called “souvenirs”, but she understood that the Imperial Service to Monitor Criminal Intent wouldn’t take the distinction into account at her trial.

Even before her trial, though, the Monitors petitioned the Imperial Courts to classify her as a Class A criminal, one “whose escape would be of the greatest danger to the security and safety of the Empire and whose recapture would be unlikely if not impossible.” Amanda knew what that meant—Class A criminals had no civil rights under the Imperial Code, and any measure could be taken to prevent their escape. In a way, the distinction flattered her; only one other person had ever been assigned Class A status, and that was five hundred years ago. For Amanda to be the next, well…she knew from the moment they caught her that she would never be free again, but being caught after a life-time of criminal activity didn’t tarnish the reputation of a great thief. In fact, it enhanced it. The best thieves might be the ones who never got caught, but the most famous thieves were the ones who only got caught after a long, long career.

She almost looked forward to her trial.

They didn’t allow her to attend personally; as a Class A criminal, her right to stand before the court had been waived on the grounds that the logistics of prisoner transfer and the decreased (still substantial, but decreased) security requirements of the courtroom could give Amanda the opportunity to escape. Instead, they broadcast the trial to her cell. Three guards watched her watching her trial, part of a continual rotation that made sure she was observed personally as well as over cameras. She couldn’t see them, though; as a precaution against her learning details of her surroundings and using them to escape, the transparisteel was only clear from the outside. Paper clothing gave at least a token concession to modesty, although she’d briefly considered going naked rather than wear something so ugly. She sat on a force-field projection that served as furniture—they had already decided that giving her actual chairs was too dangerous—and smiled as the prosecutor began his opening statement, wishing she had popcorn to eat.

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