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Stories from the Verse
Garden of Versers
Chapter 106: Hastings 166
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Lauren remembered reaching a point at which she stopped preaching, simply because she was starting to lose her voice. The cells were damp and a bit chilled, and she could catch a cold down here--laughable, really, as if she might live long enough to catch a cold. But she stopped talking when her voice started to get a bit ragged. She did not remember falling asleep on the hard wooden surface, but it was obvious that she eventually did, as she was awakened by a guard banging on the bars of her cell. When she looked at him, and he waved handcuffs at her, which she took to mean that he wasn’t talking to her but needed to cuff her so he could move her out of the cell.
“Doesn’t the condemned get a final meal?”
He didn’t smile, but shook the cuffs.
She rose and walked to the bars. She realized that there were two other guards standing next to the cell. She extended her arms, and was cuffed to the bars by two sets of cuffs. The door was then opened, two guards entered, and the third closed and locked the door. Cuffs were transferred, one set at a time, from the bars to the wrists of her new escorts, and the door was opened.
They led her into a courtyard. She was in a sense outside, but the building still surrounded her. As she looked, she realized it was more of a stadium, with second floor seating around slightly more than half the space. There were several large heavy doors on the ground level, which was indeed ground, grass growing but recently trimmed.
They led her across the space to a post, and shifted the cuffs from their wrists to rings behind the post. Her arms could hang almost to her sides; she could lift her hands nearly to her shoulders. She realized that she was about to face a firing squad.
Looking around, she first noticed that the bleachers, for so she termed them, were filled. She also realized that she had slept late, that the sun was high, probably near its zenith. This was also when she saw the television cameras. Apparently her execution was to be a big show.
Well, perhaps she could make it worth the price of the ticket.
From somewhere a drum played, slowly but regularly. A door opened to one side, and six men marched out. Five were carrying rifles, while the sixth was shouting commands. At his word, they stopped, aligned themselves facing her, and set the butts of their rifles on the ground. The officer marched forward, opened a scroll-like document, and positioned himself so that he would be facing one of the television cameras but would appear to be speaking to her.
“Jane Doe number eight hundred forty-seven,” he said, “you are charged with crimes against the state, specifically failing to give a true identity for yourself, believing that there is life after death and that something is greater than the State, and encouraging others to believe the same. To prevent these wicked ideas from spreading, and as a warning to anyone tempted to embrace similar beliefs, you are to be executed.”
He rolled the scroll, put it in a pocket, walked to the side and drew his sword. He was now standing near the end of the line of riflemen, perhaps a pace in front of them, and he raised his sword. “Ready,” he called.
Lauren got ready. She raised her mental shield. It had stopped bullets before. That was in a world which favored psionics considerably more, but she had gotten very good at it.
“Aim,” he called, and she closed her eyes and tried to feel the presence and position of the shield; it seemed solid.
“Fire.” The word was nearly lost under the sound of five rifles discharging at once. The bullets never reached her. Lauren suddenly wondered whether her shield deflected them, such that they ricocheted away from her and might injure someone else, or whether it absorbed the momentum such that they simply stopped and fell to the ground. She hoped it was the latter, but had never noticed. She opened her eyes.
The crowd was silent. The officer was momentarily flustered, but recovered quickly. “Ready,” he shouted, perhaps a bit louder than before, then “aim,” and finally once again, “fire!” Again the bullets never reached her. This time she watched, but did not see where they went.
She smiled at the officer.
He started walking toward her. No reason, she thought, to maintain the shield now; he’s not going to order them to shoot while he’s standing next to me. She dropped it, and let him approach.
He walked up close beside her, and spoke through gritted teeth. “You think you are so clever,” he said. “You think your god is so powerful. You are going to die, and then we will know just where the power is.”
He pulled his pistol, and pressed the barrel against her neck. She saw no way to create a shield between herself and the gun in that position. She momentarily considered attempting to put the shield in the gun barrel, but realized that the expanding gases from the explosion would need a place to go, and if the gun exploded it would kill her as surely as the bullet. Would he pull the trigger? She thought so.
“It is time for you to die,” he said.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with twelve other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #310: Versers Mobilize. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: