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The Watch

By Susan
Page 1 of 1

It was the second time in four years that I'd stolen the same watch off the same man in a prison holding cell.

Not that the Federation prison service would have had any record that I, Vila Restal, and the sometime revolutionary Roj Blake had crossed paths before. I usually made myself useful to the guards who wanted my freelance 'lost, found and exchange for money' service; they thus did not choose to record all my movements. And as far as the guards were concerned, they were putting anyone they saw as harmless, who would not go in for freelance rioting, in the holding area. In fact, they were seriously considering joining us; quite sensible under the circumstances.

It was the fault of the next level up of course. They might see a revolutionary as 'dangerous', but ignored the practicalities: if you put a band of annoyed Space Rats and a bunch of 'Death or Glory' fans in the same prison what would you expect? Both perfectly happy to battle each other for want of their traditional opponents, and then have a truce and fight all comers - including and up to the Supreme Commander.

I had given Blake back his watch that first time. Anything to persuade the party political broadcast to stop. Although the watch seemed to be broken: it insisted only twenty minutes had passed, when he had been going on for several hours.

Now, sent to a prison colony yet again, I had decided that this time I would be the first to organise the ship's take-over committee and selected my colleagues accordingly. Not that I would officially lead of course: I have a healthy dislike of being hurt, and the army maxim about never volunteering for anything (including the army itself) has some merit.

Half of the prisoners in the holding cells claim to be imprisoned for the 'wrong' reasons; the justice system has a bizarre system of quotas of various crimes for their statistics. Most of those waiting to go on the London are 'general purpose nuisances' like myself - and the legal lot want something more spectacular than that to put on the charge sheet so they can send you to a prison planet. Blake was a political prisoner before: he might well have been as innocent of what he was currently charged with as I was. Why would I want maps of the Xenon sector and other places of military interest?

I selected Olag Gan first: cheerful, friendly and strong. More intelligent than he appears - like me.

Then there was Jenna Stannis: unusual to have a woman among such as us - and I should know. If I intended to take over the London and make for somewhere safe a pilot would be useful to have on my side. Not that I would want her there when I made the detour to Space City - probably.

Kerr Avon was a strange one. We weren't the sort of company he would normally keep, but he'd have to get used to us. Still, getting so close to extracting five million credits from the bank was worth praising, so I did. He appreciated that. Strangely he found my reminiscences of the prison system less interesting. Hopefully, I convinced him that combining our respective skills of hacking computers and picking locks would be a profitable business arrangement.

As Blake - the latecomer - had set up a political party in the past, I assigned him to do all the administrative work. He was more than willing to do this, without any prompting. When I reminded him of our previous encounter he claimed not to remember: I accepted his courtesy.

My team did remarkably well considering: they even managed to appropriate a better ship than the London with a large amount of resources that can be converted into ready money with no angry owners coming back to retrieve it. The best of the criminals from the London, and a wealth of opportunities for my talents.

Blake thinks he is in control as he does all the decision making, but I know better. I will have to end this diary entry, as it is time for my watch. Still want to know what is on Avon's bit of paper. 'How to boil eggs' and 'prize winning formula for writing romantic fiction' both sound implausible. And it appears Blake really can't remember our encounter: may well have to embroider it for my autobiography.

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