Author : Sam Clough, Staff Writer

I work on Opingtu. Two-and-a-bit AUs from civilisation, on a good day.

Lee thrust the crowbar into my hands, and set off down the corridor at a run. I swore, and ran after him. Me and Lee were as thick as thieves — always had been. Started when we were twelve, I think. Talking of thieves — that’s what Lee did with his spare time. Stole stuff. How he found merchandise to steal inside this godforsaken hollow rock and how he got it out are mysteries I never had the urge to plumb. I supposed he had a day job, too, and that’s how come he’d managed to follow me out here. It just never seemed to come up in conversation.

I was in slightly better shape than him, so caught up with him before he got too far from where I had been sitting. He had a second crowbar in a thin bag strapped across his back.

“What the hell?” I demanded, glaring at him. He just glanced back, and put on a new burst of speed. We raced by surprised faces and angry officers. Lee ignored them, and thus, so did I.

He led me into the prisoners sector.

We stopped by a door marked ‘512’. Lee punched a long sequence into the pad by the doorframe. The door itself didn’t have a handle — for security reasons, apparently — but after Lee had entered the code, it obligingly slid into the wall. He pushed me inside. Faintly, in the distance, I could hear running feet.

Once inside, the door slid shut, and the lights came on. The room held six stasis caskets. The ambient temperature had to be about ten degrees higher than the corridor — stasis support gear isn’t exactly environmentally friendly.

Behind me, Lee slapped the red panel next to the door. The steel-on-steel sound of the bolts grinding into position was perceptible. Once the door had stopped vibrating, he smashed the control panel with the end of his crowbar, gave it a twist, then jerked a tangle of wires out of the wall.

Such an action caused the door’s emergency subsystem to cut in. Which was designed to engage an additional lock, then shut down. Security reasons. It was a prison door, after all.

He pointed to the casket labelled with a roughly painted ‘Three’.

“Break it open.”

I stared at him. He stared back.

“In for a penny.” He shrugged.

“Remind me to kill you later.”

Our crowbars punctured the cheap aluminium of the outer casing, and we hauled it apart. It split open like an oversized drinks can. The coolant sheath beneath it was tough plastic, but we made short work of it.

Soon, me and Lee were standing in a rapidly-expanding puddle of light blue liquid, staring down at one of the prisoners.

The guy in the canister was just coming around, the effect of the stasis field interrupted. His face contorted as the pains hit: only then did I recognise him.

“Everyone said he was dead…”

Johnny Rukopashka got slowly his feet, and took the crowbar from Lee. It looked like a toy in his hands. He bared his metal teeth, and clapped Lee on the back. His claws left a tear in Lee’s shirt.

Johnny was a pirate. A gangster. Or more precisely, Johnny was eight feet of graft muscle and metal. Johnny had been declared dead, but his very — vibrant — presence convinced me that he certainly wasn’t amongst the deceased.

“This a rock, boys?

“Yeah. Opingtu.”

“No dreck. Now boys, you’re going to help me take over.”

The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
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