A bowl of mostly cooked pasta was slapped onto the table. It spun for a moment before coming to a final rest.
“That’s more than ya’ deserve, scum,” the guard sneered before walking away. So far, Prisoner 19293 was not making any friends at the new compound.
He preferred to be called Turpin, master of trickery and burglary alike, but it took time and effort to really make a branding effort take hold. Turpin feared he was the result of a trick he had played on himself. At times he sat in his cell and wondered if his greatest crime was stealing his own future. Other times he lifted scanner cards from guards pockets as they walked by. He was conflicted on the whole purpose of his imprisonment.
“Any chance I can get some sauce this time? Some olive oil and a pinch of basil would go a long way. No? You’re just gonna keep walking that way? Ok. Cool. Yeah, good, good chat bud,” his pleas never received answers.
He ate his crunchy pasta dish alone. The entire hall, stretching the length of whatever station he currently called home, was emptied of other inmates before his arrival. It was the warden’s fun little way of telling him he was not trusted around others, not even to listen to them chew. All he had was the boot steps of the guard heading back to his post and the crunch of undercooked noodles.
He figured the silence was there to help him reflect. Reflect on his crimes and how he hurt people. He opted to use the time to reflect on he could have been faster, better at his craft. He stole from cloning labs and salvagers, both ethically compromised industries and he had no remorse for his acts.
What he dwelled on was Eris. The shadow, the cricket’s chirp, the nearly perfect thief he trained so long ago. She was his crowning achievement and he loved her for making him so proud. She was so good at her craft most organizations arranged for inventory checks before even considering a robbery. She moved silent, invisible, and fast. If there was any in his profession worth admiring, it was Eris.
She was the reason he sat alone in low orbit being watched by baton wielding guards and followed by a drone no bigger than a bee, outfitted with enough explosives to require a skilled janitor and a string squeegee to clean him up. They had the same goal; Srio Labs, purveyors of the finest new ears money could buy. Anyone without a private moon need not apply. Srio existed for vanity, so the thieves had no qualms in emptying its coffers.
He knew he trained his protege well in identifying a mark, but he did not realize how well. When he arrived at Srio labs she was already running away from the scene. She could have just kept running, she could have let the whole thing wind up as a simple investor relations problem for the company. She would have had no fun with that. As she ran away she threw a rock against a big lobby window etched with a smiling customer’s facial profile. The window shattered, alarms sounded and Turpin arrested for a crime he did not commit, but wish he had. He was convicted within the week and for the last eight months had been bouncing from compound ship to compound ship as wardens tried to figure out what to do with him.
“Prisoner 19293 your allotted meal time is nearing its end,” a booming voice came over the room’s intercom.
“That’s a nice change of pace, every one. I like that addition. I feel so cared for by our robot overlords,” he said looking to the ceiling.
A few grunts and a loud a bang came from the guard station.
“I was just kidding about the robot overlords thing. I like my overlords human. And easy to manipulate. Robots seem like a challenge,” he said. He rose from his seat, tossing the remaining noodles to the floor and brandishing the bowl as a weapon. He walked to the guard station, searching for any sign of what caused the noise.
The guard station was silent. As he peered into the bay he saw four fairly large guards on the floor.
“Whoever is back there, know that I am quite skilled in the ancient art of Bowlitallover, a martial form the likes of which have never been matched,” he was out of practice in creating lies.
“You nit-wit,” the booming voice sounded once more.
“That;s unorthodox,” Turpin was confused.
A familiar voice called from a closet that held the controls to the station. “Put the bowl down and help me here, I am in the second bypass sequence but these old ArmadaCorp codes still give me trouble.”
Eris. The bane of his existence, the student turned competitor, the reason for his imprisonment, had arrived to break him free.
“You planed this?” Turpin asked.
“I planned it to take a few weeks. I’ve never stolen anything from a prison before. Figured this would be fun,” she said, “it won’t be if you don’t stop this alarm sequence though.”
Turpin jumped the station’s halfwall and punched in the codes.
“There’s a shuttle waiting for us. You’re coming with me and we’re going to steal stuff. Ready?” Eris had a persistent glint in her eye that always signaled danger and adventure at once.
“Shall take the place of a customary thank you?” Turpin asked.
The two made way for the shuttle and off to adventure.