Cacaern (Gaol)

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“Name?” asked the Ward officer.

“Kitty.”

“Kitty, is that short for Katrina?”

“Nej, just Kitty as in kitty!” she replied with a stage wink.

“I see,” said the Ward with a loud sigh. “And do you have a surname?”

“Catt.”

The woman wiped the entry from the A-pad and looked at the girl sat before her, she couldn’t be more than sixteen and her eyes were slightly unsettling. “Look Kitty Catt, I’ve got seven more of your friends to process before I can finish my shift so don’t try my patience. We’ll start again, what is your name?”

“Kitty Catt.” she replied defiantly.

“Listen very carefully mizz, there is this cage downstairs we call the Sump, it’s where we put all the hores, drunks, ne’er-do-wells and anyone else we don’t like the look of for an overnight stay,” she let this sink in. “Would you like to spend the night in there?”

The girl shifted uneasily “Nej.”

“So… name?”

“Sirkku Vigsdottir.”

“That’s better” she checked her A-pad. “We have a missing person’s report for an Andra Sirkku Vigsdottir that fits your description… not that many people with lilac eyes?” she looked up from the screen. “The report was closed three months ago, your family called to say you had made contact, this is you I take it?”

Sirki nodded.

“Place of residence?”

“Nej fixed abode.”

She checked her pad again. “You are registered as living at the Takala Estate, Hietama Road, Jyvaskyla Province in Soomi.”

“I left home six months ago.”

“Check, I’m not arguing… No fixed abode.” She typed in the details, time to read the riot act “Andra Vigsdot…”

“Sirki, no-one calls me Andra.” The girl interrupted.

The Ward Cempa sighed again. “Very well, Sirki Vigsdottir you have been arrested for being part of a riotous assembly in front of the Cynings Haell at approximately 21.09 tonight. You are accused along with seven others of having thrown missiles through windows of the royal residence and of resisting arrest.”

“I didn’t throw anything at the palace” she replied.“I just happened to be there when your bully boys starting beating peaceful protestors up, they just threw me in the waegn because I was there.”

“Very funny, but the monitor footage will show you and your peaceful friends attacking Ward officers as they tried to restrain you, as it will also no doubt show you throwing stones.”

“I didn’t throw anything!”

“We’ll see, now do you wish to make a call to anyone… parents perhaps?”

“Nej” said Sirki quietly.

“Sirki you seem a decent girl, you could help us and yourself. One of my men spotted someone in the crowd he recognised and this person was not among the group we pulled in so he obviously did a runner when things got rough?” she pulled up a picture on the desk screen. “Do you recognise him? His name is Colm Murphy and we’d like to know where he is.”

Of course Sirki knew him, they had been lovers for a month. “Nej, never seen him before.”

“Really, I am surprised? The officer recalls he was stood with a girl with strange eyes, you!”

“Coincidence obviously.” replied Sirki.

“Are you sure? You could be looking at a custodial sentence.”

“Just for protesting against colonialization?” she cried.

“For that no, but you attacked a royal residence and struck an officer in the course of his duty.”

“You’re just a tool of the Reignweald, don’t you realise they’re stealing the Wights land from under their noses!”

“Sorry Mz Vigsdottir, I just try to keep the peace. If you have a complaint why don’t you take it to London House instead of attacking the palace?”

“London House!” yelled Sirki. “They won’t do anything you polho sow, you’re just a servant of the colonialist oppressors, all of you, vitun sika, you’re all the bloody same.”

“Perhaps we’ll put you in the Sump after all…”

***

Sirki sat in the cell, despite the bicce’s threat she had not put been put in the cage but  had instead been marched past it, with her fellow protesters, to the derision of the inmates.

Fucking hippies…

If you like the Dominion so much why don’t you fucking live there?

Parasites…

You’re just stupid rich kids who think they can change the world!

The last insult was still ringing in her ears, word got around quickly in the cacaern. Sirki did come from a rich family but she hadn’t considered herself stupid until now. Colm had brought her to the protest only to disappear into the throng leaving her alone and scared when the Ward had moved in. She hadn’t thrown anything at the Haell eitherEffie might have been there and anyway Sirki knew from sleepovers that the windows at the front belonged to the administrative offices, the royal family’s quarters being at the back overlooking the grounds.

Sirki had been very taken with Colm Murphy and hung eagerly on to his every word, he styled himself as a rebel speaking incessantly about how the man was taking them for a ride and how colonialization was suppressing the people of Europa. Sirki did wonder that if it were true then why were Frishans flocking to join the man in his enclaves? Colm was good-looking, played a mean guitar and they often busked together with Sirki singing and playing her folk guitar. He never stayed long at the old manufactory where she squatted with the other would-be members of Mjolnir, the rock group she dreamed of forming (but never seemed to be any closer to starting) with her two friends. Now she was in serious trouble, neither Tank nor Gaz could afford to bail her out and if she approached her mother any help given would come with strings attached. The continuing encroachment of the Reignweald into Dominion territory was wrong in her eyes as it was with many of the young but attacking her old school-friend’s home didn’t seem right.

Perhaps she was stupid after all? she certainly was for trusting Colm!

“Vigsdottir wake up!”

Sirki jolted from her sleep on the uncomfortable bed to see a Ward officer in the cell doorway. “What time is it?”

“Half-past two, now get up and follow me!” he ordered.

She was led to the front desk to see a Palace Guard in his toy soldier uniform waiting there. “Is this her?” asked the Duty Tithengealdor.

“Ya that’s her” said the Guard, Sirki recognised him, he had been staring at her from behind the palace gates earlier. He was the officer who used to drive her to and from the airdock when she stayed over with Effie, he always carried a supply of sick-bags and mouth freshening mints since her reaction to flying was invariably bilious. “You are to release the prisoner into my custody with immediate effect!” barked the soldier.

“Oh no, she is going to be charged in the morning, she stays here!” answered the Ward stubbornly.

“Sirkku Vigsdottir is to be released into my custody” insisted the Guard.

“On whose authority?” the Tithengealdor asked.

Cempa Bennetto loomed over the man and pointed to the golden crown on his white beret. “This is all the authority I need!”

“This is most irregular, you’ll have to sign for her” the Ward knew when he was beaten.

“Pass me a stylus, Tithengealdor!” growled Bennetto.

 

***

 

Sirki was bundled into the back of a maroon Palace scrid and the Cempa who hadn’t spoken a word since releasing her from the Wardhus, got in the driver’s seat and they set off at a fast pace. The front seats were separated from the rear cabin by a tinted glass partition that showed the back of his head and that of a female Guard sitting in the passenger seat to his left, her blonde hair sticking out in a tight ponytail below her beret. Sirki half-expected to be taken to the palace but the scrid was heading in the direction of the airdock, were they taking her there? Oh nej please don’t send me back to Soomi! The vehicle turned off into a less salubrious area of New Winchester that she knew very well, finally pulling up only two blocks from her squat. The Guard got out and opened the door.

“This is where you get out Mz Vigsdottir.” He informed.

“Thank you so much Cempa er?”

“Bennetto Mizz, don’t thank me I’d have let you stew in your own juice. You went to school with the Atheling and you used to stay at the palace and she was your best friend. What got into you?”

Sirki was crestfallen. “I believed I was doing the right thing.”

“Pah! As I said this has nothing to do with me, just be thankful she’s the forgiving type.”

“Effie sent you?” asked Sirki in surprise.

“Ya, the Atheling sent me to get you out of cacaern and instructed me to give you this!” he thrust a package into her hand. ‘Remember girl, we know where you live,” and getting back into the vehicle he drove quickly away. It occurred to Sirki that the female Guard had never spoken or looked at her once.

She opened the package to see it contained money, about two hundred marks in various denominations and a small piece of folded paper. Pocketing the money she opened the note, Effie’s favourite perfume hit her immediately and sniffing it Sirki remembered the happy times they had shared. She read the message, written in Effie’s unmistakeable scrawl. “Sirki hide this in your knickers if you’re wearing any and don’t be such a stupid bicce again E. xxx.”

The second Guard watched Sirki reading the note as they drove off. “I wish I had spoken to her, Bennetto” said the Atheling Ethelflaeda sadly. “I miss her dreadfully.”

She removed her beret and unfastened the ponytail to shake her long hair out.

“It’s for the best ma’am but don’t worry, me and the lads will keep an eye out for her. We should get back to the Palace before you’re missed your father wouldn’t be best pleased if he found out.”

Effie watched sadly as the scrid took her away from her old friend.