Monday, December 24, 2012

Test of Freedom - Episode 19

Episode 19 - "If You Can't Turn One...."
by Camille LaGuire

What had begun as a vague worry now left Rocken disturbed.  He couldn't help but notice Jack Alwyn's use of pronouns.  Us and them.  Not you.  Where did he think Rocken fell between us and them?  On his own, that's where Rocken fell.  That's where he'd always been.

As for souls, Rocken had given his up a long time ago as a worthless and dangerous thing, but he knew its value to some, and what it could mean.  If you had two ships headed straight for one another, you had to turn one of them.  If one wouldn't turn, then you had to turn the other, didn't you?

So Rocken followed Clement into the house, and found him at his desk, frowning at some papers.  He looked up when Rocken entered.

"Next time, be sure it's someone he doesn't like," said Clement.  Yes, that was Clement's usual answer, find someone a man would be glad to beat, and break through that way.  Rocken pondered it for a moment, and Clement noticed the pause.  "We'll lose a week of his labor on this.  I don't want it to happen again."

"I agree, boss," said Rocken.  "That's why I think we should leave it alone."

Clement looked at him in surprise.  Rocken knew he trusted his judgement in handling the men, but this didn't fit with Clement's usual ideas.

"We can't let disobedience stand."

"He's been punished, and well enough to impress the rest."  Rocken paused.  "But it's my impression that he won't give in, and we'll have to kill him if we press it.  That won't make a good impression on the rest, to see him defy us to the end, and you'll be out your investment in him."

Clement considered.  "Has he been trouble otherwise?"

"Not so far.  And he's a strong worker."

"All right then.  We'll let this be.  But if you find any other sign of defiance, I don't care if we do have to kill him.  I want the other prisoners to see him broken or dead."

"Yes, boss."

Rocken stood watching Clement for a moment, until the man looked up at him.

"Is there something more?"

"Speaking of obedience...."  Rocken tried to smile at him.  Clement saw what was coming and looked tired, but Rocken continued.  He had to.  "I've served you well for twelve years."

"I haven't time now, and I can't spare you anyway."

"I've told you I have no other position to go to."

"Then what do you want to be free for?"  Clement looked at him peevishly, and Rocken didn't answer.  "I can't talk about this now."

"You promised to review the contract at ten years."

"I will, but I don't have time now."


"Don't push it, Rocken.  I could throw you back into that pit, and there isn't a man there who wouldn't be glad to whip your hide right off you, even that fellow today."

Rocken held his tongue, but couldn't help his glare.  Clement glared back at him for a moment, but then shook his head and looked down at his papers again.

"This is the wrong time, Rocken.  We've got a new governor.  I have to know him before I ask him to commute."

"And how long will that be?"

"As long as it takes.  Now get on about your business."

Rocken turned to go, but at the door, Clement called after him.

"I'll buy you another wench, if you like."

A child-wench, like Clement's own Sisi.  Rocken glanced back at the service door, where the silent little thing was undoubtedly listening.  The last one Clement had bought for the guards had died, and Rocken was sure it was suicide.  No, it was better at the whorehouse, where at least he didn't have to look at the same face again and again.

"I'd rather have more time in town," he said.

"I need you here."

"A little more time."

"All right then," said Clement.  "I'll consider it."

Rocken sighed and left, making a strong effort to keep from slamming the door behind him.

The first book in this series, The Wife of Freedom is at most ebook retailers.
Amazon Kindle Store, Barnes and Noble, Sony, Deisel, Kobo, and Smashwords

Also, Amazon International: UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Japan.

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