“De Witt, Duggen, Hornesby! Out!” Barney Cope banged on the cell bars with his baseball bat. “Take it as a caution and piss off, the lot of you.” Three tired individuals trudged out of the cell, followed by a fourth occupant. “Not you, Rayne.”
“Huh? Why? Oh come on Cope! All I did was sleep in the pissing tram! I didn't even nick it!” Alexandria protested.
“Out of my hands, Rayne. Orders.” Barney closed the cell door and locked it.
“Oi! Orders? What are you blethering on about? No one gives orders in this crap hole!” Barney ignored her and sauntered back up the corridor. “Creep!”
“Bitch!” Barney yelled over his shoulder. “Shit!” He made a complete mockery of standing to attention when two smart uniformed officers walked into his smelly office. Smart, gold braided uniforms, complete with peaked caps and gleaming black boots.
“Good god.” Bowles wrinkled up his nose in disgust. “I'm Sergeant Bowles, this is Sergeant Hector. Are you Cope?”
“Sergeant Cope.” Barney grinned and nodded. “So she in for the chop?” He jerked his thumb towards Alexandria's cell. “I can't believe I collared a real criminal! You sure you got the right one? She's nothing but a pain in the arse, always has been. What's she done?”
“I can't discuss it with you, I don't have the authority.” Bowles said shortly. “If you'll just allow us to sign the necessary paperwork, we have a shuttle waiting outside.”
“Just ... just bring the girl, Cope.” Bowles said testily and Barney scampered off down the corridor. “I never want to come here again, Hector.”
“It is nauseating isn't it?” Hector agreed.
“Lethal injection for you, you little hag!” Barney crowed and prodded Alexandria along with his bat.
“Don't talk bollocks. They've stuffed up somewhere, that's a ... a ... hell.” Alexandria stared at the two Major Sector Sergeants in astonishment. She actually felt a bit scared. If they had stuffed up, no one would listen to the side of a worthless nobody from the Minor Sector. “I think you got the wrong person.” She said to the two soldiers.
“Alexandria Rayne, aged nineteen. Right?” Bowles nodded.
“Yes but I've not done nothing that bad! Cope's got it all in that desk, have a look. I never even nicked that tram, just slept in it. I never even damaged the locks! If ...”
“Shh!” Bowles scowled horribly at Alexandria. “You aren't under arrest. Do you understand?”
“I'm not? So why do you want me for?” She asked warily.
“I've been asked to escort you to the Major Sector to meet with a very important person there. You are not under arrest and you have my word as a Military Officer of Soluna that you are safe. I do have that in writing but I thought you'd prefer a verbal explanation.” Bowles found himself smiling at the look of total suspicion on the girl's face. Darius Hawk had been right, she was only a scrap of a thing and no taller than five feet. She was also as wild and tangled looking in real life, as she was on her mugshot. Alexandria glanced at Hector, then back to Bowles.
“What if I don't want to go?” She asked warily.
“Then you'll be missing out an opportunity to meet with some of the most educated professors in the System.” Bowles shrugged. “I don't have specific details for you, Miss Rayne. I'm just the armed guard. If you don't want to come, then you're free to go and look for another street tram to sleep in tonight.”
“So it's all writ down that I'm not being done and I can leave if it gets a bit dodgy looking?” Alexandria asked suspiciously.
“In triplicate.” Bowles nodded. “A copy for me, one for Cope and one for yourself that I'll help you to verify independently.” Alexandria frowned at the soldier. It was fairly obvious that he knew she couldn't read, he'd alluded to it twice already but not openly criticised her, or even spoken condescendingly. Alexandria appreciated that. “No one can force you, it's your choice.” Bowles nodded encouragingly. “Take your time. We don't mind a late lunch.” He muttered sarcastically.
“What do you have?” Alexandria looked up quickly.
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