“Can I sit?”
Yanet looked up from her lunch. The woman, a newbie by the yellow stripes on her arms, stood with her tray of food. She had her newly issued cropped haircut, her curly hair springing out around her face like a halo.
“Yes, of course,” Yanet said. What else was she supposed to say? It wasn’t every day since a newbie had joined her table. Most were scared off by the earrings she wore, marking her as one who had used the Usnae before coming to this hellhole. The rest were terrified to sit near her – they had heard the stories. They knew why she was kept in solitary even now, ten years after first arriving here.
“Thanks,” she said, smiling at Yanet and sitting down opposite to her.
“Name’s Hanaa,” the other woman said, reaching her hand out across the table.
Yanet tried not to look at Hanaa like she had two heads. She was even willing to shake hands with her? Whilst she had her earrings in?
What is the world coming to? Yanet thought, reaching out and shaking Hanaa’s hand warmly.
“Yanet,” she replied, nodding at the patches on Hanaa’s sleeve, “see you’re new.”
“Yeh,” Hanaa replied, “got these yesterday. Pretty good, huh?”
“So what you here for?” Yanet said, “got to be something bad to be talking to me.”
Yanet gestured to her ears.
“Ah, you know,” Hanaa said, “the normal – bit of thievery, some smuggling, and organising an uprising.”
The last part was so casual that Yanet almost missed it.
“What?” Yanet spluttered, looking around at the rest of the canteen. No one had noticed, a few were looking at Hanaa strangely, questioning why she would sit with a Pierced like Yanet.
Hanaa smiled. Too broadly.
“You know much about those?” Hanaa asked.
Yanet stared at her. The reason she wore these earrings was because she had been the Leader of the last uprising. It was the reason no one wanted to sit with her, because they might be hauled in front of the Questioner Board as an associate of the great Yanet of Turen.
“What do you think?” she asked, “and why do you ask?”
Hanna scooped a helping of food onto her fork.
“I think you’re what we need,” Hanaa asked, “and I ask because I wanted to know what your views would be on a breakout.”
“Not like I’ve tried,” Yanet said, showing Hanaa her neck. The burns were still fresh as the day she had got them three years ago.
“Ah, but there is a difference this time,” Hanaa said. She put her hand up to her pocket and palmed something into her hand. She slid it across the table, almost too obviously.
It’s a signal, Yanet thought, putting her hand over Hanaa’s. Hanaa slid her hand away and Yanet instantly felt the familiar tingle of Usnae on the palm of her hand.
A connector earring, her connector earring. The missing part of her set. Taken from her when she had first been hauled here ten years ago.
“How did you get that?” she asked.
“I have some friends in high places,” Hanaa said, glancing up at the guard tower and nodding once, “and they wanted you to be fully equipped to help your escape.”
“My escape?” Yanet asked, “when’s that planned for?”
“Right about…” Hanaa paused. An alarm began sounding down the corridor, flashing the orange warning lights around the canteen. A breach of the security systems.
“Now,” she said, “care to do what you do best?”
Yanet turned her hand over and looked at the earring. With this, she could blast a hole the size of a house through the wall of the prison. They’d escape. They’d all escape.
“Most certainly,” Yanet said, reaching up and stabbing the earring through the still open hole on her left ear. Usnae filled her mind instantly, calling to her.
“HEY!” one of the Guards shouted at their table, “get that off her!”
Must have noticed the glow, Yanet thought. That was what caught their eye first – the glow of Usnae around her.
She stood up, filled to the brim with a power untapped for a decade. The guard decided to step towards her, holding up his gun.
Poor thing, she thought. Yanet almost felt pity for him.
“Ulasea,” Yanet whispered, raising her hand.
She unleased hell.
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