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Living Standards

by Bill Kowaleski

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Living Standards: synopsis

In a future world marked by extremes of poverty and wealth, 13-year old Jiri has known only poverty. One day, a wealthy woman appears in Jiri’s enclave, the slum he calls home, and offers his mother an unimaginable amount of money for Jiri’s services. Little do Jiri and his mother know what the woman intends, but they accept. As Jiri grows and prospers in his new life, he becomes involved in a dangerous movement that will change his life and everyone else’s as well.

Chapter 39: A Plot Forms

“Jiri! I never thought you’d ever come to visit me!”

Jiri smiled, quickly shook Bain’s hand, then sat on the bench bolted to the floor a foot away from the cage.

“Jack, I’m going to get right to the point. With luck, there’ll be all the time in the world to talk later. I need your help to get out of here. Your rocket plane is sitting on a pad twelve minutes away from here. But they’re not letting anyone leave. There are four guards. We need to take out those guards. Then I need you to pilot the plane. I don’t know if I can do it. But I know you can.”

“You would take me with you? I thought you hated me.”

“Jack, hate is a luxury I can’t afford right now. I need to get out of here, or I’m going to end up like you: dead.”

“But Andy said he wasn’t sure whether they would execute me.”

“Andy was trying to make you feel better. You’re on the program, Jack, the pièce de résistance of an execution extravaganza.”

Bain sighed. “Of course. How else could it go? This isn’t the American Revolution, after all. It’s more like France, or Russia.”

“Either one is a good analogy,” said Jiri. He looked around. “So I don’t see any guards. Nobody is in here watching you?”

“No, they do it from a room down the hall, with cameras. But you know what? Everybody goes to the mess hall at seven o’clock every night. Everybody.”

“I can’t believe how casual they are.”

“I don’t think they believe anyone would try to help me escape, and if someone came down here to kill me, well, what’s wrong with that?”

“Yeah, you’re right,” said Jiri. “I see we’re alone. What happened to Imelda?”

“I haven’t seen her in two days. I assume they’re either torturing her or she’s dead.”

“Convenient for us. Okay, how do I get you out of here?”

“You wouldn’t believe how ancient this cage is. It’s a simple key lock, nothing more. Give me one of your payment cards and I can unlatch it easily. I’ve had plenty of time to study it. I’ll have it open before you get here.”

“So why haven’t you tried to escape?”

“Death by mob violence never really appealed to me.”

“Yeah, of course. Your face is infamous. You’d be recognized in seconds.”

“So how do we get to the rocket plane pad without my being recognized?” asked Bain.

“I’ve already thought of that. In this bag here are a wig and some makeup. I’ll go over to the video center and convince the guards to give you the bag. Take your time and make yourself look pretty. Put on that nice pink gown in there too. It’s probably too big, but I had to make sure you could get it on. It’s quite the style here in the enclave: cheaply made and gaudy.”

“Thank God they let me shave this morning!”

“Yeah, good timing. So, Jack, see you at seven-fifteen. That’ll give you time to do your makeup.”

Jiri walked farther down the hall until he saw the windows of the video center. He knocked and a guard answered.

“I’m acting under the authority of Sister Mira Alvarez,” said Jiri. “Open Bain’s cage and let me put this bag inside.”

An older, fatter guard wandered over. “What you got in there?”

“Not your affair,” said Jiri. “Just do as you’re ordered.”

The guard smiled. “Maybe I’ll just give Sister Alvarez a call.”

“Yeah, do that,” said Jiri.

The guard pressed his comm, waited then said, “Some guy here has a bag for prisoner Bain.”

The guard paused while a voice spoke on his comm, then looked up at Jiri and said, “Name?”

“Jiri Lee.” Jiri said it loud enough so that Mira could hear from the guard’s comm.

A pause, then the guard nodded, saying, “Yes, ma’am.”

He put the comm in his pocket and said, “Okay, let’s go give Bain your bag. You’re allowed free reign in here. We’re to do as you ask.”

Proceed to Chapter 40...

Copyright © 2016 by Bill Kowaleski

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