“I have in my possession a plasma cutter,” came Garanova’s voice from the rafters. Baldo smiled to himself. “That can mean only one thing.” A long, whimsical pause. “We make our escape in five days time, according to my calendar. Rest up, dear friend. You will need your strength.”
- - -
The very next day, Baldo awoke to full-on sunlight streaming through the stained glass window. He thought perhaps his eyes were deceiving him. There was a great commotion from outside his cell. The guards were stomping through the corridor, shouting with glee, “The sun-season had arrived!” How jovial they were at that first light. The commotion died down, all Baldo heard was silence.
Wood splinters began raining down from the rafters above. A grunting, the smell of the plasma cutter. A rugged square fell from the ceiling, a few moments after the spindly frame of Alessandro Garanova. Despite the scabs and the unkempt hair, he had the same kind of glow about him Baldo remembered from their brief run-in months earlier. Piercing eyes. He immediately offered his hand for a shake, Garanova did, and Baldo heartily took it.
“I know I said five days, but I fear my calculations off by a bit. Can you forgive me?”
“Only if you help me move this wretched armoire... one last time.”
Garanova clapped Baldo on the back and they moved to the bulky piece of furniture. Instead of moving the thing aside, they pushed it over with reckless abandon. It crashed to the floor and splintered, even fell in the same manner Baldo had dreamed about before observing his fated doom. He became transfixed as dust rose from the floor--
The sound that shook him was Xiomar, clanging at the bolts on his cell door.
“Ho! What ruckus?”
Baldo scrambled toward the door.
“Nothing!” A terse, quick response, and a poor lie.
The latch jiggled and Xiomar announced: “I’m coming inside!”
Garanova was quick on his feet, and withdrew to where the open door would conceal him. As Xiomar swung the portal open and shadow passed over Garanova’s face, Baldo witnessed him draw the plasma cutter from his belt.
Xiomar immediately eyed the mess of the closet (which conveniently merged with the ragged section of ceiling that had fallen when Garanova made his grand entrance) and went wide-eyed. Then his gaze flitted to the hole the thing had been concealing in the wall behind. Xiomar raised his eyebrows, then opened his mouth to sound the word:
But he was silenced by a dull THWACK from the butt of Garanova’s plasma knife. Xiomar slumped to the floor and joined the mess of the armoire. Garanova immediately gripped him by the wrists and began to drag his torso out of the cell. Baldo cried out.
“What are you doing? This is our window!”
Garanova paused, huffed. “Where is your sense of justice, friend? Now grab his legs and make haste!”
- - -
Together they carried Xiomar through the empty hallways of the prison. The guards had gone out to see the light. Garanova led them to the metal room where Baldo had first met this sinister sheriff and they placed his body into the shell of the transport pod that would lead down to the core, were it not obstructed by the twelve-month storm surging below.
Garanova moved to override the emergency stops while Baldo kept a look out. He worked in silence with great speed, his malnourished fingers moving over the keyboard with surprising grace. A resounding BLEET from the console and the pod closed over Xiomar just as he began to come around. His fist rose to the porthole as the transport pressurized. The whole room quaked as the pod was ejected into the storm, and Xiomar passed through the underside of the city, only to be volatilized in a puff of vapor.
- - -
As the people of Serrenis turned their eyes up toward the coming of light and warmth for the next few months, they did not notice the vein of prisoners slip across the roof of the Supreme Chancellor’s palace, court, prison, execution hall.
Arriago Baldasarrio and Alessandro Garanova set free each and every man locked away there. When they had shimmied down the rear of the building, they each went their separate ways. All of them but Baldo and Garanova. They remained together all the way off planet, to Io, and not before they paid a visit to the nearest gargoyle, mouth waiting to be fed an incriminating data-stick.
Serrenis had been exposed by an unidentified submission to the secret Archive. The city was undone by so many accounts of corruption and homicide. The Supreme Chancellor, having the onus on his head, promptly had it removed via plasma guillotine.
The city languished, it’s commonwealth a failure. It remained a lure for tourists, but it soon became unsafe to walk the lawless streets (pickpockets, rapists) and then the people stopped coming, only going.
Soon after, the city sank out of the safety of that ever-thin band of oxygen and -- forgotten -- was swallowed by the gaseous giant Jupiter.
Alessandro Garanova, with his penchant for tall tales, published the account of he and Baldo’s escape from Serrenis in a highly sought-after tome entitled: Fuga ed Intrigo in una Terra Straniera. (Escape and Intrigue in a Foreign Land).
They traveled the solar system and were the closest of friends for the remainder of their days.
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