"Is that your kid? Fuck, Marv, this is a containment facility. What were you thinking?"
"Don't swear, Brince, she's only eight."
"She'll hear worse in here. You know she will."
"The crèche was full and I'd be writ up if I missed another shift."
"You'll be writ up worse for sneaking a minor past security."
"Leera's a good girl, real quiet. No one will notice her. She'll just sit in the corner and do her homework. Won't you, Leera? See, she's good Brince. Please don't report me on this."
"Couldn't you have just left her at home?"
"In the Delta levels? Pull the other one. Like I said, she's only eight…"
"You owe me for this, Marv."
"I know. Thank you."
The corner Leera was relegated to was at the back end of the high security cellblock. Containment facility B mostly dealt with low-grade substance infractions and truancies. The high security block had been used a grand total of three times in Marvek Servalan's fourteen years of service at the facility. He thought it was a safe place to stash his daughter for the afternoon.
He thought wrong.
Leera was startled from her textbook (What to Do When a Loved One Displays Dissident Traits) by the sound of the cellblock's heavy entrance gate crashing open, stomping feet, jingling chains, and her father jumping in front of the group, shouting:
"These cells aren't prepped for prisoners!"
"And who's fault's that?" one of the Troopers snarled. "What do they pay you for then? Other than to sit around on your arse minding the tame drunks."
"We were given no notice of this transfer!" Leera's father continued.
"You think any of us were?" The Trooper motioned at the unconscious women the other two troopers in his group were carrying. "Facility A wouldn't take this bitch, said she was an 'unstable element' and needed to be housed alone. Well, looks pretty damn lonesome in here."
"We aren't equipped for this kind of…"
Leera didn't see the Trooper hit her father, but, crouched in the hiding place she'd found tucked between the bunk and the toilet in one of the cells, she heard the hard smack of an armoured fist against his slight cheek. She heard his startled yelp.
"Back talking an officer. You're getting writ up for this," the Trooper said.
She didn't see her father's face as she hid, knees clutched tight to chest, trying as hard as possible to think herself invisible. She didn't see him, but she heard him say, "Yes, Sir. Sorry, Sir. Here are the keys, Sir," and walk out of the cell block, trying as hard as possible to contain his fear. He'd given Leera a chance to hide. If they were both exceptionally lucky, he'd be able to get her out as well.
Leera tried to keep her heart from beating so loudly. She was certain the troopers could hear her. She could see their feet coming closer and closer. She realized that she'd left her textbook on the cell floor. Her stomach clenched. They'd notice it. They'd notice her.
Please don't see me. Please don’t see me. Please don't see me.
"This one good?" asked one of the Troopers carrying the woman.
"Good as any. Dump her in. I want to get out of this shit hole," said the Trooper who'd hit Leera's father.
They walked into the cell Leera was hiding in, dropped the woman on the floor in an undignified sprawl, walked out, slammed the door, and locked them both in.
The woman wore a strange black dress. Big and lacy with frills and ribbons like nothing Leera had ever seen before. A very small part of her wanted to go and examine it, to steal it and wear it herself. A larger, wiser, part of herself remembered that the woman was an 'unstable element'. That term had been used in her textbook next to a comic of a man with a knife killing his family because he wanted to commit ration fraud.
The woman was dangerous. Leera was locked in with her. She had to stay small and quiet until her father came back to free her.
But her father had snuck her into the facility and back talked an officer. That meant he was probably unstable too, according to the text book. Leera shivered. She didn't believe that. She couldn't believe that.
"That's a very stupid hiding place," said the woman, hauling herself to her feet and brushing off her dress. "I honestly don't know how those men didn't see you, but then, they were very stupid men and very suggestible. I didn't fancy spending any time in their regular lock-up, and this jail is so much more convenient to the space docks."
Leera backed against the wall, trying to make herself smaller.
"God, you are an unimpressive little runt. I'm guessing you belong to that guard who was making all the fuss. Not supposed to be here, are you?" The woman leaned close to her and grinned. "Boo!"
"You're a criminal," Leera said.
"I am, but soon I'm going to be a free criminal. It's an important distinction, and it's much better than being a scared little girl in the corner. Now, should I kill you or will you be useful?"
"I can be useful" Leera said.
"How?" the woman asked.
Leera didn't know how. She stayed quiet.
"I thought as much. Killing you would be entertaining, but no… I can think of a few ways you might be useful. Or I could keep you as a pet. The Doctor seems to have good luck with his. You can call me Missy, and don't bother telling me your name; I really don't care, and neither, incidentally, does anyone else."
"I just want to go home," Leera said.
"To a sad little apartment with a faulty door latch? To a neighbourhood with flickering lights which is crawling with predators and drug pushers and prostitutes? To a lifetime of suppressive drugs and menial labour?"
Leera was quiet again.
"Thinking about it, aren't you? And thinking about how much worse it'll be now that your daddy dearest has almost certainly lost his job. Well, it's no concern of mine." Missy marched over to the cell door and fiddled with the scan-lock for a moment. It buzzed and popped open. Missy sauntered into the cellblock corridor and towards the exit gate. She paused before going through it.
"Are you coming, puppy?"
Leera didn't know what a puppy was, but she did know an opportunity when she saw one. She scrambled up from behind the toilets and down the corridor after the escaping criminal. There were better things, after all, than being a scared little girl in the corner.