My Lady Greensleeves
It was Flock on the phone to the warden--Flock with his eyes still streaming tears, Flock with Sauer standing right behind him, menacing the two bound deck guards.
Sauer shoved Flock out of the way. “Hey, Warden!” he said, and the voice was a cheerful bray, though the serpent eyes were cold and hating. “Warden, you got to get a medic in here. My boy Flock, he hurt himself real bad and he needs a doctor.” He gestured playfully at the guards with the shiv. “I tell you, Warden. I got this knife and I got your guards here. Enough said? So get a medic in here quick, you hear?”
And he snapped the connection.
O’Leary said: “Warden, I told you I smelled trouble!”
The warden lifted his head, glared, started feebly to speak, hesitated, and picked up the long-distance phone. He said sadly to the prison operator: “Get me the governor--fast.”
The word spread out from the prison on seven-league boots.
It snatched the city governor out of a friendly game of Seniority with his manager and their wives--and just when he was holding the Porkbarrel Joker concealed in the hole.
It broke up the Base Championship Scramble Finals at Hap Arnold Field to the south, as half the contestants had to scramble in earnest to a Red Alert that was real.
It reached to police precinct houses and TV newsrooms and highway checkpoints, and from there it filtered into the homes and lives of the nineteen million persons that lived within a few dozen miles of the Jug.
Riot. And yet fewer than half a dozen men were involved.
A handful of men, and the enormous bulk of the city-state quivered in every limb and class. In its ten million homes, in its hundreds of thousands of public places, the city-state’s people shook under the impact of the news from the prison.
For the news touched them where their fears lay. Riot! And not merely a street brawl among roistering wipes, or a bar-room fight of greasers relaxing from a hard day at the plant. The riot was down among the corrupt sludge that underlay the state itself. Wipes brawled with wipes and no one cared; but in the Jug, all classes were cast together.
Forty miles to the south, Hap Arnold Field was a blaze of light. The airmen tumbled out of their quarters and dayrooms at the screech of the alert siren, and behind them their wives and children stretched and yawned and worried. An alert! The older kids fussed and complained and their mothers shut them up. No, there wasn’t any alert scheduled for tonight; no, they didn’t know where Daddy was going; no, the kids couldn’t get up yet--it was the middle of the night.
And as soon as they had the kids back in bed, most of the mothers struggled into their own airwac uniforms and headed for the briefing area to hear.
They caught the words from a distance--not quite correctly. “Riot!” gasped an aircraftswoman first-class, mother of three. “The wipes! I told Charlie they’d get out of hand and--Alys, we aren’t safe. You know how they are about GI women! I’m going right home and get a club and stand right by the door and--”
“Club!” snapped Alys, radarscope-sergeant, with two children querulously awake in her nursery at home. “What in God’s name is the use of a club? You can’t hurt a wipe by hitting him on the head. You’d better come along to Supply with me and draw a gun--you’ll need it before this night is over.”
But the airmen themselves heard the briefing loud and clear over the scramble-call speakers, and they knew it was not merely a matter of trouble in the wipe quarters. The Jug! The governor himself had called them out; they were to fly interdicting missions at such-and-such levels on such-and-such flight circuits around the prison.
The rockets took off on fountains of fire; and the jets took off with a whistling roar; and last of all, the helicopters took off ... and they were the ones who might actually accomplish something. They took up their picket posts on the prison perimeter, a pilot and two bombardiers in each ‘copter, stone-faced, staring grimly alert at the prison below.
They were ready for the breakout.
But there wasn’t any breakout.
The rockets went home for fuel. The jets went home for fuel. The helicopters hung on--still ready, still waiting.
The rockets came back and roared harmlessly about, and went away again. They stayed away. The helicopter men never faltered and never relaxed. The prison below them was washed with light--from the guard posts on the walls, from the cell blocks themselves, from the mobile lights of the guard squadrons surrounding the walls.
North of the prison, on the long, flat, damp developments of reclaimed land, the matchbox row houses of the clerical neighborhoods showed lights in every window as the figgers stood ready to repel invasion from their undesired neighbors to the east, the wipes. In the crowded tenements of the laborers’ quarters, the wipes shouted from window to window; and there were crowds in the bright streets.
“The whole bloody thing’s going to blow up!” a helicopter bombardier yelled bitterly to his pilot, above the flutter and roar of the whirling blades. “Look at the mobs in Greaserville! The first breakout from the Jug’s going to start a fight like you never saw and we’ll be right in the middle of it!”
He was partly right. He would be right in the middle of it--for every man, woman and child in the city-state would be right in the middle of it. There was no place anywhere that would be spared. No mixing. That was the prescription that kept the city-state alive. There’s no harm in a family fight--and aren’t all mechanics a family, aren’t all laborers a clan, aren’t all clerks and office workers related by closer ties than blood or skin?
But the declassed cons of the Jug were the dregs of every class; and once they spread, the neat compartmentation of society was pierced. The breakout would mean riot on a bigger scale than any prison had ever known.
But he was also partly wrong. Because the breakout wasn’t seeming to come.
The Jug itself was coming to a boil.
Honor Block A, relaxed and easy at the end of another day, found itself shaken alert by strange goings-on. First there was the whir and roar of the Air Force overhead. Trouble. Then there was the sudden arrival of extra guards, doubling the normal complement--day-shift guards, summoned away from their comfortable civil-service homes at some urgent call. Trouble for sure.
Honor Block A wasn’t used to trouble. A Block was as far from the Greensleeves of O Block as you could get and still be in the Jug. Honor Block A belonged to the prison’s halfbreeds--the honor prisoners, the trusties who did guards’ work because there weren’t enough guards to go around. They weren’t Apaches or Piutes; they were camp-following Injuns who had sold out for the white man’s firewater. The price of their service was privilege--many privileges.
Item: TV sets in every cell. Item: Hobby tools, to make gadgets for the visitor trade--the only way an inmate could earn an honest dollar. Item: In consequence, an exact knowledge of everything the outside world knew and put on its TV screens (including the grim, alarming reports of “trouble at Estates-General”), and the capacity to convert their “hobby tools” to--other uses.
An honor prisoner named Wilmer Lafon was watching the TV screen with an expression of rage and despair.
Lafon was a credit to the Jug--he was a showpiece for visitors. Prison rules provided for prisoner training--it was a matter of “rehabilitation.” Prisoner rehabilitation is a joke and a centuries-old one at that; but it had its serious uses, and one of them was to keep the prisoners busy. It didn’t much matter at what.
Lafon, for instance, was being “rehabilitated” by studying architecture. The guards made a point of bringing inspection delegations to his cell to show him off. There were his walls, covered with pin-ups--but not of women. The pictures were sketches Lafon had drawn himself; they were of buildings, highways, dams and bridges; they were splendidly conceived and immaculately executed.
“Looka that!” the guards would rumble to their guests. “There isn’t an architect on the outside as good as this boy! What do you say, Wilmer? Tell the gentlemen--how long you been taking these correspondence courses in architecture? Six years! Ever since he came to the Jug.”