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Lockup (Dark Light, Volume 1): Turn-of-the-Century Toughs, #10

Lockup (Dark Light, Volume 1): Turn-of-the-Century Toughs, #10

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Lockup (Dark Light, Volume 1): Turn-of-the-Century Toughs, #10

253 pages
3 hours
Nov 29, 2015


Deep underground lies a prison filled with idealistic men who have committed themselves to putting the best interest of their prisoners first . . . through torture. Soaring high in an adjoining nation are two "reformed" prisons where life prisoners (and a few sympathetic guards) must band together for survival.

Friendships between prisoners and guards, romance between two torturers, a young woman's appalled discovery that a dungeon-worker is courting her, desire and companionship in prison cells, a teenage guard's struggle to survive when his train is attacked by soldiers intent on slaughter . . . The two nations are broiling with events centered upon their prisons.

This historical speculative fiction volume explores with drama and dry humor the complexities of prison life in the nineteenth century, while taking a peek at the surrounding societies in the nations' alternate universe. Characters who appear in one story reappear in other stories, seen from a different perspective and at a different age.

This first volume of Dark Light collects seventeen stories from Turn-of-the-Century Toughs, a cycle of alternate history series (Dark Light, Waterman, Life Prison, Commando, Michael's House, and The Eternal Dungeon) about disreputable men on the margins of society, and the men and women who care for them. Set between the 1880s and the 1910s, the cycle's novels and stories take place in an alternative version of America that was settled by inhabitants of the Old World in ancient times.

Nov 29, 2015

About the author

Honored in the Rainbow Awards, Dusk Peterson writes historical speculative fiction: history-inspired mythic fantasy, alternate history, and retrofuture science fiction. Family affection, friendship, romantic friendship, and romance often occur in the stories. A resident of Maryland, Mx. Peterson lives with an apprentice and several thousand books. Visit duskpeterson.com for e-books and free fiction.

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Lockup (Dark Light, Volume 1) - Dusk Peterson

Dark Light

Volume 1


Dusk Peterson

Love in Dark Settings Press

Havre de Grace, Maryland

Published in the United States of America. November 2015 edition. Publication history.

Copyright (c) 2006, 2008, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 Dusk Peterson (duskpeterson.com). The author's policies on sharing, derivative works, and fan works are available at the author's website. This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously.


=== Front matter ===


=== Lockup ===

Deep underground lies a prison filled with idealistic men who have committed themselves to putting the best interest of their prisoners first . . . through torture. Soaring high in an adjoining nation are two reformed prisons where life prisoners (and a few sympathetic guards) must band together for survival.


In the Silence (Life Prison). He can't speak. He can barely see. He experiences only fear and the faint whispers of something he had once known. But an intruder into his secure retreat from danger will pull him into awareness of what stands before him. What stands there is renewed danger . . . and the hope of something more.

Green Ruin (The Eternal Dungeon). Three guards and a mysterious substance provide a temptation too great to be missed . . . especially when two torturers add their skills to the mix. Soon three very different men – a married man who is committed to respect and honor, a bachelor harboring secret desires, and a soldier with an unfulfilled ambition – will find themselves caught in a trap. Their rescue will come from an unexpected quarter.

Hunger (The Eternal Dungeon). Some hungers can only be satisfied by reaching out. As a prisoner struggles to find the right path, a foul-mouthed guard and an uncommon torturer will open a door . . . but stepping through a doorway with blackness beyond requires courage.

Wax (The Eternal Dungeon). The Record-keeper of the Eternal Dungeon has always prided himself on his skills in procuring any object needed by his employers. But when the head torturer makes a seemingly innocent request for wax, the Record-keeper goes in search of a very special supply.

Never (The Eternal Dungeon). She was attending the ball at the palace to dance. That was all. Which made it annoying to face a proposal of marriage from a guard who was distinctly not the sort of man she would ever consider marrying. Certainly not.

The Whipping Post (The Eternal Dungeon). Ten minutes left to contemplate what lies ahead, before the end begins.

New-Fashioned (The Eternal Dungeon). The Eternal Dungeon's youngest torturer has a special talent. He's about to discover what it is, at the worst of moments.

Broken (The Eternal Dungeon). What would happen if a technophobic torturer was plunged into the twenty-first century?

Torture (The Eternal Dungeon / Life Prison). When the High Seeker of the Eternal Dungeon visits a foreign prison, he discovers that his dark reputation has preceded him. So has the dark reputation of his dungeon. The host is eager to show him that matters are run very differently at Mercy Life Prison. The High Seeker has his suspicions about what he will find in that prison, but even so, he is not prepared for what the prison has to teach him about man's nature . . . and his own nature.

Cell-mates (Life Prison). Sentenced to life in prison, Tyrrell didn't have many opportunities for bed-play . . . unless he could count what the guards did to him as play. So his future seemed brighter when he was paired with a cell-mate he'd been eyeing for a long time with affection and lust. If only Tyrrell could keep from becoming his cell-mate's latest murder victim . . .

Coded Messages (Life Prison). One of them rapes prisoners. The other wants to help prisoners. So why are they talking to each other?

Lord and Servant (Life Prison). A tramp and a lord may seem to make an odd pair. But Compassion Life Prison is an odd place to start with, and the tramp has his own perspective on life there.

Rain (The Eternal Dungeon / Life Prison / Commando / Michael's House / Waterman). Five boys. Five rainy days. Five opportunities for trouble. In this cycle of five short stories, five young men in troubling situations must make choices that will change the path of their upcoming lives . . . and the path of the societies they dwell in.

=== More fiction by Dusk Peterson ===

The Breaking (excerpt). A preview of the first Eternal Dungeon story.

Life Prison (excerpt). A preview of the first Life Prison story.

=== Appendix ===

Turn-of-the-Century Toughs calendar systems.

Turn-of-the-Century Toughs timeline. Includes links to all the current Toughs stories.

=== Back matter ===

Credits and more e-books by Dusk Peterson.


Larger versions of some of these maps are available at:


Map of the Midcoast nationsMap of the Capital City of the Queendom of YclauMap of Mip City, showing Mercy Life PrisonMap of Fort Frederick (Compassion Life Prison) and countrysideMap of the Capital City of the Kingdom of VovimMap of the Bay in the Dozen Landsteads




=== Introduction ===

The stories in Lockup are short reads from Turn-of-the-Century Toughs, a cycle of alternate history series (Dark Light, Waterman, Life Prison, Commando, Michael's House, and The Eternal Dungeon) about disreputable men on the margins of society, and the men and women who care for them. Set between the 1880s and the 1910s, the novels and stories take place in an alternative version of America that was settled by inhabitants of the Old World in ancient times. One of the series in the cycle, Waterman, combines elements of the 1910s with retrofuturistic imagery from the 1960s.

All of the stories in Lockup can be read on their own, without reference to the novels in the cycle.

Readers who are ambitious enough to try to keep track of how the stories relate to each other chronologically may wish to consult the Turn-of-the-Century Toughs timeline toward the end of this volume, which also lists and links to the other stories currently in the Toughs cycle. The calendar systems of the Toughs world are explained in greater detail in Turn-of-the-Century Toughs calendar systems.



=== In the Silence (Life Prison) ===

The year 375, the third month. (The year 1886 Fallow by the Old Calendar.)

My cell door swings out. Some one stands there – I do not know who – I do not care. Listlessly, like one in a dream, I pick up my cap and coat; and silently, wearily, move out and toward the bench where I changed my clothes last night. Last night! – a thousand years ago.

—Thomas Mott Osborne: Within Prison Walls (1914).

Images came, like flickers of a candle: Dark stones. Dark metal. Faint fire. A spoon in his hand, as someone urged him to eat. A stinking pit that he knew he was duty-bound to fill. A loom nearby that he vaguely remembered he had once known how to work, but which now stood as silent as the rest of his world.

There were breaks in the silence sometimes. Voices: bored, anxious, amused, darkly amused. The last one made him shrink into himself, made him seek a place to go where he might never hear words again.

He had been good. He hadn't spoken. Why wouldn't they let him go?

They wouldn't. One voice kept speaking to him over and over: the voice that helped him hold the spoon, the voice that sat beside him sometimes for hours on end, talking to him. He wished he could figure out a way to escape the voice. He was terribly afraid that, one day, he would speak back.

Silence, and time passing. He felt the season change: from the sweltering heat of summer to the killing chill of winter. His body survived somehow. That was another thing he regretted, though he had forgotten why.

And so it went, and it went, and it might have gone forever. But one day the new man arrived.


Silence was broken, not slowly, as though he awoke gradually from a dream, but with an abrupt shatter that left him gasping, as though he had surfaced from a dark pool and had been thrust suddenly into air and light.

"It's my cell, you idiots! Mine! Get out of my cell before I throttle you!"

There was more, profanity so powerful that it was like hard waves breaking against his body. His mind automatically shielded him from that by erasing the obscenities. But he could not erase the fact that the silence had been broken; the words were too loud.

I don't care if I'm your prisoner! Get your disgusting carcasses out of this cell, and stay out!

The images were starting to solidify. Dark stones were the walls of his own cell. Dark metal was the vertical barring across the doorway. Faint fire was a great open flame in the middle of the circle, upon whose rim was placed the cells. Thirty cells, all filled with silent men. Except one.

His heart was pounding now. Pain was coming. Pain and fear. He thought the pain would be for someone other than himself, but how could he be sure? He cautiously turned his head to see.

There was a man standing in front of the barred door. A man with a dark blue uniform and a dark blue cap. A guard. That was what the man was: a guard for the prisoners. He was turned half away, staring at a cell nearby. So was a younger guard near him.

The younger guard finally spoke. May the goddess Mercy preserve us, he said. What's going on in there?

There was a screech as the barred door of another cell opened. A bearded man emerged. He was dabbing at the side of his mouth with a white handkerchief. The handkerchief was turning red.

Sweet blood! It was the first guard he had seen, and hearing the man speak, he knew something: this was his guard. This was the guard who had spoken to him over and over, who had held his spoon, who had tried to make him speak.

He shrank into himself again. He might have succeeded in fleeing back into the silence within, but at that moment, a bellow rent the prison: Don't you come near me!

"What in the name of all that is sacred is going on in there?" murmured his guard.

The bearded guard shrugged. I guess the new man doesn't like guards. All I did was give Sedge some drink and smokes for his birthday, and the new man tried to kill us both with his bare hands. Don't worry, Milton, he added as the younger guard made a faltering movement toward the cell from which the sounds were emerging. Sedgewick is taking care of him.

The name made him shrink into a ball. He whimpered. His guard turned toward his cell. What's wrong? he asked. Then, to the bearded guard: Rufus, this is upsetting my prisoner. Can't Sedgewick take that new man downstairs before he punishes him?

Rufus's reply was cut off by another bellow. This time, all the guards jerked round.

Sweet blood, said Rufus. "That was Sedgewick."

A face appeared at the barred cell door from which the bellows had come. A strong face, an angry face. It had claw marks all down its cheek.

The face said, Get in here, Rufus. I need help.

Help? Rufus stared. Sedge, you never need help when punishing a prisoner!

Shut your mouth and get in here. And close the inner door once you're in. The face – no, the guard named Sedgewick – turned back, just in time to meet a ferocious attack from something wearing grey clothing. A moment later, both men were rolling on the floor as high-pitched snarls emerged from the man wearing grey. They disappeared out of view.

Rufus hastily threw aside his handkerchief and unlocked the barred door again. The moment he had relocked the barred door, he slammed shut an inner door made of black metal. Then there was a confusion of shouts, mingled with cold, steady instructions. There – hold him there. Stop wriggling, damn you! Your dagger – don't let him reach it. "I want you out of my cell now!"

The two guards who had been left behind exchanged looks. Then his own guard glanced in at him. He remained very still, staring at the grey cloth covering his lap, hoping he would be left alone.

His guard sighed and turned away. I'm going down to the guardroom.

But we're on duty now, countered Milton. We come on duty when Sedgewick and Rufus come off patrol, and I think— He stared at the cell with the solid door, from which shouts continued to emerge. I think they're rather busy.

I know. His guard took one last look at him, but he had already lain down and was pretending to sleep, with his eyes slitted to watch. "I know, and I'm not going to stay around for when Sedgewick reaches the point of punishing the new man. I've overheard enough of his punishments to last me a lifetime. My prisoner – he pointed – wouldn't be as bad off as he is if Sedgewick hadn't taken it into his head that my prisoner talking in his troubled sleep was a violation of prison regulations. Do you know how long and hard I'd worked to bring my prisoner back to himself? And Sedgewick destroyed all my work in a single night."

Milton scratched under his left ear, looking worried. It's a muddled area. Do we punish them when they talk in their sleep? Or when they curse if they drop a work-tool on their foot? If we don't, won't they take advantage of us and deliberately break the silence?

His guard said nothing for a moment, standing at the barred door and staring down at the apparently sleeping man. Then he murmured, Oh, I hope so. I pray to Mercy every day that my prisoner will break his silence.

Then he turned away abruptly. I'll leave the guardroom door open. Shout if you need me.


Images were becoming more solid now, like figures emerging from a black mist. He was lying on stone – on a stone shelf that jutted out from the wall. It had thin blankets on it. This was where he slept. Nearby was the stinking cesspit. At the far end of the cell was a trickle of water, running down the wall. He had lapped at that water with his tongue. It was the only water he received. There had been plans, long ago, to install water-pumps in each cell, plans that had never come to fruit—

Long ago? How long ago?

He rose slowly, feeling his disused muscles ache. He was emerging from a dream. He knew that now, but he wasn't sure why he had fled into his dream. There had been pain, and there had been fear.

Pain. Fear. Screaming.

He reached the bars of his cell and pressed his face against them. Milton remained nearby, but he was turned away, poking listlessly with an iron at the central fire. Faces pressed against the bars of other cells now: faces bewildered or angry or giggling uncontrollably. Men caught in dreams. Men caught further into their dreams than he was.

But he had one thing left in common with them: everyone was looking at the cell with the solid door shut, from which shouts and steady instructions still streamed.

I said, Hold him. He slipped away! Why don't you use your whip? I did. He— Aaugh! Get your filthy hands off me! I'll kill you if you touch me again! Aau— Aau— Let go of him! Let go of him, or I'll use my dagger!

Some of the prisoners began to retreat to the back of their cells, made uneasy by this breaking of the silence. He ought to as well. A prisoner was speaking. A prisoner was shouting. No good could come of this. Nothing could come of this but pain and fear and screaming.

Tears were running down his face now. He gripped the bars hard, trying to figure out what to do. He had emerged from a dream, only to find himself trapped in a nightmare. How could he make it stop?

The solid door opened suddenly. The guard named Sedgewick stood there, breathing heavily. His hair was dishevelled; his jacket was torn; his neck was turning purple. Get chains, he snapped at Milton.

Chains? Turning, Milton gaped at him.

Chains. From the showers. The manacles on chains that we use when we give the prisoners the cold-water punishment.

The chains are bolted to the shower walls, Milton protested. They're attached high up on the walls, above the prisoners' heads.

Pliers. Stepladder. Be quick about it.

Sedgewick, it sounds as though you're killing your prisoner. If you kill him, our Keeper will be angry—

Go. As the shouts inside the cell reached a new high pitch, Sedgewick slammed the door shut.

Milton looked around the level uncertainly. But in all the cells he glanced at, none of the prisoners were moving. Swallowing hard, Milton retreated to the stairwell.

The shouts from the battle-torn cell were so loud now that he covered his ears. He could still hear the bellow of the prisoner, who sounded like a bull let loose in a ring. I am going to maul you so badly that you'll never be reborn! the prisoner was shouting. Just watch me!

There was a loud crack. Identifying the sound, he flinched back, as though the whip had landed on him. The only response from the prisoner was another bellow, this time of profanity.

He bit his lip. He had no doubt as to the outcome of this struggle. The prisoner could not hold out against two guards armed with whips and daggers. It was a miracle he had done so already. How long would this last?

How long had it lasted? He glanced briefly over his shoulder at his cell, but it looked just the same as it had the last time he had seen it – had truly seen it.

Only the loom was gone. How had they taken the loom away without waking him from his

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