Star aimed slightly wide and pulled the trigger, the bullet sunk itself into the wall next to the target. She lowered the pistol slowly and deliberately, all too aware of the rifle aimed at her back and ready to respond if she moved the wrong direction.
“Very good,” The gentleman with the long nose said, “try again. But this time, as you’re aiming, imagine getting ten lashes for every inch that you deliberately miss the target. Take your time.” He smiled.
She wobbled, balanced on her good leg, her tail twitching to compensate and she raised the pistol, sighted down it and squeezed. The bullet struck the dummy in the middle of the forehead.
“Ah, excellent. Again, please.”
Star did as she was told, he scribbled on his clipboard, directed her to aim for the chest. She did so and he had one of the men take the pistol from her. There was no chair to sit on and, with the rifle presumably still aimed at her to encourage good behavior, she wasn’t inclined to hop to a wall and lean. So she stood, though she was starting to shake: it was harder work standing on one leg than two.
“My fellows tell me that you haven’t spoken in…five days?”
She turned her head to look at him.
“Ask me what is going on, and I will tell you.” He smiled again, his nose appeared even longer. When She didn’t respond he gestured to one of the guards, “Take her back to her cell, we’re done here.”
For once she was relieved to be off her foot, though she’d certainly longed to be on it often enough before now.
“You always were stubborn, Macbain. Frankly, I hope they execute you.” The gentleman with the long nose called as she was carried down the hall.
Star chewed her lips anxiously, she was certain she had just passed a test of some sort and it had left a bad taste in her mouth.
“You should know, Sir,” The guard holding her said suddenly, speaking so softly she doubted anyone would have heard even if they were following behind, “I served with you during the French rebellion. The other boys know what’s happening here. We know you’d never turn traitor. Appeals are being made.”
Star didn’t dare acknowledge what he’d said, she just kept staring forward, but when he dropped her on her cot she gave his arm a quick squeeze, hoping he’d understand that it meant she’d heard.
Step one, she reminded herself, Get out of this cell. It seemed, un-beknownst to her, that events might be in motion to put her in reach of that goal.