Seven Rules of a Martian Jailbreak
Christina "DZA" Marie
Rule #1: don’t kill (no matter how tempting it is)
“‘Help me break my cousin out of bankruptcy camp,’ you said.
‘It’ll be fine,’ you said. ‘Stealing a person’s just like stealing a
diamond,’ you said.” Robin winces as her broken ribs protest. “Thanks a
lot, John. If they keep us here long enough, we’ll be the first felons
in Mars’ new prison. I’ve always wanted to be a tourist attraction.”
“Stop it,” Marian orders. She sits on the bench in the cell,
glaring at Robin as she paces back and forth. “You’re the one who
“They did their route early! And by the way, John said you
could handle yourself in a fight. Good lie there, John.”
“There were over a dozen guards!” Marian defends.
The large, hulking man sits on the floor in the corner. In the
minimal light, his Asian skin is almost wan. “You could have said no,
“Oh, please, you know just how to push my buttons,” Robin
snaps. If John looks wan in the minimal light, she looks almost
nightmarish, her dark skin blending into the shadows. Normally she’d
make a joke about it: more thieves should have dark skin because it’s
natural camouflage, or whatever. She’s too pissed and her ribs friggin’
“You should stop moving,” John says. “You’re injured.”
“Not my legs.” Robin gives a wry smile. “Those are long gone.”
Marian’s eyes flick to Robin’s legs before going back up.
Marian’s head is wrapped in a tattered hijab, as gray as her camp
uniform. “How are you going to get us out of here, Loxley?”
“I’ll figure something out,” Robin grumbles. “Though I don’t
know how keen I am on dragging you two with me.”
“You put us in here! We wouldn’t be in this mess if you
weren’t such a shrill bi—”
Robin staggers back, cradling her broken nose. Marian stands
over her, shaking out her hand as John shouts and scolds her.
Robin chuckles (or more like gurgles with
the blood dripping from her nose). “Chould’ve tadin up boching, Barian.
Wouldn’t’ve ended up in bankrupchy camp.”
“You shouldn’t have been a thief,” Marian grumbles, sitting
back down. “You wouldn’t have ended up here, either.”
Rule #2: no boring jobs
Two months ago
Robin laughed. “Wha-at?”
“A job,” her gardener repeated.
They were in the gym of Loxley manor, an hour’s drive from San
Francisco. The gardens sprawled over four square miles. The gardener
still had dirt under his nails from working, even though he was the
head gardener (the “landscape designer”) and technically wasn’t
supposed to get dirty, just design and plan how it looked. No matter
how many times people said that, though, he had dirty hands every day.
The gym was empty but for the two of them, almost cavernous.
It swallowed workout equipment, mats, and benches whole, its northern
wall all windows to let in pale, indirect sunlight.
Robin turned away from her robotic sparring dummies, her dark
skin gleaming with sweat. “Yeah, I get that. But…really? You? You, John
Lei Markus, want me to steal something?”
John still hadn’t looked up from his huge, calloused hands.
“Technically, it’d be kidnapping.”
Robin sucked in a breath. “Whoa, uh…”
“It’s not against your rules.”
Robin gave a nervous laugh. “I think I might add it to the
list. I’ve never kidnapped before.”
“Marian’ll go with you.”
“Oh, please tell me this isn’t an ex-girlfriend or something
“It’s my cousin. Er, second cousin.” John finally looked up.
Robin paused, thinking. “Ridgeley, Ridgeley . . . where have I
. . . ?”
“New money. Parents hit it big in the stocks and her father
runs a software company . . . .”
“And Marian’s in bankruptcy camp!” Robin finished with a
triumphant snap of her fingers. Then she paused. “Wait, why is she in
BC if she’s rich?”
“Her parents cut off her trust fund after she converted to
Islam and refused to give her the money to keep her from camp. They
think BC will straighten her out.”
Robin snickered. “Yeah, right. Those places are like summer
camps. You do a bit of yard work, read some stuff on money management,
and your whole family’s clear of debt.”
John shifted his feet, looking uncomfortable. Robin didn’t pay
it any mind; he always seemed uncomfortable, or nervous, or shy.
“So why the hell should we bust her out?” Robin asked. “She’s
having the time of her life!”
John shook his head. “Do you know the Worker Alliance?”
“Uh . . . isn’t that the group that hates rich guys? Like,
“Marian’s one of their leaders. And she’s already had someone
try to kill her in camp,” John pressed, his big brown eyes pleading.
“Someone hired one of the other prisoners to try to kill her, and
they’ll hire someone else until she’s dead.”
“Did the guards catch the guy?” Robin asked.
“He killed himself before they could question him. Cyanide
“Huh. Classic.” Robin crossed her arms and stared at the
cushioned ground, thinking.
She should’ve said no.
Her targets were diamonds and paintings and trinkets nobody
really cared about, or were at least rich enough to afford to lose
And the camp was on Mars. Which meant getting on a shuttle for
a whole month.
But John was doing those puppy dog eyes that were actually
cute on the older man…
So Robin hid her uncertainty behind a cocky grin that made
John shift his feet.
“You’re going to make me help, aren’t you?” he asked, resigned.
Robin grinned. “You need something more exciting than tangling
with rose bushes. We leave next month.” She turned back to her sparring
dummy and kicked its head off.
Rule #3: no more than two candy bars a day
“Gods, I would prostitute myself for some chocolate,” Robin
“Aren’t broken ribs and a broken nose supposed to make it
painful to talk?” Marian asks.
The blood stopped dribbling from Robin’s nose an hour ago, and
she (mostly) fixed the (still crooked) cartilage herself.
Robin waves away Marian’s “concern.” “Nothing I can’t handle.”
Marian tugs on her hijab and rolls her eyes. “Well, thank God
“I’m a walking miracle, baby.”
Robin is finally sitting on the floor, as far away from Marian
as she can get. She runs her right hand (the one still made of flesh)
over her metal legs, the cold soothing even as she aches everywhere
Her legs and left arm are metal: cold, unfeeling metal for
crying out loud. They shouldn’t hurt. Yet they throb even worse than
her bruised and tired muscles.
The speakers in the upper corners crackle. “All prisoners, put
your hands against the wall.”
The door opens, and two robot guards enter. “Prisoner Loxley.
“What about John and Marian?” Robin asks. “They’re in as much
trouble as I am.”
“Thanks for your concern,” Marian says.
“Prisoner Loxley. Follow us.”
Muttering, Robin follows the robots.
They put Robin in another cell, this one much smaller. And
Finally, some peace and quiet. Robin sits
on the bench as the guards close the door.
Rule #4: never take a job without knowing all parties
Thirty-two hours ago
Robin stumbled out of the shuttle onto the Martian base,
trying not to vomit.
Her arm and legs hurt. It didn’t matter that they were metal
and therefore couldn’t transmit pain sensors, they friggin’ hurt.
And the leftover drugs were twisting her stomach in shapes it really
shouldn’t try to attempt. And she couldn’t get her mother’s screams out
of her ears.
It shouldn’t have been this bad. The month-long shuttle ride
should’ve felt like five minutes, tops, with Robin being sedated and
hooked up to an IV. But because two legs and an arm were prosthetic (don’t
think about that, don’t think about that!) that made her
actual body mass difficult to drug. Doctors were always afraid of
giving her too much.
She would’ve vastly preferred too much over too little. She’d
come out of sedation twenty hours ago and hadn’t been able to keep
anything down. Hadn’t been able to push fiery shuttle crashes and
screaming and pain out of her head.
“Miss Loxley?” John put a hand on her shoulder. “Are you --”
“Shut up and give me a minute.”
John didn’t move, but he did shut up, standing next to her in
a cheap ten-year-old suit that barely fit his massive form. He rubbed
her back in soothing circles while she tried not to hyperventilate. The
minutes felt like hours.
She was just wrapping up her panic attack, when . . . .
Robin sucked in a deep breath and straightened, smoothing out
her slacks. She plastered a smile on her face. “Good morning, Mr.
The warden’s shoes clicked against the metal floor of the
shuttle bay. The Martian sun streaked his dark skin with gold, and gave
his graying hair a silver halo. “I trust you had a good flight?”
An eternity of hell in the stars, thank you very much.
“Well, we survived it.”
Nottingham smiled. “Thank goodness for small miracles. If
you’d like, I’ll have a guard show you to your rooms, and we can start
the tour after you’re well-rested. I think you’ll find Sherwood
Corporation a worthy business partner, Miss Loxley.”
“Actually, a walk would do me some good. Let’s start the tour
now,” Robin said in a rush. She couldn’t sit still; her muscles were
buzzing with adrenaline leftover from the panic. The sooner she was off
this damn planet, the better.
Nottingham paused, then nodded. “Very well.” He turned to
John, his smile turning from courteous to condescending. “And you’re
“Her gardener,” John grumbled. “She hasn’t needed a bodyguard
since she was twelve.”
Robin smirked. Rich children always ran the risk of getting
kidnapped for ransom. It’d happened to Robin when she was nine, so
she’d gone through martial arts training. Then the shuttle crash had
happened, so she’d done it all again as part of her PT.
The men who’d tried to kidnap her when she was nineteen had
spent over a month in the hospital.
“John’s doubling as my assistant today,” Robin explained.
“He’s also visiting a cousin here. What was her name? Mary? Madeline?”
“Marian,” John said.
Robin gave her best, fake I knew that
smile and turned back to the warden. “So, that tour?”
Nottingham walked them through the entire base. The more he
talked, the queasier Robin got.
It wasn’t the shuttle or the drugs. She’d recovered from that.
Or the robot guards patrolling the base in groups of four,
heavily armed with tasers and guns. She could hack those.
Or the human guards she couldn’t hack. They had a strict
roster she could work around.
Or the fact that the tiniest crack in the metal walls or glass
windows would cause a horrible death for everyone inside, exploding
their eyeballs, freezing their bodies, and sucking the air out of their
lungs. She trusted the architects.
It was the workers. The “campers.” The prisoners.
Most worked outside in space suits, expanding the base and
turning it into the first off-world colony in human history. They wore
white spacesuits that made them look like a mass of pale dots against
the frigid, crimson wasteland. They were welding together the metal
skeleton of a new building they wouldn’t enjoy. One or two were missing
limbs, but unlike Robin, they didn’t have the money for robotic
replacements. Only stumps, stumps she knew were made of knotted flesh.
One worker collapsed from exhaustion and was tasered back to
consciousness by a robot guard. Robin cringed as the worker pulled
himself to his feet. “I think that one needs a break.”
“This camp is designed to teach the meaning of hard work and
efficiency,” Nottingham replied, not giving the worker a second glance.
“Breaks are not efficient. This way to the barracks.”
The barracks, where all the workers slept, were tiny. Six
people shared a room built for two. The cafeteria stank and served only
a “nutrition package” for meals: brown blocks and gray gruel. The
“library” was the size of a cupboard and offered only outdated money
Well, this wasn’t in the brochure.
At the end of the tour, Nottingham invited Robin to a dinner
“Sure,” she replied, bile pooling in the back of her throat.
“Should be fun.”
Rule #5: whoever falls behind stays behind
Seven hours ago
Dinner had not been fun.
Apparently, “dinner party” was Martian for “dinner date.”
Robin had, however, been able to slip into Nottingham’s office
and get the computer codes needed to shut down the robot guards. She’d
even managed a polite exit at the end of the meal without kisses, blow
jobs, or any other remotely sexual activity. (Bonus points!)
Later that night, Robin hacked into the camp’s mainframe from
her room using the codes, shut down all the robot guards except for
one, and sent that one to Marian’s room.
Robin watched through the security footage as Marian walked in
step with the controlled robot, her five roommates watching her leave
with worried and confused looks.
The robot and Marian got in an electric car and drove across
the base to the shuttle bay, where John was waiting for them.
That’s when it went sour.
The human guards weren’t supposed to start their patrol until
1700 hours. It was 1600 hours and there they were doing their patrol
Because of the playoffs, which premiered at 1700 hours, of
Stupid men with their stupid sports obsession.
As soon as the alarm went up, John and Marian were surrounded.
Robin sucked in a breath and shut everything down.
Someone knocked on her door. “Open up, Miss Loxley.”
Crap. They already tracked the signal.
She double-checked, getting into the security feed from the
camera above her door, and . . . yup, four human guards.
Robin cracked her neck and rolled her shoulders.
They broke the door down.
The fight lasted less than a minute. An elbow found its way to
her ribs and broke at least three, but that was toward the end, when
she’d already taken out two guards. She took down the third with a
punch to the throat. The last guard raised his baton and swung.
Robin blocked with her left arm. Clang!
The guard frowned, confused.
“Shuttle crashes are a bitch,” Robin said, before knocking him
out with an uppercut punch.
She did a quick check on her metal limbs to make sure they
weren’t about to malfunction on her before running into the hall.
Straight into a taser.
Rule #6: it’s always better to throw the first punch
Robin has nothing but her overactive brain for company between
the four walls and tiny toilet area. She tries working out, but her
injuries won’t allow it.
This place reminds her of the hospital. That’s not something
she likes being reminded of.
The shuttle crash that took three of Robin’s limbs and her
mother was ten years ago. Surgery for her metal limbs and physical
therapy had taken two years.
Those two years had not been fun.
No, that is a vast understatement. Having wires shoved into
her nerve endings so her brain would be able to perfectly control the
metal limbs as if they were made of flesh is the worst agony Robin has
ever experienced. Those two years were filled with pain and tears and
loneliness. Her father had preferred drowning in a bottle of whiskey to
comforting his daughter. Still did. There’d been nothing but four white
walls and silent nurses for company.
And John. He would visit every day. Usually he wouldn’t say
anything, just check up on her and then leave with a quiet, “Get well
soon, Miss Loxley.” He always left a flower behind. A rose. A lily. A
lilac. A sunflower. A different flower every day. When Robin finally
left the hospital standing, John was the one waiting for her instead of
her father, with an entire bouquet of assorted flowers.
She still didn’t understand why he did that. They’re not
family. They’re barely friends. He’s the goddamn gardener.
The speaker crackles, jolting Robin to the present. “Put your
hands against the wall.”
The robot guards pull her out. Robin looks up and down the
hall, hoping to catch a glimpse of John or even Marian. When they
aren’t there, she hates herself for being disappointed.
Rule 5, Robin. Rule 5.
The guards take her to an elevator, up to the top floor and
march her into an office. They don’t follow, staying outside the door
as it closes.
Nottingham is sitting at his desk, typing on a computer. The
wall behind him is made of glass, overlooking the entire compound and a
good chunk of Mars, too. He doesn’t look up when Robin steps into the
office, which is big enough for a dozen teenage girls to have a slumber
party, pillow fight and makeovers included.
From the way Nottingham’s dressed, you wouldn’t think it’s the
middle of the night. He’s in a dark suit (different from the one he
wore to dinner) that doesn’t have a single wrinkle, a fake-gold watch,
and his hair is combed and coifed.
“Most twenty-year-olds in our social circles do sports when
they’re bored,” Nottingham says. “Skydiving or mountain climbing. Why
did you choose thievery?”
Robin shrugs. “More exciting.”
“Mm.” Nottingham finally looks up. “By rights I should send
you to prison.”
“So why don’t you?” Robin challenges.
“Because you’re a Loxley. I knew your mother. She’s probably
turning in her grave right now. Your father—”
“That alcoholic’s not gonna care about this, and you know it,”
“True,” Nottingham says. “But let’s forget about your family
for a moment. If I press charges, even if you manage to get away with
it in court, you will have every government breathing down your neck
for the rest of your life. You will never steal again.”
Crap. “There’s a ‘but’ at the end of this,
“There is,” Nottingham says. “The hacking is in the records;
we have to explain that somehow. Your accomplice will already be
charged with aiding and abetting an escape, so we’ll add this to the
pile. You walk away, and from now on will steal only from targets I
“Isn’t hiring a thief to steal from your rivals a bit low?”
“My family got to where I am today because we take every
advantage. You are a very big advantage, Miss Loxley. It’s no ordinary
genius who can get into my systems.” Nottingham leans back in his
chair. “The gardener will take the fall, Ridgeley will spend another
five years here, and you walk away clean. But you will work for me.”
“Uh-huh . . . .” Robin takes a good look at Nottingham, and
has a sudden epiphany.
There are no pictures of friends or family anywhere in the
No wedding band on his finger.
He’s so desperate for some company he sprung a dinner date on
a prospective business partner.
And if she follows him, she’ll end up just like that.
Robin sits on the edge of Nottingham’s desk as casually and
seductively as she can manage. “You know, the reason John hired me for
this is because someone tried to kill Marian . . . .”
“I approved that.”
Robin blinks. “What?”
Nottingham smiles at her, like she’s a child. “People like
Marian think the world is unfair because of big bad wolves who happen
to have a lot of money, but the fact is they’re just upset because
they’re losing the game. They want to change the rules.”
Nottingham leans forward, brushing his fingers against Robin’s
hand, the one made of flesh with millions of nerve endings, each one
picking up on his sweaty fingertips. She tries not to cringe.
“The rules cannot change,” he says.
He traces circles around each of her knuckles, never breaking
eye contact. “The rules are what make us. Protect us. People like
Ridgeley endanger us.”
Robin stares at their hands for a minute. But in the end, it’s
not even a debate.
“No,” she says.
She punches him. With her metal hand.
Rule #7: rules can (and should) be changed
She really should’ve done the breakout from Nottingham’s
While Nottingham drools on the floor in a less-than-conscious
state, Robin sends a memo to the guards. The prisoners are to be
transferred to Earth immediately on an auto-piloted shuttle.
Robin lets the robot guards collect her, and she, Marian, and
John are handcuffed to the shuttle wall and hooked up to IVs that’ll
keep them fed for the month-long journey. Apparently, freedom of
movement and real food are too much to ask.
Robin gets queasy as the automated shuttle takes off, and
tries to forget the fact that her mother died in one of these things.
But it’s not as bad. There’s no panic attack. (Arguing with Marian
When Mars is out of sight, Robin frees herself and the others
(these cuffs are child’s play) and quickly hacks into the shuttle.
“What happened to Rule #5?” John asks, rubbing his wrists.
Robin doesn’t look up from the consol. “It got amended.”
“‘Don’t leave the prize or the employer behind.’”
Marian and John stare at her like she’s grown another head.
Robin snickers and plugs in a new set of coordinates.
© 2016 Christina "DZA" Marie
Bio: Christina “DZA” Marie is a God: creator of
worlds and giver of life. She details the happenings of other, greater
gods’ worlds and the lives of their creations (such as George R. R.
Martin and Rick Riordan) in her blog Dragons,
Zombies and Aliens, where her followers pay obeisance to her
and listen to her Word concerning her online literary series The
Flying Cobras and her various short stories. She welcomes all
followers, believers, and laymen of the genres of fantasy, science
fiction, and horror.
E-mail: Christina "DZA" Marie
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