Disclaimer: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen movie is copyright of 20th Century Fox. No infringement is intended.
Author's Note: This is the sequel to 'Picking Up the Pieces'. I recommend that you read 'Picking Up the Pieces' to know exactly how everyone got to this point. However, it is not required. There are several facts to know before reading-- 1) Nemo is in jail with a life sentence, 2) Jekyll and Mina are married and have four children, 3) Sawyer is married to Becky Thatcher and 4) Skinner is in and out of jail, still living as a thief. For more details please read 'Picking Up the Pieces.' Since time is moving rapidly into the summer months, I will try to update about once a week. With that said, enjoy!
GODS AND GAMBLERS
By Etcetera Kit
There are hungry devils everywhere. It's on my soul they feast. Let me rise above the carcass of this all too mortal beast. If I had a chance, I'd fly away. I'd see myself released. I'd fly above the carcass of this poor pathetic beast.
-the Man, 'the Nature of the Beast' from 'Whistle Down the Wind'
Prologue: Free Me
Free me! Can't you hear that's what I say- free me!
One of the men who worked in the loading dock had managed to procure the journal for him. They were the men one went to when one wanted something that was not prison issued. A journal and supply of pens and ink was not prison issued. One could count the things that were prison issued- a shirt, a pair of pants, two pair of socks, a pair of shorts, a pair of work boots, a blanket, a pillow, a bar of soap and a Bible. All other toiletries were for public use in the bathroom. The journal was a rich leather-bound book and the large man who had delivered it had said with a grin: "Only the best for the Captain!"
The men who drove the supply wagons to and from the prison bought all the contraband items and the exchange was handled by slipping the items into the boxes that the prisoners unpacked. No one had any money in here- things were bartered for. And the three packs of cigarettes he had managed to become the owner of through various means were enough to purchase the journal and writing supplies.
He gingerly opened the journal to the first page. The scent of new paper mixed with the tinge of leather was pleasant and a change from the musty, sweaty smell of the prison that constantly plagued his nostrils. He ran a work-hardened hand over the page, reveling in the clean and new feeling that resulted. The paper was smooth and much finer than anything he had used before coming here. It almost made him wonder why the men had gone to such trouble to find something so grand. He almost never talked to them, preferring to keep to himself and quietly re-read the letters that he received almost weekly.
Smiling behind his beard that the guards had never forced him to shave off, he unscrewed the lid to the ink and gently laid it on the edge of the small table in his cell. The moon was out that night and was quite bright- providing more than enough light to write by. He gently dipped the pen in the ink and put it to the paper. But what to write? He thought for a moment and then wrote:
August 12, 1905
I have been here nearly six years. I arrived here, in this place, on August the twentieth in the year eighteen hundred and ninety nine. My crime has been classified as 'piracy' although many other crimes fall under that category as well. I am accused of theft, murder, assaulting officers of the Crown, evading arrest and many other more minor crimes. I am guilty of these crimes? Yes. However, I felt remorse for those things many years before I came here. It was an epiphany of sorts- how I came to care for people instead of wealth and power. I will not have power when I leave here.
Hasaan has written for many years now and four years ago he wrote to tell me that he had the Nautilus put in dry dock. My ship- the Sword of the Ocean and the jewel of my entire life- is now subjected to dry dock, when it should be roaming the oceans as a mighty power. But I do not blame Hasaan for this- there was no practical way to keep the crew aboard and functioning. Hasaan was my butler for many years and now he is the butler for some dear friends of mine- friends that I did not, unfortunately, meet until just months before my arrest.
I am happy for Hasaan- Henry and Mina are wonderful people- and from his letters, my former butler appears to be thriving. The Jekylls have four children now- a boy who just turned five, twin girls who are almost four and another little girl who is nearly three. All of their children were born in either August or September. Tom and his new wife Becky are expecting a child now as well. I say his new wife, but she is really not- they have been married close to four years now. I believe Henry wrote that the child would be due around Christmas time. That will certainly be a joyful present for Tom and Becky. I am happy for all of them and am sad that I cannot be present as a part of their happiness.
All of them assure me in their letters that they have not forgotten me and will continue to write to me- forever if need be. This concern makes me happy, however mine is a life sentence and I doubt that I will see any of them again before I die. This prison is top-security and visitors are not allowed. The inmates are not even allowed to write letters to people outside these walls. I can only hope and pray that my dear friends realize this and they never cease to write. But if they do, I shall understand. As times passes, I will become a remote figure that they remember from some distant past.
The demons that tormented them are gone- lost in a long ago oblivion. I suppose now I am facing my demons by taking the punishment for what I have done. I had always hoped that perhaps good deeds could redeem a man, but not in regards to the law. I shall live my last days honorably and with as much dignity as one is allowed to have in this place. I already keep many of the books for this place and make up many of the work schedules for inmates working in the workshop or laundry. I suppose that is a symbol of power and status in this place. It is a sort of honor among thieves. I never hurt women or children in my years of piracy- that was always a strict rule among pirates and was one that was never broken. When a man who has hurt women and children comes here- it is only a matter of days before he does himself in. No one is sad to see him go.
There is a young man here by the name of Jack. When we are allowed out in the courtyard, he sits with me and wants to hear stories of the Jekylls and the Sawyers. He wants to know about Hasaan and the Nautilus and my days as a pirate. I tell him my stories and he sits, fascinated. He is the first person I have ever known who is genuinely interested in my stories. I suppose my life may seem like one of the tales from One Thousand and One Arabian Nights. It must be intriguing to an outsider. I had told Tom and even Skinner some of my stories on the ship, but nothing very long or definitive. Jack receives no letters and always wants me to read the ones I receive to him. I strongly suspect that he cannot read or write. I think he is looking for a father figure or a mentor that he has probably never had. I do not mind being that person. I just think he could have found someone here who really is a father unlike myself.
The phrase that always strikes me is when Jack asks about my 'family.' He means Mina and Henry and Tom and Hasaan, but, now that I think about it, I suppose that they are my family. When the entire League was aboard the Nautilus, the feeling was that Quartermain and I were brothers while everyone else could be considered my children. I suppose that would make Mina and Henry's children my surrogate grandchildren. I had never thought about referring to dear friends as family before. I guess some people become family after all you and those people have been through together.
Around the prison, I am called the 'Captain.' I suppose it is appropriate since that was my proper title for many years. The guards here simply refer to me as 'Nemo.' I do not think they want to attempt to pronounce my proper name- the name I was born with. I do not know why I remember the name my family called me by as a young boy. I was so young when I became a cabin boy and aboard the ship they immediately renamed me Nemo. The images of a proper family had always haunted me when I was young and I had dreams of coming ashore one day and seeing my family waiting for me. Alas, they did not want me back as I would be another mouth to feed in a family that was already too large. My home became a ship and my family became hardened pirates.
I suppose that prison is not a bad place to be. Wealthy citizens who want to appear philanthropic donate dozens of books each year to the prison and we are allowed to read them. I feel as though I have read every book here in all genres of writing. Most of the books on science and philosophy are outdated, but I read them anyways. Many of them I read years ago when I was deep into my self-education. I had not read any storybooks for years and now I feel as though I have read too many. Not that it matters to the guards how our minds are exercised. But I would like to keep my mind sharp and not become dull-witted like many of the men who have been here for many more years than I.
A light shone through his cell window, bright and unnatural against the silver moonlight. Almost simultaneously with the light came the sounds of dogs barking and men shouting. A wry smile graced his face. What poor fool had tried to escape now? He would not get far. The entire building was surrounded by a high brick wall. Around that wall was a fence made of barbed wire. Even if one was to somehow scale the brick wall- that went several feet underground as well, the barbed wire was enough to make even the strongest man bleed to death. His body would be found in one of the fields that surrounded the prison. There was nothing around the prison- not even the smallest town- for miles and miles. One did not have a chance of escaping and staying alive to tell the tale.
Thinking for a moment, he dipped his pen in the ink, liking the soft scratching noise that the pen made over the paper. It was comforting that something so basic could still exist in this godless wasteland. He put the pen to the paper once more.
I am told that I will have a parole trial soon. The guards tell me that I may be released on a policy of good behavior. I did not know such a policy existed and I suspect that it may have been invented to get me an earlier parole trial than I normally would have. Every ten years is the set time for a parole trial for someone with a life sentence. I suppose I will see if it happens and what the terms of the parole will be.
He considered signing the bottom of the page and then decided against it. He wanted this to be rather like the captain's log he used to keep on the Nautilus and he had never signed the captain's log. Gently lifting the book, he blew on the page to dry the ink quickly. He should have torn a scrap of paper from the book to blot the ink with, but he could not bring himself to maim such a fine book in that way- and especially not a book that would appear to have caused more than one person some trouble to procure for him.
Once he was satisfied that the ink was dry and would not smudge once he closed the book, he gently shut the covers of the book and slipped it amongst the books sitting on his table. All the other books were canvas or leather-bound and it was unlikely that the guards would notice something amiss. And all the other books varied in quality so a new book would not attract attention either. He carefully replaced the lid on the ink jar and used the tail of his shirt to wipe the ink from the pen. He kept his shirt tucked in at all times so no one would notice the ink stain and it could easily be explained as something that had happened while he was balancing the books for the prison.
Now the real question was where to hide the ink and the pen so that the guards would not become suspicious of it. He settled for behind one of the wider books that were shorter than all the other width-wise. It was not obvious that the book should be shorter than the others and it would take a guard trashing his cell to find the items. However, there was little danger of that since most of the guards left him well alone.
Inspecting his cell quickly to make sure that nothing was out of place, he lay down on his bed as was expected if a guard were to come by to check on them. However, he did not sleep as he rarely did here. Sleep was a luxury that could not be afforded here and the noises here were such that even if he did try to sleep, he would be awoken again in a matter of minutes by the creaking pipes, the slamming of gates from outside, the various snores and grunts from the other inmates and all manner of other things. It was nothing like the gentle hum of the motor on the Nautilus that would lull him to sleep many a night at sea.
And yet despite it all, he did not doubt that he belonged here. However, many of the guards would inquire of the inmates if they felt rehabilitated. He found that word to be completely misleading. What the guards wanted to know is if they felt sorry for doing whatever had landed them here. He knew that he felt remorse for it, but not because he was here. It was a deeper kind of remorse that ran straight to his very soul. He wanted to fall on his knees and pray to the gods. He wanted to ask them to help him live his life over again and omit all the terrible deeds that he had performed.He closed his eyes, whispering a silent prayer. This place had made him something that he never wanted to be. It had taken away his sense of freedom. He longed to be away from here where he could write and read without fear of guards. He wanted to be able to take a leisurely stroll under the sun and not worry that other prisoners might have ill intentions towards him. But that was not possible and it would never be possible. The parole trial was probably a cruel joke on the behalf of the guards. He was going to be in this place for all the remaining days of his life and then be buried in an unmarked grave outside the prison walls.