"Watch your mouth more," snapped the black-uniformed man, his lips seeming to bite off each word as he enunciated it. It made his speech just ever so slightly too slow for comfort, people found themselves dying to finish sentences for these people -- literally. They could order a local excision, a euphemism for a quick death. Briefly the thought flickered across my mind that being a literary character would be easier than living in our world of regimented speech and writing.
He glared at me, glared at Raquel, and peered at Rhymin' Symin. I prayed inwardly that she wouldn't come out and say anything, as I'd finally spotted the thin, aquamarine stripes on the collar of the uniform and knew which group this man represented. She stayed silent, her head tilted slightly to one side, more bird-like than ever, her eyes bright as morning rain on the petals of a sundew.
"I am patrolling these carriages," he said, sounding out the last word as carr-i-ages. "I shall be list-en-ing," the hard t at the end of the first syllable that no-one ever said hissed sibilantly, "for any further incursions into our language. Watch yourselves!"
I shivered, unable to control myself, and saw a smirk of satisfaction appear briefly on his face, quickly pushed away again. He backed away down the carriage, watching us the whole while, and we sat in terrified silence until he'd left.
"Was that one of those superiors?" said Raquel sitting back in her seat and looking suddenly weary.
"Happens no, I think; Just a man needs a drink," said Symin quietly, her eyes darting now to both doors of the carriage. "Weren't ever this bad ere; we're mark-ed men I fear."
"Symin's right, they're not that high. He's got blue stripes on his collar, he's a dialectical prescriptivist. I don't know what he's doing on the train though, they've only got authority in the area of their dialect, and this train must pass through three or four regional variations."
"How did we ever end up like this?" Raquel's fingers flickered idly over the netbook's keyboard. "Can that be googled?"
"Only if you know your history," I said with a half-smile. "It really starts in the seventeenth century when Swift was advocating a council to protect the English language."
"Have we time to waste? Should we not make haste? The train must arrive apace!" said Symin, gesturing at the windows and the verdant landscape racing by.
"She's right," said Raquel, leaning forward again over the netbook.