Two days later, a high ranking officer accompanied with two armed escorts, came to Sudenjah’s cell. The officer removed Sudenjah’s hat and tore the insignia off his uniform before taking him away. His escort marched him to a nearby military spaceport where huge ships waited on the runway. Only one of the ships had its cargo ramp down.
Sudenjah recognised the ships from books; Leviathans, from his father’s time. Apparently the space fleet had converted them into prison freighters. His escort marched him up the ramp. Another armed guard took custody of Sudenjah and ushered him into a lift. Almost instantly, it reached the desired floor. The door slid open and the guard waved him down a corridor.
Ordered to “stop” in the corridor, the guard placed his hand on the cell door’s sensor lock. Bars slid aside, giving Sudenjah a better view of the cell, a decent sized room with a bunk on either wall and a small porthole between them. On the other bunk, laid a huge muscled man with his hands behind his head.
“Inside,” said the guard.
Sudenjah walked to the only empty bunk and placed his toiletry bag and books on the small shelf above. The guard slammed the door shut, leaving Sudenjah with his thoughts as he stared out of the porthole. Although silent, he detected the starting of the Leviathan’s engines, in the tremor of the pernizium floor. It would take less than a minute for the freighter to climb into the stars, and weeks before he reached the prison sector. At least he looked forward to seeing the wormholes there as described in the ancient Zueccans’ writings.
His fate finally descended on him. Life on the prison planets would consist of hard work, until he died; no time off, no respite. A single word came to mind, escape; his only option, or die a slow death after years, possibly decades of abuse.
The other occupant rolled from his bunk and stood immediately in front of Sudenjah. He stood chest and shoulders taller than Sudenjah, broader too. His hair spilled to his shoulders, with thin braids at the sides. Blue slitted eyes furrowed as he adopted an expression somewhere between a grimace and a smile. Without warning, he contemptuously pinched Sudenjah’s upper sleeve.
“Space Fleet, were you?” he asked.
“Yes, Captain Sudenjah.”
“The disgraced fighter pilot?”
“A high-born! Oh how far the mighty have fallen,” he said sarcastically.
Sudenjah felt no need to correct him about his upbringing. The man seemed used to not having his opinion challenged, no matter how uninformed.
“And may I ask your name?”
“They call me Machete.” He turned, to display the emblem of a moon with a super imposed skull overlapping. “I’m president of the Moon Ghouls.”
Sudenjah had never heard of the Moon Ghouls, but Machete was obviously a member of a speeder gang. They virtually rode on two seater rockets, nimble, but with no real range. Because of their limited travel capacity, they often circulated around smaller planetoids close to each other for swift evasion from police.
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