Orbital Supermax

Space Marshal
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Orbital Supermax

Beitrag von PELCKI »

Diese Geschichte dreht sich um ein Weltraumgefängniss, worin sich Interstellare Schwerverbrecher befinden.
Was wohl alles Passieren kann, im kalten Weltraum...
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Space Marshal
Beiträge: 2793
Registriert: April 24, 2014, 8:39 pm
Wohnort: Basel

Re: Orbital Supermax

Beitrag von PELCKI »

Orbital Supermax: Episode One

Psychology is war. You walk into a room, sometimes by choice, sometimes because you’ve been busted for diverting medical supplies from Med Bay to the prisoners’ infirmary, and sit across from the enemy while they do everything they can to get inside your head.

“Do I need to remind you,” asked Cayla Wyrick, my psychologist, “that failure to comply with these sessions is a violation of the agreement you made with Captain Fieras to keep you out of a four by four cell?”

She had a long neck and a narrow, but pretty face that made her everyone’s favorite civilian contractor. Her blonde locks were cut short, but stylishly done, and her makeup was immaculate, like she was daring any one of OSP-4’s caged monkeys to try something. She was young for a therapist, especially one stationed way out here in the Banshee system.

“I don’t understand why Fieras insisted on these sessions. I’m a smuggler, not a mental patient.”

She crossed her legs and sat back in her chair. “And if a smuggler was all you were, I’m certain he would have simply fired you. Or thrown you in a cell. But you have a history, don’t you?”

I took a sip of ice water and put the glass on a nearby table. There was a huge vid screen behind her that showed a starscape. In a couple of hours, Lorona, the planet in whose Lagrange point we sat, would heave itself into view on the lower right.

Of course she’d read my file. She’d probably watched the vids of the fiery explosion that had claimed my brother’s life.

I resented Danny for dying so publicly. If we’d been miners in some nameless asteroid belt, no one would have cared about the details. But we’d been pilots, best and second-best at the Academy, and when he’d died I’d had to accept the medal that should have been his, because I’d been right behind him on the scoreboards. That single incident had become a gold mine for the head shrinkers I’d seen in the years since the incident. Any action I took was labelled survivor’s syndrome, or twinless twin syndrome, or any number of other personality disorders. Now that I’d been caught with my hand in the cookie jar, Fieras and Wyrick were falling over themselves in their rush to call it something other than what it was: a crime of greed.

I didn’t want to go through another minute of therapy. I’d rather spend my time in a cell.

“You know that blush you’re wearing is contraband? These guys use the pigment for prison tattoos. Or wear it. You know. It takes all kinds.”

“… and I think we’re done for the day,” she replied, tapping a few keys on the notepad and then letting the screen go dark.

A small flash, like someone lighting a match in a dark room, attracted my attention to the screen behind her. One of the stars began to move. It grew from pinprick to buttonhole, gaining velocity exponentially until it shot off the top right corner of the screen and disappeared. The whole process had taken maybe five seconds, and it took me slightly longer than that to figure out what I was looking at.

I launched myself out of my chair at Wyrick. My weight caught her in the shoulder and overturned her chair. A heartbeat later the station shook violently and the lights flickered before going out. A blast of super-heated air blew off the cover of the air conditioning vent and flames shot out of it, briefly painting the darkened office with shades of orange. Emergency lights in the base of each wall came on and we could see again, albeit dimly.

I rolled away from her and got to my knees. To her credit she didn’t say a word about my knocking her down. “What happened?” she asked instead.

“We got hit by a missile,” I said. “At least one. For some reason, our automatic defenses didn’t come online to prevent the attack.”

The emergency lights changed from red to yellow and flashed a pattern that indicated the door. An inoffensive, computer-generated voice spoke from everywhere at once. “Lieutenant Cayla Wyrick, as the highest ranking officer on board Orbital Supermax Prison 4, you are now in command. Please follow the yellow lights to the Auxiliary Command Deck.”

“Lieutenant Wyrick?” I said sarcastically back to the computer. “That’s her paygrade, not her rank!”

Civilian contractors were paid on the same scale as the military. Wyrick was obviously an OS-9, which meant she got paid the same as a lieutenant. But that wasn’t the same thing as actually being a lieutenant. She couldn’t give orders, or even be saluted. The computer had made a mistake, and it didn’t take me long to realize what else that meant. We’d been attacked with surgical precision. Everyone with any real rank was already dead.

Wyrick threw the notepad onto her desk and tapped on the starscape until it dissolved into a map of the station. Green sections were undamaged, yellow meant that we’d suffered a non-lethal holing on that deck, and red meant that we could safely cut the prison food budget. There was a lot of red.

Wyrick’s fingers danced across the vidscreen. “Command, Engineering, Med Bay … they’re all offline.”

I joined her at the screen. “May I?”

She glared at me, then reluctantly keyed in her override codes. Without wasting any time, I swapped back to the starscape and then zoomed in as far as I could on the source of those missiles. It didn’t take much scrolling to find a small pleasure craft that had been hastily modified to accept huge missile racks. Several more fighters flew nearby in close formation. A larger ship lurked behind them, but the station’s limited magnification gave it a pixelated look and I couldn’t quite make out what it was. Suddenly, the image was obscured by something so large that it too was pixelated. A fighter maybe, passing very close to the station. And not one of the UEE’s either.

I tried the emergency channels but all I heard was the dull hiss of static across all wavelengths. We were being jammed. “Pirates. I don’t know what they’re doing here, but it can’t be good.”

“Is it a prison break?” asked Wyrick.

“Maybe? But you’d think that anyone worth a small flotilla would have been flown immediately to Kellog VI,” I said, meaning the infamous prison planet. Installations like OSP-4 were prisons in their own right, but also feeding stations, temporary lodgings where high-risk prisoners from the outer systems could be held, pending transfer to Kellog VI. “It might just be a raid. Once a pirate pack gets too big they can’t sustain themselves on plunder from the occasional freighter. An installation like this might be a tempting target. The prisoners are just an added bonus. Or they’re expendable, depending on the whims of the pirates.”

“But aren’t there defenses?”

“Sure.” As the prison’s former quartermaster I was in a better position to know than anyone else still alive on the station. I punched up the flight deck. Debris floated in the air. A dark, human-shaped silhouette tumbled lazily through the micro-gravity. A quick scan highlighted a jagged gash in the hull. Decompression had been swift and violent, but the station’s two fighters were still on their pads. “Looks like we didn’t put up much of a fight.”

A dull vibration and then a thump echoed through the deck all around us. I felt my stomach lift as gravity fluctuated. The ominous hiss of air escaping through the vents was a sign that we’d suffered too much damage for the station’s systems to patch, and that meant that breathing was going to get difficult pretty quickly.

“We’ve gotta go,” I said.

Reluctantly, she followed me out the door and down the hall.

The damage was more extensive than I thought. Wires descended from the drop-ceiling like jungle vines, dripping sparks onto the floor. The air smelled of ozone and burnt rubber and was uncomfortably hot, as if a fire raged just out of sight. The hallways we passed through were empty and dim, except for the occasional flash and sizzle from the wiring overhead. The computer was guiding us to Aux Command, but I had a different plan. Instead I turned aside to the prison’s Maximum Security block.

“What are we doing here?” she asked. We stood in front of a red, metal door with a keypad at its center.

“The comm systems are down and that means there’s no way for us to send a distress signal. Unless we get lucky and someone sends us an unscheduled prisoner transfer, the earliest we can expect help is two weeks from now. Waiting here is not an option.” I let my tone convey an additional meaning. “Especially for you.”

Wyrick shifted uncomfortably. “There are 1600 prisoners and two hundred staff members aboard this facility. We can’t leave them behind.”

I stifled my aggravation. “You’re a therapist and I’m a quartermaster. Neither of us is hero material. There are two fighters still on the flight deck. We can use them to get off this station and warn the UEE.”

Unconvinced, she looked up at the door. “Okay, but then what are we doing here?”

“Getting hero material,” I said with a smirk on my face.

I’d done a little digging back when I’d started ‘misplacing supplies for profit’ just in case I ever needed a little inside help to make a quick escape, and every official document I could lay my hands on said that the guy we were about to liberate was the best damned pilot aboard. He was ex-military, so most of the files I’d found were redacted, but I’d found a list of medals he’d received and pretty much the only ones he didn’t have were the ones you got for taking a bullet.

Opening the Maximum Security door was like opening an oven. A blast of superheated air seared my face and I looked away involuntarily. There weren’t any flames visible in the passageway, but some of the plastic fascia on the walls burped and puckered.

“Give me your card,” I said with a wave of my hand.

“Nylund,” said Wyrick, “you can’t …”

I nodded down the passageway. “Don’t worry, I’ll be back. I’m not escaping through that.”

“That’s not what I meant,” she replied, but gave me the card anyway.

My instincts were telling me not to go in. The heat was too intense, the air wasn’t breathable, that kind of thing. I ignored them. I might have been able to find another pilot, but this guy was the best and I’d convinced myself that anyone else would get us killed. I stayed as low as I could, on the opposite side of the hallway from the puckering plastic, but it was nearly unbearable. I counted two doors and then swiped Wyrick’s card.

The panel went green and the door slid open. I was about to find out what kind of man we were risking our lives to set free.
to be continued …
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Space Marshal
Beiträge: 2793
Registriert: April 24, 2014, 8:39 pm
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Re: Orbital Supermax

Beitrag von PELCKI »

Orbital Supermax Episode 2

The fire in the Maximum Security block travelled through wiring ducts in the drop-ceiling, burning so hot that it had begun to melt the plastic fascia on the walls. The thick black smoke that poured into the corridor reminded me of ink slowly spreading through water.

Wes Morgan, the man we’d come to spring, pressed his face close to mine. He’d torn a sleeve off his prison uniform, wet it in his small sink, and then tied it over his face. The other sleeve, he passed to me. “Up there,” he pointed at the ceiling, “is superheated steam. Down there is chemical smoke that’ll kill you if you breathe it. So stay low, but not too low.” He turned to step further down the corridor.

“We’ve got to get to the flight deck. It’s the only way off the station,” I said, pointing back up toward where Cayla Wyrick waited for us. The prison was in lockdown and she was the only one with the codes to get us there. We didn’t have time for detours. I was armed with a snub-nosed stun gun I’d taken from a locker outside the block and there was always the option to turn it on him, but we needed his help to get us past the pirate blockade.

“We’re not leaving without Asari,” he said gruffly.

“Who’s Asari?” I asked, but Morgan had already begun moving down the corridor toward the next cell. I was certain I’d heard the name before but couldn’t remember where, so I followed reluctantly, half-hunched over as I’d been instructed. Though I could see no open flame, the air was blistering hot and seared my lungs when I breathed, even through the wet cloth.

“This one,” said Morgan through his sleeve. He stood in front of the only other occupied cell on the block. There was no identifying mark beyond a string of numbers above the door.

Wyrick had given me her ident card and it would open any door in the station. But this was the Maximum Security block. This was where the UEE parked prisoners they didn’t want anyone to find. Men who’d committed atrocious crimes, or who had known pirate affiliations, or …

I remembered who Yusaf Asari was.

“I’m not opening that door.” I said firmly. Asari was up on charges of attempted genocide. A Tevarin terrorist, he’d released a weaponized virus on one of the colonies in the Geddon system. The idea had been to spread the infection through colony transports that were returning to UEE space. The Advocacy had gotten wind of the plan and locked down the colony before the virus could spread, but the casualties on the ground had been horrendous. He was a monster in every sense of the word.

“We can sit here and argue, or I could just take the ident card from you and open the cell myself. Letting you keep the card is just a courtesy.”

Morgan knew I was armed and didn’t seem to care. Maybe he just wanted to keep Asari from dying in the fire, I reasoned. If that was the case, I could bend a little. “I want your personal guarantee that he doesn’t get off the station.”

Morgan considered that. “I won’t help him leave the station. What he does on his own is up to him.” It was the best I was going to get.

Asari did not immediately emerge from his cell. He was big for a Tevarin and that was saying something. He’d also been scarred across his face and upper shoulders, scars that were plainly visible because of the white, sleeveless shirt he wore. “Morgan,” he said with a slurred voice. “You don’t look anything like I imagined.”

“You look just like your newsreels,” said Morgan. “Consider this a rescue.”

Asari’s gaze passed over me as if I wasn’t even there. “I cannot join you,” he said. “My brother Tevarin are being held on a lower deck. I will find them and then join the invaders if they’ll take us. If not, then we will kill them.”

“I understand,” said Morgan. He held out a hand, which Asari shook. “It’s been a pleasure.”

“I’ll see you again, Wes Morgan, if not before death, than after.” With that, the giant Tevarin turned down the corridor and disappeared deeper into the prison.

“We’re still not going to the flight deck yet,” said Morgan when we’d returned to Wyrick. He spoke again before either of us could object. “That toy stun gun you have isn’t going to mean squat if we run into the people responsible for taking out the defenses of an Orbital Supermax, and I’ll be damned if I face them armed with nothing more than my winning personality.”

“No guns,” said Wyrick firmly.

Morgan looked her up and down. “You’re a sweet girl. Good looking too. You don’t want to find out what these guys’ll do to you if they have the chance.” He let that gruesome thought hang in the air for a moment before continuing. “You know who am I?”

She’d gone pale, but she nodded.

“You’ve read my file?”

Another nod. “Kellogg IV wanted a psychological profile before we transferred you. I was going to conduct it sometime next week.”

“Good. Then you know I’m not a psychopath. Guns are a negotiating tool. If I don’t have to fire one, I won’t.”

She studied him a moment longer, then nodded a third time. Funnily enough, I didn’t think it was Morgan’s threat that had made up her mind. She was a shrink, and shrinks were good at reading people. I’m guessing she saw something in him that told her that he was telling the truth.

Unfortunately, we weren’t the first people on the station to think of the armory. We risked the elevator, taking it down two levels, and then passed through a maze of hallways. As we got close, we began to hear noises, metal-on-metal, yells and curses. The source was apparent when we rounded a corner. A prisoner so skinny he looked like he had a concave chest was holding a patch gun against a sealed vault-like door. The gun, usually used to seal holes in the hull made by micro-meteorites, sparked as it contacted the metal. Char marks stained a wide swatch where previous attempts to open it had failed.

A giant prisoner whom I knew as Albus Cronock stood with a cluster of men. His arms were folded over his chest and he oversaw the operation with heavily-lidded eyes. A weapon taken from a dead guard leaned against a wall nearby, within easy reach.

“Last chance to turn around and head for the flight deck,” I offered nervously.

“We’re staying,” said Morgan. He held out his hand. “Give me the gun.”

I hesitated, but surprisingly, Wyrick agreed with him. “Do you think it would make a difference one way or another?”

It might not make a difference, but its weight on my hip was comforting and I was reluctant to give it up. As soon as I’d handed it over, Morgan stepped up to one of the control panels that was mounted on the wall, smashed it with his fist, and then removed a wire from its insides. He popped out the stun gun’s clip and did something to it with the wire that caused it to spark. He gave it a brief inspection and when he’d come to a satisfactory conclusion, he popped the clip back into the gun.

“There. Now it’s lethal.” He lifted the barrel and pointed it right at us.

“Well,” I said, glaring at Wyrick, “that didn’t take long.”

“This is all part of the plan, isn’t it, Morgan?” asked Wyrick optimistically.

“It’s part of a plan, sure,” answered Morgan with a shrug. “You know that advice you get about your first day in prison? Find the biggest meanest sonofabitch and start a fight? That’s what we’re going to do.”

Then he waved us forward with the gun. “Now get moving.”

It took a few seconds for the man with the patch gun to notice that the other prisoners had fallen silent, but when he did he lowered the tool, lifted his safety goggles, and then looked towards Cronock. The bigger prisoner pushed off from the wall, caught the butt of the guard’s rifle with the edge of his toe, and then tossed it into the air where he caught it with his hands. As he advanced towards us, several of the other prisoners followed in his wake. “Well, well. Cayla Wyrick. Nice to see your pretty face. Who are your two friends?”

I should have realized that everyone knew the prison shrink. Morgan caught my eye. His grip tightened on the gun and he nodded deliberately at the skinny guy with the patch gun, as if to suggest that I should charge him if things went south. I shrugged and pretended like I didn’t understand him. I’m as brave as the next guy, but a patch gun fuses metal together. There was no way I was going to throw myself against the sparkly end.

“That’s Dr. Wyrick,” she said. “It was Dr. Wyrick the first time we met and it was Dr. Wyrick last week when you were crying in my office like a baby because your girlfriend got tired of waiting for you and ran off with her boss.”

Cronock blinked like he’d been struck, and then shot looks left and right. “Crying? Me? You got the wrong guy.” He hunched his shoulder and spoke in a softer, pleading tone of voice. “Isn’t there supposed to be some kind of doctor/patient confidentiality or something?”

But Wyrick wasn’t done. She looked at the man holding the patch gun. “Hello, James. I’m surprised to see you here. What do you think your sister will do when you get another twenty years added to your sentence for attempting to escape? Stay with Slade and end up in the hospital? You were going to save her from all that, weren’t you?”

‘James’ reddened and then set the patch gun on the ground. “Sorry, Cronock, I ain’t gonna let that happen.”

“And you! Mick Brown! Weren’t you going to —?”

This time the prisoner in question didn’t even wait for her to finish. “All right, all right. You made your point. I ain’t touching a hair on your head.”

I was stunned. Wyrick had managed to neutralize one of the most violent group of men on the Supermax. Using words.

Morgan’s eyes were wide. “Is there anyone she hasn’t got dirt on?”

I could only shrug.

Wyrick strode right into the middle of the group. Even in heels, her head didn’t even come up to their shoulders, but it was like she owned them, body and soul. “I’ve got news for you. I am this facility’s new Warden. That means that I am free to offer station paroles and sentencing recommendations to anyone who helps us out.” She looked around, waiting for that news to sink in. Then she held up her ident card. “And because I am the acting warden I have access to the armory.”

Morgan blinked, as if he’d only been half-listening up until that point. “Hold on a second …”

I stuttered out something too. We were going to arm them? But a cheer went up from the prisoners that drowned me out. Then Wyrick had the door open and we found ourselves in the center of a bunch of celebrating madmen who were armed to the teeth.

Since the only thing that was keeping them from throwing us out the nearest airlock was Wyrick’s lack of hesitation in divulging confidential information, I made sure to grab a P4SC assault rifle. If they ever came for me, I was going to be armed.
to be continued …
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