An impatient pounding came from outside. A cell block guard approached and slid open the peephole. Ertac the Darshyll giant stood in the rain on the other side. The guard jerked back as Ertac’s wet snout closed in on the peephole.
The guard unlocked the armored door as another stood nearby, rifle at the ready. Ertac moved in, pushing a shackled Eyldwan ahead of him. The cell blocks in The Pit were massive multi-story cylinders, carved out of the mountains and reinforced. This made for a deafening echo chamber when the inmates were in an uproar, as they were now while Eyldwan walked the line. As the group of four moved through the processing area, he discretely slipped his hands out of the unlocked shackles.
Ertac made the first move, locking the guard in front of him in a sleeper hold. Immediately, Eyldwan roped the second guard’s neck with the chains from his shackles. Both were dispatched in mere moments, but not before one managed to strain out a curse to Ertac: “Lut-chak’t!” Traitor.
Ertac took a key-card from his victim’s belt and tossed it to Eyldwan. Grabbing the fallen guard’s rifle, he headed into the nearby monitoring station, a control and surveillance post for the guards. A bank of monitors glowed off to the side. He moved quickly to the weapons lockers on the wall, punching in a security code on the keypad and revealing a row of pulse rifles ready for the taking.
Eyldwan continued down the corridor of cells, unlocking the gates one by one with the key-card. The noise was maddening. Cheers, shouts, and angry or desperate calls from other convicts demanding their freedom. The former general chose carefully, recalling every face he had studied in preparation for this day. He would need every able body he could spare, but many were simple madmen, liable to deviate to their own petty impulses at a moment’s notice.
Ertac remained at the guard post, monitoring as reinforcements began to close in from the adjacent cell blocks. “We must leave, general!”
Outside, the rainstorm raged the landscape. Only the facility’s blaring alarms could be heard over the cacophony as the main gate began to lower. Eyldwan waited calmly behind it, as Ertac and several freed inmates stood with pulse rifles raised, ready for anything.
The first shot caught one of the inmates in the head, taking him down instantly. The rest turned and exchanged fire with a trio of guards, firing and maintaining cover by the facility’s entrance. Out of the rain above, a small transport shuttle flew into view and maneuvered into a hover in front of Eyldwan’s group. The inmates continued spraying cover fire as they began to board the craft. As Eyldwan climbed in, he exchanged an acknowledging nod with the pilot, Khern.
The group would suffer two more casualties before the remaining survivors boarded and the shuttle blasted off into the storm, leaving the guards staring at the night sky. The group cheered and yelled obscenities, let out primal shouts of victory and so on. Eyldwan remained silent in the co-pilot seat, staring ahead with razor focus, his next target in his mind’s eye.
Cartaan. The Carteagan homeworld. News of the prison break traveled through swift but quiet channels to the Cartaan capitol building. President Aarkhan, still adjusting to his new station, requested the incident be kept from the Alliance until an internal investigation could provide at least some answers. In short, the less he appeared caught with his pants down, the better.
“I want a full investigation at the mine,” Aarkhan ordered. “Find out how many escaped and who helped them.” A young advisor followed at his heels, continuing to take notes as Aarkhan settled into his office desk.
“Yes, sir.” As the advisor exited the office, the butt end of a rifle slammed across his face, knocking him cold. His attacker stood in the doorway, remaining in the shadows.
Aarkhan leapt to his feet. “Guards!”
“I wouldn’t bother,” The voice said calmly. “My men have already taken the building. I could stage a coup right now, but that is not what I wish.” He stepped closer, into the light. Aarkhan couldn’t hide his shock.
The Carteagan president stared back, fighting the intimidation, until Eyldwan repeated himself menacingly. “Sit.”
“President Aarkhan,” Eyldwan mockingly addressed him. “There’s a reason why they forced that label on you. Have you truly no loyalty to the empire?”
“There is no empire anymore.”
“No, there is not.”
Aarkhan tensed as the disgraced general slowly approached. It was as if he was seeing a ghost. Worse, a demon resurrected, and only hardened further from the depths of hell.
“What is this? Why have you come here?”
“I come with opportunity. An opportunity to aid a new empire, and all I ask for is a ship.”
“And why would I do that?”
“Do you enjoy being their domesticated beast?” Eyldwan chastised. “Waiting for your owner to grant you pats on the head? They are not the kind benefactors they claim.” He leaned over the desk, eyes locked with Aarkhan’s. “Grant me a warship, and I will restore this world to its rightful place.”
“You’re mad.” Aarkhan nearly stuttered in terror.
“You know I can simply take it, just as I took this building. This, wretched symbol of your so-called Alliance. But I had hoped you would see reason.”
“Reason?” The president finally found his strength, firing his words back at Eyldwan. “You want to bring war back to Cartaan?! Whatever you’re planning, whatever followers you have in this madness, you will accomplish nothing.”
“More will join us. When I show them the stars again. The glory of the true Cartaan will be remembered, by a few, then many. And we will lead the galaxy to our greatness. Not Earth-kind. Not the Alliance.”
He turned his gaze at the far wall of the presidential office. Two banners hung above the entrance, one belonging to the Alliance, and below it, the flag of the old Carteagan Empire. “With your aid or not, the Empire will be reborn.” With Eyldwan’s attention turned, Aarkhan used the opportunity to cautiously scramble for a dagger sheathed underneath his desk.
“I will ask one last time. Will you aid us and be a true son of Cartaan again?”
Aarkhan gripped the dagger hard. “I cannot.”
He made his move, slashing wildly. Eyldwan expertly swatted it away, pulled his own blade from his belt and buried it in Aarkhan’s chest.
“As the new Cartaan rises, there will be no room for the weak, for detractors.” The president collapsed back in his seat, seizing in shock and agony. Eyldwan pushed the blade in further. “This is necessary. This is necessary, and I am not sorry.”
Thirty minutes after Aarkhan’s term of office was cut short, capitol security would report several guards found dead at a military shipyard, and one vessel missing. A big one.