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Chapter Two

SR822 was a garbage heap of a planet at the ass end of the Territories, but it had its uses. Chiefly, being a garbage heap. The Darshyll originally used the barren landscape as a literal landfill for anything too costly or otherwise unfeasible for recycling. For decades, everything from scavenged ship remains to discarded children’s toys formed majestic mountain ranges of waste. In an ironic twist, valuable deposits of iridium were eventually discovered beneath the surface, and thus The Pit was born.

The worst of the worst lived out their days here. Some of the most vicious maniacs, serial killers, and all-purpose scum of the universe were shipped in to mine the precious ore until their bodies gave out. This was the end of the road. No escape. No release, save for death. And for a former proud warrior, who once fought for the glory of his people in the greatest army the galaxy had ever seen, it was nearly enough to break him. Nearly.

Khern swung his pickaxe into the rock wall. Like the rest of the prisoners down the line, he stared ahead in a trance-like haze. This was life now, as it would be until age or a hidden blade would take him. Part of him welcomed it. And yet he pressed on. A fool’s hope. Carteagan pride, perhaps. No, a promise.

A nearby prisoner fell to his knees, worked to the bone. Seconds later, he was met with an electrified stun baton to the back. It was a routine affair, but it was enough to pull Khern out of his daze. He grimaced at the Darshyll guard delivering the punishment. The race was commonly described not unlike the warthogs of Earth. Hairy, odious, disagreeable. The tusks and snout did them no favors either, leading to quite the awkward conversations upon first contact with humanity. They made fast allies, however, integrating and improving Earth’s resources and marking the beginnings of the Alliance.

Slurs against Carteagans, on the other hand, were generally more acceptable, especially in circles still harboring deep resentment from the war. “Croc-bug” or “croc-hopper”, crossing crocodiles with grasshoppers, were the most popular terms. Humans. So quick to judge, categorize and catalog the universe how they see fit. When Khern arrived in The Pit, he was quick to silence the first inmate to irritate his ears with such insults. Removing his tongue was quite the effective display, ensuring peace and quiet for the rest of his stay. It also ensured a swift and vicious beating from the guards, but he still felt it was well worth it.

In the long run, grudges didn’t serve much purpose in a colony of lifers. So when a giant Darshyll guard by the name of Ertac deliberately bumped into him, knocking Khern to the ground and telling him to get back to work, he didn’t retaliate. Instead, Khern picked up his axe and covertly pocketed the small item the guard had slipped in his hand during the commotion.

He wouldn’t get a good look at it until the end of the work day. Like clockwork, the prisoners filed into their sleeping quarters. There was never much disobedience or rabble-rousing at lights out. Even the younger inmates, still obliged to prove their toughness at every opportunity, were broken by the time they were allowed to put down their tools.

As Ertac and the rest of the guards left the area, Khern examined the gift. A small rectangular stick of metal. A holo-cell. This is what they had been waiting for. At least, that’s what he hoped. The reason he kept his promise. The reason Khern chose not to give in to The Pit. Quietly, he made his way toward the far end of the sleeping quarters, past rows of other prisoners with either curiosity or annoyance on their faces. Finally, he arrived at his destination, taking great care not to disturb the occupant.

“General, forgive my intrusion.” He spoke softly but with intent. “The contact has delivered.”

Eyldwan Utynai. He said nothing for a moment, remaining seated in a meditative position against the back wall. Finally, he opened his eyes, examining the holo-cell Khern had extended to him. He took it and swiped his finger across its edge, activating it. A holographic display projected from the device, glowing between the two prisoners. Khern observed Eyldwan’s face before him, now lit up from the projection. A fellow Carteagan, aged in years and experience. A sizeable and intimidating scar of some previous battle traced the right side of the general’s jaw. Khern watched as the jaw gave way to menacing teeth.

A sinister grin developed as the eyes above it scanned the holographic data. Schematics of some kind. A large, cylindrical object. An oversized missile perhaps. Further schematics cycled through the air between them, detailing a facility of some sort.

“Ready the men. We leave tonight.”

Next Chapter: Chapter Three