Klaxons blared as the emergency floodlights bathed the decks in a crimson haze. "Sir! We're under attack!" yelled Ensign Chavez. The Bonnie Heather shook violently as another blast rocked the science vessel.
"By who?" Declan asked as he moved toward a scanning console.
"It appears to be the Kel-Morians, sir," Chavez replied. "I've got a wing of Wraiths on attack vector Delta-Tango-Seven."
Declan turned red. "I just fixed this bucket of bolts! Power up the magnetic boosters. Let's give 'em a taste of EMP and see how they like it when their ships go on the fritz."
"Yes sir!" Chavez said. He hit the charging button and the sound of the electromagnetic plates embedded in the hull of ship filled the halls as they rotated. "Charging complete."
A circular burst of transparent magnetic waves ripped through space around the Explorer-class ship, catching the Wraiths in their wake. The fighters powered down to all but life-support and drifted along their previous vectors.
"Hah hah!" Declan yelled triumphantly.
"Whas goin' on?" Ian said, stumbling onto the bridge.
Another massive blast rocked the ship, tossing Ian onto his backside.
"Now what?" Declan yelled.
"Sir, it's a Battlecruiser. Kel-Morian... it's hailing us. Scanners identify it as the Temujin, sir."
"Temujin is locking on tractor beams! They're sending a boarding party!"
Declan scowled. If he put up a fight, his crew would die needlessly and the Kel-Morians would confiscate everything anyway. If he surrendered, they'd still confiscate everything but he and his men might stay alive long enough to get out of this. "Signal our surrender," Declan said grimly. "But set the ship on auto-destruct if anyone tries tampering with it that ain't one of us."
"Please put him in a separate cell. I'm beggin' ya," Declan pleaded to the guard.
"No room. Now sit down and shut up," the marine replied.
"You shouldn'a surrendered, ya big wuss. Ya shoulda blown 'er up inner faces, heh heh," Ian said. "Tha woulda taught 'em not ta mess with us!"
Declan sighed just as the force field went down. He turned to see a party of marines enter the prison chamber's main room. In the lead was a marine whose armor was spotless, as if it had just come off the assembly line. Declan also noticed several other differences that told him this marine was of high rank. The marine walked up to the cell and stood a few feet away with a pair of armored guards on either side, waiting for Declan or Ian to start some trouble. The leader's face shield slid up to reveal a chiseled countenance with cropped blond hair.
"Mr. Anduin," he smiled. "My name is Kurt Broker. I am the commander of the Kel-Morian forces in this sector of space."
"Aye, I know who you are. I just delivered some materials to one of your worlds."
"Yes, that's what I wanted to discuss with you. You see, I've heard stories about you witnessing a... monster," Broker said. "I understand that a representative of UNN contacted you. Publicity is something I'm not interested in, Mr. Anduin. It makes some of my — shall we say 'less reputable' business partners — a bit nervous."
"I told him I saw a monster and that was the end of it. It wasn't a big deal," Declan said.
Broker's face became enraged. "I will decide what is a 'big deal' and what is not, Mr. Anduin. You were contracted to deliver our supplies quietly. You have failed in that task and that means you owe me the credits you were paid. As I've been informed that you used most of those credits to repair and supply your floating junk heap, your vessel will be impounded. Meanwhile, you and your crew will work off the rest of the debt for me... alongside your fellow prisoners on Rykos IV." He smiled at the stunned man, turned, and motioned to the guards to put the force field back in place.
"Whats'e mean by that, Declan?" Ian asked.
"He means you're not goin' ta get any booze for a very long time," Declan replied.
The guards led Declan and his cousin through a series of hallways before reaching a massive metal door. The door swung open to reveal a large indoor area filled with convicts scattered about. Some were sparring in the center, others were working out, and others simply watched or cheered. On the other side of the arena, high upon a dais, a large slug-like creature watched the prisoners below. A scantily clad woman sat helplessly by its side, chained at the neck.
The guards pushed Declan and his crew forward and then exited through the way they had come in, the door slamming shut with a deep reverberating boom. The metal cuffs binding the crew's hands unlocked and fell to the ground one after another.
The convicts began to gather around, and a large dark-skinned man wearing several gold chains and a mohawk approached them.
"Welcome ta Rykos IV, suckas. You belong ta us now... and if ya don't do what we tell ya, we is gonna beat some obedience inta y'all hella fast, foos," the man said. "First rule is: No one talks about freedom. Second rule is: No one talks about freedom cuz you ain't never gonna leave here alive. Third rule is: If you is new ta Rykos IV Penal Colony, you gotta fight."
"I gotta bad feelin' about this," Declan muttered.
The Antioch Chronicles™ © 1998, Eric Dieter & Ruben Moreno. All rights reserved. The Antioch Chronicles™ trademark and associated logos are the exclusive property of Eric Dieter & Ruben Moreno. Characters and distinctive likenesses thereof, character names, item names, place names, named events, artwork and all other related material not disclosed herein are protected under the laws of the United States of America and other countries. Any reproduction, retransmission, or unauthorized use herein is prohibited without express written permission.
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