by Ed Jowett and Drew Spencley
Arash Lobonava stared in disbelief at the console he was seated at.
“Environmental control”, it read, above his eye line. He watched the display colours behind the line drawing schematic of the ship as they changed from cyan to red, signifying loss of breathable atmosphere. He could feel his friends and acquaintances dying as he watched, and he felt guilty. A bead of sweat trickled down his face and he brushed it away, looking around. Jim and Andy (the Tactical Officer and Chief Engineer) – usually both calm and collected – were both at the same console, punching buttons and looking panicked. Their ship was going down, system by system.
He looked at the picture he always stuffed into the crack in the corner of his console, of his murdered wife and children. Smertios Security had destroyed his home, the whole planetoid, all because they had chosen to live away from the Consortium. One stupid fool with an armed ship, trying to prove himself to the pirates, had attacked a convoy near Nodens and given the “Law Enforcement” company an idea to become popular – wipe out all the pirates! Tracing the ship back to Ogmios, one of the moons of Sucellos, Smertios Security had started there.
People were afraid enough for it to work. Everyone who was independent from Consortium rule was being eliminated, whether they were affiliated with the real pirates or not. The real pirates were probably out there, laughing as the Consortium destroyed previously neutral forces while they sit around, safe – Smertios Security surely wasn’t going to destroy every moon of Sucellos.
He had been branded a pirate along with the rest of the “Ogmios Free Colony” – all to make Smertios Security look to everyone else in the Consortium like they were doing something useful. Those remaining, who had been away on ships at the time, were being systematically wiped out – exterminated like insects.
The Captains of the remaining ships had held a conference aboard this ship, the largest one remaining – he had been asked to serve as security, ensuring they weren’t disturbed. Emerging from that discussion, the Captain had announced ship-wide that it was agreed amongst the command personnel that they should go down fighting – they were going to be eliminated anyway. He knew at that moment he would see his wife and children again soon. Most of their small fleet had been destroyed already, with minimal losses for their foes. If the engines had not been unresponsive, Arash was certain the Captain would have placed them on a collision course by now…
He heard a high-pitched tone and saw the tactical console out of the corner of his eye flashing a warning, and then everything went a brilliant white.