The Bezarna Express
Laren slumped back in his seat, staring blankly at the seamless curvature of the passenger compartment. An unpadded bench followed the perimeter except for the alcove that led to the sanicube and where they picked up their twice-daily rations. Sleeping cylls were stowed in the domed ceiling above, destowing automatically at sleepzone onset.
Whoever had designed it for Bezarna runs had been an obvious master at psychology as well as engineering. Six passengers remained including himself, three having already resorted to their captor’s supposedly humane alternative to commit suicide via the airlock. If all prisoners opted for a fate that was known versus one that wasn’t then a perfectly good space vehicle would go to waste.
He straightened as a new thought chain developed. No doubt they were being watched, even with escape impossible. A successful escape you survived, he thought grimly, or it was pointless. Knowing the likes of Spoigan, Troy and Argo they probably tuned in on their situation using tachyonic video on a regular basis for entertainment purposes. They could even use such transmissions to scare others into submission by seeing how convicts en route to Bezarna dealt with their imminent demise. Undoubtedly witnessing someone choose the airlock rather than never-ending yet meaningless life on a blackhole made for good INTEGRATOR motivational material.
So what if everyone resorted to that? What if they had an empty spacecraft worth nearly as much as a small battleship on a heading toward Bezarna? Would they kiss it goodbye or bring it back?
He’d been around long enough to know that finances were seldom a driver for a dictatorship. Nonetheless, the quality of the vehicle made more sense if it was retrievable. And if that was the case, if he could fool them into thinking everyone had checked out, preferring to explode their earthly remains in deep space rather than face an unknown and possibly worse fate, maybe there was roundtrip possibility after all.
His eyes met those of fellow Clique member, Jirhod Rhodus, seated on the opposite side. Rhodus was quite a bit older than Laren, perhaps even old enough to be his father, his once-blond hair interrupted with splatters of grey surrounding rounded features set with penetrating ice-blue eyes. An imposing man built more like an Erebusite than typical human, he’d lasted as long as he had because no one dared confront him. His demise had come when he’d insisted on an audit and recount from the election that brought INTEGRATION to Pi, one of only two remaining Neutral regions. As Deputy Territorial General he’d been vocal and effective, too much so, because he’d suddenly disappeared, a former Clique mystery now solved by his presence.
“You’re thinking, Brightstar,” the man said, his voice deep and resonant. “That’s dangerous, you know.”
Laren held his gaze and smiled, trying to figure out how to communicate based on the premise they were being monitored. A moment later he extracted his c-com from his breast pocket and psied his thoughts to it, then did the necessary coding to grant Rhodus access.
“Just playing a little mind game,” he said innocently, handing over the device. “Want to play?”
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