Writing Prompt: A violent criminal prison ship crash lands on an alien planet. You, the only surviving prison guard, see a horde of hostile aliens running towards the ship. The prisoners cry to be released, some out of fear for their lives, others claiming they can help you defend. You have a decision to make.
Marsh was the only survivor of the L15 Carrier Craft’s guard detail. There was no certainty as to what had happened to the ship; the last Marsh remembered the craft was cruising over the hostile planet of Myr, headed for the prison facilities on the Eighth Moon of Myr, known as Wryack.
Then they were falling, spiraling out of control, a blazing orb of white light headed for impact with the planet’s surface.
Myr was a lone planet in an otherwise destitute galaxy known as The Hold. The Hold’s Sun had died out some several thousand years ago, taking with it each and every one of Myr’s neighbouring planets in one swift execution of light and life.
Myr was the only surviving celestial body in all of The Hold, other than its moons. Upon each moon, of which there were forty six in all, what was known as an Isolation Block had been installed. Each Block was able to contain in excess of five hundred and seventy prisoners within the confines of its Chambers. Already forty one of these moon-based Isolation Blocks were bursting at the seams, far beyond overcrowded.
Cells meant for solitary containment now housed half a dozen inmates in their wake. The Hold had become the last outpost of intergalactic justice, and was home to some of the Universe’s most infamous criminals.
Myr itself was at the heart of the solitary hive that was The Hold, though there were no
habitable facilities upon its surface. Myr’s Moons had been chosen simply on the basis that the planet itself was destitute, writhing with the diseased hordes of brain dead monstrosities. Any that might think to escape the confines of Myr’s Moons would have no choice but to travel immediately to Myr itself, on account of the vast nothingness that otherwise surrounded The Hold.
Those that had attempted escape in the past has paid with more than just their lives.
Rumour had it those creatures down below, brain dead though they were, found some sort of entertainment in the savage torture of their prey; they’d toy with their captives for weeks if not months on end before finally striping them for meat. Death came anything but quickly, for these creatures enjoyed feasting upon fresh meat, and so they would strive to keep their dinner alive and kicking for as long as was biologically possible, slowly picking away at the buffet of skin and throat and liver.
“Captain? Captain!” Marsh struggled from the dampened floor of the L15 Carrier Craft, a hole had been torn open in the hull, staring out upon the dust covered jungles of Myr.
Wires hung bare, sparking from out the ceiling of the craft, blood and bile stained the walls and floors and porthole windows, and a smoky electrical fog sauntered through the ship. All this to the steady, heavy rhythm of screaming mad men. Mad men. Alien prisoners. What ever you might call them, they were howling to be let loose, crying out to survive the night.
The Captain’s body was still strapped into the seat of the cockpit, his helmet was missing, as was half of his head.. Marsh took one look at the deceased Captain, a lone eye dripping blood staring back, and quickly retreated out of the cockpit and into the dock. There was barely the light to see by on the L15, the main power of the ship drained to a pulp. What little light remained was cast in a deathly shade of flickering pale red.
Marsh went from body to body of the guard detail, his guard detail, his friends. He stopped to check the vitals on each screen, but not one readout presented even the faintest sign of a heart still beating. Flat lined. Each and every one of them.
They’re dead. Marsh collapsed against the dock’s curved wall, hitting the ground with a dull thud. It’s just me, I’m all that’s left. Pressing up the lever of his helm he removed the oval-shaped mask, gulping at the air to steady his nerves. His eyes were shot red, his skin as close to pale grey as any humanoid might come.
“Computer,” Marsh called, his voice shaking to the beat of his hands, “status report?”
There was a loud buzzing that rang for several, unending moments, before finally a warped and barely recognisable voice began to speak: “Report… inconclusive. We…” a heavy sighing sound, “planet Myr… priority is… threat level…” the buzzing of a timer nearly at its end, “proceed with caution.” more words than not were omitted from the computer’s report, and many of those that were spoken were done so in a high pitched squeal that burned the ears.
Marsh cradled his head in his hands, slipping his palms over his ears to shield from the screeching compute. Captain’s dead. Ship’s immobile. And the Computer’s barely f*cking functional. No way to contact command, and not an evac-pod left that’s flight capable.
“Hey, pretty boy?” a thick, moisture ridden voice coughed from across the far side of the dock, “Aren’t you gonna let us out?” the voice was that of a Priioch; large and squid-like creatures whose eyes lay embedded within their tenticular mouths.
This particular Priioch went by the name Hargrow.
Marsh stared blankly at Hargrow through the reinforced glass of the Priioch’s transport cell.
There were no less than twenty of these transport cells, all alike in design. Boxes of re-inforced glass alloy, meant to allow full visual access to the prisoners within at all times. Each prisoner was bound around the arms and legs (or the limbs that accounted for such things) by electrical charged restraints, restraints that would no longer function given the lack of power to the ship.
A single light held place in the centre ceiling of the cell, no cast in darkness. Around the light’s casing there were jets meant for releasing both liquids and gases. The liquids for sanitary purposes. The gases for restraint, and if necessary death.
“Pretty boy? You listening?” Hargrow hammered a wet fist against the glass, “Let us out of here! You can’t leave us locked up on a dead ship.”
“Yeah, the Squid’s right.” an insectile voice hummed from beyond the glass of yet another cell. This belonged to an Anthrophick; stick-like beings with multiple arms and big, black bug-eyes. “We were meant for transportation, no execution. You gotta let us out.”
More and more voices joined the general thrum of excited demands, mostly cries calling for freedom.
“Wait. Just… wait a second, would you?” Marsh was rocking gently on the ground, running his hands through the thick of his hair, trying to silence the noise so that he could… “Think. I need to think. I need to…”
“Ain’t nothing to think about, pretty boy.” Hargrow was tugging at his restraints, “You gotta let us out sooner or later. Might as well make it sooner.”
Marsh’s eyes flicked across the consoles of the dock, not one of them lit. He scrambled to his feet, taking a second stun-gun from one of his fallen comrades. He started surveying each of the consoles in desperate hope, turning dials and then standing for seconds that felt like long minutes staring at the cells.
Nothing. His heart sank, the jets had been disabled in the crash. If he was going to free any of the prisoners, he’d have to do so whilst they were still awake.
“I can’t let you out, not with the restraint blown.” Marsh was watching the cells, the incarcerated beings hounding at him to be set free, “The power’s down, the gases are…”
“I couldn’t give a sh*t about the gases.” Hargrow flexed against his restraints, a soft glow rose from the cuffs and for a moment there seemed to be hope. A means to keep the prisoners under control. But then the light died, without so much as shocking the giant Priioch beast.
Hargrow threw himself against the walls of his cell, letting out a grunt “Seems you’re running out of options, pretty boy.”
“Besides, there ain’t sh*t we can do whilst we’re all locked up. You’re gonna need us, far more than we need you. So what about it?” the Anthrophick, known as Ersck, flashed a smile at Marsh, beating heavy lids over its bulbous, black eyes, “Quicker you get us off this wreck, the quicker we can get to moving. Best we don’t hang around in once place too long, ay? Especially on Myr, and especially when that place is a fire ball of a beacon to whatever the hell’s out there.”
As if to consolidate the Anthrophick’s fears the ship’s computer tried to sound a half garbled warning of its own, “…detected half a mile… under the Ry’d Fountains… immediate evacuation advised.”
If Marsh was to set free the prisoners, he’d have to activate the manual override on each cell, a simple push-pull lever hidden beneath a grate at the foot of the cell, inaccessible from the inside. All it would take is one prisoner to turn on him and free the remaining captives, and he’d be so much dead dust to the wind, a scattered offering left before Myr’s dense jungle surface.
“What are you waiting for?” Hargrow growled, “You heard the damn computer, we ain’t got all day. Are you gonna set us free, or would you rather stand around and let us watch you die?”
Marsh’s head was caught in an updraft, with threats approaching from outside and further threats demanding to be set free from within. He hadn’t a soul to turn to for guidance in all the damned world he was stranded upon.
“We can help you.” Ersck tittered, “Set us free and we can protect you from whatever’s out there. You won’t last five seconds on Myr all alone.”
That much might have been true, but could Marsh really risk an alliance with these beings? These killers and worse. Would they not surely turn on him the first chance they had?
Hell, it was an impossible choice to make.
Death without and within.
“So, pretty boy, what’ll be?”
In the end there was only choice to be made, and Marsh didn’t like it one bit. He wandered over to Hargrow’s cell, pressing a hand against the glass, still holding his stun-gun, “We have no life support, no Captain, no ship and no damn weapons expect stun-guns and shock-charged staves.”
“That’s right,” Hargrow grinned, revealing gums inlaid with pearls, “you do need us.”
Marsh shook his head, “I still have a duty, a duty to deliver you to Wryack.” Hargrow’s grin began to fade. “I’d sooner die out here alone than seek your help.”
Marsh tuned his back on the cells, replacing his helm at the press of a button on his neck. Behind him the voices of crazed criminals raged against the soft thrum of the dying ship.
“You’ll regret this,” Hargrow started beating on his glass confines, “mark my words. You’ll regret this, pretty boy.”
Marsh had decided to face Myr alone, to carry out his duty.
His only hope now was to find a beacon, some source of power for the ship. He knew there where such places hidden on Myr, leftover from age old attempts to terra-form the uninhabitable lands. With a beacon he could fire up the ship’s communicators, repair the computer, contact central command and arrange evacuation.
He’d deliver those b*stards on the ship, his ship, to Wryack where they belonged, or gods help him, he’d die trying.
Copyright © K R Perry 2019