Word count: 2474
In the vastness of the empty void and beneath the light of an unfamiliar star, the great carcass of the transport hauler Juggernaut powered its way through the airless darkness. It’s vast engines silently roaring as they burned a million cubic tonnes of fuel every second, propelling the great ship forward, like a whale swimming through the distant oceans of Atlantea the Juggernaut scythed through space it had traversed over a dozen times in the last three months. She knew these waters better than any ship in the fleet, she was one of the few that was brave enough to pass through the Traverse, this area of space was well renowned for its pirates and the merc-factions that operated in the area. Her crew often wondered why people risked such an arduous journey to reach a hunk of rock infested with nothing but slums and pirates. But thousands made the trip every month; Plato was a planet for only one group of people.
To risk the journey meant they were either running, in insurmountable debt, or just ordinary people pushed to their breaking point by unemployment and hoping the manufactories of Plato could help them.
Commissioner Alastor Brackam saw these people every day; it was his job to enforce some sort of law onto the people aboard his ship. He'd seen murderers, rapist, child abusers and straight up thugs. But the person sat in the interrogation cell in front of him was something else.
The boy sat bolt upright in the metal chair, the hood of his jacket raised and his head slightly bowed. With his eyes closed he could have passed for being asleep, but the bio readings of the sensor cameras in the cell were showing Alastor that he wasn't. His pulse was normal, no excess perspiration, and the electrical signals being admitted from his brain didn't match the patterns of REM sleep. No, this bastard was wide awake. 'Where did you find him?' Alastor asked his right hand man, still staring through the two way wall.
'In one of the passenger holds with a group of refugees from the war on Etruria,' said Jack staring at their prisoner. 'He started a fight with some guy and when security ran his details they realised he didn't have any boarding details. We checked the manifest, Juggernaut is supposed to be carrying two hundred and three thousand; this guy makes it two hundred and three thousand and one.'
'Have you checked the extranet for any arrest warrants?'
Jack laughed and turned his young face onto his mentor. 'You're kidding right. We're lucky if we get hot water on this hunk of scrap, the extranet's been down since we left the Sol System.'
'Has he said anything?'
'Not a word, and he's been in our custody for almost three days,' Jack placed a hand on the wall and leaned forward. As if looking three inches closer would somehow glean some new information about this guy. 'What do you think he's doing in there?'
Alastor didn't say anything; he just turned to look at the red digital clock slowly counting down to zero. They had a little over half an hour before they reached Plato. He shouldn't have left dealing with this guy for so long. With a huff Alastor turned back to the wall and reached for the prisoners belongings on the table, 'Let's go find out.'
He stood in a field of black fog, seeing his own body stand and turn on the spot, examining the environment around him. It was strange, this third person view of the world. This must be what a god felt like, seeing everything without thinking. Voices drifted through the dark clouds around him. Snatches of half remembered conversations. Whispers of secrets that were never meant to be told. He listened to them all, but the sounds seemed to die in his ears and he gleaned nothing from the ethereal voices. Then, as it had a hundred times before, the world erupted in a blur of unrecognisable images. Thousands of them every second, like a flick book made from a hundred photo albums. He desperately tried to see anything, something! But they passed too quickly. Then the final two images flashed in front of his eyes. Blocking out everything in an eruption of colour . They lasted a split second longer than the others, forever burning themselves into his mind because of it. He saw a world of smoke and iron, and a red haired woman. Smiling as if she were greeting an old friend, hair blowing in a harsh wind...
'Hey!' a powerful voice barked a second before something heavy cracked onto the metal table in front of him. 'Rise and shine sleeping beauty.' Opening his eyes Zero carefully looked at the scene around him. A thousand pieces of information and a billion possible outcomes of this interaction injected themselves effortlessly into his brain.
He came out of this encounter victorious ninety-nine point nine, nine, nine, nine percent of the time.
'Jesus,' the younger of the two security enforcers said looking at Zero's eyes. In the time it took this enforcer to blink Zero had assessed every aspect of his person. The degraded state of his body armour, the weaknesses beginning to show between the plates, the way he stood favouring his right side, the blood very slowly seeping through his combat trousers around his left knee from an stubborn stab wound that had never properly healed. His reaction was a common one; it was programmed into his very being to fear the sight of something with black irises. A trait passed down from the genetic forefathers of humanity in the ancient times they lived by Earth's once oceans, Earth's seas had contained almost seventy different species of sharks, many dangerous to human beings. All had black eyes.
The older of the two sat in the chair across from Zero, pushing his rucksack aside to the edge of the table and resting his arms onto the cool steel. Leaning forward in his place. Staring at Zero without a hint of the fear the younger enforcer possessed. 'I'm Commissioner Alastor Brackam,' his voice was deep and horse due to fibrous nodules located on the vocal cords. Smoker. 'What's your name?' Zero looked at this Commissioner, a thousand little details revealing themselves to him in an instant. He was strong and powerful but his right shoulder was beginning to show signs of arthritis and the way he sat revealed he was carrying two guns and a combat knife strapped to the small of his back.
He would be more problematic, but he was still no threat.
'The Commissioner asked you a question asshole!' The younger one shouted, standing against the two way wall behind his commander. Volatile, aggressive, quick to anger.
Zero still didn't answer. All was going to plan. All he had to do was wait. It would happen soon.
'You come from Styx don't you,' said the Commissioner. 'It's a night world,' he addressed to his young partner. 'cloaked in perpetual darkness. The people there developed enlarged pupils to penetrate the dark. I have to admit we don't see many of your kind around these parts.' he paused, pressing his brown eyed stare onto Zero. 'So,' he began pulling back the zip of Zero's bag. 'What are you doing here?'
The younger enforcer walked over to the table, angry eyes staring down at Zero, rummaging through the rucksack the pair pulled out the blanket he had unfortunately had to steal from a refugee on the lower levels. 'Look, kid,' said Alastor pulling out Zero's notebook while his young associate brought out his sword. The small black rectangle so inconspicuous to the untrained eye. 'I've seen it all. Murderers, rapists, all the scum and dregs that humanity has to offer eventually walks through the corridors of this ship. I don't care what you did or who you f*ucked over to get here. All I care about,' he said pulling the old elastic binding from the book, 'Is why you're aboard my ship, when you're not supposed to be.' Fingering through the crisp white pages the Commissioner squinted at what he saw, turning the book this way and that to try and decipher any meaning from what he saw.
'You see kiddie,' said the younger one. Throwing the docile weapon onto the table and slowly walking around towards Zero. 'If you murder some whore and pay your way onto the ship, all's well. We look the other way, you disappear and the government can't do shit. But! If you board without payment and we carry you halfway across the god damned galaxy...we get in the shit for harbouring a criminal. So when people smuggle themselves in, we start to get nervous.' resting one hand onto the back of Zero's chair and the other onto the desk in front of him the young enforcer leaned down far enough that Zero could feel the stale touch of his breath against his cheek. 'And when we get nervous, accident's start to happen.'
'What are you doing here?' asked Alastor, abandoning his attempt to read the notebook, throwing it beside the sword. 'Answer me or this will get very ugly, very, very quickly.'
The younger one ripped Zero's hood of his head and wrapped a hand around his throat. Squeezing tightly. 'Start talking f*uckwit!'
Closing his eyes Zero focussed...and felt it. Through the souls of his feet, from the very bones of the ship he felt it. Unnoticeable to normal humans. As obvious and telling as an earthquake aftershock to him. The gentle drop of the ships momentum as it slowed towards its destination.
A smile crawled halfway up his face.
'What's so funny?' the young enforcer snarled.
'We're here.' whispered Zero.
Zero opened his eyes and exploded from his chair.
Taken off guard the young enforcer struggled to realise what was happening before it was too late. Zero tore the hand from around his throat and with a well practiced motion broke his wrist. Before the sound of the cracking bones even reached his ears Zero threw five perfectly placed punches at the enforcer. The first was to the throat, stopping his ability to shout out. The second and third were to the ribs. Striking precisely against the weakened plates of his armoured vest. With each blow the ceramic sheets fractured with a sharp crack. The shards driving through the thin fabric beneath and piercing deep into flesh. Forced to duck in order to dodge the rising Commissioners gun the fourth strike struck the seeping wound on the enforcer’s knee. The patella broke with a muted crack and as the the Commisionar lined up for his first shot Zero rose. Upper cutting the younger man.
Knocked unconscious immediately by the fifth and final blow Zero wrapped his arm around his neck and held his limp body in front of him.
'Don't move!' the Commissioner shouted, aiming down the sight at Zero. Information poured into his brain and in the time it took his opponent to squeeze the trigger half way he was already in motion.
Tossing the enforcers unconscious body at the Commissioner the bullet struck true in the ballistic armour. Absorbing the bullet and most of the sound caused by the shot. Zero leapt clear over the table. Landing in front of the Commissioner. As he predicted, in his panic and eagerness to end the situation, Alastor Brackam threw a wild haymaker with his free hand. His arthritic shoulder making the blow lumbered and uneasy.
Zero had won.
Blocking the punch Zero fired a sharp jab into his shoulder. It dislocated with a wet pop the sound echoing through the cell. Screaming in rage and pain the Commissioner brought his weapon up. He fired without aiming. The bullet whizzing wide of Zero's right ear. Cross blocking the gun faster than the human eye could perceive the weapon was sent spiralling through the air. Training told him he should have grabbed it and turned it on his opponent.
Something else told him not to.
Before the Commissioner could understand what was happening Zero grabbed the collar of his armour and pulled hard. With a wet crunch and metallic crack the Commissioner's head bounced off the table. His pole-axed body fell to the ground heavily and let out a single gargled breath as he coughed up blood and teeth onto the floor.
Zero stood for a split second. Muscles tensed. Ready for combat. Senses straining.
He didn't hear any boots thundering down the corridor or shouts and screams for help. The plan had worked. They were approaching Plato; right now every guard on the ship would be corralling their passengers into the hangers ready for disembarkation. But he couldn't stay here.
Throwing his notebook into his bag he checked its contents quickly, everything was still there. Zipping it up he hefted it onto his shoulder, picking up the power cell of his sword he reached over his shoulder and find the stubby handle pressing against his shoulder blade. The cell clipped into place with magnetic fusion and its familiar gentle vibration as it breathed power back into the weapon was a comforting feeling. Checking the cell hadn’t degraded in the time it had been disconnected he drew it half way. The familiar crackle of the azure electricity clicked in his ear as it buzzed around the monomolecular edges of the silver blade; with a small smile he dropped it back into its scabbard. The buzzing ceasing immediately.
Without hindrance or any form of resistance Zero walked from his cell and through the enforcer’s deck. It was that easy. They'd played their part well. By now the government would have his information plastered across the entirety of the extranet and news streams across the empire. Half the galaxy would be looking for him, so there was no safer place on a government transport than the brig. In a cell all on his own there was no risk of being stabbed while he slept, he used them and they reacted exactly how he knew they would. He felt somehow appreciative towards them...he wasn't sure why.
'Hey!' a voice barked behind him. Stopping slowly Zero turned to see a fully armoured enforcer with a rifle slung across his shoulder striding towards him. 'You need to get down to the hangar; we're landing in ten minutes.' Zero opened his mouth, gawping as if confused. 'Jesus wept,' gripping him with strong hands the enforcer turned him down a long iron corridor. 'That way! Walk straight and you can't miss it.' he said slower and louder. Zero nodded and signed meaningless words into the air. 'Yeah whatever, that way! Dumb f*uck.'
Zero nodded at the guard and clumsily started walking down the corridor. When he heard the armoured footsteps and muttered grumblings recede into silence Zero pulled up his deep hood and lowered his head.
By the time he reached the hangar he was but another body in a sea of thousands.