display | more...

Turlo sneered silently at the Feds. He was being escorted to some forsaken room where his "sentence" would be officially pronounced, something the Feds made sure to "announce" upon their arrival to fetch him from the slammer. It seemed like he was there for days, but he wasn't keeping track of the time. The only thing he could think of the whole time was Charley. He glanced over to the Fed on his right. It was the same one he spat at. Turlo shook his head. "Cadavers," he growled under his breath.

The corridors were crude and unwelcoming. Cheerless officers and soldiers walked past the stationmaster and his escorts, their boots clanging against the grated metal floor; some were carrying pads like the one Vaughan had during the interrogation, and others were carrying firearms---none of them even spared him a glance.

The walls were bare and metal, painted either dark green or black. Lighting wasn't very good, so it made the place look gloomy and sepulchral, reminding Turlo of the shadowy and somber future in store for him and Wroclaw.

They entered a room with crepuscular lighting, slightly darker than in the corridors. There was a table in the center of the room, much like the one in the interrogation room, and the long side was facing the door through which Turlo and his escorts entered. Five Feds sat behind it on familiar and crude metal chairs, their expressions grim. On either side, standing close to the edges of the table, were two Blacks. These were the Sanction's version of spec ops soldiers. Their faces were covered by a reflective lens, the rest of the head protected by the black helmets they wore. The brilliant blue Fed insignia was stamped on either side. They were covered from head to toe with dull black body armor, giving them the appearance of dark, mechanical beasts waiting to strike. The Blacks made the officers sitting at the table look somewhat unthreatening and small. Two of the spec ops soldiers held a rifle, and the other two had electrotranquilizers. They stood motionless, but Turlo didn't think for a second that that was a sign of unawareness. He had no doubt in his mind that these Blacks could spring into action and make short work of everyone in the room. In truth, Turlo was a little surprised to see them in the room.

It was fairly obvious that the Fed sitting in the middle between the other officers at the table was the commander of the platform, his uniform bearing many stripes and pips which indicated his rank. He seemed to have a stronger presence than the other Feds, but that was to be expected. Wunderlich must have been someone of greater influence before being "joined" to the Sanction. The commander and his minions sat without moving or speaking, staring at Turlo with their glass eyes.

Turlo's wrists and ankles were in suppressors, so the movements of his legs and arms were limited to those congruent with motions commonly related to walking. If he tried to make any sudden moves, he'd be zapped severely by the suppressors. Needless to say, the transmitted shock would cause all sorts of stuff to fly out of every end in his body. As if that wasn't enough, they had the two Blacks with electrotranquilizers ready to pump him with enough juice to make his skin sizzle. The Feds did not waste time when it came to detention and prosecution, and this was their capital function as the Federal Sanction. Turlo did not say anything, and neither did the Feds.

Dead air filled the barren room. In that room, waiting for those fateful words to be spoken, the stationmaster, the ex-commander, felt more alone than he ever did in his life. The cadavers just stared at him, or at least the ones sitting at the table. The Blacks almost blended into the room just by standing still, and Turlo's escorts were staring straight ahead. Turlo did not even know what they were waiting for. As soon as he heard the hydraulics opening and closing the door behind him, he knew..."

Wroclaw came to stand next to Turlo, her escorts behind her. Turlo looked at her. She was a nervous wreck. Her eyes were red, her face was pale, and she was breathing heavily. The poor girl did not sign up for this. She refused to look up to him. He hadn't seen her since the time in the control room on Galliom.

Commander Wunderlich, in his fancy decorated tunic and ridiculous peaked cap, stood and began to speak. "Stationmaster Gary Turlo, you have been arrested on several charges: housing, aiding, abetting, and channeling dissidents. Senior Supervisor Charley Wroclaw, you have been arrested on several charges: negligence of responsibility, of duty, and adherence to interkingdom law. As you both know, since you were voluntarily bound by contract to this interkingdom station, you fall under the direct jurisdiction of the Federal Sanction. In addition, your government, the Second Kingdom, has been made aware of these charges, and support the decrees of the Union Council. Both of you have been found guilty of these charges, and are therefore held subject to Decree 4498 and Decree 4499. According to the Constitution of Interkingdom Decrees, you will be transported back UGSC, and will undergo the correction process. We will ensure your safe transport." Wunderlich looked at Wroclaw. "Do both of you understand the charges being filed against you?"

Wroclaw nodded, quietly sobbing, but Turlo just glared at the Fed. Wunderlich look at him for a moment. In that moment, cold eyes of glass met eyes of steel, and for a second the two silently challenged each other. When Wunderlich saw that the stationmaster wasn't going to answer, he said, "I will take your silence as affirmation. You have both been given chances to make a statement. Dismissed."

The escorts made Turlo walk first. He tried to cry out, wanting to beg Wroclaw for forgiveness, but the suppressors did more than just limit his movement. Before he could even give voice to the words, the suppressors sent what felt like a jolt through his throat, preventing him from speaking. He lost sight of her again.





Special Officer Vaughan breathed a sigh of relief as his office doors closed behind him. The sight of Feds made him sick, and there were plenty of them roaming the dreary corridors. His office was one of the very few places on the platform where he felt like a normal human being, and not some freak living in a graveyard. Vaughan yanked his infernal peaked cap off his head and threw it onto his office couch. It didn't quite make it and fell to the floor. The office contained only a few pieces of furniture: his couch, a coffee table, the desk, and his chair. At best, it was sparsely decorated. A large Fed insignia was basically stamped onto one wall, and the rest were bare except for the one opposite the insignia; a longsword with a brilliant blue blade hung on a plaque, another symbol of the Sanction.

As chief of interrogations on the Hollernst, he had met some interesting characters over the last few years. Most of them were dissidents: criminals, mercenaries, terrorists, low and high class scavengers, the ever-increasing number of fantasizers, and many other types. It was amazing how many types there were. Turlo wasn't a fantasizer; a fool could see that. He was not a criminal, not a mercenary, and not a terrorist, either. That man had done more for his Kingdom than anyone Vaughan had come across. Turlo was offered the highly coveted seat of admiralty in the Second Kingdom Navy. Why he declined it, Vaughan could not fathom. Perhaps it was to pursue this fantasizer he had saved.

Walking around his transparent office desk, Vaughan said, "Database, pull up the file on Ruth James." As he sat down on his black leather chair, the Database acknowledged Vaughan and a hologram flickered into sight atop the transparent desk. Vaughan looked at the woman being projected. Ruth James was born on Veon Prime 46 years ago. That was the same place Turlo was born in. Vaughan's imagination began to swirl, different scenarios popping up in his mind as to how these two knew each other. He didn't entertain those thoughts for too long, though.

He pressed a button which brought up different holographic images. These images showed James after the "assault," as described by the Feds. Turlo used a nine inch ceramic blade to fatally damage her heart. That, however, is not what rendered the woman useless to the Sanction. The blade Turlo used was coated with necroneurotoxin, which basically transformed the nervous system into an unrecognizable and messy goo. This left nothing for the Feds to "revamp". Vaughan chuckled, a mirthless smile forming on his lips. "Turlo, you clever old man." The former special ops commander purposefully stabbed her heart---it was the fastest way to deploy the toxin. The blade and toxin that Turlo used was only issued to men and women in special forces. These elite would use the weapon to terminate targets noiselessly; necroneurotoxin worked horridly fast, and the person being terminated would feel the pain from the stab for less than a second before they went numb, and died seconds later. The fact that Turlo had these things on his person didn't surprise Vaughan, but he couldn't help but wonder how he got his hands on it after he retired.

A few months after Turlo had joined the Second Kingdom Navy, James was recruited by the Second Kingdom's IAA. The Intelligence Acquisition Agency sought out people who displayed high levels of intelligence, although it wasn't the bookworms they were really interested in. After training up their agents, they would send them into the field to weed out dissident leaders. At one point Turlo's girl was sent on an undercover mission to bring out a fantasizer leader, but what ended up happening instead was her staying among them.

James was not an educated simpleton by any means. She scored incredibly high on all the tests the IAA threw at her; knowledge base, combat intelligence, physical and mental tests, psychological evaluation---she passed them all with flying colors. Vaughan lit a cig. What a waste, he thought. Waste or not, Turlo threw himself into the hands of the Sanction for this woman.

The interrogator saw a lot of good men and women walk out of the grave, but he couldn't let that happen to this man. The Feds labeled him Priority One, and nobody except the most invaluable people were given that status of acquisition. Vaughan could only wish that he wanted to help Turlo out of compassion, goodwill, and honor, but the truth of it was: his hate for the Sanction was the driving force in every action. Turlo being a Priority One acquisition package gave Vaughan just that much more incentive, just that much more drive. The promises he made to Turlo and Wroclaw were little more than politician's promises. Vaughan hated himself for resembling his politician father that much more by making these sort of promises.

"Wunderlich to Vaughan, respond."

Vaughan jumped slightly in surprise, and then grimaced. Speaking of hate, he thought bitterly. "This is Vaughan."

"Your presence is needed in the control room, Officer Vaughan."

"Acknowledged. On my way. Vaughan out." Snatching his peaked cap off the floor, Vaughan stopped at the door, staring at the corridor. How far would he go this time? How strong was his hate for the Sanction? The better question, still, was: how great was his mettle? After another long sigh, he was on his way to the CR. These questions were about to be answered.

For more on the Star Kingdom Universe, go to the Star Kingdom Universe Index!