No Place For Us
by Thomas Willits
part 1 of 5
“I say we execute them here and now,” Reese said, pulling his side-arm free from its holster and then pointing the business end at the two in restraints. “Or give me one good reason why we shouldn’t.”
Commander Hawker turned his chair from facing the rear of the room to see what was happening behind him. The situation had left him frustrated with what to do with the two in custody. Reese had his own plans of justice, as he had demonstrated, and his intentions were clear. The Captain’s office was no place for an execution. Although, it wasn’t exactly a Captain’s office any longer since the Captain had died in the last raid on the base, leaving Commander Hawker in charge.
“Reese,” he said with a firm voice, “put that away. Now.”
“Commander,” Reese said still pointing his firearm at the two. “We should kill them now. Don’t be a fool!”
“I’ll make the decisions around here, Lieutenant,” Commander Hawker said just as firmly as before. He met Reese’s eyes and didn’t break his gaze. Careful, Commander, he thought to himself. Don’t blow it or he’ll do it.
The room was silent as Hawker and Reese’s eyes met. Sweat trickled down the side of Reese’s battle-worn face and he trembled slightly. The two in custody were motionless and silent, waiting in anticipation for what would happen next. Reese was determined this time, more so than he had been in the past. His loyalty had never been in question before, until now. Hawker wondered if he would break their trust in an act of vengeance. A moment later his weapon lowered, slowly and then finally dropped to his side and then back into his holster.
“Fine,” he said wiping the perspiration from his forehead. “But I warned you. You’ll wish I had done them both right here.”
He left the room at once, leaving Hawker alone with the two criminals. Hawker let out a sigh of relief as the tense situation was now over, and he caught the two prisoners watching him. He turned to them now, giving them his full attention. He knew they sensed his anxiety. “So who are you?” He asked them. “I’ll need your names for processing. You are Venorans, right?”
They were silent for a moment, looked at each other, and then one nodded. They were humanoid in form, but aside from that they were obviously not human. Their skin was rough, almost scaly and yellow pigmented. They had no nose, only two small holes where one would be. They also lacked ear lobes, although they had something there that might have been similar to ears. Nothing external. Only a small round circle on each side shaped like a satelite dish. Their eyes were similar to humans’ in shape and size but somehow different. Not only different because they were ghastly yellow and animal-like; there was something more.
When they stared back one found it difficult not to express an emotion such as fear or apprehension. The eyes told all there was to know about them. They were Venorans. They were the most unrelenting, savage and brutally cruel creatures in the known galaxy. The mere sight of one would cause panic and hysteria.
Commander Hawker gave them another glance, trying not to become agitated with their silence. Venorans or not, he would have their names for processing. He turned his attention to the one on the right, who seemed to be the one in charge. He didn’t glance away; he held his gaze upon the prisoner. The Venoran stared back just as hard and as silent as before.
“I will have your names,” he told them, trying not to let his voice waver. His eyes were locked with the Venoran’s.
“You wish that he had killed us?” the Venoran asked. “You humanoids are all the same.”
“Actually, no,” he responded trying not to take the remark personally. But in truth, part of him did wish them dead. He considered that maybe Reese was right. Executing them might not be such a bad idea. “I really don’t want to clean up the mess. I just had this room repaired from the last raid, you know. But I’ll keep that in mind.”
The two Venorans said nothing for a moment. Then, finally: “My name is Anor R’vin Ejalad,” one of the Venorans began. “This is my brother, Yentoc Din Ejalad.”
Commander Hawker gave a small grin. “Good. Now, I’ll need you to spell that for me.”
They gave the commander their cooperation despite the situation they were in. Being Venoran was bad enough. They were from a distant star system but their reputation as a relentless and malevolent species had spread throughout the quadrant. Their knowledge of biochemistry and technology was unfortunate for some planets: many of the Venoran weapons were biological and chemical in nature.
The effectiveness of the weapons was tragic, even for war. At the weapons’ point of impact the destruction was total, and as the blast radius spread, the biological agents lost effectiveness by only two percent for every thousand miles. Each weapon was modified and attuned to the planet’s exact gene make-up and set to expand on impact. If the entire planet was targeted, only about four of these warheads were needed to annihilate its population.
And so began the Venorans’ mission to conquer all who opposed them. Their reputation as a ruthless and genocidal species had spread fast over the past hundred years. Many planets fell to their rule or died in a struggle against them. But even the mightiest fall, and the Venorans had been no exception to that rule.
Other than basic information such as residence and places of birth, Commander Hawker could get no more out of them. Their names were the only important details he needed for processing. For the past decade Venoran names had been systematically recorded as they were tried for war crimes.
“Sergeant Peters!” he shouted into the intercom on his desk, “take these two down to lockup.”
A moment later, Sergeant Peters and two other armed guards entered and escorted the two Venorans out of the room. Their hands and feet bound together by restraints, they slowly left the room, Sergeant Peters in front and the two guards behind them.
“Sergeant,” Hawker called after him.
“Keep an eye on Reese,” he told him. “Don’t let him anywhere near these two.”
Commander Hawker stood up from his desk he had recently taken over from Captain Garrison. He closed the file on the computer console and sent the file to central command back on his home world, Eyos. At least this matter was out of his hands now. He didn’t like executions much. Executing for atrocities committed over ten years ago was not his concern and probably best left to central command.
He left the comfort of his desk and approached the large picture window. He examined the horizon in the distance. The rocky crevasses in the distance as black as night and the emptiness of space. The terrain was rough outside the station. As morning approached, light from the sun illuminated across the horizon exposing their small valley on this dead moon, a place he had called home for little over a year now.
He surveyed the moon station from out his office window. His office was on the high ground and on the left wing of the station. Repair crews were outside in suits, busy fixing the small hull breach near the midsection of the station. The damaged section had been closed down for repairs after the last attack. The work was nearly completed, as the chief engineer’s report had stated in the morning briefing. By midday they would be wrapping things up. The bluish light from their zero-atmosphere welders winked brilliantly in the distance.
A wave of relief washed over him as he surveyed the station. After all the attacks the station had sustained it was still in pretty good shape. Things could be worse, he thought to himself. I could be commanding a post on Eyos.
After pushing his way through commands he had finally landed a position here on Ios as Commander of the moon station. The moon Ios orbited a small mining planet called Alem Kor. The moon station was developed before the mining colony started removing minerals. It served as a docking station between Alem Kor and Eyos or other planets in their territory.
Alem Kor itself was no more than a mining planet. Aside from its resources it served no purpose; even the atmosphere was harsh. In the beginning, the moon station was built just to accommodate incoming ships and provide living quarters for the miners on site.
Commander Hawker thought about the two Venorans now in custody. They were a big setback and distraction, but in truth he had bigger problems. Raids on the station had become more frequent over the past month, and the supply lines with Eyos were running thin.
The station now provided for the security of Alem Kor and its workers and families; it could accommodate more than two thousand people, if necessary. At this time, the station only housed about half that number. About sixty percent of the people were miners and their families.
The rest of the inhabitants provided some other service on the station. Some were part of the engineering crew or maintenance departments. Others worked in the food center or waste department. The security team was well equipped; a good number of fighter pilots were on the station, but their number was getting smaller every week.
Commander Hawker had over two dozen regular enlisted men. He had placed an order for new personnel to accommodate their recent losses. The last supply ship had been canceled before it even left Eyos and Commander Hawker had been informed that a new Captain would not be readily available until some time late next month. One supply ship canceled was not a huge problem, but if another was canceled, then resources would become noticeably short.
The resistance movement had caused all sorts of problems on Eyos and abroad. Distant as Ios was, the enemy was still able somehow to plan frequent raids on the moon station; their abilities were astonishing and had been underestimated. The last raid, which resulted in the untimely death of the Captain, had been completely unexpected. Fortunately, Eyos had an ample amount of firepower for defense, and the station’s civilian housing had been made into a fortress. The station was constantly on standby alert in case the resistance movement tried another raid.
The communication channel at his desk chimed and he left the window and his moment of relaxation. Back to business now. He pushed the receive button.
“Commander,” the voice came through, sounding a bit exhausted and disheartened. “You better get down here.”
“Hurry,” the voice said.
Commander Hawker understood and headed for the corridor. The medical ward was ten sections over and three decks down. He walked down the corridor to the lift and took it down to level three. As he entered the medical lab the doctor was in the waiting area; the operating room doors were closed.
Doctor Lacon was silent. He just stared at him not knowing how to explain. “I’m sorry, Allen,” he began. “He didn’t make it. We lost him about ten minutes ago.”
“Pete?” he asked, but it really wasn’t a question. Commander Hawker stared at the operating room doors trying to make since of it all. “You did all that you could, Doctor.”
“The injuries were too severe. I’m surprised he hung on as long as he did.”
“He was so young,” Hawker sighed. “Our youngest, I was told. But a damned good officer. He’ll receive a memorial.”
“I’ll let you know when he’s ready, Allen,” the Doctor said reassuringly. “Would you like me to send the communication?”
Commander Hawker shook his head. “No,” he answered firmly. “I’ll see to it. No offense, Doctor, but his mother and father are going to want an explanation why their son is dead and that he was a good solider and died for a cause. I’ll give them that much. Let me know when his body’s ready for the memorial.”
Before Hawker could return to make the communication he was called down to the repair area that had been sealed off after the raid. Most of the debris had been hauled away and partial power had already been restored to this section. The huge bulkhead doors were still in place after the rupture on the outer hull. The doors came down across the main corridor sealing off the damaged area of the station. These doors were located throughout the length of the station and were on full automation in case a hull breach was detected.
Captain Garrison had been inside when the doors began to close. He had still been rushing people out of that section, his own safety disregarded. He saved as many as he could before the door closed, cutting him and several other injured off from the rest of the station. Some of the injured had likely died since the explosion on the outer hull.
Commander Hawker stared at the door wondering what those inside were thinking about in their last moments when the hull gave way and they were all blown out into the moon’s lifeless atmosphere.
“Commander!” A voice from behind.
He turned seeing his chief engineer approaching. He was startled slightly as his thoughts were ripped away from the door and what secrets only it knew lay behind it. Aside from being crucial to the station’s overall integrity and safety, the door was the reason that the captain and possibly six others had been killed. Commander Hawker brushed these thoughts away. They were possibilities only. Everyone that came aboard the station knew the risks. The captain above all. The door wasn’t the real source of the blame.
“The breach has been sealed,” he told him. “Pressure has been equalized behind the door and full power has been returned to this section.”
“Good work,” Commander Hawker said walking to the control panel near the corridor wall. “Then we’re ready to open this door?”
“Any time you’re ready, sir.”
“Alert your repair crews to begin once we get this door open,” he said, opening the cover to the controls and accessing the manual override. “I want them working round the clock on clearing this section. As soon as we have this mess cleaned up everyone’s nerves should return to normal.”
The panel opened and a keypad lit up. He entered his access code for security override and the panel flickered on and off. Nothing happened.
“Mr. Kestal?” He looked at him puzzled.
He slapped the side of the panel hard and the keys lit back up. Nothing happened for a moment, then a tremendous thud as the door’s release seals broke free. The door began to rise. When it disappeared above the corridor they entered the room and surveyed the damage.
The room just behind the door and the corridors beyond lay in ruins. Anything small enough to escape through the breech was absent. Entire panels had been ripped from the walls, and light fixtures were hanging from the ceiling with their wiring exposed.
Near the back of the room was where the breech had occurred. Debris was piled under the repaired breech, evidently objects that were too big and bulky to escape the room. All of this debris had accumulated into a bottleneck preventing anything large from escaping. Finally when pressure had been restored the debris collapsed to the floor.
“How long do you need to clean this up?” Hawker asked him walking around the huge pile of machinery and wires and mangled parts.
“Forty-eight hours should do it,” he answered. “The electrical systems in here might take longer. I can spare some extra men from the maintenance night shift. That should get everything done in that time. Are we expecting another attack?”
Commander Hawker looked at him but didn’t answer. He walked around the pile of metal and smashed conduits to get a closer look at the monstrous pile. He saw something hanging out near the center. He took a step closer, finding some footing. The whole thing could come down on top of him if he wasn’t careful.
“Commander?” Mr. Kestal called. “Perhaps we should wait for the crew to arrive. This thing doesn’t look stable.”
Commander Hawker glanced at what had caught his attention. He was a little closer now and could make it out. But what remained inside the pile of debris hardly resembled a human figure any longer. He turned to Kestal.
“Get the doctor down here immediately,” he said gasping and he stepped out from the ruins. Kestal looked where Hawker had been approaching and saw the arms and head peering out from inside. The other body parts were not visible. He felt his stomach churn, ready to release its contents and he turned his head away. Commander Hawker had reached the main entrance and turned around.
“Let me know when Doctor Lacon has identified the remains,” he said and then exited the damaged section.
Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Willits