by Diana Dark
This is a space opera short story I wrote with intentions to grow it into a book.
|The prism had been floating carelessly for an uncomfortable amount of time now. The guards should have already fixed the problem and come to check on the gravity shields for each prisoner, Renzo thought. Something was going on. Due to the blurred panels the solitary confinement prism was made of he had no way of knowing what exactly may have malfunctioned. He could only sit there in growing agitation, listening to the muffled, disgruntled shouting of orders and footsteps that grew fainter as indistinct suits thundered past his floating prism towards, he assumed, the gravity control panel holding more misfiring triggers and wires. It's always been a little unreliable since he first arrived here, but it had been acting up more and more frequently as of late. At least, Renzo guessed it was occurring more frequently. It was hard to keep track of the days within the opaque pyramid. |
In his cage, Renzo could only just stretch to full length from mid center in every direction before touching the rough sides of the pyramid. Solitary was meant as punishment here just as like every other prison, but he rather enjoyed being alone. He did not, however, enjoy somersaulting for indefinite stretches of time, as the prism had slowly begun to do, with the broken gravity shields no longer tethering him for the third time in what felt like as many days. One would think they would be able to maintain the technology keeping some of the galaxy's most dangerous criminals at bay.
Renzo was usually quite adept at maintaining quiet confidence through adverse circumstances, though as his cage slowly rose to the high ceilings of the prison, that confidence began to wobble. Renzo hated the feeling that came over him with the lack of gravity in space, the lightness other people felt when floating around untethered was disturbing to him. How anyone could enjoy not being secured to something out here, he thought, is beyond him. One wrong move could end with an eternity hovering in the dark emptiness of space. It used to be hilarious to his crew that he was a captain of a spaceship and had such a weakness for actually being out in the galaxy. It was different in a ship though, he had control there, and Renzo knew how to make sure him and his crew weren't swallowed up by the great abyss of the cosmos. Or at least, he had, before he got thrown in prison for unfounded charges. This was the first time since leaving his mother's home at the age of 18 that he was not in complete control of his environment, and he felt the first shiver of uncertainty crawl up his spine. He had always hated space, always felt a little nervous when he wasn't on solid ground, but his sister Leila had loved it. She had been kind and intelligent and would have made for a great ruler, which is why he hadn't worried when he'd abdicated from the throne, and she had taken to it with the grace he'd never have. Her death had been the worst thing to happen to him and to part of the galaxy, and Renzo was sure someone big had planned it. He wouldn't be sitting on a 50 year prison sentence if someone hadn't planned for the intergalactic police to show up at the exact moment he had begun to bury his sister.
Renzo and Leila had been communicating through secret voice lines since he had left home marked as a coward or a traitor depending on the citizen, but Leila had known his plans a long time before he left. They had set up a whole system to keep in touch through the 6 years that passed during his travels but they obviously hadn't been stealthy enough. Someone knew they were going to meet up on that day, on the neutral territory of the planet Thuban, and had left her body waiting for him. It was with a numb sort of shock that Renzo had decided to bury her under her favorite willow tree there, the one they would sit under and cackle over all of the stupid politicians she'd been dealing with. He'd been sitting next to the fresh grave site for an amount of time he couldn't remember in his daze, when the police had shown up. They hadn't felt an ounce of struggle as they arrested him. It was only until later, when he'd realized how quickly he was being prosecuted that he realized how set up this all had to have been. A slow fury had been building since then, and hadn't stopped. It'd been about a year since then. Now though, that fury was slowly being overtaken by the uncomfortable feeling of gravity being left behind. In a way, this prison was unintentionally finally doing what it was supposed to; the constant lack of gravity the past few months had started to eat away at Renzo' nerves.
Absently, he wondered whether it was just his own little triangle that was malfunctioning in the solitary chamber section, but he doubted so. Renzo remembered seeing at least a few dozen other pyramids hovering neatly in order when he was put in there a few days back, though he was unsure which were filled. Renzo hadn't really left solitary throughout the past year, always purposely causing trouble to be put back into the only thing he'd called home in years. The fact was that he did better in smaller spaces, and the gravity felt more secure within the prism then in the freestanding prisons for the other criminals. Solitary confinement had its' own set of gravity controls so they were steadier than the regular prisons, which were connected to the ship's controls. Inside of solitary he hardly felt the jolting of the ship as it orbited around some abandoned planet in the Perseus sector. He hadn't paid that close attention in Galactic History class in high school, and that he'll always regret. Even if he managed to escape, he'd have no idea how to get back home without a map.
Occasionally when Renzo got bored of being alone and was released from the usual weekend stay in solitary, he'd behave long enough to have a decent conversation with a few outlaws he recognized or had come across before in his journeys, but he had never been one for friends. With his constantly frowning face, his height at a casual 6'9", and long sweeping dreads resting over muscled shoulders, fear was not something Renzo had a problem invoking. Most prisoners and guards knew to leave him alone, so these days Renzo had to pick on the newer prison mates to get him back into confinement. New prisoners didn't happen all too often in this specialty prison, though, so he'd had to develop a system with the others, mostly just the one in particular. Fauna was another prisoner who enjoyed her solitary confinement, though perhaps for different reasons, and with her 6 arms she made quite the fighter. If their releases from confinement were timed correctly she and he would start fights with one another over the smallest thing, usually smirking at each other all the while. Renzo and Fauna fought so often they'd come to know each other well enough that their fights sometimes seemed rehearsed, like choreography. Their matches had become so high a form of entertainment in the recreation room for their fellow prisoners that all they really had to do was fight just long enough to get the crowd so out of control they were punished for the resulting adrenaline-fueled accidents by default. Renzo wasn't out of shape per say, but the consistency of routine made his instincts feel like a dulled knife. If it wasn't for Fauna, Renzo would be a lot weaker than he is now. Instead, as he stretches his arms he can feel the added bulk he's put on in the past year.
Renzo felt like he was dozing off, lying with his eyes closed as to fight off the nausea building within him from the constant uncontrollable motion around him. That was when his prism clanked softly against something, and settled as Renzo opened his eyes. From what he could see past the blur, his prism had finally reached the top of the high ceiling of the penitentiary, the one piece of this prison that kept it from being a soul-draining experience. The ceiling was so high up that the architect must have felt confident in it being unreachable from the inside. Most of the ceiling was all windows, with the whole galaxy in view; stars shining in all directions as ships flew by, giving both a sense of hope and a feeling of despair to those stuck inside. Whenever Renzo was back on the main floor of the prison, he often found himself staring up at it, as he's sure many of the other prisoners do, unsure if he's grateful or spiteful about seeing what he cannot have.
As Renzo gazed at the blur of bright wavy spots amidst darkness, squinting a little to try and make out what planet's orbit he might be in with little success, he became distracted by a soft buzzing noise. He thought for a moment that it was just the gravity being put back into the chamber, but he did not recognize this trilling noise, much sharper than the hum of the shields he'd become accustomed to. The noise continued for a few more minutes, as Renzo heard the clank of other prisms gliding against the window and bumping into one another. This was better than tossing and turning, he thought, as another pyramid pushed against his. He realized suddenly that the buzzing had stopped and had been replaced just as quickly with a much louder noise. A large groan came from what he had assumed was the window his prism was bumping up against, followed by a screeching noise as if something had attached a power tool onto the building, and maybe they had, for suddenly with a great crack of noise the pyramids were all floating up again with nothing to hinder them. Renzo felt a rush of excitement followed by paralyzing amounts of fear as the alarms in the prison all went off at once, the panicking shouts of the guards now hushed into distant murmurs as he floated off.
He distracted himself by envisioning the baffled faces of the guards as they looked up to see dozens of out of control prisms, floating up and out of their reaches and into the galaxy. Before he could truly contemplate what would happen to him out in this abyss, a big oval-shaped blur came into view, and began to unlock its jaws. The spaceship seemed to be dragging his prism, as well as a few others nearby, into its cargo bay, and Renzo breathed a sigh of relief. As soon as the pyramids were all contained, the cargo doors shut quickly, gravity was reinstalled and the ship quickly burst into movement with a juddering pulse. The result was not pleasant, as they dropped down and back from where they had been still floating at the top of the bay. Renzo groaned as his tailbone hit the floor with a smack and thought of how the captain didn't seem to have any regard for the packages.
As he wondered what kind of person would purposefully break into a prison and steal its most dangerous criminals so blatantly and expect not to get caught, the telltale clicking noise of a prism being unlocked next to him by someone grumbling under their breath filled his ears.
"What the hell is going on?" The familiar voice of Fauna filled his ears. It was comforting to know at least someone he mildly trusted was on board with him.
"Look ma'am, you're not who I'm looking for right now so if you don't mind I have captain's orders to locate Renzo Recondo as soon as possible. We'll be sure to drop you off at your nearest safe house when this is over."
Hearing Fauna starting to argue, Renzo knocked loudly on the prism wall he was leaning against to get their attention. He knew how loud she could get when given the chance.
"Well I mean it really depends who's asking, but since they got me out of that place I suppose I owe them something now."
Renzo heard footsteps patter quickly towards his cube, the clicking unlocking mechanism automatically swinging the whole left side of Renzo's prism outward. As he stepped out into a spaceship for the first time in over a year, Renzo saw a small pink-skinned man standing next to Fauna with abnormally elongated fingers tapping impatiently at his side, "If you'd follow me to the bridge, the captain is waiting for you." He shrugged his shoulders and, as he looked around, realized this ship looked familiar, very familiar in fact.
"Hey, wait a minute what about me? And what exactly am I supposed to do now. I only had a year left in prison." Fauna was gearing up to argue for answers as she got red in the face, unused to people ignoring her.
Renzo interrupted, "I hope your captain is planning to hand back my ship. Last time I checked, I had hidden the Antigone so that this sort of situation wouldn't happen." Renzo growled at the thought of someone else handling his baby. He was never good at sharing things; he'd remember wishing he was an only child when Leila and he had been children.
"Believe me when I say she has no intention of doing so, sir. Put perhaps you should discuss that with her." The pink-skinned man turned abruptly and trudged up some stairs, and Renzo and Fauna had no choice but to follow. When they reached the bridge a tall woman had her back to them, giving orders quietly to a crew member.
When she abruptly stops talking, as if feeling their presence, the pink-skinned man spoke up. "Captain, our guest, Mr. Recondo has arrived." As she turns around, he realizes why she wasn't about to just give up his ship. After all, it had been hers in the first place.
Renzo felt tears gather in disbelief as he looked at his sister, a warm grin gathering on her face as she threw herself at him. He caught her and held on tight, murmuring frantically "I thought you were dead. I knew you were dead. I saw it. How is this even possible?"
Leila pulls away to look him in the eye, "I've missed you. Sorry about the death thing. But I'd had my DNA replicated and ready for cloning years ago. I knew this was going to happen. I just didn't know who it'd be. Still don't, memory is a bit foggy since cloning isn't really legal. Had to go pretty deep underground to find the right people. But I need your help bro. We need to track down who killed me in the first place. But first, I think we both need a vacation."