Words are powerful little creatures. Even by themselves, the right words, curse words for instance, carry power. Leashed together in the form of sentences they can provoke a feeling of dread in the listener. The sentence that always provokes the most dread in me is, “There’s something you should know.”
I’ve piloted fighters before as they’re being refueled in the midst of combat. You’re a sitting duck, parked for precious minutes next to a tanker that is, in reality, nothing more than a metal ball of combustion ready to go off. No matter how intense the fighting gets, you’re paralyzed as your fuel gauge slowly fills. Your bird needs fuel. It is the one constant of combat.
The Visitor Center of a Super Max prison is often the only place in the whole complex where prisoners can set aside the violent reputations they’ve cultivated for themselves.
From a far enough distance, a battle in space looks like dueling fireflies. The actual fighters are lost in the glare of their exhaust so all you can see are little points of light darting around against a starry backdrop, and then the occasional violent burst of an explosion.
I once knew a man who’d worked at OSP-4 since the day they set her in space and gave her a spin. He told me that the only thing that set apart Forensic Psychiatry from the Political Activities Wing was that the crazies in the PAW had a cause.
As ex-quartermaster aboard OSP-4, I have seen my share of dead bodies. Contrary to popular belief, we do not space the bodies of men who die in prison.
I was an officer in a prison that had been half-destroyed by pirates, in which most of the prisoners had escaped and now wandered the hallways unfettered. Those few criminals whose lives we’d saved still didn’t trust me. Wes Morgan, the mercenary that we’d rescued from a prison cell, probably thought I was a fool, and Wyrick… well, Cayla Wyrick was my therapist.
The twelve of us who had made it to the loading platform alive had to wait in the dark as the thirteenth choked to death on his own blood. The sound was hideous and wet, and no man spoke until it stopped.
Being in command of an army of escaped prisoners isn’t half as glorious as I’d pictured — not that I’d pictured it. But when you’re assigned to guard said prisoners, your imagination can get a little carried away. Now, thanks to a pirate attack that had killed every senior officer on the station, the computer had put the prison shrink in charge, and as her ranking patient I had found myself in a position of pseudo-authority.
The fire in the Maximum Security block travelled through wiring ducts in the drop-ceiling, burning so hot that it had begun to melt the plastic fascia on the walls. The thick black smoke that poured into the corridor reminded me of ink slowly spreading through water.