Year: 4, 990,541 P.F. (Post-Federation) (Earth year: 2050 A.D.)
"Varris Arterius, you stand before the Council today, in light of your recent arrest. Your charges include the assassinations of fourteen government officials, the sabotage of a number of Council-grade war machines, multiple attempts to incite anarchy, and the charge that lead to your arrest; aggravated assault while under the influence. What have you to say in your defense?"
A handcuffed Varris stood on a platform in a large, white, hall, before twelve judges who sat in elevated throne-like chairs; the Andromeda Council; the highest law in the galaxy. Comprised of one representative for each "dominant," alpha-species that exists in the Milky Way Galaxy, the Council is tasked with maintaining the peace between the dozens of different races which inhabit said galaxy. The Andromeda Council is named such, because the original council was formed with the purpose of reaching the Andromeda Galaxy; they closest galaxy to our own. The expedition failed, but the name stuck. Species who are majorly aware of the council's presence, who are a part of the galactic community, are referred to as "alpha-species." Those who are deemed "too primitive to be graced by the Council's blessing," remain "beta-species," (Yes, humans are considered a beta-species). Even they, however, are not exempt from the laws of the council. But, that's another story for another time.
"I know why I'm here, chairman," Varris scoffed. "The more pressing concern is why I've had to take action against your authority; why you and your order have spent decades torturing the citizens of this galaxy!"
"Y-y-you're the party on trial, here, not us," replied the Head Counselor of the planet Pitolla, in the Arcturus system. He had a noticeable stutter, but that never stopped him from being the loudest person in any given room. "We're h-h-here to discuss the suitable punishment for your actions! Do not a-a-attempt to reflect the blame on us."
"The blame is very much yours, chairman. For years, we, the people have been bullied into submission by your police force. I will not stand idly as another innocent man, woman, or child is gunned down in the streets by your Elite Guard puppets!"
The Councilor slammed his fist on his chair "Those i-i-incidents reflect the actions of s-s-specific individuals, not the entirety of the Council!"
"And these individuals, these individuals who happen to be employed by you, who live off your dime, are free of any charges? You let them go free, but the family that loses the child is told to cope, and to have respect for the ones you claim are supposed to be protectors? While they're running amuck, murdering and pillaging at leisure, as you and your system coddle them. You protect your lot with a veil of brass; so that your image remains unscarred.
"The altairian is clearly mad. Is there any question as to why he's done what he's done?" One council member blurted.
"You think you can do what you want. You can't. There have already been uprisings, and revolutions started with the purpose of tearing down the walls of your oppression. Tell me, how many more families must be torn asunder before you change your ways? How many more of your men need to be murdered, just as they've murdered, before you realize that the people are sick of it? Day after day, more lives are deemed forfeit by the ones sworn to protect us. If we fear the only ones who can protect us, what help can we expect, but our own? What would you expect us to do, besides take matters into our own hands?"
"Comply with the law," the pitollan stated, without a stutter.
"Funny. It's time for revolution. And if my admitting that gets me sentenced to whatever God-forsaken prison you decide to bury me in, so be it. But, I refuse to play in your power fantasy. I refuse. Your 'comply or die' state isn't one I'd wish to live in. I'll take my chances in prison," Varris stood, with his heart pounding. He feared jail, he knew he did. But, he didn't want the Councilors to see him break. That's exactly what they wanted from him.
"If you do not follow the law, Varris, b-b-but instead, take the law into y-y-your own hands, I have no choice but to sentence you."
For the duration of his life, Varris had been told that he stood for the unreasonable; that everything he fought for was pointless, stupid, and foolish. He was going to prove them wrong, one way or another. A lifetime of scrutiny, of people attempting to control his every move, culminated to this moment. At this moment, Varris was about to condemn himself to a path he'd never, until the end of his days, escape. This was the defining moment of his life.
"I've already pleaded guilty to my charges. If fighting for what's right, for true justice condemns me to torment for an eternity, so be it. You will not break me, you will not crack me, and you will never change the truth. If I don't send your castle crumbling, somebody else will, you can count on that. You'll never silence the hand of justice. You have no power."
"Fair enough," concluded the pitollan councilor as the other eleven remained silent, butts patiently in their seats. "Due to your blatant disregard for authority, and disrespect for the brave men and women who put their lives on the line every day to defend your freedoms, and your reluctance to change, I hereby sentence you, Varris Arterius, to death by execution. You will spend the r-r-remainder of your days aboard the Ataak Orbital Prison, above your home world of Altair, until we can determine a suitable date for your demise."
Varris stood and closed his eyes, distraught by the state of the galaxy's leaders. Their arrogance and selfishness angered him more than anything. "Bullies, the lot of you."
The Counselor pressed a series of buttons on his chair. A massive weight, which hung in a casing within the walls behind where the counselors sat, came crashing down atop a bell, creating a ring so loud that anyone within five miles of the Citadel of Justice (The Council's Headquarters) could feel the vibrations. Varris closed his eyes once again and grimaced at the sound. A guard appeared behind him, grabbed his shoulder, and they shared a look. Varris knew he had sealed his fate. "Dismissed," the Councilor proclaimed.
Varris was altairian, a reptilian species which prides itself on being the most precise and effective military presence in the galaxy. Unlike Bootes reptilians (of the planet Dulce), who specialize in brute force, altairians are more strategically gifted than most races. They're able to think quickly on their feet without much hesitation or heavy consideration. They're able to make concise calculations on a whim, and use those calculations to inhibit their opponents. This makes them unmatched at hand-to-hand and melee combat; for the most part, anyway. Altairians don't have scales as you'd think. Rather, their outer skin is comprised of a series of panels which hides a softer, more fleshy skin underneath.
Booteans, however, are broad and comprise of an outer shell on their backs that goes up to form a sort of natural hood around their heads; leaving their faces and most of their front section open, exposing their softer scales.
Months after his sentencing, Varris found himself in the middle of the cafeteria of the Ataak Orbital Prison with a crowd of chanting prisoners around him and a large fist zooming through the air and making direct contact with his face. The blow sent him spiraling and into a table, on which he caught himself and regained balance. He looked up and found an extremely upset bootean standing before him, challenging him to a fight. As if the fist to his face weren't already an indication. "You talking about me, altairian? Behind my back!?"
"Believe me, I didn't say anything that was untrue. Now, how about we all take the time to settle this like civilized adults?" Varris picked himself off of the table and wiped the blood from his mouth.
"This is the jungle, here, altairian. There is no 'civilized.'"
Varris nodded and held his mouth. "So, you say. Now, with that in mind, are you sure you want to do this?"
"What I want is to make you suffer."
"Yeah, well, get in line."
About five minutes later, Varris found himself sitting in a chair in the prison Warden's office, with that Warden pacing back and forth in front of him. "You're making this hard, Varris. You're making this extremely, extremely difficult."
"He punched me in the face and said he was gonna beat my ass. You expect me to just sit there and take it? We're altairian; we take action."
"I expect you to not go around insulting other prisoners behind their backs. I expect... you didn't... you didn't have to stick a fork in his eye."
"No, but it felt good," Varris smugly replied.
"If your intent is to get out of here in a timely manner, you're going to have to stop things like this. I've done the best I can to cover up your blunders, but it's getting out of hand."
"And what would you have me do? Me getting out of here is on your hands, there's nothing I can do about it, innit?"
"My hands would be less full if you would keep your words, fists, and... silver wear to yourself. I'm not doing this for me, I'm doing it for you. Remember that. You've been here for six months, Varris. Six months! I'd have had you out in three. You've got to stop this." The Warden could sense Varris's stubborn attitude and he sighed. He knew Varris wouldn't change. "I spoke to a contact, yesterday. He says he can have you out within the next few weeks."
"Really!? That's great, then!"
"If, and only if, you do your part and stop antagonizing other prisoners. Get your act together, Varris, this contact may see potential in you. Perhaps the same potential I once saw," The Warden said as he turned to face the door to his office.
"You say that as if I've changed. I never change. Ever."
"Maybe that's the problem. I agreed to help you, Varris, because I saw potential in you. You had the guts to stand up for things no one would ever even dream of standing against. When I first heard of your dealings, I wondered whether you were a strong-minded revolutionist with the courage raging of a thousand suns, or a defiant sociopath, standing against corrupt government only because you had been inconvenienced by it. Right now, I'm leaning towards the latter. And don't take that as an insult."
Varris slouched in his chair, not exactly surprised, but slightly disappointed with himself. "Well, I am a diagnosed sociopath," Varris said, hoping to make light of the conversation, even though he was, by definition, a sociopath. He looked at the Warden, who he could tell, was not amused. "Alright, Warden. I accept your terms."
The Warden turned to face Varris. "As if you have a choice?"
"As if I'm making the conscious effort to rebuke any brawls, blunders, or mishaps, that may befall my urges," Varris assured.
"Is that a promise?" The Warden asked hesitantly. "Because, I've heard you make promises before, but I've seen no evidence of you ever having--"
"Yes, it's a promise," Varris interjected. "It's more than a promise, it's a guarantee. I'll do whatever it takes to continue fighting for what's right, and I can't do that stuck in here until the Council finally executes me, can I? If that means subjecting myself to... self control, what choice do I have?"
"You think you have what it takes to stay your 'urges'?"
"I couldn't tell you, myself. But, I'll never know until I try, yeah? Give me a chance, Warden, and you'll see. Your faith in me will be restored. You won't be disappointed."
The Warden turned again and walked towards the door and placed his hand over its controls. "The only person you have to worry about disappointing, Varris, is yourself." With the press of three buttons, the door opened, sending Varris back out into the wild.
The Warden and Varris had entered an agreement, well over two years before Varris's arrest, and trial. The Warden, better known as Lucias Venthras, hired Varris (in secret, of course) to track down and neutralize three corrupt senators which had blackmailed and accused him of fraud, after he voiced his disapproval of them giving the order to their Elite Guard officers to declare Advintis Subrucca (Think of it as Martial Law) on an altairian colony. Supposedly, it was a colony of criminals. Dead criminals, however, meant less prisoners for Lucias, and less prisoners meant less money.
After Varris fulfilled the contract, he and the Warden grew closer, until the Warden became the only person Varris had ever considered an acquaintance. Varris didn't much like the idea of friendship. Lucias provided Varris with the weapons and resources to carry out his missions, and in return, Varris silenced those who had wronged the Warden. When he learned of Varris's arrest, the Warden pulled a few strings and convinced the Council to imprison him aboard the Ataak, so that he might do Varris one last favor and grant him freedom.
A few long hours after the Warden's talk with Varris, before the station's artificial night system activated, the guards stationed every prisoner to their cells, ushering commands and making demands to get everyone into the place they'd remain for the duration of the night. "Move it!" One of the guards shouted at Varris as he turned to enter his cell. "Don't scream too loud," the guard whispered before slamming the cell door shut behind Varris.
"Wait, what?" Varris turned around facing the door, the guard nowhere to be seen. Every light in the station went dark simultaneously, and Varris was left standing in the dark, puzzled, wondering what the guard had meant. He felt a heavy, hot, breath on his shoulder, and immediately figured it out. "Oh, you've got to be--"
Varris turned around, finding himself pinned against the cell door, with his feet off the floor, with the hand that had once been in the form of the fist that sent him flying across the cafeteria earlier around his neck. The hand belonged to none other than Grough of Morika, the unfortunate bootean Varris decided to stick a fork in previously. He now sported a high-tech eye patch which allowed him to see, not as well as he could with his natural eye, but he had sight, regardless. "Your turn," the bootean growled.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa," Varris stuttered. "I know you're pissed, I know you are! If someone gouged my eye out with a fork, I'd be upset, too, so, it's completely understand-" Varris was cut off by the act of Grough throwing him across the cell, hitting the wall and falling back to the floor. Varris clamored to stand up, but fell back down. "Don't trash me, mate, don't trash me! Can we please just chat about this for a second? One on one, I have a--" Varris was interrupted again, this time, thrown into the metal rail that secured the cell's bed to the wall.
"The time for talk is over," Grough ordered. He raised his fist to strike Varris again.
"I can get you out of here!" Varris spouted, not even meaning to. It was instinct. At least that's what he'd tell himself in case the Warden's schemes ever came to light because of his outburst. "I can," Varris reassured. He could tell it worked, seeing as though he was still alive. "You honestly think I'd start a fight with you, you, of all people for giggles? Come on, Grough, we're both smarter than that. At least, I like to think so."
"I don't care why you'd challenge me. Look what you did to my eye!!!" Grough shouted. "You're trying to do nothing more than save your scales."
"Of course. I'm trying to save my scales. I'm trying to save all our scales, skin, or whatever. I'm sorry about your eye, really, I am, mate, it was a spur of the moment thing... but, we cannot linger on the past, as I have found, in fact, a way out."
"And how did you come to make this discovery?" Grough inquired.
"By being sent to the Warden's office, of course. Every time I've been in there, I've made an appoint to memorize the map of the prison. I now know where the prison's armory is. It's where the weapons are, it's where the Master Key to the station is, and I know how to get there."
"This is a ruse. Did you not think I would be able to see though your filthy lies?"
Varris was surprised by Grough's competence. He honestly wasn't expecting it. "L...lies? Nope, no lies here. Oi, you've got to trust me with this. Why would I fight you, knowing damn well you'd kill me eventually? The eye thing, that was not intentional. Now, look, I memorized the entire map. I've been in that office enough times to the point where I know where every room is. I know where the master key to the control center is, all the bypasses, and how their systems work. I know these things. And the only way any of us has a future is if you don't bang my head in, and I continue along with my plan. And I promise you Grough, I swear to you, bruv, once I've gotten us to freedom, I give you my explicit permission to kill me. Just, let me get us out of here first. Please."
"Why would you do this for us, knowing there's nothing in it for you?"
"There was never anything in this for me, mate. You think I rose against the government and got myself thrown in here for my benefit? No. It's always been for the benefit of the people. It's always been for the citizens of this galaxy. who were wronged by the people who own it. It's about time we show them that they don't own it," Varris said as he remained seated on the floor. This head was still ringing from being thrown around. But, he felt as though any injuries he had received connected a wire in his brain and sent him on a roll.
"And how will we do that?"
"By uniting. We are their currency, we're the gears that keep this galaxy spinning." Varris slowly stood as he continued talking. "If we come together, if all of us merge on a single accord, we can bring them to their knees. You see, the council, the higher-ups of the government, they're just the head of this galactic body. But we, we, the people, we are the organs, the heart. If we resist... if we fight back, united in our cause, we can stop blood flow, cease the heart and seize the brain. Think of it as cardiac arrest on a galactic scale; on a societal scale." Varris spoke until he was standing straight up, staring Grough in the face, showing no fear. "Now, are you with me... or against me?"
"Your words carry inspiration. But one's words only hold as much value as the one who mutters them. You took a part of me away, yet you stand here, speaking to me as an equal, as there is no fear in your voice. Others would have trembled at my wake. I don't know whether to judge you as honorable, or simply... ill."
"How about not judging me, and simply taking a stand against oppression, yeah? I can't imagine you don't want freedom as well. I'm your only chance at it. You'll spend the next hundred years or so rotting away in this prison. Is that the way you want to spent your prime years? Come on, Grough. Like I said, you have permission to kill me after all this is over. What do you say?"
"Know this, altairian; if I sense so much as a hint that you're lying to me, I will rip your very spine from your back. Are we clear on that accord?"
"Clear as glass, bruv," Varris gulped.
"Now, get away from that bed. I'm using it for the night," Grough ordered.
"Yeah, mate, cool, man." Varris swiftly skipped away from the bed he had been sitting under and positioned himself in the corner furthest from the bootean, who proceeded to lie on the bed. Varris stood, shaking, scared. He prayed that was all for this ordeal. Minutes had passed before Varris sighed of relief and sat down in his corner. He lay on the floor, proud of his serpent tongue, yet, regretful of the situation he was in. He didn't know whether or not he would rather have had Grough kill him, or to lie here on this cold prison floor, sharing a cell with a psychopath who was in jail for murdering his own wife and daughter in cold blood; for no reason! That thought kept Varris awake from some time. If he could get though this one night without incident, though... his heart skipped a beat at the very notion of tasting victory; freedom. It was within his grasp, and he was determined to keep it there.
The next morning, an alarm blazed through the prison as a sort of wakeup call, as was per usual at the start of every new day. The prison cells automatically opened, and prisoners came pouring out into the halls. Varris continued to lie on the ground, with his eyes open. He hadn't gotten much sleep. He looked over at Grough, who simply rolled out of the bed and made for the hall way, without so much as a glance at Varris. He was in the clear. He smiled and shook his fists, trying to contain his excitement. He had survived. Now, it was time to make his move.
Varris walked out of his cell, keeping a keen eye to his surroundings, hoping Grough wasn't about to ambush him, or worse; revealed their agreement to anyone. Once he got downstairs to the requisition hall, by way of a set of stairs, he sat at a table by himself, still excited. After a minute or two of sitting in solitude, he was at a loss. Just moments ago, his heart was pounding with anticipation at the very notion of being free of this prison, soon. But, how soon? How long would he have to wait? Would he just have to sit here and be a good little altairian until someone took notice of his "good behavior," and sent for help? These thoughts kept running through his head, driving him madder and madder by the second. What, just moments ago, had been excitement, quickly turned to frustration; the kind of frustration he'd always felt when presented with a math problem requiring more than two steps; the kind of frustration he couldn't contain. "Screw this," Varris finally said, out loud. It was going to be a long next couple of weeks.
And, it was a long next couple of weeks. Weeks devoid of arguments, altercations, or anything of the sort. Being a sociopath, Varris felt tortured. Most days, he just sat in his cell, staring at the walls, with a couple of nervous breakdowns in between sessions of wall-staring. The fantasies of mass destruction and mayhem he dreamed up in his head kept him sedated for as long as they could, but he longed for the time he could physically partake in such activities again. That longing threatened to drive away what little sanity he had into oblivion. Varris was ready to do something, anything, while he waited for his golden parachute to arrive. Yet, everything he wanted to do would negate whatever chance he had of being free of this place. It had only been about three and a half weeks (Varris lost track) before an incident begat a disruption in the monotony and replaced it with trepidation. And not the good kind.
Varris found himself walking down one of the halls in the prison, after eating what everyone in the prison referred to as "lunch." Though, the food he had been given for the past seven months or so hardly resembled any food he'd seen on any planet. "Hey, yo, Varris!" A voice traveled down the hall. Varris turned around and saw another altairian prisoner walking towards him.
"Ay, uh... person," Varris responded.
"Yo, Grough says you have a plan to spring us out. What's the catch?"
Varris's body went numb, cold chills shot through his spine and limbs, his heart skipped several beats, and all six of his fingers began to twitch. "Wha... wha... what?" Varris's speech was broken, as well as his thoughts.
"Hey, man, I'm not wired, so don't worry. Just you and me, one on one, you know what I'm sayin'? I'm just curious, a bit anxious, nah' mean? To be busting out of here, nah' mean, man?"
"Yeah, yeah, mate, yeah" Varris hastily blurted, trying not to seem completely horrified. He could tell that he was trying too hard to seem "cool." He decided to just bite the bullet and play it straight.
"So, what's the plan to get out of here, huh?" "I'm..." Varris cleared his throat before uttering another word. "I'm working on it?" Was that a question? Varris thought to himself.
"Grough said you'd been working on it for months. Wait. You didn't lie to him, did you?"
"No! Why would I lie to him? I'd never lie to him!" Again; trying too hard. So, he scaled it back. "I wouldn't lie to any of you, I'm well truthful! I'm not a liar," Varris lied. "I'm just... these things take a bit of time, yeah? And I need you to understand that before you go around accusing me of lying."
"Alright, then, man. Sorry. But, you better not be holding out on me. I got people to think about, man. You know, people outside of these walls who need me."
"We all want to get out of here, um... what's your name again... sir?" Varris asked.
"Bathin, man. Nice to meet you," he reached out to shake Varris's hand. Varris placed his hand around Bathin's and they performed the typical altairian greeting: shaking hands, not as humans would shake hands, but with a sporadic, spastic rhythm.
"Bathin, good man. We'll be free in no time, I give you my word. You have your people to think about, and I have mine. We're gonna start a revolution." At this point, Varris was just digging himself a deeper hole, and he didn't even care. He was getting off this station or he was going to die trying. Soon, he'd have the entire prison at his back, thinking they were being set free. Varris had pledged to them a promised land, but he'd be damned if he was actually going to live up to his word. The only person who would be seeing any promised land would be himself. No one else. Not Bathin, not Grough, especially not Grough, or so Varris hoped. Little did he know, however, that he was about to spark an unrest the likes of which Altair and its surrounding systems would not soon forget.
Lies atop more lies. That was the structure Varris was building. Eventually, all lies come crumbling down; down with such a force, that everyone and everything involved in the lies are lain to waste; the innocent and the instigators alike. Varris knew this, and he prepared himself for the aftershock. He had it all planned out.
Weeks passed as whispers and whispers of whispers of Varris's "plan," spread through the prison like a virus. Oddly enough, Varris had no reason to suspect that any guard was aware of these rumors. He assumed none of the prisoners wanted to risk word getting out, so they were as cautious as he was about how loud their voices carried. Everyone was as desperate. After all, most prisoners were there longer than he; and yet, he was not moved. Varris did understand, however, how fortunate he was to have the Warden of the prison on his side. The rest of these poor souls were left to fend for themselves without guidance, security, or anyone to watch their backs but the groups they formed amongst themselves. It literally was a jungle. But now that word had spread about Varris's schemes, he could sense a structure amongst the prisoners, a sort of brotherhood. If no one of authority was going to watch over them, they took it upon themselves to look after each other, or so it would seem to Varris. They were all set on one goal, and one accord. Even the guards took notice, still unaware of the cause of this unification. Varris had indirectly brought these killers, thieves, rapists, and smugglers to an agreement. An agreement based on a lie, but an agreement none the less; something that Varris thought impossible among a group of people filled with such animosity towards, well, everything. However, these people lived sinful lives, so it wasn't so surprising to Varris that sinful lives would be unified through sin itself. It was only fitting.
Everywhere Varris went, it seemed he sparked some kind of revolution. For that fleeting moment, he thought as though he was captured and imprisoned for something greater, a purpose that far surpassed his realm of understanding. That got Varris thinking. Who, exactly, was this contact he was waiting on? Who was this person who would see Varris, and Varris alone, freed? After everything he did, who would be brave or powerful enough to afford to free a prisoner from death row? Or was it their intent to liberate the entire prison to take a stand against the central government? Varris hadn't given the idea much thought before, but now that he saw what his presence was capable of inspiring, his sense of self-value increased. As did his ego. He wondered if this contact had its eye on him from the start, and he thought the Warden might know more than he initially let on. So, Varris called a meeting.
"It must be nice to have the power to just call me up whenever you have a concern, isn't it, Varris?"
"Nicer than you know," Varris responded as he sat in the Warden's office.
"What do you need this time?"
This time, Varris made an appoint to look at the map of the prison that hung on the wall behind the Warden's desk. Just in case the schematic would come in handy in the future, should his "golden parachute," fail him.
"This contact who was supposed to have me out of here weeks ago. Who are they, and why haven't they sprung me out, yet?"
"First off, I never said they'd have you out of here weeks ago, I said they could get you out within a few weeks. For all you know, my contact's found your behavior inadequate."
Varris almost flew out of his chair. "WHAT!? Inadequate? Inadequate!? Bruv, I haven't had an incident in weeks, and now you're telling me that there's a possibility that my behavior is now inadequate!? What about when I was running about, knocking heads every day? Was my behavior not adequate, then? If it was, I can sure as Hell revert, mate, I'll tell you that!"
"Nothing is certain, nothing is guaranteed, especially not in your case."
"Are you taking the piss, mate? You just put that in there to be funny, didn't you? Why don't you tell me what's really going on, here?"
"I didn't want to get your hopes up," the Warden claimed. "There's still a chance that I can get you out of here, but this... particular contact has shown a decline in interest."
"That's it, then? You put in a couple of requests, they all deny, and I'm stuck here paying for your dirty work, until the government decides to do off with me?"
"What you did for me is only a small part of your charges, don't forget that. Now, I appreciate what you did, I do. Which is why I'm not giving up. You shouldn't either. Don't lose faith now, Varris, don't lose that will to fight for what's yours. You've fought this long, and you're just going to give up, now? No. That's not the Varris I agreed to help. Freedom is yours, my friend. Now, all you need to do is catch it."
"I intend to," Varris wanted to die. This time, he was sure about that. The prisoners he had lied to would do much worse things to him than simply kill him, if he didn't get out soon.
"Look, I know we had an agreement," the Warden continued. "And I know what you went through to fulfill that agreement, and for that, I am grateful. However, we require a third party to bite and take the bid in order to fulfill my end of the arrangement. Until I can find a willing party, this ordeal is in your hands, now. Make friends, anything. Do what you can, Varris. I want you out of here, too. If not for your benefit, then, to honor my promise. You know I don't take promises lightly."
Varris scanned the prison map as thoroughly as he could, during the Warden's rambling. There. At the very bottom floor, behind the maintenance hall lied the prison's armory. Normally reserved for guards, but if Varris could find a way to get in, he could supply the prisoners with enough weapons and armor to siege the station. That, however, was going to be the hard part. The armory, along with every elevator on the station, was most likely opened by a card key the likes of which every guard on the station was likely to be carrying. But, the cameras, cameras were everywhere. For that, Varris would need a way to disable all cameras within a small vicinity just long enough to slip a keycard from an unsuspecting guard.
Immediately after Varris's meeting with the Warden, he sought out Grough, who he inquired about any possible connections who could build a small EMP device. Luckily, there was one inmate who was known for getting into trouble for building home-made devices of disturbance within the halls of the prison; Novard Skeig. A saurian (Another reptilian race which have scales more reminiscent of an amphibian's) scientist who was born and raised on Altair. Aboard the Ataak, he was known to build and lend weapons which are frowned upon to paying inmates who wished to terminate a rival. Varris believed he had witnessed the aftermath of a prisoner using one of Novard's designs. A little over two months previously, Varris witnessed a convict lying face down with a toilet plunger lodged in his skull. Moments before, Varris saw one prisoner walking around the same area wielding some kind of metal sheet with a string wrapped around it, pulled back, and holding said toilet plunger in place. Novard had built a toilet plunger launcher.
As Varris and Grough approached Novard in his "top secret base" (a red-lit janitor's closet), Grough offered Varris a word of advice. "Chose your words carefully around him. Extremely paranoid. If you come off as suspicious, he may lend you a gift designed specifically to turn against you. I've seen it happen."
"But, I'm with you," Varris pointed out. "He doesn't trust you enough to trust me?"
"He doesn't trust."
"Great," Varris sighed as they approached the altairian saurian, who sat at a table, wearing a magnifying monocle, and fidgeting with a small device, no larger than a television remote. He put the device down as Grough and Varris loomed over him.
"Grough of Morika. I would have suspected you far too prideful to come looking for my help."
"I'm not here for you. I'm here for him. This is Varris Arterius. The altairian I told you about. The one who would see us free from these shackles."
"Ah, Varris. I've heard so much about you, and your plan. You're the one who gave Grough that dashing eye accessory!" Novard mocked as Grough snarled.
"And I've heard a lot about you. The toilet plunger launcher a few months back. Was that you?" Varris asked enthusiastically.
"If I told everyone everything, I'd be out of business. It's not like my activities here aren't common knowledge. But what more can they do to me, but simply kill me?" Novard laughed. "Now, to business. What can I help you with?"
"I need an EMP," Varris hastily responded. "Something small, something light. I just need something powerful enough to disable the cameras in one hallway so I can move forward with my liberation. I've found the prison's armory, but I need a guard's key card to use the elevators to get to it. I'll lure a single guard into a hallway, activate the EMP, nick his card once the cameras are down, and we're free to go, essentially."
"And you'll think it'll be that easy?" Novard rebutted. "It's always much easier. You see this room?" Novard held out his arms. "This room is the only room in the entire prison with no video or audio surveillance, and do you want to know why?"
"Um. Sure," Varris responded.
"I have an uncle who works here. Been employed for well over 20 years. Guess what his job is around here."
"Exactly! He secured this area for me, putting a loop on the cameras that watch this place that have been running for the past seven years, and no one has noticed. Varris, my dear boy, you won't be needing an EMP for this. You've got everything you need right here."
"So, you're telling me," Grough began, "that for seven years, the cameras in this room have been running on a loop? How in the Hell does no one notice that?"
"A lack of concern. But their slothfulness will be their downfall, if you can pull this off, right?"
"Sounds good to me. So, we have a plan, then?" Varris asked, ready to move.
"I thought you had a plan," Grough stated as if he were accusing Varris.
"I mean, now that, we don't need an EMP and all that. We've got this."
"I'm assuming you do have a plan, then?"
"Ugh, I don't... yeah, I've got a plan. I've got a plan and it's going to work. It's a simple plan, but it's going to work. I promise."
Later that night, Grough and Varris found themselves drawing up battle plans on a corner table in the cafeteria. As guards walked by, Varris would turn the papers over, or fold them away, in case one of them became suspicious. Guards, though, rarely asked questions or looked further into any inmate's activities, unless they were in a blatant violation of the rules. Varris didn't think drawing what looked to be a bunch of squiggly lines on a few sheets of paper was against the rules. However, caution was of the upmost priority.
"You mind if I ask you something, Grough?" Varris interrupted as Grough was reading one of the blueprints Varris had sketched up.
"Not unless it pertains to the matter at hand," Grough snapped.
"Well, it kind of does, depending on how you look at it."
"Very well, altairian. Ask your stupid question."
"What are you really in for? You seem strictly bound to your word. Someone like you, I have a hard time believing you'd just murder your family in cold blood for no reason. I mean, unless you did, in which case, that's cool. Pretend like I never asked, mate."
"How, exactly does this pertain to the matter at hand?" Grough asked as he continued to scan over the piece of paper.
"I mean, we're fighting for freedom, here. If you were wrongly accused, or blackmailed or whatever, that changes things. You know, as opposed to you being in here because you committed a crime. I mean, again, if you did, cool. But if you didn't, and you're stuck here paying for someone else's mistakes, that should make you want to fight harder for this. It would make me and everyone around you want to fight harder for this. You see what I'm getting at?"
"I see, but I don't understand. How does what happened in my past effect how hard others fight?"
"To be completely honest, I don't entirely understand it, either. For 'normal' people, they call it... what's the word? Compassion! There it is. They call it compassion. See, you and me, we aren't the normal ones. It's like we were born with the inhibitors for compassion, sympathy, all those things, cranked all the way up. Which is probably why we're both in the mess we're in now. Some of these other guys, though, they'll fight harder if they think you're innocent. Maybe the government will even take notice and clear you of your sentence once this is over. If you are, in fact, innocent. I may not understand compassion like the rest, but I know that most of them have it, and I know that it can be used to inspire them and all. So, about that question; what are you? Innocent or guilty?"
Grough took a long look at the piece of paper he was holding, sighed, and looked at the table, as if he were concentrating entirely too hard. "I was a warrior. I was a champion of the gladiatorial pits of Morika, on Dulce. I made a lot of enemies. Some of which could not leave the shame of their defeat in the pit. Eventually, my family got caught in the crossfire. All you need to know is that it didn't turn out well for them. An altairian gladiator killed them and had me framed. In return, I killed him, and that's when I was taken into custody. "
"And the government automatically blamed you, even though there was undoubtedly another party involved?"
"Such is the way of the Council's discrimination against my people. You altairians enforced that discrimination when you waged war against us and claimed we allied ourselves with the grays to try to steal your planet. How many more of my kind must be ridiculed due to your lies and manipulations?"
Grough had a deeply seeded hatred for altairians for the war they waged over a hundred years before. It was a short war that lasted no longer than three years, and ended with the altairian government admitting that it was wrong about its accusations. However, it left a stain on the relationship between the altairians and the booteans that wasn't completely healed yet. Especially since most of the booteans who fought in the war were still alive. Grough's prejudice only escalated when his family was slaughtered by an altairian.
"Now, you're doing to us what we did to your people? You're holding a grudge because of the actions of a few?"
"The actions of a few can speak volumes of a whole," Grough responded. "We were innocent of your accusations. Just as I'm innocent in the case of my current predicament. And here I am, stuck paying because of your government's blatant racism. Tell me, Varris; if your lack of compassion prevents you from feeling the pain of others, why do you fight for others? Their pain should mean nothing to you."
"That's where you and I differ, mate. Just because I have no emotional obligation to do something, that doesn't mean I shouldn't do it. If I don't fight for a free galaxy, who will? I want the right people to be brought to justice, instead of it being the wrong people all the time, you get me? It's that simple. That, and well, it gives me an excuse to fight." Varris shrugged.
"I was expecting a cause a bit more noble."
"Nobility isn't my thing, mate. If I can't do whatever I want, what's the point of living? That's my motto," Varris said as he took a sip from a cup that was sitting on the table.
"It's people like you who give your species a bad name. The ones who care for nothing but themselves. The ones who give those around them false hope, then reveal that the only reason they started a crusade was so that they, themselves, could reap the rewards,"
"At least I'm doing something, though, yeah? Who cares why I'm fighting, as long as I am fighting? Everyone will reap the rewards. As long as I'm one of them, my part is done."
"It's deceitful and underhanded. If it were possible, I'd remove every underhanded individual in the galaxy from existence. But for now, well, at least I can start somewhere," Grough looked over at Varris with eyes as sharp as any razor.
"Well... it's a good thing I'm left handed," Varris joked while taking another sip from his cup.
Two days passed before Varris found the perfect moment to execute his plan. A lone guard wondering a hall within close proximity to Novard's base of operations. This is going to be easy, Varris thought to himself. "Guard! Yo, guard!" Varris ran towards the guard, who turned around, wielding an automatic pulse rifle. "Yeah, you. Hey, I need your help."
Varris and the guard ran down a hall, nearing the closet. "What's going on?"
"I heard a bunch of banging, punching, and all. I think there may be someone fighting in the janitor's closet." They turned a corner and approached the closet. "Here."
"I don't hear anything," The guard put his helmeted ear towards the door, hoping to hear something.
"It wouldn't hurt to check, right?"
The guard looked at Varris with a look that screamed "are you kidding me?" "Fine." The guard fumbled to find a janitor's key amongst the mass of keys he had jangling from a chain.
Varris looked at the bundle of keys, hoping that he wouldn't have to go through every one of them to get the armory open; just a simple key card. Nothing more.
The guard found the right key, proceeded to move the key towards the key hole, then he yanked it back and looked at Varris. Varris's heart jumped. "You might want to stand back. This might get scary," the guard mocked, then laughed. Varris stood, bored by the "joke."
The guard pushed they key in the key hole, turned it, pulled the door open and out came, yet again, a big, meaty, bootean fist flying through the air. This time, it hit the guard in his helmeted face, then pulled him into the room.
Varris stood against the hallway wall, his back hugging it, right outside of the door, with his eyes wide open, hoping no one could hear the screams and pounding noises that were originating from inside the room. He looked over at the door which was still swung open. He pushed it with his finger, shutting it, hoping it would muffle the beating. The sounds carried on for about a minute before they ceased. Varris turned to look at the door and it slowly opened. Varris came from behind it and stood so that Grough could see him. "I trust you've had your fun?"
"Oh, yeah," Grough affirmed, holding the guard's rifle. He opened the door wider and Varris stepped into the room. The state of the previously living guard startled him.
"You killed him. You killed him! Why would you kill him!?" Varris yelled with his hands on his head. The guard lie on the ground with his helmet smashed in. Varris was ready to scream. "Now, every guard on the station's going to be looking for him, and you know who they're going to trace his disappearance back to? ME!!! There's cameras in every other hall, Grough! He would have been seen last with me! Out of... out of all the things you could have done-"
"Which is why we must act soon," Grough stated while walking towards the guard. He threw the rifle on Novard's work table as he passed it.
"Wha-" Varris caught himself before he screamed. "We still don't have an entire plan mapped out, Grough."
Grough sifted through the guard's pockets and pulled a keycard out of the corpse's chest pocket. "You're resourceful. Improvise." Grough threw the keycard to Varris as he walked past him.
Varris caught the card and looked at it, still in shock. "And what do you intend to do with the body?"
"Novard will find some way to dispose of it," Grough walked out of the room, leaving Varris speechless.
Varris stood there for a moment, glancing back and forth between the card and the guard. "Why do I even bother?"
It was done. Easier than he anticipated, but Varris had everything he needed to execute his plan. And yet, he wasn't even sure if he wanted to go along with it now. Where would he go after he escaped? The Elite Guard would continue to search for him and any other prisoners who might escape, until they ultimately found him. He wasn't even sure how he'd make certain that he'd be the only inmate to escape, or if that was even the best option anymore. The more prisoners to escape, the harder of a time the Elite Guard would have tracking him down. Then, he'd be in even more trouble, and he was worried he would lose the trust of the Warden as well. However, the Warden did give Varris permission to do whatever he found necessary to secure his freedom, technically. That thought gave Varris a sense of security, and all the justification he needed to finally set this final stage in motion. It was time to rally the troops, and take the fight to his captors.
Varris was never one to panic before a battle, yet, he sat on the bed in his cell all night worrying about what the following day might bring. He had anticipated this moment for months, but only now did he ever consider the possible consequences of his actions. However, it was too late to turn back. He had the entire prison by his side ready to take back their freedom. It was now or never. And with that, Varris swallowed his fear the best he could, and tried to get as much rest as he could before the morrow. He thought about how in his childhood, the way he'd get caught every day, doing things he shouldn't have been doing. Stealing, lying, cheating in school. Well, he was finally in a place directly helping others, rather than harming them. Now, whether or not these people deserved help was up for debate, he still couldn't help but feel proud of himself for what he was doing. Especially considering his background. Even though he may not have cared about anyone's wellbeing, specifically, he was still glad to be proving his criticizers wrong.
On that fateful day, shortly after the prison cells opened and released the warriors into the field, they gathered in Novard's "lab." Enough people remained outside whereas not to draw too much suspicion to the absence of inmates by the guards. Varris was the last to arrive. He opened the door to the red-lit closet stocked with automated vacuum cleaners, high-tech brooms, and over a dozen eager and waiting prisoners staring right in his direction. Varris felt a bit uneasy, as all eyes were on him while he walked to the back of the room where Grough stood, more eager than any of them, holding the rifle he took from the now deceased guard the day before. Varris stepped until he was within arm's reach of Grough, then looked up at him, trying to find a sense of reassurance. The kind he knew he wouldn't get.
"If we're going through with this, now's the time," Grough nodded.
Varris turned around to face the crowd of criminals. His chest pounded with anxiety. He almost felt sick. "What, you expect me to give a speech? What do you think this is, a movie? No, you all know why you're here and why you're fighting. You've spent weeks preparing, and by now, if you aren't ready to take a stand to take back your freedom, you'll never be. Let's do this quick, let's do this smart, and most important of all, let's do this now. Fight like you deserve your freedom, whether you believe you do or not. Regardless of your past, you fight for the now; for your future. Any mistakes you've made are forfeit, for now, we are agents of free will and freedom. Today is the day, we exercise our God-given right to rebel against our oppressors. It's time to send a corrupt government crumbling to its knees. Now, who the Hell's with me?" The room erupted into a noise of cheering prisoners. Varris waved his hands in a flurry and shushed the crowd. "Shh! Shhhhhh!!! Are you daft!? You want them to catch wind of us before the revolution even begins!? I swear on my mum, you guys are..." Varris paced back and forth, attempting to collect his thoughts. "Ok, first plan of action; I need to get into the Warden's office. Grough, you remember your role, yeah?"
"Alright. Let's get it done, then."
The Warden walked down the long, white hallway to his office, while two guards walked on each side of him, wielding rifles. "Warden! Warden!" He heard yelling down the hall. Along came Varris, running, moving towards him, waving to get his attention.
"What is it, Varris?" The two guards stepped in front of the Warden with the intent to protect him. "At ease. Stand down." He pushed through the guards and met Varris.
"I need to talk to you, I need to talk to you, right now. In private, it's a matter of upmost importance; it's essential that I speak with you right now, in private." Once in the Warden's office, and the door was shut with the two guards standing watch outside, Varris turned to the Warden and cracked. "Grough is planning an uprising: a... a mutiny!"
"What?" "You remember, the big scary guy whose eye I gouged out?"
"Grough of Morika?"
"Yeah, that Grough. He and the rest of the inmates are going to overrun the prison. They've got plans, they've got the entire station mapped out, and they're going to hit the armory, first, then, they're going to kill you and override the station with the Master Key. After that, Creator knows what they'll attempt next."
"Thank you for telling me, Varris. I will see to it that this situation gets handled immediately."
"You can't. They're starting now, I just found out. Isn't there some backup you can call, the Brotherhood, something?"
"There are... a few things I have in mind. A mutiny, why now?"
"I think I... may have had something to do with it," Varris hinted as he twiddled his fingers out of guilt.
"You what?" The sound of gunfire burst from outside of the door. Three automatic rifles firing in bursts, then two thuds. "Say here. I'll sort this out, myself." The warden grabbed a pistol from his desk and walked towards the door. He put his hand on a bio-scanner on the door, which caused the door to go flying off of the hinges and out into the hall, in hopes of crushing whoever stood behind it.
But, Grough was smarter than that. He peeled himself from the wall beside the door and grabbed the Warden by the neck. "Nowhere to run." Grough threw the Warden up against the far wall of the room, causing him to drop his pistol. Grough stepped closer, pointing two rifles. Varris ran in between the two with his arms out, facing Grough.
"No, don't kill him. We need him." He turned to look at the Warden.
"Varris. I should have known you were behind this."
"You told me to do whatever it took to get out of here. If I deem a mutiny the most resourceful way to secure my freedom, you sanctioned it." Varris caught one of the rifles as Grough passed it to him.
"You can't sanction a mutiny against yourself, you slimy little-" Grough pointed the gun past Varris and towards the Warden. Varris held his hand up at Grough, gesturing to stay his ground. "I trusted you, how could you betray me like this? After everything I've done for you? how could you do this to me, of all people?"
Varris lifted the gun and held it in both hands. "No, if I betrayed you, you'd be dead. I need you alive."
"Yes, because using me as a tool is so much better."
"You get to keep your life. That's your reward for helping me this far, but now, I'm the one taking control of this ship, captain. Like you said, this situation's in my hands now. And I couldn't have done it without you."
"I guess this is what I get for trusting a mercenary."
"You're making it sound like you're losing something, here. Once this is over, you get to go back home to see your family, maybe find a better job. Me, I've got no family, no friends, I'm going to be on the run for the foreseeable future. But you... you'll be on paid vacation."
"I have to admit, that does sound nice." Varris nodded in agreement with the Warden's statement. "But, that doesn't excuse the fact that you lied and you're setting hundreds of dangerous criminals out into the galaxy."
"I've talked to these people, Warden, most of them don't even belong here, you know that."
"Is that what they told you? Most of them are probably as big of pathological liars as you are."
"Enough talk!" Grough erupted. "You're going to help us get out of here. And you're gonna help us, now." With one quick stride, Grough made his way over to the Warden, picked him up by the gold collar on the white suit he was wearing, and dragged him into the hall. Standing over the Warden, Grough raised his rifle and signified the beginning of the battle. "Citizens of Ataak, the revolution begins, now!!!"
A group of ten guards stood at the end of one hallway with their guns pointed as a mass of prisoners came stampeding down the hall towards them. "FIRE!!!" All ten guards fired their rifles full blast into the crowd of prisoners. The first few dozen prisoners at the head of the pack fell to the ground. First blood. The prisoners continued to run and fall until they eventually overwhelmed the guards, killed them, and took their weapons. Rifles, grenades, swords, and all.
Throughout the prison, massive grey and yellow barriers came down from the ceilings, closing off sections of the halls, and undoubtedly crushing a few prisoners. The work of the prison's Adept, no doubt. Varris and company approached one of the barriers. "Grough, keycard!" Grough threw Varris the keycard as he continued to carry the Warden. Varris ran ahead, stuck the card into a slot, and the barrier lifted right back up into the ceiling, revealing seven guards firing into a crowd if inmates. "Take them out!" Varris ran back the other way as the guards turned to face them.
"Don't shoot me, you imbeciles!" The Warden cried.
Grough skillfully shot the guards, taking care not to hit the prisoners. "We're clear! Take arms, brothers. Our fight is not yet done!" Grough shot another guard as he ran towards him wielding an orange heat-infused sword. One of the prisoners picked it up and took off with it.
"Man, I wanted that sword," Varris exclaimed.
Four barriers and fourteen dead guards later, Varris, Grough, and the Warden had finally reached the elevator that lead into the armory. "Alright, here we go." Varris made his way towards the console beside the elevator and swiped the card. Nothing happened. He swiped it again, and again, yielding no results. "What is going on, here!?"
"It requires a code," Varris and Grough turned and looked at the Warden. "What, you think we'd just leave access to the armory guarded by nothing more than a card? A card that every guard on the station is in possession of?"
"Well, open it," Varris ordered.
"You say that as if I'd willingly aid my captors in mutineering my ship."
"You want to live, don't you?"
"As of now, I'm not even sure of the answer to that question, myself."
"I can solve it for you," Grough cocked the pump on the bottom of his rifle, letting go of the Warden.
"Warden, remember your deal with me. I need the key to get off this station."
The Warden sighed. "You really know how to milk a favor." The warden stood up, took the card from Varris, and made his way to the terminal.
Varris turned and saw a group of prisoners turn the corner to the hall, being trailed by a hand full of guards. They fired back and Varris ran to join them, firing at the remaining guards. After he made sure they were down, he turned to face Bathin, who had just finished sticking a heat-infused sword into a guard's helmet. "Bathin. Fancy seeing you here."
"Where else would I be?"
"I can think of somewhere I need you to be. The Warden's working on opening that elevator. We're taking it to the armory."
"But, I'm gonna need you to take the rest of the guys to the very top floor, it's where the prison's command center is. We need that whole floor clear since it's undoubtedly going to be the most heavily guarded area of the base. Get it clear, and we'll be up there with the Master Key to take control of the station and finish this fight."
"Sounds, good, man. See you on the other side."
"Oop! One more thing." Varris stopped Bathin from running off. "You mind if I borrow that sword for a moment, mate? Just for a little while."
"Find your own, 'mate.' " He laughed and skipped backwards. "We're in it, man! We are in it!"
"Varris!" Grough called. "We're good to go." Varris ran to join the two in the elevator. Grough pushed the Warden back on his knees and pressed a button on the inside of the elevator, causing the doors to shut, and its decent to the bottom floor.
The three stood in the elevator in silence for some time. "I just want you to know, Warden, I never intended for any of this to happen."
"Uh-huh," the Warden replied.
"I never wanted to lose your trust, but at the same time, I didn't want to get my head crushed by Grough, so, I kind of... backed myself into a furnace. But like I said, bruv, I never meant to lose your trust."
"Well, you failed. Miserably, I might add."
"Yeah, I know. But, hopefully, when this is said and done, we'll look back on this whole ordeal and laugh."
"You can't be serious."
Varris held his head down in shame. "You're probably right."
The elevator door opened up and both Varris and Grough jumped out pointing their guns, Varris to the right and Grough to the left. The Warden emerged from the middle walking straight to the back of the armory, towards a massive metal vault.
"All of the guards are topside." The Warden explained. "Due to the ruckus you've started, they've likely removed all the weapons, too." He looked over at the empty weapon racks. "Yep. All gone. However, there should always be at least one guard standing watch over the vault, unless instructed otherwise."
"Well, maybe he left, too. Now, if you don't mind; the key."
The Warden stopped in his tracks. "You're screwing me over, here. And it's not the fact that you lied to me, the fact that you're running around, murdering my employees, and forcing me to risk my life, my job, my future, my family, helping you execute a mutiny against me, that bothers me. No, it's none of that which bothers me. What bothers me is the fact that I'm doing all of that, yet, you can't be bothered to say 'please.' A simple, 'please,' is too much for you to conjure up with that snake tongue of yours, after all I've done? Really, Varris, that's low, even for you."
"Hey, you told me you don't like any of these guys more than I do. But, if you insist... the key, please."
"Thank you. Now, was that so difficult?"
The Warden stepped in front of the vault and began to place his hand over the heat sensitive bio-scanner that secured it. He stopped himself, as he thought on what he was about to do. He was about to willingly hand over his prison to an army of criminals. It's not as if he hadn't thought about this earlier, but in the heat of the moment, he realized the consequences he was about to bring to bear upon the galaxy. "I can't do it. I refuse." He pulled the pistol out of his pocket and pointed it at Grough, who pointed his rifle, ready to fire.
Varris leaped in front of the two guns, attempting to prevent either one of them from firing. "Whoa, whoa, whoa! Don't shoot! Have you gone completely insane, cass!? We've made it this far, and you're backing out on me, now!?"
"No, I'm not backing out, I'm refusing to hand over my base to an army of criminals. Varris, I can get you off this ship, but he- he stays." The Warden looked at Grough. "He and everyone else who was sentenced to serve aboard this vessel, they stay! You've proved your point, Varris. You proved you have the chops for this, and I will honor our deal, but not with him."
"Chops for what, mate? What was this, a bloody test?"
"This whole time I've been trying to prepare you for a role much larger than this. You've inspired a nation, essentially. That's the kind of leadership we need. But, this has gone too far; a possibility I should have foreseen."
"Who the Hell is 'we'!?"
"The organization I work for." The Warden reached into his pocket, pulled out a small, silver disk, placed his thumb on a blue circle in the center of said disk, causing the circle to light up.
"Out of the way, altairian. You're going to give me that key, and you're going to give me that key now," Grough threatened.
"That hand scanner to the vault is heat-sensitive. You kill me, my body heat will drain, and you'll have no chance of taking this prison. I've already called reinforcements and they'll be here any moment. The only way you survive this is if you put that gun down and get back in your cage, while Varris and I come to an agreement. Or, you can kill me and burn with everyone else aboard this station. Your choice." "I'd like to propose a tertiary alternative." Grough pointed his gun lower, and shot the Warden in the knee. He fell to the ground, screaming in pain. Grough picked the Warden up and moved towards the vault.
"Grough, what are you doing!?" Varris yelled.
"Taking back my freedom." Grough lifted the Warden by the arm and placed his hand on the scanner. Once the vault opened with a hiss of steam, Grough dropped the Warden back to the ground.
"You'll pay for this." The Warden trembled.
"Your services are no longer required."
Varris ran towards them. "Grough! Grough!!!"
Grough pulled the trigger and blasted a hole right through the Warden's forehead. He dropped to the floor, dead.
"Are you fucking mental!? I told you not to fucking kill him, you-" Grough backhanded Varris into one of the empty weapon racks, causing it to fall, leaving Varris immobilized. Grough stepped on the rifle Varris carried before, breaking it. "Grough, you bastard, I'll kill you for this."
Grough stepped into the vault and grabbed the master key to the station, which sat on a pedestal. "My freedom." As he stepped out of the vault, Varris, who had freed himself, leaped at Grough. Grough caught him, mid air and slammed him to the ground in a pool of the Warden's blood. "You will not forestall my vengeance, altairian."
"I told you not to kill him!"
"I've pledged no allegiance to you. You've fulfilled your purpose, and by all rights, you should be dead. I could kill you right now, where you lie, choking in a pool of your ally's blood. Soon, this station will be at the bottom of the Edgash ocean, and I will have lead these people to the promised land." Grough let go of Varris and walked towards the elevator. "Try and stop me if you can."
Varris lifted himself and kneeled on one knee. "It's not over."
"You know where to find me." The elevator shut, hiding Grough from Varris's sight.
Varris looked over at the Warden's cold body and sighed. "So much for laughing about this all in the future. I never meant for any of this to happen. I just hope you forgave me before it was said and done. "
Being a sociopath, Varris wasn't particularly moved by death. But this time, he felt a heavy weight on his heart as he stood to his feet. He wanted Grough to pay. He wanted Grough to hurt. Most of all, he wanted redemption for the destruction his actions had wrought. Varris looked down at the Warden's pistol, picked it up, and brushed it off. He made his way to one of the last remaining suits of armor that sat hanging on a wall. A bright, glistening, metallic, blue armor; standard armor worn by the prison guards. He put it on. Piece by piece, imagining up ways of killing Grough. Varris stood inside of the elevator, armored up, with a single pistol, ready to take on the galaxy. Ready to end his ongoing quarrel with one particular pesky bootean. Varris took one last angry breath, before the doors of the elevator shut, sending Varris to the top floor of the prison, where Grough waited for him- no. Where Grough waited for his demise.
The main hallway at the top floor of the prison was flooded with inmates and guards, alike, fighting for survival. Blood covered the walls and floors as a battle between freedom and oppression raged. Explosions filled the air and sparks sizzled to the ground in the midst of the chaos. On the far end of the hall, stood a door which opened upwards, vertically. A door bigger than the others; a white door, so that it blended in with the prison's white walls. On the other end of the hall was a black door. Smaller than the rest, but heavier, and it opened horizontally, with two panels sliding away from one another, as with most elevators. When the two panels slid apart, Varris stepped out into the disarray of beings maiming and dismembering one another. Varris walked slowly, still angry, still vengeful. He walked through the flurry of blood and explosions that carried through the air, without so much as a blink. Sparks from a ricocheting bullet bounced off of his armored shoulder as he walked closer and closer to the white door, as if in a trance, oblivious to the carnage that surrounded him.
"Look out!!!" Varris heard a muffled voice cry. He knew the voice. It was Bathin, warning Varris of a grenade that had just been thrown his way. I can't change. I can't change. Varris's mind raced as Bathin tackled him out of the way. The grenade went off and caused a massive explosion that knocked the two of them back even further than they would have gone, otherwise. Varris still couldn't be broken out of his psychotic trance. He could hear nothing but the sound of muffled gunshots and a loud ringing in his ear that faded, ever-so-slowly. Once the sound was gone, Varris looked down at Bathin who lie on top of him, riddled in shrapnel. Motionless. Varris's indifference turned to rage as quickly as he realized that an unresponsive, shrapnel-ridden Bathin meant dead Bathin. As the last remaining sensation of the ringing in Varris's ear faded, he pushed the body off of him, pulled himself to a crouching position and shot one guard who stood to his right.
He was out of the trance. But dropped right back into another stupor; a much more deadly one; one he hadn't felt the warm embrace of in a long, long time. Varris jumped on top of the guard he shot, before he dropped. Varris rode the body to the ground, shooting another guard as he fell. He rolled on the ground, off of the body, to one knee, shot another guard, stood up, pistol whipped another in the back of the head, grabbed him, and threw him into two guards who ran in his direction. He shot the three of them in the head as he ran to another group of guards. One hit Varris in the back with a chair that shattered on impact. The guard swung at Varris who ducked, picked up one of the shattered pieces of chair and stabbed him in the neck. A guard behind Varris shot at him, as he took the body of the guard he stabbed, twirled himself behind it, and used it as a shield. He pointed his pistol, shot the guard, then another, and another. One guard tackled him, throwing into the wall on his left. He shot said guard from his position, stood up, blocked a punch from one guard to his left, shot him, blocked a stab from one guard with a knife on his right, took the knife out of his hand and stabbed him through his armored stomach. Pulled the knife out, swung it all the way behind him, then in front of him, plunging it into the eye of one guard's helmet. Varris ran past him, ducked under the swing of one prisoner who aimed for a guard, and made his way to another guard, who was strangling a prisoner. Varris pulled the guard off, punched him in the face three times, picked him up, threw him into a wall and shot him.
"Thanks, man!" The prisoner replied. Varris simply nodded at him and continued his field day. Varris moved and fought as if he were dancing to the beat of the latter half of some heavy bootean power ballad. Guitar, war drums, and all. He let the battle flow through his veins, rather than blood, and destroyed his enemies with ease. One after another, those who opposed him fell, until he ran out of bullets for his pistol. He attempted to shoot one guard, but had no ammo. The guard turned to him, swinging somewhat of a haymaker at Varris. He ducked, backhanded the guard in the face and turned to ask for assistance.
"Clip!" Varris released the previous clip from his pistol as one passing prisoner threw him a spare. He caught it, placed it in the gun as a grenade explosion went off in front of him, he brought the gun back 'round, pointed it to the guard's head, who had just stood back up and was point blank by this point, and fired.
"Come and get some ya bastards!!!"
Varris turned to look in the direction of the scream and saw a saurian prisoner wielding the famed toilet plunger launcher, with a belt of metal toilet plungers wrapped around his waist. There it is! One of the last guards shot the pistol out of Varris's hand. Varris turned and ducked beneath the barrage of bullets, grabbed the gun from the guard and yanked it away. He turned to the saurian prisoner, who was still in arm's reach, grabbed one of the toilet plungers that hung from his belt and used it to block an upper handed slam from the guard. Varris hit him in the throat with the middle of its handle, spun around to the guard's back and hit him with the tip of it. The guard spun and swung, Varris ducked again, and lifted the toilet plunger up. The guard slumped over and Varris spun the guard around, revealing the rubber piece of the toilet plunger sticking out of the his helmet. The guard fell to his knees, then onto the toilet plunger sticking out of his face. That was it. He was the last one.
Varris turned and looked at the remaining prisoners who stood and looked at him. Varris looked over the hall, at the carnage he wrought. Dozens of armored bodies lie on the ground, dead. That sight brought him back to the real world. What he saw was the result of years of pent up aggression; and these past few months didn't exactly help.
Varris stood there, out of breath until the prisoners began to cheer at and exonerate his work, as if it was over. But, it wasn't. Varris tore himself away from the celebration, picked up one of the deceased guard's swords, and attached it to a magnetic mechanism on his armor's back. "It's you and me, now." He looked at the white door at the end of the hall; the door that lead to the station's control center, and ran to it.
Once he arrived at the door, he inserted the keycard, pulled it out, and the door raised up. Varris stepped into the room that the door guarded. Grough stood before him. His back was turned and he was tampering with a computer terminal in the middle of the room. At Grough's feet, lie the prison's Adept, dead, with an electrified great-axe still in his hand. And in front of Grough was a massive circular window which provided a view of space, and of Altair; home world of the altairians. Varris stood to the side and pointed his pistol at Grough with his left hand. "It's over, Grough. Surrender now and we can all go home." The door behind Varris shut.
"I had hoped you'd accept my challenge." Grough stepped away from the terminal and turned to face Varris. Varris could see that he already inserted the key into the station's main terminal.
"I didn't. I'm fulfilling my duty. On this day, Grough of Morika, your twisted legacy comes to an end."
Grough kneeled and picked up the great-axe from the fallen Adept, then laughed. "Come, I invite you. Try your hand at the task. Lay low the mighty Grough!" He pointed the axe at Varris, then lowered it. "If you can take the beating without running, I may spare you your miserable altairian life."
"That ain't happening, mate. If I run, I'm afraid I might trip over the mental number of dudes I just massacred to get to you. No, I'm afraid running's not an option. You'll have to simply kill me."
Grough took two steps towards Varris. "I intend to."
Grough charged Varris, as he pulled the trigger and attempted to fire his pistol. He forgot that the pistol had been shot earlier, and steam poured from the fresh bullet hole. "Oh, you've got to be-" Grough slammed Varris with his shoulder, sending him rolling backwards. He caught himself on one knee and looked up at Grough. "Really? An axe? How is that fair!?" Grough shrugged and came at Varris with the axe raised. Varris activated a mechanism on his suit of armor, and a helmet wrapped and folded around his head, from the inside of the suit. He rolled out of the way as Grough brought the axe down, cutting into the floor. Explosions, like mini fireworks emitted from the blade, every time it came into contact with something with enough force. Even a little secondary blade at the tip of the handle had the same effect.
Grough swung and spun the axe, hitting the ground, as Varris dodged each attack. "You can't jump around forever!"
"Don't need to." Varris spun around after dodging another blow and kicked Grough in the back of his left knee. Grough went down, but he was able to reach behind and grab Varris by the neck. He threw Varris over his shoulder and slammed him to the ground. Grough lifted his hand from Varris's neck, then proceeded to lift the axe above his head. That gave Varris enough time to roll out of the way again. Once he was up, he pulled the sword off his back with his left hand, twirled it around to get a better grip, and stood in a fighting stance.
"Pathetic," Grough scoffed as he charged towards Varris.
This time, Varris blocked every wild and heavy swing Grough threw his way. He spun around the massive bootean and attempted to stab him in the back. But he was too slow. Grough quickly spun around, blocked the attack, brought his foot up and kicked Varris in his stomach, sending him kneeling down in pain.
Grough kneed Varris in the face, and from his kneeling position, Varris fell to the ground backwards, dropping his sword. He turned around on his stomach and attempted to crawl away from Grough and towards the sword he dropped. "No, no, no." That rage he had in his soul out in the hall was gone. Now, all he had to rely on were his own abilities.
"You're weak. You're slow. You're a disgrace to your people," Grough mocked as he walked slowly towards Varris.
Varris knew he could do better. He made the mistake of letting his pride get in the way of his effectiveness after the feats he achieved in the hall. If he could just get to the sword, he'd correct that mistake. He crawled closer and closer and reached out to it with his left hand.
"As you promised, altairian, your death comes by my hand." Grough flipped the axe around to where the small blade at the tip of the handle faced Varris. "Die knowing that your efforts have not been in vain. For we will take arms against this oppressive government and shake it to its core." Grough lifted the axe up and brought it down towards Varris just as he grabbed the sword. Varris quickly brought the sword around and pressed it against the axe's handle, with all of his might, to preventing it from touching him.
"Before you kill me, there's one thing you should know." Varris looked up at Grough as their weapons clashed. Grough had a look of uncertainty that Varris took glee in. "I'm not left handed!" Varris let go of the sword and rolled out of the way of Grough's blade as it stabbed into the floor. He spun back around, picked up the sword with his right hand, and sliced Grough in the shoulder.
"You what!?" Grough exclaimed before turning around and slamming the axe on the floor in Varris's direction. The big blade, this time. Varris brought his sword up, cutting the axe's handle in half, spun around, and stabbed Grough right through the stomach. With the blade lodged, they stood there for a moment, staring at each other. "Im-possible," Grough gasped with his final breath.
"Your sentence has been overruled," Varris said as he slid the sword deeper into Grough, as a look of confusion passed over the dying bootean's face. Varris twisted the sword and pulled it out, leaving Grough to fall to the floor, motionless. Dead. Varris stood and looked at his work. And he was pleased. That is, until an alarming realization pierced his mind. "Wait a second... 'your sentence has been overruled'? Wait, that doesn't make sense! No, Grough, no! Don't die, yet! No!" Varris kneeled down, lifted Grough's head, and slapped him in the face, hoping to wake him up, so he could correctly recite some kind of quippy one-liner. "Don't die yet, mate! Come back so I can say it right! Come on, don't leave me hanging, bruv, just for a second. Please." Varris realized that Grough wasn't coming back, and quickly dropped his head back to the ground and stood up. "Shit." Varris exclaimed, disappointed in himself. "I had one chance. One chance!" He threw his fists towards the ground in an angry motion and grunted.
Varris's disappointment was broken when the prison's control terminal began to beep. "Station wide self-destruct sequence activated." An automated voice emitted from the computer. Flashing red lights and a siren blazed throughout the entire prison as prisoners and the last remaining prison guards dropped their weapons and attempted to reach the escape pods, which Grough had so kindly unlocked.
Grough's work, Varris thought to himself as he ran to the terminal to disable it. He fidgeted with a few buttons, scrolled through a few menus, and came to the conclusion that he had no idea what he was doing. In an act of desperation, he reached over to the master key that stuck out of the terminal. He pulled and he pulled, with no avail. The key was stuck and he feared nothing would remove it, save for a password or something. But the password would have been lost with the Adept, who lie dead beside Varris, or the Warden. There was no way to stop the sequence.
Panic spread across the rest of the prison as everyone tried to find a way out. Varris thought about giving an inspiring speech over the intercom, before the prison went up in flames. He nodded to himself and stood over the microphone, prepared to send his farewell to the place he'd spent his last seven months or so. He began to cry a little. Tears of sorrow? Joy? Relief? He didn't know, and he really didn't care. All that he knew was that this was about to be all over, and that deserved a speech.
"Citizens of Ataak... I stand here today, in the main control room of this station; the heart of it. The self-destruct sequence has been activated. I want to give you this warning, but I also want to give you... a word of encouragement. I am, after all a revolutionist. You came here criminals, each and every one of you. I want to encourage you to leave not the way you came, but to leave renewed. New men and women. Do not revert to your old ways. Instead, fight for what's right; for true justice, for freedom, for your lives. For everyone's life. That's the reason I started this revolution. Not for my own personal gain, but for the good of the entire galaxy. I can't say that I've enjoyed my time here, or that I even remotely like any of you, but... I've come to appreciate your... what your lives mean. Or... what your lives can be, or what I hope your lives can be used to achieve." Yeah, that's it. "Make sure that my appreciation is not in vain, and remember that I was the one who got you this far. Don't... don't forget that. That part's important. This is Varris Arterius, signing off. Oh, and you have less than five minutes. Good luck."
Varris stood straight up and cut the intercom off. He was at peace. He felt as though everything in his life was resolved. Every conflict, every uncertainty, everything. He felt like a child; unburdened with the sins of the world, or the complicated thoughts that come with old age and wisdom. For the first time since his childhood, he felt free; as if his soul was celebrating, with hands held high. This is what he had been fighting for. He looked out of the window and saw Altair. From there it looked so peaceful. From there, you never would have guessed that there was a thousand wars being waged, thousands of people starving to death, or even a single being having the slightest of internal conflicts. Free and peaceful. It was all Varris could ask for after the storm he just braved. If he were to die right then, he would have been completely at ease with it.
Wait... no, I wouldn't! A massive explosion went off behind Varris. He covered his head, kneeled, and screamed as smoke filled the room. The door had been blown up. Varris slowly opened his eyes and saw two figures walking through the thick smoke. One was obviously bootean holding a rocket launcher. But, the other- the other looked almost humanoid, except that the legs were shaped like that of an animal's, much like just about every reptilian race in the galaxy. Dal, Varris thought. The dal were a humanoid race who's home planet had been destroyed just forty years prior, by nothing other than a large scale planetary-wide war. They're the only recorded race in history to have literally lost a home world.
As the smoke cleared, Varris could make out that the bootean wore a black suit of armor, with blue lights shining out of it. The dal wore a crimson suit of armor with white lights, a white cape, and a white beard. He looked almost regal. "Varris Arterius?" The Dal asked.
"Yeah?" Varris responded, shaking off pieces of debris from the blast.
"We're friends of Lucias. He signaled us to come get you out of here."
"That was one Hell of a speech, kid. You know, if it weren't for the fact that it was completely forced," the bootean blurted.
Varris stood straight up. "Warden Lucias is dead."
"I know, and it is a tragedy. None the less, we are here to fulfill his final request. Now, if you please, follow us to our ship. We're going to take you somewhere safe."
"Hold on a second. Who, exactly are you? Were you the contact that was supposed to come get me from the start? Are you with the Brotherhood?"
"Those are questions that will have to be answered once we're no longer under the threat of certain death. Or would you rather we die in a fiery explosion, only to be sucked out into the vacuum of space?"
"Yeah, let's wrap this up, kid. I, for one, don't fancy being incinerated," the bootean blurted, again.
"So, you're telling me that if I follow you aboard your ship, you'll tell me everything I want to know, and more? And not just re-deliver me to the government or some other prison somewhere in the middle of deep space? Because, if so, I'd rather just stay here, thank you," Varris smiled.
Varris found himself aboard a small compact transport ship with four seats floating away from the station. He looked out of the window, and since it's impossible for explosions to occur in space, he could see the station crumble to pieces before his very eyes. "So, what's all this, then? You here to try to recruit me into the Brotherhood? To take some kind of vow and give up my freedom? The one thing I just fought so hard to secure?"
The Dal sat in a chair in front of Varris. The bootean sat to his left. "We're aligned with the Brotherhood. But, we are not the Brotherhood," the Dal explained.
"So, who are you, and why am I here?"
"We need people like you, Varris. People who aren't afraid to stand for what most people are; the ones who will defend a truth, not because it's a popular opinion, but because it's right, and because no one else will. You incited a revolution amongst a people who've spent decades, centuries, in some cases, at each other's throats. That's the kind of strength and persuasion we're looking for."
"For what? And who, exactly are you?"
"A war is brewing, Varris. But, not a war between planets, species, or even ideas. This is a different brand of war, all together; one that was warned by my people billions of years ago."
"We're putting together a team. A strike team, more or less, to stop this war from happening well before it ever does," the bootean added.
"And only with the strongest, the most gifted, and talented individuals in the galaxy, that we can find, will be enough for this job. But, if you want to walk, that's fine, Varris. If you want to be on the run until the government catches up with you, that's fine. We're offering you security. A place where you can clear your name."
"As long as there's action, I'm in. But I noticed you've failed to answer a very simple, yet imperative question of mine; who are you?" Varris asked insistently.
"That, my friend, you'll have to figure out for yourself." The dal stood up and walked into the cockpit, which was in a room behind his chair.
The bootean looked at Varris as he stood up and slowly walked towards the cockpit. He looked out of the front window, with his jaw dropped in amazement. He saw an ancient black ship floating in the empty space they were approaching. It wasn't massive ship, but it wasn't a small ship. Varris recognized the name plastered on the side of it from legends. The Knight's Terminus; one of the most famed and revered ships in the galaxy; built by a race long gone, as a gift to their departed galaxy. Or so, the legends claim.
Varris stepped closer and closer to the cockpit window to get a better view of the legendary vessel. He knew that whatever he was getting himself into, it was going to be big. "Oh, you've got to be kidding me."