Friday Fiction is hosted this week by Vonnie over on her blog, My Back Door. Vonnie writes wonderfully imaginative stories for the young and the young-at-heart. Be sure to check out her writings, especially if you have young children or grandchildren to entertain.
My 2013 NaNoWriMo story, “Draconian Responses,” is now over 52,000 words, with several more chapters of events needing to happen to bring the story to its conclusion. One of the themes of the story is that a dictator has secured the position of “Adon” on Alsafi, a colonized planet in the Sigma Draconis system, by orchestrating civil unrest and controlling the Empties. He also smuggled Empties off Alsafi, and sent them to the Terran Archipelago capitol in the Lunar city Earthrise, to secure employment in potentially vital positions.
The Colonial Council responded to the dictator’s actions by dispatching the Aggressor Voidship Chesty Puller to Sigma Draconis, and in this scene, the commander of the Chesty Puller speaks with two captured members of the Alsafi Ruling Council.
From “Draconian Responses”
The woman sat in a chair, secured into it by a strap locked behind her. One other chair was in the room, and Ignatius entered and sat in it. She looked up at him with an expression that seemed to mix regret and relief. “Commander Crane,” she said.
“I see that I don’t need to introduce myself, then.” He scrolled through the file on his datab. “I see you are Emilia Hendricks, and you have been on the Ruling Council for about fifteen standard years. That would put you having served the previous Adon as well as the current one.”
“That is correct.”
“Did you support the current Adon’s rise to power?”
“But you remained on the Council after his assumption of the position.”
“Did you support his methods or his programs?”
“If you did not support his rise to power, or his methods and programs, then why did you stay on the Council?”
“Commander Crane, have you found any former Council members?”
“I haven’t looked.”
“Don’t bother. You won’t find any. When Leonard first presented himself as the new Adon, several members of the Council opposed him. He had one killed on the spot, and those who chose to stand with the old Adon were taken to join him. Do you know what they did to the former Adon, Commander?”
“Our files indicate he was executed.”
“He was, and so were all the Council members who chose to oppose Leonard. He didn’t stop there, Commander. He didn’t just execute the Council members. He executed their families. Beretti was the most vocal in that meeting. He had Beretti strapped into a chair, and brought out both his mother, and his three year old daughter. They were stripped naked, bound hand and feet, and both were placed on the gallows with the nooses around their necks. As if that wasn’t enough, Leonard had two twenty five kilogram weights tied to two ropes, through pulleys attached to the ceiling above Beretti’s chair, and under the weights were the triggers that would release the trapdoors under the gallows. Beretti had to hold the ropes, knowing if he let either slip, a family member would die. He had to watch them standing there for hours, until his hands could no longer grip the ropes, and then he got to watch them die. The next day, they brought out his son and his father and repeated the process. The third day, it was his wife and his oldest daughter, only they forced him to watch a gang of men abuse them first, and then they put them on the gallows.”
“How do you know this?”
Tears were running down her face. “Because we had to watch it as well, Commander. Leonard told us that he would have no mercy on anyone who stood against him, and he promised us that our families would suffer miserable deaths as well, if we should ever think of betraying him.”
“How many Council members did he subject to such torture?”
“Over half of the former Council chose to side with the former Adon, and the torments were different for each one, but each was forced to endure some painful process in the vain hope of prolonging the lives of the people they loved. I have children, Commander. Leonard reminded me of that fact often, and that his Empties were employed as my children’s caretakers. He’d already demonstrated that all he needed to do was speak the word, and the Empties would do his bidding, no matter how heinous. What would you do, Commander, if there was always the implied threat, that all he needed to do was make one transmission, and your child’s nanny would torture them to death?”
“My job is not to determine your guilt or innocence. My job is to try and determine which council members may have been complicit in the attack against Earth and Luna, and leave the rest to the Colonial Council.” He handed her a handkerchief. “What do you know about those actions, Ms. Hendricks?”
“We knew nothing of it until your transmission, Commander. The most we knew was that Leonard implied that he had taken measures to sever Alsafi’s ties with the Archipelago. None of us from the previous Council roster approved of the idea of Alsafi Independence. The only Council members that truly agreed with it, were the puppet members he installed to replace those he had executed. The rest of us also suspected the new Council Members were there to keep an eye and ear on us, should any of us start talking sedition.”
“Did any of you?”
“I suspect several of us would have, if we had thought we might get away with it, but Leonard seemed to have eyes and ears everywhere. The Empties were his agents, and we’ve figured out that he had Empties programmed that no one – not even themselves – knew were Empties.”
“Tell me what you know about the Empties.”
“Imagine a world, Commander, where you learn that, all around you, were thousands upon thousands of people who, with a command, would turn into sociopaths that could be turned against anyone that Leonard chose?”
“Could he still issue that command?”
“Do you have him under guard? Is he dead?”
“With the communications network down, it would be a lot slower for him to unleash them, but all he needs to do is find one or two, give them the appropriate command to go and repeat the command to others, and let it domino out from there.”
“Where are your children, Ms. Hendricks?”
“We have an estate outside of Eldorado.”
He held his datab over to her. “Pinpoint it on the map.”
She placed a spot on the display, and gave him a look. “Are you going to hold my children hostage against me as well, Commander?”
“No, Madam Council Member, I am going to send some of my troops to get them away from the Empties, before your ‘Benevolent Adon,’ as he liked to call himself, has a chance to get a message to anyone.” He stood up.
“How bad was it? The attack on Earth and Luna, I mean? Just how many deaths did Leonard cause in the name of Alsafi?”
“To be honest, none.”
“But the attacks? The files?”
“We were fortunate. The Eridani Rover that escaped Alsafi with the Priestess, had been given information by the Priestess’ husband, and dispatched a drone to the Eridani Ambassador. She brought the information to the Colonial Council, and the Council managed to identify and quarantine the Empties. The images you saw of the Empties operating the consoles were real, but the consoles were in a simulator. All the results were from the simulator. That does not change the fact that your ‘Adon’ ordered the attack, knowing full well what he programmed those Empties to do, would result in possibly millions of deaths.”
She released a breath. “Don’t let him live, Commander. So long as Leonard is alive, he’s a danger.”
“My orders are, if at all possible, to return him to Earthrise alive. The Council will decide what to do with him, but the Colonial Charter does not contain a provision for the death penalty, regardless of how much he might deserve it.”
“I never thought I would say this about any person, but it really will be better if one of your soldiers has to kill him.”
“I’m not disagreeing, but my function is not to be the judge and executioner.” He opened the door. “One of my people will be in shortly to escort you to a berth. I’m afraid, for the time being, you will have to remain confined, but we will make every effort to be sure you are comfortable. I will send word to you just as soon as I know something about your children.”
“Thank you, Commander. I don’t know if your soldiers know this, but just before they broke into the Council Chambers, Leonard had given the order to kill all of us. I won’t mind being confined up here. At least, I’m alive.”
He transmitted the directive for the rescue to the Command Center, trusting Ivan on the Console to route it to the squad best positioned to carry out the mission, and went to the next room. This man had a defiant expression on his face.
“You have no right,” the man said.
“You are Cassius Applegate, one of the newest members of the Ruling Council. I assume that means you were hand-picked by the current ‘Adon’ to fill one of the vacancies he created in the Ruling Council.”
“I don’t have to answer any of your questions. You have invaded a sovereign world, and violated Alsafi space.”
“No, you don’t have to answer any of my questions. The System has verified your identity, and the files we have from Alsafi confirm the date of your appointment to the Ruling Council. Since you appear to have been complicit with the attack against Earth and Luna, my orders are to secure you in SusAn for transport back to Earthrise, where you can argue your case before the Colonial Council.”
He sneered. “The Colonial Council is dead. Their chambers were destroyed in the attack. You should know, since you played the files on our media enough times.”
Ignatius stood up and smiled at the man. “Well, then, maybe we’ll just plan on waking you from SusAn where the Council Chambers once stood, and let you decide whether to remain in your chamber until your air finally runs out, or open your chamber and experience the explosive decompression your attack subjected others to.”
“The Colonial Charter forbids such actions.”
“If there is no Colonial Council, then who is going to hold me to the Colonial Charter?” He opened the door and gestured for the soldier waiting outside. “Take him to the secure SusAn compartment, and put him under.”