A fiction story by Melpomene based on the characters and backstory as created by Melpomene.
The view screen slowly filled with the swirling red and yellow planet as the bulky freighter edged ever closer. From so far away, the planet was nothing more than another beautiful mass of shifting colors. But the innocuous beauty was only a ruse. T’reean’s atmosphere was unbreathable, choked with poisonous fumes.
The pretty red and yellow clouds were a direct side effect of the technology that had brought the planet’s inhabitants into the wonders of space travel. Any attempt to breathe the air would result in a slow and painful experience culminating in the eruption of most of a human’s internal organs. Convicted criminals only enjoyed such a fate, convicted criminals and errant slaves. Rhan made certain that she never fell into either category.
She sighed softly and listlessly tapped at the controls of the transport freighter’s console. She watched her emaciated hand with quiet cold detachment. Her nimble fingers trembled slightly as they glided deftly across the panel. The skin that stretched across the bone and sinew looked parchment thin and just as fragile and her natural olive complexion had soured into a sickly yellow.
Rhan jerked her eyes from her hand and refocused on the view screen. The less she dwelt on anything other than the mechanics of flying the ship, the less her heart and soul ached. She had learned to apply her entire concentration to the freighter’s controls early on in her captivity as a means of maintaining her tenuous hold on sanity. The lesson had served her well.
She readied the freighter for landing, running through the checklist she no longer had to refer to. When was the last time she had even known where the landing instructions were? Had it been two years? Five? In a life where an hour was no different from an eternity, she had lost track of time.
Her life had not always been as such. She had once been free - free to love, free to eat, free to sleep, free to pilot her ship wherever the hell she felt like. But that life was nothing more than a ghost to the existence she had fallen into under the rule of T’reean slave labor.
They had known slavery still existed in some of the farther sectors. Once they had even come into contact with a slaver ship filled to the air locks with human cargo. The fight had lasted just under an hour and they had sent the unfortunate souls who were still alive in the ship’s hold to the nearest Fellowship of Free Planets’ space station to be healed and returned to their home planets. She and the rest of her crewmates had been sickened by the conditions of the slaves-to-be. They had been half-starved and wholly desolate. So many years later, she was a dead ringer for any number of those she had helped liberate.
She watched the hulking form of the supply station’s ground-level entrance materialize from the thick yellow fog. Two hours in the unloading dock and she would be able to put a long overdue end to her fifty-hour long bought of sleep deprivation. If she allowed the white haze of exhaustion to remain firmly in place, she would almost be able to convince herself that the old supply closet she called home was a welcome relief.
The ship touched down on the tarmac of the underground facility with a heavy metallic thunk that sent tremors through the crates behind her seat and rattled the teeth in her skull. There had been a time when she prided herself on her ability to land a ship without even the barest of jolts. There had been a time that she had possessed pride.
She disembarked and forced her legs to carry her through the loading dock and past a group of leering officials. Why they would deem to cast their odious attention on her, she had no clue. There was a time that she had been considered to be attractive, even beautiful by some. But that had been before her captivity, when she had still possessed the curves of femininity and the glow of good health. She had become nothing more than a walking skeleton since then, lacking even the ghostly shadow of strength or beauty.
She shoved her cargo log through the bars that separated her from the receiving clerk and turned on her heel to leave.
“Where d’ya think you’re goin’?”
Rhan sighed. “To sleep. Goin’ on fifty hours now.”
The tiny woman behind the bars darted her eyes between Rhan and the man who had stopped her. Rhan caught the almost sympathetic look in her sunken gaze out of the corner of her eye and wondered how the woman could have the energy to even care.
“Later,” the man decided. “Got another run out t’ the Ness.”
Rhan focused on him. She hated Deimos with every remaining fiber of her being. It made little difference to him if she fell asleep at the controls and crashed into one of the mines that lined the flight path or if she drifted slightly off course and was blown to bits by a patrol satellite.
A trip to the Ness meant eight more hours before she could rest. She knew she was already beyond her tolerance, but she also knew that arguing would accomplish nothing but a reduction in her already slim supply of nutrition rations. At least in the ship she would be alone and unavailable to the urges of the officials who prowled the slave corridors in search of entertainment. She turned back to the clerk who handed her the packet for the Ness delivery.
The woman looked at her sadly before murmuring, “The ship’s ready in A14.”
Rhan nodded and left the way she had come. She made it back through the loading dock and onto the waiting freighter before the first bitter tear of exhaustion trailed down her cheek.
a work in progress