Dark Angel Merchant Marines Book: Attack From the Dark
Destined to live the rest of her days as a shell of her former self. To make matters worse her sentence was based on crimes that were completely justified. It seems Daria’s fate is sealed.
Dark Angel 01 snippet –
“Prisoner 4258-Rho-Gamma-32, step forward.”
The order was delivered without even a please, which wasn’t a good sign since the Xi-Trang Authority were notorious for at least being polite in their dealings with the rest of the galaxy. While a little devious and prone to enough backstabbing to ensure that everyone knew the feathery bastards were out for themselves and only themselves, they had a reputation of politeness to uphold. Except maybe prisoners didn’t count.
“You. Move forward.”
“All right, all right, I’m moving,” Daria muttered as the electromagnetic locks on her leg cuffs released and allowed her to walk into the prosecution office. It was still slow progress since the locks would activate if she made any sudden movements that could be regarded as her trying to escape. She’d had six months to perfect the odd, shuffling gait the guards were comfortable with so would hopefully avoid a lockdown.
Oddly, given her tenuous circumstances, what irritated her most was that she had been relegated to the lowly number thirty-two. She had expected at least an impressive few thousand and something—if she had to be stuck in a Xi-Trang Super-Max, the least they could do was issue her with a number that recognized her achievement.
It all had to do with their weird numbering preference. Forty-two was the system, fifty-eight was the planet, and Rho denoted the prison. A Gamma offense earmarked her as a serious criminal. That was all well and good, but they put effort into making sure their prisons remained uncrowded, which meant a finite number of prisoners. Since new inmates effectively replaced old ones, they were simply issued with the same number as their predecessor.
She didn’t want to even begin to imagine the confusion that might result from numerous people having the same prison number.
They reached the end of the hallway, where her shackles brought her to a halt. A handful of scans were performed to check her for any intention to harm, poison, or insult the prosecutorial team before the door in front of her buzzed and allowed her through.
As much as she detested the bastards, she had to concede that in general, the Xi-Trang did treat their prisoners better than most of the other civilizations out there. It was a confining society to live in, but if there was ever the option to be extradited to one of their prisons, it was a damn good deal. It was one of the most humane societies out there, which was a little ironic considering that they were one of the least human races in the galaxy.
Five members of the judicial team were seated behind a solid plate-glass window that separated them safely from where she would stand while they delivered their judgment. They were dressed in the dull gray uniforms she’d become familiar with over the past few months.
Each one was tall with a slender build and clothes tailored to fit neatly. Their facial features were a little elongated as well, reminiscent of the avian species on her home planet, although Daria had learned fast that they didn’t appreciate the comparison. They also didn’t take kindly to any jokes referencing their “long faces,” no matter how hard she tried to explain it to them.
The crest of crystalline feathers on the tops of their heads looked almost like the hair most humans had these days, but they continued to the top of their spines. She knew a little too well that the feathers were incredibly sensitive and touching them was a deep disrespect. Of course, that didn’t matter in a fight and yanking them caused considerable pain since each one was deeply connected to their brain and nervous system.
These were also the source of their psychic abilities, although the Xi-Trang didn’t appreciate anyone calling them psychic. It was merely another sensory organ to them and was probably why they had such an integrated society that showed some kindness—within limits—even to their worst offenders. Being connected to other people like that must induce some kind of empathy. Still, it likely wasn’t a pleasant way to live their lives.
Each one had a different pattern of feathers on their heads, which was the only way she could regularly tell them apart. Since stating as much was considered a faux pas, it was a trick she kept to herself.
The judges scanned their documents before they activated the microphone that connected the two parts of the room.
“The Xi-Trang Authority recognizes the prosecution panel assessing the parole status of Prisoner 4258-Rho-Gamma-32 named Hughes, Day-ria,” stated one of them sonorously.
She cleared her throat gently and immediately drew the attention of the panel.
“Sorry, it’s pronounced Daria. Like…Dah. And then…Ria. Daria.”
Five pairs of eyes studied her through the glass before they looked at their papers and made small corrections where it was needed.
“The prisoner’s preferred pronunciation is noted,” the one seated in the center acknowledged. “Noted nicknames as follows. Lightning Strike. Dollface. That Redheaded B… apologies, please make a note to have all profanities edited out of documentation in the future.”
“The prisoner was accused, indicted, and tried for the crimes of piracy, theft, grand theft, battery, and murder,” the same judge continued. “Note that there were various charges for each crime. The prisoner was found guilty and sentenced to six months in the Premia Super-Maximum Correctional Facility until such time as her parole panel could be assembled.”
With the preliminaries out of the way, she steeled herself for the parole assessment that would follow. What the judges saw now would determine her future and she couldn’t help but feel a little vulnerable, knowing her fate was beyond her ability to decide.
Prison in the long-term was generally only allowed for those prisoners they felt could be rehabilitated by the correctional facilities. Their status was reevaluated every six months to determine the success or failure of the process. Since the parole panels were all able to look into the minds of the prisoners being analyzed, it was probably an effective system.
The evidence of her crimes began to play across the glass between the panel. She wasn’t sure how they’d obtained all the footage but couldn’t deny their accuracy. Still, while she knew none of it would help her cause, she felt a little surge of pride at what she’d accomplished.
“I think we’ve seen enough,” one of the members of the panel interrupted.
“No, no, we were just getting to the good parts.” Daria took a step forward but the electromagnets kicked in before she could take another.
“I see what you mean,” another judge muttered and ran his fingers over his feather crest when the video-her held her pistol to a captain’s head while he was incapacitated by his pants pooled around his ankles. “Good parts. She shows a distinct lack of remorse over her crimes as well as a lack of empathy for her victims.”
“Victims? That bastard regularly hired working girls and beat them. Two had to be hospitalized and one needed brain surgery.”
“Captain Travis Moynahan’s crimes are not being judged by this particular panel,” another member of the panel reminded her. “Now please restrain your movements or the guards will be forced to restrain them for you.”
She paused and glanced at the guards, who already had their fingers on the buttons, ready to lock her down when needed.
“I think we are all in agreement,” the head judge stated to nods from the other four. “The rehabilitation process is not a viable option for Prisoner 4258-Rho-Gamma-32. As such, she will be remanded into the custody of the prison guards until a secondary panel is selected to determine her sentence.”
“I guess I’m not looking at an early release,” Daria muttered and rubbed her arms. The jumpsuit she’d been fitted with was comfortable enough but she preferred to keep at least her arms exposed. She’d tattooed them for a reason and given the coin she’d spent on the process, there was no point in keeping them covered.
“That is a possibility. Unfortunately, you will probably have your mind scrubbed before you are released into society again.” He looked up from his papers and his feathers trembled when he sensed something from her. “Oh, don’t worry. You will be properly furnished with accommodations and training in a field of work you are most suited for once the scrub is complete.”
“Yeah, that’s…not what I was afraid of.”
“Oh.” He shook his head dismissively. “This parole hearing is hereby adjourned.”
Daria wasn’t sure if she had offended him somehow or if they had more hearings to attend to, but he pressed a button that turned the glass between them into a one-way mirror and the guards approached. Touching her directly was not allowed unless there was a medical emergency, but their electric batons more than did the trick if she proved to be a troublesome prisoner.
She wasn’t in the mood to get into any fights, however. There hadn’t been much hope that they would let her remain in the Super-Max until they decided she was rehabilitated, but it had still been the best option. Worse, she now had to accept the fact that her mind would be scrubbed. It was inevitable given what the judge had said.
Daria shuddered involuntarily at the mere thought of it.
The scrub process erased almost everything about who a person was. It was supposedly traumatic and had been known to end in death in a small number of cases. The others that ended badly merely left people as a vegetable and ward of the state.
Most of them, however—about ninety-eight percent from what she heard—merely had most of their memories wiped. Implants with the person’s basic identity—name, date of birth, planet of birth, etc.—were provided, but all the memories and skills were erased and they were given a job and allowed to live their new lives with no memory of who they were before.
People said it was the humane option for serial offenders who would have otherwise faced execution, but in that moment, she honestly preferred the death sentence. Dead was dead but living dead conjured nightmares.
The weight of the inevitable sentence hung over her as she was led to her cell. At least she didn’t have to share it with anyone so she wouldn’t be subjected to nosy questions she wasn’t ready to answer. In the other prisons she’d had the misfortune to be incarcerated in, she’d had to share her sleeping quarters with at least three other people and often more.
“It’s an unsettling feeling, isn’t it?”
Daria looked at the guard who closed her cell door behind her. They removed the manacles around her wrists and then her feet, her neck, and finally, the one around her waist.
“What? Oh, that in the best-case scenario, I have everything about myself erased and spend the rest of my days as a drone, likely working in the resin mines for the good of the Xi-Trang Authority? And let’s not forget the worst-case which leaves me a drooling invalid rotting in one of your psych wards. Yeah, that wasn’t on my fucking mind at all.”
The lights in her cell flashed red.
“Obscenity warning, level one. Eighth warning.”
She rolled her eyes as the lights reverted to the soft green they usually were.
“You’d think death would be the worst-case scenario,” one of the guards commented.
“You’d think wrong,” she answered wryly.
“Well, you chose a life of crime. Punishment had to factor in when you made that decision.”
“Sure. Some choice—either dying here and now or twenty years ago, starving in a gutter on Syvachia. If only I could turn the clock back and remake my life from that point forward.”
The guards chuckled and turned to head out and down the line of cells to their observation room at the far side
Once the cell doors closed and gave her a modicum of privacy, Daria pulled her shirt off and traced her fingers over the dark black and blues of the tattoos on her arms. The first one on her right shoulder had been from her first stint in prison. It was low quality and had been infected for weeks after it had been done.
For some reason, that made the two stick figures flipping each other off more valuable to her. There had been a few offers from the artists who worked on the other tats to have it removed but there was no way she would let a laser touch her two closest friends.
Her musings were interrupted when she heard something like a scuffle coming from the other side of her cell doors. Like the glass windows the parole panel had used, they worked as a one-way mirror when they were closed and allowed her to see what was happening outside her cell even though the people in the hallway couldn’t see in.
While an odd choice in a facility where having inmates under constant surveillance should maybe be the first choice, it did help with the boredom when someone passed. Perhaps their psychic abilities enabled them to render physical sight redundant. Still, she wouldn’t argue the point since in this case, it promised to be more interesting than even she had anticipated her day being. And she desperately needed the boost, all things considered.
A tall man was led down the hall by the guards. It was surprising to see that he didn’t have any manacles and merely walked with nothing to restrain him. They hadn’t even taken his regular clothing away yet, although she knew it was only a matter of time. Places like this were meant to strip away a person’s sense of identity, which meant clothes would always be uniform and as boring as all hell. It was why she’d started tattooing her arms all those years before.
Still, his clothes were a little different than most. He wore an unusual long coat with shiny silver buttons over what she could only assume was some kind of personal body armor. His trousers matched the pinstriped pattern of his coat, and his brightly polished shoes clicked with each step he took down the hallway. With a top hat and a monocle, he would be the spitting image of the jesters in her old card sets.
“You have to understand,” the man said as they marched him toward his cell. “This is all purely a misunderstanding. I’ve already spoken to the magistrate and he’s said I’ve done nothing wrong. You simply need to call him.”
It looked like the guards were tired of his pleading since the morning and afternoon shifts were generally quite talkative. The evening and night guards were always in a foul mood over their lack of sleep. That much she could understand, at least.
“No. If I go in that cell, it’ll be on my permanent record. I’ll need an explanation from a judge every time I file for any kind of permit.”
“Get in your cell!”
Does this oddly dressed man have more to offer Daria than just today’s entertainment? Will her mind be scrubbed? Find out soon when Dark Angel Merchant Marines Book 1: Attack From the Dark comes out on February 4th, 2022. Until then head over to Amazon and pre-order it today.