Written for: apathocles
Summery: I'm terrible at these things. This a Braca future fic.
Notes: Written for the Farscape ficathon. Thank you to rubberneck and kixxa for the beta. And also scaperred for not killing me when this made me psycho. *g*
Disclaimer: Not mine. If it was, we'd have a Farscape channel.
Darkness is my advantage, and curse. Right now I wish for only a few microts of real light, if merely to revel in its limited warmth. Glancing up, I try to see the sky through the swirling mist around me and feel disheartened when I cannot. It is a rare occurrence to actually see the stars that had been my home for so long.
Being born and raised upon a command carrier, it was instilled in me that those planet-born were grubbers. Stupid brutes who toiled upon subjugated planets. Food providers. That, of course, was one more lie. Day and night we have stood at each other's side. Soldier and farmer, parent and child. Our hands ingrained with the pale gray dirt of this world as we gathered food in order to remain alive. I have seen more honor and integrity in the last six cycles than I ever thought possible. On more than one occasion, these people have given me a fortitude that I had thought lost.
Their unyielding cries of strength continued even up until the end. I watched as my people fought and died. And in victory, the Scarrans wanted genocide. The senseless waste of lives, a slaughter to appease the distant Scarran rulers. An empire founded on brutality and fear.
High Command had not heeded Scorpius’ warning. They paid the price for their arrogance and pride, and mine was not the only species to suffer the violent excesses of the newly crowned dominant race. It was evident in the camp, when I was brought to this planetoid. Sebaceans chained and kept with Luxans, Khurtanans, Nebari, and several species I’d only witnessed through reports. No one had escaped the animosity of the Scarran captors. Here we were nothing but toys for them to play with and torture whenever they liked.
Behind the fortified enclosure, the few remaining Peacekeepers were kept alive to parade and kneel before the more sadistic guards. The blows were sharp and random, delivered with the full-force of Scarran strength. Fear permeated the air we breathed, but we did not beg. Dignity, in ourselves, in our very species, was the only thing we had left. And we were not going to give that to our captors willingly.
And through it all, these men and women who had served the Peacekeepers as I, looked to me for guidance. I had none.
I was once a Peacekeeper Captain, so I did not allow myself the luxury of showing my own rising fears. All I could do was try and lead by example. All it took was one or two men, who once served under my command, asking for orders and the others soon began to do the same. I didn't want nor ask for this, but I would not shirk my duty. Our rigid command structure may have gone, but the ideals I was bred to believe in, were still alive in this miserable outpost.
Shadows are the heart of my existence now. Around me, people move soundlessly, living shadows of the people they once were. This ‘place’, seems contained within the shadow of the much larger planet it orbits.
Artificial lighting on each of the ten buildings, casts overlapping shadows through the mist that seeps up from the porous ground.
If it weren’t for the underground thermals venting from beneath the surface, this rock would be nothing but a huge block of ice, uninhabitable by anyone. The Scarrans use the thermals as a power source to run the factory, where we spend most of our waking arns, on the far side of the camp.
We prisoners use them as a way to fight off the biting temperatures that covet the surface we all share. Huddled in small groups around these areas of heat, the lines between our different races faded. Here we were all the same.
There was a small shuffle at the door, a tentative knocking. Before I could call ‘enter’ a Kalish darted in. Weak and emaciated, he glanced nervously at the window before dragging me to a secluded corner.
We eyed one another with suspicion as I waited for him to speak. I knew him to be one of the camp Commander’s personal attendants, and I couldn’t fathom why he would want to seek me out.
Thin lips pursed before he blew out a quick breath. “You’re the one that served with Scorpius, are you not? You knew Sikozu Shanu?”
Of all the things I expected him to say, these questions were not among them. “Yes.”
Relief became quickly apparent in his eyes. “I’m to give you this, and to tell you to be prepared.” I watched him draw a parcel from the inside of his too large shirt before shoving it into my hands.
“Prepared for what?”
We both heard noise coming from the rear of the building, and his eyes flicked to the door. “I’ll contact you soon. I can’t be seen here, with you.” Before I could attempt to stop him, he was gone through the door.
Falling onto my filthy bedding, ignoring the scuttling of bevra beetles, I turned my back to the thirty others lying down in the small room and opened the package. The room was dark, but as my eyes adjusted, I was able to inventory the contents. For the first time in over a cycle, I felt the beginnings of hope spread through me.
It took the longest monen of my life before the plan fell into place. Quietly, I took the more lucid aside, and made them allies. Their listless eyes glistened with hope as I swore them to secrecy or death. We all knew the risks.
Our numbers had grown large enough for two groups to try to make the attempt. As the time to leave drew near, I became desperate that someone more afraid of Scarran reprisal would report back to our captors. I knew it was foolish to try and escape with so many, but I couldn’t turn them away when my own misery reflected from their eyes.
Somehow I wasn’t surprised to find two more of the Kalish resistance within the camp walls. They used various means to inform me when the next stage had been secured. It was deep into the sleep cycle, almost six weekens after the initial contact, when I was given the pre-arraigned signal and told to report to the factory for special work detail.
There was only a quarter arn window open for all of us to try to make it. Fifteen souls that now had a chance for life. I couldn't help but offer a quiet prayer hoping for success. I heard that once Sebaceans had a god, and after all that we had survived, there must be something else looking over us.
Everything had to be organized in small steps, including manipulating the prisoner work rotations so the lucky ones would be assigned to the same area. We worked silently, unloading containers of rock for processing.
My training automatically took over when I heard the alarm sound on the other side of factory. I led the others through the corridors to the designated rendezvous point. The harried Kalish didn't speak, only gestured for us to follow her as she led us farther away from the panicked mass of Scarrans and prisoners that would be working feverishly to put out the fires. A sharp explosion made me glance back, it appeared that the fire had reached the combustible material stacked carelessly on the loading dock.
My hand sweated as it gripped the pulse weapon that was completely useless against Scarrans, but I held onto it to feel some of the control I once had over my life. The terrain was rough as our group worked its way through vegetation so thick, that in the dark, it was impossible to identify. Once I had wondered idly how it grew without a source of light, but now I was only thankful it existed to cover our movements.
Our group was the last of the two. The first, consisting of only a few men had left only a hundred microts before my own, and were making their way through the darkness to the unarmed transport three metras away. Sitting for a moment, I listened for any sound that would indicate we were being followed. There was none. All I could hear was the soft movements in the trees above us of small animals scurrying away from those that dared invade their sanctuary.
A moss attached to several of the trees gave off a faint luminescence, and in its pale light, I took in the members of my group. The men and women sat as I did, crouched down, ready to move swiftly at the first sign of attack. Sweat trickled down my neck despite the cold, and I tried to hide my fear from them behind a mask of resolve. These people risked their lives on my word that I could lead them to a safer place. Even as I scanned the trees, I could feel their eyes on me, waiting for the next signal.
There were several children of various species among them, a few of them Sebacean. Malnourished, they all sat without making a sound. Their eyes were haunted by images that no one, not even Peacekeeper children, should see at that time in their lives. I don’t know why I even allowed them to come. They would be nothing but a hindrance if, or more probably when, we all were recaptured.
My only thought was that they represented hope. These, the smallest and weakest among us, had survived the war and the almost complete annihilation of their species. For that alone, I had to give them a chance.
Checking the coordinates, I couldn’t help a grim smile at the thought of freedom. Pushing on, I could see the soft outline of the transport. My arm jerked up instinctively when I heard the faint rumble of the engines as they flared to life. One of the men further ahead staggered toward the ship, his voice lost in the steady roar. The effort was in vain.
We all watched as the transport was shot down mere microts later, and for a brief moment, I didn’t know who exactly were the lucky ones. They at least would never feel the sting of Scarran claws ripping at their flesh, wanting to live but at the same time wishing for death to make the pain end.
Automatically, I drew the others away from the area. Once we were at what I hoped was a safe distance, I pulled out the flimsy I still carried and checked to see how far we were from a network of caverns I recalled while committing the escape route to memory. We walked for arns, but no one wanted to risk stopping to rest. After much searching we finally found an entrance, stunned, we stumbled from the cold into warmer temperatures. Thankfully, they were not so warm as to be a hazard for Sebaceans.
Taking the first watch, I passed the time by worrying about the fate of these people, our chances of survival in this harshest of worlds. The clatter of a rock shifting alerted me to someone nearing our location. My finger tightened against the trigger of my weapon. Through the heavy mist the Kalish called out a pre-arranged word, and appearing from my hiding place, I beckoned her toward me. I received the proffered sack with a grunt of pleasure. Inside was a small supply of food culled from the camp kitchen rations.
“How did you know we would be here, and not on the ship?” I asked as my eyes darted behind the woman to see if there were any more surprise visitors.
“I followed you after we separated. We had to make sure you all safely made it to the ship and were not recaptured. And I was ‘not’ followed, I made certain of that.” She walked by me and into the cavern. I watched as she looked over the other escaped prisoners.
“If we ‘were’ recaptured?” I knew her answer before she spoke, and expected nothing less.
“None of you would have survived long enough to resist interrogation.”
Later, as the small fire crackled and the children slept fitfully, the contact drew me aside. "You're relatively safe here. The Commander is under the impression you were all aboard the ship when it was shot down.”
For the first time, I felt an upsurge of hope. "Are you certain of this? I do not want to give these people false assurances."
"What it brought you was a life away from daily threat of death."
"And we don't have that now? We have no food, no source of water..."
"You do not have those things now, that is true, you only need to learn where to look. It is conjectured that further down, within this network of caves, you will more than likely locate a water supply. As for food…" her voice trailed off.
She studied our small group of escapees and smiled sadly. "That is the best that I, or the rest of us can do for you. This will be the last time we meet. Further contact will bring attention upon ourselves. But do not think that we will stop trying to help. Take hope that we will still aid others to escape the camp. We only have to find another way to attempt this."
For five cycles we all lived within the intricate cavern system beneath the planet’s surface. Scavenging for grubs and edible plant life by the light of the moss discovered on the night of our escape.
Our numbers continue to grow gradually due to the efforts of the Kalish smuggling a herb into the camp. A herb that, once consumed, drugs the prisoners into a death-like state. Or, close enough to fool the Scarran guards. What once were fifteen are now almost one hundred men, women, and children. We never know when we’ll find their drugged bodies lying comatose on the forest floor, but we bring them in and wait for them to awaken so I can explain their fate.
The children adapted quickly, so myself and the other soldiers began to train them to fight. To fight not only against our common enemy, but also against the helplessness that each of us feels at one time or another.
Every few arns a new group of men and women would go out and search for food. With our numbers growing, the search became almost constant. Other than the constant fear of Scarran soldiers patrolling near us and learning of our existence, the endless search for food was our main concern.
Small fires dotted the insides of the caverns and people continued to congregate around them as they once did within the camp walls, but the feeling was changed. While before, in the camp, we waited for death to take us, here we reveled in life. We took comfort in each other's company, joked, and shared in the welcome of new members to our little society. Whether a new escapee, or a child being born into this life. It is unlike anything I had experienced before and regret not knowing until living in these strange circumstances. It has made me a better leader, I think. I hope.
Occasionally there is news from off world, and the news was usually grim. It was almost always the same. Reports of worlds destroyed and more lives needlessly lost. At least, until recently. The Kalish resistance, in allegiance with the surviving Sebaceans, led by Scorpius and several other species, have begun to make their move against the Scarran Imperium. To take back what is rightfully theirs. It was heartening to see my old friend was still alive, if not well.
The last contact from the camp relayed that soon even our meager numbers might be needed. Plans were in place to free the remaining prisoners as well as destroy the factory manufacturing the fuel substitute needed for the Scarran Strykers.
This news came as a great surprise. In all the cycles wasted here, I had never been able to find out what exactly the prisoners were forced to refine.
I didn’t know how the others would take this news as I brought them all together. Every one of us had been through hezmana together. How they would take this final step towards freedom or death, I was too close to judge. I think they sensed something important was about to happen as they stood shoulder to shoulder. Species that had once looked at each other with hostility, now stood side by side as if brothers. The cavern was filled with soft whispers as I waited for everyone to arrive.
When the moment came, I was astonished to find myself almost nervous as I spoke of our part to liberate the camp. No one spoke for several microts, and I began to think that perhaps they didn't want to risk all that we had achieved.
"When do we start?"
I looked to the source of the voice. It was a young Sebacean woman. Her arm held a baby that I knew was only a couple monens old. Her other hand held onto that of a young Nebari boy that she cared for.
"As soon as possible. We have to be ready when the signal comes."
It seemed everyone began to speak at once. Each trying to come up with something that would possibly aid us in the fight. They were pleased when I told them that a cache of projectile weapons were being smuggled to us within the next weeken. Not a single one of them backed away from the plan presented them, not even the children who had grown in my company. Our numbers were small compared to those in the camp, but I knew that when the time came there would be more. None of us would be alone.
The mist swirls around me and I can't but help and look up one more time to try and see the stars as Marauders quietly settle below the hill. I remember my past, and those who sacrificed their lives, the ones I used to deride as ‘grubbers’. And I remember who I was, and who I will be again.
I give the signal, and rise, hands anxiously straightening the rags of my uniform.
There is the hiss of a charging pulse weapon, and the others drop to the ground, instantly fading into the shadows. I do not. Instead, I step forward. I do not flinch as I look down the barrel of the pulse rifle at the armored commando and reclaim my birthright:
“Captain Miklos Braca, Peacekeeper Interplanetary Services.”