TEN MINUTES, WAKE UP! GET READY FOR PROGRAM
Lauro’s eyes opened. There wasn’t much of a point in trying to fight it now. The days that seemed to crawl along and end at arbitrary times, the voice that screams from the bottom of your soul that tells you you will never leave this place, the pain of the shock whips the “group supervisors” take turns lashing your back with if you refuse program. There was no point in trying to fight it now. He was to become a space station support mechanic for the rest of his life under the USC. Lauro was a small tugboat in heavy seas, at the mercy of powers greater than himself.
The separation of Lauro from his parents happened within the first few months of their arrival at Hyperion. His mother’s pregnancy was documented by the crew of the Akebono Maru during the journey. While she was not forced to destroy the child, doctors and other medical staff closely monitored the development of the embryo that would become Lauro. He would spend his first four years with his parents before arriving at Lasell Progeny.
Lauro sat up on his bed. He pulled the thin blanket from his body, and examined his small slice of the world. His room was more of a cell. Six by ten feet, toilet and sink not far from the bed, and a door that he could not open at will. Definitely a cell. A book he was reading sat near the foot of the bed, face down. He couldn’t remember the name.
The walls and floor of his cell were made of the same smooth, silvery metal, interrupted by the occasional support beam along the ceiling. A small window, no bigger than twenty four inches across punctuates the wall above his bed. Saturn looms million miles away, yet Lauro could feel it as if he could reach through the glass and touch the cool, windy exterior of that gaseous world.
The settlement of Lassell Progeny dominated the landscape. Lassell Progeny appeared as cardboard cutouts on the window, the bright glimmer from the city lights illuminating the distance. Over-sized tin cans huddled among a number of clear geodesic domes, each one interlocking with one or more of each other, creating a massive complex of living facilities and accommodations. Here and there, giant inflatable modules scatter the uniformity of the cans, standing nearly twenty meters above the landscape. The spaceport sits a number of kilometers in the distance, away from the chaotic planning of the settlement.
This place is home to a few thousand inhabitants, most of them working as miners and dock hands for the transit stations twenty kilometers above Hyperion. There were also doctors, teachers, scientists, and a small regiment of USC security forces. Many of the visitors that pass through Hyperion either came from Titan or out-of-system. Aside from resupply and export missions, Hyperion does not receive much business in the way of tourism. It merely exists as a small outcropping of humanity, in the absolute fringes of Saturn system.
Lasell Progeny had recently fallen on desperate times. Interplanetary conflict among the inner worlds meant less ships were coming to the outer worlds, putting a number of people out of work. Civil disobedience continued rise as people began to question the Coalition, who had been criticized by several human rights groups for false imprisonment, torture, manipulating information, and silencing group demonstrations through intimidation and violence. Tensions between the two groups reached a breaking point when the Grijalva, a transport ship piloted by escaping miners, was destroyed by a Coalition patrol ship. Shortly after, the first interplanetary terrorist organization would make its presence known to the solar system.
No one was quite sure how it happened. Lauro watched the detonation from the safety of his cell, a front row seat. A mess of metal, of cables, of air, of bodies. It must have been six hundred meters away, Lauro thought. Debris flew everywhere, the explosion completely destroyed seven modules and depressurized countless others. He could see the poor souls who had been sucked out of their modules, reaching frantically for unlikely salvation for a few brief moments before lying still. How many bodies could he see? Forty? Eighty?
Lauro could hear the radios on the guards crackling frantically like a fire burning too quickly as they paced up and down the halls barking for information. He could make out words like ‘attack’ and ‘detonation’, but not much else. A popping sound rang in the distance, from within the facility. Then again. And again. Pop pop pop pop. He could hear the sounds of many boots get closer and closer, the shots louder and louder.
Are they going to kill me? Lauro thought. They couldn’t have been far now. The radio chatter was going crazy now, the crackling as frantic as ever. He could hear the shots now, so clear, punching through the air and into his ears. A guard let out an impressive wail as a hot round cut clean through her chest. Lauro watched through the small opening of his cell door as she took her last breath, the two making eye contact for a brief moment. He noticed the way her eyes began to lose focus, the way they announce to the viewer that a life has ended, the moment the brain decides it can no longer function. Lauro had heard stories of war and violence, but had never seen so close before.
Unfamiliar voices and footsteps filled the corridors. Lauro tried his best to look invisible under his bed, in hopes that whoever these people were wouldn’t see him. But to his wild dismay, he heard the sound of the lock disengage from the door. Lauro felt his heart drop into his toes as the cell door slid open.
“Get up”, said a distorted voice through a vocoder.
Lauro poked his head out of the covers. He saw a figure, a little taller than six foot, wearing an all black uniform. A small rifle sat in a relaxed grip in the figure’s hands, Lauro was looking straight down the barrel. The figure wore a helmet that fed into an oxygen tank, Lauro deduced that these people came from space. But where? His heart was pounding now. Surely they would kill him. They would kill everyone here, whoever these people are they do not want witnesses. So they’ll kill everyone, even the children.
“You are coming with us,” said the voice. Lauro hesitated from a brief moment before stepping out of the cell. He looked at the guard who lie still on the floor, a shallow pool of crimson forming beneath her. A red soak surrounded the low crater of the entry wound that went straight through the guard’s body armor. Blood stained the decorated golden emblem that read ‘USC’.
Lauro didn’t know who these people were or their motives. But, as he walked down the corridor with this soldier he felt that perhaps they wouldn’t kill him after all.