Prisoner of Earthside: A Novella (STRYDER'S HORIZON Book 2)

BOOK: Prisoner of Earthside: A Novella (STRYDER'S HORIZON Book 2)
13.79Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub




© Copyright 2014 All Rights Reserved to Daniel J. Kirk

Edited by George Strasburg

Cover by Turtle&Noise





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e material from the book (other than for review purposes) prior written permission must be obtained from both the author & publisher.




By Daniel J. Kirk





Moonday celebrations were always a riot. Cam was wearing the biggest sunglasses Thom Crisp had ever seen and there was sweet Jimmy DeCamino trying to be as cool as possible with something low key and unassuming.  He even added swagger by pretending not to notice the massive sun blasting everyone with ultraviolet rays.

The gray rock that was the Moon of
Echoearth had become a nude beach and Thom appreciated the mounds of breasts adding lineless tans. The women who capped their eyeballs so as not to burn out their retinas, well, they never complained about his stares.

Perhaps from a satellite the scene looked a bit more morose as bodies lined every inch of ground not overtaken with the industrial complex of the
KorCorp drilling firm.

It didn’t seem peculiar at the time, but Thom wondered if that day would be the day the Red Empress came, and when she spotted everyone laying like ducks in a row she would claim victory and fly back to whatever black hole she’d escaped.

“You’re gonna get some nasty tan lines,” Cam grazed her lips against Thom’s ears, it was a bit much given his current field of stimuli and he almost forgot they were just friends.

“Won’t matter, the tan will only last three days and then what good does it do me? I’ll be the pasty ghost I am for most of the year,” Thom said.

Cam twirled around him and sat Indian style at his feet. She was all lenses and a big smile, like some happy insect.

Thom looked up over her and spotted Jimmy fighting off an officer with a newly acquired tan. Jimmy didn’t tan, he was born dark and athletic but he didn’t like being idolized for it. He was too cool for that, and for anything really.  The only thing he didn’t seem too cool for was Cam and Thom. Even then he was still a snob half the time.

Cam only put up with him because they were both born on Albion and enlisted together.  Thom put up with Jimmy because he usually delivered some pretty ruthless commentary on events and people and that to Thom was worth the price of admission. It also helped to remember everyone here is just full of shit. It kept Thom sane. He really didn’t know how many more years he’d be stuck on the moon.

Cam looked over her shoulder and chuckled. “What do you think he’s saying?”

Thom shrugged, the words that came from Jimmy were like poetry, they spoke to one’s soul, or maybe not.

“I bet she’s offering a month’s worth of credits?”

“Is he really all that handsome to you ladies?”

“A Nubian god.” Cam winked. “He’s all eye candy. I feel like it’d be by the numbers, afterwards I’d have to crawl out of bed and go fuck a real man.”

“That’s a bit harsh. You don’t know. He might have some nice moves.”

Cam stretched and Thom watched the fullness of her breasts rise and fall so perfectly in the stilted gravity of the moon. He couldn’t read her eyes, but the grin on her face was the pride of knowing Thom enjoyed the view.

“If you’re not out here for the tan, what are you out here for?”

“Boobs,” Thom said.

Cam laughed, “You’re a pervert.”

“The uniforms don’t do you ladies any favors, sometimes I forget they exist, they’re what keep me drill-running.”

“One Moonday a year?”

Thom shrugged. She made a good point, one day of breasts a year was not worth the routine, regime, and near death experiences that drill running provided.

“To be honest I wish this was the last Moonday.” Cam’s smile didn’t break. It should’ve had it been a real smile, but it held like deep down inside she was defeated, like she’d given up and wanted to die next time she went on a run. “They used to let us leave, I bet you’d love that. See that pretty girl you left behind. Maybe I could find a better class of man down there.”

Thom didn’t bother continuing the conversation. He just returned his view to the fields of mammary glands. Had the universe created a more beautiful crop?

“Oh, there she goes,” Cam reported as the officer hitting on Jimmy tried to walk off without any shame.  “To be fair to Jimmy, she isn’t very pretty.”

“Most of you aren’t,” Thom said.

Cam let her sunglasses droop low enough to glare from above the rims. “We’re all you’ve got.”

“And that’s why I’m so willing to die.”

Jimmy wandered over to their patch of the gray beach and surveyed the scene behind them.

“What time does this nonsense end?” Jimmy asked.

“Sit down Jimmy, the ladies won’t bother you so much if they think you’re with us.” Cam patted a spot next to her.

“No, I’m ready to head back inside.”

“That officer you were chatting up could’ve gotten you back in the barracks,” Thom reminded him.

Jimmy shook his head, “Officers are looking for kids, their salary doubles remember? The Colonials’ complimentary gift for making another moron.”

“Shame that only works for officers.”

“Only babies worth a damn.” Jimmy had stopped looking around. Thom noticed he was fixed on something behind them, and his concern started to worry.

Thom adjusted, but Cam had already taken notice herself. And she gasped.

“Oh shit.”

Cam’s wish came true. This was about to be the last Moonday for any one on the Moon of Echoearth.


Dust wouldn’t settle. Thom watched it hang and dance, and do whatever dust can do in zero gravity.  Maybe it prefers not to cling onto something stationary. Thom was pretty sure dust doesn’t register emotions, but he’d been wrong about a lot of things.

He had thought he’d have more time to figure things out.

They didn’t even bother to knock everyone out. Those of who survived the attack were all trading embarrassed and guilt-filled glances as they were carted off to the Red Empress to be properly annihilated. Thom figured there would be no other reason to keep them alive other than to be part of some sicko’s fetish, a demonstration of the Red Empress’ superior power over the galaxies.

There were a lot of prisoners, too.

They were all strapped in tubes for safekeeping while the soldiers of the Red Empress jetted back to claim their victory and medals.

Thom kept trying to replay the events in his head, but aside from the explosions and some ugly looking breasts separated from their owners he couldn’t get a grasp on how he ended up in one of these tubes and not dead.

He just kept thinking he was picking something up when it all happened. But the past didn’t matter anymore. Thom needed to prepare to face death.  He needed to do some deep soul searching.

Then he spotted Cam.

Thom forced a smile at Cam. She had finally come through and noticed him staring. Apparently, she wasn’t ready to smile back. He shouldn’t have smiled. There was no reason to. Things were only going to get worse and they only had each other as eye candy on the long journey to wherever the Red Empress called home these days.

Space travel was a slow process.

It made wars even longer.

No cryogenics for prisoners of wars, they get to ache through every moment of the long journey. Thom figured he’d be insane by the time they executed him. Perhaps, Thom thought, that’s why they do it
. So the people of the Red Empress could see the prisoners as mad men and it is easier to justify their unprompted attacks.

Or maybe it just wasn’t in the budget.

Just like Thom’s rescue wouldn’t be in KorCorp’s or even The Colonial’s budget.

No one cared about a drill-runner. They weren’t expected to live long anyway.





Someone said my name. I ignored it of course. I was at Macy’s Pub for one reason and one reason only. The Workman Brewery had unleashed an anniversary Imperial Brown Ale that had finally reached Burnside.

“Dammit, Kimmie. You’re drunk.”

Alice Murphy looked maddened by that observation, which made me mad. Which meant—I probably was a little drunk.

“I went by your shack and waited for almost an hour,” she said. “You look like someone pissed in your face. Have you even washed your hair in a week?”

These all seemed like really important questions and I intended to answer all of them, but Alice tugged me off the barstool and guided me through the pub and outside. It was daytime.

That was the shocker.

“You never went home last night did you?”

I tried to play back the night’s events. They began in the evening with a nice burger and a couple of beers. Then they tapped the keg for Workman’s new brew.  I remember wanting to meet that guy and—let’s just say, thank him.

“Do you even remember you were going to give me a ride to
Earthside?” Alice was hands-on-hips stern. Her attitude wasn’t anything out of the ordinary for her, but I felt like telling her to go to Earthside on her own. “I don’t even think you can pilot Old Shepard. Cause you sure as hell didn’t take a pre-toxicator.”

I said something I don’t think I ever said before, “You can drive.”


I was about sober when I realized Alice’s green hunk of junk was in Gregor’s shop and would likely be there for a long time, hence her needing the ride in the first place. But it was more sobering watching her push Old Shepard up to near 300 MPH without any concern about how my stomach and head were feeling as we vibrated over Burnside’s jagged terrain. I tried to take my mind off it and asked, “So, is this guy cute or something?”

Alice didn’t answer. I could see the muscles in her leg tensing as she pressed the accelerator hoping to make Old Shepard go faster.

“Yeah, I bet he’s cute. You said you two went back pretty far. Was he up on Echo Station?”

Alice jerked the wheel and we spun around. She didn’t stop. She just did it to try and make me throw up. It didn’t work, not completely anyway.

“Didn’t you watch any of the newsfeed while you got plastered last night? They told you all about him. Yes, I met him on Echo Station. He went to the moon and became a shit ass drill-runner like
yourself, and I got into some trouble and ended up here. And is he cute? He was cute. Real cute. Baby blue eyes and two dimples on both sides of his perfect God damn smile!”

“Eh,” I said.


“Dimples, never really went for that kind of thing.”

“You’re going to feel like an asshole when you sober up, Kimmie.”


I did.

We arrived in
Earthside and had a hard time reminding the Colonial officer that I was Kimberly Stryder, the chick that killed all those damned teenagers who went around trying to imitate the Dessup Gang. My celebrity status had worn thin because of my ratty appearance. I tried to explain I was hung over, but that was even more of a faux pas.

Alice made things worse demanding to see her friend, the recently returned prisoner of war named Thom Crisp.

“We’ve come all this way and they aren’t going to let us see him,” Alice said. She wasn’t her typical snappy self, there was a quiet sadness to the way she just let the words catch the stillness of the air around us.

They hung around for a while, like a chain smoker next to a door.

This is when my sage advice should’ve been delivered, but I didn’t have any.  All I could say was something stupid like,
it’ll work out
. But I didn’t believe it. Instead I turned to the Colonial Officer who had remained vigilant in denying us access to Thom Crisp and said, “Grand Officer Tourner, please.”

He turned white, like a flock of seagulls painted him.

On the inside I had turned white, too. Tourner was a bitch. And I don’t mean that as a compliment. She was stern, irritable, and disgusted by all that was yours truly. It was probably going to ruin the whole trip bumping into her again.

But I wasn’t going to.

“Grand Officer Tourner has left Echoearth.” The officer said it as if he wasn’t supposed to.

“What do you mean?”

He looked both ways like he wanted to tell me a secret, then decided against it.

“You are welcome to enjoy
Earthside, you have been approved for a day pass. You are to exit the perimeter before 1200 hours tomorrow. If you need an extension…”

He rattled on with the guest permissions as I took Alice by the shoulder and headed out into the streets of

“When he called he said I could come visit,” Alice whimpered. She was shaking beneath the hand I placed on her shoulder. I had never asked Alice much about her life before the days she started hounding me for a race. But I felt like I was getting a glimpse of her past self as we wandered around the ‘utopian paradise’.

Earthside was still too clean for my liking.  There was no texture, just a glossy sheen and soothing, almost orchestral sounds. I missed the noise of nature and working men and women.  I missed the catcalls and foul language. Things were just too damn happy looking in Earthside.  It was only six months ago that the wannabe Dessup Gang tore up the place. It looked better than before. Wounds take longer to heal in Burnside I guess.

We strolled off to the white sand beach and found a picnic table. There were some sunbathers, and one old man getting a long swim through the glassy waters.  He looked like he was doing it for more than just his health. Even wore a sponsored swim cap. But I doubted he competed professionally. Everyone in
Earthside was a fraud. They only thought they were more important. I always thought of this planet as a storage bin, where the galaxy sorted out those who shouldn’t really be in the human race anymore.

A menu popped up via hologram. I frowned when I saw that Workman’s Imperial Brown Ale was actually cheaper in
Earthside. I thought of giving Macy an earful when I got back to the pub.

“You hungry?” I asked, knowing I was going to order something regardless.

Alice shook her head. “How can they do this? He needs people who knew him. Who love him. They can’t just keep him locked away, can they?”

I shrugged. The Colonial always did as it saw would make normal people as unhappy as possible. But they’d say there was a good reason. Given enough time anyone can concoct a good reason for anything.

“How long was he gone for?” I asked.

“It’s been four years I think.”

“Not many come back from the Red Empress. At least you know he’s safe now.” It sounded like bull shit as soon as I said it. But Alice feigned a smile.

“I thought he was dead. They obliterated the Moon of

“I remember.”

“No one remembers! The next day was the Massacre of Pendant’s Ridge! That was all anyone cares about, it’s a damn holiday now. But all those people on the moon, who cares about them?”

Pendant’s Ridge was a ruthless attack. The attack on
KorCorps drilling operations became a footnote. It was believed the Red Empress gained access to sensitive information from drillers, allowing her to attack Pendant’s Ridge undetected. A million died.

Four years ago, I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to care. But it was hard to breathe without hearing about the attack on the newsfeeds or in Macy’s Pub.

I almost spoke out loud, but I swallowed the thoughts that came next:
What if Thom Crisp had been the insider who spilled the Ridge’s security flaws?




BOOK: Prisoner of Earthside: A Novella (STRYDER'S HORIZON Book 2)
13.79Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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