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Stories from the Verse
Verse Three, Chapter One
Chapter 101: Slade 33
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 100: Hastings 35
A few weeks after their space battle, the Federation managed to locate The Destiny, and tried to trap it. This, according to George, was a recurring event, and nothing of great concern. The captain was particularly adept at getting them out of these traps, although one of his advantages was that the military wanted the ship intact, or at least sufficiently so that they could reverse engineer its more advanced systems.
It was a rough ride that carried them through several star systems and a wide expanse of space seeking to avoid the hole they were supposed to see and find the one that wasn't supposed to be there. Slade spent that time in engineering, ready to apply bubble gum and elbow grease to anything that broke. This time nothing did.
Some time after that Ann sorted out from all the electronic noise a message she recognized as a request from a prominent rebel organizer for transportation to another system. Ishara knew the man, so they arranged to meet, confirmed that it was indeed he, and took him to his destination. Slade had the opportunity to chat with him over dinner, and gained some perspective on how large the Federation truly was, and how numerous the rebels aligned against it. Even Destiny, as important and powerful as it was, was only a small part in the whole.
So Slade had several relatively uneventful months to practice before he was called upon to use the new skills he was learning. The mission on which he would have his next opportunity to be in the thick of the action was well suited to this. They were planning a jailbreak.
The Federation kept a prison for political prisoners, whom they labeled subversives, anarchists, and terrorists, but most of whom were freedom fighters by word or deed. Many were known to one or another of The Destiny crew, and while means and ends were not agreed, enemies of the Federation needed each other.
Although it was officially named Rhodes Correctional Facility, it was more commonly dubbed Rhodes' End. The population was reaching capacity, and it was unclear what was going to be done with additional prisoners once it was full. There was talk of building a new prison, but little support for so expensive a project. Preferred solutions included integrating the politicals into the criminal prison population throughout the galaxy and announcing mass executions. Ishara believed that General Timara, who wore the title "Chief Warden" and was in charge of all Federation prisons, would stage an accident in which the entire prison population would die, and then after publicly announcing his sorrow along with a rash of new safety protocols would proceed to assign new prisoners to it. Given the security systems at Rhodes' End, such an accident would be fairly easy to manage; information management would be the only problem, and Timara was quite good at controlling what information investigatory committees discovered. But whether the prisoners would all be killed one way or another, or scattered to other facilities, now was the time to free them, and the crew of The Destiny was the team to try.
But those security systems were formidable. Every door and gate within the complex had an electronic lock and a physical lock. The electronic locks were operated from a central control section, and the physical locks were opened at the door. It was possible to cut power to the entire locking system, disabling the electronic locks, but the life support systems in the prisoner decks were tied into this on a level by level basis, so once the security was out, there would be no fresh air or temperature control in the confinement cells. On top of this, in the warden's office were controls to evacuate the atmosphere from those sections. This, in Ishara's view, was the way Timara would deal with the prisoners if something wasn't done soon. The warden at Rhodes' End, Major Kotari, would take public responsibility for the mistake and be quietly promoted to a position not connected to corrections.
But it was clear that Tom couldn't be opening locks in the prison decks and overriding code in the control room and getting into the warden's office all at the same time. They needed a plan that would get control of the entire ship before action could be taken to stop them.
"Could we just appear in the warden's office directly?" Slade asked.
"The office is shielded to prevent electronic surveillance," Toni answered; "I'm afraid that will prevent us from knowing the layout and will interfere with the matter transmitter."
"So why didn't they just shield the whole prison?"
"Well, for one thing, they didn't build it to block matter transmitters; they couldn't have done that if they'd wanted. Even we don't really understand much of how it works. But also, the guards carry portable communicators and outside the warden's office everything is covered with cameras and probably sound links. Shielding would make that much more difficult."
"But we could transmat into the central control section," Phil Banson suggested. "As the center of the communications system, that can't be shielded."
"Right," Toni confirmed.
"You have an idea, Phil?" John asked.
"I think so. Tom is good with security systems, but with computer code we're about evenly matched. His job is to get someone inside the warden's office so that the emergency evacuation switch isn't pulled. The moment he's in, we appear in control--I would need Ishara and Marilyn with me there, to prevent a problem. Once things are contained there, George starts dealing with locks in the prison sections.
"There are about eight hundred locks that would have to be picked!" Tom argued. "He could never get everyone out."
"Well," Slade said, "I'm not great, but I could help."
"Yes," John said, "and you three aren't the only burglars in the rebellion. We'll get extra sets of picks, and you can pass them out to anyone who can help."
"That's right," Tom said. "Bob Barnes is in there somewhere. He's almost as good as me."
"We have to strike when a prisoner transport ship is docked, so the prisoners can take the ship. We'll want a list of competent flight crew from among those believed held there." John was pulling things together.
"I can get that," Ann said. "Also, people who can help with the security systems."
And so they prepared for a prison raid for the next couple days, gathering equipment, going over layout and schematics, reviewing details. Meanwhile, Gary steered an indirect course which would not appear to be taking them to the prison, but have them incidentally pass through the area.
Everyone was waiting on the bridge as they drew within visual range of Rhodes' End. The prison transport was docked to the double airlocks allowing the crew access to the control area and connecting the prisoner containment to the cell blocks.
"There's something wrong here," Marilyn said. "Shouldn't there be a fighter escort with that prison transport?"
"Certainly should," Tom answered. "It's a trap."
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with five other sequential chapters of the novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #59: Verser Lives and Deaths. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter.
As to the old stories that have long been here: