Tortgur was where slaves were sent from the Urbian Empire.
The planet was inhabited by guards and slaves who were used to manufacture items to support the empire’s war machine.
No one had ever escaped from Tortgur. Slaves lived out their lives there laboring for their masters.
Most of the guards were cyborgs from Xlatam. Their supervisors were Jaltian marines from Terrauni, the Empire’s home planet. Their job was to watch over the cyborgs and the slaves.
The heat from the two suns of Tortgur was intense. If exposed to it – without protection – the slaves skin would turn black and sluff off in painful patches within an hour. Anything over eight hours meant sure death.
The workshops – and assembly lines – were housed under climate controlled domes. The slaves worked 15-hour days. It left them with little time for sleeping, and eating. The only time they had to communicate among themselves was while eating, or after the lights went out in their barracks.
Their only break from the mind-numbing routine was when new slaves arrived. They would share what was going on in the solar system.
After the last of the slaves got off the spaceship they were herded towards the domes. That brief exposure to the blazing heat gave them a taste of what they could expect if they tried running away.
Once inside the main dome the slaves were herded to one side. The base commander gave a short speech, and then they were sent off to their barracks.
Ges Yiper was captured when his planet, Ceresium, was invaded by the Urbian Empire’s star fleet. He was the only prisoner taken alive. It was a bitter fight that lasted a year, as the shape shifters of Ceresium fought against overwhelming odds.
The only reason he was alive was the empire’s scientists were interested in him. After two years of experiments and studying his shape shifting power, they turned him over to the Jaltian marines at the Incarceration and Transportation Division.
His ability to shape shift was nullified by a digital metallic ring forged around his neck. The empire never liked to waste manpower, so Ges was sent to Tortgur.
The first night.
After the barrack lights went out a voice asked Ges where he was from? He shared the fate of his planet.
“If everyone was killed why were you spared?” another voice asked.
“They wanted to study my power,” Ges replied.
An excited murmur in the room.
“What power is that?” several voices echoed.
“I can look like anyone, if I want. My captors made sure I couldn’t use my power by putting this damn thing on my neck.”
“Do you know what element it is?” a voice asked.
“No. I’m afraid not. Whatever it’s made from we don’t have it where I come from.”
The conversation went on for nearly an hour.
From day one, Ges was determined to escape. The other slaves told him all they knew about life on Tortgur. They also told him no one had ever escaped from the planet.
He kept his escape planning to himself, not trusting anyone. It was apparent they all accepted their miserable existence and had long ago given up hope.
Ges was put to work on an assembly line making parts for the empire’s star fleet. He was on a line that produced control panels. The work was tedious. He had to slip memory cards into four places on each panel in a minute, before the next panel arrived.
At the midday meal Ges was feeling discouraged when a voice behind him asked “Would you like to get rid of that collar?”
It was the same voice that asked him what element his collar was made out of. He turned and saw a tall Ilerian from Kuubs staring at him.
“My name is Voltex,” he said. “I work in the metals department. Let’s talk more tonight.”
The lights went out.
A tap on Ges’s shoulder. “Follow me.”
Voltex led him to the end of the barracks and then opened a door.
Ges followed, and the door quietly closed.
“Be careful, there’s not much room in here. It’s a supply room. We must keep our voices low.”
“Do you think you could get my collar off?” Ges asked.
“Soon enough, my friend. I want to escape from this hell hole too. If I’m able to cut through your collar, you have to return the favor and help me escape with you.”
“How do you know I’m planning to escape?”
A slight chuckle. Of course you are! Everyone who first gets here can think of nothing else. After a time that passes and hope is a ghost. Are we agreed?”
“Yes. Where do we start?”
“The plan should be for you to shape shift and look like the base commander. You saw him when you first arrived. Kill him. Then make a story up about you having to bring me to Terrauni for a special project.”
“Sounds like you really thought this through.”
“It’s called survival. Let me examine you collar up close.”
Vortex pulled out a small penlight from his overalls and held it up to Ges’s neck.
He studied the collar for several minutes. Taking a small file from another pocket, he drew it across the collar. Back and forth. Then stopped.
“I know what it’s made from. Metotriat metal from Luna II. I’ve got to figure out how to smuggle out a plasma cutter to do the job. Let’s shoot for tomorrow.”
“I’ve got it.”
Ges followed Vortex to the supply room.
“This will hurt like hell. Can you keep from screaming out?”
“Yes. I have a high tolerance to pain. Do it.”
Five minutes later.
The collar was off. Ges closed his eyes. When he opened them again he looked exactly like the base commander.
“Where did you say his office was again?” Ges asked.
A cyborg was startled to see Commander Gafer walking through the now silent manufacturing area in the middle of the night. He watched him head towards his office, and then lost interest.
The door was unlocked. It opened easily. Ges slipped inside silently. Then he went out the back door, and slunk along a pathway leading up to a little house. That door was also unlocked.
He found the commander asleep in his bed and strangled him. It took him two hours to find a place to dispose of the body. He settled for a room full of large metallic crates and trophies lining the walls.
Lucky for Ges, the commander’s job mainly consisted of greeting new slaves and listening to his guards report about infractions among the slaves. There was no daily duties to perform.
Following Voltex’s instructions, Ges went to the Department of Transportation to see when the next ship was leaving for Terrauni. His luck held when the Chief Transportation officer said, “…in two hours.”
Voltex was called into the commanders office within an hour.
The assistant Chief of Transportation was surprised to see the base commander and a slave booking passage home. No one had told him the news. It was a big deal. The base commander was supposed to serve a ten-year term on Tortgur and he’d only been there five years.
It nagged at his bureaucratic mind.
Once they were in space, Ges and Voltex relaxed. Neither knew what the future held, but it had to be better than being a slave.
The attendant got to their seats and smiled.
Instead of asking them if they wanted something to eat or drink, she held out a small box and pulled two swabs out of it.
“Sorry. Regulations. DNA is the only real way to confirm who you are.”
As It Stands, the best laid plans of slaves and aliens oft go astray!