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DIATA
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DIATA.
This is as far as I have got in this novel. It will be continued at a later time.

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

 

“Take us to the next penal colony, Comp,” ordered Peto. “This time we will try to do it right!”

The new recruits to Peto's force had rested and had been briefed. Those that were unaccustomed to weaponry were instructed in the use of lasers by the few that were. The next step was to increase their numbers so that they could be an effective army.

All the men had been questioned at length to glean as much information as possible about the Empire and the penal colonies. None had ever been to any other penal colony but all seemed to believe that they were run on the same lines as Tregon. Howard was under the impression that the colonies were all built to the same design. He recalled that when he was working with the computers of the supply depots of the Empire, the supplies sent to the colonies were all very similar. He had come to the conclusion that they were all the same size with the same demands for materials and supplies.

Armed with such foreknowledge, Peto believed that they could rescue more prisoners without a repetition of the trouble they had on Tregon.

“This time we will not go to the Chief of Guards,” he told them. “We will take control of the guards first and then release the prisoners. We will recruit as many as we need and leave the rest in control of the satellite.”

Peto had already met with the other Diatans and explained that there had already been bloodshed and that he couldn't see any way in which they could succeed without further fighting. Comp had told him that he had considered it necessary to destroy the two ships that had traced them.

“Comp's view is that it was self defence. He believes that had he not taken such action, the Empire's ships would have destroyed us. He also said his action against the guards on Tregon was for the same reason and that he is duty bound to protect those that he believes have done no wrong and are fighting for justice.”

Derk had commented that the Family had better make sure that they did nothing that Comp believed to be wrong or unjust. Shak had replied that they had all been taught by Comp and should know the difference between right and wrong.

Comp took the warship a sector of space close to a penal satellite that mined Zennalloy. The warship emerged out of timewarp and Comp called Peto to the control room. When Peto arrived, Comp had the satellite on the screen.

“It's a bit far away, isn't it?” said Peto.

“There are three navy space craft in orbit around the satellite, Peto. They appear to be guarding it.” Comp enlarged the image and pointed to three specks that were spaced evenly around the orb on the screen.

“I think we can conclude that the Empire has set up patrols to guard all the penal satellites. It is what I would have done had I been in their position. That is if I had sufficient vessels.”

“What shall we do?” asked Peto. Comp hesitated before answering.

“Destroy them. They represent the Empire that is bringing distress to most of humankind. They are helpers of a few unscrupulous men that have no compassion for the billions of people that they bring misery to.

“These ships are preventing you from ending that misery. If they are not destroyed, they will destroy you.”

Comp did not take his eyes off the instruments as he spoke. Peto noticed that he had one hand poised over a row of buttons. He was just wondering what the buttons were when Comp's hand dropped and his fingers stabbed at several of them. Comp's other hand tapped some keys and the screen went blank.

“We have been seen and I have attacked them. They did not have time to get our bearings and fire at us. We are in timewarp. I am sure that the problem has been solved.”

Peto could not help thinking that if such a decision had been left to him they would have all been killed by now. Comp's lightening reflexes had saved them from destruction. He realised that they would have to act fast if they were to rescue any of the prisoners on the satellite.

 

The cargo shuttle spiralled down towards the surface of the satellite called Harvey's Rock. In the hold were three hovertrucks and seven twelve seat hovercars. On board the vehicles were one hundred space-suited men each carrying a hand laser.

Mounted on the trucks were the heavy assault cannons each capable of blasting a sizeable hole through four inches thick Zennalloy armour plate. Also loaded on the trucks was a supply of fragmentation grenades. These grenades were extremely dangerous to use in low gravity as the fragments would be impelled over an area wide enough to injure or kill those that used them. The men had been instructed to use them only if it was necessary.

In the wake of the great cargo shuttle came the smaller shuttle in which Peto and ten other Diatans travelled. As both shuttles approached the landing pad of the settlement, the smaller shuttle changed direction and headed towards the prison where the cellblocks were. The cargo shuttle continued to the satellite base and landed.

Minutes later, the airlock to the hold opened and the vehicles emerged one by one. They fanned out and took up positions around the base where the offices were.

Ted called the Chief of the Guards on a communicator. When the Chief answered, Ted gave him an ultimatum.

“I'm going to say this once and once only. You will surrender this entire satellite now or we will take it from you the hard way. You will have five minutes to make up your minds whether you want to live or die. You will not send any messages from your communication systems and if you try we will take it as an invitation for us to take the satellite the hard way. Believe me, that is what most of us would like to do.”

The Chief stared at him from the screen for several seconds before answering.

“You don't have a chance,” he said, “we have the protection of the Empire's Space Navy. They are probably destroying your ship right now.”

“You are wasting time. We have destroyed the three ships that were orbiting this satellite. That should help you to make up your mind,” replied Ted with a smile.

The smug look on the Chief's face disappeared and the screen went blank. Ted looked at the time on the console of the shuttle. There were still two minutes left for the Chief to surrender when there was a brief flash as a laser was fired from the roof of one of the buildings. It was a wild shot, the beam striking the pinnacle of an unusually high rock. Ted needed no further excuse. With a yell of delight he gave the order to take the base.

The men on the hovertrucks opened fire with the mounted laser cannons. Three beams from three different cannons fired simultaneously and blasted the airlock of the building out of existence.

Instantly, the contents of the building began to fly out of the opening where the airlock had been, propelled by the sudden release of air pressure. As the air met the vacuum outside the building it instantly froze. Amid the articles of furniture and other loose objects that were sucked out of the hole in the building were the mutilated bodies of guards that had died when the air decompressed.

Ted gave the order to advance to the other buildings and the trucks moved forward, closing in on the main building where the Chief had his office.

The Chief had seen what had happened to the other building and called on the communicator. His white face appeared on the screen.

“Wait! Wait! I didn't authorise that attack on you! We surrender! You can come in through the airlock. Don't shoot your way in!” His voice rose in panic as the trucks advanced menacingly.

Ted ordered his men to hold their fire and told the Chief to make sure that the area of the airlock was cleared.

“If you try anything there will be no second chance,” he warned.

He sent twenty space-suited men to go into the airlock, watching as the lock opened and closed behind them. Each was armed with hand lasers and grenades.

Just as he was beginning to think they had been tricked, the communicator came to life. It was one of the men he had sent in.

“Everything seems to be all right here Ted,” he said, “we have eleven guards here, including the Chief.”

“Only eleven? Where are the rest?” Ted could not believe that there were so few guards in the building. He had been expecting at least fifty.

“The Chief says that they have been understaffed for months and the rest are guarding the prison and mines. We have been through the whole place,” said the man.

“All right. I'm coming in. I want to see the Chief.”

Ted left the shuttle in one of the hovercars and went to the airlock. He took three men with him and entered the lock. Inside he was met by one of the men that he had sent in previously who took him to where the Guards were held.

His eyes scanned the eleven scruffy guards and recognised the Chief by his uniform. He went up to him and looked him up and down. He was unshaven and his hair was long and hung over his collar. A curved scar stretched from his left eye, down his cheek and finished on his lip, just below his nose. His dress was no smarter than the guards whom he controlled were. The penal satellites were rarely inspected and disciplinary standards among the guards soon became lax.

“How long have you been Chief here?”

“Nearly five years,” was the reply.

“What rank did you hold before you came here?” The Chief hesitated and looked at the other guards before answering.

“I was...er...I was a Chief.”

Ted moved closer, his face only an inch or two away from the Chief's.

“The truth,” he said, “unless you want to die now.” The Chief squirmed uncomfortably.

“All right, I was a sergeant,” he said. Ted smiled at the man's discomfort.

“Well, from sergeant to Chief in one jump! What did you do wrong to get posted in a hellhole like this? That sounds like a demotion,” said Ted. The Chief did not answer.

“How many men do you have here?” asked Ted.

“These are the only ones here,” replied the Chief.

“Don't waste my time! I mean on the satellite. How many altogether?”

“Two hundred and fifty. They are doing their job guarding the prison and mines.”

“Get in touch with them and order them to surrender. They won't stand a chance against us. If they co-operate we won't have to kill them. All we want is some of the prisoners that you have here and then we will leave.”

Ted pulled the Chief to a communicator and pushed him down in the seat in front of it. The Chief switched on the communicator and the screen lit up. The face of a guard appeared almost at once.

“Stan, we have been attacked by the rebels. They have ordered us to surrender. Give yourselves up.” The guard on the screen nodded his head.

“Sure Chief, anything you say. We'll be ready for them and let them have what they want. I'll tell the men not to shoot.” The guard switched off and the screen went blank.

Ted frowned. It was too easy. The guard had been too ready to surrender. He had not even showed any curiosity. Ted had also noticed that there was a hand laser on the desk in front of him as he spoke. He was sure that the weapon would not have been there under normal circumstances. It could only mean that the guards had been forewarned of their presence.

 

 

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