“Ain’t sorry for what I’ve ever done. For those who died to help, but never what happened next.”- Mason Lecroix
Mason Lecroix stared out of the bars of a small cell. The energy field surrounding it shimmering in dim light. On the other side stood two guards with broad smiles crossing over broken teeth.
“Any last request?” said the smaller of the two Mason came to know as Tyrel.
“Nope, just ready to get this charade over with,” said Mason with a nod towards the two men.
“You sure are quick to get your neck stretched. Any particular reason for it?” said Roger, the second of the guards. The smarter one from what Mason could tell.
“Just ain’t long on wasting time with ya all,” said Mason his voice calm and steady despite the situation he now found himself in.
“In that case this is your lucky day,” said Roger the grin on his face growing as he nodded to someone unseen behind dark windows.
It was time. At least once a day the same sort of thing happened. Some poor sap got led down the hall never to return. This morning they were starting early. He was to be the first. Most likely not the last though. What got too him was the lack of a good breakfast. Too late to ask for a final meal.
Before the thought even fully escaped his mind the energy field shimmered one final time before dropping. The two guards smiled even more. Mason shrugged before turning his back to the men. Just like the last few times they lowered the shield, soon he’d be cuffed. All because these fool Terrans wanted to get greedy. A few thousand creds to cost a man his life. Damn bounties. He was Velothian, which thanks to the Terran government, meant he was also enemy number one. They didn’t consider he was there because someone in Ranger command thought he could save them from the native inhabitants.
The rusted creaking of the cell door swinging wide brought his attention back to the present. Two sets of rough, calloused hands forced his arms behind him. Mason didn’t bother to resist. If he did things would start to get rough. Which wasn’t how he wanted things to end. All too often in his line of work folks died because of stupidity. These two would be no exception.
“They gonna have a preacher there?” said Mason doing his best to make small talk on what was bound to be his last walk.
“Do Velothians even worship God?” asked Tyrel with a questioning look towards Roger.
“Everyone worships God,” said Roger his attention solely focused on the task of securing the magcuffs to Mason wrists.
“Velothians aren’t really alive though… are they?” said Tyrel with a child like innocence Mason found more than a bit annoying.
“Wouldn’t be much use in hanging me if I weren’t,” said Mason jerking suddenly as Roger spun him around by the cuffs.
“Huh?” said Tyrel obviously not seeing the connection.
Mason didn’t bother to respond. Instead he let his words sink into the small mass between Tyrel’s ears. Quietly the three strolled down the hallway. Not even the loud obnoxious deviants in cells to either side chose that time to talk. They knew where he was headed. To the end of the hall and the gallows waiting for him there. No doubt the sheriff would be there too. The weasel of a human who Ranger command called a six-time strikeout. It had been his job to bring the scumbag to justice. Now, if their plan went as they wanted, justice would have to fall on someone else’s shoulders.
The nearly white patch on his forearm where an interface usually sat itched annoyingly. That interface was his only lifeline to those who could rescue him from certain death. Without it there was little he could do in the way of resisting. Yet still he felt phantom vibrations pulsing down his arm. Usually the soft buzz signaled an incoming com. Not this time though.
Down the hall the three walked. Every eye turned to regard the small parade. Some would be happy to see him go. Others merely looked on at the fate that would soon find them as well. In short order it would all be over. With a short drop and sudden stop ending any worry he had.
A grim resolve filled his chest as they approached the slowly opening door leading to the gallows. Inside everything was dark. It made him think of walking into death’s uncaring maw. Gone were the nervous twitches and wonder of the last few days. In their place only a cold peace remained. No longer would he be plagued by wanting to hold Elissa one last time. His heart thundered harder the closer he drew to the room. At least there was no chance of Jessica having to see his fate. She was with the governor, her new lover, safe with the rest of his ragtag band of Velothians.
“Bet you wished for a last request now,” said Tyrel laughing as he nudged a hesitant Mason into the darkness.
“Nope, all I want is a tad bit of peace from ya,” said Mason looking over his shoulder at a red-faced Tyrel.
“It will come soon enough,” said Roger holding his partner’s temper in check with a simple phrase.
“Not soon enough!” said Tyrel slamming his shoulder into Mason’s strong back.
Mason felt the smaller man stumble back as he planted his feet to absorb the blow. A small grin began to creep across his lips at the sound of Tyrel cursing his name. It was small satisfaction. The last he was likely to get. Roger had it right when he said things would be ending shortly. For him it was too little too late. Things never went easy. Not since his father died at the hands of hired thugs some twenty years ago. Since then things always seemed to go from bad to worse. Now he was headed to a death few folks wished to experience. One he sent more than a few men too as well.
Another push into the pitch black room. Mason stumbled his way forward. Is one illum-lamp too much to ask for? For the Terrans it appeared to be. One foot in front of the other he felt his way across what seemed to be a large room.
His bare foot struck something solid. Wooden from the feel of the splinter slipping into the soft skin of his toe. Mason winced at the sudden sting. For once he was glad for the darkness. Showing weakness in front of enemies wasn’t exactly high on his list of things to do. A hand pulled back on the cuffs. His shoulders followed the hard jerking motion. Before he could find his balance, another yank sent him tumbling backwards onto a hard permacrete floor.
“On your feet!” said Tyrel using the darkness as an excuse to plant a boot solidly in Mason’s ribs.
Mason grunted as pain flooded his mind. Anger began to seep into his pores. He looked up. Two small green dots caught his eye. The guards were wearing infra specs. At least they could see. Then again most small time planets couldn’t afford the specs that automatically adjusted. Depth perception was another drawback. Cheaper night specs didn’t have any. With a gasp of too short breath he rolled onto his side. Knees bent to get himself into position. A scowl crossed his face as he heard Tyrel suck in a deep breath. The man was getting ready to kick him again.
“Here let me help ya up,” said a heavily accented voice from the darkness.
A strong, steady hand latched vice-like on his bicep. While at the same time a small metal wire slipped into his palm. Mason quickly closed his hands into a fist. There was no use in letting the guards see what was happening.
“Leave the prisoner where he is. We aren’t done with our fun yet,” said Tyrel moving suddenly causing a gust of breeze to wash over Mason.
“Ya ain’t gonna torture a man already condemned to die are ya?” said the man.
“What we do isn’t any of YOUR concern executioner,” said Roger moving somewhere behind Mason.
“Yeah, all you got to do is pull that switch of yours when we tell you too,” said Tyrel.
Without bothering to respond, Mason felt the executioner easily hoist him to his feet. The next second he found himself being hurriedly led up a flight of wooden stairs. Each step sent a new splinter piercing the sole of his foot. This time he didn’t bother to make a sound. His silent pain only serving to fuel the anger burning in his veins. He wanted to make Tyrel pay. To get revenge for all the hell they were putting him through. For some reason the man was wearing a helmet. An odd thing. Almost too much for him to think it mere coincidence.
“Get on with it will you,” said a voice Mason knew well from a speaker somewhere nearby.
A rough textured rope slipped over Mason’s neck to rest lightly on taut shoulders. It was now or never. Mason shifted the wire in his hand until it hovered close to the metallic cuffs. Light instantly flooded the room giving him the briefest glance at a row of faces leering at him from behind a shielded window. He took a glance over his shoulder to see the guards struggling to tear blinded night specs from their eyes. Each carried a holstered pistol on a hastily assembled duty belt.
He felt a heavy hand lay on his shoulder was the executioner said; “Do you repent for what you’ve done?”
“Not a second of it,” said Mason flexing his hand to touch wire to cuff.
A spark and the smell of ozone washed over Mason. The guards still struggled with their too tight specs while a gasp escaped from those witnessing behind the shielded window. Before he could move the room was cast into utter darkness once again. Beside him he felt the executioner move and a sudden crash as the trap door he stood on swung violently open.