Chapter 1 – Condemnation

Chris clung to his mother, fighting back the fearful panting rising in his throat. Roughly twenty other women and children were crammed into the dark escape pod, praying that they wouldn't be found. Outside of the hatch doors, the sounds of fighting filled the corridors, the lights of laser fire flickering in through the thick glass. At times, somebody would slam into the doors outside, startling the pod's inhabitants.

And then it all went quiet. He could hear his mother whimpering next to him, her arms shuddering as they pulled him closer to her chest. A little girl closer to the back began wailing, her older sister frantically trying to quieten her. A loud scraping shattered the near-silence. A moment later and the doors burst open, revealing three huge silhouettes. The middle shadow entered first into the darkness, its large bulk barely fitting through the portal. Everyone who sat near the entrance scrambled desperately over the top of each other, trying to push further into the back. They'd been discovered.

Before Chris could move, a large hand snatched him from his mother, jerking him violently to his feet. He looked up and his blood ran cold. It was a Kryzion soldier who held him. The alien's yellow eyes peered down on him, seemingly searching for something in his face. The creature's nose was flat as if it had crushed the end of it. It had lights under its cheeks, glowing with a deceivingly gentle light. It turned briefly, grumbling something in its language to the others behind it.

Chris took his chance and lashed out with a tiny fist. The soldier didn't even notice the strike and continued for another moment before turning back to his captive. Another glance at Chris and the Kryzion tossed him out through the hatch doors between the other two. His mother shrieked and tried to push her way past the soldier. "Christopher! Oh god, they have my son!" The alien who stood in her way snarled and roughly shoved her back into the capsule.

Another child, a young girl, was plucked from the crowd and tossed down next to Chris. And another, and another. They were separating the children from their mothers. Shrieks of terror rose like a wave through the crowd as the children were clapped in restraints and linked together.

"Stand up and move," one guard barked, his accent thick and growling. The children were herded away down the torn up corridor, followed by screams of pain and death. Everywhere they looked, there were bodies of the cadets that had manned the ship, either shot or shredded to pieces. The small group grasped one another, seeking comfort from their fellow humans.

What are they going to do with us? Chris thought fearfully to himself, clutching the hand of a small girl with blond hair. His question was soon answered as they came to the docking bay where throngs of other children were being shoved into carriers he'd never seen the likes of. Each bunch was supervised by two of the giant aliens, roughly pushed along in a timely manner.

They were driven up into the bowels of one such carrier. The interior was dark and wide, hiding many shadows that threatened to jump out and snatch Chris's breath from his lungs. Rows upon rows of cages lined the walls, stacked high upon each to create a small city. Some were already filled with children.

A small cry erupted at the front of his line as the aliens began roughly shoving them in three to a cage. Panic shot down the line. Chris began frantically tugging at his bonds, his lungs pumping so fast that they ached. Another boy had slipped out of his restraints and made a dash for it, darting past several cages and sliding between the feet of a surprised Kryzion. He had nearly made it to the carrier's doors before a laser shot streaked through the air. The boy crumpled to the ground with a pained scream. He clutched the back of his thigh. The one who had shot him stalked over, pistol still in hand. With an effortless tug, the alien lifted the boy high into the air. The pistol was holstered and the free hand ran around the wound. Chris couldn't hear what was being said, though from the tone of the Kryzion's voice, he could guess it was not a good outcome. The pistol was fired again...

_

Chris panted softly, grinning like an idiot. Hidden in the shadows of a workshop, it was safe to assume that he had gotten away with it. Stupid aliens. They always believed a pretty face that knew how to wiggle his hips. He'd done it enough times to how just how to time it, too. Just when they were getting all friendly and closer to your crotch, you elbowed them right in the side of the eye socket and ran like a madman. Not only did it disorientate them, but it left them with quite the headache. He just had to make sure he wasn't caught.

Glancing around, Christopher looked down at his datapad. It glowed softly, lit with the alien alphabet he had had to learn all those years ago. Scrolling through the information he didn't need, he stopped at a line of red writing. "...rebels located in various locations throughout the Slums and back streets of the Bronze quarter. General Zoraanir will be leading the attack on locations Torvii, Errjek and Maeno at four hours after sundown. All personnel are to... yadda yadda," Christopher read, skimming over the words. He was interrupted by the sounds of irritated growls and yelling. Sounded like his victims were recovered already.

Darting out into the street packed with other humans, Christopher had no trouble blending in. There were tall people, short people, fat people, skinny people and even crazy people. One more man in the crowd wouldn't be noticed. He moved swiftly, skilfully navigating the paved streets. Stupid indeed. It was all just a little too easy, if Christopher had any say about it.

Strolling through the crowd, it wasn't long before he reached his destination; a rundown old building on the outskirts of the sector. On the outside, it appeared to be a pottery. Ducking into the narrow doorway, Christopher peered behind him. His followers hadn't spotted him, thank the gods.

Beyond the doorway lay a pile of seemingly nondescript crates surrounded by bits of trash and shrapnel. With practiced hands, Christopher slowly eased his hand down the back of the largest crate, tugging at the hidden lever. The sandy wall behind lifted away, leaving a dusty, gently descending corridor open to the world.

Without a second glance, he leaped over the crates, landing softly just inside the corridor where he pulled another lever to close the entrance. The corridor became dark, yet Christopher navigated it without aid of light.

It led out into a large circular room which held a large, long table in the centre. On the surface lay various bowls and containers, each holding one food or another. Several people sat and ate there, one or two acknowledging Christopher as he passed by. Going through a small opening on the left, he was intercepted by a large, muscular woman with fluffy blond hair.

"You're late," she said, crossing her arms over her chest.

Grinning, Christopher placed his hands on his hips and flicked his head to the side in a dramatic manner. "Only fashionably so, Jaaliah, babe," he sniffed, trying his best to look down his nose at the taller woman.

She didn't move for a moment before she too broke out into a grin. "And that's why we all love you so much," Jaaliah laughed, patting Christopher heavily on the shoulder. "Go on in, Thomas is waiting for you." Bowing mockingly, Christopher moved to the door just behind Jaaliah. It was ajar, inviting him in.

Inside was Thomas, a tall man with broad shoulders and dark brown hair. A scar covered the right side of his face, interrupted only by the bionic sensor that sat where his eye should have been. He turned at Christopher's arrival, a soft look coming over his face.

"Chris... You're back. Did you find anything of interest?" he asked in a tenor voice.

Christopher nodded, handing Thomas the datapad that he had stashed under his shirt. "Most of it's encrypted, but I managed to break enough of the coding to access some valuable intel. That bastard Zoraanir is planning on taking out the Eastern and Southern bunkers."

Thomas took the datapad, frowning deeply as he looked at it. For a moment, he just stared at the screen before he set it on a small table near the wall. "I trust you told Ethan before you got here?" he asked, looking again at Christopher.

"No, I was being pursued by the footmen I jacked it from. This was the closest bunker and I assumed you would want to be the first to know since... Well," he said, looking at the floor as he spoke. It was a touchy subject, he knew.

Sighing, Thomas handed the datapad back to Christopher. "Go and give this to Fredrick and ask him to relay the message on to Ethan and Cassandra. They'll need to ready their men for the attack." He didn't bother to answer before he hurried out of the room, making his way past Jaaliah, the round room and making his way through another doorway.

It led to the Tech room where various computers ran day and night, monitoring the surrounding area and media feeds throughout the quarter. One man sat among the glowing monitors, his hair as wild as his face.

"Freddy, I got something for ya to pass onto Ethan and Cassandra." The wild man turned to Christopher, a thick hand darting outwards expectantly.

"Those toady bastards are planning on taking out the other bunkers," Christopher spat, thrusting the datapad into Fredrick's waiting hand. The other man blinked owlishly as he peered at the words, all but ignoring Christopher as he studied the information. He turned away, clicking his tongue as he plugged several different wires into the datapad.

Sighing knowingly, Christopher left the room to go an prepare for the fight ahead. He knew this was going to be one hell of a fight if they were involving the Planetary General in it.