Chapter 1: Double standard

Jan 4th midnight

The pipes and ducts of Monarch 3 were flowing with more than air that night. The life giving veins of the vessel had been infiltrated by the animal whom only hours prior had been Lieutenant James Klemin. Now the smaller man was reduced to a twitchy, self assuring wreck of torn clothes and stitches. He'd stumbled upon the medical bay quite by accident, as if his body knew the way and what it needed. The Lieutenant had gathered for himself several gauzes, a mirror and the self stitching medical ointments he'd once thought pointless on such a 'baby-proof' vessel. Now safely tucked away in the medical bay air ducts Klemin had time to lick his wounds and settle his rampant mind and dizzy stomach. He tasted bile in the back of his throat as he hung back his head; his own scent in such tight quarters was enough to make him nauseous and to give him a rather substantial head ache.

James old boy, He thought. What sort of mess have you gotten into now? There was no escaping it, not even if he had killed the witnessing engineer, no, then there would be only more blood upon his hands. There was no concealing a murder like the one he'd committed, not with the cameras, not with Monarch 3 in constant surveillance, not with the remote alarm the Captain had set off. You will receive justice indeed, Captain. And swiftly if Klemin knew anything about those he worked with, and he did. There would be every justification to be made to the planetary court if James Klemin was simply disposed of, every justification if the Lieutenant was released into the icy grasp of space, those unforgiving blackened hands, shot out of the safety of Monarch 3's arms, shoved away from the warmth and comfort of her thick built proof walls and temperature controlled bedrooms. Albeit Klemin knew he would never get off so simply, without bodily harm, he had meddled with the wrong group of dedicated loyalists; the lions might prove more merciful. There would be vengeance before he was given over to the eternal night of the new frontier. There was only one choice left, to run and keep running. If Klemin could reach the escape pods that grew out of Monarch 3's curved sides like flowers just before blossom, if he could reach the safe haven that a 9 by 12ft daughter of Monarch 3 could offer then maybe, just maybe he could escape the event entirely unscathed, and return to some unaware planetary body, perhaps start over. No one would question the disappearance of Monarch 3 until it was far too late, until the events that enfolded there were obliterated along with the living members of the lonely vessel. By that time there would be little to do but blame the captain, ship off a list of the lost and build the much anticipated Monarch 4.

Nothing to be done. Not one bit of difference if I do not, other than me dyeing along with the others, dyeing with the ship. Those smart enough will realize what is going on and flee; anyway, those left knew the risks. Although mutiny wasn't in the job description or the insurance sign off, these men and women weren't trained to react on the account of mutiny. Nothing to be done. They knew the risk. What do they matter really anyway, in the long scheme of things?

A sound stirred Klemin from his partial sleep: a slight pitter patter from farther up the air ducts. Klemin blinked several times, readjusting to reality though still dazed from his brief nap. He checked his wrist watch a moment, squinting his eyes at the roman numerals and tiny ticking hands of the clock face, 1:30. Klemin thought back to his schedules, 1:30 was the time for a mechanical surveillance sweep. The clatter of the tiny spider-like robotic scanners had often waked Klemin from late night shifts or worse, from his free night resting periods. The tiny arachnid guards had always seemed obsolete and only ever seemed to discover dust clutters, but tonight they were death on eight mechanical legs, blood hounds on a fox hunt. Klemin slowly got to his feet despite his body screaming for him to flee, he needed to insure no sound reached the recording or else he might as well reveal himself to the security crew personally. He had to be wise about this; he needed to get behind it, onto its already cleared path.

The ex-Lieutenant carefully positioned his hands upon the chilled metallic walls, lifting himself off the ground a moment so he could position his feet also, suspending himself along the walls of the tunnel. If it was as simple as to remain there he could have stayed there hours, but avoiding the monitor required Klemin to silently scuttle along above the constantly searching device while it was scanning the lower quarter of the air duct. He began moving, but at too slow a pace, all the while holding his breath which strained his cramping muscles. As he reached the section the dreaded machine was observing he nearly lost his footing, his work shoes supplied no griping on the slick metallic ducts, forcing Klemin to tilt his ankles awkwardly to their sides so that the sheer force applied along with the grip that his hands supplied kept him on the wall. Just as the device began scanning up the side of the tunnel Klemin's sweating palms at last slipped from their grip, both almost simultaneously, making the man fall directly on top of the machine. With an awful crunch and screech of stressed robotic joints, Klemin had managed to set off yet another alarm. It's been a fair run. Klemin struck his head down on the metallic floor of the duct in frustration before again getting to his feet, taking off running best he could in the tight space up the air ducts.

Up ahead was an exit shaft, leading into one of the many small bedrooms in which the various living components of Monarch 3 slept, bathed and dressed. With little effort Klemin was able to remove the barricade from the duct's floor, opening up for him the passage into a 9 by 12 foot living quarter. Klemin observed momentarily from his perch in the ducts before lowering him self to the wooden floor below, there he came face to face with the black eye of the barrel of a gun. He slowly lifted his hands to express his surrender and to show the worker behind the gun that he was unarmed. The young man hiding behind his gun was unfamiliar to Klemin, perhaps a janitor or even a member of those in transportation.

The stranger scanned the Lieutenant from head to toe, all the while not moving the aim of the gun from Klemin's head; perhaps the boy was also unfamiliar with him.

"Lieutenant." The stranger sounded rather surprise, noticing the high ranking clothing Klemin bore, albeit torn and dirty. Klemin could play this perhaps to his advantage. "Affirmative." He spoke sternly. "Lower your weapon solider." He commanded, slipping into his authority like a familiar set of sheets. The stranger hesitated, his green eyes darting over the Lieutenant's expression. "That was an order." The Lieutenant stated, keeping his voice calm enough to seem in charge yet loud enough to be threatening, though the young solider seemed in no rush.

The stranger took in one more moment of power, perhaps to exercise his dominance before lowering his weapon. He waited a moment more, staring directly into the Lieutenant's dark eyes; he then returned the gun to its slot on his left side. "What's happened?" The stranger questioned, but Klemin remained silent, removing a set of hand-cuffs from his torn coat's pocket.

"You're under arrest for threatening a superior." Klemin claimed, snapping shut one of the cuffs around the stranger's wrist, although the solider didn't seem to oppose, Klemin had no righteous claims against him considering he'd broken into his room, if anything Klemin was at fault. "What's your name?" The ex-Lieutenant questioned, confiscating the stranger's weapon, it would be useful later on, as would the solider.

"Salem Melech." He answered. The young passenger of Monarch 3 seemed perhaps in his early thirties or late twenties, his light brown hair showing no signs of his age and his complexion no wrinkles. His green eyes were wide and intelligent, albeit a bit sunken in his face. His countenance showed his maturity yet expressed his youthful vibrancy, cleanly shaven and glowing with health, unlike the Lieutenant whom was graying around the edges and wrinkling around the eyes. "Your first time aboard Mr. Melech?" Klemin began making his way toward the exit, keeping the claimed weapon in hand.

"Third." Answered the solider.

"It will be your last if we don't make it to the escape pods." Klemin offered a crooked grin. "You will be my escort." With that the two exited the room into the main halls.