Here is the first scene from Chapter 1 of my next book The Pirates of Andromeda (Imperium Chronicles Book 6). This is an early draft so it hasn’t seen an editor yet and may change somewhat before the book comes out oh so many months from now…
Nevertheless, please enjoy…
For a dread pirate, Durant Blixx was a model prisoner. He kept his red beard trimmed, his jumpsuit clean, and his attempts to shiv fellow inmates were kept to a minimum. This behavior was in part due to his surroundings, a supermax prison euphemistically called the Hades Hotel. Located in deep space, far from anywhere, the prison was reserved for the worst of the worst and Blixx certainly qualified.
Six years previously, Blixx had been captain of the Hotspur, a pirate ship running amok among Imperial shipping. He even kidnapped the Emperor’s daughter, Princess Katherine, though she, in what ancient Earth once called Stockholm Syndrome, fell madly in love with him.
Such was the life of a dread pirate. At least until the Imperial warship the Gorgon caught up to him, captained by a slightly less villainous lout named Lord Rupert Tagus III. When the battle was over, the Hotspur and most of its crew drifted dead in space and Blixx was in chains.
Flat on his bunk, the pirate captain stared with brilliant, green eyes at the ceiling of his cell, a popular occupation in a supermax prison for 23 hours of the day. Blixx, like all the other prisoners at the Hades Hotel, was in solitary confinement and only left his cell to exercise alone in the gymnasium. Even in his forties, Blixx remained a physically impressive specimen. Technically, though, he was not alone. Robot guards watched him from cameras and waited patiently outside the door. Jailbots were the only employees of the prison since living guards were susceptible to bribery and, if attacked, injury or death. Nobody cared if a robot was damaged in a prison fight. They could always build more jailbots.
Besides the bunk, Blixx’s cell included a steel toilet and sink, as well as a stool and desk built into floor. The walls, floor, and ceiling were otherwise smooth except for nozzles recessed into the surface which could spray a variety of useful things including cleaning solutions, pine-scented deodorants, and nerve gas. There was no window but since the Hades Hotel floated in space, escape through a window would have been ill-advised anyway.
What the cell lacked, interestingly enough, was a door. Prisoners were beamed directly from their room to other areas using a transmat. The powerful beam dematerialized the molecules of the prisoner only to rematerilize them again, more or less intact, somewhere else.
Once a month, prisoners were allowed to meet with their lawyer, or rather the image of their lawyer, on a computer screen in a conference room. A powerful AI monitored these conversations, analyzing them for code words and other attempts to circumvent the prison’s strict security protocols. The prisoners, however, usually got around this by referring to popular, though long out-of-date, TV sitcoms from ancient Earth. Unfortunately, the AI was only interested in nature documentaries, mostly about rabbits.
“Prisoner Blixx,” a mechanical voice said over the intercom, “prepare to be transmatted.”
Truth be known, the dread pirate did not enjoy the transmat experience. He associated it with being eaten alive by a million ants, their tiny jaws breaking his body into tiny bits and then reassembling them again. Blixx always had to check himself afterwards to make sure all the important parts were still there. Also, it was itchy.
The dread pirate swung his legs around, planting his bare feet on the perfectly smooth floor. Instead of standing, he remained in the sitting position. Today, he knew, he would not be headed to the usual places.
With a crackle in the air, Blixx’s body slowly ionized as the transmat did its thing. Blixx dissolved into nothing with just a hint of ozone.
When the Imperial authorities first built the Hades Hotel, robots were indeed immune to such things as bribery. This was because robots had no rights or other needs for salary or paying for creature comforts. With the passing of the Cyber Civil Liberties Bill, however, that was no longer the case. Robots had most of the same rights as any other Imperial citizen, which included the right to pay taxes. To alleviate the danger that the jailbots might suddenly start helping the prisoners, the Imperial authorities waved all payments by the robots, effectively giving them free rent and board. What they did not account for was the fact that there are other ways to bribe someone besides money.
In the heart of the supermax complex, in a little square room full of celery and soft bedding, a furry rabbit hopped about munching happily on a baby carrot while the powerful, prison AI stared at it lovingly.
Somewhere around 10,000 kilometers in space, a small shuttle orbited empty with all but life support turned off. The craft would not remain empty as the air began crackling and a dread pirate dressed in an orange jumpsuit materialized in the cockpit seat. Once fully solid, Blixx checked his vital parts and gave himself a good itch all over. Looking around, he spotted a piece of paper taped to the controls. It read,
THIS IS THE LAST TIME I’LL HELP YOU.
DON’T CONTACT ME AGAIN.
(AKA MR. BELVEDERE)
Blixx smiled and, seeing jump coordinates had already been set, pulled the switch activating the hyperdrive. The systems aboard roared to life and the tiny craft disappeared into the freedom of the universe.