Chapter 3: Execution
Time passed slowly within the confines of the tiny cell. Ashleigh found herself struggling to sleep, her mind too full of thoughts of the execution and what would happen. She was familiar with the DREAM system; she had watched countless executions for treason, terrorism and other such crimes against the state. DREAM, or Daydream and Reality Enhancement and Amalgamation Machine, was designed to facilitate the humane execution of criminals. The victim in question would be given local anaesthetic to dull the pain, then a hole would be drilled into his or her skull, a small wire was then inserted into the brain, and linked to the area that stimulated dreams at night time. A small tube was then plugged into the brain as well, it was placed within the motion cortex, meaning motion would be the first to go. The victim was then told to choose where they wanted to be, to think about it, and focus on it. When a strong charge was applied to the dream centre the victim would be thrown into a dreamlike state, where they were awake, but unaware of it, simply dreaming. The second tube was then used to pump a lethal toxin into the brain. This meant the victim died happy and peaceful. Due to the voyeuristic nature of humans however, she knew for a fact that the victims dream was recorded from their brain like a movie, and broadcast onto a large tv screen so that the audience could enjoy the victims dream.
Ashleigh sighed softly, and wrapped an arm around Sven, he stirred and rolled over to face her, the lights were never turned off in their cell, just kept at a constant dim level. He stared into her eyes and gently rubbed a hand along her back, reassuring her.
“Hey, trouble sleeping? Listen it is going to be ok, we will get through this, somehow.”
“I want to believe you Sven… I do. I want to think that it is all going to be ok and we will be going home tomorrow… but I just can’t, not with the reality of our situation setting in on me like this… I’m terrified of the dream system… not because I will die, but because before I die, people will see my dreams… the one secret I get to keep for myself… on display for everyone.”
“Ashleigh, it is going to be fine, just relax, come, get some sleep, you need to rest, it is our big day tomorrow.” Sven forced a smile for her, he had to admit he was nervous too but he had to keep up appearances for Ashleigh, he had to make this as easy on her as possible. He lay there with her, holding her comfortingly as she drifted slowly off to sleep.
The next day was D-day. One of the soldiers deactivated the energy barrier to their cell and tossed a simple jumpsuit at the pair of convicts.
“Put that on then get up and come with us, don’t try anything funny or you know what will happen.” The guard waved his rifle about menacingly. The captives simply nodded and stood, pulling the jumpsuits on and then following the guard as he marched them through the drab grey halls. At the end of their journey they entered an auditorium, much like a large concert hall, however on the stage in the centre of the room, there was a table set up, along with a series of bags and the head surgeon was standing beside this table, an almost gleeful look on his face. The seats within the auditorium were filled to capacity with people. The government officials had the prime seating around the edges of the rings, the diplomats were seating in the second tier with the military brass. Then soldiers and citizens of the TEC were spread out in the higher tiers. It seemed over 2000 people had turned out to watch the execution, It received media coverage like no other execution ever had. This was the execution of traitors who had ruined the entire relationship with the Vasari people, prolonging the war between their species.
The captives were then stood on the stage, beside the table, the announcer climbed onto the stage with a microphone; these executions were as much a stage show as they were a serious event.
“Good evening ladies and gentlemen, as you well know you have all turned out tonight to witness the execution of a pair of traitors who have consigned our race to continue a war we had very nearly ended!” A resounding boo rose up from the crowd surrounding the stage. “As is customary of these executions, each of the victims will receive one final request. Personally I think they shouldn’t receive anything at all but hey, let’s hear them out. Sven Hassen!” The announcer stepped fluidly to stand beside Sven and held the microphone to his face. “What is your final request Sven?” Sven stopped to consider, and cast his gaze towards Ashleigh; he took in the terrified look in her eyes, the dark circles beneath them from the lack of sleep. He could not help but see how hard this was for her, and he cared for her.
“My only request, is that I go first.” Sven stood resolutely, his face betraying little emotion, he was ready for this, he had prepared for it.
“I see I see, then Sven you shall have your request. Climb up onto the table and we will begin.” A resounding cheer rose from the audience, it was finally time for their voyeuristic sadism to be fulfilled. Ashleigh squeezed Svens hand one last time before letting it go so he could do as commanded, the look on her face now a mixture of sadness and a small hint of… calmness, she wouldn’t have to be executed first, but then, she didn’t want to let Sven go. He was the best co-pilot she had ever had, and she knew she would never find another like him.
“Shuttle Vandaris, you are clear for landing, Approach on vector two zero niner. Docking control will activate the tractors and guide you in.”
“Roger that Tower 2, proceeding to the designated docking pattern now.” The small trader shuttle dropped into the designated position and shut down its main engine then drifted calmly into the hangar and set down smoothly on the floor. As the ramp dropped nobody exited the ship.
“Good to see you again Vandaris, what cargo have you brought for us today?” Docking control came over the ships intercom. Still nobody could be seen leaving the ship. “Shuttle Vandaris, respond.” Still nothing but silence. “Shuttle Vandaris is still not responding, dispatch security team bravo to investigate.” Within the rec room an alarm sounded and security team bravo was summoned to the hangar area, as soon as they were armed and armoured they headed for the hangar as fast as they could run, then once there, they lifted their standard issue X564 Infantry Assault weapons. The standard issue rifle of the TEC infantry, and slowly approached the ship at a crawl.
“Shuttle Vandaris this is your final warning. Respond immediately or we will force entry” The leader of the security team warned the shuttle one last time. As the security team inched forward up the ramp. There was a deafening scream and a blinding white light and then, nothing.
The small team of six men sat around the small table in the crew quarters inside the Vandaris. The atmosphere was solemn, tense. Each man was reassembling his weapons and counting his ammunition and preparing for the task that lay ahead. This was no gung-ho guns blazing raid. This was a surgical strike at the heart of everything they hated, an act of terrorism like no other.
“The charge is set Sir, we will be able to leave, but as soon as anyone steps aboard, the ship will go up like a light. Given the response time of the security teams, we will be well clear of the blast.”
“Excellent work O’Malley. Now men I know we are walking into a dangerous situation and you know I would not ask you to do anything I would not. If even one part of this plan goes wrong, we could find ourselves all put to death for treason. More than likely jettisoned from an airlock. This is it men. Lock, load and check your stealth gear, it will make things easier for us and will cover us from the enemy eyes and cameras. But remember it is a prototype and we have no idea how well it will behave.” A resounding Oorah rose from the men as they took up position at the exit ramp, each one pressed a small button on his belt and disappeared from view. The ramp hissed down and each man leapt to the sides and disappeared down a corridor before the ramp had even touched the ground. The layout of the star base was fairly well known to them, they had been practicing on a mock-up of the argonev back on Gemani. Each man split off and moved with a purpose to the assigned area, their stealth field prototypes holding up well. When the ship exploded the whole base shuddered violently and klaxon alarms sounded, red warning lights flashed and security and damage control teams were screaming through the base to the large hole in the side. The emergency bulkheads had sealed off the area, but on the other side of them lay the charred and sparking remains of what was once a loading dock. The whole area was now nothing more than a smoking hole exposed to the vacuum of space. Each of the 6 men arrived in their various locations. One placed his discreet charge on the underside of a computer terminal located within the central control cluster of the entire base; one attached his to the humming wall of a generator room. The third and fourth each placed their charges on the various panels that controlled the production facilities. One more placed his charge directly on the shield generator and the sixth man snuck into the ammunition stores for the entire south face of the ship.
The six men then regrouped at a supply closet around 700 meters away from the northen hangar. As they slipped inside one by one they flicked off their stealth gear, pleased it had held up thus far, although they had noted a marked increase in the temperature of the battery packs, the sound of someone talking through a loudspeaker could be heard, but it was muffled and difficult to understand.
“All charges placed Sir, we have five minutes to evacuate.” The sergeant was silent, simply staring at the wall. “What is it Sir?” O’Malley asked. “Sir?”
“That loudspeaker… They’re performing an execution. I checked at who was up for the block… Ashleigh Johansson.”
“Sir we could use someone like her in our ranks. It could really demoralize the loyalists too. We have to rescue her Sir”
In the auditorium Sven had climbed onto the table and the hole had been drilled into his head, the tubes attached and the charge applied. Sven lay motionless before the crowd, his body in an almost catatonic state. It was then that the massive TV screen lit up. A bright sunset came into view, and in front of it, Sven stood, staring into the sunset. The camera saw things through his eyes, as he wanted them to be, the dream was lucid and so he could control it.
“Ashleigh. Commadore. I don’t have a lot of time left, So I want to tell you this, and I want you to see me when I do.” Sven dreamed a camera into existence, and set it up to aim at his face, the TV screen view changed to the perspective of the camera and Sven came into view. “Ashleigh, we have been shipmates for several years now, we grew up together in the military and frankly, I doubt I would have made it through without you. Heh remember that one time we threw grenades out the air lock? Good times. Well Ashleigh I think my time is almost up, so I have just one more thing I want to say before I go. You may not have noticed it, but I have tried to keep it secret in the efforts of professionalism. Ashleigh Johansson my Commodore, my friend. I love you; given different circumstances I would ask you to marry me. Although being in the current predicament. I suppose I shall have to settle for this moment. Take this with you into the afterlife…” Sven leaned forward and placed a soft kiss on the camera lens before stepping back to the edge of the cliff, becoming nothing more than a silhouette in the sun. “I will be waiting for you Ashleigh.” With that the shadow faded. Svens body fell completely still, his body ceased all functions, his eyes rolled back in his head and the surgeon officially pronounced him dead. A resounding cheer filled the room. Every single person was cheering and applauding his death, except one, a lone girl who had slumped to her knees, broken, defeated and now, about to face the block herself.