Headless Riders

Part 1/4

The court hall teemed with life once again. Everyone gathered as the trial was about to begin. The defendants were a scout cavalry pilot and a border guard officer. Since the offenses occurred during high alert and the accused were in national service, it was considered a war trial.

Once it began, wall lamps of cold light on both sides of the hall aligned and then moved in a parabolic motion towards an elevated platform where the jury stood. The closer a lamp was to the jury’s desk, the brighter it shone, giving his silhouette an almost divine glamor and accenting the impression of the jury’s superiority. The superiority was not mistaken as the one passing judgment was no one else but commander Jared Halo himself.

Guards escorted the accused scout pilot Jaxen Sheen and border guard officer Mayah Grace to their place. Jaxen had both hands cuffed, and Mayah had only one hand immobilized since the extraction of $STAR burnt most of her other prosthetic arm. They were both dressed the same as when they left Nebliso. After getting arrested, they only had a day in prison before the trial began.

The trial setting made an overwhelming impression on Jaxen. Scout’s tired eyes and fragile mind from days without sleep made it seem like he was in a dream in which he was about to be judged by a holy entity. It took him a few moments to regain the sharpness of his mind. Mayah glanced appraisingly at their defense attorney, looking for a sign that would foretell the future. He glanced back at her with a weary and contemptuous look. Mayah realized at once that this man had no true intention of defending them. She thought he was probably just a plant set up by the jury to smoothen the process. She cursed her life in her thoughts.

Jared Halo opened the trial with formal lines. Then he read the indictment:

“Officer Mayah Grace, sergeant Jaxen Sheen, you are both accused of disregarding your duties and acting against the rules and orders.” — Halo stated. — “And above all, you are accused of treason, acting against the Guardian national interest.” — That hit the defendants hard — “You have left four border guards in a hostile territory on purpose and stole a state property of great importance.”

“Liar! We brought it to you! Damn it!” — Jaxen thought he screamed, but he intended to do so. They both had blocked speech receptors and could not say a word. He looked at their attorney with contempt, noticing a smirk on his face.

Mayah was right. Their attorney did not intend to defend them. The process was quick; soon enough, the accused were found guilty. Halo passed the final judgment stating, “The defendants shall be stripped of all their properties and released from service. The defendants shall also be banished from Guardian territory in the justice capsule.”

Jaxen would scream if he could, strained with cuffs, but he gave up on fighting.

‘Was that your intention, huh?’ — He asked planet Nebliso in his mind, which called to him not long ago on a subliminal level.

Mayah barely held her tears. She shook her head, letting only one tear drop on her metal shoulder.

The justice capsule. Some considered it already a death sentence. “The convict shall be placed in a capsule, without any means to live or other objects in possession. The convicted will be left to himself, and Guardian law no longer applies to him. The capsule shall be fired a long distance outside the Guardian territory into an uninhabited area of the galaxy. At least that’s what I remember.” — Mayah finished. Jaxen was speechless. He looked at the camera, monitoring them in their glass cell. He had a strong feeling he could feel somebody’s eyes watching them from behind that camera.

“Correct. Except you won’t be sent into an uninhabited area of the galaxy.” — Eyen Al Jabbar approached their cell.

They both shuddered with surprise. Mayah suddenly felt like she knew that man’s face. She tried to remember the familiar sharp brown eyes above an old-fashioned mustache. Eyen smiled at Jaxen’s attempts to insult him, throwing his eyes around, then focused on the ex-border guard officer.

“Commander Halo…” — started Eyen, and Jaxen wanted to spit upon hearing that name, but his mouth was dry. — “… has decided to give you yet another chance.”

Mayah narrowed her eyes. She focused on listening. ’A deal with a devil, huh?’ — She thought.

“We want you to do something for us. And… sadly, you might die in the process.” — Eyen tried to force a compassionate smile, but he managed only to make a pathetic grimace. — ”Commander offers you a mission. As you already are experts on the material you managed to extract, I reckon this task should fit you both.” — He continued. — ”Given your circumstances, I would advise accepting the offer.” — He finished with a fake smile.

Mayah felt she was close to remembering that face. She was sure it was something that happened a few years ago, not long after the end of the war with Degens. She didn’t know his name yet, but the face was difficult to forget.

“If we accept and succeed, what then?” — Jaxen asked.

“If you succeed, you will be allowed to come back. Honestly, this mission might be unpleasant. But if you bring us the results we’re counting on, you’ll get everything back, and probably even more.” — Eyen finished.

“We agree.” — Mayah answered. Jaxen looked at her, surprised.

“Thank you, miss.” — Eyen smiled. ”We’ll repair your hand before you depart.”

“Where are we going then?” — Jaxen asked, disaffected.

“Ah… Planet C’maur, your mission is to infiltrate its’ city Sonnaya and contact the commander’s old friend, a scientist named Lofros. He has valuable information on the material you found. From his notes, we deduced this was something extraordinary. But we have no contact with him anymore, so we need you to find him. We can provide you with help from a few people on our side.” — Eyen explained.

“Are you enemies with the people there?” — Jaxen asked.

“Unfortunately, yes. Guardian diplomacy wouldn’t do much there. You need to go undercover.” — Eyen answered.

“Sir Eyen…” — Mayah said, clearly surprising both men. “Please, tell us more about this planet and its people.” — She finally remembered his scenic face, acting in front of others. She used to spy on him and his people. Now she finally understood the very reason for this whole scene. It seems commander Jared Halo had many enemies within the Guardian nation after the lost war with the Degen tribes. They had to keep the material a secret to attain the edge first and eliminate the conspirators. ’Seems like I’ve just changed sides’ — Mayah thought.

‘This officer knows me… I wonder whose dog you are.’ — Eyen felt caught, then smiled politely. — “Of Course, it is almost an ancient Degen planet… But fear not, the Degens that you know are not there. This planet was abandoned and forgotten long ago, and the ones that live there don’t resemble Degens anymore. They don’t possess the warrior blood type and are completely autonomous. They don’t travel in space or even get off the ground. They are very backward. You’ll get a full debrief on your way there. Good luck!” — Eyen felt the pressure now. He never introduced himself to others except for the most trusted people. He worked in the shadows instead. Now he was anxious to know what else she might know. Eyen couldn’t help but start planning Mayah’s accident on her way back. -’Well, maybe there won’t be such a need’ — He wished.

“Oh… One more thing! I’m sorry, but since it’s a secret mission, you’ll still have to travel there in the justice cabin. We hope you understand.” — He finished, gave them a light scenic bow, turned around, and left without further delay.

“Guess we’re in luck.” — Jaxen commented.

“Nah. Our execution has been just postponed.” — Mayah replied.

On the way to Sonnaya

A heavily forested planet was clearly visible from the windows of their cabin, which was now nearly on the ground. The two undercovers would admire some of it if it weren’t for the incredible landing speed of their cabin. It looked like a meteor rushing to touch the ground, mainly because of the fire in front of it.

They crashed, devastating the surroundings and leaving no remorse for the planet’s natural soil composition. Both passengers survived only for the protective bubbles covering their bodies, which saved them from many vexations except for some turmoil in their organs. Upon exiting, they noticed, to their great surprise, that the cabin was in one piece, designed to endure such a landing. When they looked around, it seemed they had gotten into some desert. But after giving it a second look, they realized there was no sand, only dry, cracked earth and stones. They were warned they would have to hurry, so they followed the instructions left by their “employer” to cover their trails.

First, they detonated the cabin from a safe distance, leaving no trace of their arrival. Second, they followed the map’s directions leading to a static lake. It was a meeting spot with their first guide. He was a very silent degen named Bonoux. He provided them with transport across the lake and looked at them only once throughout the entire journey, remaining focused on steering the boat.

They took their moment to recap their actions. Everything was going according to the plan and on time, which gave them a bit of reassurance. Now they could finally take some time to look around. The water was puzzlingly gray, like there was barely any life left in it, and its explanation was waiting on the land. The earth that they walked upon now was parched. Its cracked and pale white look gave them the impression that it was dead for a long time or as if it wasn’t natural. There was no grass or plants, and only pines surrounded them.

“How… The water, the trees?” — Jaxen asked Mayah. She didn’t answer, although she was just as amazed and confused. Instead, she looked out for their next guide, who was said to be waiting further into the woods.

The guide found them first. Halfax. Half-machine, half-man. His eyes were replaced with an optic device, and so were all his limbs. This time their guide was a bit more talkative.

“Welcome! Eyen pets!” — He greeted them.

Mayah looked at him furiously because of the words he had just used. Then, an immediate thought came to her mind. ‘Could he also be my executioner apart from our guide?’ — She noticed that her fear of being killed due to disposing of Eyen’s identity had risen subconsciously.

Halfax looked at her. The rotation of his machine bino-eyes made an impression as he was trying to focus. “Forgive me,” — He smiled.” I’m happy you made it in time. Still, remember we’re on the run. There will be time for us to talk. But now…” — He uncovered a motor platform. “… our transport. Let’s go!” — Halfax hurried the two.

Jaxen felt anxious on their way to the city, while Mayah suspected her death from everywhere. They were both pulled out of their thoughts when suddenly they had to stop and hide.

“Who are there?’’- Mayah asked Halfax while the three were lying low in cover. They watched a group of armed soldiers on platforms similar to Halfax’s.

“Scout group. They are heading out to investigate the site of a meteor crash.” — Halfax looked at Mayah with a devilish smile, his glasses flashed. — “For these people, a cabin shot from a far galaxy, surviving a crash is unimaginable, you see. They go there in hope of finding some valuable minerals, once they get there. Now you know why you’re on the run.” — Halfax explained mockingly, smiling wide.

“You’re on the run too.” — Jaxen corrected Halfax, looking at him suspiciously since their guide still hadn’t won his trust.

Suddenly, they heard a loud, high-pitched jetbike that frightened them to death. It seemed to be coming from a mist deeper in the forest; they had never heard such an unexplainable horrific noise before.

“It seems our hunting party will have some delay.” — Halfax commented. — “Observe now, carefully!”

They could only see some foggy figures on jetbikes, but their sight, combined with the engine’s roars, was enough to make the scouts immediately turn and flee, forgetting their mission.

“They hesitated.” — Halfax thought aloud, commenting on the mysterious biker group.

“Explain!” — Mayah demanded.

“No one knows who they are or what they are. They appear, hunt down, and then vanish in a mist” — Halfax lost his humor. — ”Their motive is a mystery to us, as well. The only thing we know is not to fight with them, and that’s all I can tell.”

The rider’s horrible jet screams sounded like a haunted chant released from hell to swallow another part of their world. The three cautiously remained in cover for some time. They didn’t have to hurry, knowing that no one would search for them right, and they realized a greater threat was now in front of them.

End of part 1/4.

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Source : Polygon Medium

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