To his surprise, Forne Rako finds himself alive. He's not so sure how happy he should feel about it.




Waiting Torture

Laughter woke Forne. His muscles protested when he tried to rise. «Welcome back, hero,» someone close greeted him. It was an unexpected, familiar voice. Forne groaned and turned his head towards the sound.

«Easy.» Rank grinned into his face. He was a fellow soldier from the same combat unit. «It hurts a lot to move at first but that passes quickly.» His grin widened. «Or so I've been told.»

Forne turned to the side, pushed himself up, sucked the air in between clenched teeth. The pain really ebbed away fast. After testing each limb, he sat up on the side of his bed. He wondered what kind of grenade might have hit him. His paws were stiff but otherwise, he seemed unhurt. «Where are we?» He looked around.

The walls and ceiling were covered with softly curved plastic panels in pastel colors. It could have been a clinic anywhere, he was just missing any windows. Sleeping beds protruded from the walls in stacks of three, a ladder along the front allowed to access the higher levels. It was pleasantly warm. No one in sight wore any clothes besides tight-fitting boxers plus tube tops for the women.

«Inside one of the Haul ships,» Rank said easily and Forne flinched. «It seems they have rotating sections.»

Forne could feel the pull of gravity. He had to admit that this was a much more comfortable way to travel space. During his journey here, he'd been either zero-g sick or sick from the side effects of medication against zero-g sickness. «How many of us did they get?» When he tried to stand, he felt a stab of pain in his lower left knee.

«There are about 780 ... make that 781 ... of us here. They haven't started yet to drag someone away to have fun with 'em ... some guys think we might be lucky and sold as slaves or something.»

Following the gaze of Rank, Forne could see that a robot rolled in a stretcher with a bandaged Rabit. The limp body was placed in an empty bed and the machine left again. Forne watched the process with clenched fists. «Great. What did they do to him?»

«Who knows,» Rank said and scratched his ears.

Perry Brone appeared, spat on the ground. «Damn beasts. If there was no order to leave them alone, I'd show them ...»

Rank just shrugged. Tension was in the air.

The group leader Patricia Hames came over. «Awake again?» she greeted him, watching him intently for some reason.

Forne nodded, testing his left leg carefully. It hurt but he could stand. «I'll live.»

«You alone were brought in by at least a dozen Haul in formation.» Hames looked at him questioningly. «Any idea why?»

«Maybe he put up a big fight!» Brone said with a sneer.

In disbelief, Forne looked at Hames. «I got the VIP package? Well ... dunno ... maybe because I tried to treat the wound of that Haul. Maybe these murderers know gratitude after all?»

Nobody laughed. Hames face was carefully blank. «What happened?»

«I was shot down before I could reach ... my target,» Forne explained. Of course, everybody was curious about the new prototypes but Forne had strict orders not to talk about them. «After a few hours, the planet pulled me down. Somehow, I survived the reentry. Damn, the clouds were so thick that I couldn't see the tip of my nose! It was pure luck that I ejected before my ship crashed in some mountain peak!» He held a hand up. «Damn, I swear, if I had put out my hand just like this, I could have touched bare rock!»

Rabits were starting to gather around to hear his story. «Not a smart move at mach 10, would have had it ripped off in an instant!» A part of the audience joined in his laughter. «Next, I was soaked really good by the clouds. Woman, was I ever happy for my suit. The crap was just running down me. Then, suddenly, the view cleared and I had this huge forest below. Treetop next to treetop. You couldn't force a hair between them. Damn, I was really looking forward to cut myself out of some stupid tree. Shit. Hey, how lucky I felt when I saw this big clearing, I can tell you. Ha! It was a fucking lake! My foot went right through the thin layer of the plants on the surface! It felt like hours to get out of the mess of roots, mud and dirt and the super strong threads of the chute! I don't know which was worse to get rid off: The plants or the chute. It was perfect. Right from a movie. Without the suit, I'd be fish food.»

He was talking with his paws and feet, by now, to an ever growing audience. It was like at school when the class had been hanging on his lips. He felt the boost of the attention and his brain went into story mode, adding a few essential details here and there.

«I was sure that was the war for me. I mean who would send a team to pick up poor Forne Rako from the surface of some nameless jungle world? My ship was a landmark, so no radio with any decent range. Then, I stumbled over this capsule. I knew immediately it was Haul He generously skipped the part where he had been hiding under some bush for half an hour, too afraid to move, it would have just bored his audience.

«I pulled out my gun and sneaked closer, always looking around for some ambush. I taped a mirror to a branch so I could have a look inside without getting unnecessary holes in my head. Or ears.» He stroked over them to make the elaborate pattern shine. It had cost him a fortune but it was worth every credit he had spent. Several ladies smiled encouragingly and he flashed them a wide grin. «There was a dead Haul inside. Well, at that time, I thought he was dead. I almost jumped out of my skin when he suddenly barked at me!»

«Damn, I was shaking so bad, I feared I'd shoot my own foot!» That got him another round of laughter. All ears were on him. He bathed in the attention.

«That guy was a mess. His back was cleanly burned to the bone. Yuk. I swear, I could see his guts moving through the spine! The pain alone should have killed him but he was still alive. He begged me to help him!» Forne snorted. «He's lucky that I'm such a nice guy or I'd've stacked some more pain on him. And, would you believe that, he spoke! He spoke to me! "Help me," he begged. Help! Ha! I tied him down hard and good, so he couldn't do something stupid and put some medicine on his wounds. Never would expect that from one of them but I ain't.»

He looked at his paws. «I was just worried this goo would eat right through my gloves. Did you know they eat raw meat?» Sounds of disgust surrounded him. «No shit. There was a compartment with raw, red meat. I swear, this stuff twitched when I cut stripes from it to feed my prisoner. I hoped there was some radio in this capsule, so I could call reinforcements. Think of it: The first living Haul prisoner of the whole war! Well, provided I was fast enough. From the looks of it, my new friend wouldn't last much longer.»

He sighed and slumped on the bed, head low. «But that bastard decided to die. Just in that moment, a Haul ship came down. I tried to hide in the jungle, waiting for a chance to sneak on their ship, but these beasts hunted me mercilessly. There must have been at least a dozen of them. I could hear their howling. I ran around trees, hid in bushes, in muddy rivers but I simply couldn't shake them off. One of them tried to sneak on me. Ha! Not with me, Ma'am, no. I kicked his face in, hard and good. After that, things got worse. I tried to shoot them, but they ignored that! Just ignored it! There was this strange blue lightning when I hit them. I swear, they are using some kind of force field or something. Bullets just bounce off them. Anyway. They hunted me until I was completely exhausted. I could barely stand rather than run. I was done for. In a riverbed, I took cover to sell my fur dearly. I think I got another one of them but they threw some kind of grenade at me. I just had it, was about to throw it back, when it blew up in my paws.»

Forne leaned back.«And now, I'm here with you.» He gave his audience a vicious grin. «They bleed and they die. Don't give up all your hope, yet.»

Cheers answered him. «So what's going on around here?» he asked.

«We're waiting,» Hames told him.

«Why don't you beat the hell out of any Haul who's stupid enough to peek its ugly snout through that door?» Forne pointed his thumb at it.

«So they let their guard down,» Brone cried. «How did someone as dumb as you ever get past the recruitment office? No wonder we're loosing the war!»

Forne ignored him. Brone was an asshole, ever had been and always would be. His greatest delight seemed to be to tease others. No one liked him. At the base, his bunk had been a relatively constant target of pranks and little revenges, not all from Forne. Instead of giving him the beating he so very well deserved, Forne looked around. «They stripped us, huh?»

«Yeah,» Hames nodded. «We tried to peel some panels off the wall but its a prison even if it doesn't look like it. Covers of the air vents are strong enough to hang a FK-15 to it. No screwheads on our side anywhere. We tried the washing room, the toilets, no luck.»

«Some even played sick,» Rank snorted. «No game. They know when someone's really sick and when they act. There must be some kind of surveillance even though we can't find it.»

«Great.» Forne looked at the door. Like anyone else in the room, he knew it was only a question of time when the Haul would start to pick their prey for the perverted games these beasts probably played in their spare time.

Waiting for it would be hell.

* * *

From the background, She-captain Vera Boser had listened to Forne's report. She had noticed that the Rabit hadn't been careful with the truth. Right now, she was wondering why. 'Has he already betrayed us or is he simply exaggerating?'


What is worse? To be tortured or to wait to be tortured in a few days?


Table of Contents Last Changes Characters Places Items Wiki

Other languages: Deutsch