Deep in a canyon on a lifeless moon orbiting the planet Khom’no a small freighter comes to a landing in a hanger bay. The room seems just as desolate as the moon outside. There are two other craft, one a small fighter, the other a larger transport ship. The lights are a dim red illumination; the two men piloting the freighter can hardly be seen unloading their cargo. They remove two large containers and promptly proceed into the hallway with them. Moments later, as the rattle of the containers moving further and further away dies in the distance of the long dark hall, a pair of glowing eyes emerge from the freighter.
Moving about slowly on all fours, tail pointed skyward, the creature moves slyly about the hanger bay. After a careful examination of his surroundings, he enters the hallway and begins to explore the complex maze of halls, tunnels, storage rooms, quarters and assorted other rooms. He will be here four days before he makes his presence known. His anger burns deep, but his patience simmers like a fine sauce over a low fire and helpings will be served slowly to whom ever stands in the way. The next four days he bides his time, watching carefully the comings and goings of the more than two-dozen operatives and twenty or more assorted slaves and hired support staff that occupies the facility.
Day 1 Reconnaissance
After giving himself a stealthy tour of a portion of the facility, the intruder is able to steal a communicator and data book from a lackadaisical agent who feel asleep at his post; with the assistance of a sedative tipped dart. Now holding a map of the facility, he uses the duct system, and a bit of trickery to maneuver from one section to another. Watching carefully who is posted where, who is alert and who isn’t, he takes in as much information as he can, carefully planning his attack. Since the facility is on a moon with no atmosphere, the only people expected to be seen in its halls are Bith’s agents and the staff that supports them.
Rumor has it that Bith, the reclusive ruler of an entire system, hasn’t left the facility in years, choosing to stay home and enjoy the fruits of his agent’s labor. With usurpers within his own ranks and angry citizens in nearly every settlement in his dominion, Bith avoids putting himself in danger by making public appearances. His main gallery as he calls it, where Bith meets with his troops, prisoners, victims and consorts is a huge room with a raw rock face ceiling featuring a multitude of stalactites jutting toward the floor. The walls are draped with bright red tapestries, covering steel plating and the occasional outcropping of rock. Certain parts of the tapestries dance about from the air vents hidden behind them. When you enter the room through the huge ornately carved double doors, you are immediately greeted by the stirring of large carnivorous worms in a huge glass tank to the left of the doors. The floor is covered in a series of decorative rugs of a multitude of gaudy colors and designs, but they stop long short of two large tables on either side of an open walk way, filling the space just before the steps that lead up to the mantle where Bith sits and holds court.
While the entirety of the facility seems vast, it is only two levels deep, but the extra wide halls and excessively high ceilings make it seem far larger than it really is. The lower level is situated around the hanger bay and consists mostly of storage; armaments, goods/ collected taxes, supplies of food, linens and other such domestic items, the section farthest from the hanger, beyond the kitchen, with its raw rock walls and poor ventilation and low lights is the brig. The living quarters of servants and entertainment along with the offices of the higher ranking members of Bith’s private security are also on the lower level.
The upper level holds more offices, Bith’s library and gallery as well as assorted sleeping quarters for crewmen, agents and other varied lackeys and muscle. There is only one elevator in the entire place; it goes from the kitchen to the hallway outside the gallery. As he gets acquainted with the twists and turns of the hallways and passages the intruder finds himself in the most important room in the entire facility; the engine room, housing the fusion generator and the air treatment systems that make the facility livable. The room is loud and dark, it doesn’t seem like anyone had been in there for quite some time. Here he would make his camp, and prepare his attack. Safe from the generator itself, which is in a separate cave open to space near the hanger entrance, he is only bothered by the constant roar of the air treatment equipment constantly drawing air in, and pumping it back out.
The doors are locked from the outside so he must continue to use the gusty air ducts to move about, timing his movements with the ebb and flow of the fresh and steal air. Using his stolen data book, he is able to gain limited control of the airflow, allowing him to direct the air away from where he was moving. Slipping into the kitchen after the staff had gone for the night, the intruder absconds with a cache of rations to keep him during his stay; to maintain his anonymity, he leaves portions of what he is taking in the quarters of a pair of patsy agents, who also happen to work at maintaining proper power and airflow. The result being, while he eats his fill and conspires to sack the facility these two are blamed for both the missing food and the malfunctioning airflow and power. His belly filled and his foils framed the treacherous interloper returns to his roost to rest for the coming engagement.
Day 2 Sewing Discord
After years of living on the edge of existence, constantly just a moment away from the next confrontation; the intruder is accustomed to living on little sleep. So after just a few brief hours of rest, he is back on the prowl, reaching the gallery just in time to see his patsies being prosecuted for stealing food. Just as Bith is about to hand down punishment, he triggers a flickering of the lights in the Gallery, sparing their lives and further enraging the ill-tempered, self appointed Lord of Inota.
The men are sent scurrying off to correct what ever had caused the malfunction in power. When the room clears the intruder lowers himself down from the vent, climbing on the tapestry. Once on the floor, he makes more mischief, carving chunks out of the chairs about the officer’s table, leaving a drug tipped dart in the cushion of Bith’s opulent thrown and releasing one of the swollen, aggressive carnivorous worms in the large glass tank in the rear of the room. The worms are quite docile most of the time, but when the faintest whiff of blood is in the air, they swirl into an absolute frenzy, four of the beasts can eat a man whole in less than five minutes; leaving nothing but the metal in his clothes or repaired limbs to indicate he was ever there. For punishment, or just base entertainment, Bith will on occasion have a man dangled above the tank, just out of the reach of the worms; once in place a single cut is made on his body. Once the blood comes forth the worms are awakened, and the frenzy begins. Instantly the rapacious invertebrates begin climbing upon one another to get to their meal, gorging themselves on flesh and bone until they plummet back to the tank below. If in the fall one of the worms is injured, the carnival converts to cannibalism, as the craven creatures can just as assuredly eat their own. The intruder has seen these creatures before, and is well aware of their appetites; when he is able to lift one out he carefully places it in a dark space beneath a jutting in the rock wall behind the tapestry.
Before heading out into the hallway, he once again uses his borrowed tech, to turn off the lights and conceal his movements; dashing past the men in the hallway, striking a few of them as he passes by. One man, who blocks the doorway the intruder is headed for has his leg slashed above the knee; his fall and accompanied screams muffle the sound of the opening and closing door. Back in the ducts, he reactivates the lights in the hallway, and arguments ensue. Blame bandies about like a swarm of bees in a field of flowers. No one wants to be blamed for the outage, or the injuries that resulted so accusations are abundant, while answers remain scarce. Dire tales of ghosts rapidly spread among the superstitious and guilty minded alike, many lives have been lost in the gallery; with regularity, their inglorious and ghastly ends have marked the months and years since Bith’s self imposed confinement.
The worms consistently eat their fill, of living and dead alike, those fed alive, and those whose lives were lost just a few feet away have been tossed in for disposal. Surely one or more of these tortured souls has returned to take revenge for their terrible endings, so the rumors went. Throughout the day whispers are passed to and fro, from guards and technicians to agents and operatives, overheard by servants and pilots then passed on to slaves and prisoners as well. All the while Bith is all a bother with the disturbance to his prized order and obedience. He would love nothing more than to execute who ever is responsible, but he needs his technicians to find the problem, so they cannot take the blame, never once considering the possibility of a seditionist in his midst.
Reveling in how quickly the place descended into mild chaos, the intruder is quite pleased with his work. Late in the afternoon, Bith gathers his most trusted agents in the Gallery to discuss the matter. The lights have stopped flashing, but the air is still not flowing in every corridor, as it should; and the rampant rumors need to be quashed as quickly as possible. Not a superstitious man, Bith is terribly paranoid and is deeply concerned about a potential coup, so he watches over his gathered lieutenants carefully; searching their faces for any hint of dissention or treachery, he sits perched at the edge of his gaudy thrown. Relaxing a bit he slides to the back of the chair and feels a slight prick in his lower back. Springing to his feet, he startles the men sitting before him, who are too afraid to laugh out loud; but shuffle in their seats to mask their giggles. Not a full moment later one of them crashes to the floor as his chair collapses beneath his shifting weight. At which point the laughs finally burst free from both the gathered minions and the mildly dazed despot above them. Kicking away the remnants of the shattered chair the man hardly notices the small cut on his wrist; unfortunately for him, the worm rapidly slithering toward him has made full notice and is fully enflamed and its mouth agape, thirsting for the blood that has peeked its interest.
Before anyone sees it, the voracious invertebrate is gnawing at the man’s hand, and before anyone can do anything about it, his arm is devoured nearly to the elbow. With its acidic saliva and lightning quick jowls the beast eats at pace akin to a starship fleeing a losing battle. Flailing about in a child like panic, whaling and moaning in agony the man waves the pluming beast around like a little girl tossing flowers in a field. Startled by the sight of the worm, many of the men head for higher ground fearful that more have escaped. When they see that there is only the one, they move in to assist their companion; no one noticing that Bith has hardly uttered a word in all the commotion. He just sits there, blankly watching the goings on, without comment or condemnation. Two of the men spring forward, drawing their knives; one holds the patient down, while the other stabs at the ravenous creature hoping to at best slow it down.
It takes no less than eight blows to bring the assault to a halt; he then chops the beast in half and pulls the anus end of it from the victim’s bloody stub. The worm’s mouth is past his elbow, but the bone remains just below. They have never attempted to save anyone from the worms before so no one really knows if it’s safe to touch its mouth. So with the head of the beast still attached to his wound the man is carried away to the infirmary, crying and moaning all the way. Two other men are ordered to inspect the tank to be sure no more of the beasts can escape. Meanwhile, Bith is slowly regaining his faculties, but he’s hardly aware of what just went on. None of this would contribute to a calmer evening, as rumors and fears are enflamed as word of the aberrant worm attack and their boss’s odd demeanor ever since, spreads about the complex.
Everyone is on edge; the kitchen serves sandwiches, afraid to venture into the depths of their storage rooms for fear of encountering another loose worm. The men are grateful, as many of them fear going near a large pot for the same reason. The leftover stew from lunch goes untouched as no one wants to open the pots, or move them for that matter. Just for giggles and to keep the tension as sharp as his many blades, the intruder occasionally flickers the lights at random. While he’s come here for revenge, it’s hard not to find humor in the chaos he is creating. But as the night draws nigh, thoughts of what has brought him to this place begin to fill his mind.
ONE MONTH AGO
Siam Seethe had been pondering a simpler life, traveling the galaxy visiting old acquaintances whom have themselves already taken to such an existence. He meets with former pirates, raising families and running legitimate businesses on calm settled worlds away from the fray and dysfunction that is most of the known galaxy. One of these visits brought him to a planet called Khom’ra in the Inota system where Seethe meets with an old pirate buddy named Yochanan. When he first left Nysus, Yochanan was one of the older pirates who had taken him under his wing, to train him in battle and survival skills that would serve him well in life.
After nearly three decades as a spacer and a pirate, Yochanan had returned to his home world, where his family had lived in a small farming colony that supported a near by mining operation, Yochanan had taken a wife with whom he was raising a trio of children. Seethe, struck by the quaint, quiet existence, is warmed by the sight of the grizzled old warrior at peace and, at a relatively young age. Only 32 years of age, Seethe has seen many a man and woman, fall at ages far younger than his own; to death, narcotic addiction or incarceration for their egregious activities to be locked away for decades at a time.
After spending a few weeks on the farm with Yochanan, Seethe grows bored with the quiet, but still cherishes the notion of being able to one day live this kind of life. After leaving Khom’ra, Seethe headed for Lemsa, a near by space station to see what he had missed during his brief vacation. After two days at Lemsa he was just about to embark to seek out his buddies Nuex and Moonsmasher, but first, Seethe was offered a job. A human spacer who said he worked for a man named Bith, was recruiting muscle to maintain order on Khom’ra, but his companion another human man, was cracking wise about Syk’a rii. The spacer mocked the furry prosimians and their long tails, comparing them to rats. Feigning disinterest, Seethe gets up from his seat and turns to walk away as both men laugh heartily at the jokes being made at his expense. Suddenly, in a single motion, Seethe grabs a stool with his tail, takes it in his hands and smashes it across the wanna be comedian’s back. As that the first man laughs even harder, he insists on Seethe taking a job. Perplexed by the offer, he shows interest to learn more about what’s gong on.
Seethe was told that Bith, just after he left Khom’ra, had taken over control of the mining operation and eliminated the near by farming village. Angered by the possible death of his friend, Seethe took the job, and returned to Khom’ra with the recruiter and eight other men. When they arrive a few days later, the ship passed over the charred remains of Yochanan’s village. When they landed, the men were shown their quarters, given weapons and orders as to how things were to be done. Here is where Seethe’s revenge took root. Not wanting to tip his hand, he resists the urge to destroy the mines, but instead goes AWOL after his first paycheck. The men were taken back to Lemsa for recreation after being paid, while the others would waste their pay on drinks, women, gambling and drugs; Seethe took his earnings, along with what he already had and purchased an array of small weapons. Presenting himself as a collector he goes from shop to shop gathering his implements. During his shopping spree, he is reminded of an Apsu man he met while with Yochanan; named Mahk’eif, he was an extremely adept assassin, skilled at stealth invasion and quiet execution, Mahk’eif has a great love of knives.
Once fully armed, Seethe would stash himself on ship after ship, hoping to land on the one that would take him to Bith. Simply destroying the men who carried out the orders to kill would not suffice, to satisfy his thirst for vengeance Seethe needed to take the head that gave the orders. And that head lay on the shoulders of a man known only as Bith. Craftily gathering his intelligence from drunken spacers, it was difficult to parse truth from rumor but one thing was for certain, to get Bith, he needed to get to his headquarters, as it seems he never leaves that place. And fate willing, Seethe would see to it, he would meet his end in that place.
Day 3 Thinning the Heard
Seethe spends his third day in Bith’s moon palace slowly, methodically picking off random soldiers and sewing ever more discord among the remaining crew. Anyone that wanders too far off on his own, or gets caught sleeping at his post, pays the ultimate price for his carelessness. One man, who was busily typing away a message to a lady friend on a computer terminal, never gets to send it. A trio playing cards in a storage closet find themselves sealed in when Seethe uses his darts to puncture containers of cleaning fluid that quickly fills the room with noxious fumes after the air stops circulating in and out of the room. Returning to the hanger bay, Seethe finds the same two pilots he came in with preparing the ship for departure. Knowing he’s going to need that ship for his escape Seethe goes in for bit of sabotage. First, he kills the power to the room disrupting for a moment the shield that keeps the atmosphere in the hanger, and the vacuum of space outside. Fearing for their lives the two quickly shuffle off to the safety of the hallway sealing the door behind them. Now Seethe is free to move in and prevent the ship from taking off. He doesn’t want to damage the vessel permanently, so he starts removing parts and hiding them in among the ships cargo, where he originally hid himself to get there.
Returning to the ducts, just ahead of the return of the two pilots, they're none to pleased to find their ship suddenly in disrepair. Moving back to the area of the servant’s quarters, Seethe makes his way back into the hallways to find more victims, only to be confronted by a dancer on her way to the Gallery to entertain the boss. There are several Syk’a rii among the crew so she hardly noticed him, but the soldier following her down the hall does. Now standing eye to eye with Seethe, the soldier realizes he has never seen him before, but he is going down before he knows it’s the last face he will ever see. Seethe quickly punches him in the face, drags him into a lavatory, cuts his throat and leaves him to bleed out quietly. Seethe is interrupted in the disposal by another soldier in too much of a hurry to relive himself to notice what’s going on in the back of the room. He soon joins his companion in place and predicament.
Seethe now makes his way to the brig to find out who, and how many people are being held there. On arrival, he finds two men guarding the entrance to a deep dark hallway lined on either side with primitive metal bared cells. Not wanting to confront the guards directly, Seethe returns once again to the ducts, to make a head count of the confined. Despite the multitude of cells, there is only one man being held; hence the paltry security force. His curiosity peeked, Seethe gets into a position close to the guards computer terminal and begins trying to hack into the system to find out just who this man is. Moments later, with the help of an ID card pulled from one of men in the lavatory, Seethe is able to access the detention files. He discovers that the man is A’jheua Assyne, once the governor of a province now under the domain of Bith. He had been allowed to remain in power for a time, until Bith’s agents on the planet grew fretful of his headstrong and defiant ways. Sensing a potential comrade in arms, Seethe would later approach Assyne in the night and apprise him of the planned attack and escape from the facility. And Assyne would be ecstatic to go along with the plan, as he was simply waiting for the day when Bith would be bored enough to want to watch an execution.
Before his late night conference with Assyne, Seethe sets out to find more confederates. His first stop, the servants’ quarters, where he speaks with the cooks, and calms their concerns about roaming worms and embittered spirits; then enlists their assistance. It turns out these men were taken from restaurants across the system to serve Bith; none of them have seen their families in years. They are all too eager to assist in Bith’s downfall. From the kitchen to the laundry, there Seethe finds men and women who once served as Bith’s private band, until he grew weary of their daily performances; now, they wash clothes, towels, linens and dishes after every meal. But they never complain, because the previous crew tried that once, creating the void that was filled by the band. They too would happily join in the effort to escape Bith’s service.
Day 4 The End Game
On the fourth day of his here to fore, one-man insurrection, Seethe rises early, and sets out to gather his confederates. Part one of the plan; the cooks will lace the soldier’s food with a mild sedative, not enough to make anyone sick, just enough to put most of the crew to sleep just after lunch. Seethe supplies the cooks with the sedative he acquired from the infirmary the previous night, then he makes his way to the laundry. They will give haven to who ever wants to leave; as they distribute the clean laundry through the morning, they will also spread the word to the other scattered servants, telling them when and where to go.
When lunch comes, the crew is fed; the cooks set aside sandwiches for Seethe, the servants and other confederates while Bith and his top men are fed their usual extravagant spread, and the other technicians and troops are served the tainted food. Within an hour 85% of the Bith’s men are asleep, some in their quarters, many at their posts.
Still feasting in the Gallery, Bith and his lieutenants are totally unaware of what’s going on outside the massive double doors in the rear of the room. With much of the hostile crew inutile, the servants rapidly move about taking their weapons and barring many of them in their offices and quarters. Bith’s perpetual fear of usurpation created the need for doors that could be locked from the outside, making this effort all the easier. Seethe in the mean time, with the help of one of the cooks uses Bith’s own security optics to track down those men that are still lucid, and eliminate them one bye one.
Never one to revel in the kill, Seethe came but for one head, while others may shed blood in the process, their deaths only facilitate the ultimate goal. The servants posted in the Gallery, at the appointed moment, suddenly take their carts and trays and return to the kitchen. Noticing the suddenness of their departure, one of the lieutenants stands and throws a knife at the back of one of the men, yelling, “Where do you think your going?” Unharmed, the handle struck him first, the man just turns and insists they are going to retrieve a special desert prepared by the cooks. They manage to get through the doors and onto the lift to return to the kitchen. When they fail to return in a timely manner, Bith, who is still muddled from the drugging, sends two of his men to investigate, they would also fail to return.
With just seven healthy men at his side Bith attempts in his fogged mind, to formulate a plan of attack for whatever is going on. He hails station after station, man after man, but never gets an answer. When he calls the guards in the brig, he is answered by an unfamiliar voice speaking firmly and succinctly back to him, “Your days are numbered Bith!” Startled by the threat, Bith demands, “who is this?” Assyne just laughs back into the communicator. Infuriated, Bith commands two more of his men, “get down there and deal with that impudent fool!” As soon as they leave the room, the lights go out once again, and they can be heard screaming in the distance. Bith was too slow at giving the order to bar the door; his men were already working at it, when he vocalized the thought. For the next few hours Assyne and Seethe shepherd servants, cooks and others into the hanger bay to prepare for departure. With the remaining soldiers either tied up or willing to help, Seethe takes his time getting back to Bith; he was going nowhere. Trapped in his own Gallery, Bith impatiently awaits his pending doom. Standing in the darkness, the sound of the stirring worms and dancing tapestries interrupt the morbid silence that occupies the space between Bith’s occasional rantings and his lieutenants’ fumbling attempts to meet his requests. Suddenly, the lights flash back on, and one, then two of remaining men are gone. Now just four remain; Bith and three of his lieutenants scan the room, their eyes straining to adjust to the sudden brightness. A moment later, darkness befalls the room once more. Muffled moans and sudden yells of pain fill the air, when the lights burst back to brilliance, three more men lie on the floor, Bith is among them. But unlike his fallen minions his lungs still draw from the still air that fills the room. He’s clutching his leg, which is bleeding terribly, the scent of which has the worms in the far glass case in a terrible frenzy.
The lone man standing, aside from Seethe is backed to the wall, terrified. Bith screams at him to attack, but he just stands there, motionless, silent… then he falls lifeless to the floor, the handle of a knife protruding from the back of his neck. Standing over the wounded, warbling Bith, Seethe draws yet another knife from beneath the band on his right arm and places the tip of the blade at the trembling throat; soberly, slowly and forcefully, Seethe begins to speak, “I take no joy in drawing your blood, ending your life brings me no pleasure, but I’ll be glad… when you’re dead.” Shivering with fear, almost forgetting the pain of his broken leg, Bith asks, in a low defiant voice, “who are you?” To which Seethe replies, “What does it matter to you?” As he puts the knife away, he whispers on, “you’re already dead.”
Across the room, Seethe can hear the hurried and anxious squirmings of the carnivorous worms, driven to absolute madness by the carnage in the room. He stops to place a small explosive near their tank, and runs to door, locking it behind him. Bith screams incoherently out to Seethe, but to no avail. Seconds later; the bomb goes off, the worms break free, and rapidly devour every damaged body in the room, including several worms injured in the explosion. Feeling more guiltily than gratified, Seethe returns to the hanger where the evacuees await, they load as many people as they can on board the two freighters docked in the hanger. And begin to ferry them to the nearest port city where they can arrange to go home.
Teaming with the boisterous, passionate Assyne, Seethe travels from planet to planet and station-to-station previously controlled by Bith, inciting uprisings and rebellions. The soldiers, unaware that their boss is no longer around to send help are quickly overrun and defeated, some even join the rebellion. This pattern would repeat from one settlement to the next. Over the next six months the rebellion born by Seethe would topple a multitude of petty dictators and weakened strong men. Without the strength of Bith to back them up, most would fall with little effort. Sadly, the satisfaction Seethe felt from helping to free so many settlements would be dissolved when the power vacuum is filled with some of the same men he helped lead to victory.
Men like Assyne would brush Seethe aside, repeating the classic pirate slogan, “The spoils of war go the he who leads the invasion.” Never being one to take the spotlight Seethe was never really the one leading the fight and would find himself the lone voice of dissent when revolt lead to looting, when revolutionaries became the dictators themselves. Frustrated with the failure of the not quite revolution; Seethe returns to his life as a spacer. Over a year away from his normal pursuits with Nuex have left him longing for the simplicity of life among people he knows better than to trust.