The Undergalactic Railroad
As the dust settles on the liberation efforts surrounding D’Arrest Station many members of the Empire question the effectiveness of the emancipation initiative. The re-education, release, and relocation of several million tonnes of humanity is no small task and the coming months will be filled with emotional strain for the newly freed folk. Yet smiles fill the loading docks of D’Arrest.
Each ex-slave has a story, a tale of incarceration, capture, or capitulation, that lurks behind their newly raised eyes. As I roamed D’Arrest proper, several in particular caught my attention.
The first such specimen wore a finely tailored suit. The effect of his ornate attire was marred by the stubble that covered his face and a smudge of grease across his forehead. With barely any prodding he said, “I was in service to Senator Laverne Ayers of Paras System when our ship was set upon by Federation thugs. The ship’s emergency sirens were our only warning before we were forced into the lifeboats. I remember the hiss of my habitation pod’s seal, and a flash of orange light, then… empty space. I do not know if the senator’s nephew made it out of there in one piece.”
He took a moment to collect his thoughts and adjust his tie before we continued the interview, “Would I go back? Of course! I have a debt to Senator Laverne Ayers and her family. Still, the liberation effort has given me new hope that I might return to complete my contract. Anywhere else and I might not have received such a choice. I will graciously accept the classes and services her highness’s faithful are offering, but I intend to return to Paras to fulfill my obligation with what newfound knowledge I gain here.”
I gave him a handkerchief to wipe his forehead and ask why he would return. “Please do not misunderstand me. I value freedom as much as any person might. Senator Laverne Ayers was an honest master, and the life she offered was far above what my family could have afforded otherwise. As soon as I have learned my fill and seen to those who might need my services here, I shall return.” We parted on pleasant terms. When I shook his hand he gave a distracting but practiced bow before turning away and returning to the line for the nearest communications relay.
I walked several halls past hundreds of men and women before another caught my attention. She had a raw gash across her forehead bandaged in the same kind of tatters she wore as clothing. A dizzying set of spiderweb tattoos coated her bare limbs. At intervals puckered scars reminiscent of skulls grinned out from her flesh. Her eyes darted towards each person who passed by until they met mine. Her lip curled back before she lowered her gaze to the station’s deck.
Curious, I asked for her name but was met with only silence. I assured her there were none of the Kumo tribe nearby. No response. I reassured her that their kind are hunted within Imperial space like the dogs they are. She answered that with a smile.
“Why are you afraid to speak?” I asked, “I would like to hear how you got here. Not many marked slaves could have made it this far. Surely your story is worth sharing?”
Her eyes met mine once more. Blue eyes, with flecks of gold. She pointed towards her mouth and opened just far enough for me to see past her teeth. Where her tongue should have been there was instead a pale scar. Her expression pained me. Those who would forsake the humanity of their fellows are more animal than man.
After I delivered the marked slave into the care of a nearby Angel medic and began the trek back to my Diamondback Scout, the I.N.S. Rose’s Spark. Near loading dock six I was surprised to find a freed pleasure slave toying with the sleeve of my pressure suit. Unlike the other people I had spoken with, she met my eye without reservation. Her thin dress was darker and more entrancing than the void. It wasn’t until she smiled that I noticed the dark patch beneath her ear, the embedded tag just past the edge of her perfect makeup. She said, “Are you the pilot docked at bay nine?”
I glanced towards the Anaconda parked in that spot and wished I was. With a huff she leaned against the locker where my pressure suit was stored. “Never expected to wind up here,” she said. “I mean, I’ve never seen a ship without a collar around my neck. I want to thank whoever made that possible.”
Pilots are encouraged to experience the joy first-hand and imagine a galaxy filled with the hope, excitement, and relief of the free. Travel to D’Arrest and see for yourself the benefits a moral society has to offer. Imagine a universe where all people are treated with the dignity and liberty we all desire.