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Jupiter's Halo: Unbroken

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More than a thousand years in the future a divided mankind has spread throughout the solar system. As the factions of humanity struggle just to live among the stars a new, mysterious threat emerges. The Deorum Marines of First and Second Company are dispatched on a routine mission to investigate a supply station’s distress signal, under the command of Captain Titus Lanad. But when they arrive the reason for the signal turns out to be far from ordinary and the station itself becomes the centre of a mystery that could change the balance of power throughout the solar system. Across the gulf of space Aitkin Cassini faces a test for his life at the torturous hands of the mysterious and feared Fatherhood. He can not, will not allow himself to fail, but to pass he will have to give up a truth that not even he knows is hidden within him. Meanwhile, aboard an old and disused supply station Jav Hornwood must make an impossible choice between the lives of he has sworn to protect and the duty he has sworn to uphold. He cannot do both and if he chooses duty his people will surely die. But choosing to save them from an immediate threat might risk an even greater danger and the discovery of a secret that could plunge the human race into all-out war.

Scifi / Thriller
Andrew Heath
Age Rating:

Chapter 1

“What is your name?” The question was delivered calmly, almost gently, although it was not the first time it had been asked.

“Aitkin…Cassini.” The reply was a hoarse, raspy whisper. His voice was strained, the space between the words filled with gasping breaths.

“And what is your rank, Aitkin Cassini?” Again, he’d been asked this question repeatedly. Aitkin wasn’t sure how many times it was now, but it had been enough to expect some signs of impatience in the questioner. There were none however, just the same implacable, patient tone.

Aitkin drew another breath, feeling the fire in his throat and lungs as he sucked down the thick air. It was close in the darkened room, hot enough to make beads of sweat break upon his brow and bare chest. Aitkin longed for a breath of cool fresh air. For a sip of water to quench his parched throat and cool him inside.

“Captain.” He struggled to push the word out.

“That is a lie Aitkin Cassini.” The voice came again softly, un-angered. “You continue to tell me this lie Aitkin Cassini. Why do you continue to tell me this lie?” He should be exasperated, Aitkin thought. He should shout and scream or growl such a response, but his voice is level. Always level. Always the same.

Aitkin had heard the same questions in the same tone for several days now. At least he guessed it was days, it could be longer. There was no light in the room but for the shaft that illuminated him in a perfect circle. It shone down on him from above, but from exactly what source he had no idea.

It reached far enough to show every detail of his body as he sat strapped tightly into the chair that supported him, but no further. There was a room beyond his circle of light, somewhere for the owner of the voice to stand in the shadows, but Aitkin could see none of it. His whole universe had shrunk to this tiny circle of light and pain. The pain had been excruciating.

Aitkin had been trained to withstand torture and interrogation, but nothing had prepared him for the torment he’d undergone since waking in this room.

He had never seen the face of his tormenter.

No matter what was done to him, all that entered his field of view were the hands of his captor. They were thin and veined with long supple fingers that worked on his body with a delicate and dextrous touch.

Those hands played their way across his skin with a touch akin to that of a gentle lover. The pain that accompanied such a touch was a sick perversion that twisted Aitkin’s stomach.

“If you continue to lie to me Aitkin Cassini, I will not be able to ask you any more questions.” The voice was moving Aitkin realised.

His senses were dulled by exhaustion, but he could just track the sound as it circled behind him.

“If I cannot ask any more questions, then I will be forced to continue to hurt you Aitkin Cassini.” It was directly behind him now, Aitkin judged. He could feel the breath on his neck, disturbing the warm air and sending a cold shiver of anticipation down his spine.

There was a smell too; something rotten that filled his nose and mouth making him want to retch. His hand trembled and he fought to control it, to keep it still and steady.

He had been trained to withstand torture with false drowning, electrocution, beatings.

He knew his boundaries; name and rank. That was the extent of the information he could give. To give any more was treason and treason meant death. Worse than that, if Aitkin allowed himself to be broken he would be worthy only of death. There was honour in dying beneath the torturers knife, but there was no honour in succumbing to it.

“I will ask you once again Aitkin,” the words were whispered into his ear, “What is your rank?” Aitkin drew a breath, wincing at the daggers of pain inside his chest as he tried to straighten his back and shoulders. He was a marine of the Deorum.

He was strong; strong enough to withstand this mutilation.

I will not break.

“My name is Aitkin Cassini” he said, “Captain of Second Company, Deorum Marines.” He stared straight ahead as he spoke, struggling to put strength into his voice, even as he felt that strength fleeing from him. His words were met with silence, then a soft sigh.

“Very well Aitkin Cassini, Captain of Second Company, Deorum Marines,” Aitkin felt the hairs rise on his skin as his body tensed, “Just know I would prefer not to do this.”

A pale hand came into his field of vision and the light reflected briefly from the slim blade it welded. I will not break.

For a moment the light danced as the blade wavered before his eyes. Searing agony blossomed across his face as the blade slipped into his skin and began to smoothly cut away his right eyelid.

Aitkin fought against his restraints as the pain filled him. It burned as the blade entered his flesh. It burned so deeply he feared he may pass out. There was something about that knife that wasn’t normal. Every cut, every slice burned for minutes after the touch of the blade had left his flesh.

Blood filled his vision and instinctively he tried to close his eyes to keep it out. His left went dark but his right was awash with red, clouding his sight, adding a stinging frustration to his mounting agony as the muscles worked to shut an eyelid that was no longer there. He felt the sickening soft wet pressure of the lid slide down his cheek.

Light flashed, reflecting from the sliver of metal that was the cause of all his anguish, as the knife turned and pressed against his cheek. The slightest pressure let it slip through his skin, parting it smoothly. The fire burned through him as the blade bit deep and traced a bloody line down to his jaw.

I will not…

The pain overwhelmed him and Aitkin Cassini screamed and screamed and screamed.

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