Usually gravity didn’t help or hinder Alex but laying back on the hard, almost completely cushion less plank of a metal and mesh bed that the Alliance claimed to be more than enough for humans to get by on but had obviously been designed for some other species, it was driving her mad. Only in sleep did she hate gravity, it just felt so strange to have something pulling on her body as she tried to relax but couldn’t with her flesh being trapped and pulled by gravity’s unescapable pull. For the thousandth time since she had been put in the damned cage she rolled trying to get more comfortable and failing, again. Her chest felt tight and she tried to calm herself enough to sleep, she knew she needed sleep but had not found it yet no matter how hard she tried, soon her jailers would come for her and she needed sleep to have the strength to deal with them and what passed for integration by the Alliance.
As it was she had only just gotten to sleep when she heard the clanks of the guards heavy boots on the steel of the floor with their magnetic pads in their soles, to keep them standing and in control in the “rare” case of the gravity going down anywhere on the super structure, making the distinctive clank like tap shoes worn by a lumbering gorilla. They said nothing to her before they opened the cell and stomped inside. Without warning, or saying anything at all the guards violently grab and lift her off of the plank that was only now starting to get comfortable to her, at least in her head it was starting to get comfortable her shoulders and legs were already aching from the stiffness of the metal slates biting into her flesh. They are brutish and violent in their handling of her but they aren’t stupid, and neither is she. One guard each took hold of her, each of them taking a hold of one of her arms at her elbows and standing far enough that even if she could get a kick at them with the shackles still on her ankles it would be like a flea kicking a dog, annoying maybe but not much else, and there is still one more guard behind them with a shot gun trained on her back and probably had the damn thing loaded with explosive rounds to bout, it would be hell to clean her off of the walls but if she fought them here and now that would be what would happen, she would be a smear of blood and viscera on the walls and not much else.
The third guard doesn’t waist anytime once the two that holding her turned her around, so instead of facing the door she faces the wall with the plank bolted to it. She knells; at least Alex thought it is a she, it is hard to tell what gender it might be through the riot armor and shadowed visors all three of her guards were wearing and besides they aren’t human they were Xenbel’as, that much she could tell just by their size and the way the visor is shaped to allow all four of their eyes easy lines of sight; and connects a chain to the cuffs on Alex’s ankles and then closes the open ends around her wrists, further cutting off her ability to fight if she wanted to or was crazy enough to try. Besides being built with all the gender differences of a port-a-john Xenbel’as are easily as strong as small lifting mechs and Alex most decidedly isn’t. So despite every instinct she had to fight the guards she complied even as they put her back on the ground.
The guard to her left pushes her and she almost falls flat on her face, reminding her of how strong they are and how foolish it would be to try and fight them. She keeps herself from falling by shear luck, if only barely with her cuffs on, and starts on her forced march out of her cell and into the hall. They hadn’t put her into a wing of only females, not that that would have changed things in the least since most species in the Alliance view relationships between the same sex the way they viewed moon rises, normal if not at times a bit blasé. So as they march through the hall she is assaulted by a white noise mixture of cat calls and rude gestures, with a few hundred taunts thrown in, and more than a handful of threats. They marched her through almost the entirety of the wing before they came to a door labeled in every language in the universe as an interrogation room with its heavy bolts and riveted door and lack of anything looking at all pleasant to the eye.
The door opens without a noticeable slide, thought with the white noise of the other prisoners she doubts that she would hear something short of a grenade going off next to her. They motion her, inside instead of pushing her as they had to start this march, and without a fuss she goes and takes the seat lite from above like some bad movie. She knows the drill from their and put her hands on the table and listens as the chain between her ankles and her wrists are captured by the claw in its cut away and keeps her from doing much more than waiting as the door slides closed.
Most of the interrogators she knew of would have left her to stew until she is screaming at the walls to get it over and done with but this one must have been new since he came right away and took the seat opposite her, about two seconds after the guards left her alone. In her time she had seen some ugly looking people and some uglier looking aliens, this man wasn’t the ugliest of either category but he wasn’t far off, but then again he was a Falornia. Whatever god or deity, or twist of cosmic fate, that had though it was a good idea to create a species of humanoid bugs had a great sense of humor since it had allowed them to evolve with all the good looks of an ant in a microscope with their mouths full of spike like teeth made for ripping and crunching and no lips to cover them with except the mandibles that pressed against the outside of its mouth. Through a hundred thousand million generations they had kept the layers of their exoskeletons like plate armor and the stubs of foldable antenna on their heads over compound eyes trying to fit into slightly larger than normal eye sockets and bulging out as they tried.
Calmly he interlaced the four fingers of his hand while leaning forward on his dominate pair of upper arms, keeping his axillary pair folded close to his body like a birds wing when not in flight, but given a reason they would show themselves and give him an extra pair of hands with which to be violent with.
Alex keeps her mouth shut and her lips in a tight line. The agent leans even further forward and speaks in his strange clicking speech, as close as it could come to forming human common speech. “Are you comfortable?” The question is not what Alex’s training had told her to expect, most interrogators for the Alliance worked off the same play book, this being nice thing was most defiantly not part of it. His voice though sounded just like what she had been taught to expect, angry and underlined with the clicking of his mandibles as he attempts to wrap his mouth around human speech patterns and words and found the insect mouth far from well suited for the task.
She reaches up to her neck and tries to rubs the kinks out of the muscles wrapping around her spine, though right at that moment each fiber feels more like a bloated python than a muscle, but the chains stop her halfway up and she is has to bend and stretch her neck, making the pain worse instead of better, before she gives up entirely and looks at the agent. “Who the hell are you?” She asks, her voice a low growl.
The agent’s left antenna rises almost as if it is an eyebrow, in an almost human gesture of confusion, something she doesn’t think that agents of the Alliance could be, confused that is. “My name is Agent Coreance of the United Systems Alliance. Now are you comfortable?”
Alex rolls her head in another circle before she answers the agent, trying in vain to loosen the muscles in her neck and still failing. “No,” she snaps focusing like a sniper on Coreance’s eyes, “I hate sleeping in gravity.”
This causes agent Coreance to raise his antenna again before he continues. “I was under the assumption that Earth had an ambient gravity of nine point eight one meters/second squared,” he explains like a teacher in front of a classroom of first year students, “or am I wrong in my assumption?”
“It does,” Alex says back to him, “but I wasn’t born on Earth, humanity does have colony world, the Alliance signatories don’t have a monopoly on them. I, like two thirds of our population, was born on one of them.”
“I am well aware that humanity has colony worlds.” Agent Coreance says flatly. “Some say your species is spreading like a virus through this galaxy. As far as the Alliance knows most of humanity’s colony worlds have an ambient gravity similar to Earth’s, a few have a lower gravity thought and given what you just said I assume that you come from one of them. So which world were you born on, Fraia, Arlon, Arura?”
“Riku,” Alex bites out sharply, “I was born on Riku.”
Even most humans who live on the colony worlds would have been forced to look up Riku but this agent of the Alliance did not. “Riku?” He says questioningly, “Ah yes if I am not mistaken Riku has an ambient gravity of fourteen point seven one five meters/second squared, correct?” Alex merely shrugs, she knew it had a stronger gravity than earth but she didn’t want this agent to know exactly how much she knew, she wants to find out what he knows as much as he wants to know what she knows. “That is a gravity near to one and a half times that of Earth’s, therefore I would assume that sleeping in gravity would be something you would have been forced to do for most if not all of your life.
Alex rolls her eyes before she cracks her neck. “That is why I hate gravity, growing up on Riku was a bitch. Now that I’ve answered your stupid opening questions I want you to answer a question of mine.”
Again that antenna rises, like it is some kind of twitch, but with plates for skin it only made sense that the antenna might be the only think that could move. “Tit for tat,” he says calmly, “that seems acceptable until we get into more important questions.”
Without pause Alex pounces. “Is Lerra alright?”
“The Zarinian…” The agent begins.
Alex almost jumps down the agent’s neck, she might just have if not for the chains holding her more or less to her chair, and the table. “Her name is Lerra!” She yells.
“Lerra,” he says with, if he was human could be considered, distain, “has a slug from your shotgun in her chest.”
In a blinding fury Alex slams her fists into the metal top of the table she is chained to. “Aren’t you doing anything to help her, you’re the damned Alliance and last time I checked humans might not be signatories or even provisional members of your damned United Systems Alliance but I sure as hell know that the Zarinian empire is. So are you just going to let her die!”
“Why do you care if she dies or not?” Agent Coreance asks with more than a minor quizzical air. “Unless you’re afraid she will tell us something about what happened that you don’t want us to know.”
“It’s not like that at all!” Alex yells slamming her fists into the table again.
“What is it like,” he asks completely calm, “because to me it looks like you tried to kill her like you did those commandos during the Iowa incident.”
The mention of the Iowa catches her as off guard as stepping on a mine she had planted herself, she even stammers her answer. “I… I have, I mean… I don’t know what you’re talking about. I was never on the Iowa, I’m not even military, check my print records I’m a spacer not a G.I.”
“Me thinks though doth protest thine innocents too loudly.”
“Great,” Alex moans in more disgust than anger, “an alien that recite Shakespeare, just what I need.”
“I do much more than that.” He informs her calmly, “I also know that no matter how much you change your physical appearance you, humans like every other species in this galaxy, are unable to change their DNA. When you were brought aboard this station your genetic material was sampled by the ambient scanners throughout the halls and your identity cross-referenced with the Sol Planetary Alliance databases.” Alex gives him a look of complete confusion she hopes he will believe so he will explain himself further. “We took the sample from the skin cells you humans discard so freely, in less than half an hour we had your name, rank, and serial number checked and cross checked against your DNA samples. We have all known who you are since we put you in that cell. You are undoubtedly Ret. Lt Commander Alexandria Maxima Perez, Sol Planetary Alliance Military Service number RI2 764 385 W. Your parents are farmers on Riku. At the age of eighteen you joined the Sol Planetary Alliance Naval academy on Earth. In your first year you joined the Human Alliance, a known pro human political party. After four years you graduated fiftieth in your class overall but third in three dimensional stellar physics, navigation, and cartography. You were offered and joined the ranks of Project Galileo, where you were implanted with a cranial navigation processor. During your time in Project Galileo you were asked to and designed the navigation system of the Iowa, designs which have subsequently been used on all newer Sol Alliance heavy cruisers and battle ships. Though you designed the navigational systems for the Iowa you were passed up as its chief navigator. That position was given to the number one graduate of your navigational class. After one year in Project Galileo you voluntarily transferred to the USS Pioneer as its chief navigator. You stayed in that position through the actions of the Savrin Uprising, in which you were awarded the honorable service medial. You transferred to the destroyer USS Iowa as their chief navigator. In that capacity you were on the front lines of the Telicon incursion. Finally you were on the front lines of all five months of the ‘War of Immanent Domain’. During which took place the Iowa Incident a in which 15 member Zarinian commando team infiltrated the Iowa and killed the captain, commanding officer, Pilot, and Com officer. You stated during your trial that you were able to defeat the commando sent to kill you by turning off the gravity in your quarters.”
Alex looks at Agent Coreance and breaths out a heavy sigh, the secret of who she really is had been weighing heavily on her since she let the doctor change her face all those years ago. Every morning she looks in the mirror and for the briefest of instances she does not recognize the face staring back at her, true enough there are parts of her she could not change but the transformation done on her was so drastic that they who she was faded into the back ground. Her hair is still black but it is no longer cropped short in the back and lengthening as it slides forward into bangs that frame her face, just within military regs, just, now it is the bangs that are short and the back is pulled into either a single tight braid or a long flowing tail, as it is now. Her eyes, which being each a different color, where always striking, with one blue and the other brown, are the same though there had been a time when she had worn a contact lens to make them both brown but she gave that up in the military where fighting aliens made having two different colored eyes seem tame, now sported a foolish but, in galaxy of retina scanners, necessary adornment of an ocular tattoo giving the blue eye what looked like a galaxy of stars in the cornea. The doctor had insisted on and then proceeded to fix her noise first, erasing the irregular bump on one side from where it had been broken during a sparring match during basic, with that he took the scar on her check from fighting off the Zarinian commando that had tried to kill her, a curving snake like thing from the commandos knife as she tried to fight Alex off of her. In the end the only thing that looked the same to her in the mirror was the hint that her skin had once been a radiant bronze when she had grown up on her parents’ farm on Riku but at times even that faded, dependent upon her missions location in the galaxy.
“Like I said before I prefer to sleep in zero g,” she explains, “the commandos weren’t prepared for fighting in zero g, they had left their magnetic boots clamps in the docking port they had used them to get in but they had expect to find the ships gravity working fine and they would make so much noise that they thought it best to leave them. They were going for stealth and didn’t expect to need to fight in a weightless environment. That gave me the upper hand and I was able to over power and kill the one sent to kill me.”
“I have read the reports but I still find it hard to believe that a human was able to over power and kill a Zarinian commando.” The agent says so calmly and matter-of-factly that it feels like a slap to Alex’s face.
“Are you saying I‘m lying?” She snaps.
“No, not exactly.” The agent replies in the same smugly calm air of superior calm as his last statement.
“Then what are you saying?” She growls.
“Zarinians are two time stronger than humans,” the agent explains like a teacher trying to instruct a particularly hard to deal with student, “even if the commando was disoriented by the lack of gravity in the room there is no way that you could kill one in single unarmed combat yet the Sol Planetary Alliance report as well as the autopsy performed on the body show that the body was clearly killed by the sudden and violent severing of the nerves in the body with the secondary body control nerve cluster in the upper back, akin to death by the violent snapping of the human neck.”
“Well,” Alex says smugly, “it’s good to know that I still have a few secrets.”
“There were some genetic anomalies we found in your scans.” The agent says, and for the first time he sounds off balance as he is forced to look at the tablet with the notes on her case.
“Oh you and your vaulted Alliance and its superior technology,” Alex’s voice is so smug if it had been a liquid it would be nearly as thick as honey left in a refrigerator, “you can get a full DNA scan from my skin flakes and you still can’t tell that I have altered genes.”
“That is impossible,” anger and shock fill each of the agent’s eye lenses in equal measure, “we know you have a cranial implant from your time in project Galileo, but if you had any unnatural genetic modifications we would have picked them up in the genetic scan, even with your species’ natural genetic diversity, besides altered genes have distinctive markers.”
“It’s driving you insane isn’t it?” She teases with a smug smile.
“There is no way you could have been modified.” He clicked.
“I wasn’t modified,” she says coolly, leaning back as far as her chains will allow, “my mother was.”
Alex rolls her and takes a moment to adjust her seating position to look a little more casual in her chair. “My mother was born on Genosa, a low gravity world and I was born on a high gravity world. Your Alliance has only left us the worlds it doesn’t want, which usually means you can’t or won’t colonize them, so we make due. That mean we’ve had to genetically modify our people to allow them to live on some of the less hospitable ones with any success, and thanks to our genetic diversity makes it easier than most other species. We don’t even count the changes as modifications any more since over sixty percent of our people are modified. In the case of my mother she was born with bones that were forty percent denser than unmodified humans, her lungs have a twenty-five percent greater capacity, they are also sixty percent more efficient at oxygenating the blood, which she always joked about since she only need about seventy percent of the oxygen that a none modified human would. For me the changes are more or less the same they just modified my genes a bit so that I have a thirty percent increase in my muscular density as well. Granted that is not enough to make me as strong as a Zarinian but I can run a marathon with a full pack in just under two hours and still not be winded in an Earth like gravity.”
“You almost sound as if you are bragging.” He says his voice a guttural growl.
“You sound like my old CO.” Alex says with a sigh. “I’m not bragging it’s just who I am.”
“What other modifications did your birth give you?” He asks coolly.
“My heart beats about a third less than a normal human’s, and my blood pressure reflects that which mean the stress analyzer in the cuffs won’t tell you if I’m lying or not. With my lung capacity and efficiency I can hold my breath for around 8 minutes so like the stress analyzer in the cuffs the ones in this uniform aren’t going to do any better. But my blood, there is my Achilles heel. My hemoglobin has been modified to make it more efficient so that I could survive in a world with thin or pressurized atmospheres but I can tell you that without fear since I know that the Planetary Systems Alliance has strict laws against the use of any kind of truth serums against prisoners.”
“If we could return our attention back to the Iowa incident I still have a few question to ask you.”
“What the hell for?”
“I need to establish a behavioral profile to work from. As such I need to understand your action in the past. Therefore let’s continue with the questioning,” since Alex gave no further objections he takes it as a sign that he can continue unimpeded, “after you killed off your attackers you made your way to the bridge and overrode the fire containment protocol, locked down all rooms inhabited only by humans, opened all exterior doors and vented the rest of the ship into space by opening all airlocks and turning off all oxygen ports, scrubbers, and recyclers. In the end you killed all fourteen of the remaining commandos, as well as twenty-five of your own crew in the action. You were later court marshaled and then dishonorably discharged, so I want to know if you regret it, do you regret killing those twenty-five crew men I mean.”
If Alex’s glare could have cried energy it would be enough to burn the agent down to his component molecules, or worse. “You’re a real Son of a Bitch, you know that?”
“That is not an answer to my question.” He says coolly, clearly liking being back in control of the conversation.
“Come here,” she growls in her throat, “take a look at this.” She bends forward and puts her head on the table and pulls her shirt up until it exposes her back from the waist band of her pants up to her shoulder blades. Her back had a collection of random shiny white lines crisscrossing the otherwise untainted skin of her back. “That is the twenty five lashes I was given for what I did to my friends, the people I had lived with and made plans with. So yeah I regret killing them, I hated killing them. I wish I could have done it over. I killed my best friend, the girl I had known since I was growing up on Riku, a girl who was my blood sister.”
“You have no biological sisters.”
“Blood sister.” She grumbles as she pulls her shirt back on properly and sits back up in her chair. “It’s a stupid old Earth ritual. We cut our palm with the same knife and mix our blood together when we shake our hands together. That makes us ‘blood’ relatives. So if you want to know if I regret killing those twenty five sailors, yeah. Of course I do, I regret what I did, every morning when I wake up, every time I take a waking breath, and every second in between until I go to bed and then even when I’m asleep because they haunt me in my dreams.”
“I see,” for the first time since the interrogation had started Agent Coreance sounds as if he is sorry for Alex, “I am sorry but I must continue, if I may return this conversation to the incident at hand. How exactly did a slug from your shotgun end up in Lerra’s chest and what happened on the Black Star which lead up to that. As such let me hear what happened as you remember it.”
“Why?” Alex snaps with the ferocity of a trapped predator. “You had to have gotten everything you’ll need to convict me from the shuttle’s computers.”
“Sadly no, the records were corrupted. High powered explosions have a tendency of doing that to computer hard drives as well as erasing a large amount of the physical evidence of the crime, so you tell me what happened. From the beginning please.”