The Lions’ Den

Space stations make the best prisons. There’s no hope of tying sheets together and climbing out the window, that’s for sure. My prison was Doonorin Maximum Security Fortress, which everyone calls “Doomsafe.” Doomsafe was designed by criminals in return for leniency, or so the rumor goes. They took their job seriously, let me tell you. There were over 5000 of us in Doomsafe, but most of us had never seen more than a handful of others because all cells were solitary confinement cells. Prisoners who can’t communicate with each other can’t plot escapes or rebellions.

Outer security at Doomsafe is state of the art. The fortress orbits a star that emits unsafe levels of x-ray radiation. Every vessel entering the system requires extra radiation shielding. There is a laser web surrounding the structure, powerful enough to slice through almost any armored spaceship hull. The net is on continuously except for a few seconds at a time when supply and transport vessels come or go.

And did I mention the worms? The Doomsafe star system is home to x-ray loving giant spaceworms. They eat everything that crosses their path, including a person in a spacesuit or a small to medium spacecraft. Everything is ground up in their giant radioactive gizzards before being ejected back into space as compacted pellets. So even if someone got out of Doomsafe, the worms would get him. And in case you were wondering, the trash is ejected out through the net for the worms to have fun with too.

The worms are kind of fun to watch though. Their huge yellow forms float past the fortress often and sometimes one is stupid enough to try and get through the laser net. Then we have big yellow chunks of worm flesh hitting the hull and the windows. I tell you, the place is a paradise.

I bet you’re wondering what heinous crime I committed to get an all-expenses-paid trip to Doomsafe. The truth is, I was a prisoner of conscience. I was on my first deep space voyage, serving as tech support on the merchant vessel, Cornucopia. Fresh out of tech school, I thought I was a grown woman so I got a real job, hugged my parents goodbye, and off I went.

When the Cornucopia docked at Dworn, I didn’t think it was a big deal, even though I’d been told Dworn was run by a fanatical religious sect. The captain explained that we had to stay on board until after he presented an offering to the local idol, a tentacled deity named Kala. While the merchandise was being unloaded, we got our shore leave. It was my first time on an alien space station. Eager to see an alien culture, I walked past the impressive sculpture of Kala, only to be detained by a uniformed official.

“What is your name, offworlder?”

“Vennery Lorn.” I held out my hand so he could scan my ident chip for verification.

The Lions’ Den

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