MUTINY OF SHUTTLE X569

COMING SOON

MOONSON-8

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If you were sleeping in a cell in Moonson-8, you were probably the worst badass on your planet. In 3453, Earth was contracted to convert the mining sites on the moon into the most safe and advanced prison in the whole solar system.

The terrestrial company, Tienshing Co., was in charge of designing, building and testing Moon Prison Eight – aka Moonson-8, aka M8, which would later be known by the inmates as the Mate. It was designed to be impossible to escape and easy to control and handle. There were cyborgs and organic guards, infrared scanners, thermal and seismic sensors, hypodermic chips, CCTV: even thinking about fleeing was impossible.

The first phase of the construction site was inaugurated in early 3454. The plan was to build the first octagon module within five years, but the Tienshing Co. made it in less than four. The political pressure was so heavy that they hired twice as many workers in order to meet the schedule.

The Mate was constructed with the future prisoners in mind, taking into account that many would be different species, with different health needs and potential skills that would be a threat to security measures. For instance, an average terrestrial jail would have been useless for containing the brutal force of a Gantuan. However, the Mate was the most advanced building ever made, designed using an ingenious scheme.

Everything started with a single block, comprising four cells and a central staircase. Each block was multiplied by eight, with a central common space added to form a neighborhood; eight neighborhoods were then grouped together to form a floor known as a citadel. A total of eight floors were stacked to create a complete Moon Prison Eight module, with the capacity to hold 4096 prisoners.

There was only one way to get in and out of the Mate: the launch pad in the middle of the citadel that was guarded by a security system. The prison was built for a single task: securing the most dangerous criminals in one place.

When the first module was built, all planets throughout the system wanted to send their worst prisoners there. In less than twelve hours, all the cells were filled with the worst scum that have ever lived. There were a few simple rules in the Mate:

  1. Each cell had two inmates, from different planets.

  2. Each neighborhood was open for just three hours: for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

  3. Access to the outer part of the citadel was strictly forbidden.

The first 512 inmates arrived at the end of November 3459 and filled the whole ground level citadel; the plan was to fill the citadels month by month. The enrolment procedure was quick: all the inmates were given a grey and black uniform, a personal health card and a Unilator wristwatch – a universal translator that was essential in an environment where more than five thousand different languages were spoken. Each inmate also had a chip implanted in an arm, tentacle or paw (preferably the right side, if they had more than one limb).

One day, Philemon read on the main screen that he was the only human in the whole prison.

“Ah great, I’m the only representative of Planet Earth! My parents would be very proud if they knew.” Philemon Perky was sentenced to 25 years for armed robbery and attempted murder of a security guard. He tried to steal the quantum core of the Shintoshi Bank computer servers in Osaka, which contained the encryption keys of every single Japanese bank account. That bank had been the safest place on Earth with the most innovative security systems; some of those systems had been updated to be used in the prison.

After his enrolment, Philemon was brought to his new home: a reinforced concrete room with a small rectangular window facing Earth, a bunk bed, a sink and a universal toilet that was basically a hole in the floor – it was considered universal because it could also be used by species that had tails, wings, or more than two legs.

His cellmate was lying in the bottom bed; he had two legs, two arms, a head, a torso and a pale grey skin – definitely a Kangonian shapeshifter. When the first alien contact was established in 2245, humans discovered that Darwinian evolution followed the same rules all around the universe. The more intelligent forms of life had developed similar characteristics: two legs and two arms (at least), one head, sometimes a tail, and a biological communication and reproductive system. After all, that was the smartest way to build a superior body that could move in three-dimensional space. Even Karion, an artificial planet built by a strong AI, had decided to produce its inhabitants to mimic such anthropomorphic characteristics.

“Yo, dude! No magic tricks in the room, got it?” Philemon turned on his Unilator to send the message to his inmate, who just turned over in bed, showing him his back.

“Hey dude, I’m talking to you. Did you get my message?” Philemon grabbed his shoulder, but the Kangonian quickly turned his head and glared at him with deep red eyes.

“Human, stop touching me or it’ll be the last thing you do in the Mate.” He slapped Philemon’s hand away and went back to sleep.

“Whoa, I was told Kangonians were friendly and nice. Maybe you’re the planet’s black sheep.” Philemon jumped onto his bed and stared at the roof. “I can’t be here for the next 25 years. I need to find a way out.”

The lights turned off; it was time for the inmates to sleep.

07:30 to 08:30, breakfast time.

The next day, Philemon had the chance to meet his neighbors for the first time. The dining hall was stuffed with the best of the worst from all over the universe: there were Karionan cyborgs, Varnaxian psychics, some Pollerians, a bunch of Ganyan time shifters, Bundarian light walkers and even an Eschian – plus unauthorized clones, recycled cyborgs and hybrids that were impossible to categorize. Meals had to be universal to suit all the different metabolisms, so the solution was to pack nutrients into pills that were given to each species based on its nutritional needs.

The hall had eight tables with eight seats. Inmates had to shift tables between meals to reduce the chances of creating dangerous alliances or regular exchanges of information. Everything was designed to divide the prisoners.

“Good morning, dudes. How’s the slop here?” Philemon knew how to make new friends.

“I don’t understand how humans had the monopoly of building this place. They are stupid and childish.” The Ganyan was the only one to acknowledge Philemon. He had yellowish skin, a long head and two legs, but small arms with four-fingered hands. His species was able to bend the time; they had evolved that skill because their Planet Ganya was placed between a supermassive black hole and a red super giant. Those celestial bodies were such a threat to the space-time continuum that all the superior life species on that planet had developed a way to slow time relatively to the observer’s field of reference.

It wasn’t a real superpower, because it worked only in certain conditions: far from heavy gravitational forces (such as a star or a black hole) or far from an absolute time calculator (such as an atomic clock).

“Nice to meet you too, man. I’m Philemon, the stupid and childish human. What’s your name?”

“If I tell you my name, would you please shut up and take your pills?”

“C’mon, stop acting like a tough guy with a cold heart like that over there!” Philemon pointed at the huge Karionan sitting on the other side of the hall.

That was Bait, the Commander-in-Chief of the Army of Karion. It was built in 3031 and had been in charge for four hundred years. It was 7.9 feet tall and made of 772 pounds of pure prodium, the toughest metal alloy known in the whole universe. In 2420, cyborgs, clones, robots and semi-organics were given the status of living beings; which meant they could marry, hold citizenship and go to jail.

“I’m Tism, you stupid human. Stop pointing at him if you want to be here at lunch.” The Ganyan grabbed Philemon’s fingers and pushed them down. “You’re going to die soon, Philemon-from-Earth.”

“Just call me Phil, dude. I’ve never seen a Ganyan do crazy time tricks. Could you show me?” He popped his pills into his mouth and took a sip of water to swallow.

“They told me that the Mate only held the worst criminals. You look like a chicken thief. Are you some kind of crazy psycho-killer or what?”

“Tism, I’m the best thief in the galaxy!” Philemon was so smug.

“The best thief wouldn’t be rotting in here, you fool.” He took his four pills and swallowed his breakfast.

“I told you I’m the best, not the luckiest. My last snatch was almost perfect, but that day a stupid guard decided to play hero. That’s why I’m here now. One more step and the Shintoshi core would have been mine,” he sighed, staring at his empty red plastic plate.

“Wait, wait. Do you want me to believe that you’re the Flying Wizard? Don’t joke with me, come on! I was told he was the biggest badass from Planet Earth, not a stupid skinny loser like you.”

“I’m glad my fame has reached Ganya! I’m sorry to disappoint you, Tism, but I am in fact the Flying Wizard.” Phil flashed his health card.

“No way! You really are the Wizard, I can’t believe it. How did they catch you?” Tism had become extremely friendly after reading ‘sentenced for Shintoshi Bank robbery’ on the card.

“Well, I’m a thief, not a murderer. My escape was as smooth as silk, but that stupid underpaid private guard decided to run after me. It was his first day on duty and he wanted to show the company he was good. But he was just a young guard who slipped on the stairs and hit the marble floor with his big head. When I realized he was almost dead, I went back to those damn stairs to try to resuscitate him. When they handcuffed me, I was still trying to revive him. At least he’s alive now.”

“But they sentenced you for attempted murder! How could that be?”

“Because after my ‘almost’ theft, the clients of the bank were scared and took away their data from Shintoshi. Its stocks plummeted down and they decided to punish me for that, using their political relationships. That’s why everyone on Earth now thinks I’m a murderer.”

08:30.

An intense screechy sound came out from the speakers. It was designed to be universally audible through any kind of acoustic apparatus; it was also the most annoying sound in the universe.

Back in his cell, Philemon saw his cellmate standing in front of the window, looking at the pale blue of Earth.

“Have you ever been there, dude?”

“Kangonians need special permission to visit your planet. They’re scared that we could use our skills to manipulate your primitive society.”

“What if I gave you a special permission? Would you go there?”

“I’d love to. Planet Earth is said to be one of the most wonderful planets in the whole galaxy. Streams of water flowing towards a deep blue ocean, snow on the mountains, green forests and a unique variety of animals and plants. I wonder why humans have always felt the need to escape their planet when other species dream about visiting its amazing flowery fields.”

“Maybe because we only appreciate things when we can’t have them.”

“Maybe you are right, human.”

“My name is Philemon. Or Phil. What’s yours? I need to know in order to fill in the form for your special permission.” Philemon smiled at his cellmate.

“I’m Pliskoritz Dewangator Kreyounthar, but you can call me just Plisk.”

“Nice to meet you, Plisk. You seem like a nice guy, why the hell did they put you in this crazy place?”

Plisk fell quiet for a while, then took a deep breath. “I killed my own family.”

The silence became as thick as the concrete walls of the cell.

“Don’t be afraid, I’m not a killer. They were infected by the Hoolian leeches. I had to stop their suffering because I couldn’t afford the treatments. Kangon rules dictate that a member of the family can terminate the unnecessary pain of a relative if they can’t pay for a cure. Unfortunately, the venom I used covered all traces of the infection and I was sentenced to life imprisonment for double murder. That is what happens when you are poor and you cannot prove that you are right.”

“Plisk, I’m so sorry about that. I knew you were a good guy. We’re both innocent but are still going to die in this lousy place. That’s not fair at all.”

“Life is not fair, Phil.” Plisk went back to his bed.

“We must do something,” said Philemon. “We can’t just throw away our lives without fighting. We must get out of here.”

“Stop babbling about escaping! It’s impossible and that’s a fact. You don’t even know what kind of security systems have been installed, it’s all classified military technology that has been used here for the first time. Shut up and stop talking about it.”

“I promise you that in less than one year, you’ll be smelling the perfume of a terrestrial dandelion field.”

“Don’t make promises you can’t keep. That’s the worst thing you can do to a Kangonian.”

“Trust me, I’ll show you why they call me the Flying Wizard.”

12:30, lunch time.

The cells opened and the prisoners silently poured into the hall. Philemon shifted his place and met a new friend: a Bundarian light walker. Bundar was the second planet of a four-star solar system; the fact that nights in Bundar last just ten minutes means that Bundarians are constantly hit by sunlight. For that reason, shadows are their worst enemy. Their bodies evolved to convert the solar radiation into energy, like the plants on Planet Earth. More radiation means more energy; a Bundarian hit by a strong light can enhance their power and speed up to twenty times. On the other hand, complete shadows will kill them, draining vital energy out of their thin and small darkish bodies.

“Hello there, I’ve never met a Bundarian before. I’m Philemon, nice to meet you.”

“Why don’t you just shut up? I don’t care about your silly human name. Leave me alone.”

“Acting like a jerk won’t get you out of here faster. It’s a prison, we have a lot of time to get to know each other and maybe learn something new. Don’t you agree?”

“Yeah, I do. It’s time for you to learn to close that mouth of yours and let me eat my lunch in peace.” The Bundarian grabbed his five pills and swallowed them.

“Whoa, dude, don’t eat so fast! Didn’t your mummy ever tell you that you need to chew before you swallow?” The other prisoners at the table laughed at Philemon’s joke. The Bundarian, quicker than a blink of an eye, grabbed him by the neck.

“You are funny, human. I wonder how you would chew without your teeth? That would be very funny.” The other prisoners silently got up, swallowing their pills as they went away.

Philemon grabbed the Bundarian’s wrist and slammed a health card in his face. “Can you read, you cocky bastard? I’m the Flying Wizard and I’m the only one who can help you leave this place. Now, can you please tell me your name?”

“Just call me Celer,” replied the Bundarian, slowly letting go of Philemon.

“Nice to meet you Celer, you can call me Phil.”

“So, what’s your plan, Phil?”

“My plan is to get to know you. Why are you here?”

“I tried to overthrow the government, so I kidnapped Shteris, the Prime Minister’s daughter. The problem is that she fell in love with me and became my second in command.”

“Cool! So, you’ve got a very good reason to get out earlier. Somebody is waiting for you out there.”

“She’s in a coffin now. I don’t think she’d notice if I got out earlier.” Celer fell silent while staring at his hands. “I wasn’t able to protect her. When we broke into the Parliament, her father’s private guards started shooting at us. Shteris fell immediately with a hole in her chest; she literally died in my arms. I surrendered and they charged me with treason and murder. That’s why I will spend the rest of my life here.”

“No, that’s why we need to get out of here and avenge her.”

13:30, end of lunch.

Plisk was laying on the bed whistling a Kangonian tune when Philemon rushed into the cell. “Dude, I need your help to get out of here. I just met a Bundarian who could be very useful for my plan.”

“You only arrived yesterday, Phil. How can you already have a plan?”

“Well, I’ve got an idea for a plan and I’ve already spotted the Mate’s first flaw today. We’ll need a lot of help from the other prisoners.”

“What kind of flaw?” Plisk sat up in his bed.

“They mixed us. The neighborhood is packed with dozens of different species with different skills. In less than a day, I’ve met you, a Ganyan and a Bundarian. I wonder who I’m going to meet tonight.”

“I suggest not to be too friendly here. You never know who you might be talking to.”

“Dude, that’s my superpower. I always know whether or not I can trust someone.”

19:30, dinnertime.

The noise of the dinner signal reached all corners of the neighborhood. The inmates were waiting in line with their red plastic plates, ready to receive their pills. Philemon was assigned to his new table where he met his fourth friend.

“Hello folks, how are you?”

Nobody answered, but one of them gave him a curious look. He was short with thick glasses, a square-shaped head and brownish skin; he was definitely an Eschian. They were famous for being fast, loyal and stubborn – but above all, they were the smartest inventors in the universe. They could build a space rocket out of a banana, a paperclip and some tape.

“Nice to meet you pal, I’m Phil. What’s your name?” He reached out his hand.

“I’m not your pal, human. Leave me alone.”

“No need to be rude! I thought Eschians were kind and friendly.”

“Maybe you want to be friends with him.” The Eschian showed his fist.

“Easy pal! Maybe you’re not a real Eschian after all. Maybe you’re a clone. I bet you can’t turn that plastic fork into a spoon. If you were an Eschian, it would be easy for you.”

The Eschian snatched the fork from Philemon’s hand and rubbed it quickly against his shirt. Eschians have short limbs but very strong muscles that allow them to move as quick as the wings of a hummingbird. The friction was so intense that the plastic fork began to melt. He stopped and began to shape the soft plastic. In less than two minutes, the fork became a spoon.

“Here you are, human. I’m Lindar from Eschia and I’ve won your bet!”

Eschians were pure gamblers; they loved to bet on everything.

“Nice to meet you, Lindar. I knew you’d accept my bet. Wanna raise the stakes?”

Lindar was all ears, like a dog waiting for a juicy slice of bacon.

“I bet you can’t escape the Mate.”

Lindar’s excitement died. His happy grin turned into a sad face. “That’s not funny, human. You can’t bet on impossible outcomes.”

Philemon leaned towards him and spoke in low voice. “Nothing is impossible for the Flying Wizard.”

Lindar’s eyes shone like a supernova as the noisy alarm warned the inmates that it was time to go back to their cells.

“Did you meet anybody interesting at your table? I met an Eschian who made me a spoon out of a fork.” Philemon showed Plisk his new cutlery.

“I was the only organic at my table.”

“So what? We need a cyborg for the plan. Next time, try to be kind and get some information, okay?”

“No, Phil, it’s not okay. You keep talking about the plan, but you’re the only one that knows it. Could you please share your brilliant plot with me ?”

Philemon turned to the window and sighed. “I’ll tell you everything when the team is complete. We need three more players.”

07:30, breakfast time.

Plisk was ready for his task. He was sitting with some Ganyan, two clones and mighty Bait, the Karionan. As a cyborg, Bait’s energy supply was a pill of thorium once a week.

“Good morning, Sir. I heard you fought the Battle of Kendarah – it was a massacre out there! How did you make it through?” Plisk wasn’t as charming as Philemon when making new friends.

“The fourth Army advanced through the canyons when we were surprised by the crossfire of Feutons’ artillery. I ordered the units to split in order to–” As a cyborg, Bait was very good at doing its job, but it didn’t have the ability to summarize the facts. Bait just explained, for the next forty-five minutes, every single action of its campaign.

At 08:30, Plisk was saved by the noise of the bell.

“So dude, I saw you approaching Bait. How did it go?”

“Well, now I know about every single bit of the Battle of Kendarah. It’s impossible to have a normal conversation with that stupid metal box.”

“Of course it is. Bait is a cyborg! It thinks like a machine and it’s created to solve a unique purpose: winning battles. That’s it. Next time you talk to it, remember that.”

12:32.

Prisoners were holding their plastic plates in a neat row, waiting for their pills, while Plisk was sitting between a cyborg and a Pollerian. This time, he decided to approach an organic form of life.

“Hello, I’m Plisk, nice to meet you.” He didn’t act very natural and couldn’t help but look around nervously.

“What the hell do you want from me? Are you some kind of agent in disguise? After all, you are a Kangonian, you could be anyone.”

“I’m just me. I can’t use my powers here. There are too many reflective surfaces, don’t you see?” Kangonians’ worst enemy was a mirror. They could shift into any kind of shape, but their original form would always be revealed in a mirror, water or any reflective metal; that’s why the Mate was full of shiny surfaces.

“You are strange, Plisk, but I like strange things. I’m Sanyr, nice to meet you.” As a Pollerian, he had the insane ability to control the chemical reaction of anything with a PH between 1 and 13. “Did you know that these pills we eat contain the purest chemical ingredients I’ve ever seen? It’s even better than real food.”

“Well, Sanyr, I’d like to eat a non-perfect slice of fendron instead of those tasteless pills. That’s why I’m getting out of here soon.”

“Out of here? It’s more likely you can turn lead into gold than you can get out of here,” Sanyr swallowed his pills. “These things are awesome.”

In another part of the dining hall, Philemon had the chance to sit next to one of most dangerous beings in the universe: a Varnaxian. He was tall and very slim with long limbs, a skinny tail and greenish skin. Like all Varnaxians, his left eye was grey and his right eye was black – and he was psychic.

Varnaxian developed the ability to read and manipulate minds, but this was only intended for good or self-defense purposes. If one of them was in a jail, it meant that he was a real bad guy. The only way to stop their powers is to create a very intense magnetic field that prevents them from using cerebral waves, which is why the Mate was literally submerged in an artificial magnetic field.

“Hello there! I bet you can still read everybody’s minds, can’t you?”

“I know who you are, Wizard, and my answer is no, I don’t want to be your friend.”

“Look at you! I knew your powers were too strong to be blocked by a stupid magnetic field.”

“I can’t read anybody’s mind. I just share the block with Lindar. He was so excited yesterday that he literally spoke for ten minutes without even breathing.”

“That Eschian is such a nice guy. So, what’s your name? Or do you want me to read your superior mind?”

“I’m Medju and I’m not interested in your foolish escape plan. Only a crazy human would think they can get out of here.”

“You’re right, it’s definitely a crazy plan.”

The intense sound of the speakers ended their conversation. Medju followed Philemon with the back of his eyes until the human disappeared into his cell.

“Hey dude, I saw you talking with that Pollerian guy. How is he?”

“Like all Pollerians – he just talks about chemistry. His name is Sanyr.”

“Good job, Plisk! I just met Medju, the Varnaxian. He’s quite skeptical about me, but we need him. He’s the one of the main pieces of the puzzle.”

“What about Bait?”

“It’s already in. But it still doesn’t know.”

“Philemon, you’re the only one who knows your flawless plan. Can you tell me anything about it?”

Philemon looked at the floor and stomped one foot. “Everything starts from here, my friend. The Mate has an underground tunnel system that connects the neighborhoods to the central launch pad. It’s used for sending all the by-products of the prison to the recycling station that orbits not far from the Moon. The tunnel is divided into a series of heavy security gates controlled by some kind of automated recognition system. That will be our getaway path.”

“Wait a second, how do you know that? You’ve never been there!”

“No, but I’ve heard it. The Mate is a huge concrete and steel box that carries sound better than any other materials. Every night, I hear eight distinct clangs that can’t be anything other than the sound of a shutting iron doors. Look at that,” Philemon pointed outside the window. “That flying ship is a W9-modified cargo-ship used for carrying the ores extracted here on the Moon. It’s headed to a former refinery that orbits nearby. I know it because I stole a few crates of bauxite some years ago.”

“You’re telling me that your perfect plan is based on some sounds that remind you of a gate? And what if it is a gate full of guards or CCTV?”

“I don’t know. Let’s find out.”

Philemon then explained to Plisk the plan in every single detail. That was the day his cellmate really understood why he was called the Flying Wizard. From that moment, the escape plan begun; Philemon divided the plot like theatre, with acts and scenes that would develop across the following weeks.

“I’ll call my masterpiece: Dancing on the Moon.” Philemon had never been so proud.

First Act: Preparing Tricks, starring Lindar and Sanyr.

“Are you sure you can do this, Lindar? I need it to be perfect.”

“You can bet your head, Philemon. I just need some tools and a couple of weeks.” Lindar’s role was the Tinker: he had to prepare a shocking gift.

“Sanyr, you’re the only one who can pull this off. Don’t let me down.”

“I won’t, Plisk, leave it to me.” Sanyr’s role was the Fireworks Man: he was in charge of creating an explosive distraction.

Second Act: Stealing Secrets, starring Celer and Medju.

“Phil, if there’s enough energy, I can run as fast as light.” Celer was the Runner.

“I’ve never had to scan so many people’s minds in such a short amount of time, but I think I’ve got no other choice – I’m in, Philemon.” Medju was the Mind Reader.

Third Act: The Escape, starring Tism and Plisk.

“Tism, I told you. Philemon has planned every detail, but you and I are the main players. I can’t shapeshift if you don’t help me.” Plisk was the Face.

“As long as the hacked Unilator works, I can bend any surfaces for you, Plisk.” Tism was the Time Bender.

For three weeks, the team prepared each single aspect of the play, repeating every single movement in their minds. They stopped talking to each other, so that they could avoid raising any suspicion, but they kept very intense eye contact. They were just waiting for Lindar and Sanyr’s signals to begin the show.

The signal arrived one week later, when Lindar scratched his left hand and Sanyr answered by touching his right ear. The other players realized that it was time to raise the curtain.

First Act

Lindar saw Bait and ran after it, hitting its plate with the pill of thorium, which fell onto the ground.

“Oh sir, I’m so sorry! Please accept my apology, I’m just so clumsy.” He leaned down to grab the pill and switched it with the one he had prepared over the last four weeks. “Here you are, sir!”

The cyborg didn’t notice anything.

From the other side of the hall, Sanyr saw Lindar’s move and walked towards Celer, dropping a small white sphere right under his table before slipping away.

Second Act

Celer was ready to make his move. He spilled a glass of water on the white sphere, which instantly produced a powerful white glow. Over the last few weeks, Sanyr extracted phosphorus, potassium, calcium and iron from his nutritive pills, creating a rudimental bomb of light that just needed some drops of water to ignite.

When Lindar saw Celer pouring the water, he pressed the power switch of his Unilator and Bait began to scream and shake like a crazy merry-go-round; Lindar’s pill was a miniaturized bomb that produced a huge electromagnetic pulse. Medju heard Bait’s scream and played his part.

In less than five seconds, they were able to obtain both the access codes and the magnetic security card.

The sound of Bait’s huge iron body hitting the ground was the final signal of the plan. It was the perfect play, but it had no audience at all. Nobody noticed what happened, but it happened. If you expose a Bundarian to an intense light, he can absorb it and convert the energy into very fast movement, so fast that you can’t even detect it; Bundarians are the fastest form of life in the universe when they are excited.

Celer absorbed the light of Sanyr’s bomb and ran to the security guard, stealing his card and heading back to his seat in a blink of an eye. The electric shockwave produced by Bait counteracted the magnetic field of the Mate, allowing Medju to read into every guard’s mind to search for the activation codes. When the security guards entered the dining hall and forced everybody to go back to their cells, Bait was still shaking and trembling; it still had no idea that it had been part of the plan as the Involuntary Actor.

Third Act

They had less than a couple of hours before the guard realized that he had lost his card. Medju had all the security codes of the base in his mind, turning him into a living passe-partout.

“It’s show time, Medju. It’s your turn to show us your abilities.”

Medju typed the code and the cell door opened; they were ready to free the others. Each block was connected with the other blocks by the stairs, which led to the underground level. Medju knew exactly where to find the others because he had read the prison director’s mind as well. Finding them was easy and quick. In less than ten minutes, the seven of them were gathered in the basement, ready for the final act.

“Folks, I’m so proud of you. You did a great job!” grinned Philemon. “But this is the showdown; it’s all in. From now on, it’s all on Plisk’s shoulders. He will save us all!”

“Well, the final act isn’t just me; without Tism, I won’t be able to beat the security system. Now jump into the container and let’s finish this!”

Plisk pretended to be a waste disposal worker driving a big trolley with a container full of waste through the launch pad. There were eight iron gates and a security control at each of those. His shapeshifting skills couldn’t be used close to shiny metal or mirrors, which is why Tism was needed to bend the space-time continuum to warp the shiny surfaces around Plisk.

“I’m ready to start! Stay inside and don’t say a word. We’ll be flying away from this rock soon enough.” Plisk looked at the face on the security card, morphed into that human guard and started his walk to liberty. The first gate didn’t have any security guards at all, just a panel that needed a 12-digit code. For the second, third, fourth and fifth gates, both a card and code were needed, but there were still no guards around.

“I’ve just passed the fifth gate. Still no guards here, it’s very strange.”

At the sixth gate, there was the first real security test – a drone asked for facial recognition and the personal password. Plisk was nervous but didn’t have any problems; his camouflage was pristine. The seventh gate had a body scanner that checked for any contamination; Plisk easily moved forward.

There was just one more gate between them and freedom. But this time, Plisk couldn’t use his skills; the guard asked for a vocal check. Kangonians can mimic any type of shape, sound or smell, but they can’t create them out of nothing; they need to see that shape, hear that sound or smell that scent. Plisk had never heard the guard’s voice so he had to improvise.

“Please tell your name and number.”

“I’m… Frank...,” he coughed, faking an illness. “...Rutherford...I’ve got a terrible…sore throat…I’m sorry,” he coughed again even louder.

A red light flashed on his head. Something was wrong with his acting.

“Stay there, Frank. I can’t recognize your voice. I need to get a blood sample. Don’t move.”

Another thing that a Kangonian can’t fake is blood; Plisk would have been discovered and all their efforts would have been in vain.

The eighth gate opened and the guard came towards him with a blood tester in his hand. Plisk could see inside; it was a huge iron silo full of stairs and light, and in the middle he could see the W9 cargo ready to lift off.

“Give me your finger, Frank.”

Plisk gave the guard his left index finger, but with his right hand he pushed the accelerator on the trolley and rushed into the launch room.

“Get everybody out of here!” Plisk pushed the guard and ran inside, trying to reach the cargo while the trolley hit a huge metal pillar, flipping the container. The alarm sounded in every single corner of the base and dozens of guards went down the stairs. It was impossible to escape.

From the flipped container, Plisk saw Philemon’s head sticking out to shout at his team. “Let’s go, folks! The cargo is just in front of us.”

The inmates jumped out of the container while the guards started shooting at them from every direction.

“Stay close to me and let’s move all together!” Tism created a sort of space-time barrier that curved the trajectories of the laser bullets. “I’m running out of energy, I can’t resist much longer. We need to run to the cargo ship.”

Medju put his hands on Tism’s head; Varnaxian could transfer their vital energy into other bodies in case of emergencies. “I’ll be your power bank, don’t worry. Keep that shield going!”

The barrier became bigger and much more powerful. The cargo ship was just few feet away.

“Come on, let’s jump in!” Philemon helped his friends get inside the rocket while Tism and Medju were covering them. “Let’s go, we’re all in!”

Medju and Tism walked backwards to shield everyone while laser bullets flew everywhere.

“Lindar, close that damn hatch,” Philemon was screaming like never before.

The metal panel finally closed; everybody was safe and sound.

“Is everybody okay?” Sanyr checked if any of his friends were injured.

“Let’s get the hell out of here. Who can help me fly a modified W9 cargo?” Philemon fastened his seatbelt.

“I’m ready, Captain Phil. I was a deckhand at the military academy.”

“Crew, ready to lift off in five, four, three, two, one...”

“Stop! I’ve seen enough. You can shut it off now,” a voice shouted through the window. The space turned white and the automatic door opened.

The medical crew entered the room to check the patient’s vital data. In the middle of the chamber was a man lying on a cryogenic bed, with beeping machinery next to him and a yellowish intravenous drip leading into his arm.

“I told you it was a mistake having so many species in the same place. We can’t forecast all the outcomes of such a mix of different skills and powers.”

“Sir, the inauguration is scheduled next Friday. We can’t change the security protocols now.”

“Markus, you’ve seen the simulation, haven’t you? A two-hundred-year-old man in a coma has escaped our prison in less than six weeks. I think we can wait until we change the protocols.”

The Flying Wizard was the most famous thief in the human history. He was born on Christmas Day, 3205. At the age of 16, he stole a Class A+ Terrestrial Star Cruise using nothing but a screwdriver and a fake ID. He was incarcerated in every prison throughout the galaxy, but he always found a way to escape. A cooperation of 50 solar systems created a committee to ban him from every known planet and incarcerated everyone who helped him, but it was useless. The Flying Wizard was impossible to catch.

After 70 years of running through the galaxy, he decided to quit and surrendered to Earth. He said he had stolen everything possible and that there were no more challenges for him. He was sentenced to 700 years in prison. For that reason, his brain would be used for the next 500 years as a beta tester for every prison ever designed.

 

THE END

Lamees Alhassar