Here is the first part of Chapter One in my science fiction space opera, Berserker Saga, briefly published in 2010 as Onet’s Tale.
Chapter One – Jalnuur
An escape pod sat alone in the vast hanger deck after it was detected on a routine patrol above Dranaa. Its battered outer hull bore scars from countless impacts from micrometeorites and other space debris. The barely legible identification letters indicated its mother ship and battle fleet. The recovery caused great excitement on the orbiting base. The base commander reported the find to the Imperial Council on the home planet.
Technicians conducting a routine scan of the escape pod found a body in stasis. When the stasis unit was opened, the body was found to be desiccated due to the damage to the unit, caused by micrometeorite bombardment. A forensic medical team worked for hours on the lifeless mummy. DNA tests revealed the house it belonged to, and after contact was made with the family, funeral rights were carried out with a small delegation from the family as witnesses. Finally, the house of Hanseer could bury its long lost son Shanath. After several days of analysis, the audio recording made by Shanath all those centuries ago, before he placed himself in stasis, was played to the Emperor and his Imperial Council. Together with his family, he grieved for both their revered ancestors. A statue to honour Commander Shanath Hanseer was erected in front of the Imperial Palace. A lot had happened since he and the imperial fleet had disappeared.
Hanseer’s descendant, General Nagesh, had led the imperial guards uprising on Dranaa. Rumblings of discontent throughout the conquered planets had escalated into open revolt. The house of Ashah, led by Dranaa Nazir, collapsed once the imperial armed forces led by Nagesh surrounded the Imperial Palace. Dranaa and its people had a new ruler—Dranaa Nagesh.
The Negan mine on the barren planet in the twenty-sixth sector of the disputed outer reaches was the birthplace of the miners’ rebellion. The frozen surface of the planet, together with its extremely thin atmosphere, forced both the miners and their Khaz and Drana guards to live and work beneath its inhospitable surface. The mined Negan ore, once processed, was used to construct the outer hull for ships in the imperial fleet. Its shielding effect enabled the ships to survive most impacts from meteorites and weapons. People making up the mining community came from all parts of the empire that had fallen foul of the impossible rules and regulations imposed by the former Dranaa Nazir, and adopted by Nagesh.
Each planet paid tribute in the form of men and boys conscripted for military service, young girls destined to become servants or concubines, plus food, textiles, and raw materials, which were sent to Dranaa. When anyone protested, he or she, were immediately banished to the mines. The miners greatly outnumbered their Khaz and Drana guards, but because of the cruel punishment regime, remained docile. Those who tried standing up for themselves were flogged mercilessly with discharge whips, administered by the Khaz, encouraged by the Drana guards. Occasionally a miner was chosen at random and made an example of to the community, which meant he or she would be flogged then taken up to the surface and cast out into the frozen wasteland. The only escape from the mines was death. The average lifespan of a miner was six months. Combined with the harsh working conditions, Negan mining produced toxic dust particles that entered every pore of a miners’ skin, attacking all vital internal organs. The Khaz and Drana guards wore protective environmental suits, rotating every month when the cargo-ships made a call, bringing more victims to their frozen, poisonous new home.
Within the ranks of miners were many young Nephile from the warrior houses of Cydon in the far off Andromeda galaxy. Akhen from the house of Horus was fiercely proud of his ancestor Hor. When Lord Hor and his family returned to Cydon, the whole planet rejoiced. Hor’s brother-in-law, the Human-Nephile Tom, was made welcome and honoured by the ruling council. Tom’s wife and sister of Hor, the Lady Auset, had written a history of the Human-Nephile defence of the small blue planet where I live, called Earth, here in the Milky Way galaxy. Auset and Tom’s daughter, Auramooth, was of greatest interest as the first true Human-Nephile. It’s from her that Akhen was descended. Auramooth had inherited her mother’s beauty and her New Zealand father’s ways. Many young Nephile men vied for her affections. Only one young warrior serving in the guard, responsible for the safety and security of the ruling council, stole Auramooth’s heart. Akhet and Auramooth were married, and in time, a son was born of the union, named Horus in honour of his great-uncle Hor. With his birth, the house of Horus began. While Auramooth, Akhet, and their son Horus remained on Cydon, visiting Earth from time to time, Auset, Tom, and Hor returned home to the valley at the bottom of New Zealand’s South Island.
Akhen and his men were captured two months prior to being sent to the mine, in an abortive rescue attempt on the planet Andras, a thorn in the side of the empire. Nephile led underground units continually sabotaged Drana installations and armed camps across the planet. Right from the start, things were going wrong for the latest incursion on Andras by the Nephile warriors and their underground units. The Drana stepped up security by imposing curfews on the local inhabitants. More and more Drana commando patrols were put in place to ‘discourage’ local support for the Nephile troublemakers. Security pass checks were carried out at random, day or night. Anyone found to be in breach was taken away by the Drana, never to be seen again. Whenever a sabotage operation was successful, the Drana carried out reprisals by rounding up the nearest group of inhabitants and executing them in public to discourage local participation. Inevitably, the population caved in under the pressure. The identities and location of the underground units were revealed. Akhen and his men found themselves trapped by a carefully laid ambush thanks to information given under torture by one of his own men. Outnumbered fifty-to-one, he had to surrender. He and his gallant team of Nephile found themselves in the hell-hole that was the Negan mine.
So there you have it – the first part of chapter one. The story proper, begins in part two of the chapter.