Prisoner Xentha sat chained and manacled in her spacepod. Her fingers itched with the need to do something. Her head ached from the idleness forced upon her.
She was fairly certain that she was going to go insane well before she reached the whatever planet they were shipping her off to.
The klaxon alarm blared an unpleasantly flat tone.
Right before the spacepod went into a nosedive and crashed.
It rattled her bones, but nothing seemed to be hurt or broken, which was a relief.
The chains and manacles automatically released her, retreating into the seat.
She stood quickly and moved away from the seat, just in case the bindings changed their minds and tried to grab her again.
A woman’s pleasant voice half-sang, “Please exit the vehicle before it explodes.”
Xentha didn’t need a second invite. She RSVP’d the heck out of there.
“Counting down just to be fair: Threee.”
Xentha raced to the front of the pod.
She hit the button to open the hatch.
The hatch didn’t open.
She kicked the door a couple of times.
It slowly creaked open.
Xentha body slammed it repeatedly to force it to move faster.
The door took offense to such abuse and froze at the halfway point.
“Ready orrrrrr noooot, here comes the big boom aaaaaaat…”
Xentha struggled to squeeze through the narrow space.
She got half of her body through.
Then, the hatch decided that it had had enough. It started to close on her.
Xentha swore and struggled to get the rest of herself through.
She kneed the hatch, not that she expected any good to come of that move.
The hatch door dropped open.
Xentha tumbled onto the rocky ground.
She gingerly stood and hobbled away from the spacepod as fast as she could.
It wasn’t particularly fast.
The ship exploded, knocking her off her feet.
The nearest rock transformed into a fat gray Akien. Its glass mustache heads chinked melodically like a wind chime. “Are you alive, then?”
Xentha stood again and dusted off her bruised and bartered dignity. “Apparently.”
“Isn’t that something, then? None of the other prisoners banished to this planet ever managed to escape the spacepod in time, then. Well, come along with me, then.”
“Not that it really matters, but where are we? What planet is this?”
He grinned, flaunting the shady remnants of his last meal. “Follow me, then and then you’ll see.”
She shrugged and followed him through a mostly barren landscape. A stray tree stood here and there, but they had a discouraging look to them.
“So, what did you do, then?”
She considered keeping her past a secret, but decided with a shrug that it wasn’t worth the trouble. “I snooped in Chen Mana a Dini’s private correspondence and discovered that he’s been cheating on his clan and entertaining the rival clan’s eldest dauthry. So, of course they found out. And, of course, they decided to punish me for Infiltrating An Active Chen’s Correspondence and they shipped me to…”
Her voice stopped and died.
An enormous dome shaped rock dominated the horizon, looking like a planet somewhere had misplaced its top half.
“What is it?” Her voice was soft with shock and an inexplicable fear.
“Come see, then!”
She followed him, barely resisting the urge to hold his hand for security and reassurance.
The dome seemed to get larger and larger as they approached it.
Xentha found it hard to breathe, to swallow, to behave anything like the sassy, confident creature she always knew she was.
The Akien tapped two of his mustache beads together creating a harmonious tone.
The front of the dome slid open.
Xentha wasn’t sure what she had been expecting, but this wasn’t anything close to it.
The entire dome was filled with unruly stacks of papers and files and boxes of bit drives.
The Akien smiled. “Welcome to FilePlanet, then. It is your responsibility to catalogue, organize and file all of these papers, then.”
“Every single one, then.” He turned and left her alone. The dome slid shut behind him.
Xentha glanced around, aghast by the sheer impossibility of the task before her.
But that state of aghastness didn’t last long.
“I’ll figure a way out of this. An opportunity to escape will come, somehow. I’ll take it and leave this planet light years behind me.”
She sat down at the nearest pile. “Until then, I’ll keep myself very well occupied.”