Part Three - 21 - Hopper

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"My name is Kala Acker and I am recording from the cockpit of a class five vessel I stole from the Europan fleet. (Raspy breath) I survived the battle...I really did. I didn't expect to make it. I suffered some burns and a broken leg, but I will heal. My previous ship got damaged and I had to improvise and board this one. This ship too is very damaged. I'm not sure it can withstand lightspeed travel, but I have to try. I cannot stay here...I won this battle, but it won't be long before reinforcements from the three nations arrive. At least, for now, my crew is not their priority anymore. They're safe. They have to be...I'm sending this message into the void. If I don't make it I want the Capricieuse to know that I did it to protect them and that I am sorry. Hopper...I am sorry."

Two years, three months, and five days later.

Hopper walked down the white corridors, two guards on his sides. He was a head taller than them, and his red eyes marked him as a mutant, so they kept giving him wary looks. The Lichtenberg figures scars that could be seen on his face and arms didn't help either. He didn't provoke them. His purpose to be here would be fulfilled sooner if people stopped seeing him as threatening.

He had a terrible itch behind his neck where the ugly orange collar of his new inmate outfit was touching the skin. He looked down at his hands encased in shackles. There was no helping it, the itch was there to stay and bothered him for now.

Hopper looked around to the rows of cells going as far as the eye could see.

Finally, after a few minutes, the guards stopped him in front of one, the metal door automatically opened and they unshackled him. They left him there without a word. He let out a frustrated sigh. Growing up as a slave in Mulsong's mines, he didn't care much for any type of confinement anymore. But he would have to deal with it for now, at least until he got the information he came for.

Getting sent to this prison hadn't been hard. A fake identity, then stealing the wrong people and making sure to get caught, did the trick. Nothing too serious, but just enough so they would bother to find him a cell on Marvick, the prison on one of the satellites of a planet in Expansion Union territory, just inside an asteroids belt.

Hopper sat on the cold bunk bed and waited for dinner time. He had some people to find.

When the time came, the door once again opened by itself. He followed the lights on the floor that guided him to the inmates' refectory. The place was huge, and more than 500 orange-wearing people were gathered around tables.

Time to hunt some rebels.

* * *

It took Hopper three days to locate and recognize his targets. The rebels were staying together in groups, so out of place compared to the usual prisoners and murderers. He took his food tray and walked right to their table, sat in their midst without a word and started eating. All the eyes fell on him.

After a few minutes of silent scrutiny, one of them asked, "What are you in for, mate?" He was a dark-skinned man in his fifties with a beard turning grey.

Hopper finished chewing. "Shot down an Expanser ship that flew over my colony after picking up the contribution," he lied.

"Why did you do it?"

He shrugged, "The fruit of our labor wasn't theirs to take."

A few nods around the table. Good.

Another man noticed his red eyes. "Are those parts?" he asked, pointing.

"No. I've grown them myself," Hopper joked. "I was engineered by the Ushus to be the perfect slave. Those eyes allow me to see in the dark."

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