Chapter 35 The Truth About the Station
"I need to get back to Olivia and Jake," Dustin said as he sat in a chair on the deck.
"Where are they?" asked Granny, not looking up from her console.
"I'm not sure. Walter knows."
"Why does he know where they are, and you do not?" she asked, still not looking up from her console.
"I never thought to ask, I guess," he said, starting to get annoyed.
"I would think that would be the first thing you would ask."
"We were on our way when we hit some kind of black hole or something that threw us all the way out here."
"And you didn't think about how odd that was, considering they went out searching for survivors and Uz'En all the time?"
Dustin paused. He had never thought about that. Getting up from his chair, he left the bridge and headed to the medical bay.
Walter was sitting on the side of his bed, watching Trey and Sherry sleep. He glanced up when Dustin entered the room.
"Are we back on our way home?" he asked, but Dustin ignored him, getting right up in his face.
"Tell me the truth. You never intended to go back to the planet you found me on, did you?"
Walter's face flinched in surprise and fear bloomed in his eyes.
"They told me to get you out of the picture. I don't know why." His voice was soft and uncertain, like a child's. He glanced over at Trey and Sherry, making it obvious he didn't want to say too much in front of them, even if they were sleeping.
Grabbing the back of his shirt, Dustin pulled him from the room, and into a smaller room further down the hall. Walter pushed his hair out of his eyes and looked at Dustin fearfully.
"Are you going to kill me?" he asked.
Dustin considered it, then decided he needed Walter to get back to Olivia. But he didn't need to tell him that.
"Why did you hyperjump us all the way out here?"
"I honestly didn't intend for us to end up here, I just wanted to get far enough out that it would take us a while to get back."
"Why not go back to the planet like I wanted?"
"Those aliens would have been waiting for us. We would have been destroyed if we had gone back. Look, I'm sorry that you had friends there, but you might as well give up on them. There's no way we could possibly get back there without being spotted and blown up."
Dustin glared at him. He wanted nothing more than to throw this guy to the Josagn for one of their hunter parties, but then he had an idea.
"If I can prove to you that I can indeed get to the planet without being spotted, would you consider telling me how to get there?"
Walter chewed on his lip for a moment. "I don't want my friends to get hurt."
"What's up with you living on that station?" asked Dustin. He couldn't wrap his mind around anyone willingly going to that place. It was suicide two hundred years ago, and he couldn't imagine it had gotten any better.
"How did that Gooblen, Granny, know that we were all clones?"
"She knows things. If you ever had a granny, you would understand."
"But Gooblens are supposed to be the worst race imaginable, like vermin."
Dustin stared at the man waiting for his words to register in his mind. Walter got increasingly uncomfortable.
"The station doesn't allow anyone to get pregnant. All women are sterilized upon birth or when joining the station. If someone wants a kid, they request one and a child is conceived in a nannybot. It doesn't happen very often, because we have to control the population carefully to conserve food."
"You realize how stupid that sounds, right?" Dustin couldn't believe this. There was no way in hell he would ever return willingly to that place.
"It's how we've done it for…"
"Two hundred years? You might want to consider finding a nice planet to call home instead."
"We can't." Walter's voice fell. "We have to return to the station to get our next injection. The price to pay for being allowed to leave on a regular basis is becoming addicted to a specific drug that will kill us if we try to get off it. The only way to stay alive, is to return for regular doses."
"That why they're out cold and you passed out a bit ago?"
"Probably. The longer we go without a dose, the worse we function. The powers that be determined this was the best way to go about making sure people didn't jump ship and flee en masse. They keep the general populace under control by restricting access to ships and keeping information on any habitable planets confidential. The few that are known are emphasized as being extremely dangerous."
"Classy. Why do they care so much if people leave?"
"They like being in control. The people are taught from a young age to worship them almost like gods for protecting them and giving them a safe place to live. My crew here have learned to pretend when we have to return, but we use the excuse that we are searching for new people and new Uz'En to escape the oppression. The only form of entertainment the people have, is sex and drama. When that isn't enough, they turn to more and more sadistic pleasures, until eventually they are basically killed."
"Have you found worlds to live on? A place that the people could live if they could get away from the station?"
"Well, most of the really good planets are already claimed by other alien races that don't really want to share. I can't blame them. But there have been a few…"
"Alright, how about I propose a deal with you?" asked Dustin. "One that would be beneficial to both our peoples."
"I'm listening," said Walter, perking up for the first time during their conversation.