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Chapter One

As the shuttle flew over Plumaris, Tam could see the southern portion was inhabited with small clusters of villages among wooded or forested areas with lakes and streams flowing nearby. It was beautiful. She had heard otherwise. Finally, the shuttle moved north. The farther north they went, the more the terrain changed.

The northern portion was a desolate place. The treeless, rocky terrain was depressing. A voice came over the comms unit.

“If you look closely, you can see some definite shapes in the rocks. Buildings inside these rock formations house the single guards who patrol the area, so there’s no escaping.”

The shuttle set down in front of a massive door and the voice came back. “This is Leviticus Station. Welcome to the Gates of Hell.”

A guard stood before her. “Let’s go.” He stepped between two seats and ushered her and the other two prisoners out of the shuttle.

She stood up and moved slowly out of her seat, her legs shackled, and her wrists bound. The two males accompanying her were also shackled and bound, making the exit laborious. Another guard led them toward the massive doors, while the first guard brought up the rear. Both guards were armed.

She followed behind the guard and entered through the massive doors. The place was big enough for several shuttles to fly through, but the one she arrived in sat outside the cave. The rock walls were smooth. Two more guards joined them after removing the shackles of each prisoner. Their wrists remained bound as they walked to a people mover. Wide enough to accommodate all of them, they stepped inside and went down a couple levels when the doors opened again. This time, the two male prisoners were escorted off with two guards. The doors closed and the three of them continued down. When the doors opened again, they got off and walked down another hall to a guard station.

“Hey, wait a minute. We were expecting a male prisoner,” the guard said.

“Sorry. This is what you get,” the escort guard said.

“Where are we going to put her?”

“That’s up to you. We were just supposed to escort her here.”

“You could release me and pretend you never saw me,” Tam said.

“You wish,” the guard said. “I have a place for you, but you’re not going to like it.”

“I don’t even like being on this planet,” she said.

“Let’s go.” The guard grabbed her arm and escorted her down another hall.

“Don’t I get a unicrin or something?” she asked.

“Nope. You get nothing for free here,” the guard said.

She still wore the I.S.P. unicrin from when she was arrested. In the prison on Tarsius, they at least let her cleanse herself every couple days. It would be interesting having to go through her monthly cycle without cleansing herself or having clean clothes to change into.

The guard pushed her forward further down the hall.

“Who do I speak to about my monthly cycle?” she asked.

“Your what?”

“My monthly, you know. It’s due soon.” She stopped and glared at him.

“Oh, uh, I’ll speak to my supervisor. He’ll have to get back to you on that.”

“Please do, or we’ll have a hygiene problem.”

He stopped at a corner and spoke to another guard. “I’ve

got you another gem miner,” he said.

“Bring him here.”

“It’s her,” the guard said.

The other guard gave her the once over. “What are we supposed to do with a woman in here?”

“The same as the men, I suppose.”

“That won’t work, and you know it,” the second guard said.

“I’ll speak to Kellen about it,” the first guard said. “She’s your problem now.”


Dram aimed the AI powered plasma drill at the target and squeezed the handles. In a matter of minutes, liquid tulin poured into the wheeled vat below the hole. When it reached the fill line, he had the next vat lined up.

“Vat’s up!” he yelled. He pushed the full vat down the track and concentrated on filling the new vat.

Gomet grabbed the vat and pushed it to the next link, where the tulin would be poured into the grand vat. From there, it would be made into coins or bars or melted into exquisite furniture.

Dram remembered when he owned furniture made of tulin and spent the coins on ships to increase his business. It had been months since he was locked up, here on Plumaris. His was a life sentence, so he was adjusting to a different way of living.

Besides, it beat the alternative.

He lined up the plasma drill once more when the flow of tulin stopped. Pressing the handles, he tried to get more tulin to pour out, but this vein was done. He reached up and pulled the sensor down to locate more of the shiny gold-colored metal.

Moving the sensor around, up and down the rock wall, it finally beeped. He marked the spot and moved his vat into place and began the same routine. More liquid tulin flowed after the plasma drill did its thing.

He couldn’t imagine doing this kind of work without these tools. The only reason humans were needed was to move the vats along and to manually use the sensor. Oh, and the fact that it was penance for living a life of crime. Yeah, that’s the reason.

“I heard we were getting another cell-mate,” Gomet said.

“Did you, now?” He pushed the filled vat to Gomet.

He walked back a distance to pick up another empty vat and pushed it along to his target area. He could only get so much out of a vein with one blast. He was glad he didn’t have Gomet’s job. It was boring as hell, standing around and waiting on someone else to do the work.

“So, when is this new cell-mate coming in?” he asked. He aimed his plasma drill again and blasted another vein of tulin.

He watched the liquid pour into the vat.

“Tonight,” Gomet said.

“Hmm.” Gomet usually got good intel. A new cellmate didn’t come along too often. It would be amusing for a while, but then he would get bored harassing the newbie. But cellmates didn’t mean they would be working together. They would just be sleeping in the same cell. Right now, it was him, Gomet, and Thadus. After this newbie, there were no more beds.

Thadus worked the gem mines. The work was harder, but not as hot. Here, in the tulin mines, the high heat to melt the tulin into coins, bars, or furnishings kept the whole place sweltering. His tank top was grimy and worn and so were his pants. Once every six months, they were given some clean, recycled clothes and the old ones were washed and passed along to someone else. He would have to talk to someone about that. The smell was getting unbearable in their cell. Six months was too long to wait for clean clothes.




Thadus used his chisel to work the rubies out of their rock enclosure. He had an eye for detail, and this was slow, tedious work. The more he was able to pry the bigger rubies out, the bigger his bonus at the end of the month.

He hung from his harness over a wall of sparkling rubies. Besides himself, there were two others who could dislodge the beauties in big pieces. They all wanted that bonus. He was

planning on buying a pillow with his earnings. The flattened pillow he had was giving him neck pains and he dreamed of a good night’s sleep.

Once a month, when the bonuses were given out, they had a small market set up where the prisoners could buy things they needed or wanted, luxury items that normal people took for granted.


He turned to see who called him. That was odd because no one ever called him. He caught a glimpse of movement below him on a ledge.

“Coming up!” a voice called out.

Within seconds, a woman was hoisted up next to him in a harness. Her hair was black with orange spikes coming out from it, reminding him of a matchstick.

“I’m Tam,” she said.

“Well, I’m Thadus. I guess you’re the newbie I heard talk about.”

“I guess so.”

“Let me show you what I’m doing and then you can attack that wall over there.”

He reached above her head and pulled her rope closer to

his. He showed her how to hold the chisel and the mallet, then went to work.

“It’s simple really. If you take your time and do it right, you get a bonus each month for the big rubies. If you break them, you get nothing.”

“I didn’t think prisoners got paid at all,” she said.

“We don’t. The bonus helps to buy things like a blanket or pillow or clothes. Just a little something to make our hell on Plumaris a little easier to bear.”

Thadus reached up to the rope above her harness, and shoved Tam further away.

“That’s the end of your lesson. You’re on your own now.”

“Thanks,” she mumbled.

Thadus went back to work. Each ruby he extracted was carefully placed into a bag he had on his waist.

“Where’s my bag?” Tam asked.

“Didn’t they give you one?”


Thadus patted his grimy clothes and found a spare bag. He pushed off from the rock wall and slid sideways to reach Tam.

“Here. You should have gotten one when they hooked you up to the harness.”

“I guess they overlooked that part,” she said.

Hours later, an alarm sounded, and the harnesses were lowered to the ground.

“What’s happening?” Tam asked.

“It’s quitting time,” Thadus said.

A guard unhooked each of them from their harness and pointed to a wall with a box protruding out from it.

“Deposit your rubies with your code over there,” the guard said.

“What code?” Tam asked.

“Weren’t you given a code when they processed you?”

“I don’t remember a code.”



“Your code is 043,” the guard said. He glanced at his comm-pad. “Don’t forget that number. You need it for everything.”

“Yes, sir.” Tam walked to the box and pressed her code into the keypad beside it and it opened. She deposited her rubies inside the box and the box closed.

“Now what?” she said.

“You go to your cell,” the guard said.

“She’s a newbie,” Thadus said. “I don’t think she has been assigned a cell yet.”

“Wait there,” the guard said. He pointed to a spot against the wall.

After Thadus and two others deposited their rubies and went on, the guard approached her.

“Come with me,” he said.

“Is this our daily routine, then?” Tam asked.

“You came late today. Tomorrow, you eat the morning meal and put in ten hours with two breaks and a lunch then go back to your cell at the end of the day.”

“Sounds like fun.” Tam said, sarcastically. “But I’ll need a bag for tomorrow.”

“A bag?”

“You know, to put the rubies into as I collect them.”

The guard gave her a side glance. Then he produced a bag for her. “Don’t lose this one.”

“I never had one so why would you say that?”

The guard shook his head and kept going. She followed behind, silently. They walked through the tunnel before getting into a people mover. After a few minutes, the people mover stopped, and they exited.

“This is your cell block.” The guard checked his comm-pad again. “This way.” He turned right and she followed him down a hall. It looked more like a building than a cave. Each cell appeared to have four men in them. There were cells on each side of the hall. The guard stopped at the last one on the right and unlocked the cell.

There was Thadus, along with two others.

“There must be some mistake,” she said.

“No. This is your cell.”

“Where are the women’s cells?”

“You’re the first, so there aren’t any,” the guard said.

All three men stood frozen, glancing at each other, then her, then the guard.

“You’ve got to be kidding,” a tall Chromian said.

“Enjoy the company, boys.” The guard shoved her inside and closed the cell.

“Hello, Tam,” Thadus said.

Her eyes had adjusted to the light, and she could see clearer. She realized he was Caucasian and so was one other man. All three were a bit grimy and...old.

Her stomach growled, reminding her she hadn’t eaten all day. She hoped there was a meal tonight.

“There’s your bed,” the Chromian said. He pointed to the bunk on top. It had a mattress, but that was all. No sheets, no pillow.

“Thanks,” she said. She climbed up the side to get to her bunk. She was tired. But then, she remembered she had to pee. She climbed back down.

“Where’s the toilet?”

All three men stepped aside, and she could see it, out in the open, with a sink beside it.

Great. No privacy. And no shower. Well, she had to go and there wasn’t anything she could do about it. She just pretended they weren’t there and did her business. Maybe it would get easier. But when she finished, she realized, they had all turned their backs to her. Hmm. Is this what they did for each other, too?

Before she could climb up to the top bunk, the Chromian grabbed her arm.

“What are you doing here? You’re just a kid.”

“I’m older than I look, old man.”

“Old man?” Thadus asked.

The other Caucasian laughed.

“I asked you a question,” the Chromian said.

She glanced at his hand, still holding her arm, then glared into his eyes.

“I poisoned a man, sabotaged a couple ships, and tried to kill another man, is that okay with you?”

“Did you say you sabotaged a couple ships?” Thadus asked.

“That’s right.”

The Chromian pulled her toward him as the other two gathered around.

“I remember you. You’re the one that helped us find that traitor, Berto,” Thadus said.

“Yes. You were with the pirates that boarded the ship we were on,” she said.

“Berto? The man with telekinetic powers?” The Chromian asked.

“That’s the one,” she said.

“How do you know Berto?” Thadus asked the Chromian.

“He worked for me,” the Chromian said.

“Well, it looks like we all have something in common, don’t we?” she said.

The Chromian turned her loose. She looked him over. For an old man, he had a nice body, which was more than she could say for the other two.

“How do you know Berto?” The Chromian asked her.

“He killed my brother.”

“Was that the incident when Berto was fourteen anos?”

“That’s how old my brother was when he died,” she said.

“I don’t suppose you know why he killed your brother?” the Chromian asked.

All three men surrounded her now. Were they curious? Or were they planning something else?

“I’d like to know,” Thadus said.

“I know his story,” she said.

“But you don’t believe it, do you?” the Chromian asked.

She shook her head. “I find it hard to believe, that’s all.”

“Tell us,” Thadus said.

The Chromian turned toward Thadus. “Her brother and two others were taking turns raping Berto’s sister, who was seven anos. When Berto entered the scene, he used his powers to throw two of the boys against a wall. One died instantly, the other, a few days later.”

“What about the other boy?” the other old man asked.

“I heard he turned himself in after getting caught raping another child,” the Chromian said.

Thadus glanced at her. “I don’t think we’ve introduced ourselves, Tam. You know me, but this is Gomet. He was part of the pirate crew with me. And this is Dram.”

“I’ve heard about you,” she said to Dram. “You’re the one who was a slave-trader.”

“That I was.”

“How is that different than what my brother was accused of?” Tam asked.

“I didn’t rape anyone. I located people for a price. Most of my clients wanted a labor force, so that’s what I brought them. What they did with them was their business. I didn’t ask questions except what ages and what sex they were looking for.”

“Hmm. That certainly sounds like a reputable business,” she said. She crossed her arms.

“Me and Gomet got caught by the I.S.P. shortly after we boarded your ship,” Thadus said.

“The I.S.P. got me shortly after that,” she admitted.

Should she mention she was an I.S.P. agent for a brief period of time? She glanced at the three men and decided against it. Afterall, they were all in this place because of the Interplanetary Space Patrol. She only joined the agency to get close to Berto. She turned and climbed up to her bunk. She lay there, her arms folded behind her head. She had a lot of time to think since she poisoned the I.S.P. officer on Meta. Revenge meant for Berto had driven her to that decision. An innocent man was dead while Berto was free. She was living with the consequences, sitting in a prison cell on Plumaris for the rest of her life. But the rest of her life would be more tolerable if Berto had eaten the food she brought him instead of the officer.

She glanced at the ceiling and realized she stared into space. Is the ceiling transparent? The stars were beautiful at dusk and the sky was a gorgeous violet, pink and orange. She couldn’t wait to see the sunrise.

A commotion down the hall drew her thoughts away from the sky. She sat up in bed and glanced around. She could barely make out a cart being pushed by a couple prisoners, followed by two guards. She smelled food. “Is this our dinner?” she asked.

“You better have your plate ready,” Thadus said.

“What plate?”

Her three cellmates had lined up along the bars, holding

metal plates. One at a time, they held out their plates through a thin slit in the middle of the door. She quickly climbed down from her bunk.

“Where do we get our plates?” she asked her cellmates.

“Well, well. What have we here?” One of the prisoners asked.

“Well, hey darlin,’ no plate, no food,” the other prisoner said.

She glanced at the guards. “I just arrived today. I wasn’t given a plate, but I am hungry.”

The guard nudged one of the prisoners. “Give it to her,” he said.

The prisoner reached under the cart and pulled out a metal plate and an eating implement and handed it to her, after filling the plate with food.

“Thanks,” she said.

“That’s all you get,” the prisoner said.

The other prisoner handed her a beverage in a metal cup. “If you want water, use the sink.”

“Is the water drinkable?” she asked.

“It won’t kill you, if that’s what you mean,” he said.

She turned and sat on the floor to eat her meal. The floor was quite dirty. Did they ever clean it? Her cellmates all sat on the bottom bunks of the two beds. She ate her food

gratefully. It was trew, but it was made with real ingredients, not the food paste she had on the I.S.P. ship. When she finished, she rinsed off her plate in the sink. “Where do we keep these?” she asked no one in particular.

Dram pointed to a pouch on the side of her mattress.

“Thanks.” She climbed up on her bunk and stowed her items in the pouch. Then she lay back down and stared at the stars.

This was the first time she didn’t have a goal or plan. So far, this prison life wasn’t so bad. If all she had to do was chisel out rocks all day, she could handle that.

She tossed and turned trying not to think of her brother as she slept. How could her brother be so cruel to a little girl he didn’t know and then be kind to her? Maybe there were signs, she just hadn’t seen them.

Her father was a different story altogether. He had been cruel to her as far back as she could remember. It started before her mother died with the nightly visits and the touching when she had been four anos. Then he started gambling and coming home drunk. She tried hiding from him, but he always found her.

She curled up into a ball, trying to forget, but the thoughts kept coming. The faces of the men her father brought home from time to time when he lost. She had been the prize. Nights were always hard for her. Then she realized, her brother had become just like her father.


Dram lay in his bunk. He was beat as usual, but for some reason, he couldn’t sleep. No, that wasn’t true. It was Tam that kept him up. This young girl needed a cell of her own. She didn’t belong here, but she committed crimes like the rest of them. She was a distraction, that’s all. He would speak to the guards about this. Something had to be done. They needed to move her to a different cell or even on the other side of the mountain. There were mines there as well, weren’t there? He turned over onto his side facing the wall where Tam slept. He watched her fitful sleep. She curled up into a ball. He thought he heard her sobbing. Should he wake her? That would just embarrass her. He would observe her for now. This girl must have had a hard life. He faced the ceiling from his bottom bunk, glancing at the stars until he fell asleep.





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The next morning, Tam climbed down from her bunk first to use the toilet. The increasing daylight through the transparent ceiling woke her. She splashed water on her face. When she realized the others

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This book sounds so intriguing I look forward to reading it. I know I am going to love it.


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