Chandra Press
Great Science Fiction Starts Here

Rijel 12: The Rise of New Australia

An Epic Science Fiction Adventure of Hope, Rebellion, and Redemption


If you like thrilling galaxy-spanning science fiction like Star Wars, Dune, and Star Trek, you’ll love Rijel 12: The Rise of New Australia!

Prisoners on Rijel 12 know they’re never going home. Rebellion is their only hope.

The Intergalactic Penal Colony on Rijel 12 is a very profitable enterprise. Its desolate surface is an uninhabitable wasteland relentlessly scorched by its sun, but inside the planet is a vast treasure trove of the most precious resources in the galaxy. Prisoners are forced to work in horrible conditions and the death rate is staggering. Luckily for the warden, new inmates arrive monthly to replenish the labor pool. Business has never been better.

From the darkness of their miserable existence, one prisoner decides to take a stand and begins to organize a resistance. Inmates slowly but surely rally to the cause and prepare for a planet-wide rebellion. With handmade weapons and limited supplies, can the rag-tag rebels of New Australia succeed in their quest for freedom? And, what becomes of a planet of criminals if they somehow manage to pull it off?

What reviewers are saying about Rijel 12: The Rise of New Australia

“If you are a fan of epic space adventures, Rijel 12 will thrill you. The depth of detail given in every moment of the story will bring it all to life for you. The author is a master at world-building and storytelling. He manages to bring to life the different species from the six worlds so vividly you quickly forget they are mostly aliens. You experience their betrayal, despair, love, hope, grief, and triumph as if you were right there on Rijel 12 with them.” - Gina M.

"A raucous science fiction adventure. I'm always on the look out for new sci-fi authors and I was not disappointed with King Everett Medlin. This was a highly entertaining read." - Literacy Work and Play

"This is a story of rebellion, battle tactics, brotherhood, group dynamics, leadership, and freedom. The story spans many years and features many interesting characters. I enjoyed it very much and highly recommend it." - Cheryl Stout

"It is motivational and full of hope, in a similar spirit of inter-species collaboration I so love from Star Trek." - Kari Booij

"This is a good book. I really enjoyed it. The characters are well developed and the story is packed with action and adventure. The author does a great job delivering a story with a solid plot and interesting subplots." - Pawel Matula

Chapter 1: Intergalactic Penal Colony

The President of the Assembly, an aged and respected Suidonji named Abrafrilric, suddenly stood up and cleared his throat. The murmuring inside the gigantic hall swelled into that kind of roar that comes as a result of hundreds of people making discreet and not so discreet comments to the neighbors seated next to them.

Pig-like, rotund, and gruff just like most full-grown Suidonji, Abrafrilric’s throat-clearing was like a snarling, snorting, gurgling growl, but even this had little effect on the mass of beings crowded inside the convention hall.  It was a gigantic building, spanning a quarter mile square, located near the supreme government building in the planetary capital of Suidonj.  The interior was a cavernous facility made of stone walls, stone floor, and a remarkably high ceiling.  It was lit only by lamps and chandeliers suspended from the vast wood-beamed ceiling above.  Suidonji didn’t really need or even like bright lights.  Their extremely sensitive snouts directed their movements more than their eyesight; their floppy ears carried out the rest.  But their buildings and rooms were extremely large. Large beings as they were, they liked having lots of space to move around.

There would still be a few moments of tense murmuring within the crowd before he’d be able to regain control.  Abrafrilric could already tell this would take a while.  It usually did.  So, he stood and waited patiently for the tumult to subside.  No use in trying to regain order—that would be like interrupting ancient earth pigs at a feeding trough, back in more barbaric times when swine were bred for slaughter.  But on Suidonj, the evolutionary process that led from tiny rodents to wild boars and then on to pigs continued to advance that life form into a bipedal sophisticated being, which grew to dominate other species on its planet.  Suidonji learned to stand, to walk, to communicate, and to develop higher technologies over the millennia.

Abrafrilric was the duly-elected leader of this year’s meeting, honoring a tradition that had gone back over seventy galactic years, the equivalent of three hundred one earth years.  The Interplanetary Convention had been held every galactic year since the Peace Treaty of Slartigifij, which ended the war between planets Zorgolong and Enosh.  This first convention was conducted by the very wise and gentle Slartigifijian planet elders and was held to establish terms for peace between those two bitter long-time rivals.  After that, the event was moved annually from one planet to another, to promote fairness and balance in decision-making.  Tradition held that the host planet would choose its own President for the annual convention.  This particular galactic year, comprising four point three earth years, the convention was held on planet Suidonj.

Abrafrilric gripped and lifted his gavel, but the murmuring still rose. No one heeded his gesture – determined gavel-grabbing somehow didn’t seem to draw their attention.  He even thought for a moment about raising his hoof to calm them.  Suidonji had hoof-like claws that could grip much like a human’s thumb and fingers. The difference was that their grip was incredibly strong, as were their bodies.

The audience was made up of ministers and delegations from all six planets of the Interplanetary Authority, as well as their colonies and their satellites.  This throng of advanced beings dealt with issues affecting free and open trade, as well as threats to the health and welfare of the galaxy’s billions of citizens. Today, the proposal being presented to the thousand-odd life forms in attendance was very nearly as controversial as it was ingenious: the creation of an Intergalactic Penal Colony for violent criminals.

It all started with a proposal that originated from the Earth delegation regarding prison over-crowding and the “practical treatment of inmates.” Murmuring had begun just a few minutes before, after Abrafrilric had announced that debate would soon begin on the measure.  Behind him a giant screen, the size of a soccer field, was activated and switched from its usual static image of the Interplanetary Authority logo, to an electronic banner which read:  NEW AUSTRALIA PLANETARY PRISON.  Then it began scrolling down and detailing in Galactic exactly what the proposal included. On smaller computer screens located inside each planet delegation box, the same information was being conveyed in that species’ native language as well.  However, most of the creatures in the audience were highly educated, preferring to read and speak in Galactic.  As the audience read along, the murmuring rose higher and higher as more details were revealed.

What the Earthmen suggested was to develop a global penal colony on a barren planet located inside a distant star system.  As the Earthmen explained it, the twelfth planet in the Rijel system already had a small mining operation, located far below the surface.  What they desperately needed was labor, and below the forbidding planet surface, it would be easy to support a population of forced labor with the planet’s already available supply of subterranean aquifers.  Less than a mile below the surface it was quite easy to dig wells inside the planet’s infinite cavern system, they claimed.

The commercial mine could simply be purchased, it was further proposed.  The current staff and administration of the mine could be retained, and all the Interplanetary Authority needed to do was create a prison to supply the mine with workers.  Existing labor there could continue to be employed as supervisors and foremen. “The whole thing will come together quite easily,” they boldly professed.  That’s when the derisive comments began to fly, then grow in intensity.

“Sss-simple!” scoffed one of the members of the Zorgolongian delegation, causing the others in his section to emit hissing snickers.  It was just like everything else proposed by those slippery Earthmen, and therein lay the irony: almost nothing about Earthers and their so-called “ethics” or basic “logic” was in any way simple. 

The underlying issue lay in Earth’s long-standing reputation for deception and ulterior motives when it came to intergalactic politics.  They always seemed to be justifying their policies or actions by claiming it was necessary for the greater good; oblivious to how it might negatively affect other planets or the natural order of things. Other delegations could readily assume those crafty devils were trying to devise some scheme to either rid their own planet of a problem, or perhaps to make a lot of money.  Then again, it might be a combination of both.  It was always like that with those shifty Earthmen. Their “logic” as they called it, always seemed to rationalize away most anything resembling morality or common sense much like a fresh coat of paint being used to cover up rusted metal.

As the famously wise Slartigifijian planet elder Sektarpuldifleej once put it, “They aspire to greatness which they cannot truly achieve, so they espouse noble ideals which are quite beyond their capacity.” Another way of putting it might have been that Earthers, “humans” as they called themselves, were compelled to accomplish more than their natural abilities could accommodate.  So, they would typically embellish, boast, and exaggerate.  They would very often portray an image of what something could be, rather than what it would become.  They would make unrealistic projections, then decry and chastise the failure of those involved in its implementation.  The human way of developing and managing an operation was typically to set goals which were technically unachievable, then blame everyone but the planners themselves for not reaching them.

Certainly, all planets had the occasional violent criminal who was beyond reform.  But most had a more black and white view of the treatment of antisocial behavior.  On Enosh for instance, they followed a very simple code when it came to errant acts.  These cat-like creatures believed that an offender should have the capability of repeating the offense removed from their person, so they could continue their contribution to the greater good of society without being able to commit the same offence.  A rapist? Castrated, no questions asked.  A thief?  Severed paw or paws, depending on what was stolen.  A liar or blasphemer?  Tongue removed.  All Enoshi grew up knowing the consequences of their actions, so it was also known that if an adult committed the act, it could only mean they’d made the choice to violate the law and deserved punishment.

The difference with humans was that they could lie – and do so quite skillfully.  That was what made them so confusing to other beings in the galaxy.  Just what were they up to this time?  An intergalactic penal colony where the galaxy’s violent criminals could be disposed of?  The different species in attendance hastily weighed in with their opinions.

“That is immoral,” stated the Slartigifijians.  “If Earth needs to house and reform its criminal element, then they should do so with better prison systems and larger facilities which might reeducate their inmates and reintroduce them into peaceful, law-abiding society.”

By way of comparison, the short and lizard-like Zorgolongians assumed that the Earthmen were merely looking to capitalize on the untapped potential of the twelfth planet’s mineral resources by using “free labor.”  Of course, they should have thought of it themselves, frankly, but it was far too late now, and that frustrated them more than anything else.  Hence, the sarcastic sniggering and sniping barbs being hurled from their section of the convention hall.  “Don’t be naïve, my friend,” remarked the Zorg delegation leader, “I’m sure they know exactly what they’re doing.”

 As for the diminutive rodent-like Schpleefti delegation, they simply sat in confusion. For them it was difficult to understand the concept of institutionalizing the processing of criminals. Polyamorous by nature, this rodent-like species functioned on the sheer whim of emotional inspiration, for the most part.  Violent criminals were merely banished from their communities.  Nevertheless, they thought the Earthmen’s proposal was a refreshing idea.  What’s more, they wanted to make sure they got an even cut of the profits.  A global mining operation, like the Earthmen were suggesting?  That could be quite lucrative, and the leaders within their delegation fully realized the implications.

Such was the hullabaloo over the Earth delegation’s proposal, that Abrafrilric needed to just stand there and let everyone argue from their delegate boxes until all had spoken their minds.  It always worked out better that way, letting the delegates fight it out for hours on end, occasionally summarizing points repeatedly made until everyone had heard all angles and every side of the issue.  It was important that delegations understood potential consequences of Interplanetary Authority policy, and that they avoid rushing into hasty acts or decisions which might adversely affect one another in the future.  That’s partly why these conventions were only held every galactic year, because the debate sessions could last for hours, sometimes days.

Yet, Abrafrilric could let this debate last for only so long before he had to step in and get back in control of things.  That was also his job as president.  Eventually, it would become time to vote; to pass this measure would require only a simple majority.  Four delegation votes and the Earthmen would have their prison, plus the full cooperation and financial backing of the Interplanetary Authority. There were only six planets, so the likelihood of requiring a deciding vote from Abrafrilric was minimal at best.

Debate raged on of course, but those sly Earthmen knew exactly how to sell it.  As the Earth delegation minister put it, “Prisoners will only be sent there to serve their sentences, work hard to achieve production goals, in exchange for housing and food.  Hard work and the removal of opportunities for criminal behavior will give errant beings the best chance for reform.  They can be returned to their societies renewed, cured of their criminal urges once and for all.”  It wasn’t long before that bold statement drew a reaction as well.

“Typical Earthmen,” scoffed the Zorgolongian minister, standing up from his delegation box, “always exaggerating things.”  This drew an indignant snort from Convention President Abrafrilric; nevertheless, he chose not to interrupt.  The delegation leader continued, “Cured once and for all?  My good Earthman, that’s preposterous-sss! The reason they’re criminals in the first place is that they cannot control their urges!  Do you think we’re idiots-sss?”

But the Earth delegation minister, one Robert Gunton from the province of North America, was unflappable.  He rebutted, “My dear fellow, I hasten to point out that the natural deterrent to further criminal behavior shall be the planet itself.  You must understand that.  No one will want to be sentenced there, and absolutely no one would wish to be sent back there either.”  The Earth minister glanced at his Zorgolongian counterpart to see if he had any further comments, but the little fellow—at least for the moment—did not. Thus, he continued, “They shall repay their debt to society for committing crimes, return home, and live out the rest of their lives on their home planets as good citizens.”  That’s all the minister from Earth was proposing and this served to quell any further interruptions for a while.  He knew he held all the cards and what he started hearing from other delegates only served to support this belief.  

“My fellow delegates,” remarked the minister from the Schpleefti delegation, “let’s not miss out on this wondrous opportunity.  If the Interplanetary Authority does not approve of this scheme, then we must consider what might happen next.  Earth will simply develop the mine on Rijel 12 by herself and cut us out of the deal completely.”  This made sense, even to the brooding, warrior-like Enoshi who due to their imposing size always seemed to garner cautious respect from other species at these gatherings – even if they weren’t particularly bright. 

What’s more, he was quite right, the furry little creature from far away Schpleefti.  Earth would make a veritable fortune and hold a virtual monopoly on mineral distribution throughout the galaxy.  Minister Gunton from Earth sensed it was time to close the sale.

The Earth minister’s message, once it was his turn to speak again, was simply this: “If all planets participate this, my friends, will become a global operation with the funding to build Rijel 12’s mining network into an economic success.  And do it rather quickly according to our projections.”  He then feigned a bit of well-timed humility in order to suck them in further.  But it really wasn’t necessary; it went without saying. 

“Of course, Earth could do this all by herself, but the Rijel system is many light years away from us.  Several planets, as you may note, are closer.  Much closer.” 

The Suidonji and Zorgolongian delegations immediately reacted to that obvious fact.  So much nearer to the Rijel star system, they could easily reach Rijel 12 and develop it. But alas, it was Earth’s idea and they’d be wiser to participate in the new plan.  Earth, as everyone knew, had all the best technology for deep shaft mining. 

Only the wise and sedate Slartigifijians held fast to their argument against this shameful idea of forcing prisoners into what they deemed to be slave labor for the sake of profit.  Their contention was that it would only lead to abuse and oppression over time.  Nevertheless, when Abrafrilric held the final vote on the measure it was approved five to one. And with that, the intergalactic penal colony of New Australia was created. 

Chapter 2: Life on Rijel 12

 Over the years, the penal colony expanded.  Certainly, in the early days it was slow going.  The planet’s surface was impossibly forbidding.  Nevertheless, within a half century, the population grew and grew, from a couple hundred to over a hundred thousand.  The different planets in the galaxy, even cultures which were hesitant about it at first, found they could send convicted felons of all kinds.  Murderers, rapists, thieves, political agitators, and other social undesirables could be delivered to this facility and thereby rid their home planets of the dangers they posed.  But it didn’t take long for things to degenerate into something far more sinister. 

At first the sentences were reasonable, spanning three to twenty years, with only extremely violent offenders sentenced there for life.  The planet itself was completely barren and devoid of any flora and fauna, covered on the surface by global deserts, volcanic mountains, and extremely forbidding temperatures during the day.  At night, temperatures often plunged into the teens, but during the day it could reach one hundred fifty degrees Fahrenheit.  It was certainly unrealistic to live on the surface, but far underground, the planet had massive caverns that extended for miles and miles in every direction.

On Rijel 12, there was just enough atmosphere to provide breathable oxygen for most creatures, but the Interplanetary Authority chose to expand the already existing system for manufacturing purer oxygen for the caverns, so that workers could maintain better stamina.  The planet’s oxygen was too thin and could lead to light-headedness and fatigue during prolonged exposure.  Therefore, the mining operation was sealed off from the surface and the oxygen production system could be added onto in phases.  Blowers moved manufactured air around the caverns and tunnels to keep workers healthier and more alert.

The Rijel 12 planet interior had hundreds of underground glaciers located miles below the rocky barren surface, protected from the incredibly hot daytime sun.  Subterranean aquifers closer to the surface provided water to the new inhabitants, but it had to be filtered.  The original miners, years before, didn’t actually drink the water from the aquifers. They imported purified water from nearby planets, and it was very expensive to do so.  However, scientists believed the water on Rijel 12 could be made safe for prisoners to drink.  Earth advisors devised an elaborate filtration system that extracted water into great reservoirs then filtered it into drinking water at hundreds of stations throughout the mining network.

Technically it was fine, but not surprisingly, those human engineers designed a system that needed to be maintained at a hefty cost, a cost that less ethical prison operators didn’t prefer to continue paying as time went on. Systems deteriorated over time and needed repair.  Mine operators looked the other way, and gradually prisoners suffered from consuming bad drinking water.  

They had no choice.  Besides, these same prison managers were making money for their employers. Profitability was being reviewed constantly, and no one felt inclined to speak out about the deteriorating conditions for prisoners.  Better water could be imported for the guards and operation managers, so why worry about those hapless prisoners being slowly poisoned below?  More prisoners arrived all the time to replace the ill and dying. It didn’t really matter to those cynical, over-worked, profit-driven mining operators, always under pressure from their superiors to achieve lofty goals.

In only a few earth years, the prison complex was constructed a mile below the treacherous surface, and then expanded over the decades to where it housed thousands of prisoners.  Earth ships arrived regularly, and construction workers in the early years worked feverishly to create more barracks below ground.

New facilities were built to house the ever-expanding prison labor supply.  When a new cavern was opened up, these laborers would build a prefabricated barracks and live in it while they built the infrastructure around it.  The air system would be connected to new parts of the mine, and new water filtration systems would be installed then tapped into underground aquifers. When each new section was complete, the construction teams would leave; the barracks they lived in would then be occupied by new prisoners sent there to work the newly opened section.  For years it went on like that, ever-expanding the mining network as more and more convicts arrived.

However, these barracks would soon become overcrowded as more prisoners were sent to work there, and over the years they became dilapidated. As the decades passed, prisoners eventually resorted to carving out homes inside caves.

Additional mineral deposits were discovered.  Veins of gemstones were found too.  It seemed the opportunities for wealth being extracted from Rijel 12 were boundless; this only served to fuel the machine.  Mine expansion required additional labor, and every planet was soon being urged to keep sending more convicted criminals. It became all too easy for abuses to occur.  New prisoners being brought in meant even more barracks and even more supplies.  Expanding the mines required more equipment, which led to more expenses and even more aggressive production goals.  This would have been the case for any rapidly growing labor-intensive industry.  But in the case of New Australia Planetary Prison, the difference was that labor was free.

Things eventually got overlooked, neglected, or downright ignored. Greed replaced compassion or even any semblance of justice, and everyone gave in just a little, if not completely. The greater good became nothing more than the motivation of greater profit, and from the top down, no one wanted to admit it.  When existing veins of minerals were expanded and dug out further, even more workers were needed to fill the workload, as well as replace the dying and ruined laborers below.  New Australia Planetary Prison became a death sentence to most all prisoners sent there, and within fifty earth years, few expected to return.

“So, how long you boys in for?” asked a rather portly guard assigned to oversee prisoners being led into the dusty hold of a large ship orbiting the Earth’s moon.  Francois had spent three weeks inside a stinking pit, a lunar prison ward designed to temporarily house a thousand men awaiting transportation to Rijel 12. However, the weeks of waiting as well as the ongoing flow of convicts into the facility had led to overcrowding of epic proportions.  There were easily ten times that many crammed inside.  Beds stacked six high required ladders to reach the top bunk and were arranged in rows so narrow even a submariner would find them cramped.  Sewage backup and sickness from poor food made the untenable situation impossible to stand, yet they had no alternative. That’s why arrival of the prison transport felt like a godsend.

The size of the ship dwarfed even tall buildings, and it was outfitted with advanced warpdrive technology, which enabled it to travel at twenty times the speed of light via the creation of a warp bubble in space that allowed the craft to ride the wave to its intended destination.  This theoretical phenomenon had been proposed centuries before back on Earth by a bright young scientist from Mexico City.

With a target programmed into the ship’s computer, the now-perfected mechanism simply propelled it across the warp bubble, allowing passengers to movethroughtime and experience very little in the way of aging. The ship could not be steered, didn’t have to be maneuvered or even controlled for that matter.  Using the warp drive, the ship simply appeared in its desired location months later with the onboard computer having calculated the entire journey and executed it systematically.

For security reasons, prisoners were placed in lidded compartments where they’d be put to sleep until the time of arrival.  The mines needed healthy strong bodies, and the limited staff on board could not be tasked with supervising them during the months they’d spend in space.  That was far too dangerous.

“Three years,” replied one of the prisoners, and in response the guard snickered.  “Three years, huh?  Well, that’s not so bad I guess.  You can make it three years I’m sure.”  Then he chuckled cryptically.  Others within the crowd of prisoners weren’t so tactful.  

“Oh, don’t bet on it, pal,” remarked an older fellow among the mass of men being herded into the ship’s hold.  “You might make it through,” quipped the burly man.  “Might not.  Hard to say.  But don’t go fooling yourself about no getting home to your momma.  Ain’t nobody coming back to get you when you’re done with your stint.”  The guard shot an icy glare toward the fellow, then shook his head.  Yes, he’d heard the same things, and yes, he’d experienced similar realities during his last three junkets to Rijel 12.  For only half the ship’s hold was filled with prisoner compartments.  The rest was full of supplies, food for the prison staff mainly.  And the entire hold was destined to be refilled with tons and tons of extracted mineral ore, such as platinum, nickel, copper, or iron.  

Even the prisoner compartments themselves, those not covered up under mountains of raw material during the return voyage, would be occupied largely by the crew.  He himself would occupy one of them for the long flight back to Earth, only to reload more doomed souls for the next trip across the galaxy.  New Australia Planetary Prison and its thriving mining operation had by now expanded into a diabolically efficient, decades-old, going concern.  

Prisoner processing and assignment to work details were handled below the surface.  Rijel 12’s original mining operation was established on the site of a canyon formed from the collapse of an ancient cavern.  A surface facility was built next to it; the canyon was eventually converted into a loading bay for supply ships.  It used a landing pad lift which elevated to the surface to receive arriving spacecraft.  Once landed, the elevator descended several hundred feet to be processed.  Then a retractable roof closed over the canyon to seal it off from the forbidding elements of Rijel 12.

New prisoners would be unloaded and assigned to some part of the mines that required more workers, randomly at first, then gradually based on species.  There were always new job openings, and there were always more prisoner ships landing. When transport ships were emptied of prisoners, the other side of the bay would open, and vehicles would haul in loads of mineral ore to be loaded onto the craft.  Upon completion, the retractable roof would open, the elevator platform would ascend back to the surface, and the craft could take off once again.

By the fiftieth Earth year of operation, there was a freighter landing every few weeks, and usually there was another in orbit around Rijel 12 waiting to land and offload new prisoners.  Pilots and crew were never allowed to leave their ships, and most didn’t wish to.  This was a prison after all, and security was air-tight at all times.  But what did these pilots and crew see when they landed? It was enough to send the message back to their home planets that this was a truly hellish place.  They didn’t need to see what was going on below. Construction workers finishing their projects could shed even more light on the realities of New Australia Planetary Prison, but even they didn’t care about inmates in a prison.  They just wanted to leave Rijel 12 and get back home as quickly as possible.

With all the financial backing of the Interplanetary Authority, those enterprising Earthmen were brutally efficient in devising a prison system that continued to feed the mining operation, and production goal-setting became increasingly aggressive as the years passed.  Government officials began to see dollar signs.  Profitability increased, and the operation was a success within only a few galactic years.  Everyone was thrilled with the results.

Well, most everyone was, anyway.  Prisoners in the early years were immediately pressed into service working in the mines until they completed their sentences, and just like the Earthmen had promised, these prisoners who’d paid their debt to society were able to crawl or limp onto freighters and eventually returned to their home planets. They’d be aged and broken down by then, but at least they could finally go home.  Go home and die at a very young age and in terribly poor health, that is. It was hard to feel sorry for them. After all, most had certainly deserved to be sent there.  Law-abiding citizens could rationalize it that way.  But it was nevertheless shameful, treating other intelligent beings in such a manner.  And it was a reflection on the societies themselves who allowed it to go on like that.

Then it got even worse.  Eventually the planets stopped going back to get their prisoners.  It became an embarrassment really, seeing a released prisoner all haggard and crippled, withered and squinting from daylight which they hadn’t seen in many years.  They’d return to their home planets almost unrecognizable to their loved ones.

The Slartigifijians were the first of the six planets to stop sending prisoners to New Australia Planetary Prison, protesting that conditions there would have to improve before they’d resume. After nine earth years, they ceased transports of criminals entirely, but they left thousands behind to finish out their miserable lives and chose to forget about the whole nasty experiment.

Enosh threatened to do the same, but eventually relented. Enoshi were very strong and capable of bearing up to the rigors of the workload.  Plus, the Enosh government couldn’t bear to miss out on their share of the profits from the mine.  The other planets, by way of comparison, kept right on going.  They began seeing it the way Earthmen portrayed it from the very start.

“Violent criminals and repeat offenders need to be removed from a society for the greater good of their communities, and once they’ve repaid their debt, only then may they return to their home planets,” is how the Earth delegation put it each galactic year at the Convention.  Yet this commitment to “reforming” criminals gradually faded into a distant memory when governments felt the backlash of social revulsion over the results of even a three-year sentence.  Frankly it was the lure of incredible wealth and the expansion of their planetary economies that caused them to temper their protests.  Soon they stopped protesting completely.

Most grew to look at it the same way as the Earthmen.  At the conventions, the Earth delegation would delight in reporting production numbers and exaggerate the vast improvement in social order: “We’re shipping out mineral ore, and shipping in our criminals and ne’er-do-wells to work the mines.  It’s still a win-win.”

Crime didn’t stop, nor did crime rates fall.  Beings still murdered, stole, raped, or conspired against the government.  Yet it didn’t matter.  It only fed the machine.  The justice systems didn’t have to worry about prisoner reform.  Murder another being on your planet, and you got sent away for life.  It made perfect sense at first.  But eventually even first-time offenders were being dragged onto transport vessels headed for Rijel 12 to serve “minor sentences.”  Within fifty Earth years, even they would never return.  No one went back to get them.

Initially, much like any poorly thought-out social experiment, the stated intent turned out to be unachievable.  From the start, the promise was to respect the concept of a set prison sentence and to return the convict to society upon its completion. Greed got in the way of that. But, so did the fear of political repercussions at home when freed prisoners returned and spoke of the conditions at New Australia Planetary Prison.  Earth and Zorgolong were the first two planets to stop returning their prisoners.  Schpleefti never did in the first place.  In their world, a Schpleefti who’d severely broken the law was banished from their community.  For them it was just plain common sense.  Threaten the peace and tranquility of society, and you lose the privilege of living within it.

The Enoshi followed suit.  Given time, they began to see how it fit in with the philosophy of their culture. Removing the capability of repeating the crime by severing a paw, castrating, or removing a tongue meant that the example was set for all those tempted to duplicate the act.  But this was even easier.  Just send them away to Rijel 12 and the problem was solved.

For Slartigifijian prisoners it was different though.  Most couldn’t handle the conditions in New Australia and perished within a few years.  However, not all of them died.  Their innate intelligence and wisdom became highly valuable to other prisoners and some lived on to serve vital roles in prison society.  Besides, Slartifigians had much longer life-spans than humans. This became very important later on, for the sake of the other inmates’ survival.

The hard life of mining killed off thousands of prisoners every year, and there was no predictable pattern to it.  Stronger prisoners died in the mines just as easily as weaker prisoners. Determination to survive, or resentment at having been sent to this subterranean hell, could certainly sustain a being for a while, but accidents were quite common.  Death could come easily, and at most any time.  Prison administrators didn’t care.  They didn’t have to.  In another few weeks, there’d be a ship arriving with more prisoners anyway. Life deteriorated into a matter of brutal survival for the desperate beings on Rijel 12.

After half an Earth century of dumping unfortunate prisoners on the planet, the place had become a death sentence, and everyone knew it. Inmates would tell newly arrived prisoners, and even prison officials communicated the same message.  As one infamously cruel guard used to put it to arriving convicts as they were processed in the receiving bay, “You have been sent here to die, and that is likely what you’ll do.  Accept it, and your miserable existence here may end peacefully.  Who knows? You may die tomorrow.  We don’t know, and we don’t care.  Work and you eat.  Eat and you live.  That’s all you need to know for now.”

And yet fifty Earth years after its creation, even when faced with such an impossible existence, amazingly, some beings learned how to survive.They adapted, and they overcame by creating a society of their own.Leaders arose, structure developed, and the situation stabilized, partly driven by necessity and partly due to the sheer determination of intelligent creatures seeking to exist, no matter what the circumstances.They figured out ways to live on.

Share this book with a friend!