The Kratel warrior watched as he saw big fist after big fist collide with human flesh, as skin rippled in shock and blood spurt from injury. The Kratel warrior watched as the smaller human lay on the floor, his fingers grasping to cover his beaten and bloody face, and he did not care. This was just another day in the Pig Pen, and just like every other day this fight along with tens of others would mean and resolve nothing.
This Kratel warrior went by the name Bal’Tek, famous for being the only Kratel held within Human custody, and this custody was the Northern Honos Penitentiary also known as the NHP, the Northern Pen’ or by their own inmates; the Pig Pen and in many cases just the Pig. Bal’Tek didn't understand the Human need to abbreviate everything. Within his own language Kratese the longer a title was the better it was and for each additional click, tut or growl that was added to the word or phrase, the more pronounced your own title was. It was just under twenty years before that he himself had had a long articulated title, in the form of Nug’ru Bal’Tek nK’Orm, a name that brought him much pride and one he wore as a badge of honour elevating him far above his peers. Sadly however those days were over.
Beside Bal’Tek sat a burly Human, his shoulders bulging at the slightest movement as if vying for an opportunity to escape from their fleshy bonds. The Human was a man who called himself Bull. When Bull had first arrived at the Pig he had seen the seven foot tall Kratel and instantly latched onto him. It was as if Bull thought that Bal’Tek would offer him protection against those who liked to break in new comers. Bal’Tek had said not two words to Bull, nor had provided him with any protection itself, however the other inmates new not to cause trouble with the Kratel, and as such by proxy, those around him which for now Bull counted himself fortunate to be included in.
“They’re really going at it” Bull mentioned to Bal’Tek. It was been a total of four Honos months since Bull had arrived at the Pig and in that time the Human had attempted on an almost daily basis to engage Bal’Tek in conversation. The Kratel however always responded in the same way each time; a small grunt that showed neither approval or disagreement. Bull however always assumed this meant that Bal’Tek was agreeing with him.
“You know Bal” continued Bull as Bal’Tek’s jaw clenched at hearing his name itself being abbreviated like spittle “I haven't seen The Man in a while; you?” The Man was another inmate at the Pig, called so for his actual name from East Asian Earth which while no one could pronounce correctly sounded a lot like the female name Sue.
Bal’Tek simply grunted in response as he flipped a thick long braid of hair away from his face as the Human continued with his daily droll about whatever he thought was relevant at the time.
“Yeah; come to think of it” Bull droned on as Bal’Tek closed his blood red eyes and covered his blue-grey face with large palms “there’s a lot of people I haven' seen in a while!” The Human continued in what Bal’Tek assumed was a list of inmates who had not be seen by others for a day, a week, a month or even more. Bal’Tek had stopped listening by the fourth name and began to stare towards the sky.
High above them the crystal blue sky of the Frozen North shone with the clearest and cleanest air on all of Honos. The temperature of the Frozen North was at a constant temperature lower than 40 degrees Celsius. It was for this reason Bal’Tek had assumed that the Humans had decided to build the Penitentiary where they did, as anyone who made it outside of it’s walls would die in a very short amount of time. The Pig itself was always held at a comfortable temperature constantly modulated by it’s invisible thermal bubble that surrounded the facility at all times. The bubble itself was something that fascinated Bal’Tek, for hours he would stare at where he knew the bubble was and wait for a storm to brew above it and rain down the basketball sized hail that the Frozen North was pretty infamous for. As each hailstone would hit the thermal bubble, it would fizzle in an instant sending a shock wave of light across the honeycombed matrix that the bubble consisted of. Most of the other inmates cared little for these light shows, but for Bal’Tek such sights were what kept him sane while incarcerated in the Pig surrounded by the weak, pathetically pink Humans who regularly scuffled among themselves for dominance.
There was something about the honeycombed light shows that made Bal’Tek feel normal again, like he was back on Krata Prime standing on his Baroness’ balcony and watching the bi-annual meteor shower that he adored so much. It was a similar patterning he watched at this time as series of hexagons spiralled across the vibrant cloudless sky. The Kratel had only seen this happen without a storm once before over six years before when the thermal bubble failed and had resulted in the death of eight inmates unable to reach the safety of the facility interior in time.
The patterns continued and grew in both vibrancy and pattern until soon the entire bubble was illuminated by it’s pattern. As if on queue the Kratel stood and walked calmly and with great determination towards the nearest inmate housing unit. Behind Bal’Tek his human follower; Bull raced to keep up as best he could.
“Bal!” Bull called as his feet struggled to keep pace “what’s up?”
Bal’Tek said nothing as he approached the facility guard positioned outside the inmate housing facility who raised his plasma rifle as the towering Kratel forged his way towards the guard.
“STOP RIGHT THERE!” Called the guard. Bal’Tek had known this guard since the human had arrived twelve years prior. He was a good human, always fair and valued the lives of the inmates before his own pay-cheque, a quality that was not shared by most of the other guards at the Pig. Bal’Tek stopped just inches before the barrel of the rifle and with a single clawed hand pointed skywards. The guard took his eyes away from the Kratel and Bull and looked skywards towards the series of now violently-glowing hexagons revealing the location of the thermal bubble-shield.
“Holy fu…” came the words from the guard’s mouth as he lowered the rifle and stepped aside allowing the pair inside the facility. Bal'Tek watched through insulted plasti-glass as the guard radioed to the other guards patrolling the recreational area and in a matter of moments the air was filled with shouting as inmate and guard alike sprinted for the nearest indoor complex. Moments turned to seconds as tens of humans pored through doors before an unmistakable sound like ten thousand nails on one thousand blackboards ripped through the air and the brightly lit hexagons above began to go out. An uncountable number of eyes were figuratively glued to windows and view screens as the ground was instantly covered in a fine frost that quickly grew over every pane of plasti-glass and one by one shorted out the view-cams that monitored the Rec-area.
With a knowing posture Bal’Tek rested against a wall, he had seen exactly how these events had unfolded, how one of the inmates had only a matter of hours before had been thrown in a scuffle into the base of the thermal bubble and had been instantly vaporised by it’s intense laser-based heat, but in doing so had caused a ripple effect across the bubble-shield. How shortly after the initial impact of inmate on laser the facility had begun it’s fortnightly power cycle causing it’s own disruption in the field, and how both effects met at exactly the same time within the highest peak of the bubble. It was a less than a one in a million chance but had resulted in the total breakdown of the Penitentiary’s primary defence and surveillance system.
Bal’Tek knew that this would mean they would be confined within their currently occupied facilities for at least two days for assistance from Nova Casa to arrive with adequate equipment repairs, how there was no way the Pig Guards would issue them the required thermal suits to allow them outside with a malfunctioning thermal bubble, and how after the bubble was repaired along with a new vid-camera network installed the power cycling pattern of the bubble would be adjusted to ensure it didn’t’s coincide with any recreational time in future, but that didn’t phase the Kratel as he stared at the frozen window. For the first time since his arrival at the Pig, Bal’Tek smiled.
- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley