Slave Planet - Cover

Slave Planet

Public Domain

Chapter 18

Dodd stayed on his post because he had to: as a matter of fact, he hardly thought of leaving, or of doing anything at all. Minutes passed, and he stood in the hallway, quite alone. The other guard had spoken to him when Cadnan had been picked up and tossed back into solitary, but Dodd hadn’t answered, and the guard had gone back to his own post. Dodd stood, hardly thinking, and waiting—though he could not have said what for.

This is the end. He had hit Cadnan: in those few seconds he had acted just as a good slaver was supposed to act. And that discovery shocked him: even more than his response during the attempted escape, it showed him what he had become.

He had thought the words he used had some meaning. Now he knew they had next to none: they were only catch-phrases, meant to make him feel a little better. He was a slaver, he had been trained as a slaver, and he would remain a slaver. What was it Norma had said?

“You’d rather live...”

It was true, it was all true. But there was (he told himself dimly) still, somewhere, hope: the Confederation would come. When they did, he would die. He would die at last. And death was good, death was what he wanted...

No matter what Norma had told him, death was what he wanted.

He was still standing, those few thoughts expanding and filling his mind like water in a sponge, when the building, quite without warning, shook itself.

He heard the guard at the end of the corridor shouting. The building shook again, underneath and around him, dancing for a second like a man having a fit. Then he caught the first sounds of the bombardment.

“Norma!” He heard himself scream that one word over the sounds of blast and shout, and then he was out of the corridor, somehow, insanely, running across open ground. Behind him the alarms attached to the front doors of Building Three went off, but he hardly heard that slight addition to the uproar. God alone knew whether the elevators would be working ... but they had to be, they had to stand up. After he found Building One (he could hardly trust the basement levels, choked by panic-stricken personnel from everywhere) he had to get an elevator and find Norma ... He had to find Norma.

Overhead there was a flash and a dull roar. Dodd stared before him at a tangled, smoking mass of blackness. A second before, it had been a fringe of forest. Smoke coiled round toward him and he turned and ran for the side of Building Three. There were other sounds behind him, screams, shouts...

As he passed the Building the ground shook again and there was a sudden rise in the chorus of screams. He smelled acrid smoke, but never thought of stopping: the Building still stood gleaming in the bombardment flashes, and he went round the corner, behind it, and found himself facing the dark masses of One and Two, five hundred feet away over open ground.

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