The Fallen Star
Chapter 23: Some Big Changes

 

That was the most unusual day in prison so far. Talking with Slim Cognito, getting information on the Sonic 6, being asked by a supervillain to break out, and hearing of a lombax and seeing a markazian woman escape… it was all out of the ordinary.

 

After that day had passed, the drophyd guards were on high alert. The prison immediately became very restricted for the inmates; guards were even more abundant and they all appeared to be rather fearful and edgy with what was happening around them.
Ace had a feeling some big changes were coming after that incident - rumours started to spread around about the lombax, rumours which only caused the drophyds to become even more nervous...

And only three weeks after that incident, everything changed.
The prison was suddenly invaded by a new force of aliens; and all the drophyd guards were disarmed and taken of their jobs at Zordoom prison. The prison was changed around rapidly by the new horde of police officers, wardens and guards. They were a variety of new and unknown species this time; Ace even spotted a few markazians within the new security staff. They all had Polaris Police Force logos imprinted onto their uniform, from the planet Igliak.
And so all of Emperor Tachyon’s symbols were taken away and destroyed, along with the holovision screens he had displayed throughout the prison; even the controversial torture chambers were dismantled and removed.

It was all so obvious to Ace. He knew something had happened to Percival Tachyon if Ratchet really was around the galaxy...

So, the lombax really did get rid of this Tachyon thing... I’m not surprised.

Along with all the changes made to the prison, all the innocent prisoners who were being held there unlawfully, were pardoned and released.
Ace appeared to be quite relieved with these changes. Now he didn’t have to put up with seeing the innocent beings punished by the drophyds; but only days after all the innocents were freed, the prison had a huge influx of new inmates…

New races were now present inside the Zordoom prison sectors. Robotic Space Pirates were everywhere; many of the drophyds were stripped of their mechanical suits and placed into large tanks of water. While a strange and dangerous reptilian-like race known as cragmites, were being held in the high security units. 


But those weren’t what bothered Ace…

Another race called the kerchu; were also rampant throughout the prison. Ranging from small to reasonably large, they had orange and beige toned fur, along with a beaver-like appearance, sporting sharp buck teeth, claws and small blue eyes. They weren’t the most photogenic race in the prison, but their appearances weren’t what bothered him…
They had a foul stench, especially if one had just been in a bathroom unit. All of a sudden, Gleeman Vox’s fish-breath didn’t seem so bad at all.
And what made matters worse is that the fur of a Kerchu also caused allergic reactions to most of the other organic life form inmates. So whenever Ace was near a Kerchu, he’d have to cover his nose, like the rest of the prisoners do whenever they’re walking by or working around them.

 

*

Nonetheless, the prison was a much more civil place after Tachyon’s rule was overthrown. Ace no longer had to listen to other prisoners whining, crying out for help or being punished on the spot for no reason. Even the kitchens were now tidier without a bad smell and the prisoners weren’t as noisy as they usually were in the mornings. The shower and bathroom sessions were also extended by an extra 10 minutes.
The menus for breakfast and dinner had changed just ever-so-slightly; the menu was pretty much the same, except for a new added choice – fish fillets. Ace and all the other prisoners thought it was odd at first.

Why would they be offering something like that?

He even refused to try it until he saw somebody else eat it first – just in case it was tainted.
But the other prisoners seemed to enjoy it a lot, commenting on how fresh and tasty it was. So he shrugged and tried some for himself, knowing himself to once be fond of seafood and all.

Even though it was a strange ‘coincidence’ to say the least, that fish only just appeared on the menu; a short time after the prison was rid of the drophyds and taken ownership by proper galactic authorities. Ace didn’t seem to care – it was delicious, and that’s that. 


***



The authorities may have changed, but the daily chores and jobs had not. The inmate routine was still largely the same: wake early in the morning; have breakfast; spend 2 hours in the exercise yard; spend most of the day doing jobs around the prison; dinner and then sleep.

Ace walked down a corridor of the prison, walking past large tanks, pipes and machinery as he followed the path towards a sector of the prison where he was called to work with another group of prisoners.
Only the sounds of dripping water and his footsteps were heard down here. He couldn’t even hear the racket of the other prisoners nearby. It was unusually quiet. He was summoned to help repair some equipment with another group of prisoners, but he couldn’t help but feel that something was out of the ordinary down here - with the silence and all.

Walking by and turning a corner, he was startled when he saw a couple of guards sitting down, lying against a wall.
They looked frightened; and it was obvious as to why they were - they were tied up with rope, tight and thick. Even their mouths were covered in duct tape.
Ace kneeled down to their level and immediately untied them from the ropes. He was quite quick with it and both guards stood up, tearing the duct tape off their mouths, and took in gasps of air as they could now breathe a lot more easily.

 

”What happened here?”

One of the officers opened his mouth to respond.
”It’s… it’s them! They’ve got a Prison break in action and we can’t do a thing about it!”

”What do you mean you can’t?” Ace asked again.

”Listen, you must get out of here now! We’ll try and contact further support but for now, we’re almost unarmed and-“


A loud blast caught everyone by surprise – exploding only just metres away. Ace was almost shaken to the ground while the other two officers fell over as the floor and walls shook from the sheer force of it. Ace could smell smoke only just seconds after, so he picked up both guards and moved away from the corridor and further away as a dark thick smoke made its way towards them.
The three of them were now in a safer part of the sector and the guards stood there, still shaken by what had just happened.

 

“Thank you for saving us, uhh…”

”His name is Ace Hardlight, Keith. Remember, he used to be on that illegal reality holovision show years ago?”

”Oh yeah that! Sorry, reality shows were never my thing so I didn’t know, heh” the officer said while shrugging.

”Well… if I didn’t help I would have probably got into trouble so-” Ace said, before being cut off.

”Nonetheless, we appreciate what you did. We never would have expected another prisoner to help us; regardless of why you chose to!”

”There’s no time for chitchat, partner! We’re running out of time! They’re all going to escape if we don’t get support anytime soon!”

 

The markazian guards continued to argue about what to do, while Ace could only stand there, listening to their conversation. He was interested in what was happening…


”Who is escaping? That terraklon fish-tank guy?”

”No, the whole entire kerchu population had been plotting this for a while, but we never noticed until today! They’re a lot smarter than they look so we need assistance ASAP! They’ve found a way to disable our communication services and we can’t do anything about it for another hour or more and by then they would have escaped!”

 

”Kerchu… I hate those guys” 

 

Just as Ace replied, another deafening explosion boomed from a higher area of the prison’s sector, causing the building to shake up again and startle everyone down below. This time screams and yells could be heard from a nearby sector. Ace frowned; he knew this situation wasn’t good and he started to wonder if he should step in to do something…


”Who knows how many other lives they’ll endanger during this break out… Ace, correct me if I am wrong but weren’t you a superhero too at some point?” one of the officers asked.


”Well yeah, I was. A very long time ago”

”Are you willing to aid us in stopping them from their escape? We don’t have much time and I’m sure you have a lot of skills that could come in handy…”

The other policeman gasped.
”What? Are you crazy? He is a prisoner, what if he decides to escape WITH them?!”

”Why would I want to escape when I know that I’ll end up thrown back in here anyway? And besides, if I escaped… I’d have nowhere to go and nobody to stick by”


Ace looked away for a moment and looked towards where the smoke was still streaming out. For some odd reason, he felt quite interested at the idea of stopping a prison break. It had been a long time since he did anything with a thrill like that. He couldn’t help but give off a slight smile at the idea of it.
He didn’t want to waste any more time; the more seconds that rolled by, the closer and closer the kerchu were getting with their escape. So without hesitation, he started to dash down towards the damaged entrance-

 

”Wait!”

 

Ace stopped in his track and turned his head to look back at the guards. They were both standing there with a slight grin. The same kind that Ace had.

 

”You might need this…”

 

One of the markazian guards pulled out a pistol from their pockets and threw it over towards Ace. He caught it easily and looked at it, and gave off a smile back at the guards - a sign of gratitude.

 

”Good luck. We’ll be rounding up more recruits to stop the rest from their escape”


***



Running along the metal plated hallways with a pistol at hand, it was quite thrilling. He made his way down the hallway and held his breath and lowered his head for a moment as he moved through the black smoke and could see a huge hole in the wall – caused by the explosion earlier.
He dashed through the smoke and made his way out into another opening of the sector. It looked badly damaged around here, with shattered glass, wrecked metallic tables and walls. But there was no sign of anyone.
So he ran over towards a stairway that led up into a higher level but as he walked up the stairs, a prisoner from above snarled at him and shouted – it was a kerchu in the red prison scrubs.

He grabbed out his pistol and aimed, and the kerchu sneered… leaping down towards Ace to try and attack so he shot it in mid-air and it screeched; falling  down to the floor below. But as he did, even more of the creatures came out from the platform above – all screeching and yelling in their own language, with one of them pointing at Ace with its clawed hand and shaking its other fist.

Ace smiled.

He held his breath and leapt up the rest of the stairway, landing at the top. A horde of Kerchu came in from his left in an attempt to shove him back down but a swift double kick from Ace cleared the way, and - in turn - the Kerchu were shoved aside so that he could make his way through easily.
Still holding his breath to avoid breathing in their fur as it flew; he dashed through and passed the remaining Kerchu, brushing them all aside as most of them were no threat, not worth fighting. He wanted to track down the ones who were closest to their escape.

Chapter 23 Scene - Stop the Break-out

Eventually passing the first group of Kerchu, he saw the true extent of the damage they had inflicted – the neighbouring room here had a huge gaping hole blasted through, stairways were broken, as well as the fire lit benches, chairs and charred walls.


”I wonder how these furballs did this…”


Ace took note that the stairways were extensively damaged in this area, halting his chances to chase the rest of them through their escape route. Instead, he had to jump up to a ledge; which he did fairly easy after crouching down. He leapt higher than his own height, grabbing the ledge to lift him up, which was quite difficult as the surface was quite slippery but his gloved fingers had a good grip.
After pulling himself up, he was quick to rush through the hole; avoiding the small fires and molten iron. Several water pipes were broken around here though, allowing flows of water to slowly seep out and cool the iron in some spots, which Ace leapt on as he passed through the tunnel and finally out into another sector of the prison. 

Ace was quick to grab out his pistol as he was rudely greeted by another large group of Kerchu. This time some were holding sharp spears of some sort, all trying in vain to attack Ace but he was too quick, swiftly running forward and dodging the sharp swipes that came from them and firing his taser pistol at the ones who tried to attack him from the front. At least until a large, darker coloured Kerchu landed down from above…
He was holding a large flamethrower style weapon - a Pyro Blaster - and Ace was caught by surprise. All the other smaller kerchu ran to the side as fire erupted from the barrel of the blaster. Ace did the same of course – but he was being aimed at by the scorching heat and he snarled loudly as he felt the flames burn his left arm, only just avoiding a blast to the chest.
He ducked behind an iron table as his arm was stinging and burning from the painful scald, but the kerchu wasn’t done with him yet.  Luckily, Ace still had his pistol but it was difficult to retaliate and fire back at the prisoner from this position. So he looked all around him, and knew he didn’t have much time… as he could see the iron from the table heating up – glowing brightly in an orange-red tone.
A pipe in the wall behind Ace caught his interest and he quickly elbowed at it with his right arm, he dented it but it wasn’t enough to break through. Ace quickly turned himself around and kicked it with all his strength and finally – his heel connected with the indentation and burst it wide open.

Water blasted through the hole and to Ace’s relief; the water relieved the burned skin on his arm as it continued to spray from the broken pipe. But the kerchu ahead of him shouted and cursed in its own language angrily, as the water had blasted at him and doused out the flames of the Pyro blaster temporarily. Ace saw this as the perfect opportunity to strike back and so he braced himself and crouched; before lunging forward out towards the larger kerchu.
The orange furred creature screeched in fear and Ace was quick to grab the flamethrower’s barrel; tugging it forward and pulling it towards him. The kerchu lost its grip on the weapon and stumbled to the floor. Ace was still angry at him though, so he came forward to throw a swift punch down at him - knocking him out in an instant when his fist connected with the kerchu's skull.
Ace had to make a sudden move out of the way though, as he saw another couple of kerchu running down towards him, each with their own Pyro Blasters.


Ace had nothing to fear this time though; since this time, he wasn’t cornered. Standing there drenched in water with his long blond hair hanging down the side of his face, he made his way over towards the next lot of stairs and held out his pistol again, aiming at one of the blaster welding kerchu and firing.
Some escapees were still trying to attack him with bladed spears from his sides though, and so he moved - watching the fire from the kerchu in front blast in his direction.
Ace chuckled when he saw the flames from the blaster burn some of the kerchu instead and they wailed – screaming as the unlucky few were set alight, jumping around and rolling on the ground to put the flames out.

 

This only enraged the kerchu inmates even more.

Ace noticed a Pyro Blaster was laying on the ground a few metres away from him; the one from the knocked out Kerchu he punched earlier. So he equipped it and took aim, frowning at the onlookers as they came in on him,

 

”I suggest you all go back to your cells now…!”



Ace looked at the group in front of him and they all continued to stare back at him angrily, he was unsure if they even understood a single word he said. But Ace seemed to have underestimated them and several pounced down from above… right behind of him; stunning him as they leapt one-by-one onto his back.
He was infuriated to have been pinned down by the likes of these furred creatures and he hastily tried to pull himself back up; since they were trying to disarm him of the flame thrower. Ace then noticed the weapon had run out of fuel anyway, so he tossed it aside for them and he dashed backwards; as he started to feel a very uncomfortable sensation in his eyes and nose…

Being in close contact with their fur caused him to suddenly sneeze without warning, and he sneezed again… and again, which only gave the kerchu an open chance to blast at him with their remaining Pyro Blaster.
Ace tried to stop sneezing and he jumped out of the way, knowing what was coming from the side as he felt the heat coming closer and he threw himself on the floor to the right - quickly grabbing out the pistol he still had. But it wasn’t near as powerful as their flamethrowers.

He had no choice but to fire back with his own weapon repetitively, until he finally got a direct hit in the eye of the target Kerchu – who immediately fell onto his back and cried out loudly, clutching its sore face.
The other kerchu now realized that they couldn’t stop this ex-hero from slowing them down, so the remaining prisoners fled the scene, as quickly as they could, not taking any notice of the rest of their own kind left behind.
Ace saw this though, and he wanted to stop the rest from their escape. He rushed on towards them, but stopped to pick up the remaining Pyro Blaster in the room, as it still had plenty of fuel left for use.

He rushed up the steps with the flamethrower at hand; not slowing him down at all, despite its bulk. Ace followed the track of the other kerchu and now he was brought to an outside docking area. He hadn’t been outside ever since arriving in Zordoom, so this was quite unusual for him.
The skies were of dawn; orange tinted and the air was calm. He could also clearly see where the kerchu were headed – to a large starcruiser; their final escape.

So this must be how they got hold their weapons… hmm, how can I stop them now…

There wasn’t much time. The cruiser was still loading on the kerchu who managed to make it this far and there was many; at least over a hundred from what he could see. He rushed in closer and looked all around realising the Pyro Blaster would be useless against the ship - even the pistol would do nothing.
But then he noticed a long row of monorail carriers situated several metres above the Kerchu starcruiser. The rail was leading to another part of Zordoom prison in a distance, and he assumed they weren’t currently being used - as they were motionless and hanging high above on the rail.

This gave him an ingenious idea.

Running up closer to the cruiser, the Kerchu spotted him and hissed; hurrying up the platform of the cruiser and soon, all the escapees had made their way inside and the ship started to fire up, activating its engines. There was very little time now, so Ace dropped the Pyro Blaster on the ground, kneeling down and quickly dismantling it, ripping out its fuel tank with his strong grasp. He sprung up quickly and tossed it high in the air… right up towards the carrier hanging above the cruiser.

Upon hearing the clang from the fuel tank hitting its target, he gave off a cunning grin. Satisfaction was what he felt, seeing it explode on impact and cause the carrier to come loose and drop down from the monorail above, crashing on top of the Kerchu starcruiser below. It was quite a spectacular sight. It completely wrecked the left wing of the cruiser; halting it from its escape completely.

Ace could only stand there, folding his arms. He could imagine how annoyed and outraged the Kerchu must be; a thought which he found to be slightly amusing.

They weren’t going to leave Zordoom anytime soon, that’s for sure.

 

Chapter 24: Unexpected News

 

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