“Bring them out.”
Par Acaces had no question as to who the ruhl meant by them. The par gathered the feeble space-weakened prisoners, with their wet eyes and their dry elastic skin, and marched them in a shackled line off the hulking battle transport. Ruhl Shald was waiting on the narrow bridgeway, pacing and clomping about with the anxious energy characteristic of their species. They were a people evolved from the hallowed Hellpit, their faraway long-obliterated homeworld.
“Line them up,” the ruhl commanded. Par Acaces, being the junior officer, obeyed with appropriate vigor and fury. The prisoners—a troop of unevolved and ill-equipped mammalians from the Sol system, out beyond the boundary of the Orion Wastes—stood hunched against the acidic wind of the gas giant’s high clouds, side by side along the bridgeway’s ledge, still tethered together. Ruhl Shald still paced and snarled and cursed the heavens. And that’s when the kuhl arrived.
Kuhl Calba was busy indeed, personally responsible for all the crusades within the Perseus Expanse. To Par Acaces, the kuhl’s presence was a troubling thing.
“What am I looking at, Ruhl Shald?” demanded the kuhl with a voice made of pure terror.
Ruhl Shald stood at perfect attention and answered mightily, “Prisoners, Kuhl Calba. From Earth.”
“You brought prisoners here? To New Hellpit XIII? Across 15,000 lightyears in a Prefectory Warship, burning fuel and bending time for what?”
The ruhl grumbled, but only smoky breath escaped.
Kuhl Calba continued, roaring. “Such thoughtless waste, and for what? From the look of these wretched creatures you could have simply exterminated them and moved on without even filing a report. Clutch this one tightly, at once.” The kuhl indicated the first prisoner in line.
Ruhl Shald, being the junior officer, obeyed with appropriate vigor and fury, lifting the small, shrieking creature with ease.
“Now step back.”
Ruhl Shald looked down of the edge of the bridgeway into the infinite torrent of the gas giant below. Not a glorious death, but one that served the cause. The ruhl stepped into the air and fell into the clouds, pulling the whole line of terrified prisoners down after, like links in a chain following an anchor into the abyss.
“Par Acaces, you are here forth Ruhl Acaces. Perform more strongly than your predecessor,” said Kuhl Calba, and stormed away.