It didn’t have a name. People sometimes called it the Barrens, but most preferred not to talk about it at all. Penal colonies have little overlap with polite conversation. Unfortunately for Myla, those sorts of unwritten social codes no longer applied to her. She took the first step out of the drop-pod and onto the thick gray clay that covered the ground as far as she could see in every direction. The Barrens was an accurate description.
She walked around a bit to get her blood flowing—it was tight quarters on the drop-pod on the way down and it left her joints stiff—and when she’d gotten a few meters from the pod the shackles around her wrists automatically disengaged and fell into the clay with a squelch. The sun overhead—she didn’t know what system this was—was an exceptionally bright white, but the air was thin and chilly. It was desolate.
The warden told her and her fellow convicts very little, but it was all they needed to know. They’d be sent down in individual pods and dispersed around the planet. The pods would produce heat, water, and a nutrient fungus using only available sunlight, the atmosphere, the clay, and an onboard nuclear power plant. There would be enough fungus to survive on, but not enough to stock pile, and even if they tried it decomposed quickly. They would never be able to reach their fellow prisoners. Total isolation in a gray waste. No need for guards here. This was a life sentence, and not much of a life at that.
But Myla took away another lesson from that primer. They would each be given a nuclear reactor, a drop-pod with demonstrated capabilities for atmospheric entry (albeit with the controls deactivated), and left completely unsupervised. Myla was no petty criminal; she, like most everyone else here, was a political dissident. With enough time, one of them would figure out a way to use the tools at their disposal to cross the gulf to their nearest cellmate. And then the two of them would reach two more, and then eight. Someone just needed to be the first.
Might as well be her.
She looked again at the handcuffs lying in the soft clay, and then down to her own hands. This planet wasn’t the Barrens. No, this was the Devil’s Workshop. Time to get to work.