Jarrod pulled on the ring hoping this time it would come loose. His muscles bulged as his hands barely held on to the tarnished metal. He groaned as he pulled for what seemed minutes but was only about 15 seconds.
Jarrod stopped pulling and looked out across the flat, barren landscape. He was chained to a ring in the ground. Jarrod was left with no food, water, or tools. He only had the clothes on his back.
When the magistrate left him here, Jarrod was told he could be here for days. He’d either die of dehydration or be eaten by wild animals. Either way, his death would be painful. One might be a little faster than the other but both ways weren’t at the top of his “how I’d like to die” list.
Jarrod was told that if he could somehow escape, he’d be free. Backwater planets like this always had archaic punishments. Most planets in the galactic federation placed criminals in stasis for a period of time for rehabilitation but not here on Craxis. No, on Craxis all crime was punished the same way: you were chained to the ring.
Jarrod’s fate was tied to a 7cm ring at the end of a 3m chain. The metal was native to the planet. There was nothing like it in the entire galaxy. The Craxians practically worshipped it.
Craxite was stronger than titanium, didn’t tarnish, and weighed 1/3 as much as an equivalent amount of aluminum. It was extremely valuable since this was the only planet in the whole galaxy it could be found.
Nobody was allowed to remove as much as a microgram from the planet without the express permission of the planetary magistrate. He alone controlled the entire Craxite trade.
When Jarrod was caught with 20 grams of Craxite in his pocket as he was leaving for Janus V, he’d feigned ignorance. He’d told the customs agent that he didn’t know how it had ended up in that hidden pocket inside his jacket.
That 120,000 credits he’d been promised for the precious metal seemed like too little now. It was also rather ironic that what separated him from death and freedom was a ring made of the same metal he was trying to smuggle off-planet.
Jarrod heard unfamiliar sounds from the darkness around him. He pulled again, this time breaking the skin on his hands. The blood made him lose his grip and he fell to the ground with a huff.
The sounds were getting closer. Being eaten alive was inevitable at this point. Without any way to defend himself, the local wildlife would so descend upon him and make a meal of his synthetic flesh.
Fortunately, Jarrod had a backup plan. He popped his lower-right molar loose preparing to bite down on the poison that would quickly and painlessly end his life. Before doing so, Jarrod verified his mental blueprint was successfully transferred to the local sub-light galactic network hub.
Once he’d received verification, he bit down on the poison nanocube. As Jarrod lost consciousness on Craxis, a clone on Janus V was being animated and his mental blueprint would soon be uploaded to the cerebral matrix.
Jarrod would be back in a few weeks and this time he’d get the Craxite off this god-forsaken rock and collect his bounty. After all, clones weren’t cheap.
Staring at the ring that held him captive, Jarrod cursed as the light in his dimmed and faded.
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