“Move it!” the voice of the trooper sounded across the comms in Cassandra’s ear.

Maybe if she had been with some of her more combat oriented compatriots, she might have considered trying to disarm these goons and seize their ship; but given that she was utterly exhausted and the lot she was with at the moment didn’t exactly instil confidence, she didn’t particularly rate her chances of success.

Instead, she moved; happy to let someone else make the decisions for her, for a change.

It took about fifteen minutes to get to where the aliens had docked; their systems interfacing with the dead colony ship to provide power to the airlock that irised closed behind the group.

The first thing Cass noticed was that the gravity seemed tuned slightly heavier than was comfortable. The next thing, as the airlock spiralled open on the other side, was the design ethic; all military grey and no-nonsense straight lines everywhere. Neo-brutalist with a functional edge.

“Halt” the voice came again as the troopers fanned out around her “What’s your species designation?”

“43953 - Human” Cass recited from memory.

One of the troopers nodded “No special environmental needs. Remove your vaccsuit”

“I could have told you that” Cass jerked a thumb towards the still unconscious Pornsak on a grav-sled “He’s breathing just fine”

“Yeah, yeah, just do it”

Soon, there were two humans, in their underwear; Pornsak and Jones; they sounded like a bad comedy duo, and worse, probably looked like it as well

“Right” the squad leader slid up the visor on his helmet, to reveal a large pair of blue black eyes “Get them processed”

Later, having been stripped, showered, clad in a shapeless grey jumpsuit and fed, Cass laid her head back against the cool metal of the bulkhead in her cell and smiled.

She was safe.

For the first time in three weeks, she was able to go to sleep without worrying about where her next few hours of oxygen was coming from, or whether anyone was going to rescue her.

The ship lurched as the warp drive engaged.

They were going somewhere new and exciting. Whatever happened from here on in with the goons that had arrested her, was going to be a cakewalk in comparison.

Two weeks later….

“So you’re telling me that, you were marooned on the wreck of the Eliro after having had to abandon your ship?”

“That’s right” Cass nodded in agreement with her lawyer “The others arrested with me were only responding to my distress call”

“I see” the judge, a large, coppery-skinned creature, with protruding yellow eyes the size of grapefruits, shifted it’s weight in the chair it was sat in “In that case, it would seem your presence there was entirely accidental?”

“Your honour, I protest” the insectoid lawyer for the prosecution chirped and clicked, the translation tech broadcasting it’s words sonorously out across the courtroom PA system “The accused's presence aboard the Eliro was an outrage even before she offered her fraudulent and, frankly insulting, salvage rights. The others here are even worse; seeking only to profit by desecrating the graves of more than half a million Hegemony citizens”

“Oh, now, hold on” Dick spluttered

“And that defendant,” the insect clicked “insults this court by refusing to dress decently”

“Madam KtttkKtchKt” the judge sighed “We are all well aware of Dr. Pornsak’s condition”

“These humans are no better than the rest of their mongrel species” KtttkKtchKt interjected, before the judge could continue “They’re all vagabonds and thieves; chancers and scoundrels!”

“Your honour” the council for the defence reared up on his hind legs.

“Yes, yes” the judge said, tiredly.

“Oh, finally” Tanaka muttered under his breath “I thought he was never going to say anything.”

“He’s free” Cass shot back “What do you expect for nothing? - We’re destitute, remember?”

“Well, I still don’t see why I’m even here” Belvedyr said, huffily “As a mechanoid, I was just doing my duty. The rest of you can all rot in prison as far as I’m concerned”

“Charming” Cass rounded on him “Maybe I should just decommission you after we’re done here?”

“Are you quite finished?” the judge interrupted.

“Yes.” Cass grimaced “Sorry your honour”

“That told you” Belvedyr whispered, snidely.

“Having considered the facts of the case,” the judge began “It seems likely that Miss Jones here was the victim of circumstance and in no way intended to desecrate the graves of the war dead. Furthermore, her compatriots were in my opinion just responding to a distress call, as required by galactic law. They had neither the tools, nor the expertise to mount a salvage operation, so it seems prudent to take their account of events at at face value.”

“Your honour” KtttkKtchKt began - she wasn’t going to take this lying down.

“Talking!” the judge bellowed, before taking a moment to regain his composure “Now, as I was saying: The defendants, at the time they were apprehended, were neither armed, nor equipped with any salvage equipment; so as such, I must dismiss all charges of piracy against them”

Cass turned at this and grinned at her companions; a smile that lasted all of a few seconds as the judge continued.

“However, the accused all failed to notify the proper authorities that they were going to be boarding the Eliro - a class two historical war monument.

“In the case of Miss Jones, whereas your presence aboard the ship was accidental, you also failed to notify the proper authorities once you were able to, with your ingeniously constructed communications device.

“In both cases, the sentence is twenty hours of community service” the judge banged his gavel “Next case!”

Over to you
What demeaning and / or unpalatable task do we have to do for our punishment?

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