Convicted of a crime he did not commit, Jonathan Renn is sentenced to life in the Swamp, a prison planet death row in a distant galaxy. Renn only has two choices, escape the Swamp or die in the process. Defending himself from attacks by deadly, native monsters and his fellow convicts, Renn is obsessed with escaping the planet and getting his revenge on the people who set him up. Marla Marie Mendez is even more down on her luck. Trapped inside a cybernetic dog and dropped defenseless into the Swamp, Marla can only rely on Renn and her claws to save her from the unfriendly elements. They must find a way out of the Swamp and quickly before their life sentence is cut short.
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September 20, 2004
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Excerpt from Prison Planet by William C. Dietz
"Get a move on, monster meat ... I haven't got all day." The guard grinned as he shoved Jonathan Renn through the lock and into the shuttle. Two more guards grabbed Renn and threw him down.
He hit the shuttle's durasteel deck with considerable force. It hurt but Renn was used to pain. That's because the guards used pain as a universal language. A language which never required translation and always got results. Plus, in the imperial order of things, their status was only slightly higher than that of the prisoners they guarded. The ability to inflict pain was an important expression of their superiority.
Renn understood all this but it didn't make him feel better. He shook his head to clear his vision. As things came back into focus he found himself looking straight down at a brass plate set into the deck. It read, ABANDON ALL HOPE YE WHO ENTER HERE. The guards laughed, and rough hands jerked him to his feet. The whole episode was part of their routine send-off. Well, screw them. He'd given up hope long ago.
At first he'd hoped that someone would discover his innocence, free him, and convey the emperor's heartfelt apologies. "Sorry old boy, horrible mistake, can't imagine how it happened, can I drive you home?"
Then the days turned into weeks, and weeks into months, and his fantasies of full exoneration gradually gave way to another, more realistic hope. Perhaps the Imperial Court would be lenient. Yes, he was innocent, but a suspended sentence wouldn't be too bad, at least he'd be free to get his hands on Shinto, and choke the truth out of him.
Sure, others could've framed him but he knew Shinto had. And if they'd turn him loose he'd prove it. And why not? After all, he was a respectable businessman, with a clean record and friends in high places. "The court finds Citizen Jonathan Renn guilty as charged. However in light of his spotless record, obvious penitence, and impressive character witnesses, the court feels a degree of leniency is appropriate. We therefore sentence Citizen Renn to pay a fine of one thousand Imperials, suspended, providing he stays out of trouble for one standard year."
Then his trial came. It lasted fifteen minutes. His friends in high places never appeared, the evidence was overwhelming, and the judicial computer spent 3.5 seconds reaching a verdict. "For crimes against the empire Citizen Jonathan Renn is hereby sentenced to spend the rest of his natural life on an Imperial Prison Planet. The sentence shall commence immediately."
He appealed of course, and his case went before a panel of sentient judges at nine the next morning. After comparing stock portfolios, drinking coffee, and trading gossip for an hour they discussed Renn's case. Five minutes later they decided to support the lower court, and get together for lunch.
A prison robot with an electronic lisp delivered their decision a few minutes after that. "Thitizen Renn, I'm thorry to inform you that your appeal hath been denied and your thententh thtands. Would you like a cold drink?"
A few days later he and sixty-two other prisoners were packed aboard a shuttle and boosted up to a supply and transport ship. Even as they entered their tiny cells the ship was breaking out of earth orbit and preparing to enter hyperspace. A few hours later Renn felt the characteristic nausea which accompanies a shift into hyperspace and knew he was on his way. But to where? He didn't know, because he was a prisoner, and everybody knows you don't tell prisoners a damn thing.