Author : Julian Miles, Staff Writer

“Did you really think this was going to be scenic?” I cannot help it; disgust oozes around my words.

He swallows hard. Tearing his gaze from the spectacle, he fastens wide eyes on mine: “This is horrific. What law would allow this?”

Every time. Every. Damn. Time. I’d really like one person to come up here with a clear view.

“You fought tooth and nail to come here, and you have the gall to ask me that?”

Titan is Earth’s penal colony, and it was carefully designed. Prison shuttles arrive on the peak of a mountain in the Dilmun range. From there, a dropslide deposits the convicts into Titan One, the main ‘processing’ area.

I use the term loosely, because that is what it is labelled as on the designs. Since Titan has no inhabitants that are not criminals, I would guess that it may best be regarded as a nightmare cross between slave market and the gateway to hell.

Britain established HMP Titan 180 years ago, at the height of the Elite Regime. That may have fallen in fire and summary executions, but its legacy is this monument to human squeamishness. Every nation on Earth pays Titan Corp to use this place. The laughable element of that is the discrepancy between vast sums of money paid and miniscule expenditure required to maintain the transports and the crews: people like me.

Titan needs no budget. It is a frigid hell over a billion kilometres from Earth. The humanitarian campaigner I am escorting has just seen the plain on the Adiri side of Shangri-La. It’s littered with macabre sculptures: the dead. Some of them were corpses before they were deposited out here. Most got shot out of the waste chute as the losing side of an argument. No-one knows who – or what – rearranges them into these hideously fascinating patterns. Personally, I never want to meet the Iceghosts of Titan. I suspect they are non-too chuffed at having their home host the cesspit of Terra.

“I think I’ve seen enough. It is obvious that this place is beyond any rational intervention.”

Another do-gooder bottles it. I snort my low opinion and swing the scout shuttle around. While he organises his excuses, I look down at the field of dead and, once again, get the terrible feeling of being watched by something of unforgiving malice.

If that feeling is true, it’s not an Iceghost. It’s the spirits of the dead, levelling their hatred at me. Why? Because when Titan Corp came to me and said I could fly the convicts, or remain as one of them, I took my thirty pieces of silver and a lifetime exile from Earth. Apartment on Mars, girlfriend on the Titan Corp Penal Flight cleaning crew: ‘we the damned’ can only tolerate each other.

HMP Titan exists because the ruling powers of Earth have to be seen to be ‘fair’. No summary executions, just banishment. This place is far crueller than a death sentence, yet public sensibilities – and a craving to stay in power – force the establishments to keep this horror story going.

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