by Denny E. Marshall
Inmate #A4 1-13 wakes up on a long reclining chair. The top
slides open. #A4 1-13 is unable to get up or move, and it will be many
hours before he is able to do so.
While waiting in the chair, #A4 1-13’s memory slowly comes
back. He was in prison back home before he volunteered for the Deep
Space Planet Hunting Program, like so many others. At the
time, #A4 1-13 figured it would be better than spending the rest of his
life in prison.
With so many private companies involved in space, the costs
have come way down. When the Deep Space Planet Hunting Program
was first initiated, it was decided to use only prison inmates with
life sentences or lengthy prison terms. Many human rights and advocacy
groups had to sign-off on the plan before the prison system could get
the go-head to finalize the program. Advocates made sure the
environment of the ships was safe for such a long voyage. Requirements
included a breathable atmosphere upon awakening, the correct pressure,
and a list of various other items deemed important to the safety of the
inmate ‘volunteers’. Once the concerns where all addressed, the program
The Deep Space Planet Hunting Program was
a success, and grew year after year. Now dozens of ships, each with
hundreds of inmates, roam the universe. Many more are scheduled.
#A4 1-13 is now able to walk around the ship. He’s having a
hard time breathing. #A4 1-13 walks over to the room’s main control
panel and can see a blue light on. The monitor reads Low
Oxygen Setting. #A4 1-13 turns the lever up and in a short
while his breathing returns to normal. He walks over to his chair and
opens the airtight locker at
the base. He removes some clothes and gets dressed.
#A4 1-13 checks out his new environment. In the room, he can
see rows and rows of low reclining chairs with the tops still in place.
#A4 1-13 wonders why no one else has come out of the deep space freeze.
He checks a couple of the chairs and is horrified to see only skeletal
remains! #A4 1-13 checks more of the chairs; row after row of death.
#A4 1-13 checks out the other rooms on the ship and finds more of the
same. Hundreds of inmates are dead! #A4 1-13 returns to the room he
woke up in.
No one, except top government and certain prison officials,
that the Deep Space Planet Hunting Program is not a
program of exploration or science. It is, rather, a prison population
control program, contrived by certain government officials to
reduce the overcrowding. Prison officials privy to the program knew all
along that the volunteer inmates would all die within a year.
#A4 1-13 sees a yellow warning light flashing on the section
panel of his chair. He looks at the panel and is shocked to see the
words “Malfunction Detected” flashing off and on. #A4
chair having a computer malfunction is the only reason he is alive.
An automated voice rings out over the ships PA system. “Inhabitable
planet detected. All personal report to the bridge or away rooms.”
#A4 1-13 is on the bridge. He remembers his training and walks
over to the scanner that detects life forms. He sets it to human-like
forms and starts the scan. It is several hours before the scanner
finally picks up a reading. The computer detects one human-like life
form so far. At the top of the screen he clicks the icon that says, land
craft by detected life form. #A4 1-13 decides it is better to
land there than a randomly selected spot decided by the computer.
The ship lands and #A4 1-13 is able to leave the ship with no
suit or equipment. Stepping out on the planet, he can see the life
form the ship detected. It looks like a woman. She walks up to #A4 1-13
“Hello, my name is Eve”
“Hello I am #A4 1-13.” says inmate #A4 1-13. He doesn’t know
his real name. It’s been so many years since he was allowed to use it,
he doesn’t remember. That was long ago.
Eve looks at him with a smile and says,
“That’s a silly name.”
Eve thinks… The fourth letter of the alphabet is ‘D’, the
first letter is ‘A’, and the thirteenth letter is ‘M’…
“We’ll just call you Adam,” says Eve.
© 2017 Denny E. Marshall
Denny E. Marshall has had art, poetry, and fiction
published. One recent credit is fiction at Dime Show Review.
See more at www.dennymarshall.com.
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