Author : Nathan Martin
Jev killed a cop. Technically, he pushed an undercover narcotics agent into an airlock and blew the outer hatch. Technically, it was the loss of pressure and lack of oxygen that killed the cop. Jev just pushed the button. Would’ve gotten away with it too, if the sun-burned corpse hadn’t made half a stable lap around the earth before smacking into Orbital Main station. Some luck.
He reached out and tapped a button on the console. The image on the main screen of Earth, slowly passing below him, blanked out. He was sick of looking at it. Six days since the launch, and still he sat there in his little ship, not quite ready to jet off. “Execution, or space mining,” they told him. It was an easy choice. Still, he missed the drugs.
He closed his eyes and stretched, unable to avoid brushing some portion of the ship’s interior no matter what angle he chose. When he was finished, he tightened his seat mesh to restrain his floating. He looked down at one of the screens; several windows were open, none of which were the tutorials he was to spend the next six months of flight time studying. A pop-up was on the screen, an override from Orbital Control. They were becoming more frequent, now that he was closer to overstaying his welcome. The latest pop-up informed him that he had, “12 hours 37 minutes 32 seconds to vacate Earth orbit or be terminated.” This one was bright red. He closed it and unhooked his seat mesh, floating free.
Grasping the overhead wall rungs, he moved hand over hand to the small cold box at the back of the cabin. He pulled out his last beer bulb, bit the tab off, and put the nipple in his mouth. He wondered if he was the first to drink the whole supply before leaving orbit. It was nice and dim in the cabin with the main screen off.
“Why am I still here?” He thought. “What the hell am I doing? I can’t go back down. There’s no way. I’d be dead as soon as I set the course.” He scratched the new tattoo on his wrist that marked him as a convict-miner. It itched. “I could say, ‘fuck asteroid mining, I’m going to Mars.’” He finished the beer bulb in two more gulps, and realized that he was speaking aloud; he hadn’t noticed the transition from thought. He continued. “They wouldn’t take me there, either.” The ships transponder was hardwired from the outside, marking him for what he now was.
He handed himself back over to the seat before the screen. There was only one thing left to do. He tapped a button and turned the screen back on. Earth burst over him, and he found himself missing it for the first time. Ice cream. Couscous with tomato sauce. Gravity.
“Fuck it,” he said. He tapped into the navigation system and activated the presets. The engine behind him began to roar, and he barely remembered to re-hook the seat mesh before he was tossed back into the cushions. Earth dropped out of view and was replaced by a slur of stars, drawing him away.
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