Author : Duncan Shields, Staff Writer

It was China that finally did it.

So little was known about the whys and hows of explosive decompression of the human body in space. There had been assumptions and guesses but nothing had happened yet in terms of accidents to give the scientists any bodies to study.

China’s space program was also curious.

It also happened to have ten criminals that it had condemned to death and were in good enough physical condition to qualify as astronauts.

They were strapped into their roller coaster chairs and kept in the back. Funny how the government didn’t balk at the idea of how much ten bodies would cost them in terms of fuel but they felt it was okay to skimp on anesthetic.

China’s government wasn’t doing it completely independently. They had been caught early on in the planning. After some top-secret political wrangling, the other two major governments of Earth had given China the silent go-ahead with the proviso that they share their data. They’d condemn the action if it ever came to light but other than that, they wouldn’t interfere. The information would be valuable and no one except China had the balls to do something like this.

And since there were no civilians up in space at the moment, eyewitnesses would be scarce.

The chairs were fitted with restraints bolted to the floor of the cargo bay. At no point would the prisoners be released. They’d simple be exposed to the vacuum of space for ten minutes and then the cargo bays would close and the shuttle would head back down to Earth.

Simple. Easy. Effective.

Like all horrible plans.

First of all, two of the criminals were adept at escaping locks. Second of all, space agencies weren’t as good at designing criminal restraints as prisons were. Third of all, the plan was to do the mission in radio silence. And fourth, the shuttles these days were mostly automated except for landing.

Weng Pen got out first when the G’s stopped. Pei Sheng followed suit. They freed the others.

One of the crew needed to do a final check on their bodies before the decompression. If only he’d checked the feeds coming from the inside.

That open door was all they needed.

The prisoners overwhelmed the crew, killing them or rendering them unconscious. They prisoners strapped the five crew members into the chairs.

The prisoners gathered into the cockpit and watched the red numbers count down.

The doors opened. Ten minutes passed. The doors closed. The ship turned slowly on its pre-programmed course back to China.

The dead bodies of the crew were the first images that ground control saw when the ship was back within accepted broadcast range parameters.

The other thing they saw was the laughing faces of the prisoners in the cockpit as manual control was restored to them for the landing.

One hard right later, the entire shuttle port and ninety government officials were ionized gas in the crater of the shuttle’s impact.

The rest of the governments of Earth have gone back to waiting for an accident to provide them with what happens upon an explosive decompression.


Discuss the Future: The 365 Tomorrows Forums
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows