Smith and Wesson
Chapter Five: Back to Earth
By Douglas E. Gogerty
"Sir? Sir?" came a voice in the escaped convicts dream.
It took him a while to realize that it was not a dream. Someone was prodding him and calling him sir. Slowly, 235218 regained consciousness. He opened his eyes and saw a beautiful woman before him. He rubbed his eyes a little bit, and found out she was not as attractive as he first thought. She was still lovely, but the years in prison and his sleepy state played tricks upon him.
"What is it?" he said eventually.
"My name is Linda Carlson and I am the Earth Travel Coordinator. I understand you wish to see me?"
"Um... Yeah! I need to get to Earth."
"Very well, if you follow me," she replied.
She had some sort of jetpack with her. She just jetted down the hallway. The escaped convict had to use the railing along the wall to follow. It was a lot more work than what she was doing, but he managed to make his way to her office.
"Let me see," she began as she opened a form on her computer. "What is your name?"
"2352... Oh! Name. My name is Daniel Wesson."
"Could you spell that?"
"Huh?" he replied still foggy from sleep. "Oh -- d. a. n. i. e. l. w. e. s. s. o. n."
"Okay Mr. Wesson, what is your reason for going to earth?"
"My ship malfunctioned and I managed to eject before it burned up in the atmosphere. I fortunately made it safely to the hotel here. I have some vials that need to get to Earth."
"So?" responded Linda. "Business then?"
"Thanks. Who is your employer?"
"Employer? Er -- uh -- Vandelay Industries ... v. a. n. d. e. l. a. y."
"Excellent! How long have you been offworld?"
"I don't know? Is it relevant?"
"We need to know for the gravity-reinstitution process -- roughly."
"Let me see -- 25 to life..."
"About 20 years."
"More than 5 years. Thanks. Deep space or low earth orbit?"
"Deep space -- I guess."
"We need to be sure on these things."
"I was in orbit of another planet in the solar system. Thus, I was not in low earth orbit -- if that matters."
"I see -- yes -- thank you. When would you like to go?"
"The process takes several weeks."
"Weeks? It is important that I get to earth as soon as possible."
"Your business is urgent?"
"Yes! Very important. Lives at stake."
"Why did you not say so in the first place? That is another form entirely."
Daniel and Linda filled out the new form. Fortunately, there was room in the expedited return program. Which meant that no one had ever used it in the past. In fact, this procedure was rarely used that no one currently at the hotel had any experience in the expedited procedure. Nonetheless, the station personnel welcomed using it.
The escaped felon was ushered into a small capsule. They informed that he would need to strip and gave him a smock to wear. They placed his belongings in a small box that attached to the outside of the pod. They informed him to enter and sit. He could barely move in the small space. Once inside he was strapped to the lone seat in the small pod. They told him to hold his breath and the pod filled with liquid. He was about to the point where he could hold his breath no longer when the liquid drained out of the pod.
A technician opened the pod door and gave Daniel several injections. They made his body ache and his head swim a little bit. However, he knew this is what had to be done.
Once the injections were finished the pod was ushered into a simulated gravity environment. The pod was attached to a bar, and the machine was switched to the on position. Naturally, the spinning made Daniel nauseous. Via an speaker in the pod he could speak to the gravity-reintegration people. He spoke of his nausea and was told that it was normal. When the gravity simulator stopped, someone opened his pod and took some blood. After several minutes he got more injections and then simulator was run again.
The dry heaves reminded Daniel that he had not eaten in quite a while. He was somewhat happy about that. He did not know what they would do if he lost his lunch or breakfast. He asked but the technician told him that he did not really want to know that.
More blood tests and more injections continued. The process went through a few more iterations. After each round, he felt more strange. The injections had some weird effect. He forgot to ask about side effects, but he knew he could not wait a couple of weeks before returning to Earth. He could disappear on Earth. He would be discovered if he stayed in the hotel. Thus, he tried not to think about side-effects. He could deal with them.
"Okay Mr. Wesson, we need to get you to Earth now."
"We need to get you in gravity as soon as possible or we would have to repeat the process."
"Let's go!" Daniel responded anxiously.
"First, hold your breath."
Before he could react, the pod once again began to fill with some sort of liquid. He held his breath as long as he could, but the liquid stayed. He knew he held his breath longer this time. He wondered why they had not drained the pod.
His lungs began to burn. The liquid stayed. He pounded on the doors. The liquid stayed. He could hold out no longer. He exhaled and inhaled. His lungs filled with the liquid. He started coughing, but he realized he could breath in the liquid.
His entire body began to tingle as he sucked in breath after breath of this liquid. The coughing subsided, and then the pod began to drain. The air filling the pod seemed cold and dry. It induced him to cough some more. The liquid he inhaled came out with each cough. Finally, the pod was empty of liquid, and he felt weird. However, he found that he could breath normally again.
Just as he felt comfortable. The pod began moving. The pod buzzed down the corridors and came to a stop at an airlock.
"Good luck on Earth," the technician told him on the communicator.
"My stuff?" exclaimed the escaped convict.
"Your belongings have been attached to the outside of the pod. They have been scanned and deemed safe. Once you reach Earth, you will be able to access them. Pleasant voyage."
The pod entered the airlock and was lowered via the space elevator to earth. 235218 had made it to Earth. His escape plan worked. Now what?