Smith and Wesson
Chapter One: The Escape.
By Douglas E. Gogerty
Prisoner 235218 quietly put on his space suit. It was the most valuable thing he had ever come across. The prison guards tracked resources rigorously. Only rarely did they miss anything. However, it is even more rare for them to miss something as important as a space capable suit. He was lucky. He was also quite careful. If they found it, there would be hell to pay.
Once his suit was on, he opened the airtight seal to his tunnel. It made its telltale shhhhwop sound. He felt the tug of the escaping air. He had to be quick, or the breach alarms would sound. He jumped in, and sealed the door behind him. While the tunnel took months to dig, it took longer to fashion the door. It had to be just right, or they would find it for sure. However, it was the kind of thing at which he always excelled. That is why he worked in the prison engineering department.
The tunnel was rough-hewn. 235218 found that it was difficult to get through the rock and metal of the prison asteroid. Fortunately, he had access to the tools required to cut through it. He was also lucky because of the microgravity; he did not have to worry about collapses. He just needed to bring his own air. That was another obstacle he had overcome.
Some said The Rock was a mine in a past existence. Most thought that was a fairy story, but 235218 knew it to be true. He had run across a few tunnels in his work -- mining tunnels. These helped him out in a few places. At times he wondered about its previous life, but mostly he just kept digging.
After months of work, his tunnel was done. He was now ready to make his break. Everything was going according to plan. He pushed himself along to the end of his tunnel. There he found his crudely fashioned air rig. It would provide him with breathable air as well as his sole source of propulsion.
The best thing about his plan for a prison break was that no one would suspect it was happening. No one tried to escape from New Alcatraz. It is a huge rock in space. Where would you go? He knew. He had researched it. He knew how to escape.
235218 looked at his watch. He had to pick it up if he was going to make it. He disconnected his small air-tank and connected himself to his air-rig. He checked the air connections, and he was ready. He breathed in deep. The air seemed stale, but it was breathable. He was ready to make his break.
The prisoner attached his lifeline to a carabiner near his planned exit spot. It would be no good to just float off. His launch had to be controlled. He was almost free.
With his mining tools, he poked through the thin layer above him. The dark sky nearly took his breath away. Prisoners rarely ever saw the night sky. He was awed by the stars. For a moment he lost himself, but he shook it off. He looked at his watch. It was just about time. He let out a bit of line and stood on the ground outside the prison. He tried not to think about the last time he had done that. He had a schedule.
Scanning the night sky, he looked for his markers. He needed to get his trajectory right. He crouched and lined himself up to his spots. He hoped his math was right and took a deep breath. It was time. He disconnected himself from his lifeline and jumped.
The jump was enough to get off the rock, but he opened up his air-rocket to gain control of his flight. He gave just a few quick bursts. He read that this is how the early miners reached their home station. Most people just thought those things were idle stories. 235218 was about to find out.
He knew there was something there, but the darkness hid it well. He took another deep breath. It was time to start slowing down. It would be no good to smash right into it, or worse -- miss his target completely. A few more bursts.
The prison authorities were always careful to keep prisoners from seeing the station. They did not want to encourage prisoners from making a break for it. A jump and you are off. However, you would likely miss if you did not jump just right. Further, you would have to hold your breath for a long time. That is why everyone said, there was no escape from The Rock. That is, unless you had a suit, and something to steer. 235218 smiled at that thought.
Getting his landing just right was not something that he could practice. Not to mention, his jet simply did not have the fine tuning to come in softly. At least, he was not prepared to turn his propulsion nozzle back and forth and make several attempts at landing. He was only going to do it once come what may.
He smashed into the station harder than he thought he would. While it was painful, it did not hurt too bad. He shook it off as he attached his second lifeline to the station. He had to get his bearings. Where was he? While in prison, he studied the station as much as he could. However, there was not much information at the prison. He only had books, and most of them were quite old.
Nevertheless, with his finding the station, he knew the story of the miners had to be true. Thus, someone probably used to make this trip a long time ago. If it was not a tall tale, he knew there had to be a way into the station from his location. There had to be.
Before any panic set in, he noticed an odd rail with something unusual underneath it. He managed to grab one of the items to examine it. It was a narrow bar with a 'P-shaped' loop centered on the top. Near each end of the bar was a ball-bearing wheel on the same side as the loop.
The prisoner looked at the rail. It had a slot in the top, and it was as wide as this little thing was long. He slipped the little car into the slot and gave it a turn. It was a sliding lifeline connector.
The rail was not like that on accident. It had to lead somewhere. He was certain it would lead to a place where he could get into the station. Thus, he attached his line to the loop and picked a direction.
After quite an effort, he thought that he chose the wrong way. He had pulled himself hand over hand for quite a while and had not come to anything. Eventually the rail turned into the station. He was there at a door-lock.
Could he get in? He had come too far to stay on the outside of the station forever. Not to mention, he would need to replenish his air soon. Thus, he would have to take a chance. He peered into the window. The chamber was empty, so he turned the big wheel and opened the door. Once the door was open, he connected his secondary line to the interior hook. Safely attached to the station, he disconnected himself from the car and returned it to its place under the rail. With a little effort, he pulled himself inside and secured the door.
Inside the station, he closed the outside door and opened the air intake valve of the airlock. It slowly filled the room with air. Eventually, this would pressurize the airlock. Before the green light lit, 235218's airtanks ran out. He hoped their was enough breathable air now in there. He held his breath for as long as he could. When the green light eventually lit, he breathed deeply. With a flick of a switch, the interior door opened. He was inside the station.
235218 sat outside the airlock door for a while to see if anyone would come. He looked around and no guards came running. So far, his plan had worked without a hitch.