Justice for Everett Thomas

Submitted into Contest #243 in response to: Write a story about a character who wakes up in space.... view prompt


Science Fiction

I woke up with a complete sense of serenity. My body was relaxed, and my mind was calm. There were no thoughts entering my mind. Floating away, I simply enjoyed the weightlessness that came with the absence of any cognitive input.

First, I heard my own breath, grounding me in presence. The ever-present tranquility that dominated until a few heartbeats ago had now receded.

I slowly opened my eyes with difficulty as the eyelids felt heavy. I instinctively tried stretching all my limbs, but my legs didn’t move an inch despite tensing my muscles. My arms moved around so easily; in fact, they felt much lighter than they should.

The first thing I saw was a sign reading 'Harness Required,' glowing ominously red in the dark. I realized I was looking at it through a clear visor based on patches of condensation created by my breath. They were disappearing fast, suggesting there was a good climate control system in place, but still, I could notice a distinctive pungent smell that was not filtered away along with the moisture.

The sweet emptiness of my mind was now gone.

Looking side to side, I realized I was in a room roughly the size of a shipping container. The walls around me were covered in various screens and instruments I didn’t recognize. So many buttons, tools, little inscriptions, and, confusingly to my drowsy mind, handles everywhere.

I moved my hands in front of me and saw the unmistakable orange color I had grown accustomed to in the past few months in the prison jumpsuit. Wait. I had gloves on as well. I closed my eyes for a moment and observed my breath grow faster.

I opened them again. My arms were floating in the air without me moving them. I tensed my muscles, and they stopped moving. What was happening here?

“Welcome aboard Nomos.” Said a muffled voice from outside of what I now understood was a helmet. It certainly explained the humid air and hearing my breath loudly.

I tried to say something back, but my mouth was arid, and I coughed instead. It made sense now. My limbs were flailing around because I was in space. The rest of my body had to be secured in place, which makes a lot of sense to do when you want to sleep in a place with no gravity.

“You may find yourself temporarily disoriented. This is normal and will improve momentarily. I am your assistant aboard this vessel. You may address me as Myra.”

Disoriented was the right word. My head hurt, and I reached to rub my eyes but realized my futile attempt when my hand hit the visor. I fumbled about with gloved fingers, trying to feel for some mechanism that would allow me to escape this claustrophobic coffin around my face.

“You woke up one hundred and fifty-three minutes past the estimate, which may indicate the dosage was not calculated properly and/or there were unknown underlying conditions affecting the sedation.”

It certainly explained the headache and helped make sense of the tingling I felt in my legs. "Myra.” My voice sounded raspy, but it seemed to work to catch the AI’s attention. It had to be an AI. I didn’t see anybody, and the voice did sound monotone.

“How may I be of assistance?” It really was an unvarying, cold voice.

“How do I open the—”

“Your helmet is unlocked by unlatching the seals. You will find two, one on each side of your neck. Upon unlatching, you’ll need to perform a clockwise twist and lift the helmet carefully.”

So, apparently, this AI could understand context really well. It had to have cameras pointed at me.

“Allow me to continue with the initial instructions set.” Myra said as I was trying to find the latches, which is much easier said than done, especially when one is wearing gloves and cannot see the mechanism they are working with and has never seen it before in the first place.

“You will find that you are dressed in a spacesuit for safety reasons, as we left Earth’s atmosphere several hours ago. You are attached to the ship’s bulkhead with a harness used for aerial travel and sleeping arrangements. There are four straps that you may now wish to undo. The first one is located at your waist—”

I was too focused on my helmet to listen to the instructions being given. Finally, I unlatched the other side as well, and with a twist, I heard a hiss as the pressurized suit equalized with the outside environment. I didn’t know what I expected, but the air in the room was not much more pleasant than the one inside the suit. It didn’t smell though, which led me to realize that the other sensations I was feeling in the nether regions of my body I would not be comfortable explaining in full detail. The helmet started simply floating away. I looked down on my body now that I could move my neck freely, and noticed the straps.

“As part of your sentence in the—”

Now, the gravity of the situation started setting in. With, presumably, more oxygen, I started thinking more clearly.

“—case state versus Everett Thomas, you are to serve the full duration of the mission aboard Nomos.”

Oh yes. Now I remembered. I had no idea I was going to wake up like this, but it certainly was a possibility, and being a civil engineer made me a good candidate. I should’ve thought of that.

“The mission you will undertake is estimated to take nine hundred seventy-seven days. The objective is to capture an asteroid currently passing Jupiter, expected to be rich in osmium—”


“— expected to be rich in osmium which —”

“I know what the fuck you said. How long? How long is this going to take?”

“Nine hundred seventy-seven days.”

I was trying to remember the sentencing, but I couldn’t. I don’t know if it was a temporary effect of the sedation or something else. “Can you tell me the verdict? What the fuck happened?”

“It is not unexpected to experience short-term memory loss and/or confusion waking up from the sedation you have been under. You had an unexpected reaction to some of the compounds used in the formula, resulting in a longer sedation than calculated. Due to raised medical concerns, I am initiating a medical check.”

“I don’t need a medical check. I need to know what happened!” I balled my fist and barely controlled myself not to punch the wall.

“Please, state your full name.”

“Stop the procedure. Listen to me!”

“I apologize. The order of priority prohibits me from accepting any new instructions at the moment. Please, state your full name.”

“You said it to me a minute ago. Everett Thomas. Not much of a check is it?!”

In the next half an hour, I was forced to answer a myriad of questions ranging from how I felt to if I felt any discomfort and where, which also led me to acknowledge that I soiled the jumpsuit while unconscious, which was hardly my fault. At first, it made me angrier, but over time I calmed myself down and used the time answering questions to fully unstrap myself and, while floating around, to get acquainted with my new home.

“Medical check complete.”

“Thank you from the bottom of my heart.” I whispered while looking for something like extra clothes, baby wipes, or anything else to help me get rid of the mess.

“Now to your previous question. Your sentence was increased to encompass forced solitary labor upon discovery of new aggravating circumstances.”

I stopped squinting at the labels above the compartments in the wall and wanted to stand still, but was gently drifting away.

“The victim count was increased after thorough re-inspection of the site and now also included one Samantha Miller, who at the time of the incident found herself in the basement of the building, presumably seeking shelter and/or hiding from the authorities. She was found to be eight months pregnant. This led to a re-examination of the sentence.”

I knew about the construction worker who died, and I knew about the several injured ones. I didn’t know about her. I didn’t remember. Part of me felt for Samantha and her unborn child, and another part of me felt injustice for the increased sentence. It was an error. A mistake. I didn’t want to hurt anybody, yet I was treated like a murderer.

I drifted through space, staring nowhere. After a while, with the help of Myra’s instructions, I got cleaned up, and changed my clothes, but refused to eat for now. Partly because the room now smelt even worse, but also because I now remembered more. I remembered the trial, I remembered the sentence before it got increased, and I felt the weight of it all over again.

“Myra, how long is the mission?”

“The current estimate is nine hundred seventy-seven days.”

“Ok, then we come back to Earth, right?”

“Yes. Mission be proven successful or not, this vessel needs to return to the orbit for maintenance, refuelling, and provisioning.”

I exhaled loudly. “I can make it. That’s less than three years.”

“I will keep you company.”

“We’ll become best buddies for the next two and something years, Myra. I’m sure.”

“We’ll be in each other’s company longer. Are you implying you will grow to dislike me?”

“Wait. What did you say?”

“We’ll be in each other’s company—”

“I know what you said, but what do you mean by that?!”

“This is your first mission.”

“Out of?”

“There are to be seven missions of a total length of six thousand, one hundred and sixty-one days.”

“You’ve got to be shitting me.”

March 24, 2024 21:44

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J. D. Lair
15:23 Mar 31, 2024

Punishment befitting the crime haha. Loved the concept presented here Marek! Welcome to Reedsy. :)


Marek Sunda
16:43 Mar 31, 2024

I still don't know where I stand on the punishment. Thank you and thanks for reading and commenting :)


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