Gabriel Chauri

[Storytelling] The Inmate from Titan

They sound the reveille on the whole camp. It seems that every morning (or night) the reveille sounds louder than before. Tyran woke up fast but with displeasure, like every day that he can remember. It was closer the day to the third year in his stay in the work camp/jail in Titan, barely a fraction of his sentence. He dressed fast and run to the formation with the other inmates, at the side of his friend Vilter. It was a grim and cold night in the far satellite of Saturn that the Martian authorities used as a work camp to mine the rich asteroids that were attracted by Saturn’s gravity force.

“Is today the day when I escape?”. It was a recurrent thought growing gradually in Tyran’s mind. “It would be easy for me to reprogram one of the spaceships, contact my family and pick them up in the Martian atmosphere”. But, where it would go next? The amount of habitable planets uncontrolled by the Martian government was tiny, and the majority was too far to be reached with the miner spaceships of Titan. “The Earth” he thinks, but rapidly he deleted that thought, the same thought that had brought him to Titan, being just an ant within a nest full of ants, working until they die for a Queen that they never met.

They start to walk in groups of five through the broad and rocky yard toward the enormous spaceships, that would make the buildings on Earth look small, as he once read. “The Earth” he repeat once again, struggling to erase that. Behind him was walking Vilter, his only friend in prison, largely because it was the only one he could talk about science, military training and the possibility that the Earth was not a dusty rock, like everyone else believed. Vilter was a former military convict, who has lost his family due to the intense physical and mental training that was gifted to those who were subjected, something that could be easily read in his wide torso and his sad but nimble eyes. In one of their conversations, an apparently simple but powerful idea arose: reprogramming a spaceship. This action would allow them to escape and cease to be inmate miners in an Asteroid where no inmate ever had completed his sentence. The only alternative was death, and even that was difficult due the technology advances.

“The Earth”. He felt the look of Vilter stuck in his neck, crying out like any time they would talk about escaping, that is better to be disappointed by a destroyed planet than to live (is that was life, he always add) fifty years of torture and forced labor, that is if they survive more than ten years.

Rapidly, he looked back at Vilter and there he was, looking at him, waiting for the sign. Tyran made the agreed signal, and watched to the front again. They only have to wait for the best. If the pilot was distracted as usual, talking about the latest sport results in the Martian Leagues with the guard, their plan could be successful. Tyran as a scientist, had calculated a 43% chances of success, while Vilter repeated that they could do it, no matter what.

They get rapidly but furtively at the head of the group, and there were they, the guard and the pilot still talking about the League like a Sunday afternoon, as an Earthling would say. They know what to do. The big transport spaceship was bigger and bigger with every step they make. Fifty meters, forty, twenty. Tyran looked at Vilter with nervousness, but Vilter’s eyes were focused on the spaceship, like it was nothing anywhere near him. A gentle touch in Tyran’s hand when Vilter calculate fifteen meters between them and the spaceship will be enough as a signal to run at maximum speed and make the fastest re-programmation on the stellar transport system ever tried before, if it had ever been tried.

Eighteen, seventeen and Tyran was feeling a cold sweat that shudder his body. Sixteen, one step and Tyran felt a slightly touch in his hand. Without second thoughts and with the back full of cold sweat, Tyran run like never before, while looking at Vilter running at his side. As if anything was slower, Tyran had time to look at the impressed face of the pilot while dropping his intergalactic communication system, displaying the better plays of the weekend to the guard, at the same time that his jaw was falling, opening his mouth in an inhuman size. He observed the guard, a tall and dusky, with clear signals to have participated in the Methane War, taking his gun and turning toward the two running inmates with a confused and angry expression in his face. The plan was simple: when they get to the ship, Tyran would activate the manual control while Vilter would close the heavy hatch. They should be at five meters from the spaceship when Tyran looked at the guard, pointing at him with the run and ready to fight, at the same time that Vilter was getting behind a little, a fact that Tyran considered weird considering his muscular and well maintained body for years as a militar. Tyran heard the voice of Vilter, almost like a dream: “Close the door!”, at the same time that he saw Vilter jumping with a fierce tackle over the guard, that throw a shot to the dark and eager sky. Tyran, almost unconscious of his body, saw himself reprogramming the hatch and closing it, at the same time that a shot was heard just outside, muted by the rising hatch, followed by an almost eternal silence in which he was about to open the door, if it were not but the hundred of shots that the ship received after that micro-second interval.

The silence combined with the smell of sweat, mineral dust and metal inside of the spaceship, woke up Tyran. Outside, hundred of shots were impacting the spaceship at the time that he was in the cockpit, entering the coordinates that were burned into his mind: “5, 3, 1, 7, 7…” “My family” “3, 1, 8, 9, 4…” “The Earth”.

The sky seemed lighter, almost day, when the C358 spaceship belonging to the prison #33 of Titan took off toward the planet that was once the cradle of humanity. 

This short story was made in the context of the course Creative Writing – Craft of the Plot from Wesleyan University. Hope you liked it!

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