The sharp banging on the cell door woke Orton Bradshaw from a deep sleep.
“Wake up you scum!” he heard and the blissful ignorance that he enjoyed for a few seconds each morning disappeared.
“We’re here!” the voice continued, “You have ten minutes to get your stuff in order and then you’re taking the last flight of your lives!”
Bradshaw threw the blanket off him and quickly moved over to the toilet in his cell. As he did his business, he could see the sickly green and blue ball of Destitution out of the tiny window. The place where he was about to spend the rest of his life, however long that might be.
The door opened exactly nineteen minutes after the guard called out. Bradshaw straightened out his orange prison jumpsuit.
“Step forward, Bradshaw.”
Orton did so, and the guard licked her lips... then spat in his face.
“I hope the drop bears kill you slowly, paedo.”
She reached for the chains to restrain him on his final walk on a spaceship. Then a doctor came over, to give him an injection.
“It’s an anti-malarial drug”, he said, “There’s a real problem with mosquitoes down there.”
Another guard stood a short distance away, armed with a truncheon in case Bradshaw put up any resistance.
He didn’t. There was no possibility of escape from this transport anyway. Not without killing multiple people and Orton Bradshaw, convicted of fourteen counts ranging from rape to witness tampering to distribution of child pornography, lacked the skills to kill multiple people. At least not without explosives.
The walk down to the pod bay was conducted in silence. In a small hall, an open hatch revealed the inside of a drop pod with five seats arrayed around a central console, its panels locked shut. Four of the five seats were occupied by other chained prisoners, all scary looking men. Two had tattoos, one had scars, the fourth had both. Bradshaw, a scrawny little man in his early 50s, would not stand a chance against one of them, let alone all of them.
He got inside and took his seat. One of the guards secured a four-point harness to keep him secure during what was to be a bumpy ride.
A shaven headed Hindu priest in a white robe started to read from a tablet in front of him.
Once the mantras had finished, the hatches were sealed, and a series of clunks followed as the magnetic locks were released. Then a slight jolt saw the drop pod pushed away from the prison transport.
The spitting guard watched as the five people sentenced to life on the hellish rock below began their descent.
“Good riddance to bad rubbish”, she said, “Now let’s get out of here.”
Bradshaw’s view out of the small window directly in his line of sight was of the prison transport moving away from them and the blackness of space.
At that point, a recording played.
“Prisoners. You have all been injected with a deadly virus. There are drugs that can counter-act this available at the research station that will be your new home, but they must be taken every day. All supplies will be sent down by pod. There is no way off the planet. Enjoy the rest of your life.”
The other prisoners were confused at this. Bradshaw wondered how true this all was. The Bangla regime lied about so many things, why not this?
Bradshaw felt the retrorockets start to kick in. A display to his right showed their speed and height, both of which were starting to decrease as they commenced their re-entry. He knew the descent would be computer-controlled and while he could in theory take control of the craft, the fuel was limited on these pods to just a single descent.
Also, I don’t know how to fly one of these things.
Outside, the sky started to glow as they began to enter the atmosphere. Things were getting bumpy now.
Bradshaw tuned out the next few minutes until he felt the parachute deploy. All he could see was an increasingly blue sky anyway.
When they went vertical, he finally got his first proper look. A long carpet of green ran all its way to the horizon. It was probably trees. He hated trees.
The pod slowed down to a slow running pace as the landing legs deployed with the whirr of electrical motors and the clunks of them locking into place.
Then the final heavy bump as they landed.
“Might as well get out”, one of the other prisoners, the one with scars and tattoo said. Bradshaw hadn’t learned their names yet. Being in solitary confinement had limited his time for social interaction.
Scars and Tattoos unfastened his harness, moving over to the hatch and pulling the release handle to drop the boarding ramp. It fell to the ground with a thump and he started to walk down it.
Bradshaw saw him exit the ramp, step on a big flower… whose petals closed around his leg with a sharp chomp.
Scars and Tattoos would take four hours to die.