The Colonist

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
When a man learns that Earth is planning to use prisoners to colonize space, he thinks he's awfully clever to become a murderer. But once he leaves Earth he learns that he made a fatal miscalculation.

Submitted: January 24, 2019

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Submitted: January 24, 2019



We all thought we were so clever. 


When governments accepted that the sun was expanding, they were quick to realize that space exploration was no longer a luxury; colonization was necessary to save our species. And, since they were clever people, they understood that staking claims and defending settlements throughout the universe would be dangerous, so they took a page from the British Imperial playbook and settled on prisoners as the ones who would ship out and make first contact. Pickpockets and prostitutes had been successful in taming the savage Australian coast, they reasoned, why not the vastness of space?


I too, fancied myself a clever man and I have also always been fascinated by space, so when I heard about the prison explorer program, I grabbed a kitchen knife and headed straight to my ex-wife’s house.  I took no joy in the deed, and said as much on the phone with the police, but I must admit that when I was arrested I had a big smile on my face. 


Justice was quick. I waved my right to an attorney and pled guilty to all charges at my first hearing. The judge was full of righteous fury when she doomed me to death through misadventure in space. I had to restrain my excitement to keep from leaping over the defense table and giving her a hug, which I feared would change her sentence and leave me shackled to that dying world.


A few days later, I was chained to a dozen other murders and led onto a rocket by armed guards. Some of my companions were excited as I was, having also forced their way on board, a few were worried, and two may have been mad. It did not matter how we felt though, we were all shackled in the cargo bay and blasted into space just the same. 


Only two of us died on takeoff.  Once we were free of Earth’s atmosphere our restrains were released. There were a few skirmishes among the astronauts but soon we were calmed by weightlessness and the majesty of the universe. 

Space was as beautiful and vast and humbling as I’d imagined but soon our wonder turned to ash. I was the first to realize our mistake. The British didn’t use murderers to colonize Australia, they sent thieves and whores because no one wants a killer to corrupt good soil. I suspected this when our ship passed Venus and I knew it for sure when the air turned hot and the nose of our ship aimed at the center of the Sun.


The ship has no steering and a week spent wrecking the cockpit has not altered our course. A few men have already succumbed to radiation sickness, the rest of us are on our way. I assume somewhere, scientists are tracking our declines to see how long people can survive on Earth. I suspect it will not be long. We will all burn soon, whether we deserve it or not. My only comfort comes from knowing that I go first. That is the privilege of cleverness, is it not?


© Copyright 2019 Ben Stearns. All rights reserved.

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