Lights turned on and suddenly there seemed to be people all around me, several space suited figures all entering the capsule at once, like the walls were suddenly gone. I protested as they carried me, my resistance useless in gravityless space as two of them brought me through a large hatch and back into the OFFICE.
The next day or so was a blur. I guess someone was mad I was going to take the Orbital Transfer Vehicle for a ride, but that was no excuse for being rude. I sat down in my chair. It was an uncomfortable chair. It felt like hard wood, but why would someone transport a wooden chair into orbit?
“Rae Sunshine,” the voice said. Not just any voice. It was the voice of Stan Volgabie, and next to him was Han something-or-other, and what’s-her-name from HR was on his other side.
I hated my name. Why were my parents such damn hippies? “Yes,” I answered. Not much else to say.
“Were you aware you were in a simulation at any point during the test?” he asked. Hadn’t he asked that before? He seemed to be talking in circles.
“I don’t know what you are talking about,” I insisted, “Thomas and I were on a mission to go to Lagrange Orbit Three. I was the pilot; he was the technician. We arrived,” I answered again.
“At which point you locked Technician Thomas Cho out of the capsule. Had this been a real mission such actions would have resulted in his death.”
I smiled. “He was rude,” I said. How could they not understand that?
“You then proceeded to try to set a course for reentry, a ballistic trajectory that would have resulted not only in the destruction of OFFICE property but could have harmed civilians when the orbital vehicle crashed on…” he looked at a note, “Smithtown Central Highschool.”
“It would not have crashed!” I tried to get up, to yell, but the handcuffs held me to the chair. “I am a pilot. I was only going home to pick something up.” I lied. I had not planned on bringing anything back. I didn’t need anything from those people.
Han something-or-other spoke, “OTVs have emergency reentry capabilities, but such emergencies would require an ocean landing. And even so, the course you selected would have been…wrong.”
What did he know? He wasn’t a pilot. I ignored him. “A lot you know,” I muttered.
What’s-her-name and Stan looked at each other, then Stan spoke again. “Do you have anything else to say for yourself?”
I shook my head. What did they know? What did any of them know? They were just like my teachers and my parents. They were against me. They were afraid of everything I could accomplish. Here I was, one of the youngest pilots in the program, an astronaut straight out of high school. These old people must have known it would only be a few years, and I’d have all their jobs! Not that it mattered – not that any of it mattered. I had Thomas. I had him! I looked over in the corner, and there he was, floating in his spacesuit, stiff armed, cold, his heart full of love for me.
What’s-her-name said something that I didn’t hear. “What?” I asked.
“Sunshine, who were you talking to, in the capsule?”
“To Thomas, of course.” I smiled. I then smiled at Thomas.
“Technician Cho was removed from the simulation when his oxygen level was down to 2%. He was a bit shaken, but nothing sedatives could handle,” she continued, “Under the circumstances, OFFICE is going to have to come up with a new policy for him. Technically he failed the repair simulation, but not through any action of his own. We also cannot send him through another test because the very fact he is aware it is a test will bias the results. Simply put, we have never had an attempted murder in space before.”
I looked over at Thomas floating in the corner, behind me. He had not spoken, and couldn’t be without a radio, but I knew what he was thinking.
Stan spoke again. Why was he always talking?! “Rae Sunshine, your contract is terminated, and you will be returned to Earth. OFFICE management is examining if there are any criminal charges we can file against you upon your arrival, but between the events taking place in a simulation, and outside of any planetary law, you may have been very lucky. Do you understand this?
He may have said more. I don’t know. I stopped listening. He was right: I was lucky. I had the love of a perfect man, and soon I would be back home and able to show him off to all those losers that said I would never find someone.
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