Space Cadet Semantics

rating: +16+x


The absolute last place I thought they would send me. But they really sold it well. I remember the Doctor strolling in whilst reading from his clipboard. God, that man was a genius.

The first time I met him was rather special. He walked in yawning with disheveled clothes and said; "Hello D-13733, we would like to have you available for the next experiment. How are you currently feeling?"

"I'm good, but why ask? You people never cared at all before," I said quite curiously, wondering what this man was doing here. What in God's name is so important that he needs to see me in person?

"The Ethics Committee limited the experiment to certain groups like volunteers. That's why." Seems like there were some complications, but he did not state that he cared to begin with. Yeah, this was probably worth hearing out, since interesting things rarely happen down here.

"Ah, I see. It's a questionable experiment or it has a low survival rate… Who am I kidding? It's probably both," I said, wondering if he'd answer more personally this time.

"I cannot confirm that. But you are most likely interested in one of these later sections," he said as he folded some of the papers over and highlighted a couple of paragraphs. A standard response, yet still intriguing enough to get my attention, I never got to read the fine prints here before.

His clipboard was old and barely hanging together just like the contents he handed over to me. The bundle clearly included way too many notes, post-its, and other things for me to look through.

But that one bureaucratic clause he referred to had an offer that was too good to be true. Too good to pass up on. I really did not expect it, but God, I should perhaps never have read it. Then it wouldn't have turned out like this.

"As the paragraph states, once we got our data you are free to go," he told me after I was done reading, underlining it word for word with his pen.

Confused, I looked at him and scanned his face, wondering if he'd just lied. "As in free free?"

He answered quickly and bluntly; "Yes, after the experiment you can go back to your previous life, assuming you survive of course." The latter part didn't even surprise me anymore after all the time down here.

"So, I'm very unlikely to, aren't I?" I answered with a small smirk on my face.
The only thing I got back was the classic; "I cannot confirm that," but I should have expected that.

"But hypothetically speaking, if I do, that's it? I'm free, just like that?"

Our intense staring match got finally interrupted when he gave me some lenience; "Well, there is of course a final examination we need to do, checking if you are rehabilitated to a certain extent… You are not a murderer, are you? I know you have a criminal record but it didn't mention any charges specifically."

I couldn't help but to smirk again; "No, I was just really good in burglary and theft. Unfortunately, I stole something from the wrong people… your people by accident."

"Good, then some amnestics will do."

"So, you are gonna brief me in? A little summary of this thing?" I asked, looking for some of that leniency again.

"No time for that, just read the documents. I'll come back later to see if you are still interested," was the last thing I heard from him before he walked out the door. It baffled me to see a man so tired walk so determined. So self-confident.

But just like that, an almost non-existent chance of freedom was presented to me on a silver platter. Quite a welcome change from the more commonly traumatization or death. I was likely going to get either of those in a weird experiment sooner or later so why not take the chance? Why not read this through?

Even if it was a trap, which it undoubtably was, as long as it was different from the white walls, I couldn't care less. But looking back, reading those documents was the first mistake of many to come.

I remember when he came back a couple of days later with a whole other bunch of paperwork and a black suitcase. Presumably all related to the same project. I wonder if some of those new contents would have made me change my mind.

"So you read the document?" Direct to the point, just like last time.

"Yesh," I could barely speak whilst devouring my meal. I did not have the luxury of decent breaks like he probably had. If I had to guess he didn't use them anyway, since he looked even more unkempt this time around. His eye bags had grown larger and turned purple, his hair looked worse than my bedhead.
And yet besides the unshaven stubbles, he seemed to have a bigger grin this time.

"I don't mind you eating but please don't talk with your mouth full. Anyways, what do you think?" he said whilst two guards brought in a chair and a small table.

"So as I understand it, and to put it real simple, you just want to launch people into space but without a spacesuit?"

"If you put it very simply, yes, that is what it comes down to. We want to see if we can temper the human body to be able to withstand extreme environmental changes. Think of it like overcoming our limits when it comes to things like temperature and pressure for example."

"Like all the G's you are submitted to at launch and the weightlessness once we leave the atmosphere?"

"Yes, it is of course not limited to that. But should we succeed, this would be a great asset in future projects with other personnel." The two guards were slightly uncomfortable about that comment.
To which extent did they know what was going on?

"And if we fail, you'll still get data. Not bad," I answer snarkily. I had seen this too many times, but as a researcher, I would also do the same. I was not a genius like him, but I wasn't stupid either.

"I'll take that as a compliment," was the response I got. I answered almost immediately "It was," right back.
For a mere second, we were both laughing at each other as if we both had outsmarted the other.

Whilst he scribbled down some information, a post-it from some notes came loose and fell at my feet. "You dropped this," was what I said when I took it off the ground and reached out to him.

And without even looking up he went; "Can you read it for me? I need to know where to put it." Truly how invested was he in his work?

"Isn't this like classified stuff?" I replied. Not often was I instructed to read things that weren't handed to me in the first place.

"No, that stuff is definitely something that I can't bring with me. These are just calculations I need to finish. So what does it say?" made me realize that he really didn't care about this information being out there.

"Uh, a second please, this isn't really made up of words. Let me read it for ya, RA 22h15-" was all I could get out before he interrupted.

"RA 22h15m36 Dec -18d40m22. Thanks, I know where to put that." proved how good of a memory he had. I don't even know how to memorize it completely.

"What is up with that?" I asked, surprised.
"You mean the post-it? You never read any scientific articles from the literature down here?" he asked me, as surprised as I was. At least he looked up this time.

"The only things I read about space down here were newspaper clippings and short stories like a story about stars. To me, that note looks like a bad date. Quarter past… ten minus the 18th of… December? Am I remembering that right?"

He stared at me looking if I was serious or not before explaining; "Those are coordinates. We have several probes ready to monitor the experiment and that is the location of one near Saturn if my memory serves me correctly." His eyes suddenly changed into a different look and he asked; "Anyway, since you are still engaged, what do you think about it?"

I had made up my mind long ago, but that didn't stop me from thinking for a brief moment. Something was off but eventually the "Yeah, I'm in," sealed my fate. That was probably my second and most costly mistake.

"Great, stretch your left arm please."

"My left arm?" What was happening? The documents I got earlier mentioned training and check-ups but this was rather odd.

The Doctor put on rubber gloves and opened the lid of the black suitcase. A small vial and a syringe were laid out on an evenly dark lining. "I'm going to give you an injection and perform a standard physical evaluation. If the results fall within the acceptable range, we'll move on."

Quite intrigued yet slightly scared I asked; "And if they don't?" And without emotion, I got a short "Then we'll observe the side effects." The substance was likely very experimental but I am sure he would just say "I cannot confirm that," again. Something in me said that I didn't really want an answer anyway.

"And only a physical evaluation? No thought-prying by the labcoated head shrinkers?" I asked wondering why they did not do a mental check. Then why did he ask me earlier if I was a murderer and mentioned rehabilitation? To draw me in?

"Quite a unique way to refer to therapeutic sessions but no, we'll have none of that. We mainly care about your durability here," he said, dodging the question partially.

I wanted to get this over with quickly. "Anyway, I'm done eating, so just give me the shot," was my third mistake. He chose a blood vessel in my left arm and injected the substance into me. As he took a cotton pad, I felt a cold feeling flow through my entire bloodstream. I lost the aftertaste of my bland desert on my tongue and began to feel numbing in my body.

I fainted.

I was woken up by a familiar voice; "You feeling alright there?"

I told the Doctor "Have been better, have been worse," whilst I slowly got up. If I didn't, they would probably make me. I had to adjust to the light but it was clear that I was in a new room.

"Please tell me who you are," overwhelmed me a bit in my daze, but giving my number was quite a habit that I had grown accustomed to. "D-13-" was all that I said before he interrupted me yet again.

"No, you can read that from your uniform. Give me your name, nationality, those kind of things," he almost yelled. He was probably a bit annoyed by the time it took me to make sense of what had happened.

"Raulas Jakelaitis, Lithuanian, 26 years old, do you need more?" I asked him. I knew he was invested in his work, but at the moment I didn't care.

"No, you seem conscious but pretty pale. I'll get you some water and a beverage. We'll start the examination in ten minutes," he said slightly disappointed. That is what you get for drugging me.
"You sure you don't want to wait for those side effects?" I said whilst he was walking away.

After the physical examination, I didn't see much of him anymore. He sent me a note that I would get a new routine. It was the training I had been reading about- it was a rather welcome change between the usual boredom or dead lurking around the corner. Quite funny how I got both later down the line.

How long has it been since the launch? One month? Two?

All those preparations just for this. They put me into a high-G centrifuge, some kind of sauna with a low oxygen level, and made me experience pressure in underwater constructions. And that is not including all the examinations and other sports activities I had to partake in. Training my ass! We trained for nothing.

I experienced side effects from the substance they kept injecting into me for this? Heavy headaches, vomiting, bleedings noses, and other things with a lack of medical attention. "To help you get a better durability."

But what a joke it was… Blasting some folks into this vacuum-filled obnoxity. Seriously, well played. Well fucking played! Opening the airlock whilst ordering people to maneuver in the cockpit for extra data. Truly a masterful move.

Some died immediately, the rest were less fortunate. Some died by simultaneously being boiled and frozen by the cosmos. The rest suffocated or got severe radiation poisoning. And how long did they last? Four minutes? Five?

You probably didn't care for our survival to begin with, but you do about the length of it. You got to get your test results, right? Classic Foundation, the ends justifying the means…

But they never really do.

Checking which treatment works the best like that… Quite easy from the ground, wouldn't you say? I wonder if the Ethics Committee knew you were planning this all along. Do they know this? Do they condone this?

Guess my treatment worked the best and the rest just signed up for a one-way trip to their death. You probably also wrote me up as deceased since I passed out after a few minutes as well.

But if you know about my survival, I wonder which number you gave me. It probably won't be the same as the one on my orange overall that has now faded slightly away like myself. D-13733, Raulas Jakelaitis, a lost man in space.

I guess I got that promised freedom somehow. I wonder if you'd let me keep it if I got back. Do I even want to go back? Probably. As much as everyone likes to go to space, I think I just want to get back home again.

Once I'm back you would probably lock me up and feed me the same bland meals as before. With even less nutritional value if you're extra cautious. Still, the absence of taste would be delicious and chains around me would feel like a hug at this moment compared to this void. Perhaps I should bring something of value to bargain with.

I should probably stop thinking about this for now and try to find a way out of my current predicament. If I don't get some solid ground under my feet again I'm definitely going insane.

I'm sure I can find a way to move from here, probably something similar to swimming. I just hope I find a way to land. Something tells me that the planet in the distance is slowly getting bigger…

To be continued

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