Adam was pretty sore the next day. He really needed to stop tripping into the bars and stopping the fall with his face. It was a bad habit to get into. At least he had made sure that bastard Wendell had a good chance of never procreating. Wendell had been even more pissed when Henry told him no tattling. Henry sure was old school.
The hearing went by in a blur. Adam had signed numerous forms and been inoculated with fifty different antibodies for a planet they had no clue what would kill you. Soon he was in another waiting room. He had no clue what was coming next, but he realized that Alice had been right. The judge had told Adam he would be planetside in less than ten hours.
Justice never moved quickly unless the Federation needed to make the problem disappear. There had been another riot on one of the homeworlds one of the idiot colonists had come from. The guy had been a minor noble in a merchant house. Adam could barely remember the guy’s face. He did remember the guy had broken into a sobbing fool and had to be restrained when Adam had called from the ship with his plans. Adam was sure that guy was the first out the door when they had run out of food, and probably not because he wanted to take the chance.
A young man dressed in the formal blue uniform of the Federation Biogenesis Corps entered the room carrying all the world’s problems on his back. Adam would have laughed if he hadn’t been so worried about what this meant. Adam had worked with most of the upper management of the FBC, but he had never seen this guy before. The man didn’t make eye contact and immediately sat down at the sole table in the room and opened his tablet computer. The holographic display awoke and a blue orb popped into existence.
“Dr. Durst, my name is Liam Harvadash. I am your off world coordinator. All your research will go through me for validation and conformation before being added to the master databases,” Liam said. “The planet here is designated Penal AS-379 and colloquially named Ruckblau. You will stationed there with three other scientists and a group of roughly one hundred thirty two inmates.”
Adam couldn’t believe his ears. “Wait, there must be some mistake. Where is Dr. Guy? Dr. Antonowitz?”
Liam finally met Adam’s gaze. “They don’t deal with isolated penal colonies,” Liam said. Adam’s eyes grew wide and his jaw dropped. Liam continued. “You will still get the best equipment I can locate. This research means a lot to me.”
Adam laughed bitterly. “Of course it does. A peon like you would never get work with a scientist of my caliber. This will make your career.”
“Dr. Durst, I am a scientist in my own right. Everyone must start someplace,” Liam said.
Adam got up and stormed to the other side of the room. He then turned back towards Liam and jabbed his finger at him. “You have to start somewhere?” asked Adam. “I catalogued my first life world when I was an undergraduate. My advisor died on the trip, but I had already surpassed the woman. How many times have you been off world, Liam?”
“Twice,” Liam said, almost drawing his shoulders into himself.
Adam quickly crossed back to the table, but he didn’t sit down. Instead he bent over Liam, his shadow seemingly making Liam shrink back even more. “Let me guess,” Adam said. “once only to orbit as a grade school student and the second when you went to university.”
Liam developed a bit of a backbone and straightened back up a bit. “We went to Fios in grade school,” he said.
Adam did a flourish with his arms and turned back around. He began to pace back and forth feeling his new mental cage grow smaller with each step. “Well you have so much experience. You will be a director in no time. Of course I turned that position down at least twelve times because it is a desk job and a xenobiologist should be in the field.” Suddenly Adam stopped his pacing. “And that is where I will be stuck from now to eternity. Okay Liam, earn your keep. What am I in for?” With that Adam walked back to the desk, spun the chair backwards and he sat down, staring at the blue orb hanging in space in front of him.
Liam looked ta Adam, dumbstruck. Adam motioned with his hands to have Liam continue. “Come on Liam. I’m done pouting for now. If you wait too long I will move on to pissed, and you never want to see that. You are in the calm before the storm. Please don’t waste your opportunity.”
Liam woke from his stupor and dropped his gaze from Adam and back to the blue dot hanging between the two of them. With a gesture of Liam’s hand the blue dot expanded and green brown continents came into view. Liam began to narrate as the virtual planet began to rotate. “Ruckblau has a gravity that is one point two times normal with a solar year of eleven point three three standard years.”
Adam interrupted. “Wait, it takes a little over eleven standard years to make one solar rotation? And yet it supports our type of life?”
Liam looked up from the hologram. “It is a bit colder than what we would find comfortable, except in its more tolerable regions, especially near the equator. Do not worry though, it is habitable for most of its regions.”
“When was it discovered? I hadn’t heard of a planet like this. And why a penal colony? This sounds like a likely colonization site,” Adam said.
Liam zoomed out showing the planetary system with its white star anchoring the planets in its gravity well. Laim then zoomed out even more. The sun hung in the outer spiral arm of a nondescript galaxy. “It was detected just a few weeks ago. As you can see it is in the middle of nowhere, at least for now. We managed to dial in its coordinates and set up a transport gate that seems to be stable for now. If that gate collapses, well you know how hard it would be to get people offworld Dr. Durst,” Liam said.
Adam waved off the partial slight. “Still, this might unlock a whole new part of the universe to explore,” Adam said. Adam took control of the image and zoomed back in, bringing the planet back into focus. He zoomed in to see the landmasses and selected an area off a large see where a major river dumped its water into a larger body of water. “Oh and call me Adam. I hate my last name. I almost changed it to White a long time ago.”
“Why didn’t you?” asked Liam.
“Too long a story. We can discuss it once I’m planetside,” said Adam. “So when do I go through the gate?”
“We go through in two more hours,” said Liam. This caused Adam to raise an eyebrow. “Like you sarcastically pointed out, I need more experience. And besides, I’m intrigued as well.”
Adam put his hand through the display. “The let’s shake to commemorate a wonderful adventure,” Adam said.
Liam took Adam’s hand and shook. “You have an amazing way of redefining exile,” Liam said.
“I know how to be delusional,” Adam said. “It’s the only way I could live with myself.”