This is the best part: the anticipation. Slowly, laboriously, but insistently, you ascend toward the boundless turquoise sky. As the struggling coaster the peak of the hill, you raise your hands above your head in defiance of your frantically pounding heart. Time, and the entire world, stands still for a moment. And then ...
Wooosh! Toward the ground you plummet, the sky you faced a moment ago now at your back. The coaster trembles as it races downward and the air fills with the delighted screams of those around you. You close your eyes and drink in the feeling of pure, rapturous freedom that engulfs you.
Crash! Your eyes snap open as you are pitched violently from your bed onto the cold metal floor of your cell. The ship is trembling and the air is filled with the screams and shouts of the prisoners in the cells around you. As you gather your senses, you quickly remember where you really are. The Vortex Rikers. The rankest prison transport vessel this side of the Milky Way, and the furthest thing in the universe from the freedom in your dreams.
But something is not right. Emergency lights are flashing on and off in the walkway beyond your cell. A sulfurous, burning odor invades your nostrils and stings your eyes. You pick yourself up off the ground, holding onto the iron bed frame for balance as the floor shudders beneath you. Looking through the plasmagated entryway of your cell, you see guards and officials running up and down the walkway like frantic worker ants.
"Hey, what the hell's going on!?" you shout.
But your voice is lost among the equally panicked shouts of your fellow prisoners and the wailing of the ship's alert siren. The ants tripping over each other in the walkway don't even glance at you.
You know from experience that trying to break through the plasma gate will only result in frustration and a nasty headache. If this bucket is going down, I'm not going to die like a caged rat in this stinking cell, you tell yourself. I've got to get to the emergency shuttle.
Just then, the cell block's head guard pauses outside of your cell to scrawl something in his ever-present log book.
"Hey Ash, what the hell's going on!?"
"What do you think's going on genius? We're going down. Now shut your yap and strap yourself in."
"Are you insane? Turn off the gates! Let us get to the shuttle!"
Ash's smirk and amused snort before he walks away fill you with almost enough rage to burst right through the plasma gate and tear his head off.
"Ash! Ash, open the damn gates! Don't leave us in here! Wait a minute! Open the friggin' gates you son of a-"
A tremendous jolt rocks the ship and sends you hurtling across the cell into the rear wall. You feel the sickening introduction of bone to iron, and then, nothing at all.
Later - perhaps hours, perhaps days - you wake up. Your body is battered and torn, but somehow, you have survived the crash. The plasma gate is disabled. Beyond the entryway of your cell, freedom beckons.
But where are you? Has anyone else survived? And what awaits you beyond the confines of the crumpled Rikers? There's only one way to find out, you say to yourself.
Slowly, laboriously, but insistently, you emerge from your cell ...
by Michael Forge