The cold air of a winter morning wafted about the room, bringing chills to the young woman sitting atop the bed. The woman gazed at the medical bracelet that wrapped itself around her young, petite wrist. “Project Light,” it read.
The room had a small window directly across from the door. The window shined in little bits of light, though the condensational fog that attached itself to the glass made for a challenging view. Grey tile layered the floor, absorbing the last bit of heat the room may have had. The woman sat there, staring at the ground as if it were a never-ending abyss. Not a word was spoken, just silence within the enclosure.
A large, metal door could be heard being opened from down the hall, lights being turned on one light at a time down the long corridor. “Up, everyone up!” The stern female voice had yelled. An intermittent banging noise began being guided down the hall, getting louder and louder as it approached the cold, dark room the woman sat in. The woman wore a maroon jumpsuit with a white undershirt. Her hair was long and knotted from her restless sleep the night before. She had only been in prison for a few months, but it honestly felt like an eternity to her. Her dark brown eyes held nothing but hopelessness in them as she continued to look down at the floor.
Suddenly, her door opened, and there stood the stern woman who was yelling just a few minutes prior. She, too was a petite woman. Her long, blonde hair was held up in a tight bun, and the woman’s lack of facial makeup made her face seem even more stern. A severe expression was all that she had on her face, showing her authoritarian look to the prisoners, scaring the newcomers. “Come on, Patricia, it’s time to eat breakfast,” the guard said, emotionlessly. Patricia stood up and plodded over to the exit. The guard slapped handcuffs on her tiny wrists and ankles to make sure that she couldn’t escape easily.
“You look lovely this morning, Officer Jones,” Patricia complimented. However, Officer Jones didn’t take it as a compliment and tightened the cuffs even more. It was tight enough to create small lacerations to her wrists, but it still allowed blood flow. Officer Jones guided her towards the cafeteria, but once it was in sight, they passed it. Something wasn’t right. Why would she say something about breakfast and then pass the cafeteria? Patricia’s stomach growled. She was promised food and received none, and she didn’t like being lied to.
“Where’s my breakfast, Jones?” She snapped.
“You’ll get it, just not here.” That was all that the officer said, which only angered Patricia even more.
They continued down the long, dull hallway, passing other cell blocks as they did so. Fellow inmates spat and sneered at her, and some even yelled at her. She was only eighteen, and the worst crime she ever committed was selling drugs. The woman next to her cell kidnapped children for crying out loud. After about a month of being in prison, she accepted her fate.
“Here she is,” Officer Jones said, shoving Patricia into the hands of military soldiers. “Are you sure they want her? She doesn’t have many talents.”
“Talents aren’t necessary where she’s going,” the soldier on Patricia’s left stated flatly. The two men escorted Patricia out into the courtyard where her parents were waiting. Her mother, Susan Smith, had beautiful dark brown hair, like her daughter, and blue eyes. No one would have ever guessed that she was a mother based on her appearance. She was the average height of 5'4'' and wore a sage-colored tank top covered by a blue jean jacket and skinny black jeans with a pair of boots. The man to her right was her husband, Lawrence Smith. He stood 6’1” and had blonde hair and green eyes, and wore a similar outfit to his wife’s. A t-shirt and leather jacket, rather than a tank top and jean jacket.
“Let me guess, this was the alternative for my sentence,” Patricia mocked, glaring at her parents. “They hadn’t visited me since I arrived six months ago, so why do they care now?” she thought. She would send letters to them, but they would never send any in return. They shut her out; disowned her; what could they possibly want with her now? Her parents turned the cheek at their daughter, and that told Patricia everything she needed to know: her parent’s cared, but not enough to visit until now. The two soldiers stopped in front of the married couple, so Patricia took this opportunity to face her parents.
“Six months,” she said coldly, staring at the ground, “Six months I’ve been gone and nothing except silence from you two until now.”
“We wanted to write to you,” Susan said, “It’s just that, we were so busy, Sweetheart, we never had time to sit down and write.”
Patricia lifted her head and looked into her parents’ eyes. “No, but you had enough time to decide where I served my sentence without consulting me,” she accused, “Do you even know where I’m going?” Her parents’ silence told her everything she needed to know. They didn’t know where she was going, but they must have been promised that she would be safe and out of prison so they agreed.
“Get me away from these two,” Patricia demanded. “But, dear, let me explain.” Her mother protested. “Get me away from this woman, now!” The two soldiers led her away and entered an APC; Armored Personnel Carrier. Patricia stared through the two small, fogged windows in the rear of the vehicle, watching as her parent’s disappeared in the distance.
“So where are you taking me?” an irritated Patricia said. The two soldiers looked at each other and then looked at the young girl sitting before them. One soldier spoke: “Well, you see, ever since the Department of Human Resources had become a global agency, they have been working with the Department of Defense to . . .” Patricia interrupted “Department of Human Resources, what?” she said confused.
“The Defense Department is working to save lives, and they want to create a force capable of seeing what happened at Atha Station.” Patricia looked at the soldiers with a bewildered expression, “Atha Station?” she spoke.
“Atha Station was supposed to be a science op for DHR. However, things went bad.” The other soldier chimed in, “Real bad.”
“Something happened up there, we’re not sure what. We just know that a lot of scientists and researchers got killed.”
“Where is Atha Station?” she asked.
“Athelena 9,” he responded. “13 light-years away.”
“From Earth?” she yelled. “I was only in prison for six months; what do you mean? That’s impossible.” Patricia had a confused look upon her.
“Patricia, we have the technology to achieve this, and in ways, we have.”
Silence went about the room, not a single word spoken. Patricia just stared at the two soldiers as if she’d seen a ghost.
“H-h-how?” she stumbled.
“I’m sure DHR will explain everything. The bottom line, we need someone to travel to Atha Station to find out what happened there.”
“It’s 13 light-years away, you’d have to send robots or something,” she protested.
“DHR has something in mind to fix that.”
The doors to the APC opened and the cold, winter air gusted into the vehicle. An older man with a white lab coat greeted her, “Hello, Patricia.” Patricia looked back at the two soldiers as she exited the vehicle. “This is where we part ways,” one soldier said.
“Patricia, I’m Dr. Schultz. I will be handling your stay here,” he spoke.
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