Return of the Convict

Return of the Convict

by William Alan Thomas

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781519255082
Publisher: CreateSpace Publishing
Publication date: 02/08/2016
Pages: 310
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.65(d)

About the Author

William Alan Thomas took a BA in English at the U. of Chicago in the 1960's, and his first novel, Daddy's Darling Daughter, was published in 1974.
Life was to sweep him far from the world of books, as he fell in love with the seafood business, ran an old fish boat and then became a Vancouver longshoreman.
Presently a full-time writer living in Chilliwack, B.C., he remains deeply involved with Return of the Convict, as there's to be a prequel and two sequels.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

Dec. 16, 2143

There were forty-five of us transports crammed into the space bus, and even though everyone was sedated, the two and a half day trip was arduous. After we docked there was a slight shaking. Our capsule shot backward, and stopped. With a hissing of air, the door slid open. "Welcome to Mir," a man's voice said. "Everybody out."

The artificial gravity here was less than the moon's; I got up without much difficulty. Two uniformed guards checked us off as we came out. "You're Dominic Tessier," one said crisply, when she touched my ID tag with a scanner.

My legs uncertain, I stepped onto a moving sidewalk that took us through a tunnel. In a few minutes the passageway curved, and the main terminus area of the space station came into view. I held tight to the railing and stared. The people here arrived and departed from all over the solar system: personnel from the space ships, businessmen, and new-world workers. Some, while roughly dressed, had a special swagger. I thought they might be prospectors. Then a group of T-men walked through in unisex suits and skull caps. Although silent, their expressions and gestures showed communication. Thanks to their brain implants, they were telepathic.

Only a few months earlier, I'd been a student at the Space Training Academy. My brain was being transformed through implants, and I looked forward myself, to a career in space as a T-man administrator. An awful injustice had been done to me, and my dreams were trashed. Yet I felt no regret, resentment, or any emotion at all. A silver bracelet around my wrist created a chemically-induced docility, more powerful than chains.

Our guards took us along a walkway above a large, brightly lit loading dock. Through the side-mesh I could see the Stellar Blossom. The ship's blue hull seemed to stretch on forever; it dwarfed the men gathered to service her.

Ahead was a short, balding man I remembered from my time in jail. "Phil," I called, catching up to him.

He turned to me without surprise. "Hello, Dom," he said in the slow speech of the bracelet wearers. He pointed up the dock to a line of people entering the ship under a bright yellow canopy. "Did you notice? Some are women."

"Passengers," I said. "A different world."

Inside the ship, Asian men in yellow jumpsuits put me through another scanner. They directed me to a corridor where Phil was walking up ahead.

The interior of the ship was light brown. There were no sharp corners, only curves. The walls and floors yielded to the touch, and there were hand-holds throughout. Music came from some of the rooms.

The music stopped when we entered the prison section. I was hit immediately by the smell of vomit. In here, everything was a drab gray.

At Compartment Six, Phil and I parted. "I'll see you soon, Dom," he said. "We'll play some cards."

"I'll look forward to it," I said.

Compartment Seven was a long, windowless room, with double bunk beds on either side. My bed was on the bottom, and it had a small dresser at the end. Inside the drawers, I found a change of clothes and some toilet things. I sat down on the bed, put my feet up and lay back. More men kept coming in.

After about half an hour, a young, dark haired man claimed the bottom bunk across the aisle from me. I reached over to shake his hand. "It's good to see you, Nevil."

Later that night the ship moved, and we were in weightless conditions.

Chimes sounded, early in the morning. "Everybody up," a voice said. "Report to the dining area for breakfast and orientation."

Moving in zero gravity is difficult at first, and men were drifting around. My space cadet training helped a lot. Using the hand-holds, I went out into the hallway and followed lighted signs to a bright, clean room where rows of chairs with attached trays were fastened to the floor.

There was little laughter amongst us, and no loud talk. Everyone here wore the silver bracelet.

Large windows let us see outside. Not far away was the space station we'd been docked at the night before. It was slowly spinning. The great globe, Earth, loomed beyond. There was no view of the space elevator, but our ship was being loaded on all sides by small, slow moving craft that carried huge container modules.

After breakfast the windows darkened, and the room lights dimmed. With a blast of music a large video screen lit up.

A stocky, middle aged Asian man in a dark blue uniform looked at us from behind a desk. "Welcome, convicts," he said in clear, unaccented English. "I'm Captain Lee, commander of the Stellar Blossom. You're embarking on a voyage of almost six months, destination Mars. Use the exercise facilities at least an hour a day; don't let your muscles atrophy. Also, I urge everyone to stretch your minds. Seize every opportunity to prepare for the new world ahead."

The captain's image was replaced by a black, starry sky. A thrilling violin solo began, followed by the rolling of drums. Then a panoramic view of the Martian terrain showed endless plains, enormous mountains, and deep canyons. "We who live here love this land," a woman said. Excavators gouged holes in the side of a mountain, and loaded giant trucks. The scene shifted to the inside of a smelter, and rivers of molten metal.

"The strong ones do best here," the woman said. Dressed in a skin-tight black suit, she was young and slim, standing outside a busy entrance-way to a glittering glass building. "Mars can be difficult for the dreamer or the aesthete, but those of purpose and energy will carve a place. One main law prevails: work or die. Make your living, because nothing will be handed to you."

When the lights came back on, we began a series of interest and aptitude tests which were to help us choose the type of work we'd do on Mars. Around four that afternoon, I discussed my results with a counselor.

My interview was in a small booth in the library. The image on the screen was of a vivacious, older woman. She was enthusiastic about the results of my tests, and said that lots of opportunities were open to me.

In the course of the interview, I learned there was a shortage of entertainers on Mars. My first career choice, musician, might be viable.

Despite the silver bracelet, my spirits lifted as I returned to the prison area. Cadets at the Space Training Academy were encouraged to take arts electives, and I'd picked music. This chance selection became more than a hobby to me; music was something I loved.

Doubt arose within me. Was musician a job for a real man?

This feeling was so strong, I stopped to think. These concerns were alien to me. I revered musicians. Music explores the vast range of spiritual possibilities, and provides harmony, and outright joy, even in darkest times.

After this, I was blasted by pure scorn.

Then I continued on, but not as a person unused to weightless conditions. No, I moved like a mature wolf in its native forest. The slightest pulls and twists propelled me with speed and power. I arrived at Compartment Seven in almost no time.

Although several other prisoners were here, the room was quiet and peaceful. Lying back on my bed, I closed my eyes. For a moment I'd lost control of my own body.

This demonstration on how to get around without gravity was helpful, and perhaps needed. To my sorrow, Lucas Rivera, the man who ruined my life, was the only possible source.

A convict and Martian transport himself, Lucas was my parent clone. An aged dissolute, he suffered many health problems, and the brain implants I'd received as a space cadet provided him the opportunity to reclaim his youth. Then a setback in his health led to a desperate attempt to force a merger. I fought back and killed Lucas, but the information about his self was sent to my implants.

This invasion of privacy was monstrous for me. My brain is my only castle, and I'd never doubted that I was autonomous and in charge.

Lucas claimed descent from Genghis Khan, one of the worst men who ever lived. Homer describes the warrior Achilles as a sacker of cities, and a breaker of men. The conquests of Genghis Khan went beyond anything that Achilles could have dreamed of.

The Lucas I'd met was no Genghis Khan or Achilles. Still he did not hesitate to breach my defenses, and force himself on me. Lucas was a wily and powerful opponent, who'd established himself in my brain. There'd be further attempts to gain control.

He must not enjoy the slightest influence over my actions. Knowing that he disliked musicians made me determined to consider music as my Luckily I enjoyed many advantages over him. My health, youth, superior education, and training in mental strength and rational thought were all in my favor. I'd build him a dungeon, deep in the depths of my mind, and keep the brutish lout locked up forever.

My success depended on understanding him thoroughly, and I had access to all his memories.

It was time to sort through them systematically, just as I'd learned to do at the academy ...

CHAPTER 2

March 9, 2143

Three weeks in the recovery spa at the bottom of the space elevator could not overcome the effects of thirty years off-world, but Lucas Rivera was anxious and had to get going. He took a flight to New York City, stayed overnight in a hotel near the airport and, in the morning, boarded Continental's airship to Seattle.

A lanky man in his fifties, he had a blond brush cut and wore casual, loose-fitting clothes, distinguished only by a homemade bead belt with a red buckle. His seat was on the topmost of the three passenger decks. Thankfully, his section was not crowded and he was able to relax.

At Chicago, more people got on and a large, older woman sat beside him. Sturdy looking in her long-sleeved gray dress, she had alert blue eyes and a mass of curly, orange-blonde hair. Almost immediately she started fussing with some presents. She looked up at Lucas. "For my grandchildren," she said. A diminutive stewardess brought around an extensive drink menu. After consulting with the grandmother, Lucas decided on a vegetable juice cocktail with a touch of Bliss, guaranteed to add "enjoyment at being high."

When the drinks arrived, the woman took the stewardess's hand and looked closely at a silver band that held a sparkling, blue-tinged stone. "Is this a space diamond?"

"It's from a mine off of Greenland. My boyfriend's an undersea geologist."

The juice cocktail failed to lift Lucas's enervating drowsiness. After excusing himself to the grandmother, he took the escalator to an observation room on the under deck. Here he viewed the mammoth work project on the plains below.

"Eighteen years after the Yellowstone eruption, reclamation is still ongoing," the interactive map-tutor said. Huge worker robots secured mats composed of native plants and grasses, ramming root nodes deep into the cleared ground. Far in the distance, mountains of ash were bulldozed into a deep chasm.

This was his homeland, and he longed to aid in the struggle. As a returned transport though, he would not be welcome. The bitterness swept over him anew, the shame and sorrow at being sent away forever by the court. "Traitor," they called him. "Hard core gangster." "An arrogant, selfish criminal." It was not true and it was not fair.

It was a huge gamble to come back here, but there was no choice. He was terribly ill, and the Martian doctors had run out of options. Vancouver's Grace Hospital had technology that might save him, and one of the owners, Dr. Johansen, owed Lucas a big favor.

"You have two messages from Mars," Tomi said

The small octopod clinging to his back was a Martian robotics product that used the movements and energy field of the human body as its power source. An implant in Lucas's brain allowed him to communicate with Tomi by thought.

"The first one's from your wife."

Lucas caught a scent of lavender and saw a white envelope stamped Universal Post. Then Lena appeared. "I'm thinking of you," she smiled. Dressed in a white robe, her light brown hair falling loosely to her shoulders, she was on the couch in the solarium of their Marsport apartment. A well-known musician and composer, Lena came from one of Mars's first families. "I trust the trip went well, and you're receiving this message on Earth. Things are about the same here. I'm working hard, preparing for the concert. I miss you. I love you."

Lucas's eyes moistened. Their marriage saved his life; all he'd achieved he owed to her. Despite her affairs with other women, she never shut him out.

He imagined the two of them holding hands and let his love for her well up. "Hello my darling," he said. "As you can see, I'm here on Earth, passing over the Great Plains. The trip went well and soon I'll be at the hospital. I love you forever."

"The next message was sent by Rosie," Tomi said. "All right, give it to me."

His partner looked up from her desk in the upstairs office of their bar, The Two Moons. A dark-haired, slender woman, she wore a red top and satiny white slacks. Music and laughter drifted up; business was good. "Hello, Lucas. It's busy tonight. I wish you were here."

He met Rosie when she first arrived in Marsport. Nineteen years old, transported on some trumped-up charge, she'd arrived scared, with no idea what to expect. He showed her around and helped her get a job. Now in her early thirties, Rosie was endlessly resilient and energetic. Shrewd and sometimes ruthless in business, she was perfect for The Two Moons. All types of people came to their bar but nothing fazed Rosie.

"Oh Lucas, if anyone can do it, you can. My prayers are with you, and I live for the day when you walk into The Two Moons once more. Good fortune, my dear spaceman." "Rosie it's wonderful to hear from you," Lucas replied. "Yes I'm on Earth, and at this moment I'm in an airship heading west. It won't be long till I see the boy. Go ahead and contact the lawyers, and make sure my apartment's ready. Also you can notify Dr. Johansen that the Ferryman is on his way."

The contact with Mars cheered Lucas up considerably. "Lena and Rosie love you too," he told Tomi "Aren't you grateful to have me as your master?"

"You've often told me that you're of noble birth, a descendant of the conqueror Genghis Khan," Tomi replied "Serving you is an honor for me."

"Well, never mind that now. You did a good job getting those messages through and I'm glad to have you with me."

Lucas drifted off, and when Tomi woke him, they were above Montana.

Ash was heavy on the ground; he might have been looking at the sands of Mars, except that this desert was a whitish-gray.

"We've entered a void spot," Tomi said "The ship's lost contact with the outside world."

A long, black form moved slowly past their window. Over large for taxi service and smaller than a freighter, the smooth, cigar-shaped craft had wings which looked retractable. This type of ship was sometimes used by Earth-based prospectors.

A horn blasted repeatedly. "All passengers sit down," a deep voice said. "There's been an unforeseen emergency and we have to land." Forward motion stopped, lights flashed, and the ship descended rapidly.

Lucas was glued to the window, shocked to have his carefully planned trip disrupted by random chaos. They landed on a patch of flat plain.

The hijackers came from a thick stand of leafless trees. Masked from head to foot in black, they rode their four-legged robots horseback style in a way seldom seen on Mars. The side walls of the dromies were translucent, and more men sat in the inside compartments. The riders wore clown masks. They were Resisters Lucas realized: the surviving North American Federation fighters, still waging guerrilla warfare against the United World States.

The horn blasted again. "This is your captain speaking. The ship is now in the command of insurgents and they are boarding this vessel. Do what they say and we'll be on our way again shortly. I repeat: cooperate with the brigands and make no attempt to fight back."

Shouted curses and harsh laughter rang throughout the ship.

The crew was outside, watched by two Resisters who carried ray guns. The taller one seized Lucas's stewardess and took her ring. She protested vehemently, but nobody else moved. The sweep of a boop gun would give the crew an excruciating death.

Three of the raiders entered the observation room. "It's tax time," one yelled. "Get ready! The North American Federation needs your money and any valuables."

A heavy-set man with a huge red smile painted on his mask confronted Lucas. "Thought you could hide from the tax man, did you? Well I found you."

"I'll gladly donate to the NAF," Lucas said politely. He opened his money folder, showing the bills. "Here's everything I have."

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "Return of the Convict"
by .
Copyright © 2015 William Alan Thomas.
Excerpted by permission of CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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