When Johnston went into the crew mess, the only other inhabitant was Sullivan, sipping a coke as he scanned news from earth on a table-top computer. When Johnston entered, Sullivan looked up.
"Did you need something, Lieutenant?"
"No, only a cup of coffee. I haven't slept for thirty-six hours."
"Join the club."
Johnston prepared a cup of coffee, then sat down at the table across from Sullivan. "What's the deal, putting us on a stupid baby-sitting mission like this?" the lieutenant asked.
Sullivan sighed. "I have no idea. To tell you the truth, I'm just as unhappy as you are. Do you think I want do be this bored?"
"Yeah, well they could at least do something interesting, like try to escape..."
They finished the rest of their drinks in silence.
The guard inserted the key into the door Michael Rapp's cage, and a *click* was heard as he turned it. The door swung open, and the guard stepped inside. He pulled the prisoner to his feet and led him out of the cell.
The guard prodded the prisoner ahead of him. It was Rapp's turn for the bathroom, for the first time in fifteen friggin' hours. His bladder was about ready to explode.
Rapp waited until the guard led Rapp out of earshot of the forward cargo hold where all twenty-five of the convicts were located, and into the small bathroom before putting his plan into action.
Nothing had happened since Rapp had broken that stupid asshole's wrist back in New Mexico, so this guard was bored. He certainly hadn't been expecting Rapp to suddenly fling himself around, grab onto the guard's neck with his hand-cuffed hands, and snap it with one quick stroke.
The guard sunk to the ground, and Rapp quickly began to search the cadaver for a set of keys. After the first four pockets, bingo! Rapp yanked the key chain from the pocket, and hastily began trying all of the keys in his handcuffs.
Finally, the cuffs snapped open with a satisfying click, and Rapp set to work on his feet manacles. After he was completely free of his bonds, he removed the guard's gun, and dragged him into one of the toilet stalls, where he undressed the guard and put the guard uniform on himself. Once that task was complete, he relieved himself before scrounging up a first-aid kit. From that, he produced a bandage that completely covered his scar. If anyone asked, one of the convicts had attempted to escape, and cut Rapp's face in the process. Then, he'd only have to hope that no one counted the prisoners and came up with only twenty-four...then he'd be screwed.
Rapp just had to avoid confrontation until the ship landed on the surface of Io. Then, all that would be left to do would be to make it to the UAC settlement, where no one would ever think there was an escaped convict among them, and he'd be a free man.
Unfortunately, things were not to turn out the way he'd wanted. He'd reach the settlement, all right. But not in the way he'd intended.
Lampert set his coffee-filled thermos down on his console, and checked his wristwatch. "Damn, we're an hour behind. Sargent's gonna have my rear fried over an open fire for this."
"We should radio the prison, tell them we're beginning our descent," Davidson suggested.
"All right," Lampert agreed. He picked up the radio and fiddled with the radio a bit, before saying into it, "Space Cruiser Madison to UAC Correctional Facility Tower. This is Space Cruiser Madison to UAC Tower. We have your cons, and we are beginning primary descent."
Static was his only reply. "Odd, there's no answer."
"Try again," Davidson said.
"This is the U.S. Space Cruiser Madison, calling Union Aerospace Corporation Correctional Facility Tower. We have your convicts, and we are beginning our descent."
Still no answer.
"God damn," Lampert said. He was frustrated. Sargent was going to be really pissed now.
"Well, we might as well just continue our landing pattern, and hope someone wakes up down there."
The Space Cruiser Madison continued its slow, but steady descent.
The guard who walked into the bathroom had just wanted to relieve himself. Instead, he was greeted as he walked into the stall by a pale, naked corpse and an orange convict suit on the floor next to it.
Without thinking, the guard panicked and dashed from the room to smash in the nearest emergency alarm.
Back up in the cockpit, the emergency light on Lampert's station began to flash and it's siren began to sound.
"Jesus, now what?" the exasperated pilot asked.
"I'm tryin' to find out," Davidson responded, as his fingers flew over his console's keyboard. "It's originated from near the forward cargo hold."
"Shit, ain't that where the prisoners are being kept?" Lampert realized.
Davidson shrugged. "I dunno. I think so."
"You think something happened? One of them escaped?"
"I hope to God not, but there's plenty of guards down there in case something did happen. I wouldn't worry."
Lampert shrugged, and tried to hail the prison facility's aircraft control tower one more time.
Suddenly, the ship lurched violently, and shuddered. Lampert's coffee tumbled from his station and the thermos' lid popped off, allowing its contents to flow forth onto Lampert's lap.
"Fucking shit!" he shouted in painful surprise, leaping up to stop any more of the scalding liquid to touch him. "Jesus, what was that?" he asked in shock. He quickly grabbed up the radio and called over the intercom, "Schmid, what's going on?"
"Damned if I know," the engineer's voice came back.
"Aren't you in the engine room?"
"No, I'm in the lower forward mess. I haven't eaten in two days, gimme a break."
"Just get the fuck down to the engine room and find out what the hell is going on here."
Suddenly, Davidson interrupted. "Christ, Scott, we're losing altitude like crazy."
Lampert's eyes flicked down to his console and saw the rapidly decreasing numbers confirmed Davidson's statement.
"A, B, and D tanks are losing fuel like hell, too," Davidson added.
"What the hell is going on?!" Lampert shouted in frustration, and spiked the radio towards the floor, where it was saved only by the spiral cord that connected it to Lampert's console. Quickly, he snatched it back up again.
"Jesus, Facility Tower, Facility Tower, we're going down. I repeat, we're going down ..."
As soon as Private Kurt Schmid had received Lampert's orders, he made like a bat out of hell for the engine room, but on the way he crashed right into a guard wearing a bandage on his face, and they both toppled to the ground.
"God, I'm sorry," Schmid mumbled, and clambered back to his feet before starting off for the engine room once more.
Rapp's first instinct had been to kill the marine, but realized that if he did, that would further complicate his escape. He let the other guy pick himself up, then continue his frantic run further towards the back of the ship. He decided to follow the marine, just to see where he was going in such a hurry.
Suddenly, the Madison was racked in another series of violent shakes. Rapp lost his balance, crashed into a steel bulkhead, and lost consciousness.
When Johnston first felt the tremors, Sullivan had already left the crew mess. The lieutenant stood up, and began making his way towards the passenger area, where the nearest radio was.
On his way there, the ship shook for a third time, the lights flickered and went out, and Johnston toppled into a wall. When he stood up, there was a large gash above his right eye, on his forehead, and he could tell it was bleeding pretty badly. He stood up, and continued on towards the passenger area.
He had barely taken one step before the entire ship was pitched into darkness as it slammed into the surface of the moon Io.