Second Act

January 23, 2012 in backstory by Gabriel Adler

As he stepped out of the prison, he saw the sunset, blazing across the horizon like a wildfire fed by the cotton candy clouds. He took in a deep breath, and looked behind him, satisfied as the gates gradually shut, screeching with pain from old age. Smiling, he turned back to face the sunset, watching as the shuttle approached the platform.

Prison platform x7-311 Delta (often abbreviated to PPx7-311-D), which floats above the North Pakistan Orbital Region, was one of the Chinese Orbital Union’s prime prisons, where political dissonant, tax evaders, and smugglers go to rot. It was where Gabriel Adler had spent the past 3 years of  his life in cell block R, cell 213-Gamma for the crime of smuggling, one Neo-Shanghai doesn’t take lightly. He had spent 10 years smuggling in the region between Dehli 6, Novyi-Moskva, and Neo Tokyo, circulating European liquors and Chinese toys in the area without regard to the local import laws. Educated by his adopted parents, he was one of the fastest smugglers around, and he had been one of the most sought after. His business, supplemented with two other smugglers that covered Africa and the Americas, was booming and they were virtually unscathed by the authorities. But, eventually, it all came crashing down, for Gabe at least. Attempting to smuggle some cigars from Havanna Prime into Gaoxing North, he was captured and sent to PPx7-311-D, where he would spend the next three years.

The shuttle rattled every few hours. A bad intake valve, he though. He could feel it, decoding the unhealthy vibrations on the plastic seat into a doctoral diagnosis that would never be heeded. Looking around, he saw all different kinds. Several prisoners, a mother and her wailing child, a rich type who had no qualms with showing his disgust. He would be mugged within minutes of landing.

A fizzle suddenly erupted from the ceiling and Gabriel looked around nervously. His first inclination was that a pipe had suddenly erupted, but a voice suddenly interrupted the fizzling. He couldn’t understand it, either it was in a foreign language or the low fidelity made it sound like so. But he tapped the mother to his right and asked her what it said. She answered, in a east European accented voice, “We arrive in 5 minutes.”

He sighed, leaning his head back. 5 minutes was long enough to rest.

As he woke up, people were shuffling off the ship and out into a large station. He shook his head, fixed his hair and stood, doing the same, until he made his way through the crowd and out of the station. He almost couldn’t breath, the air was so thick. Luckily, his lungs had been implanted with filters when he was put on hard labor detail in prison, so it wasn’t toxic, but it wasn’t particularly fragrant either.

He made his way down the street, looking down at the directions he had been mailed every few minutes. Traversing the catwalks, calling taxis, and several generous people eventually lead him to the apartment. He stopped at the grey door, considering whether or not to knock, but by then it was too late. Fisher had recognized his walking pattern and had already called him in. He sighed, and opened the door to find Fisher sitting, reading no less.

Fisher, the man who called him here, was regarded by Gabriel as his older brother. In prison, Fisher helped prevent Gabriel from coming to bodily harm or other less desirable interactions with the other inmates, in exchange for the cigarettes and tuna he smuggled in. It was a symbiotic relationship, in the same vein as the friendship a moss shares with a tree. Fisher was a bulky man, wizened by years of both prison and his underground life. He  had invited Gabe to work for his company, the Hauer-Bosch Shipping Company, and, Gabe, out of prison and needing work, gladly accepted.

The night progressed, and Gabriel met Demetra, a flirtatious woman who would be his boss’ boss, and after that, he had called it a night. Wandering again, he found a small, cheap motel that smelled of the surrounding pollution, which Gabriel had already grown used to. He looked at his phone clock, taking off his varying holsters and pouches and pulling out a pouch of tea. It was late, he thought as he poured a hot cup of water and put the pouch in. He took a small pack out of the plastic bag he picked up at the local biomart, it was a disposable razor. Stepping in front of the mirror, he look and bit his lip. This was the first time in a long time he was shaving, and he took it in stride, finally coming out of the bathroom clean shaven and happy. He looked at his tea, which turned the water a dark reddish brown, and took a wift. This was going to be a good year.