Monday, March 16, 2263: If I had known that signing up for offworld work meant getting poked, prodded, tested and injected this much I might have said, “No.” I’ve been injected, detected, inspected, examined, sampled, and directed more than I knew was even possible! Sheesh!
I didn’t get to the Icarus launch center right away like I planned. It turns out that they don’t process new hires on weekends, so I had to wait a couple days until the processing office opened on Monday. I didn’t tell Momma or Jenna anything, and I kept my new clothes in my backpack so they wouldn’t ask any questions about where or how I got them. Seemed the easiest thing to do. I did use some of my advance to get Jenna a new writing tablet for her school work, though. The one she has has a cracked screen and reboots all the time, losing her homework, so it’s not like she doesn’t need a new one. She looked at me funny when I gave it to her, like she knows something’s up, but she didn’t say anything. She’s smart, that one, and I’m gonna miss her. Maybe she’ll be lucky and will qualify for extra education. I never did well enough on exams for anything more than the basics, but she always gets good scores, especially for a kid who’s only 12.
Monday finally gets here and I wait till Momma leaves for work and Jenna is off at school. Then I finish packing up the things I’m taking with me and head for the transpo station. Since no one was around I was able to wear my new clothes without getting grilled about them. It still seems unreal, though. All I’ve got with me are a couple reader pads, an old pair of pants and an extra shirt… oh, and that toy animal Jenna carved for me in art class a couple years ago. She said it was a zebra, some kind of wild animal that used to live in Africa a long time ago. They’re extinct now, but she said she liked the stripes. I guess I do, too.
It’s hard to believe I’m not coming back, that if I ever do make it back to Earth it won’t be till Jenna is grown and maybe has a family of her own. Momma will probably be dead by then. None of us know where Jeremy, my older brother is these days. And Poppa hasn’t been around since I was two or three years old. Ah, well… Enough with the flashbacks.
Transpo takes me to within a couple blocks of the launch center building. I don’t even have to show an identicard. The implant they gave me on Saturday is scanned automatically when I get there. I got to admit, it does make it easier to get around!
I did have to check in with reception, though.
“Joseph Jedidiah Jacobi Barton?” the receptionist asks.
“Yes, ma’am, that’s me,” I replied.
“You are several days ahead of your deadline for check in. Are you sure you wish to be processed and transported ahead of schedule?” She paused to look at me. “Once processing begins there is no going back. You will not be permitted to leave the Launch Center. You will be fully committed.”
“Yes, ma’am, I’m sure. Let’s get this over with.”
She nodded sharply, typed something into her terminal, then gave me directions to a waiting room. From there all I had to do was follow directions. Go here. Stand there. Step into this exam booth. Roll up your sleeve so I can take a DNA sample. Look into this. Drink that. State your full name into the terminal. I don’t even know how long it all took because once I got into Processing there were no windows, no clocks and all the rooms and hallways looked alike. What I do know is that eventually they told me I was healthy enough to go offplanet. Then they started with the shots.
Ok, I get that there are funky bugs in space that we don’t have here on Earth, so the inoculations make sense, but five different shots? The nurse said each one was a broad spectrum shot for different kinds of space-borne illnesses, but he didn’t explain why I needed so many shots when I haven’t even left the ground yet. Each one felt like they were shooting me full of burning acid, and when they were done both my arms felt like they were made from melted rubber. Something in the shots made me feel woozy, too, but I think they expected that because they took me to a room full of bunks and let me lie down.
I’m not sure how long I’ve been out, but it looks like it’s time for me to ship out. Next stop, Ceres Station!