William stirred uneasily as a beam of harsh, unfiltered sunlight crawled over his face. Operating on instinct alone he kept his eyes squinted shut until the light had passed, then slowly opened them.
A single glowing display met his gaze, situated directly beneath a viewport that took up the rest of the wall. He groggily absorbed the number - 96 - and sat up in his cot. There was little else to look at in his single, solitary room; just a port at one end, near the foot of his bed (locked from the outside, of course), a cabinet at the head of his bed, and the great window and clock before him.
Then, even as the sun slowly slid out of view from the port, William fell prey to his daily pang of regret.
"William! Psst - William!" The hissed whisper cut through his mental fog. He rolled over and looked upside-down at the door. He knew the voice.
"Sarah? What is it?" Though he knew all too well, as the dread slowly crept in.
Hesitation. "Is it true? What they're saying you did?"
It was. An affirmative groan escaped him and he rolled back to face the wall.
Hands on him now, on his shoulder. They were trembling.
"Don't you know what they're going to do to you? You need to get out of here, now!"
He miserably shook his head. Where was there to go? The station may hold several thousand residents at a time, but it's nowhere near enough to seriously consider hiding somewhere. Had he lived on Vertigo or maybe even Dawnside, maybe, but here there was nowhere to run. And so he waited miserably until Sarah's hands were replaced by the rough, gloved ones of the station guards.
The trial was a formality. There was no doubt William was guilty in the extreme, and the judge immediately moved to sentence him.
"William Sarkos," he began in a harsh official tone, but as he glanced from his tablet to the shaking prisoner his voice softened slightly. He proceeded with the reading of the act which made space station life possible.
"You have been found guilty of violating the Sustenance Act. By hoarding more than your allotted resources, and worse, consuming them -" and here he grimaced and resumed an edge of hardness "- you have endangered the lives of every other citizen of this station. Many crimes may be forgiven, but the needless destruction of our precious resources is unforgivable."
The room began to spin. William knew what was coming - knew what had to come - but he could not quite believe it. They'd never- he'd never-
The judge had finally reached the sentencing.
"You are hereby sentenced to one year's time in a sustenance pod, effective immediately."
So that was it. Within the hour William was forced into this capsule, this death trap, and ejected from the station. With precisely a year's worth of food, and absolutely no way of communicating or escaping the pod, he would either survive until the pickup, learning to live within the station's means, or fail and - well, he thought bitterly, that miserable judge certainly wouldn't care anymore how much he did or didn't eat.
The cruelty of it all! It made no sense to him. This capsule went beyond punishment or reform, it was pure torture. He had nothing, nothing, other than a bed and food. What was he supposed to do? And for an entire year?
What good does this do the station? He wondered. Why was he judged incapable of making some other grand contribution to society? Did they assume (and by 'they' he of course envisioned that judge, coldly laying out his thoughts) that simply because he ate more than his share, he was worthless? Did the station's hydroponics farms not have the most successful harvest in decades this year? The rage had simmered in him for the better part of a year now, and he was a far cry from the timid citizen who had willingly entered the pod.
He swore a new oath. One that ran deeper and was issued with more passion than any flimsy pledge of citizenship he offered on first joining that wretched station. When he got back, he would kill that damned judge. William would stride into the middle of his court, pull him down from that high chair, and -
A momentary pang of hunger interrupted his thoughts. As he now stood, fully awake and frothing, William felt very cold. He turned and took in the countdown timer again.
William was numb. He could not move his feet, his hands no longer answered any command. In sullen agony, he looked towards the open supply closet.
He looked and stared and pleaded with himself that it wasn't true, that he was better than that, but no rage or reason could now change the fact that he had eaten the last of his provisions.