After This Life
by Janna Silverstein
The woman next to Warden Chapelle was the first female Jake Drogan had seen in
person in years. She sat on one side of a circle of folding chairs set up in the blue
room. That was where they held group therapy sessions for other inmates: touchy-feely stuff, pastel colors, a little too much lemon-scented air freshener and waxy
floor cleaner. The wire-embedded windows looked out onto chain link fences and
razor wire, putting a lie to the illusion of normalcy. The four guards didn't help,
He was surprised the conference wasn't being held in a non-contact room, but he
wasn't going to ask about it. It was time out of his cell, cushy and colorful; that
was what mattered. But he was still cold from the strip search.
This woman -- as Drogan took a chair in the circle, he couldn't stop looking at
her. His mouth was dry and he licked his lips, rubbing them with one hand at the
same time to hide it.
She seemed to be in her thirties. Nice figure, he guessed, but he couldn't be
completely sure because of the dark suit jacket she wore. The jacket hid her hips,
too. Slim legs in tailored pants. Smart not to show her legs here, but damn!
Straight hair cut short and falling around her cheeks like parentheses. Dark-rimmed glasses perched on her forehead. Egghead chic.
A woman. A pretty one.
Drogan squeezed the half-dollar in his left hand, feeling the edges cutting into the
calluses in his palm. Weird to feel again, to feel anything again, here.
He took a seat along with the three other prisoners escorted to the room --
Mitchell, Villanova, Pasco, he knew all these guys -- leaned his elbows on his
knees, looked at the woman and waited.
"All right now," Chapelle drawled. "This is Dr. Louisa Ferrara. She's got a
proposition for you boys, approved by the governor. You be good now. You
listen to what she's got to say."
"Gentlemen," she said.
Villanova -- 24, scarred across one brown cheek, stick thin, tattooed and
unrepentant -- snickered. "Who she think she talkin' to?"
"Hey!" Chapelle snapped. The woman started. Villanova shut up. "Go on, Dr.
"I'm from TransLumina Transports, with the R&D group," she went on. "We're
developing something new, and we need people to work with us."
Drogan knew the name TransLumina. Twelve years ago, they were the first
company to market commercial teleportation services. They'd revolutionized
business, put a bunch of shipping companies into the crapper and created a new
economy. At least, that's what Drogan had gotten from the newspapers. To a guy
like him, a gardener -- well, a death row convict -- it was pretty remote.
Ferrara opened a leather briefcase and pulled out a handful of booklets, handed
them to Mitchell on her left. "Please pass these around," she asked.
Drogan put away his half dollar, took the batch, kept one and passed the rest to
Villanova. Beneath a cover page sporting the slick TransLumina logo and the
word "Confidential" were thirty pages of information and technical-looking
diagrams. Drogan flipped through it, suppressed a smile. Who'd they put these
things together for? He had an associate's degree, but most of the guys in here
hadn't finished high school.
"Until now," Ferrara said, "TransLumina transport technology has been used only
to ship construction materials, manufactured goods and so forth. We've spent the
last five years working on something new. Would you please open your booklets
to page five?"
Drogan flipped over the table of contents and confidentiality statements. There
the heading said, "Light transmission of living subjects."