It's done now. If you have been reading along, you will notice that I rewrote the last part of the last section to remove an extra character. I keep forgetting these are supposed to be short stories and that adding new characters only paragraphs before the ending isn't a good idea. yep.
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN: PLEASE NOTE THAT THE g-WARNING LIGHTS ARE NOW ON. AT THIS TIME WE ASK THAT YOU RETURN TO YOUR SEATS AND ENSURE YOUR SAFETY NETTING AND THE SAFETY NETTING OF ANY CHILDREN TRAVELLING WITH YOU IS CORRECTLY BUCKLED AND FASTENED. PLACE ALL LIQUIDS INTO THE RECEPTACLE PROVIDED ON THE SEAT DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF YOU AND CLOSE THE LID SECURELY. FOOD AND BEVERAGE SERVICE WILL BE SUSPENDED TEMPORARILY WHILE THE g-WARNING LIGHTS ARE ON. FOR YOUR CONVENIENCE, COMPLIMENTARY SEDATIVES MAY BE FOUND IN THE BLUE POCKET ON THE RIGHT HAND SIDE OF YOUR SEAT. ATTENDANTS WILL BE ALONG SHORTLY TO PROVIDE ASSISTANCE ADMINISTERING YOUR SEDATIVES. WHILE SEDATIVES REMAIN AN OPTIONAL CONVENIENCE FOR ALL PASSENGERS ON BOARD CELESTIAL TRANS-GALAX FLIGHTS AS PER EEEDA REGULATIONS, CELESTIAL TRANS-GALAX RECOMMENDS SEDATION TO ENSURE ALL PASSENGERS EXPERIENCE THE EXEMPLERY LEVEL OF COMFORT AND PEACE OF MIND CELESTIAL TRANS-GALAX TAKES GREAT PRIDE IN OFFERING.
*Bzzt* Cabin clear-Attendants to pods-200 seconds to acceleration.
Skipper Anstill studied the small blue packet she found in the indicated blue pocket on the side of her passenger seat. It had the brightly coloured elliptical Celestial Trans-Galax logo emblazoned on the front. Printed in block text on the back: DILAMORPHOBUPRENYL. EEEDA approved, it said. She tore open the packet to find three translucent blue pellets and, stuffed deep into the far corner partly glued to the inside seam, a thin sheet of paper folded several times into a tiny square. Once unfolded, it turned out to be a list of side effects, and do not take if you are also taking etc. etc. Something about psychosis, something about internal bleeding, a block of text at the bottom that appeared to be written entirely in Latin.
Skipper pocketed the pills and turned her attention to the small window across the aisle. These were the cheap seats, with the windows facing the wrong direction to see anything other than infinite blackness interrupted by the occasional cluster of stars. Naturally, in the premium seating area on the opposite side of the ship, passengers were treated to an awe inspiring panorama of the earth and the moon, no doubt with the sun cresting behind in a wash of golden rays of premium beauty and premium loveliness. Skipper was almost positive she could hear classical music being piped through the loudspeakers on that side of the ship as well. Pondering a quick reconnaissance mission to confirm her suspicions of pretty music and epic views and free alcoholic beverages, her plans were presently interrupted by the cabin speakers blaring:
30 SECONDS TO THRUSTER BURN.
A single flight attendant bustled quickly down the aisle in Skipper’s direction. His uniform more closely resembled a set of hospital scrubs than it did the usual airline business suit you would expect to see on an in-atmosphere flight. Loose fitting pants and v-neck t-shirt with Velcro bands closed snugly around the cuffs of both arm and leg. Pockets on upper arm, chest, and thigh bulging with who-knows-what implements of space flight hospitality. Skipper noticed the uniform had the Celestial Trans-Galax logo embroidered on no less than five different spots about his person.
Wacky, she thought to herself. This was her very first space flight. All of these little oddities provided far more entertainment than the reality of being in space had thus far: the shuttle from surface up to orbit required all passengers to be sedated during transit, the orbital spaceport at which the Trans-Galax ships docked had centrifugal gravity and, bafflingly, no windows to speak of. To this point Skipper’s entire trip consisted of lying down on a padded seat, having a needle jammed into her arm, three hours of coma, and awakening in a windowless space port under normal gravity with nothing to see but fellow passengers looking either bored or bewildered depending on whether this was or was not their first time. Understandably, these measures were intended to ease the rigours of space flight for the widest possible selection of potential customers; old or infirm or delicate of stomach though they may be. To an energetic twenty year old girl like Skipper -who had blown an irresponsible lot of student loan money on the ticket anticipating adventure/excitement- this had all been quite boring, and frankly, totally lame.
“Do you need assistance with your netting?”
Skipper looked up. It was the flight attendant. He was looming over her. “My what?” she asked.
“All passengers are required to be secured by safety netting during accel and decel.” He reached with both hands across the far side of Skipper’s seat to pull a sheet of woven bungee from a side compartment, stretching it across her from her knees to just below her breasts. “Arms in please.”
Skipper put her arms in.
“Thank you.” With one quick yank he stretched the netting hard and latched it to the far side of her seat with three efficient motions: k-chink, k-chink, k-chink
It felt way too tight. She could not move her arms. This is more like it! she thought. It was, after all, the most exciting thing to happen to her so far.
5 SECONDS TO THRUSTER BURN, the loudspeakers blasted across the cabin. The floor began to vibrate. Skipper couldn’t wipe the stupid grin off her face if she tried. She wiggled her toes in anticipation.
The vibrations stopped. Silence. The air shimmered in front of Skipper’s face. She blinked her eyes rapidly, once-twice-thrice, but couldn’t focus. Are we moving? What’s happening? Is something wrong? All at once, Skipper’s internal organs squeezed against her spine. Her brain relocated itself to a position several miles aft of her skull. She sank several inches into the spongy foam of her passenger seat. Lifting a hand to wipe the tears from her eyes proved impossible. Hand would not move. Fingers would not go. She tried to open her jaw to scream but found her teeth clenched permanently shut.
GOOD AFTERNOON LADIES AND GENTLEMEN: THIS IS YOUR CO-PILOT, NOXIDERIAN McCORMACK, SPEAKING. ON BEHALF OF MYSELF, THE CAPTAIN, AND THE REST OF OUR CELESTIAL TRANS-GALAX FLIGHT CREW, I WOULD LIKE TO WELCOME YOU ABOARD CELESTIAL TRANS-GALAX FLIGHT B14457 SERVICE FROM EARTH ORBITAL TO TITAN STATION/SATURN. WE ARE CURRENTLY ACCELERATING AT A RATE OF EIGHT-POINT-SEVEN-FIVE GEE. FOR YOUR SAFETY WE ASK THAT YOU PLEASE DO NOT ATTEMPT TO MOVE UNTIL THE g-WARNING LIGHTS HAVE BEEN TURNED OFF. OUR ESTIMATED FLIGHT TIME IS 32 DAYS, 21 HOURS. THE CAPTAIN ASSURES ME WE HAVE A SMOOTH FLIGHT AHEAD WITH CLEAR SPACE FROM PLANET TO PLANET. NO HOSTILE ALIEN SPACECRAFT! HAHA! JUST KIDDING. WHILE THE LIKELIHOOD OF FIRST CONTACT WITH AN ALIEN RACE IS REMOTE; SHOULD SUCH AN EVENTUALITY OCCUR, PLEASE REFER TO THE FIRST CONTACT AND YOU: COMMUNICATION PROCEDURES FOR HUMAN PASSENGERS PAMPHLET IN THE SEAT BACK POCKET DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF YOU. AGAIN I WOULD LIKE TO THANK YOU FOR CHOOSING CELESTIAL TRANS-GALAX AND WISH YOU A MOST PLEASANT JOURNEY.
Stars spun round and round in Skipper’s vision. The ship melted into a warm syrupy goo. Once again she tried to scream, her mind racing frantically to interpret the sensory overload: Do not attempt to move do not attempt to move Noxiderian says not to move there were sedatives optional convenience for my convenience should have taken should have do not attempt to move move move…
*Bzzt* Cabin crew brace for free fall in 5… 4… 3…
“Ooonnnggg,” groaned Skipper. All eight-point-seven-five gravities of force disappeared in an instant. The sensation was like waking up after a long night of Eastern Bloc-level drinking to find yourself hanging upside down, a hundred feet in the air, from a rope, suspended under a bridge, in a hurricane. In Skipper’s mind the front end of the cabin became the floor. Meaning, what used to be forward was now straight down. Her inner ear pointedly insisted that she was hanging feet first looking down on the side of a cliff. It was too much for her stomach, which had had quite enough of all this excitement and made to protest in the only way it knew how:
In any other circumstances, Skipper would have been fascinated by the way the liquid receptacle on the seat in front of her automatically slid open. Delighted that it had a built in vacuum function. And amazed at how it did not miss a single drop of her explosively regurgitated breakfast. All very clever machinery. Very smart.
“Floor is down,” she said aloud to herself in hopes it would convince her brain to get on board with the reality of the situation. “Chair is connected to the floor, therefore I am on the floor. Opposite of the floor is ceiling. Ceiling is UP.” It didn’t work. The liquid receptacle opened halfway, as if it somehow knew what she was thinking. Okay okay okay, I’m on my way to see Saturn’s rings up close. Dream come true. Hold it together. Eyes closed tight, she disentangled herself from the safety netting and floated free of her seat. It was officially her first ever zero gravity experience. Well, conscious experience anyway. Being in a drug induced, EEEDA approved coma for transport to the spaceport hardly counted.
I should have taken the drugs. Opening her eyes was first on the agenda. The vertigo would never go away if she didn’t. Skipper Anstill hovered in the aisle curled into a ball. Thirsty. The taste of bile lingered at the back of her throat. You can do this. She opened her left eye a sliver. Then the right. Floor is down. And this time, thankfully, her brain agreed. There was nothing exciting to see out the windows, and nothing had changed in the passenger cabin, only the perspective granted to one now floating in midair gave the entire thing an alien quality. It was sort of like lying on the floor of your bedroom looking up at the ceiling and imaging what everything would be like from the perspective of the ant making its inverted trek across the stucco texture. Rows upon rows of sleeping space tourists in their bungee cocoons lined the aisle. In the absence of gravity, it only required a slight twist of internal logic to see the seats as upside down or sideways. Skipper’s stomach grumbled in warning. She made a mental note to avoid any further experiments in orientation logic for the time being. The flight attendants would probably get mad at her if she vomited out of range of the vomit-vacuum.
Magellanic Cloud 9? Skipper cringed when she heard that. “So cheesy,” she said, to no one in particular. There were precious few people awake nearby to hear it. By the looks of things, sedation was a very popular option on these flights. At least two thirds of the passengers were dead to the world, snoozing serenely ensconced in bungee. Flight attendants were busy drifting through the rows connecting IV’s to the unconscious people. Skipper swooped up behind the nearest attendant. “Hey!”
“Yes?” the attendant replied over her shoulder as she inserted a needle into the vein of an unconscious passenger.
“What are you doing?”
“These are feeding tubes. The sedatives usually last about 24 hours. They will be dehydrated when they wake up if we don’t hook them up to the tubes.”
“Can I help you with anything?”
“How do I get to the medical station? I’m not feeling well.”
The flight attendant pointed. “There’s a map in the commons area, back there. Look for deck number 3.”
Skipper flipped over and pulled herself towards the commons area, tapping the seats with her hands on either side to pick up speed. She very nearly collided with a child zipping along the other direction. The boy deftly kicked at an armrest and vaulted out of Skipper’s path. “Careful! I new at this!” she shouted at him. He made a stupid face at her and launched himself away. The zero-g stuff wasn’t as easy as it looked in the tutorial videos they had shown her back at the spaceport.
Just ahead there was a circular portal with bright orange block letters: DECK 5 PASSENGER COMMONS. On the other side, the ship opened up into a comfortably spacious mezzanine with large windows along the walls. The room was an oval with padded hand holds on ceiling and floor for people to push themselves around the room. Portals identical to the one Skipper came in through were located above, below, and directly across. The map the flight attendant mentioned hovered in the center of the room. This commons area was the middle floor of a vertical series of living decks stacked on top of each other. Aiming for the medical station, Skipper headed down through the portal on the floor, down through deck 4. Deck 4 was the location of the bar the loudspeakers had advertised earlier. Skipper could hear the OOM-pssh-OOM-pssh sound of bar music coming from behind the extra large and garishly flashing MAGELLANIC CLOUD 9 entrance portal. She hovered there for a moment, hesitating. Well.. maybe if I eat something. Yes! Eating. And drinking. A lot. That’ll fix me right up. Skipper pushed off the floor and dove through the portal to CLOUD 9.
It was weird. There were tables, of a sort. Padded circular things with square Velcro patches in the middle. No chairs. Skipper went over to one and saw loops under it to hook your feet into. Which made sense, considering the crazy part: that not only were there tables on the floor, where a sensible person would put them, but tables on the walls around the windows and tables up above on the ceiling. People were sitting sideways. People were sitting upside down. The bar had two tiers, one oriented the normal direction connected to the floor, with bartenders serving the floor section, and another inverted above it connected to the ceiling with a second set of bartenders who were themselves inverted to serve the ceiling section. Skipper looked up at the ceiling bar as if she were looking down on it from above, but when she directed her gaze back to straight ahead there was the floor bar again with bartenders standing the right way up, looking at her. They were waving her over. Fighting off another wave of vertigo, she made a bee-line for the bar. The one connected to the floor, the correct place for it to be connected.
MAGELLANIC CLOUD 9 served a range of bizarre looking concoctions, all of which were bottled in airtight clear plastic cylinders with a nipple at the top. Baby bottles but fancier. Skipper ordered a blue bottle of water and made her way to an empty table near a window. At the table, the purpose of the Velcro patches became immediately clear. The base of her bottle had a corresponding patch of its own. She stuck her bottle to the patch and tried to get comfortable with the seating arrangement. It involved hooking her legs into a loop set beneath the table and folding them under like she was sitting on her knees. As awkward as it looked, it turned out to be reasonably comfortable after some fidgeting around to get a good position.
Skipper gazed out the windows, trying to parse all of this new stimuli and atmosphere. In addition to the loud music and chatter of nearby passengers, the ship made a lot of distressing vibrations and noises. Sometimes the walls would vibrate briefly, sometimes there were mechanical PSSH! and GLONG! and grrEEESHHHHH sounds coming from behind them. As much as Celestial Trans-Galax had made sincere efforts towards decreasing the traumatic nature of space travel, it still came off as a thin veneer of well intended lies wrapped around a very frightening reality: she was sitting in a thin metal tube, one of several, bolted together and strapped to a rocket engine the size of tennis court hurtling through space at an obscene rate of speed. Shuddering, Skipper took a drink of her water.
The floor started shaking again, more strongly than before. A low bass rumble could be heard coming from the rear of the ship. All at once the lights went out. People at nearby tables whispered to each other in hushed, fearful tones. Emergency strip lighting along the walls blinked on tentatively. Hushed tones turned into louder questions directed at the bar serving staff wherever they might be, it was impossible to tell in the darkness. Skipper made to add her voice to the chorus when a blindingly bright light flashed in her eyes. It was one of the waitresses floating around the bar with flashlight in hand. “Stay there,” the waitress said, “the power will be back on in just a sec.”
“Umm, alright. What’s happening?” Skipper asked.
The waitress didn’t answer, she was already on her way to the another table, flashing her light directly in the eyes of more frightened passengers.
It didn’t seem normal, in Skipper’s estimation. The rumbling was getting louder.
That had been the loudspeakers. There was definitely nothing normal about that. Skipper pushed away from her table and made for the exit by following the red emergency lights along the walls and floor. There had to be someone somewhere who knew what was going on. As she approached the exit portal the noise increased exponentially, like thunder being broadcast directly into her mind. Resting a hand on the portal into the commons area, she could feel it juddering as though the ship had been caught in some kind of turbulence. But what turbulence could their possibly be? There was no atmosphere.
ATTENTION PASSENGERS: RETURN TO FLIGHT CABIN IMMEDbzzzztt…zzzt… SAFETY NETTING AND THE SAFETY NETTING OF ANYzzzzt… zztRANS-GALAX APOLOGIZES FOR ANY INCONVENzzztt…. bbzzzzzzz… zzt… BRACE FOR bzzzzt… IN 5…
Skipper realized just then that she had heard that rumbling sound before. She had heard it on this very ship only an hour before.
Fumbling along the wall with hands outstretched in the darkness, her fingers groped for something to hang on to. There was nothing. Up to the right, nothing. Down to the left, an air vent, too small to stick her hand into. The room lit up with a flash of orange from outside the window. What the hell was that!? Desperate now, she pushed away from the portal to CLOUD 9. Her right elbow bumped into a grab loop. She latched on to it hard with boths hands, squeezed her eyes shut, and waited for what she knew was about to happen.
Once again, stars spun round in the periphery of Skipper's vision. Again the air shimmered, exactly as it had the first time. Silence. The grab loop tore off the wall instantly. That was Skipper’s initial interpretation, anyway. In reality it had been Skipper herself being ripped free, the loop had stayed put on the wall it was bolted to. She puzzled this out during her rapid transit across the room, shortly before slamming feet first into the adjacent wall at the Celestial Trans-Galax standard acceleration rate of eight-point-seven-five gee. Fortunately for Skipper, the wall was padded. Unfortunately for Skipper, the angle of impact was not ideal. If you dive straight into water, with hands or feet first, all is well. If you hit the surface just a little bit off, things have a way of going pear shaped for you. In this case, Skipper collided with the wall like a bug creaming into a tour bus windshield at seventy miles an hour on a hot summer day.
ATTENTION PASSENGERS: THIS IS YOUR CO-PILOT, NOXIDERIAN McCORMACK, SPEAKING. BE ADVISED THEY WE ARE CURRENTLY EXPERIENCING A MINOR MECHANICAL ISSUE. REST ASSURED THAT WE ARE WORKING DILIGENTLY TO RECTIFY THE SITUATION AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE. WHILE THIS UNSCHEDULED ACCELERATION PERSISTS, WE ASK THAT YOU REMAIN STATIONARY IN YOUR SEATS AND MAKE NO ATTEMPTS TO MOVE. EMERGENCY STAFF WILL BE EN ROUTE TO ASSIST PASSENGERS WHO WERE UNABLE TO REACH THEIR SEATS ONCE ACCELERATION HAS ENDED. AT THIS TIME CELESTIAL TRANS-GALAX WOULD LIKE TO EXTEND A SINCERE APOLOGY TO ALL PASSENGERS FOR THIS MINOR INCONVENIENCE.
ATTENTION LADIES AND GENTLEMEN: AS A RESULT OF THE UNSCHEDULED ACCELERATION OUR COURSE HAS BEEN ALTERED. WE WILL NO LONGER BE ABLE TO REACH TITAN STATION/SATURN AS SCHEDULED. CELESTIAL TRANS-GALAX URGES PASSENGERS NOT TO DISMAY, HOWEVER, AS FORTUNE HAS IT OUR CURRENT VECTOR WILL ALLOW US TO PASS WITHIN 25,000 KILOMETRES OF NEPTUNE, PROVIDING A CLOSE UP VIEW OF THE GAS GIANT AS YET UNPRECEDENTED ON COMMERCIAL SPACE FLIGHTS. CELESTIAL TRANS-GALAX TAKES GREAT PRIDE IN PUSHING THE BOUNDARIES OF SPACE TOURISM FOR ONE AND ALL.
ATTENTION LADIES AND GENTLEMAN: WE APOLOGIZE FOR ANY DISCOMFORT YOU MAY BE EXPERIENCING AS A RESULT OF EXTENDED EXPOSURE TO ACCELERATION GEE FORCES. I AM NOW BEING INFORMED BY OUR FLIGHT CREW THAT, PENDING ONGOING MECHANICAL REPAIRS, WE MAY CONTINUE ACCELERATING BEYOND NEPTUNE TOWARDS THE KUIPER BELT AND POTENTIALLY INTO INTERSTELLAR SPACE. WE ASK THAT ALL PASSENGERS PLEASE REMAIN CALM. IF THE CURRENT UNSCHEDULED ACCELERATION CANNOT BE HALTED MANUALLY, WE WILL, EVENTUALLY, EXHAUST OUR FUEL TANKS. REST ASSURED, AN EMERGENCY RESCUE TUG HAS BEEN DISPATCHED. AT CURRENT RELATIVE SPEED, THE RESCUE TUG WILL RENDESVOUS WITH US IN AN ESTIMATED TWO-POINT-FIVE TO THREE YEARS. SPEAKING FOR MYSELF, THE FLIGHT CREW, THE CABIN CREW, AND CELESTIAL TRANS-GALAX HQ BACK ON EARTH, WE LOOK FORWARD TO MAKING YOUR EXTENDED STAY ABOARD FLIGHT B14457 A PLEASANT ONE.
thanks for reading. i'm still not comfortable writing like this but I think it's getting easier. not sure if this story is any good. Please check back in two weeks for a new story.