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The day to leave Earth had finally arrived! I awoke earlier than I had set the alarm for. I was bursting with excitement and energy. I could barely contain myself, but I knew I had to be quiet so that I didn’t wake my mother or Allan.
I had written them both notes. The one for my mother was short and to the point. I told her where I was going, with whom I was going, and when I thought I’d return. I told her not to worry about me. In Allan’s note I wrote about how I was going to far-off exotic lands on an adventure to meet some aliens. I apologized for not being able to take him along and promised to tell him all about my exciting venture as soon as I returned. His letter was longer.
I tiptoed out of my room and softly made my way to their rooms, leaving the appropriate note at the door to each. I then returned to my room to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything. I had packed more clothes than I could possibly need, but never thought to discard anything. I had always overpacked when I’d gone to see my Aunt Hilda or to visit colleges, the only trips I’d ever taken. I threw my journal in the bag too, so I could record my adventures, and keep it from prying eyes at the same time. I had also brought along all the essentials-a hairbrush, deodorant, perfume, toothbrush and toothpaste, soap and a set of towels. I wanted to be able to look nice in case I met any sexy aliens, or if Arden ever changed his mind. The latter was the preferable possibility, but also more unlikely.
I had continued to give Arden the cold shoulder all week. I wasn’t completely sure why. I missed him terribly. I wanted nothing more than I wanted to be near him, but I kept pushing him away. It did make the healing process go faster, however.
When I decided that it was finally time to go, I took my luggage and went to my window ledge. When my mom went to bed, she always put the Instant Alarm on and didn’t disable it until she woke up. If I tried to leave through the front door, the motion sensors would ring out wildly, waking up the entire town. For that reason, I knew I had to escape through my window.
I opened the window and screen and scrunched myself through the small opening. It was a good thing my room was on the first floor. The ground wasn’t all that far below me, but I still had to jump.
I landed on both feet, thankfully. I felt a sense of freedom overwhelm me. I took a deep breath. I was so glad I didn’t have to be a ball of seething silence anymore. That had been next to impossible; my soul was screaming with excitement!
The sun had not yet risen, much to my delight. The sky was a deep navy blue. The moon was bright, casting eerie shadows everywhere. The wind whispered through the branches of trees in a language I couldn’t quite catch. The grass below me felt cool, soft and damp with dew. I just stood for awhile and admired my surroundings, knowing I wouldn’t be in their graceful presence for some time.
A feeling of nostalgia swept over me. The sheer magic and beauty of the night had always been inspiration to me. It was a feeling, an atmosphere, that could never be done justice in words. It was indescribable. Just being outside at night captivated and intrigued me. I felt honored to be on this great Earth when I was outside after dusk. It made me feel that there was so much out there I’d never begin to comprehend, so much enchantment. But at the same time, it made me feel that I was a significant part of everything. I could see the perfection, the divine nature of the world, even when life really sucked.
The stars and sky above held so much mystery for me. Soon I’d be there, part of that world. It excited me, yet at the same time I wanted to savor my last few moments among the heavenly splendors of the night. I walked to Melissa’s house slowly.
I was actually very lucky to still be able to have the chance to wander and walk with night’s supreme and divine beauty. Awhile ago-about a hundred years back, way before my time-there had been a movement by a group of scientists who wanted to basically create nature in a laboratory. With genetic engineering they said they could devise the most beautiful scenery, with grass that stayed a luscious green no matter what the weather was, and trees designed to match each person’s tastes exactly. Some could have trees that had colored leaves all year round, others could choose ones that never lost a leaf. Under this proposal, the scientists said they could allow any species of animals to thrive anywhere, and could even generate new hybrid species. The flowers could be organically grown and genetically manipulated as well. They even wanted to create manufactured mountains.
The general public fought back hard against this proposition. While they were eager to buy the latest technological toy to improve their home, or travel instantaneously, nature was one thing they would not mess with. The religious fanatics all got up on their soapboxes to protest the destruction of God’s divine creation. Others loved what they had with all its imperfections and wanted no artificial substitute. Still others were wary of the whole genetic engineering idea; its popularity had waned years ago. The natural surroundings had been constant since life on Earth began, so many just felt it shouldn’t be tampered with. I was glad that they’d smashed down the proposal and allowed my haven to thrive.
I felt so peaceful as I entered the gate to Melissa’s vast backyard. Walking at night never ceased to have a calming effect on me. It was a brush with perfect serenity. I felt an inner tranquility settle within me; I felt that I was just as magical as my ethereal atmosphere, and that all of Earth was my oyster. Perhaps all of the universe.
I walked over to where everyone was gathered, near the shuttle. Surprisingly, I was the last one to arrive, even though I had left so early. I supposed I was walking slower that I’d realized. Oh well, it’d been worth it.
“Good, you’re here,” Melissa said. She and Todd were standing up at opposite ends of the front of the group. Todd kept looking off to his right at the rocket. Melissa kept shifting the position of her hands, folding them, playing with her hair, twisting them behind her back.
The others were sitting on the grass. Arden sat close to Todd, obviously hanging on to every spoken word. Ray Ann was doing the same, to his right. They both seemed very interested in what they were about to hear. Pammy and John sat behind them, locked in each others’ arms and whispering sweet nothings to one anther that probably meant nothing to either of them. Seth sat off to the far right of the group, playing with the grass. He appeared distracted. I chose to sit behind him, and made sure to focus on our teachers. I couldn’t look at Pammy and John; they were making me sick.
“I don’t really know how much any of you know about space travel,” Melissa began. “I don’t know too much about it myself, but I’ll give you the basics. You each have to wear one of these space outfits when we start preparing to enter any alien worlds. They fit easily over your clothes and don’t infringe on your freedom of movement at all. They regulate body heat, air pressure and gravity so that the human body can adjust to any atmosphere.” She held up a thin purple shirt with blue pants. They were very shiny and almost looked metallic.
“Ew,” Pammy said disdainfully, taking her eyes off of John for a split second. “They won’t bring out the green in my eyes. I think they’re ugly. I don’t want to wear that.”
“It’s not a fashion show. We’ll all be wearing them,” Ray Ann pointed out, annoyance evident in her voice.
“It’s a matter of survival,” Melissa informed her. “If you don’t wear these, you don’t leave the ship, because without them, you’ll die.”
Pammy nodded reluctantly.
“Consider yourself lucky,” Todd put in. “When humanity began space travel they had to wear huge, bulky, silver suits that didn’t let them move much at all. They also had to wear huge helmets. I think you should be glad you have these modern space clothes.”
Pammy nodded a little less reluctantly.
“Moving on,” Melissa continued, “there are oxygen tanks and masks to wear when we first step on to the planet. The rocket’s air generators simulate Earth’s atmosphere so they won’t be needed on the ship. Once we’re all wearing these, we can communicate with the little microphones embedded into the masks.” She demonstrated for us how to attach the tank and mask to each other and then fasten them to the space clothes. She went into great detail about how to check if the connection was clear in the joining tube.
“From the research I’ve done on my own, these shouldn’t be necessary. It appears that Isadrine’s air is almost an exact match to ours. When we step on the new world, however, we will wear these just to be on the safe side. If the atmosphere is too thin, we’ll still need them for communication,” Todd told us. The chains in his hair swung in rhythm to his speech; it was quite amusing to watch.
“Sally will take care of our food,” Melissa said. She gestured to a kitchen robot that she’d taken from her house. “I’ve packed enough to feed us all for two weeks, so there should be plenty to eat.”
“Wait a minute!” Todd exclaimed, turning towards her for the first time. “Who’s Sally? I thought there were only eight people coming.” He began to count us off on his fingers.
Great, I thought inwardly. This guy needs to count on his fingers and we’re trusting him to fly us into outer space?
“No, dummy, Sally’s the robot!” John called out.
“Oh!” Todd said. He looked surprised, then embarrassed at his mistake.
“As I was saying, I’ve supplied Sally with more than enough food to cook and serve us during our flight,” Melissa said, bringing us back to important matters.
“Is there a kitchen in the ship where we can all sit and eat?” Pammy asked.
“Yes. There’s the robotic kitchen where Sally will make all of our food. Then the’s the Serving Buffet Window, which is in the front of a small cafeteria with four tables for us to sit at. There’s a tray dispenser at the far right side of the Window. It’s set up a lot like the one at Learning Lab, except that this cafeteria is much smaller,” Melissa replied. “Come, I’ll give you a tour of the ship.”
All of us who’d been sitting on the grass quickly stood. Todd took an enormous remote control out of the backpack he’d been wearing. It was black with buttons of all different colors and sizes. He pressed a big red one, and doors on the spaceship opened.
We walked silently inside, hardly daring to breathe too loud. I was in awe of the silver ship, though in my opinion it was kind of ugly. It looked like a huge robot with its angular walls and distinct color. But despite it’s appearance, it was taking us into outer space and therefore was incredible to me.
Once we had all entered the spacecraft, Todd shut the doors behind us with the larger-than-life controller. We were in an extremely cold and airy room that was completely dark.
“This is the Transition Cell,” Melissa informed us. “I actually don’t know exactly what it does. Todd, you can explain, right?”
“Sure,” he said. “It’s the bridge between the spaceship and its outside environment. It’s not pressurized like the rest of the vehicle and the temperature in here isn’t regulated. Before we step onto alien lands it is necessary to spend at least thirty minutes in the Transition Cell so that our bodies can become adjusted to a lack of pressure and to start the space clothes working. It also works as a cushion for the rocket. This cell surrounds the entire base to protect it from any danger, such as flying space debris, solar wind, and other damaging particles. Also, if we’re running out of power, or moving too slowly, I can disconnect the whole cell to make us lighter and enable us to fly faster.”
“Wow, he’s brilliant,” Pammy said, breathless. She had been standing next to me, but had begun floating due to the lack of pressure. I noticed my own feet lifting off of the ground.
“I bet you didn’t even understand half of it,” Ray Ann remarked.
“I didn’t understand any of it, but that’s okay.” Pammy smiled. “He’s cute.”
“Hey!” John protested.
“Not as cute as you, though,” she added hastily and promptly reached for his hand.
“We’d better put on our space clothes or move on,” Seth said. “Otherwise we’ll all float away.”
This time another set of doors swung open. We were sucked inside immediately.
I looked around me to see what looked like a large rectangular living room. The walls were wood-paneled. The rug was a dull gray. There were couches and chairs of all different sizes scattered about. A table with an untouched deck of cards upon it stood in the far left corner with a large window above it. A huge ITV sat along the wall opposite us. There were little lights spaced out all across the ceiling to illuminate the room, but it still had a somewhat dim result. Remakes of famous pieces of art adorned the walls.
My eyes settled on a drawing by the world-renowned Jennifer White. She had used the pseudonym Delicate Flower in her time, which to me was quite ironic because she never created anything delicate; her artwork was of a dark nature. She had been quite successful at the beginning of the twenty-first century. She was by far my favorite artist; she was always creative and unconventional. I had once tried to tell my computer to order me a replica, but it instantly told me I didn’t have enough cash for that.
“This looks like an old house,” I commented, breaking the silence
“I know. My parents wanted it that way. It should be really comfortable to stay in. This room is actually modeled after one in my house, made with synthetic lightweight material, of course.”
“You must have a really nice home, then,” Seth told her. The room was about half the size of his entire home.
“Thanks.” Melissa blushed slightly. She then showed us the cafeteria. It looked very similar to the living room; it had the same rug, walls and lights. It had four tables that each seated four.
“How come there are more seats than there can be passengers?” Arden asked. Hearing his clear, strong and sexy voice made my soul cringe inside.
“I’m not sure exactly. Maybe it’s for potential alien visitors who wish to dine with us.” She laughed, cracking her knuckles. “It’s most likely because this is the way my parents thought looked best, was the most aesthetically appealing. They’re pretty big on stuff like that.”
Next, she led us to the nearby Serving Buffet Window. We were all hungry. She punched the “Breakfast” button, set it for half an hour later, and ordered it to serve eight people.
We saw the bedrooms next. There were five of them in a narrow hallway next to the kitchen and cafeteria. Each had a set of bunk beds (except for the master room, which had a double bed), a large closet, a desk, a dresser, and a full-sized bathroom. One wall of each room was a huge mirror, but the rest again resembled the remainder of the ship’s rooms with their dark wood paneling. The lights were again dim and scattered.
Ray Ann and I took the first room on the right. Pammy and Melissa shared the one next to us. Across the hall from us was the room that Seth and Todd claimed after Arden and John chose the one at the end of the hall.
The latter was a rather strange combination; I didn’t think either liked the other much. But of course Arden had to be as far away from me as possible, not that I cared. Not a bit. He probably wanted to steer clear of Seth too, because he knew that Seth would hurt anyone who crossed me, although I was perfectly capable of causing the damage myself. I noticed that Seth was as close to my room as he could be. I made a mental note to keep my door locked. The only room left empty was the one that belonged to Melissa’s parents, the master bedroom.
Next we were led out of bedroom wing, back through the cafeteria, across the living room and into the control room. This looked totally different from the others. All the walls were painted white with the slightest hint of blue. The carpet was shock-absorbent, and aquamarine in color. There was a huge desk against one wall that had three different computers on it. Above it was a bulletin board with star mappings, fuel charts and instructions for different parts of the ship’s engine. The desk was littered with papers. There were all kinds of strange-looking machines and buttons scattered about. Then there were the actual controls, against the wall joining the one with the massive desk, that actually flew, maneuvered and directed the starship.
Todd began explaining how all of the different gadgets worked to propel and regulate the craft. It appeared most of us were lost by the second sentence. The one part I did catch was that in case of emergency we needed to hit the blue gizmo right next to the door to the control room. He told us that it would activate the back-up generators immediately. Then we’d be able to survive by keeping the temperature and pressure standard, and stopping the engine until the problem was fixed.
“And this,” he said, gesturing to a small door in the corner, “is the door to the engine. Everything’s in there. The fuel, the alpha and delta drives, the generators, all the stuff that creates the wormholes for us, the speed modulators, everything. I don’t want any of you ever going in there. The chemicals could be very dangerous if not handles properly.” He continued on as though he were reading a textbook. I tried to pay attention, really I did.
By the time we finished the lecture, it was time to eat breakfast. I was starved. At the first station of the Serving Buffet Window, the display read “PANCAKES” in bright red digital letters. I pushed the button to request three. The tray came forward, out of the bottom of the silver station, with three pancakes, cooked perfectly. I eagerly put them on the plate on my tray. I moved down the rest of the Window and took bacon, eggs and a large glass of orange juice. I carried my tray to the table farthest from the Window, in the corner of the room, where I saw Seth and Ray Ann already eating. Pammy and John were at the table next to them, practically sharing a chair. Arden and Todd sat at the table near the tray return. Melissa was still on line. I took a seat next to Ray Ann.
“This is so cool,” she remarked.
“I know,” I replied. “It’s already great and we haven’t even taken off yet.”
“I never thought a spaceship could look so much like a normal house,” Seth put in.
“Can I sit here?” I looked up to see Melissa standing by the empty seat next to me.
“Sure,” I replied. She sat down gingerly and set her tray on the table gently.
“So, when are we leaving Earth?” Ray Ann asked her.
“Todd’s going to start preparing for lift-off as soon as we’re done eating. It’ll take fifteen minutes after that before we can actually blast off.”
“Wow. I thought it would take longer than that,” I said. Melissa shook her head.
“Have you ever flown before?” Seth asked.
Melissa turned to him. “When I was younger I flew a lot. I’ve been to Mars, Saturn, Titan,, Adrastea, Europa, Ariel and Neptune. They’ve never wanted to take me out of the solar system. They’re a bit paranoid and overprotective.”
“That sucks,” he replied sympathetically.
“Yeah, I really wanted to fly by Sirius with them. I tried every possible strategy I knew of to convince them to let me go with them, but nothing worked.”
“What’s the farthest place they’ve visited?” Ray Ann asked, interested.
“Hmm, I think 44 light years would be it. They took a one-week vacation to see the planets circling Upsilon Andromedae once.”
“Huh?” Seth asked.
“Three planets, all gas giants, orbit the star. It was the first planetary system orbiting a sun-like entity outside of our own to be discovered, just before the turn of the twenty-first century,” Ray Ann informed him in a very authoritative voice.
“Well, excuse me for not knowing,” Seth retorted. “I’m just not as brilliant as you, Ray Ann.”
“I know,” she replied smugly.
“Don’t worry about it,”Melissa told him, smiling. “I don’t know most of this either and I grew up with it.”
“You’re so lucky,” Ray Ann said enviously.
“Not really,” Melissa replied. Her expression became solemn. She didn’t elaborate on her comment.
“So, Josie, are you dealing okay?” Seth asked after a short pause. “You’ve barely mentioned the breakup at all since Monday.” There was obvious concern in his voice.
“Sure, man, I’m fine. It’s not like I ever loved Arden.” My sarcasm didn’t make me feel any better. I glanced in his direction. It hurt.
“Are you ready for a new relationship, then?” Seth flashed me a sly smile.
“I suppose, if I find the right guy, which is pretty difficult these days, you know.”
“Is that a date?” Seth asked.
“Are you serious, Josie?” Melissa asked, surprised.
“I didn’t say I was ready for a relationship with you,” I told Seth. “That time won’t come until the sun turns blue.”
“I just keep getting rejected!” He threw his hands up in frustration. “Now, down to business, does anyone know how to change the color of the sun?”
“I wish I did,” Ray Ann replied with a grin. “I’m starting to really feel the frustration.”
“And if you did ever get together in your closet again, could you videotape it for me, just this once? Pretty please?” Seth pleaded.
“No, you’d just laugh at my ugly face.”
“Of course, but I do that anyway, Ray Ann. That’s just a given, so we needn’t concern ourselves with it. Besides, I really want to see you and Josie in action.”
“I don’t like to perform in front of an audience,” I protested. “It makes me feel self-conscious and my true animal instincts will be inhibited.”
“You could unleash them on me at your will,” Seth offered.
“Wait a minute!” Melissa exclaimed, after listening to our insane talk without comment. “Do you guys really fool around? I thought you were kidding, but I guess not.” She reddened. “Sorry to pry. You don’t have to answer that if you don’t want to. I don’t mean to insult you; I’m just, um, surprised is all.” She looked positively stunned.
I laughed. “We’re kidding around. The story about Ray Ann and I being lovers has been a continuing joke for awhile in our group. Sometimes we just run with it for a few laughs. And yes, Seth’s been asking to watch for as long as the joke’s been around, perhaps even before that.”
Melissa smiled and appeared quite relieved. “Are you really over Arden already?”
“No,” I said flatly. “I try to make little jokes to myself and pretend I don’t care, but none of that works. The weird thing is that I know it does no good, but I still do it. It’s my coping strategy.”
“It must be very difficult,” Melissa replied sympathetically. She patted me on the arm. “I’m sure you’ll be okay, even though it may take awhile to get over him.”
By that time I was close to tears, but I held them in forcefully. There was no way I’d cry right there where Arden could see me. Again, I looked in his direction, but only for a second. Only long enough to make sure he was engrossed in conversation with Todd, rather than paying attention to our noisy table. Of course a small part of me wished that he would look my way.
“I don’t know,” I said doubtfully, my melancholy resonating in my voice. I closed my eyes tightly to avoid a waterfall. “Sometimes I don’t think it’ll ever stop hurting. It’s like an open, bleeding wound. And every time I see him a huge bucket of salt is poured in.”
“I’m sorry.” I noticed Melissa said that often. “I shouldn’t have invited him. I’ve probably ruined the trip for you before it’s even begun.”
I didn’t want her to feel bad or blame herself for my misery. “Don’t worry about it. Just because I’ll be traveling through space with him doesn’t mean I have to talk to him. And,” I added with a plastic smile, “he is fun to look at.”
“So are you,” Seth told me.
“Maybe you could try getting him back,” Ray Ann suggested.
“If I thought I could, I would have started trying the second after we hung up last Sunday. It was pretty final. He doesn’t want to deal with my crazy moods anymore. I don’t blame him; I don’t want to deal with them either! I just don’t have a choice.”
“I deal with them every day and bear your abuse all the time. With all I do for you, you still can’t spare me a kiss?” Seth implored, pretending to be deeply offended. “I consider this a crime against mankind, a mortal sin. Come on, can’t I at least have a ghost of a chance?”
“No, leave me alone.” I was no longer in the mood for joking. I noticed that Todd had risen from his table and returned his tray. I saw Arden look in my direction. I gave him a nasty look and then averted my eyes and stared at my plate. Suddenly I didn’t feel too hungry.
“Wow, she’s just handing out these rejections right and left,” Ray Ann said.
“Yeah, you’re quite the heartbreaker today,” Melissa put in, trying to elicit a smile from me.
“More like I’m the heartbroken,” I replied morosely.
Melissa was about to say something when Todd commanded our attention. His chains rattled as he talked. His voice was gruff. “I’d like to start preparing to leave now. First, I have to get the exact coordinates for Isadrine and it’s relation to Sigma Draconis.”
“Can we come too?” Ray Ann asked. “I want to be in the control room when we take off. It’ll be so cool to watch firsthand.”
“Sure. You can all come as long as you don’t touch anything.”
Everyone agreed. Todd left to go get his charts which he’d dropped off in the desk in his room. Ray Ann got up quickly to follow, and soon most of the others joined them. I was trying to finish eating. With all of the stress in my life, I often didn’t feel like touching food; I needed to force myself to do so, so that I didn’t just wither away.
I was swallowing my last sip of orange juice when Arden approached me. He didn’t give me time to push him away. “Look, Josie, we’re going to be on this ship together for about twelve days. Are you going to acknowledge my existence, or are you going to continue to treat me like an insignificant piece of dirt, the way you are now? Can’t we be friends? Or at least speak to each other as fellow humans?”
“I’ll continue to treat you like the scum that you are. I told you not to talk to me or look at me and I meant it. Go bother someone who cares. I never did, you know.” I was cruel. Deep down inside it was really hurting me, but I got some sick solace out of seeing his pained reaction. Perhaps I would make him feel one-tenth of the pain he’d caused me.
“Fine, as you wish. I’ll let you have your pleasure out of putting me through hell if that what you want, but I’m not going to stay locked inside my room just so that you won’t have to suffer the repulsion of seeing me. I’m a member of this flight too. I want to see the stars as much as you do.”
“I understand that, but don’t expect me to look in your direction or reply to anything you say.”
“Don’t you think you’re a being a little harsh:? Somewhat drastic? I don’t have any deadly diseases.”
“You know me, I’m always drastic. That’s what you couldn’t handle in the first place, so don’t be so surprised.” He began to respond, but I didn’t let him. “And don’t accuse me of putting you through hell. You made the decision to end it, you pay the price.” With that I turned and stalked away from him. I headed straight for the room he shared with Todd, where I could see the group gathered. Arden followed me but made no more futile attempts to converse civilly with me.
I arrived at the doorway of the room to see Todd holding up a paper to the light and squinting. He had a massive pile of papers stacked on the right-hand side of the desk. After some consideration he placed the paper he’d been studying on top of this pile and removed another sheet from an open drawer and studied that one. He repeated the process of taking papers from the drawer, studying them and then putting them on the pile. After watching him about five times, I turned to Pammy, who was next to me, and asked, “What’s going on?”
“He’s trying to find that chart or something. I haven’t been paying attention to the paper, though. He’s got a really nice body.” She spoke quietly so that neither Todd nor John would hear her.
“Wouldn’t it help if he used the lamp on the desk? The lighting in here is so dim, and all the shadows of the bunk bed must make it even harder to read.”
I was not as quiet as Pammy. “The light bulb’s dead,” Todd said distractedly, concentrating on his work.
“Well, I’ll lend you mine,” I said.
“Oh, I never even thought of that,” he replied, finally looking up. “I could have saved myself a lot of time! I noticed the problem with the light as soon as I picked this room and put all my stuff in the desk.”
I ran to my room quickly and retuned with the light bulb. Todd carefully twisted it into the socket and switched it on. Nothing happened.
“Is it plugged in?” John asked.
“Oh, I’m so dumb!” Todd exclaimed. His cheeks began to blush, but he put a look of fierce determination on his face and shook his long hair. The chains clinked together.
Todd plugged in the lamp and with the aid of the added light was able to locate his chart quickly. He shouted in triumph as we all followed him to the control room. Before we entered, I pulled Melissa aside.
“Can we really trust this guy to fly the ship? Are you sure he’s certified?” I inquired.
“I’m positive. He doesn’t have a lot of common sense, but he’s a genius. He’s kind of nervous around people.”
“That’s reassuring. I really want a guy who has no common sense flying me through the cosmos.”
“He’s absolutely wonderful with technology; he’s just not good with people.”
“Has he flown before?”
“Yes, many times. He had to pass many rigorous flying courses and tests before he was accepted into the A.A.R.C. and he’s done a ton of flying since his induction.”
“Okay, but if we crash land or something, I’m blaming it on you for getting this guy to fly us.”
We entered the control room where Todd was already fiddling with knobs and dials. A screen near the control panel came to life with green pixels of data that apparently spoke to Todd in a language he could understand. I tried to watch what he was doing, but after a few minutes it became evident that I’d never comprehend a fraction of it. My eyes wandered over the room. My attention was caught by the large desk and it’s computers. They displayed a ton of research material.
There was a model of some structure I couldn’t identify next to one of the computers. It was completely silver and resembled a miniature space shuttle, but was far more complex. I leaned over to study it more closely. My elbows rested on a stack of printed pages.
“Get away from there!” Todd yelled. I jumped and turned around abruptly. His angry tone stung me.
“Calm down,” Melissa instructed him.
“I-I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to yell like that. That project is something I’ve been working on for years and it means the world to me. Please don’t touch it. The slightest alteration could cause damage that would set me back months, maybe even years.”
I let out a breath I’d been holding. “That’s all you had to say in the first place,” I told him and quickly moved further away from his project. Todd apologized again and then went back to work at the control panel.
Soon it was time to lift off. We counted down from thirty and when we reached zero Todd pressed a big black button. I felt the engines roar to life underneath us as we were hurdled upward into the blue sky. It felt incredible, leaving Earth. I was overcome with a feeling of supreme power and accomplishment. I was queen of the universe.
The blue quickly passed as we entered an abyss of eternal blackness. “I see a star!” Ray Ann exclaimed, looking out the window intently. It looked brighter than any I’d ever seen from Earth.
Our whole crew began to cheer. We were officially in outer space!