9 - The Last Pod out of Solon

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After stowing the food in his pod, Skip made a final check for unnecessary mass they could shed.  Meanwhile, Jeena searched her pod for forgotten essentials.

Skip sighed at the growing pile of junk outside his pod.  Jeena was costing a lot more than 54.3 kilos.

“A zapper!” he cried, “What for??  We can't cook anything in zero gee.”

“Insta-Paks will zap.”

“We'll eat them at ambient.  Luxuries mean mass.  Think practical, like, a change of clothes, for instance.”

“I have five outfits with me,” Jeena replied, holding up a teeny sachet between her thumb and forefinger.

Skip shuddered.  It was colder on the station than he thought.

"Well, age before beauty," he motioned toward the hatch, immediately realizing that his remark wasn't even marginally clever.  She was both. 

The pod was cozy - they would never be more than a meter from each other for the entire trip.  Still, they each had their own chairs, and could swivel their backs to each other for an illusion of privacy.

"Cinch down tight, we're going to burn as hard was we can for almost half an hour," Skip said, as he entered the flight program.  The chairs inflated around them for maximum support.

For the first time in a week, the pod spoke on its own:  "Positive seal.  Preheating.  Full acceleration in eleven seconds..."

"I... I know I'm not the sort of traveling companion you're accustomed to,” Skip admitted, without glancing up from the screen.

"Could be worse, Skip."

Did she just say something nice to me?  Skip wondered.  But before he had time to ponder, the drive kicked in, crushing them into their chairs.

Thousands of evil demons assaulted the hull with ball peen hammers.  A sickening metallic groaning accompanied the manic roar of the straining engine.  Jeena was sure that something big was about to break off outside – that is, if the whole junkheap didn’t just disintegrate, outright.

She couldn’t even scream.  It took every bit of her strength just to pull air into her lungs against the oppressive acceleration.  Though her eyes were clogged with tears, Jeena could make out - what - the walls swaying?  “The hull is flexing!” she whimpered.

Why didn’t we take my pod?  she lamented.  It couldn’t possibly be worse than this!

Behind every compartment door, crazed wild animals seemed to be rattling and clawing to escape.  The food locker exploded and a flock of supplies flew past them.  In terror, Jeena’s hand shot out and grabbed Skip’s forearm.  He was surprised that she somehow worked her hand down to his own.  Was she just grappling for support?  In spite of the death grip, he could tell that her hand was soft and very smooth.  If she wasn’t going to pull away, he sure wasn’t going to.

The harrowing shaking continued for what seemed like hours, but at last, the engine cut off, and the assault of noise yielded to ringing silence.  For both of them, the falling-off-a-cliff lurch of free flight was blessed relief.  The chairs relaxed into normal proportions, and Jeena’s magnificent mane floated free.  She quickly withdrew her hand, and started gathering her hair into a ponytail.  Skip turned his attention to the console.

 “Well, we’ve got three good procs, 540 GJ’s left on the packs, and more than enough food,” he said.  Glancing at the time, he added, “And we’ve officially completed 0.137 percent of our trip.  Just under two weeks to go.  Zero acceleration, ballistic for the City.  It’s all coasting from here.”

"Whew!  We can finally RELAX!!!" Jeena sighed.

Unfortunately, just then, a part of Skip's anatomy decided to relax just a bit too much.


It was no trivial air toot, but a noxious eye-watering Armageddon capable of annihilating all life-forms in a room and etching the window glass to boot.  Slowly, the toxic sphere of death began to expand in zero gee…

"Oh, excuse me," Skip said offhandedly, "Burrito for you?"

"Kill me now, Skip."

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