# Posted: 12 Mar 2007 22:04
By Joe turner
I was sweating. I had graduated from the NASA space flight training center just three weeks before that day. I was standing about 60 feet away from the sparkling new ship that was to carry me millions of miles away from everything that I ever knew. Destiny was her name. The letters emblazoned on the side of the ship said so anyway. They were opposite the United States flag on the port side. Sleek and streamlined, this ship looked eager to launch out into the unknown. I wish I had been as ready as that ship was. She had a bone-white top with a bottom of midnight black. She was gorgeous. Modeled in coloration after the older shuttles, this was the second generation.
As I stared at the gargantuan shuttle several thoughts came to mind that gave me the jitters. These thoughts were actually quite morbid and went something like, “how am I going to survive this? What if I forget to check something and this becomes another Apollo 13 or worse, another Columbia? Will we survive the launch, or will we disintegrate? If we do survive the launch, will we survive the landing?” what I didn’t realize is that my fears were nothing. I was in for a much more sinister ride. I shook my head to clear the unnerving thoughts in my mind and took a sharp turn to the locker room to suit up for the launch to come.
We all had our nicknames from training together. They all called me Scorch because at one point during training, though I’m embarrassed to admit it, I nearly took out the entire training center using about 3 pounds of rocket fuel and a pocket knife, turns out, sparks and fuel don’t mix, who knew?
Then there was the first girl on my team, Raye. Raye is quite the sight to see, one of those girls that have all the other girls wanting to be her and all the guys want to be with her. Ya see, Raye is this brunette with slight little curls that seem to add a youthful naivety, a pair of grayish blue eyes that could turn a hardened killer into a pile of stuttering mush, a smile that makes you think of what heaven would be like and realizing that that smile is heaven, and a sculpted chin that makes you wonder who the parents were so you can thank them for their gift to the world, and a body that makes it hard to think of anything other than what it looks like under that jumpsuit. Anyway, her nickname is Windy because during one testing session in the academy she managed to hold her breath for a record 4:27. Lucky me, somehow I managed to end up being in a relationship with her during training so you could say she’s my girlfriend.
Okay, now to tell you about the rest of my team. Next is this guy Ricky, he likes to think he’s a tough guy and so he acts like it too. For some reason though, you can’t get the big guy angry, he just stays mellow no matter what you throw at him. He acts tough, and he is, but I haven’t found a single person that could set him off, so he’s really a gentle giant in disguise. He likes us to call him rex, simply because he thinks that it associates him with the T-rex so he thinks it sounds tough and has a don’t mess with me or I’ll put you in a hospital ring to it. You just have to imagine this guy to get a feel for what I’m talking about here he’s like six foot four and weighs like 215 lbs, so he’s actually quite skinny, but he has a muscular build that would scare the crap out of Sylvester Stallone.
Last, but certainly not least is Becky. Becky deserves a LOT of respect from the whole team, because she is way overqualified for our routine mission, or at least, almost routine. You see, Becky designed the shuttle that we are about to take on its first trial run, so naturally, being the stubborn case that we found her to be, she insisted on going through flight training and going with us on her ship’s maiden voyage to test it out and to work as a mechanic. She actually held up better than anyone expected in the gravity simulator though, she’s quite surprisingly frail, and middle aged, but somehow that woman managed to ride the gravity simulator to a new record for the whole station with a total of 8.6 G’s. The result of this record was the nickname Headrush. The best part about this name is the fact that she also has a flaring temper and so when her temper flares she gets red in the face, perfect name, no?
Those three people and I would be the only people onboard the ship for the next eleven months, good bad or indifferent, we were stuck together. I would be looking forward to it, but I would find a whole different path awaited me.
I opened the door to the building and walked down the corridor to a room labeled Space Shuttle Crew Only and strutted in like I owned the place. Windy saw me and gave a squeal of delight at seeing me. It wasn’t any ordinary squeal either. She squealed like she hadn’t seen me in ten years and was eager like a wife with a husband fresh back from war. She ran over to me as fast as she could mange being half in her flight jumpsuit and half in street clothes. Then suddenly she was airborne and flying at me like a shuttle to orbit. She latched onto me with her arms around my neck and her legs wrapped around my waist. I grunted then squeezed her in a hug and said in a half strangled breath “yeah, I missed you too” then I put her down realizing slowly that the rest of the crew was staring at us. “Hi guys” I said and Headrush raised a cynical eyebrow at me so I quickly spat out “and girls”. Rex simply looked at me as if I was the village idiot and tried to not laugh at my foolish look. He failed miserably and burst forth with guffaws of laughter so I gave him a hard look daring him to keep laughing and quickly he assumed tough guy mode. He squared his shoulders and stared at me as if daring me to throw a punch, so I raised my arm in a fist and threw it to his side in a mock punch, the punch quickly shifted into a hug. He squeezed me as if trying to crush my lungs, and I think he was trying to. Then he let go of me and Headrush put her fists on her hips and said “you had better have an excuse for greeting me last”. I cheekily said “I always save best for last you know Headrush” she grinned and held out her hand for a handshake. I said “don’t you think that’s a bit formal?” and she said “fine we’ll hug” and we did, she was uncomfortable, but I enjoyed every second of this brief reunion.
I then went to my respective changing room and donned my suit, and what an interesting design it was. This suit was a top of the line prototype designed for extravehicular comfort, mobility, and life support for three and a half days. The suits were custom made, so I had mine dyed a dark blue tinge with dark green flames rising from the fingertips up the arms and starting at the toes up my legs as well. The suit was almost like a diving wet suit in that It covered all body parts up to the neck and it was skintight. Above the neck, instead of a bulky old helmet we had an ion powered energy field that did not allow air molecules to pass through it so it wouldn’t break and it wouldn’t leak. The best part about the helmet field was that its energy qualities meant that radiation did not pass through it, very good for me. On the back of this suit is a small pack that is attached that is about the size of my fist. This little box weighs about 10 pounds which is surprisingly light considering that it held three and a half days of air, food, water waste containers, thermal charges, and batteries for the helmet piece. I loved the fact that the suit was skintight because it showed off my newfound toned body, needless to say, I was proud of myself. The suit designers, Inno Tech, created the suit to eliminate the bulky old suits like Neil Armstrong used to wear.
I started to leave when windy blocked the door. Smirking and with a mock-serious tone I said “somethin wrong Hun?” she put her hands on her hips and smiled. I took a step forward and kissed her as she pressed herself against me. Slowly I pulled away, the sweet taste of her lips lingering on mine. She let me pass through and I waved to my team. Rex puffed out his chest and asked demandingly “where you goin’ so fast there Scorch?” I shrugged and said, “to do preflight” Rex shrank down disappointed and said, “oh ok. As long as you’re working you slacker”
I got back outside and discovered that it was a beautiful day. There were these tiny little marshmallows of clouds drifting through the sky and it occurred to me that I would miss this bright blue sky after I left. Quickly I hopped into the ship and pulled myself into the pilot’s chair and flipped on the computer and waited for it to boot up. When the screen came up I said, “preflight check onscreen and audible” into my helmet microphone. There was a small beep as it complied and everything checked out okay. My team filed in after a while and got to their respective seats. Headrush to the tech and monitorial station, Rex to the communications station, even though he was the medic, and windy to the copilot’s chair. A small voice came on so I amplified the volume. It said “all right, Showtime in 5 minutes destiny.” The sound permeated the cabin. I keyed on my mic with my wrist control panel and said “got Ya loud and clear control. Ready when you are to launch us into orbit” I let out a small laugh as I turned off the mic.
We were all jittery in our seats as the minutes ticked by. I caught windy staring at me and, as if she read my mind, said “it’s gonna be fine, this is what we trained for remember?” “Sure. We’ll be fine.” I said hollowly. She kissed me and said, “Relax” in a soothing tone. As she finished a deep rumble passed through the cabin. The engines began to bellow and with a whoop of excitement Rex yelled, “Liftoff!” she tore free of the ground and shot through the atmosphere towards the dark oblivion of space. When we broke free of the planet I said into my microphone, “artificial gravity on.” We settled back in our seats and so rex complained loudly, “No! Turn it off, I wanna have some null G fun!” so I said, “what about the rest of you, up for some fun?” there were mumbled replies of approval and so I flicked the switch and suddenly we were weightless, that’s when the fun began.
After several hours of null gravity entertainment I cut them short and said “time to bunk up, tomorrow is gonna be a busy day. Not to mention that if I didn’t stop you now you’d never quit.” We got strapped into our beds and settled down for sleep after a few minutes. When everyone’s breathing became slow and regular so that I was sure they were all asleep I unbuckled myself and crept to the cabin to numb my mind from the troubled thoughts I was having. I began to look over the mission plans again and again when windy came up behind me and began to massage my shoulders “what’s wrong hon? You only stay up like this when something’s troubling you.” “It’s nothing. The shoulder rub feels great though.” She giggled softly, like music it flowed, soft and welcoming. “That’s not true and you know it, the lack of something being wrong anyway.” “All right I give, I give. I’m worried about the mission and how it’s going to unfold.” She bent down and nibbled on my ear, oh that was great; I loved it when she nibbled on my ear. “The mission will be all right, now will you come to bed?” I let the question hang for a few moments knowing she was offering intimacy that I desperately wanted, but it was wrong, so I said, “I will but not right now, I’ll see ya in the morning.” She left seeming confused that I would refuse such an appealing offer. As a matter of fact, I’ve wondered more than a few times about my sanity in the matter. In reality I was certain she would thank me for it after I… asked her something. I worked a little while longer and went to my bed, not hers as she suggested, and strapped in and drifted to sleep, one filled with troubled dreams.