Author : Patrica Stewart

Jim Roberts continued to stare at the chronometer in the center of the ship’s instrument panel. Thirty minutes past the scheduled departure time. Damn, why can’t they ever depart on schedule? He pressed the intercom button. “Sam, I’m losing the launch window.”

In an effort to calm himself down, Jim decided to use the delay to run through the checklist again. Primary oxygen, secondary oxygen, carbon dioxide scrubbers, food, water, medical supplies, telemetry, subspace transmitter, backup transmitter, antimatter reserves, etc., etc. He then reviewed the flight plan. He had worked out the details of the plan with a buddy of his, who had made a career of flying replenishment missions to the science, military, and adventure stations in the outer solar system. The plan called for a sling shot gravity boost around the moon, then maximum acceleration along a flatted parabolic path until achieving maximum velocity about 1,000,000 miles above the asteroid belt. Then, on to Titan for a retrograde capture.

Finally, Sam entered the cockpit and sat in the co-pilot’s seat. “Ok, Ok. Every body’s on board, the cargo is stowed, and all the hatches are secured. We’re ready. Have you filed the flight plan?”

“Transmitted, received, and approved an hour ago. I’ve just been waiting for you, as usual. One day, Sam,” he threatened, “I’m going to leave you behind.” He activated the transmitter. “Tower, this is bravo-delta-epsilon-three-two-niner requesting permission to lift off.”

“Roger that, bravo-delta-epsilon-three-two-niner. You are number four on the launch pad. Follow Transport Tanker gamma-omega-epsilon-three-seven-seven.”

“Acknowledged. Buckle up, Sam.” Jim primed the antimatter engines, and taxied toward the launch pad. Three minutes after the Transport Tanker lifted off, he initiated the launch sequence. As the ship accelerated upward, he felt his back begin to press heavily into his seat. With the skill of a seasoned pilot, he adjusted the inertia compensators to maintain 1g. Once in orbit, he set the powerful engines to maximum, and headed toward the leading edge of the moon. After the close approach, the ship wiped toward Saturn (actually, slightly ahead of Saturn, and slightly above the ecliptic). The engines roared continuously for three hours before they automatically throttled down when the ship’s velocity reached 0.55c (Max-V). Jim peered out the viewport and watched Vista’s thin crescent disappearing behind them. “Ok,” he said, “double nickel for the next two hours, then deceleration begins.”

Sam had no idea what Jim was talking about. “Double what?”

“Double nickel. It’s an archaic Earth term from the twentieth century. It means your velocity is 55 MPH.”

“What’s that got to do with nickel?”

“Not the metal, dummy. A ‘nickel’ was a unit of American currency equal to five cen…” Jim stopped himself mid-word. Earth had stopped using coins over 300 years ago. Nobody but a history buff like himself would know, or even care, about primitive societies. “Oh, never mind,” he finally said.

After a few awkward minutes of silence, Sam decided to change the subject. With a thumb motioning toward the passenger compartment, Sam said, “You know, it’s been awful quiet back there.”

As if on cue, a shout came from the passenger cabin. “Stop it.”

“No, you stop it.”

“Stop it, or I’ll tell Mom. Mom, Katie keeps touching me.”

“He’s on my side.”

“Am not”

“Are too.”

“Am not.”


Jim cupped his hands over his ears. “Well, Samantha, I hope you’re happy. You jinxed us.”

“Did not,” she replied mockingly. “Besides, we just set a family record. We made it all the way to the asteroid belt this time.”

“Next year, I’m putting a force field between them.”

“Dad, I’m hungry.”

“Me too.”

“I have to pee.”

”Me too.”

“Are we there yet?”

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