Author : N. Thomas Parshall
“Twenty minutes to launch, Shortfall”
“Roger that, Command. Shortfall ready for launch.”
“Copy. Stand by.”
Lt. Commander Warren Sheffield looked over at his co-pilot, Major Emery West, who was busy with his own checklist. “Almost that time, Em. You ready?”
“Are you kidding me? Who in his right mind would be ready for this?”
“You volunteered, smart ass, same as me. Besides, they’ve been launching the satellites this way for a couple of years now. This is just the next step back into space. And the mice were ok.”
“Great! From mice to men. Whatever happened to chimp trials? Oh, yeah, the ASPCA and the ACLU. Never should have taught the little bastards to sign.”
Sheffield grinned over at the other man, who flipped him the bird. They both focused back on their pre-launch tasks and the minutes dragged by.
The bottom dropped out from under the two men, followed by an odd sliding motion as the crew module rotated one hundred eighty degrees. This at least gave them a slight pressure at their backs, and took the edge off the nausea.
West, as Science Officer, kept up a running commentary into the recorder. “Hundred miles. Two. Three-fifty. G-gradient steady. Glow from ports increasing. Auto-polarization effective. Heat negligible. Two-thousand miles. Three. Phase two imminent.”
Both men settled deeper into their seats and watched the dial wind down to zero.
An elephant dropped on their chests.
There was no more commentary. The sensors would record what they could, and later the men would fill in what they could from their tunnel vision, near black-out memories. For now the weight just went on and on. And on. And on.
Finally, after both were convinced it would never end, it did.
A circuit was tripped, communications was restored, and they were weight-less. Traveling faster than man had ever gone.
“Shortfall, this is Command. Shortfall, this is Command.”
“SON OF A BITCH! It worked! Command, it worked!”
“Roger that, Shortfall!” Sheffield could hear the cheers in mission control in the background. “We have reacquired your telemetry now. You both are showing elevated blood pressure and pulse.”
“Yeah, well, that was a definite E-ticket ride. We’re fine, aside from some bruising.”
“Good to hear. Tracking has you right in the groove. Get some rest boys. You’ve got to go on that ride again in just under eleven hours.”
“Roger, Command. Shortfall out.”
Eleven hours. Sheffield stared out the forward port at the moon. Not four days. Eleven hours.
Eleven hours until they slipped out of faze with the rest of the universe and plunged through the core of the moon to bleed off the momentum they had acquired from dropping through the Earth, and accelerating out the other side. Hopefully, to be left sitting at rest a bare hundred yards from the remains of Armstrong’s Lander.
He listened to West whispering into the science log.
“The mice made it!”