Author: Kathy LaFollett

“Screeeet!” His name. In another’s voice. From a hallway he wasn’t looking down. Screet was looking down at his lunch. Sitting down at a table in the SpacePort Employee Sustenance and Snacks, or SPESS. Acronyms in space save time. Space is time, therefore saving time saves space. He fumbled hot crinkle fries nestled in food papers imprinted with the SpacePort TransPortation and HubEarth logo that lined a crinkle fries basket. The logo was blue. Not the blue of the sky if you were standing on earth looking up. The blue of the sky that is space seen from a SpacePort TransPort Ship, which is not blue but black. He wrestled a ketchup bottle. Screet had grown fond of ketchup while training on earth for his job at SPTPHE.

“Screeeeet!” His name tumbled down the hallway into the SPESS the same time the ketchup bottle belched a sweet mass next to his crinkle fries. He ignored his name and ate. Screet chewed and sighed thinking on the unfortunate truth that when pronounced correctly, his name became the most irritating sound on any planet in any galaxy. Surely the Hive Vicars could have put a bit more work into naming him the day he was decoupled from his insulate. “ScrEEET! Finish up! Flight 107 just inverted! I’m not throwing alone down here!”

Screet sighed and chewed. Crinkle fries. Ketchup. Glorious snacks invented by an inglorious species. His co-worker yelled again while throwing luggage, off-piling from servobots, onto the luggage conveyor leading to the transporter that broke the luggage down into transmittable molecules to reassemble at baggage claim three Earth miles away at Arrivals Lane. Screet sighed and listened to the transporter breaking down luggage. It sounded like a bug zapper he’d seen on earth. Which forced SPTPHE to redesign Travelers Transport into a hover floor. Walking through a door that lit up blue and sounded like a bug zapper was off-putting to Earthlings. Interstellar SpacePort TransPortation modified operations for the comfort of the planet nearest. Beings had issues. All of them. This universal truth kept SPTP Information and Suggestions Department busy creating signage explaining the off-putting things. They found that explanations with blinking lights and short words helped travelers negotiate what put them off.

The bug zapping sound turned into one long zap as luggage items flew into the transporting net array. “Screet! I am not kidding. Get down here! Your lunch ended when Flight 107 inverted!” Daniel grabbed luggage from the servobots and tossed the payload into the net array. There was no time to aim. “SCREEEET!”

Their shift ended after Flight 312 to Vogt transposed. Daniel and Screet headed to their resident quarters. Employees of SPTP lived on Hub as long as they were employed. They could choose Earth vacations, but few did. Earth had lost its appeal three hundred years back when one Earthling hated another Earthling and pushed one button that made a mess of things. Employees chose to TransPort Vacate to other systems by way of the Employee Exchange Program. Spend a few weeks working in a new stellar system connection, take a few days to visit the near planet. Screet had done a time flip at HubVogt. Daniel, being an Earthling, hadn’t used the Employee Exchange Program. Earthlings didn’t like change. It had taken a good Gliese year to convince Earthlings that space travel was safe thanks to the bug zapper transporter fiasco. If Earth hadn’t been at the perfect vector for the Orion Connection, Interstellar would have gladly shut it down. But location is everything. Even in space.