Author : Bob Newbell

Dalynn sighed as the space elevator approached Depot #4 of the Ring Around The World. He had had some trepidation from the moment he’d stepped onto the elevator in Pontianak, Indonesia. He’d been invited to come to high lunar orbit by his friend, Edrun.

Dalynn had met Edrun online five years ago. They had discovered that they shared quite a few interests and a friendship had developed. In time, Dalynn discovered that despite their common affinities, Edrun had more than a few idiosyncrasies. To say Edrun was obsessed with the turn of the third millennium was an understatement. While the century or two before and after the year 2000 had no shortage of aficionados, the era was Edrun’s religion. Dalynn was quickly losing interest in Edrun wanting to include him in his borderline pathological fixation on a time nearly a thousand years in the past.

After a half-day’s shuttle ride to high lunar orbit, Dalynn disembarked in a spacesuit and flew via rocketpack to the coordinates Edrun had provided. Within the span of thirty minutes, Dalynn was face to face with Edrun’s latest indulgence.

“Come on in!” said a voice over the speakers in Dalynn’s helmet.

Dalynn was soon awkwardly walking the corridors of the odd spacecraft.

“Welcome aboard!” said Edrun with a smile.

Dalynn ignored his greeting. “Why isn’t this thing spinning?” he asked.

“It’s not supposed to spin,” said Edrun. “The layout is planar. It’s supposed to have artificial gravity.”

“There’s no such thing,” replied Dalynn. “Mass, linear acceleration, or centrifugal force. Those are the only options. What you’ve done here is…” Dalynn took a few steps. He had to pull up forcefully to take his foot off the deck of the ship. When he lowered it again, it slapped down against the floor with a clank.”

“Electromagnets under the deck plating,” admitted Edrun. “That’s as close as I could get. Let me show you around.”

The ship was large and empty. Dalynn and Edrun were the only people on board. As Edrun conducted his tour, Dalynn noted how the strange vessel’s design was unlike any spacecraft he’d ever been on. There was something fake about the ship. Dalynn tried to search for a word to describe his impression of the blue-grey rooms and corridors. Theatrical. That was the word. The vehicle seemed less a real spaceship and more of a stage set for a spaceship.

“Try the chair,” commanded Edrun when they’d reached top deck of the ship.

Dalynn seated himself and found that the black leather-like material of the chair was mildly adhesive. He almost forgot he was weightless as he examined the brightly colored buttons on the chair’s armrests. The viewscreen showed a realtime picture of the Moon below them.

“Shall I set a course for Alpha Centauri, Captain?” joked Edrun taking a seat at what Dalynn took to be the pilot’s station. “We can be there in a few hours.”

“Surely this thing can’t travel outside the solar system,” said Dalynn. “And it takes a minimum of 60 years to get to Alpha–”

“The engines distort spacetime!” insisted Edrun. “I mean, that’s what they’re supposed to do.”

“There’s no such propulsion system.”

“I know,” Edrun sighed.

Dalynn soon found himself heading back to rendezvous with the shuttle. He watched the absurd faux-spaceship with its elongated barrel projecting a saucer from one end and twin outboard tubular engines from the other fade into the distance. Had he seen it before in some historical record? It seemed vaguely familiar, he thought, as he trekked back to Earth.