In Hindsight…

Author : Patricia Stewart

March 26, 2167. It was the best of days; it was the worst of days (if you permit me to paraphrase Charles Dickens). At 8:00 EMT (Earth mean time), I accepted delivery of the Galaxy-Clipper. Although named for the nineteenth century sailing ship, it was not made to cruse Earth’s watery seas. No, it was made to dart around the solar system at one half the speed of light. It’s a four passenger, forty foot diameter, gleaming metal saucer, powered by a Rolls-Royce 427 terawatt antimatter engine, and 32 ion-drive plasma guidance reaction jets. Man, she’s pure supernova. It set me back two years salary, but there isn’t a better babe gravity-well on the market. Surely, the best of days.

However, in hindsight I should have been satisfied with the Clipper’s standard equipment package. But my dim-witted, testosterone blind buddies convinced me to take her “off path” to get the underbelly coated with a mono-layer of promethium-deuterium-phosphate, otherwise known as PDP. For those of you unfamiliar with PDP, it’s a catalytic coating that promotes the fusion of hydrogen into helium. Under the right conditions, you can cause rarified hydrogen gas to spontaneously fuse into helium, liberating a substantial quantity of energy. As it turns out, those “right conditions” are the temperatures and pressures generated by the hull of a sleek new spacecraft as it skims across the upper atmosphere of a gas giant; say Saturn. It’s called nuclear wake surfing. It’s illegal, but fun as hell. I assume you can see where this is going. At 11:45, I was docked outside Bubba’s Astro Parts and Body Station in Mars orbit. At 14:00, me and three of my idiot friends (that’s four idiots total) were streaking toward Saturn at 0.499c (the ship was new, so I didn’t peg the throttle). Nine hundred million miles and three hours later (not counting time dilation), we were in geosynchronous orbit over Saturn.

We spent the next two hours calculating the required velocity and angle of inclination. Too steep and you burn up; too shallow and you bounce off the atmosphere. At 19:00 we caught our first ride. Man, what a thrill. From 25,327 miles per hour to 0.1c in millisecond bursts. Uncontrolled nine gee pitch, roll, and yaw buffeting. The most exciting 20 seconds of my life. When we pulled around for a second run, part of Saturn’s northern hemisphere was on fire. We didn’t hang around to figure out what happened, but my guess is that Bubba’s PDP was defective and broke loose while we were surfing. Since the dispersed particles are just catalysts (i.e., they are not consumed) the nuclear fusion reaction became self-sustaining.

By now (21:30), the fusion reaction has undoubtedly spread throughout the entire planet, and the rings have probably dissipated. Although we cannot see Saturn, I’m sure the view of your new mini-star is quite spectacular from Earth, especially at night. For the unforeseeable future, my buddies and I are fugitives hiding deep within a crevice of an unnamed asteroid while the Spaceforce hunts us down. Clearly, the worst of days.

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