Friday, June 19, 2015

The Orbitals, Part XVI

This is Part XVI, the final part of the fifth chapter. Start at the beginning.

“Hey, I’m going to use the terminal in quarters, is that cool?” she asked when she emerged.

“Go for it,” shouted Spencer. “But it’s just a little laptop.” He rolled his eyes a little. He played the ace of diamonds on Jean-Paul’s three and completed another circuit.

“Good thing we’re playing for fudge brownies and not real money,” said Jean-Paul.

“Ah, Circuit’s always hard the first time you play it,” said Spencer. “You’ll get the hang of it.”

They started another round, and Jean-Paul overbid. Spencer knew he must have at least two already completed circuits or there would have been no reason to throw down three brownies and a Beef Stroganoff. He played along, though, to make it more fun for everyone. Zephyr returned to the cockpit, her sleep-worn face also showing a deeply ridged brow and a frown.

“Good morning, Zephyr,” said Jean-Paul with a smile. “I seriously hope you aren’t here to break up our game. I’m about to win all kinds of brownies.”

“Someone died,” she said. She was wearing the magsuit again, and standing with her hands on her hips.


“One of the Crisis Group on the Platform died while they were re-pressurizing. He was blown into the crack next to our gate, ripped his suit on the jagged metal, and then lacerated himself. He bled out into space.”

“Oh God, that’s awful,” said Jean-Paul.

“Mitchell Li was his name. Kid from Oregon that was doing charlie-golf as a stepping stone to one of the lunar stations.”

“I’m so sorry to hear that,” said Spencer. “I don’t even know what to say.”

“I am so done with whoever did this. And whoever sent us all the spacecops between here and Luna. We are getting free and then we are fixing this shit. I am gonna kill someone if I have to.” Zephyr pointed at the co-pilot seat. “Can I?”

“Sure,” said Spencer, and stood up, shaking just a little.

“How much longer to Shackleton,” she mumbled to herself. “Ohhhh...kaaaaay, Spencer, you and I are going to need to have a talk in the hallway, please.”

Spencer took off to the quarters. Zephyr followed very close behind, and shut the accordion door.

“I am gonna slap you, kid. If I hadn’t got a full night of sleep, you would be good and slapped right now. What in the name of all hell are you doing? Do you think this is a joke?”

“Look, hold on.”

“I will not hold on. A man is dead, we almost died, and we’ve got guys with guns and unclear motivations following us. You had better have a damned good reason for this.”

“My dad—”

“You’ve talked to your dad! Oh, thanks for the trip to jail, buddy! Well, that’s fine ‘cause you’re probably going to juvie or something too. We’ll see how a space kid fits in there.”

Spencer looked Zephyr in the eye, jaw set. “Look, my dad pointed out that if we go to Shackleton, there will probably be cops there waiting for us. It’s not like they don’t know who’s on this ship, and where my parents live. It was a nice idea, but we can’t do it. And my dad promised not to tell anyone where we’re going.”

“Where are we going? Nav says our destination is somewhere in the Sea of Tranquility. What’s there?”

“Oh, nothing, just some old NASA stuff.”

“Wait, what? No—”

“‘One giant leap for mankind’?”

“You didn’t.”