Archive for January 19th, 2012

19th January
2012
written by amber

Asteroid

We were travelling on the Galactic Explorer, Hank and I. Oh, it doesn’t really explore the galaxy, only the asteroids, but that was thrilling – and expensive – enough for us. We were celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary.

We’d already seen the dumbbell shaped asteroid and the one where the ice mines are, to mine water for the stations and other asteroids with people on them and also for cruise vessels like ours. We all agreed that it was the best water we’d ever tasted. Millions of years old.

I was looking forward to seeing the oddly-shaped Ida with its little moon, Dactyl.

But first we were going to stop at the Crystal Asteroid, one of the few passengers were allowed to walk on. Rock-collectors like Hank had the privilege of paying an extra fee for the stellar opportunity to collect beautiful crystal on the surface of the asteroid.

The captain announced that for those of us who weren’t going onto the asteroid, he’d be able to put the Galactic Explorer into very close proximity so that we could all have a good view of the crystals gleaming in the sun’s light. We stay-aboards were all drinking champagne as we pressed against the viewing windows. Hank and the other collectors were waiting in the hatch vestibule, already in their space suits.

We were all impressed at how near the captain guided the Explorer to the asteroid. Some of the passengers, the less-sophisticated (or so I thought) became alarmed when they thought we were moving too near. But then we moved nearer still, until it seemed a collision was imminent. The early panickers were already screaming, and in time we all joined them, bracing ourselves for the impact which soon came.

Our viewing window ended up at an angle to the asteroid with just a small bit of it in sight, so we couldn’t tell exactly how near to it we were, or if we had actually collided.

We’d been told what to expect in the unlikely event of an accident – staff from the Explorer would guide us all to Life Pods of which there were many on every deck. We would enter the Pods and secure ourselves with harnesses, pull air masks over our faces and relax. And we knew we had to get to the Life Pods quickly, because an accident always brought the chance of a breaching of the hull, which the Explorer had been designed to resist, but if that happened, doors would close along all the hallways, isolating the area with the breach and possibly preventing passengers from reaching the Life Pods.

So we were surprised when the captain spoke to us over the intercom and assured us that it was a ‘small bump,’ nothing to be concerned about, some electrical problems had arisen but these were being dealt with.

“I don’t care what he says,” one of the early panickers announced, “I’m going to the Life Pod now.”

“No, sir,” one of the waiters said. “The Life Pods won’t open unless the captain gives the order.”

The man roared, “We’ve hit the bloody asteroid! If he won’t open them, he’s incompetent. Can’t you open them?”

“I can, sir, but only if I know the captain is incapacitated and there is a pressing need. Otherwise it’s considered mutiny.”

The two of them were like an angel and a devil on my shoulders, one side urging civilized decorum, the other screaming in hysteria. Just then, I saw Hank, floating by the window with his company of other rock-collectors.

Well, if the collecting mission is underway, I thought, it must be true, everything is fine.

But Hank flew nearer to the window, his arms pumping up and down, pointing at a part of the Explorer not visible to me. And then he flew on by – away from the asteroid and off into space, followed by the others, some of whom were bent at unnatural angles and leaking vapour.

I went back to our cabin and sat on the bed. Before long the power went off and a recorded announcement commanded everyone to proceed to the nearest Life Pod.

“Illuminated arrows in the hallway will direct you to safety. Do not panic,” the voice said, but I just sat there holding a piece of meteorite that Hank had collected on Earth.

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story for every day of the year and posted on this website from May 1, 2011 – April 30, 2012. Stories must be a minimum of 200 words. Please help me by adding first line or topic suggestions in the Comment section of any story. If you’d like me to use your name in a story, I’d be happy to do that.