Travel and Trepidation

Six Below Makes Their Way to Mercury.
by Electric Keet

“Hello, and good day! I’m Captain Shimakage, and I’d like to welcome you aboard GreenStar flight three-twenty-two from Lyrcea Planum, Io, to Tir Planitia, Mercury. We’ll be travelling a distance of about four-point-nine astronomical units and we should reach a peak velocity of around one-twentieth light-speed, meaning a relative time gain of just under forty seconds. The total flight time should be nearly twenty-eight hours, so we encourage you to get comfortable. If you have any questions or concerns, or if there’s anything at all we can do to make your flight more pleasant, don’t be afraid to ask our attendants Psande and Minion. Thank you again for travelling with GreenStar.”

In fact, Minion – a diminutive skunk – was already at my side to offer me a pillow. I smiled and accepted it gratefully. “I have not slept much; too excited!” I said.

He gave a friendly bob of his voluminous tail. “Are you on holiday?”

“Not quite.” Eekay was working on the best way to sprawl out nonchalantly. “Y’ever watch bodyracin’?”

“No, but my son is excited about the Thirteen Ribbons,” Minion said.

The snow-leopard grinned at this. “Be sure to word ’im when y’ get home that you met Team Six Below, ’cause th’ Thirteen’s where we’re ’eaded.”

“No kidding? I’ve got to go check on the other passengers, but… would you mind if I came by later and got a signed photo for my boy?”

Yaz nodded with a smile. “I think we could arrange that, after Falda gets a nap.”

“Yes, thank you.” I reclined my seat to a comfortable position for exactly that.

“Of course! Let me know if there’s anything else I can get for you.” With that, the skunk disappeared into the centrelift, headed for another level of the shuttle.

I shifted in my seat, adjusted my tail, touched my head to pillow, and fell fast asleep.

…speed and sound and light and scent and colour and contact and chaos and most of all speed!

I gritted my teeth as another bump threatened to throw me off-balance. The ribbon stretched straight ahead into the horizon, but it was subtly uneven. “Ira!” I shouted, my voice sounding muffled and underwater in the rushing wind. “I hope you know what you are doing!”

Zir voice came through clearly. “Yes!” Zie sped ahead on energy wheels of the wrong hue. The fur of zir crimson-ringed tail fluttered in the rushing wind. “Read the ribbon carefully, wolf!”

I struggled to keep my attention away from the unidentifiable racers all around, from the wall of abstract olive vegetation on all sides, from the unreadable text blinking on the display in my helmet. “What do you mean?”

Zir only response was to let out a small shout of exhiliration.

My fear grew; the next bump might send me tumbling along the track at deadly speed. I focused my eyes on the magnetic mesh of the ribbon, but at this speed it was merely a dark streak. “Ira, I do not think—”

“Here it is!”

“I cannot!” I started to feel overwhelmed, floaty, disconnected—

Zir voice echoed as though from within my own head. “Read the ribbon!”

Time slowed. The yellow-green blur surrounding the track resolved into thick jungle. The energy-wheels of the racers in front of me began to flicker, then pulse. My heart suspended itself, then released, then tightened again with glacial pace. The ribbon, however… I could see the elongated diamond mesh, so much angular black. I could read the change in density where the surface rose ever so slightly, enough that it would jostle me. I heard a whisper of several voices, all guiding me in language I didn’t know but somehow understood. We adjusted our position slightly and shifted our weight to….


We became aware of shadows in front and behind—

I jerked awake with a sharp breath. My blood throbbed in my ears. I felt tight as though I’d been bracing for impact. A quick look around showed that the others were napping or out of the cabin except for Yaz, which explained the smell of kaflet.

He glanced up from his data-scroll. “Falda?”

I shook my head slowly. “I… was dreaming.”

The wolverine seemed concerned, now. “You smell like panic. Are you all right?”

“Yes, fine. How long have I been sleeping?”

“About five hours. You looked like you really needed it.” He motioned to the others. “Ira and Lady are crashed out, too. Eekay and Bell are off wandering around to see what other teams are on this shuttle, and since they haven’t returned yet, they probably found one. I was thinking of joining them.” He rolled up his scroll. “Care to walk for a bit? Stretch?”

“That is probably a good idea.” I stood up and looked to one-again-orange Ira, who still slept peacefully. “Zie was in my dream. It was strange. We were racing… and I think we were on Venus.”

He slipped his shoes on. “A little nervous?” I nodded a little, and he continued. “Yeah, so am I. We’ll be there within a week, but try to relax some, okay? First things first… Mercury.”

  1. Falda Flosadottir’s avatar

    My dreams are not usually that strange! I think it was the burrito I had at the transport station….


  2. Cube’s avatar

    Minion? Dawww…. She’s got a franchise!


  3. Bard’s avatar

    I like the scenelet about the autographed photograph. That makes it much more real.


    1. Falda Flosadottir’s avatar

      The first time I was asked for a photo… that was when the “big time” felt real to me. It can be a little frightening, though, being so recognised!

      Of course, I’m not as well-known as Eekay. I think zie thrives on it, though.


    2. momentrabbit’s avatar

      I am touched and delighted. n.n


    3. Hailbop’s avatar

      Nice to see someone paying attention to relativity, although it would probably be more accurate to call it timeloss, unless he’s referring to the rest of the universe as experiencing a gain. That would probably be for the best, I could imagine customers would panicky if they thought they were loosing something.


      1. Rubin "Bell" Gloeckner’s avatar

        Might seem a bit on the obvious side, but… I don’t even want to think about what would happen if the folks who make this stuff work didn’t think about relativity, eh? We’d be smacking ships into planets or stuff like that.


        1.’s avatar

          What do you think happened to Eris?


        2. Nicky’s avatar

          There is much love for the Minion! Meep!