Chapter 2

White wash windows will give you the view you’ve been wanting to see. Turn your life into blank white canvas paper. Then you can draw the perfect world, a pristine paradise to turn your exalted gaze upon in wonderment. Magnificent beauty, leaving you so blissfully ignorant that the waking world is drowned out completely by a chorus of chirping birds, accompanied by an angelic harp arrangement with deep, soft cellos. Time has become irrelevant. Space is just an abstraction to be occupied in, and nothing more, so take a load off, and leave it off for a while.

Water streams from above, fading colors downward. I begin to get dizzy.

I corkscrew my eyes open, then wrench the sleepiness from them with tight fists, wiping out the fine dusting. Slowly, I lower my hands to a steady gleam of piercing purple-ish-white light beaming in from the front window. I sit for a moment, taking it all in. Reflecting on my dream; on the possible implications provided, but moreso the intensity of it. The surreal realism with its vibrant colors and mesmerizing narrative. In my current state, the bright light makes me feel nostalgic. It’s reminiscent of the early morning sun which had shone through lazy afternoons.

Courier shakes me violently, springing me to my feet, and I rustle away any leftover sleepiness. “Don’t get drawn in,” he says to me, calmly. I nod reassuringly as I don my jacket and fumble out a tube to inhale through deeply before returning it. Now that my senses are returning, I can faintly make out the shape of the Gork, who seems to be gesturing its appendages toward the light in incredible enthusiasm and with a strong hint of panic. I look only for a second before it starts to unnerve me. I need to relax now, to get through the long waiting period that accompanies these missions, as it is important to remain absolutely undeterred by any amount of anomalies that might raise too many questions.

You see, it’s the unnatural–the extraordinary–that demands rationality in the form of logically sound reasoning to explain an expansively deprecating reality in a way that one can bring their mind to terms with, as your brain won’t have room on its stove to cook up enough probability for such a tall order of unaccountable events. Given the event that one has taken on too many allowances to their definitions of the real world, one of two things will happen: 1. They’ll go insane, like a homeless person who spends every available penny on the most mind-boggling, brain-hazing drug they can get their hands on, wandering about until an open ear presents itself to have inane nonsense rambled into it with such a fiery passion that they might drag one down into the hellish pits of incoherence right along with them, or 2. Worse yet, their brain simply fries completely, leaving them not brain dead, but still sane enough to go on as if nothings wrong. But nothing will make sense anymore. They’ll find themselves watching the most low-brow family sit-com with the least inspired writing on television, and they don’t like it but they don’t care, either. They keep watching it anyways, their mouth drooping, legs shaking, and their metabolism will pull the plug on the whole operation, making it a race to see which organ fails first and their last saving moment of mortality when the throes of death finally arrive is choked down by liver failure; or a massive stroke. So you see now why it is so imperative to remain calm.

I lightly lift myself down into the kitchen, surveying the area quickly with purposefully not intense amounts of concentration. Though the entire area seems off, I can’t seem to put my finger on it. Dry5 is condensing her knees into hamburger buns over a pot on the floor, so I quickly turn away. Sliding into a chair, I lay out my cards on the table. Pulling and laying them out one by one, I notice that Jacks are Jills, and Queens are sheep dogs making an unruly face, not at me but past me, as if there is something threatening there. I look back, but I can’t tell what it’s so worked up about. No good. Why am I playing cards in the first place? I’ve got a job to do. There’s no time for this.

Speaking of hands: when I stood, both of mine plummeted thousands of feet below me, like a 3D model gone wrong. I use them to open the big red door into the engine room (which isn’t normally big or red, more like small and green) Dry5 somehow made her way past me to the center of the room, unless she never left, which is possible at this point. Courier takes long, brisk steps in behind me, making stride with his feet and his instructions, spoken in monotone loops to help consistently direct our focus. As we’re descending stairs on a clinking metal grated scaffolding to the engine below, Harrier breaks into the door behind us. She swoops onto the railing and slides past both of us, gaining great speeds at what looks to be terminal velocity, her backside becomes a streaming tail, much like a comet, but streaming spaghetti instead of fire. Meatballs and spaghetti sauce spring up from the force, sticking it all to the ceiling. Parmesan skids off the rail as she slides. I resist the urge to watch in awe, and instead shamble ahead.

Dry5 is hitting the engine with a wrench as if to awaken it with a violent Fonzian touch. Courier attempts to karate chops the inside of her elbow in order to disarm her and save the engine, but she counters and ripostes with her wrench, spinning it like a basketball into his stomach. I can tell that this isn’t normal behavior, although I’m beginning to slip myself, almost attempting to evaluate them like an apathetic psychiatrist who hasn’t thought about what to have for supper in 17 years. I slap myself. In doing so, I hit not my chin, but something else where my chin used to be. What is there now is not worth thinking about, so I slam my arm into an open crevice of the engine and pull any wire within reach, yanking out static all over the inside and my forearm. In a moment, electricity flows into my veins, pumping throughout my body until reaching my brain. And I’m in.

The space is entirely white, and for what I can tell, just infinite empty, white space. I see that Harrier is already deep within. She seems to be discussing something with Al, but from this distance I can not tell what. I can only assume it is nonsensical, because I don’t want to get my hopes up for the chance of normalcy. Turning around, I launch into a full sprint, escaping rapidly in the other direction. I can only hope that they will remember to do the same, or that Courier and Dyr5 could climb out of their eyelids and help the situation.

My strides start to tear holes in the air, ripping back folds of white like cheap saran wrap, crumpling it tightly behind me so that if I turn around or stop, I’ll be suffocated in an instant. Step after step, I begin to feel my mind break free, my pupils drifting up and back, then dilating the entire eyeball completely black. I can’t feel my extremities, and barely the rest of my body except for this tingling sensation, much like when the cold makes one’s body go numb. Fire ants cover me inside and out with relentless biting. My chest begins to feel heavier with every breath, pulling me back as I struggle to breath in the draining air supply. I open my mouth suddenly and widely, more than I believed humanly possible, my face stretching more than twice its original size.

I tear through, ripping out of the white space and with a thud I land smack back into reality. Standing up, dusting myself off, I see Courier, Al, Harrier, and Dry5 strewn about the room in disarray, except for Courier who approaches me to shake my hand. I take it receptively, and bow my head modestly in acceptance of his gratitude. The other three remain seated or splayed, groaning and mumbling and trying to relax.

I say, “let’s get something to eat.” and with that, me and Courier make our way back to the main control room.

 

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Jack-o-Lantern Spaceship Enterprise

On board, most of the lighting melts into the natural orange of the interior hull. If you want to see out, then you’d peer through its jagged teeth, its triangle nose, or through one of its two eyes, preferably the left one which is cut less perfectly round and in such a way that might remind one that there’s comfort in the idea of an imperfect world.

I’m playing cards in the kitchen. As my hands fly dexterously across the table in a rousing game of solitaire, unfurling stress and clearing my mind, thoughts about my childhood flitter across my mind. I remember being taken to the skies back on the home world in my earliest memories. I had learned to fly at the young age of 7, which would turn out to be an important skill and become the pivotal starting point in a life of perceived importance from those who directly influenced my political escapades. As it turns out, the ability to fly was an important skill to be exploited in countless military ventures. I’m not complaining; I got the chance to meet a lot of interesting characters.

Across from me sits the Gork, who had just become the newest addition to the crew. It has the typical features of any other Gorker, but its eyebrows are a bit more bushy, its appendages more stale, and a stagnant mouth. It seems to be watching me with extreme intensity, accounting my every movement.

I can’t be bothered by it right now. My mind is preoccupied with the status of our current mission. The assignment is simple enough. A routine exploration and categorization of an extraneous anomaly, discovered weeks ago by an observation probe. It was ordered by the HENECI organization, which isn’t common but trustworthy enough, although the class is superficial and the location timers have been skewing for several weeks. Previously, our Enterprise was scheduled by HENECI to dock on an empty plate planet and await further instructions. We were supposed to find a communicator, two coins and a rubber soul. After spending a week there searching the place and waiting around, finding no trace of these items, they beamed down a small transport ship, paid us in full and left without saying a word. It was unpaid work, and with other business on the horizon, we hadn’t bothered to inquire in full.

There is a hiss of steam from behind me as Dry5 strolls in from the engine room. After stepping past the Gork, she steals a glance-or more of a glower-at it that left a dry taste in both of our mouths, she then turns and casually nods at me. I return the gesture as I promptly finish my game, swoop the cards into my hand and enclose them into my jacket. I walk to the stove and put the kettle on. Should we be more personable with the Gork? I wonder. After all, it’s not easy to read the trustworthiness of an unstudied and unobserved species without proper communication. Not until they prove themselves with their actions. After the fact of their betrayal, it will be too late to live without regretments. From another pocket of another side of my jacket, I pull out a short tube and inhale through its mouthpiece for a moment before returning it.

I turn to the Gork to realize that he’s motioning at me and attempting to speak to me, but my ears don’t pick up the frequency of its speech. I also realize that its presence might have to do with the current task we’ve been assigned. I take notice of its expressions and movements before passively disregarding it, as the Gork’s body language is indiscernible to me.

I leave the two in the kitchen and loft myself through an opening in the ceiling, leading into the main control room. Courier’s standing at the far end of the room with his hips slanted, adjacent to one of the sharp teeth pointing out of the mouth-shaped opening. His demeanor seemed thoughtful, so I inquired, “What are you thinking about, Courier?” He shifted his hips in response, slanting them to the opposite side and looking over at me through his peripherals. On a desk, I notice the mission documents and I begin to rifle through them as I tap my feet in rhythm. Papers strewn in hand, I walk over to Courier to press with him about the details.

“How likely is the deadline?” I ask.

“Untimely. I am betting on a quarter extra, ” he replies.

“Do you suppose they’ll be ready to punish our lack of punctuality? They’re not very timely themselves.”

“I will not wager on that.”

Looking through the papers, searching for the source of distress which unfailingly affects Courier in every mission briefing, I eventually inquire, “…What are you worried about, here?”

Courier addresses me more directly, the light from the desk lamp illuminates his face, “This might be a setup.”

My brow furrows, “Are you sure?” I redress the papers again, scattering them in vain.

“It is a possibility. I am sure of it.”

Turning away, I retire my jacket and myself onto a chair. Releasing my breath, I prepare for work with a lengthy nap.

A Case For The Moon

I am of the distinct opinion that space travel in its various forms and intentions represents the pinnacle of humanity’s enlightened achievements. No other endeavour has proved as challenging and profoundly rewarding as our tentative forays into the infinite expanse beyond our humble world. The accomplishments we have made in the pursuit of expansion and knowledge in space are incredible, yet all our efforts have been of a rather limited scope in contrast to the sheer enormity of the cosmos. We have barely begun to explore our solar system with any degree of depth and have not sent people any further than our nearest celestial neighbor. Though what has been accomplished is incredible and speaks to the absolute best our species is capable of, it is time to become bolder in our striving for the stars.

The opportunities available in space are as limitless as space itself. Means by which to seize this opportunity have been available for considerable time now. Humanity possess technology able to perform things that had not even been imagined ten or twenty years ago. The last Moon landing of the Apollo program took place 43 years ago, the technology they used to carry out that astounding mission would seem laughably arcane to a child of today. And yet they did it, they went to the Moon. We have such a technological abundance that to carry out a mission similar in scope to the Apollo landings today would be a complete waste of our immense resources. We are now in an age when our extraterrestrial exploits must be grander and more ambitious merely to keep up with the ability of our technology.

Despite this new technological abundance and ability there are more fundamental constrictions to true large scale space exploration and exploitation. Even with the advanced systems we have today, moving significant amounts of material off the earth is a serious and demanding challenge. Developments such as a space elevator or laser propulsion system would make this task more easily accomplished but limitations will always be inherent. This makes the delivery of large volumes of resources an unviable option for space endeavours. Such restriction makes the establishment of large scale space colonies and vehicles or interplanetary bases seem impossible. Fortunately this is an easily circumvented problem.

The Earth possess incredible elemental resources that have allowed our species to flourish, but it has been established that transporting significant volumes of these resources is fundamentally problematic. The solution is simple, use the resources that are already abundantly available in space. We need not go far to find them, indeed we have already sent men to the nearest depository of raw useable materials in space. The Moon. If we are ever to explore more of our solar system and beyond we must use the resources of the Moon.

The moon is the perfect platform for humanity to begin its journey outward into the majesty of the universe. To get there we need not develop launch systems of any immense complexity to the ones we already have. Sending enough materials to begin extracting and refining the Moon’s abundance of useful resources will be infinitely more efficient and economic than sending those same resources from the earth. Aluminium, gold, cobalt, iron, palladium, platinum, tungsten, oxygen, hydrogen and helium-3, a gas that can be used in future fusion reactors to provide nuclear power without radioactive waste, are all present in the Moon. Using robotic construction equipment and next generation 3D printing techniques, support structures and large habitats can easily be manufactured. Lunar regolith, the dusty material which covers most of the Moon, can be manufactured into an impressively durable concrete like material or can be used to form the basis of huge solar panel installations. Indeed, between the helium-3 and solar energy potential, the Moon has the ability to solve the energy crisis. The Moon’s ⅓ earth gravity makes the launching of interplanetary craft all the more practical and efficient. Spacecraft can be constructed on the Moon primarily using Moon resources with more complex and specialized equipment being shipped from Earth. These spacecraft can then be launched using ⅓ the fuel that would be needed to propel them from the Earth. This allows for much more ambitious exploration and eventually the colonization of other planets in our solar system. As this becomes more achievable so too does the ability to reach other stars. While the technology for that level of exploration is still developing, the technology to utilize the moon has been present for quite some time.

This is not a fantasy, it is a hope and an ambition that is completely legitimate and reasonably achievable. The attitudes surrounding space travel are generally positive, as they should be for such a positive thing, but the politics are confusing and convoluted. Economics for the sake of economics leads to dramatic de-scaling of spaceflight endeavour and intention. Public interest is essential, for everyone who cares about space travel it is your duty to let your interest be known and your affirmation be clear. Without interest the hopes of humanity we be left to slowly crawl along, burdened by policies which give little regard to Human advancement. Given enough attention and serious consideration however, the clear benefits of this noble exercise will become apparent to all people and our potential for greatness will be swiftly be realized.

Barrel Roll

I want to step down into forward momentum, careening myself backwards as if trying to grab onto my ankles. I’ll swing over and over this way, revolving at ever-faster speeds; spinning with more revolutions exponentially every second. I focused my vision and thought that I caught a glimpse of my foot, but it was immediately lost in the blur of motion. My shoes have fallen off. My entire being is starting to slide out of its own structural constitution; wide arcs of color, light, gravity, energy, and anything else that composed what I knew to be my physical form is expanding outward faster than I can try to grab it all and put my pieces back together. Somehow, I see this happening, although I can not describe the imagery currently appearing in my mind. I am sure that my eyes no longer work or possibly no longer even are, or at least do not closely resemble what they used to be. The concept of close resemblance is beginning to lose its meaning.

I have found a new sensation: something in-between hearing and smelling. Like how dog’s noses can detect smells well enough to follow it in the same way you might trace the sound of music to your neighbor’s house across the street, or discern something the same way a bat can imagine a sonar array by listening to their own clicks.

The cosmic glue that holds all things has weathered and peeled. It’s slipped off and flown away, never to be seen again, blown into the nether. It’s gone out there, some where I’m sure I will not return. I’m not sure that it is still in the same plane as me, or the same world, or… the same universe?

I’ve imagined me up a nice replacement body, and I’ve got a cup of coffee to pretend to drink. I suppose there’s nothing left but to be (or not be) and see what happens.

Orion Flight Test

This is the first of what will be many writings concerning space travel. I am utterly captivated by the beautiful endeavor that constitutes our species foray into the cosmos. Suffice it to say that I find spaceflight, especially manned spaceflight, to be one of the most significant undertakings of the human race. NASA’s current focus regarding manned spaceflight has almost entirely concerned the development of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and its accompanying heavy lift rocket, the Space Launch System. On the morning of December 4th 2014 a day from this posting, the Orion capsule will be launched on its first unmanned test flight Exploration Flight Test 1. The capsule will be launched atop a United Launch Alliance Delta IV heavy rocket and complete 2 orbits with an apogee of 3,600 miles and a return velocity of 20,000 miles per hour. This test will provide critical data concerning the heat shield and landing/recovery systems. This is a great moment in history as this is the first flight of a crew rated space vehicle intended for beyond low earth orbit exploration since the Apollo program in the 1960/70’s. A live broadcast of the launch and flight activities will be aired on NASA TV available to watch on NASA’s website. If you are an American citizen you deserve to know where your tax dollars are being spent. The space administration is a civilian program that belongs to all Americans and whose discoveries are the heritage of all mankind. I encourage everyone to check out this incredible mission and to engage in all the astounding things underway in the space community.

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