They went up in the elevator hand in hand. Most people took some kind of tranquilizer but they didn’t. They wanted to see, to watch as their home planet became a distant memory. They flitted through clouds, the surface hiding and then reappearing below them. It was more concrete colored than green now but it was home, all they knew. They became acutely aware of how little they knew of what was ahead of them.
The sky faded to black as they punched through the last of the atmosphere and then they were at the departure station. A bored clerk checked their papers perfunctorily and sent them on to the shuttle that would take them to the space port.
At the port they exited the shuttle into a large white room with a counter along one wall. The room was empty except a man behind the counter. They approached the counter, ignoring the serpentine ribbon maze meant to keep the nonexistent mob of travelers in line. The man behind the counter continued to stare at the monitor in front of him, ignoring them pointedly. After two or three minutes he finally looked up. “May I help you?” His tone and the angle of his nose said that he could not help them, that they were beyond help, that it was useless to even try.
“Sam and Amy Jeffords.” Sam angled the screen of his tablet toward him and offered the two paper letters of transit.
The clerk pulled out a scanner and read the IDs from the tablet. “Sam and Amy Jeffords. You will have to… What are these?” He finally noticed the papers Sam had been waving at him.
“Letters of transit.”
He took the papers and looked them over. His demeanor immediately changed from bored and imperious to timid and shaky. He looked nervously at Sam and Amy. He looked back at the papers. He reached for the phone at his side. “Mr. Jones. Could you come up here for a moment?”
“Is there a problem?”
“No. No, no problem. It’s just that we’ve… Or at least I’ve… I just thought my supervisor would like to see this.”
A door opened in the back wall and a man stepped out. He had the same arrogant tilt of his head as the first man. “What’s the problem?”
The first man handed the papers to him. He pointed to the signature. They exchanged a look. Jones stepped to the counter and pulled out the scanner. He swiped it across the signature and looked at the monitor. Immediately his mouth flew open. His eyebrows went up.
He glanced sidelong at the clerk. His focus returned to Sam and Amy as a simpering smile spread across his face.
“Welcome to Space Port…” He glanced at the papers. “Sam and Amy. We’ll get you right on your way. Roger, have you got them checked in?”
Roger jumped to the keyboard. “Working on it. There. Done. Just hold your tablet up here and we’ll shoot the documentation to it.”
Sam did as told.
Jones came around the counter and held out his hand. “All ready to go. Sorry for the delay. We don’t get people… Well, people of your stature, of your importance… We don’t get people like you every day. Just down the hall to your left. An attendant will meet you and direct you to your ship.”
Sam and Amy somehow disengaged themselves from Mr. Jones’ enthusiastic handshakes and headed down the hall. At the end of the hall was a small counter with a smiling attendant behind it. He had been alerted.
“Sam and Amy? Welcome. Just step into the elevator on your right. Your ship is up three floors. Have a good trip.”
They stepped into the elevator. The doors closed and the elevator started, preset for the correct level. The doors opened to reveal a small room, maybe eight by eight, with a door in the opposite wall. The elevator doors closed and the opposite door opened. Ahead was a narrow corridor. Sam and Amy stepped in a started walking. At the far end was round port with a door that looked like a camera shutter. It spiraled open with a hiss as they approached. They stepped through and shutter hissed shut.
Sam turned and looked at Amy. “Welcome home. Should I have carried you across the threshold?”
“You should have but it’s too late now. The deed is done.”
“Not out of space dock and already in trouble.”
“I’ll figure how you can make up for it later. Right now we need to get this thing ready to go.”
Sam consulted a layout of the ship that was attached to the wall. He tapped a selection and a path lit up. “Okay. Straight ahead to the central corridor then right and all the way back to engineering. You go get hands on with the controls and I’ll go check out the cargo.”
“How long have we got?”
Sam looked at his tablet. “Just under four hours. We’ve got two hours before we start powering up the antimatter reactor.” He started to walk away then stopped and turned back to Amy. “Should we find an observation port and take a last look?”
They looked at each other for a long moment. It was Amy who decided. “Let’s don’t.”
Copyright © 2012 by Angus B. Lewis
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