“This had better work Beth!” José scans the confusing array of buttons, lights, switches and screens in front of him, sweating slightly.
A crackle through the comms. “Don’t panic. If something goes wrong, you won’t have long to think about it.” Then under her breath, “Hopefully”.
“¿Que facíl para ti? You’re not the one strapped to a chair in this thing.”
Chief Engineer Preston comes on the horn. He’s all confidence. “Relax Space Cowboy. You may be a rookie at this, but you’re in good hands. The best hands.” He stands up and addresses the staff in the command module. “The best hands, am I right?” It’s a bit quiet. “Am I right?” He repeats a bit louder, starting to clap his hands, slowly meandering through the room. Slowly the rest of the crew starts to join him. The slow clap quickens to a fast clap, Preston starts rousing them more with fist bumps into the air and shouts of “yeah! yeah!” and with a final “Hell yeah!” he ends it with a curt command of “Ok, Stop!” Applause and cheers come to an end.
“I’ve trained all my life for this, Mother would be proud.” He pauses for a moment, wipes a tear from his eye. “Let’s make Mars-story everyone. Begin the Preston Pence Phobos Project!” Nobody moves.
Preston looks around. “I mean, let’s launch this thing. Engineer Yari, looking good there. Read down our checklist.”
She looks at her screen and reads off:
- Bounce Bug loaded into the Orbital Fling
- Bug fueled
- Safety checks completed
- Weather conditions are optimal
- Pilot on board
- Trajectory loaded
Preston barks out, “The Spock, are your people ready?”
Over the comms, “Logically, we were prepared before you began your speech, Chief Engineer.”
“How much time do we have before our fling window?”
“Five minutes, Chief Engineer. Then we count down from ten. And push three buttons. Actually, we don’t even have to do that, the launch system does it for us.” Whispering to the tech next to him, “It’s really not that hard.”
Preston sits down, relaxing a bit. Straightens his jacket, smooths down his hair. Just in case. “Ok, Tetris break everyone. And remember why we’re doing this.”
“Corn Nuts!” says one.
…and over the comm from the Bug José adds, “Chorizo.”
The group is quiet for a few minutes, casually monitoring systems, reading emails, playing Dwarf Fortress, etc to pass the time.
Then it’s time.
…3 …2 …1 …Fling!
Preston leaps from his seat, finger pointed to the Mars sky. “Fling!“
The long tunnel of magnets engages and everyone watches José’s Bounce Bug vanish into the atmosphere.
“Godspeed, José” whispers Beth under her breath.
Onward to Chapter Sixteen – Phobos