Authors: Christine Gasbjerg
It’s not like having an engine breakdown or running out of gas with your car on the highway, where you just call the auto service to come and haul you home. Here in space there’s nobody to save you. You’re all alone.
It’s probably not like there’s never going to be another ship in space, it’s just that it might be quite a few years before another ship passes by here. And you certainly shouldn’t expect any emergency service to come and get you. It’s just too expensive, and the corporations aren’t legally obliged to protect you. Different laws and morals apply in space. It’s a bit like when you’re at war—a few casualties are expected. If a few space explorers are ‘sacrificed’ in the name of science and space imperialism, no heads will be turning, no penalties, no judgment. It’s morally accepted in society today that the value of a human is of little significance in space.
When we’ve been hanging immobile in space in a cloud of rocks for two days, Kurt strolls by me.
“Never leave home without it!” Kurt triumphantly holds up his pocketknife with the corkscrew unfolded.
“Are you having a party... a farewell party?” I smirk.
Kurt’s uplifted spirit instantly rubs off on me. Right now, there’s nothing I want more than to be joyful.
“Martin has pulled out a vintage bottle. He says he’s got no idea how to fix the ship. He doesn’t even know what the problem is. He hates being unable to do anything. So he’s pulling out a bottle.” Kurt makes a plopping sound with a finger in his cheek, like a cork is pulled.
“Oh right—we might die, so there might not be another special occasion?” I tease.
“Something like that, I suppose. But I’ll be sure to help him celebrate.” It’s Kurt’s time to smirk. “Join us.”
“Absolutely.” I follow Kurt heading towards Martin’s cabin.
I wonder about Kurt. I rarely ever find him in a bad mood. It just seems like there are no issues with him. He’s just generally a content guy. No drama. I catch myself thinking it’s a bit boring, even annoyingly so. But it’s exactly the opposite of the guys in the failed relationships I’ve had in the past, that were full of drama, uncertainty, short lived and took my focus away from what I wanted to do with my life. No drama is what I should be looking for in a man. No drama is sustainable, no drama frees you up to focus on fulfilling your soul, because you know your ally in life has got your back, and you’ve got his.
“I brought company.”
“Ahh, the lovely Millie. Yes, let’s have a party.” Martin is trying to sound happy, but clearly, he’s not.
“I heard something about a vintage bottle, and was tempted.” I sit down next to Martin on his bed that is sloppily made up.
“Well, then why don’t you choose,
.” Martin takes on the act of an aristocratic gentleman.
“We’ve got options? Excellent,” Kurt chips in.
“There’s a Pinot Noir and an Amarone to choose from.”
“Nice. Well, since Amarone is my second most favorite red wine, it’ll have to be that.”
“Oh, so what is my lady’s first preferred wine, if I may ask?” Martin is really getting into his medieval gentleman act. It’s funny because he’s such a nerd.
“Shiraz. I love the heavy, fruity thickness of it. I’m aware that it might not be the choice of a connoisseur like
.” I try to match the tone.
“Shiraz. Indeed. I shall keep that in mind next time I go to the wine cella
” Martin carries out his gentleman act with a stiff upper lip and British accent spoken nasally, with his head in the cloud, raised eyebrows, and half closed eyes.
I can’t help but laugh. The others crack up too. It’s liberating to laugh and release the tension from the pressure of the threatening situation we’re in.
The door is ajar, and a frizzy curly head pops in.
“Hello.” Rosie’s face looks friendly, open and a little shy.
“Rrrrrooosie, my lovely lady. Please step inside
” Martin continues his medieval British gentleman act, and we all crack up again.
“Thanks. I was drawn to the sound of laughter. The mood on the ship is killing me.” Rosie smiles, and it suits her.
I get up and offer Rosie the spot next to Martin, who gallantly pours her a glass.
“Well, if this is the end, then we might as well go out with a bang.” Martin is back to his old self again, as if Rosie’s close presence compels him to be himself
It’s very new to see Rosie smile and be accommodating, and she looks different too... as if she’s let down all guards, and is completely open and vulnerable. I wonder if now is a better time to ask her again about what she knows of ETB’s, ETV’s, and communication from space, but I bite my tongue.
Sure enough, Rosie’s sweet and inviting state is obvious to all of us, and it doesn’t take long before Martin can’t resist any longer, and wraps his arm around her shoulders.
I notice how the mood in the cabin is very light-hearted on the surface—even childish at times. But I guess that’s what we need to counterbalance the severe danger of the situation we’re in—to lift the mood up from the depths of fear below the surface—to distance ourselves from the grave reality.
“Well, as long as we’re going to die, I guess it doesn’t matter who knows what, and who told them...” Rosie looks straight at me, and smiles a little apologetically.
“Nonsense. We’re not going to die. This is just a minor setback. All technical crew is on the case,” Kurt asserts and doesn’t seem to realize he’s interrupting what could be a very interesting conversation.
“I hope you’re right... Millie, what I wanted to say was that I’m sorry that I let Captain Alvah intimidate me. I don’t agree with the isolating code of secrecy. It keeps us apart and alone. I believe that no man is an island, and we should all know as much as possible to support each other and be able to make informed decisions. We should all know what has been going on so far. I suppose the captain wishes to keep us all in the dark, so that no one but he understands what’s really going on.” Rosie talks fast, as if she’s been dying to say this for a long time.
“Hear hear.” Martin looks tenderly at Rosie.
“I think we all agree.” Kurt looks at me.
Rosie goes on to tell us what she knows. Everything she says confirms what Kurt and I already suspected. Only Martin is surprised.
“So a conspiracy with E-corp on top is holding all the cards, that could effectively put an end to inequality on Earth, and they’re keeping it secret? That’s outrageous! We must revolt!” Martin is loud and clearly in a state of uproar.
“Remember that we’re the only ones on this vessel who feel this way. The captain will strike out hard on anyone he suspects is opposing the corporation.” Kurt is calm.
“Argh! That’s fucked! How imprisoning! Restraining even!” Martin is getting louder and looks increasingly distraught.
“Yes, agreed. Yet, the best thing we can do is appear to be in alignment with the corporation’s goals and policies.” I hope that Martin will fall in line with us, and keep a low profile.
If he doesn’t, then all our heads will soon be on a platter.
“In alignment? With those suppressors?” Martin stands up as tall as his voice is loud, and tears are rolling down his angry face.
He’s clearly more of an emotional rebellious child than anything else right now. His reaction confirms that we were right initially in keeping him out of our circle of trust. He’s too volatile.
“I could never pretend to align with a suppressing conspiracy. Never!” Martin is on the verge of sobbing.
“Now there sweetie... you’re getting all worked up over nothing. The important thing is that now we know. How we deal with this knowledge is up to us. Let’s calm down and make the best decision.” Rosie’s voice is soft and sweet as she slowly strokes Martin’s back.
He sits down and hides his face in her neck. She lovingly caresses his hair.
What an angelic patience.
Suddenly the door flings open.
“What’s going on?” Captain Alvah jumps into the room with two of the other crew members behind him, armed and blocking the door.
“Oh, sorry Captain. We had a little party, and some of us had too much to drink.” I sound frank and sober, and praise myself for having only one glass of wine.
“You again! What kind of seeds are you planting, Miss Hunter?” Captain Alvah moves in on me, slowly, like a predator about to charge its prey.
Even his speech seems hissing as from the slit tongue of a snake.
“We were considering whether this would be our final stop and we’d die here, so we opened a bottle saved for a special occasion. Of course, we were hoping that the problem will be solved by the engineers. You know it’s very frustrating to sit on our hands here, and not be able to help the situation. Not be able to perform our duty to the corporation.” I pause for a moment, to let the claim of devotion to E-corp sink in to the captain’s skull. I speak a lot about nothing, and hope the volume of words will throw the captain off the scent. “The feeling of being useless creeps up on you.”
“And as you can see, not all of us believe that we’re going to make it.” Kurt nods in the direction of Martin. “I apologize for any disturbance we might have caused the other crew members. We would have kept it down if we had realized that anyone could hear us.”
“A party?” The captain ignores Kurt, and looks intently at me.
He clearly doesn’t believe a word I say.
“I’ll have no more of these gatherings. The only place to gather is the dining hall, where everyone is around. Understood?”
“Yes.” Kurt and I sound like twin parrots.
Martin doesn’t say anything. He’s lost in a cloud of wine fumes and sobbing.
“You come with me,” The captain addresses Rosie.
She gets up, and Martin falls down on the bed with a thump, and curls up like a fetus. I’m surprised by how drunk he’s become. He must’ve been drinking prior to us joining him.
Rosie walks off with the captain and his two armed lackeys. I hope she’ll keep quiet. Kurt looks calm. I don’t even have to ask him if we can trust her. I know he’ll say she’s on our side now.
the pink planet
It feels like a giant sigh of relief travels through the air of the ship, when the engines finally start running again. Everyone looks lighter and breathes deeper.
Talking about breathing, I’m aware of how many days of oxygen we’ve lost on this engine repair. Now, we surely don’t have enough oxygen to complete the whole journey. So the question is, whether the journey will be cut short, or someone’s life will... In which case I’m pretty sure that I’ll be the first one to go. Unless of course the captain thinks that my knowledge and experience of the ETB-encounter might still hold value to him or the corporation... I can only speculate about what the captain is planning. So far, there have been no orders as to cutting the journey short.
“Will you assist me on the planet like before?” Kurt looks out the window as we approach the pink planet.
“Yes.” I feel a bit like a kamikaze pilot by volunteering.
Then again, if the captain wants me gone, he’ll get me gone no matter if I stay on the ship or not. No point in hiding. Besides, I enjoyed the outing with Kurt on the asteroid the last time. This time it’s a planet, which is even more exciting.
The closer we get, it becomes more and more obvious that there’s a thin sphere of gasses covering the entire surface of the planet.
“Do you think there’s oxygen on the planet?”
“From here, the surface looks much like the surface of the moon—without any vegetation or other signs of breathable air. I’d say no, but let’s collect samples, and see what the results are.” Kurt’s smile is warm.
I feel drawn to him.
The landing on the light red planet is rather bumpy, and everything that hasn’t been securely fastened is thrown around. Apparently, the planet has a stronger gravitation field than anticipated—although it’s not nearly as strong as Earth’s gravitation.
Three of us are sent out on the planet to collect samples—Kurt, myself and Lorenson. I remember seeing his name connected to the captain’s on the list, but apart from that, I haven’t seen Lorenson much around the ship. His face seems deprived of expression, and he’s neutral and quiet in an ominous way. I think it would be naive to assume that he’s just innocently keeping to himself.
This time we don’t have to use the little steering rockets to fly to the planet. We can just climb down a ladder from the hatch to the planet’s surface. It feels different with the milder gravitation. Not like walking on the surface of Earth. Everything feels lighter, although not as light as on the asteroid—obviously—since it’s a planet with a little gravitation. Perhaps it’s more like walking on the moon, although I’ve never been there.
“Are you two in charge of the collection of samples?” Lorenson sounds uninspired, and his voice is monotone.
“Yes, okay.” Kurt sounds surprised.
Lorenson walks off and leaves Kurt and I to our sample collection business. Kurt looks at me with confusion. I suppose we both thought Lorenson was coming along to help collect and carry the minerals etc., since they’ll be a lot heavier than on the asteroid, because of the mild gravitation.
“Perhaps he’ll collect his own samples...” Kurt sounds a little disappointed.
“Maybe.” I don’t want to dwell on it. I know my mind will get sucked into a vortex of conspiracy theories if I do.
I much prefer to get out of my head, and instead explore this virgin planet looking for traces of life and developments of the universe.
“Are you sampling the spheres?” I’m referring to the slightly hazy layers of gas on the surface of the planet. I want to snap Kurt out of his head too, and back into the exploration with me. We’re on the adventure of a lifetime. We’re experiencing a greatness of wonders and unexplored territory, which only a few select people will ever do. I want Kurt to enjoy it with me now, while it lasts.
“It looks to me like the sphere of gas is only as tall as a man, and apparently it’s got horizontal layers too... do you agree?” I kneel down and move my hand around in the air to examine the layers.