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Lunacy: Lift Off

05/18/12

  09:20:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 745 words  
Categories: Lunacy

Lunacy: Lift Off

Paul had worn the suit before, even underwater. But it felt heavier today. Every step was harder, and felt longer, than any step he'd ever taken. He tried to tell himself that the steps he was taking were little ones, even though the journey they were undertaking was a leap for the species.

But it was more than that. He wasn't alone, after all. His crewmates flanked him on either side. Since he'd returned, they'd been extra protective of him. They'd looked down the Russian barrel of the trip without him, and were happy to have him back.

They paused just once on the walk from the medical labs to their rocket, in front of a gathering of press and family, with a wall of glass behind them, and through that, their transport was visible. They waved, and smiled.

Paul tried not to look for Laura in the crowd, tried not to acknowledge it was the last time he was going to see her for two years, or how much that was kicking him in his guts just then.

He'd hoped she'd take the easy way out. He could handle being single. He'd done it before for what seemed like interminable stretches. But he wasn't sure he could handle a relationship at that distance. After all, that was why his marriage fell apart.

But before the smile the space program's PR team had trained into him could fade, their handlers waved them back on their journey. It was a crisp morning, cool for Florida, though in the suit Paul was still sweating.

?Don't worry,? Ken said over the comm. channel, ?soon as the non-suited crew are clear the AC'll kick on. We don't want you drowning in your own nut juices- and cunt juices, respectively, ladies.?

?If not respectfully,? Alisa said with a smirk. 

?Good,? Paul said, ?thought it was just me.?

?I feel like a microwaving turkey, wrapped in foil,? Levy said. ?And my giblets are very uncomfortable.?   

The hatch closed and sealed. ?Personnel are exiting the launch site. Here comes the AC, and with it, some pressure.?

?Pressure's holding at 1.2 atmospheres,? Clod said.

?Excellent. Errors??

?No unexpected errors.?

?Then you are clear for launch. T minus sixty,? Ken said.

Clod and Martin started flicking switches.

?T minus nine,? Ken said.

?We have engine start,? Martin said.

?Eight, seven, six,? Ken continued.

?Ignition,? Clod said.

Paul was giddy, pressed into his seat; it reminded him of riding the Viper at Six Flags with his father. His dad used to tell him it was the fasted looping coaster in the world- though by then it hadn?t been for years. The Viper?s maximum G force was 4.1, while the launch was only around 3.

?We have mach 1,? Martin said from the captain?s seat.

His dad had died the year before of a heart attack. Paul wondered why he hadn?t caught the tell-tale signs himself, if that was because he had been too wrapped up in his own things, Laura, the space program, his residency. But he forced himself to put the thought out of his head.

?We have booster separation.? Martin said. ?Second-stage engine start?

?Ignition,? Clod said.

Paul?s father had given him his love of space-flight, and before he?d been tall enough to ride the Viper, they rode Space Mountain together at Disneyland. He could still hear the recording from the queue, reminding him to stow his hat or glasses, and ending, ?You are now ready for your intergalactic adventure, thank you and have a great flight."

The engines cut out, and a moment later they were in zero gravity.

?Holy crap,? Levy said, my first zero g boner. Krrrtk, Houston, we have an erection.?

?This is an open channel, dumbass,? Ken said. ?And you don?t have to make the squawky sound.?

?Oh,? Levy said. ?Are we there yet??

?The trip to the moon takes four days.?

?Oh. Are we there yet??

?Somebody, please, hit him,? Clod said.

?There?s no point,? Paul said. ?In the suit, he wouldn?t feel it.?

?Damnit. NASA?s built a nerd I can?t hurt.?

?Trip to the moon takes a few days,? Ken said, ?and it?ll be a few days more while they?re assembling the Phallus in lunar orbit.?

Paul exhaled. He?d been weightless before, for the handful of seconds the trainer jets allowed. But this was different. Every problem he'd ever had, ever insecurity and negative emotion, it fell back to the Earth, yanked away from him by gravity. He was free.

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