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Brittany And Dustin Depart This Earth
































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Brittany and Dustin Depart This Earth

By S.A. Barton

Copyright 2016 S.A. Barton

Shakespir Edition

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License notes and title




The big Geojet was full of quiet. Four hundred passengers breathed as silently as they could manage, like supplicants waiting for cathedral gates to open. Crowds being as crowds are, it was an uneasy silence rustling with whispers and muffled coughs and the occasional hiss of one of the forty or so canisters present metering vital oxygen into the cannulas of their wearers.

“We could still go back,” Dustin whispered to Brittany. “Celebrate our sixty-sixth anniversary by the ocean. I couldn’t fit one of those into my bags, you know.”

“Shh,” she hissed through a tiny wrinkled smile, nudging his ribs with her elbow. A woman even more ancient than they were gave them a dirty look from across the aisle. Brittany and Dustin looked at each other; she raised an eyebrow and wagged a finger at him, and they both stifled giggles with their hands like teenagers.

After the giggles, his smile faded. Hers didn’t, though it softened as she watched his gaze turn toward his lap, where his hands wrung themselves over and over. She sighed, shook her head. I can let Earth go. Why can’t he?

A chime sounded.

“You may now exit the spaceplane,” the captain announced. “Little Heaven local time is ten forty-four AM. The temperature is seventy-three Fahrenheit, twenty-three Celsius. No rain is scheduled.” Someone laughed at that, a loud belly laugh that cut off suddenly when nobody joined in.

“He laughs, but it really does rain here, and it really is scheduled. Nozzles in the overhead. Keeps the parks green and the people happy,” Brittany said.

“I’ll miss real rain,” Dustin said over his shoulder, as they joined the queue down the spaceplane’s aisle, waiting to leave.

You miss everything, Brittany almost said, but she bit her tongue on the words. I hope mom and dad can help him adjust, because I’m out of ideas.

The passengers filed out into the Arrivals area, four hundred people representing over thirty-five thousand collective years of life. A lone youngster hustled out ahead of everyone else, eager to see the rest of the habitat for himself—he wasn’t even sixty from the looks of him. Brittany and Dustin, bone weary as any ninety-somethings after a long day of travel, found a place to sit while they waited to be picked up.

“My hip replacements are killing me,” Dustin groused. “I think it was the liftoff.”

“Oh, come on. We were never under serious thrust, that’s why it took us so long to clear the atmosphere. We must have gone around the planet half a dozen times wasn’t any worse than sitting in our living room at home,” Brittany said, then winced at her faux pas.

“Home. Where we’d be if you hadn’t pushed moving to this… this… retirement facility so hard. God, I miss Earth already. I want to walk in the woods, see real clouds in a real sky. I shouldn’t have listened to you,” Dustin said, voice low but unmistakably tinged with bitterness.

“You two should cheer up,” a hoarse voice said over the faint whine of a power chair. Dustin and Brittany looked up.

“Dad,” Brittany said, standing up carefully, one hand on the back of the bench. She shuffled over to the older man’s wheelchair, leaned down in an angular elderly lean to hug him.

“Robert,” Dustin said, following and sticking out a hand to shake after Brittany disentangled herself. Robert’s hand was firm and strong under the loose skin and dense wrinkles.

You’re looking good,” Dustin added. There was a note of surprise in his voice. Though they’d talked by videophone often enough, you still saw people differently in person. Considering the man was a hundred and twenty-five, he looked amazing, sitting straight in his powered chair, clear-eyed and grinning like a crotchety Shar-Pei puppy.

“Thanks,” Robert said. “Now let’s get the hell out of here. At my age, I like to spend as little time as possible up here in the hundred percent gravity ring. We live on forty percent. Doctor’s orders; it’s heavy enough to preserve bone density and all that happy crap given the right exercise and supplements, light enough that the arthritis doesn’t bother us much. Kate can’t come up here right now, though she’d love to have met you here with me. But she can’t go over fifty percent until the doc does some more work on her lower back. Osteoporosis. That’s what I get for marrying an older woman, huh?” He chuckled, started his chair moving toward the elevators down to the lower-gravity levels.

“Dad, you’re awful. Mom’s only five years older than you.”

“You two will be glad you came up here. You’d be amazed what you can still do when the gravity is low enough. Matter of fact, Kate and I still spend a night or two a week in one of the honeymoon suites down on the ten percent level. We get a nice discount for being past our century anniversary.” He waggled his eyebrows, Groucho Marx style.

“Dad!” Brittany swatted the older man’s shoulder as they boarded an elevator car together.

“I don’t know, this all still seems weird,” Dustin said.

“Kid,” Robert said from his chair as they descended, “I know you’re not so hot on living here. But give it a chance.” They all grew lighter together as the elevator descended toward the hub of the enormous Little Heaven space habitat. After a couple of minutes, half of their apparent weight had been shed; what felt like gravity here was not, but was centrifugal force generated by the spin of the gigantic wheel they were inside. The closer to the center, the less force was felt.

Robert, a hundred and twenty-five years old, stood up out of his chair and spread his arms wide.

“On Earth, I’d never walk again. Hell, on Earth my old bones and organs would have given up the fight by now and I’d be taking a dirt nap. Wanna live to see a hundred fifty? Older, maybe, if the docs keep coming up with new tricks? Stick with me, kiddo,” Robert said to Dustin, who nodded grudgingly. He could hardly argue; being stuck in an orbiting tin can still sounded better than dead. Their weight continued to drop; the whine of the elevator deepened as its rate of descent slowed. Soon they were almost floating, and the elevator eased to a stop.

“We’d come right off the floor if the elevator didn’t come in slow like this. This is a five percent zone. I weigh eight pounds here,” Robert said. “How do you like it?”

“This is wonderful, dad,” Brittany said, casting a hopeful grin. “I can’t remember the last time my feet didn’t hurt.”

“Then you’re going to love this,” Robert said, and the doors opened.

They stepped out onto a gigantic open balcony; Robert’s abandoned power chair followed him cautiously, like a dog at heel. Overhead was a net, to catch anyone who walked too vigorously and propelled themselves into the air against the weak ‘gravity’. By the rail Kate waited, still tall and slender, hair a glowing shade of red improbable at a hundred and thirty years of age. As the three approached her, Dustin and Brittany proceeding in long drifting hops as they tried to get used to the low gravity, Kate pulled backpacks from a wheeled piece of luggage moored to the safety railing with a nylon strap.

“It’s so good to see you two in person,” she said, hugged Brittany and Dustin in turn, handed them and Robert the little backpacks. One was already on her own back.

“I know you’re uncertain about coming to live here, Dustin, and you’re not wrong to be,” she said. “It’s a big change. But while change closes some doors, it opens others.” She set her hand on the rail and hopped over it, moving easy like a child in the low, low ‘gravity’.

“What the hell!” Dustin cried, and lurched against the rail in alarm, nearly surging over, still clumsy in low gee.

On the other side of the rail, Kate leapt far out into the enormous tall cylinder of open space that formed the habitat’s center. As she went, gossamer wings unfolded from the pack on her back, great filmy Monarch butterfly wings. They followed the motion of her arms and flapped, slow and stately, and she ascended. Leaning over the rail and craning his neck, Dustin watched as Kate flew up, up, among dozens of other people flying, among angel wings and bluejay wings and a kaleidoscope of wheeling colorful others. Above them all, the stars and the edge of the bright blue and white Earth shone though the transparent endcap of the wheel of Little Heaven, slowly turning as the habitat turned.

Dustin hopped over the rail. Suddenly, there was nothing uncertain about his expression at all.

“Brittany, I think I’m going to like it here after all,” he burbled like a child around grins and giggles, and he threw himself into the sky to fly.






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Brittany And Dustin Depart This Earth

  • ISBN: 9781310982927
  • Author: S. A. Barton
  • Published: 2016-05-17 22:35:15
  • Words: 1591
Brittany And Dustin Depart This Earth Brittany And Dustin Depart This Earth