An Orbital Flight With a Small Surprise
By Pyotr Kowalczyk
George Pearinsky was disappointed. They stuck him into this thing resembling a caftan, not a flight suit, and he couldn’t even take a photo of himself, but maybe it was better without one anyway, because in this vomit-green inflatable quilted shit, he looked like a huge pear, even though he weighed only 125.5 kilograms.
“And what is this?” He asked the captain pointing with his eyes at the screen, where wrapped in a thick layer of brownish gases, an outline of Earth could be seen.
“What?” The captain was evidently caught off guard. He seemed to be fully engrossed in a computer game illegally loaded as an additional application for the passenger orbital ferry autopilot system and needed a while to come back to reality.
“This! Is this what I paid 200 000 amereuro for?”
“Ahh, that,” the captain finally came to and smiled with a “not this again” smile to his co-pilot, Denise, or maybe Dennis. “You know, most of our customers are a bit… surprised with this view. It’s all because of those stratospheric gases. They should finally prohibit their emission.” The passenger grew slightly irritated with this remark and Denise, or maybe Dennis, added:
“We realize it looks better in photographs, and if you prefer, I can offer you a beautifully published album.”
“An album of the most beautiful photos of Earth taken from the height of several meters above ground, and put together by the best photographers and over-realistic painters in the world.”
George Pearinsky, the first European of Polish decent in space, took the brochure (“album” was just too much of an overstatement) and barked under his nose “I didn’t pay 200 000 to look at pictures.” But he had to admit that seen from that distance, Mother Earth looked particularly bad. Greyish and ugly. Too ugly even when considering the steeply discounted promotional price of the flight.
“Remember to return it after the trip, they will be counted,” Denise, or maybe Dennis, warned him.
The commercial passenger number 0289/Mr. Pearinsky leafed through a couple of pages, compared the photos with the view outside and fell asleep. He always slept during flights, and he flew quite much, because he made a fortune as a trader of rights for the emission of stratospheric gases (he had connections in the appropriate European commission), and so he was needed in every geographical latitude.
“Calling the so-called Houston! We have this one problem, we have this one problem!” The captain was shouting in the direction of Pearinsky, which unavoidably meant the latter one woke up from a dream in which he was floating in space, signing lucrative contracts for the emission of carbon dioxide.
“So-called Houston! This one problem,” Denise, or maybe Dennis, was repeating.
“What’s this?” Pearinsky wanted to know with every cell of his wrapped-in-quilted-shit being.
“A Slovakian spy satellite on collision course. A Slovakian satellite on collision course,” the captain shouted, and both members of the crew faked quite well pressing the emergency buttons.
“Yes, a post-NATO model. Decommissioned after everything became available on Bobble Earth,” the captain answered and added in Denise’s direction, “switching to manual controls. A three-degree course adjustment to the left. Starting descent.”
“And where’s this satellite that’s colliding with us?” The passenger wanted to know.
“Ah, nothing, it’s just passed us, you can’t see it now, but I can show you the camera footage,” Denise, or maybe Dennis answered and switched on the monitor.
“But the date here, that’s from two weeks ago?” The trader in stratospheric emissions got upset.
“Ah, yes, actually, two weeks ago we had a very similar situation,” the captain alertly added and quickly changed the subject, “What’s important now is that you get ready for about 2 minutes in the state of weightlessness, and not some Slovakian satellite from two weeks ago. Are you ready for this magnificent experience experienced so far by only…” the captain consulted his notes, “two hundred eighty eight commercial passengers?”
“I guess so. What do I need to do?”
“Just feel light.”
Pearinsky felt light for about 30 seconds and then he felt heavy and wanted to vomit. The bag was already ready and Denise handed it to the passenger quickly enough for the contents to land weightlessly inside the bag, and not outside.
When the carbon dioxide emissions trader looked at the full barf bag, he couldn’t help but comment:
“So yeah, I paid 200 grand to look at pictures and my own puke. Unforgettable memories, I’d say.”
“Such surprises happen to quite a few of our passengers, but with this satellite you had some extra luck, not every flight is so exciting,” the captain remarked reassuringly. “OK, we’re going back to Earth now. I need to be home before eight, my wife has a yoga class tonight.”
An Orbital Flight With A Small Surprise (c) 2008 Pyotr Kowalczyk, first published in Password Incorrect.