Travel Class : a story by: GF Willmetts

February 4, 2018 | By | Reply More

It’s a dream of everyone to fly in space. No matter the price.

But who can afford first or business class? Yeah, you get your own custom spacesuit but you only really need that for EVA. The passenger unit is pressurised so why pay for the extra you aren’t likely to use? You also get a key card for an escape capsule. The only escape capsule! Are there really space pirates out there who are going to attack and just let a capsule go by? Anyone would think this is Star Wars, not a lunar shuttle.

Second class also gets a spacesuit. Maybe not as custom as first class but a spacesuit just in case. Probably a good choice if you can afford it. Even so, you aren’t likely to use it and they say it doesn’t get serviced regularly because it doesn’t get used. But why pay the extra if you aren’t going to use it?

So I’m in third class, sitting next to these two goons on different travel class tickets. In space, we all have the same passenger space, just different extras. The same bastards who will look on tutting as I gasp for air as they climb into their spacesuits as I die of decompression in case of an environment leak. As if that is ever going to happen.

As it is, we are all in a shirtsleeve environment. Other than the key cards, you can’t tell us apart. Well, that’s not strictly true. The business class dude wore a very expensive suit. None of that all-in-one suit. Three piece. Coat. Vest. Pants. Gold cuff links. The works. He reeks of wealth or a company credit card. Wasn’t even sweating so must have a thermal control in there somewhere.

The second class dude did have on an all-in-one suit. Front wide open to keep cool In space, anyone can see you sweat. Well, unless you have a thermal control suit. Just a run-of-the-mill executive with a limited use company credit card.

Me? Jeans and tee-shirt. Well, long-sleeved tee-shirt. Standard Tech class. I’d have worn wool but there’s always a problem with fibres getting into the air conditioning unit. With sleeves, I can always roll them up. Getting on and off the spaceship, you don’t know what you’ll get. Rain. Snow. Cold. Hot. Lukewarm. Always better to wear something while I’m waiting for my bag.

The way they gave sideways glances at me, I couldn’t tell if they were envious of my kit or wondered why they were sharing cabin space with someone going third class. Should I care? I was saving more money than them for the same trip home.

I probably knew more than them about the spaceship as well. We had lunar gravity as we revolved slowly back to Earth. As we got nearer, we’d revolve faster to adjust to terrain gravity. Get our Earth legs back. Well, that’s the story. We could do with double the time to really adjust. Whatever the price of the ticket, we all had wheelchairs waiting just in case we fell over getting out. Some things money had to buy. Would look bad for the firm to have passengers crawling along the corridor from gravity shock. Bet the suit would have a gold-plated wheelchair waiting for him if it was available.

Apart from the spin, daylight hours were also regulated. All to do with adjusting us back to Earth time to reduce any jet or it is spacelag. The two goons were happy to stay in their seats and watch TV for much of the time unless they needed the restroom. Me? I used the natural centrifuge and went for the occasional run. Cos of its size, it’s called the hamster run but only if you ran faster than its revolution and spent most of the time upside down. Anything to relieve the three day boredom.

Oh and meals. They were what came with ticket class as well. The business dude had the equivalent of cordon bleu. The second class dude had what looked like a real meat dish. Me? I think it was some kind of soya burger with fries. Still, it was only for a couple days and I could have a real meal when we landed.

No visits from the pilot. This lunar shuttle was fully automated. After all, what could go wrong? If the goon zombies didn’t want to talk then all I need to do was sleep. At least all the chairs were convertibles. I was nodding off before the night lights flicked on.

I woke up to a red warning light flashing and a slow hissing snake. Only it wasn’t a snake and the two dude goons were getting into their spacesuits. Looks like they were going to get their Secret Santa wish and tut me to death. Bastards!

Shit! We had a leak and they weren’t thinking of anyone but themselves! The bastards hadn’t even thought to nudge me. At least I could have died awake.

Had to be a micro-meteorite. Anything more major and I’d be breathing vacuum. First thing was to ignore these shitheads and find out where the leak was coming from. The air conditioning was now running overtime but it couldn’t beat it forever..

It would need something light. The second class dude had left a bottle of water on his seat. I opened it and threw some water into the air. The bubbles spun around. At least they would be drawn to the leak. A slow leak.

Still an emergency. Just that I wouldn‘t die right away. The leak could grow, especially in re-entry. We could even get a second micro-meteorite. That would really be unlucky…for me.

Why wasn’t I in a bigger panic than these jerks? It wouldn’t help. The bubbles were moving to the rear. Very slow leak. The detector had acted early.

Nope! The bubbles were suddenly gone. Burst! The pressure was dropping. Not so good.

I looked at the two smug dudes. Already in their spacesuits but wondering what I was upto and not meekly dying in front of them. I shouldn’t really blame them. If anything, they were obeying the regulations. Look after yourself or, in an emergency, get into the spacesuit you paid for. You’re paying for your life. Except the middle class dude didn’t seem well and collapsing. I checked his air gauge. It was nearly empty. I released his helmet. So much for being regulation service. If he lived, he’d have a great insurance claim.

‘You’d be a corpse in or out of that suit. No oxygen. We’re in a similar fix.’

I searched his suit. At least it has a repair kit.

Didn’t know which was better to die by. Low air pressure or vacuum. Either would kill. I threw some more water down towards the back of the cabin, hoping that I would see some direction before the bubbles burst. It was a good thing I didn’t crack under pressure. Dying and I was still cracking jokes.

I examined the wall. At least it didn’t look like it was behind any of the fittings. I threw some water at the wall and the puff of steam went into a line. Of course, it wasn’t steam. It was evaporating into a cold mist.

This couldn’t be a micro-meteorite. There would be at least a tiny hole. This was a micro-fine fracture. Something missed in the tests. I felt along the wall, looking for a flaw.

I squeezed some of the repair kit paste on the wall. Some of it found the crack and bubbled. I applied more paste. Behind me, the middle class dude was watching me intently and near panic. The business dude was doing something with his phone.

‘Can you get a message out?’

‘No signal.’

At last, he talks.

‘Me neither.’ The middle class checking his own phone.

They both talk.

‘We must be coming up on Earth’s atmosphere. Blotches the signal. Better than our chances.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘It’s a wall fracture. The paste won’t hold up under the re-entry heat.’

‘What are our chances?’

‘You might survive in the spacesuit but he hasn’t got any air in his. You two can buddy up. Share air.’

‘I’m not doing that. I’m taking the escape capsule.’

‘Leaving us both to die. Is “bastard” on your business card?’

‘You wouldn’t live anyway. No spacesuit.’

‘I’m working on that.’

I pointed at middle class. The spacesuit’s no good for you. Get out of it. We’re going to share the escape capsule.’

‘My escape capsule.’

‘Which is useless in re-entry but might be a safe haven in here for us.’

I snatched his card away. At least the idiot hadn’t put it in his spacesuit.

‘If you don’t want me to pull your tubes, sit in your seat and put your harness on. You’ll be safe there.’

I looked at middle class. Without the spacesuit he was still a little bulky. Maybe padding for me.

‘It’s going to be a tight squeeze but we’re getting in the escape capsule. Just don’t press any buttons or we’ll both be done.’

‘How do you know all this shit?’

‘I read specs. We haven’t got much time. Try not to be sick.’

It was getting hot. We must be entering the atmosphere. I opened the capsule and we squeezed in and I slammed the button and the door shut.

The capsule was built for someone in a spacesuit, like the business dude. Without it, just a tight squeeze. Any air was down to what was in the capsule. I should have bled some from the business dude. Too late now as the buffering took place. Any radio lock would be lost until we hit the stratosphere. Not that would make any difference as the radios weren’t working. There could only be hope that the AI controller could land unaided. No sense talking to middle class. He was out cold. Which meant…

I woke up to someone opening the door of the capsule. Middle class was still coming around. Being unconscious meant any shaking I would have been like a rag doll so muscles like jelly and less likely for injury. Then…

The next thing I knew was a rubber face mask.

‘Breath in deeply, Mr. Meaker. It looks like you were breathing dioxide on the way down.’

I nodded and eventually pulled my mask up. ‘The dude with me?’

‘Same thing. Been watching the log. No air in his spacesuit. He can sue big. The leak ruptured on the way down. You both would have died had you stayed in the cabin.’

‘The business dude?’

‘His spacesuit saved him. He says you told him to safety belt into his chair.’

‘Only thing I could do. He wanted the safety capsule and wouldn’t have got in with his spacesuit on.’

‘What are you going to do now?’

‘I’ll get the contract. They need some serious updates. First hand experience will win it.’

‘If you say so, Mr. Meaker. We’re just looking after your health.’

I nodded and looked around and spotted their telemetrics. Things were stabilising. Looked like they were agreeing and removed the mask. I sat up shakingly.

‘Don’t rush things, Mr. Meaker. Everything slowly.’

I nodded again and gratefully took the cup of water they gave me and then the feed-bar. Any food right now was useful. I was wacked.

Eventually, I signed the release form and made my way out of the ward. Middle Class spotted me and gave a thumbs up from his bed. I didn’t need to speak so replied the same way. Non-verbal saved a lot of problems.

At the reception, the business class came up to me. ‘I thought I ought to show you my business card. It doesn’t say “bastard” on it so I won’t sue you for taking my capsule card.’

I inspected it before handing it back and handed over my card and watched his jaw drop.

‘You’re the mystery CEO at my company.’

‘Yep!’

‘You were travelling third class.’

‘Does that make any difference? I like travelling cheap. Why should I buy frills when I don’t need them.’

‘You did this time.’

‘No I didn’t. You didn’t lend me any of your frills.’

Business cast his eyes down. ‘You didn’t tell me who you are.’

‘You obeyed the rules without question. Next time, question. Help someone. Whoever was in third class would have survived with some generosity.’

‘I’m not fired?’

‘Not yet.’

Let him stew over that. I might even add “bastard” to his business card.

End

 

© GF Willmetts 2018

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Category: Scifi, Short fiction

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About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 15 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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