Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Rocket Mom

Kathryn closed the cabinet door, flicking a toggle that placed its contents in perfect stasis and looked around her kitchen. She couldn't recall it ever being this clean. Her whole house had an eerie quality about it that the word "spotless" couldn't begin to cover. It disturbed her, but she knew why it was necessary. No sense in all their bits of precious getting smashed to hell during their ascent. Of course, they didn't have to then scour the entire house to the cellular level... but, they were a thorough bunch.

And it had been tough, building a spaceship around a house. No one had really understood why she'd gone to all the trouble, but since she was the star of this little show, there wasn't much anyone could do about it except what she told them to. In the end, her innovative use of materials and revolutionary design concepts had created a model that was now being imitated at a furious pace. Within months of completion on her own house, she'd found herself starting up a multi-billion-dollar corporation, just to make sure the companies selling her ship conversion designs to Jane and John Q Everybody were selling quality merchandise. The last thing she wanted on her conscience were shiploads of suburbanites exploding in the upper atmosphere.

Bad enough she couldn't stop thinking of the ones who weren't coming. The ones who couldn't even buy passage on the retrofitted cargo carriers euphemistically called "cattle busses". She cried a little every day when she thought of the ones getting left.

And it wasn't as though they were being left to die, she thought. Then she could console herself with the fact that they wouldn't suffer too long. No, they were just being left to fend for themselves on a planet bereft of resources, under disintegrating ozone and a poison sky. It's likely they'd live, and that the planet would start to fix itself within a few generations after most of the humans left. But life in those years, and many to follow, would not be at all pleasant.

She left the kitchen, crossing the living room to go and stand on the back porch. She looked out at the dying landscape through the thick glass enclosure and sighed.

But her son would be safe. She was taking him away from all that. And she was taking him in a spaceship made out of his house, the only home he'd ever known, so he wouldn't be too scared. She felt a little guilty at the extravagance, but she didn't care. Since she'd joined the top-secret Project Exodus team and had seen the real data, her sole motivation had been getting her son off this planet as quickly as she could.

Once she and Brenner made their breakthrough with the transdimensional engine, the governments of the world were eating out of their hands. Corporations threw money at them to build cheap efficient spacecraft to use for a planetary evacuation, and all of a sudden, they were billionaire celebrities. Kathryn had just taken the money and poured it into her research, determined to also make her son's escape as painless as possible.

Brenner, on the other hand, had started acting like a rock star. He did the talk shows, the awards galas, the parties... Two years into the final phase of the Project, and Brenner was dead, having spent all his money on hard drugs and expensive hookers. Much of the early team had similar breakdowns. The enormity of their task, the weight of the knowledge they had borne in secret for so long, they cracked under its pressure.

But not her. Within a year, she had completely reinvented spaceflight from scratch. The year after that, and the prototype Homeship conversion, hers, was finished. Her son thought the whole thing was incredibly cool, especially how he was going to live in space. He couldn't quite get over that. At 5, he had no real understanding of the larger global issues, or the terrible destiny awaiting their homeworld. To him this was all a grand adventure. Not for the first time, his mother envied him that.

And so, tomorrow. Launch Day. Turning, she walked back through the living room toward her son's bedroom. She'd caught him playing with his new gravity controls that afternoon, and she wanted to be sure he wasn't floating up out of his bed.

Though she and her husband had made good use of the gravity controls more than once since they were installed. She smiled to herself. Maybe once she was sure Andy was asleep, they might again. If she could tear her husband away from his pilot's chair long enough. She shook her head. She knew it was a mistake to put flight control in his den. A quick peek in the door told her Andy was fast asleep, so she shut his door quietly and went to find her husband.

It was a long flight ahead to their new planet, but as Kathryn walked down the hall to her bedroom, she took solace in the fact that they'd already be home before they got there.


purplesimon said...

I have just finished reading the past three posts. All amazing; I especially liked the two-parter.

A great start to the New Year, although my boss would probably say that I should be working and not reading. What does he know?

Happy New Year

purplesimon out...

karma lennon said...

Nice story! Reminds me of that t.v. show "Earth 2". I loved that show when I was a kid (even though it was only on for one season!)

The vacation was good-I avoided my phone as much as possible. Had a little too much tequila New Year's Eve though....

Hope you had a great one!

Raynwomaan said...

Your muse must have enjoyed the New Year.

This is one of those amazingly creative stories with a "why didn't I think of that" obviousness to it.

Kat said...

Three great stories, three days in a row! Wow, you're on a roll. And you are spoiling us a bit!

Mad_Bomber said...

Nice concept. I would like to order one for my house.

Lisa said...

That would make an incredible, book, Chris. Put that one on your list of possible novels...