Caught Somewhere In Time – Chapter 09
Location: LunaBase, Luna, Earth Orbit
Local Date: Friday, November 17, 2220
He grabbed a bar that seemed to wrap around the outside of the whole dock, and pulled himself forward using it as he started jogging. With the low gravity in the hangar, using the bar to pull him forward had two obvious advantages. First, it kept him from rising very far off the floor when he ran. Second, it converted his upward momentum into forward momentum, giving him more speed in his step. He seemed to be flying almost out of sight before Val grabbed the bar to follow.
Just like Cole did, she tugged herself forward with both hands as she took the first few running steps. She raised a couple of feet of the ground, not far, and cruised at about three or four times her normal running speed when she touched down again for another step a few yards later. She kept her body low and her head titled up, moving in a more cat-like fashion then she normally would in heavier gravity. Leaning forward allowed her better control and kept her closer to the ground where she could continue running.
Running so quickly, by the time she saw Cole stopped up ahead of her, she knew it would be almost impossible to stop. As soon as her feet touched the ground, she accidentally leaned too far forward though, sending her into a forward dive. Val missed when she grabbed for the bar, causing her to twist in her flight right toward Cole. He turned just in time to see her coming, and with one hand gripping the bar, he caught her around the waist with the other arm before she flew past him. Val had taken gravity for granted as a means of helping her control movement. In the low gravity areas of the base, what goes up will eventually always come down, but you couldn’t count on coming back down as a means of stopping forward momentum.
“Been flying long?” joked Cole as her helped her get her feet back underneath her. Val merely blushed as a response and tried to get her bearings. “It’s right over there,” he said and pointed just beyond where they stood. He let Val get ahead of him as they walked more casually toward the secure door. She looked around and didn’t see anyone else here. The door opened at her approach, and Cole rushed around her into the doorway before Val could enter. It snapped closed behind them, and she stood in the long white hall once again.
With gravity on, jogging became much easier. It started to dawn on Val exactly how dangerous a situation she created for herself. Technically, she hadn’t done anything very wrong yet, merely went for some exercise in a restricted area with a new friend. That would change once she committed grand-theft transport however. Due to the nature of the ship she planned to steal, it seemed like there would be maybe more serious consequences than just losing her appointment as the pilot of this program.
As they reached the end of the hall, Cole stopped, winded from the jog. “Cole,” Val started, “are you sure this is a good idea? I mean, have you thought this through?”
He remained silent for a moment, looking at her with his warm brown eyes. She loved the way his eyes looked at her. “We aren’t stealing it really, only borrowing it. We can’t keep it, and it will really only be gone for a matter of a couple of minutes at most.”
“A couple of minutes? I thought you wanted to go back in time?”
“Exactly!” he exclaimed. “We’ll go back in time a few hours, I’ll dig around and research what happened, and when time catches up to us we can land the ship right after we depart.”
“That doesn’t make any sense.” Val felt completely confused about the time traveling aspect. “If we take the ship back in time, we’ll have it with us. We can’t be in two places at once.”
“I will explain it better later, but for now, you’ll just need to trust me on this.”
She did trust him. Val wasn’t exactly sure why she trusted him, but it felt right to her. The Admiral specifically told her to follow her gut, but he probably didn’t mean in this circumstance. Pilots rely on their intuition a lot to get them safely through otherwise dangerous situations, and she didn’t feel in danger right now, only curious about what would happen next.
Cole asked, “How closely did you look at the ship earlier?”
“I got close enough to nearly run into it, but that’s all. How are we going to get inside if we can’t see the door though?”
“That’s easier than it might seem. There is an access hatch under the ship. The problem is that while it’s open, the ship will be visible, or at least the access hatch will be. Only the exterior of the ship bends the light, the open hatch makes some of the interior visible, bent around the outside.” Cole seemed concerned about this detail, but Val didn’t know why that would be a problem.
“We’ll be visible too, at least until we close the hatch, right? That sounds like the hard part.” Val understood this much.
Cole’s eyes fell on her face again, and he smiled. “Good point. If we get caught, it won’t be because they saw the hatch open. Somebody could see us before they see the hatch.” He paused a moment, and his face went slack staring at Val. He seemed to be considering something. Then, he spoke rapidly, having determined the next step, “I’ll go first, and open the hatch. You follow about five seconds behind me; that should be long enough to open it up. We’ll have to move quickly and stay low, so we are going to jump low from the wall like a swimmer doing laps. Are you ready?”
Val nodded and both of them crouched low to the ground, on hands and knees. Cole opened the door, crawled into the low gravity area, put one foot on the doorframe now behind him and pushed off, flying through the air only a foot or two off the floor. Val began to count, whispering to herself, “One.” Cole reached to the ground with his hands as the air resistance started to slow him, and pulled himself forward again, giving him a few more inches of altitude. “Two.” She could see as he glided under the edge of the nearly invisible ship that a strange, dark area appeared over him, presumably the ship bending his reflection around it. “Three.” Val climbed through the doorway and pulled it closed behind her, feeling her weight leave her hands and knees. “Four.” As she crouched back against the wall for her leap, one foot on the door, and pushed the seat of her pants almost all the way back to the wall. She looked up and saw a doorway open beneath the ship and Cole began to climb up into it. “Five.”
Val pushed off from the wall, and with her face forward, she pushed her hands out in front of her, slowly moving them from in front of her to her sides, as if swimming. Her training in aerodynamics came into play now, and she didn’t need the extra push off the ground like Cole used. Instead, she used her hands and the arch of her body to create an air pocket beneath her that lifted her slightly from the ground to keep her from dropping to the floor. She let the air resistance slow her this way, without touching the ground, and as she saw the open hatch approach, she twisted her body so she was face-up. The maneuver brought her almost to a stop and allowed gravity to pull her that last inch or two down, skidding about six-inches in a sitting position to a stop right under the ship’s entrance. She stood up, and in a fluid motion she rose from her feet into the ship.
Cole closed the hatch beneath her and said, “I didn’t realize you were so graceful, especially after catching you in the other dock!”
“Maybe I wanted you to catch me,” she joked, smiling at him, not quite sure if she just told a lie or not.
“The danger of being found out is not over. It doesn’t look like anyone saw us, but we still need to get the bay open and get outside.” Cole sat in the cockpit seat and started turning the ship on.
Val recognized the controls from a simulator she flew in a recent training session. “Is this equipped with HoloNav? I’ve simulated these and have always wanted to fly one!”
Cole apparently realized that he sat in the pilot’s seat and got up, offering it to Val. She took his place and continued the power-up procedure, scanning the controls. “You will be able to fly this, right?” he asked her.
“Of course! I used to play games like this before I could talk. I took my first ship into orbit when I was ten, and just last year I trained on HoloNav last year, being the first person to ever pass the final exam on the first attempt.”
She slipped her hands slowly into the control gloves, which looked like oversized mittens gripping handles. She found tighter openings for her two index fingers inside the gloves that allowed for the control of floating cursors in the holographic display that descended around her head. The display provided her an electronic representation of the surrounding space in three dimensions that she could move her head around in to see at any angle her chair would allow. This technology eliminated the need for windows on the exterior of a ship, and the limitations of using exterior light to see by. The display showed her the empty bay around her, with a marker on the bay door above her. The cursor simulated for her right index finger floated up as she pointed her finger that way. With a flick of her finger, she selected the door and Val asked, “Are you ready to do this?”
Cole would be able to see the hologram around Val’s head, and so he must have seen that she selected the door for opening. “It looks like you know your stuff pretty well. Let me get strapped in and then let’s see if we can sneak outside.”
She turned her head and saw Cole sit in a passenger seat a few feet behind her. No more than two people would fit comfortably in this ship, and the interior looked only slightly bigger than most private bathrooms she’d been in. The interior looked circular, with a seat against the back wall on the other side of the floor hatch behind her. Barely enough room to stand and walk inside, you couldn’t take more than two or three steps before having to turn around. When she saw Cole had buckled himself in through the hologram, Val flicked her finger to open the bay door. The ship sent the command electronically to open the door just like any other computer command, but the representation of the hologram made it appear that she merely flicked it open with her cursor.
The bay over them opened and Val raised the ship silently out of the door. She went to close the bay door behind her, as was protocol in ships that controlled exterior objects, but Cole must have seen the cursor move that direction. “NO!” he shouted, “You have to leave it open! Just fly away quickly, before we are seen!”
Urged on by the force in his voice, she lifted up away from the lunar surface very quickly, and started moving out of orbit, putting the moon between them and Earth. Her display showed the sun off to one side in the distance, and Luna shrinking behind her. “This thing moves fast! I don’t feel the pull of our speed though…” she trailed off into silence, realizing that another modern convenience had been added to this ship: variable antigravity. Only the newest ships were fitted with gravitational field generators that offset the pull of gravity in one direction by applying additional gravity in the opposite direction. Whereas in an older ship, a fast takeoff like she had just experienced would have pinned her to her seat, the gravitational field in this ship decreased internal gravity, nullifying the effect and keeping her from having so much as a sinking feeling in her stomach. This technology evolved from the field generators used in places like LunaBase and on Mars, and moved swiftly in conjunction with piloting controls.
Val slowed the ship and turned it around seeing that the moon partially eclipsed the Earth in her display. She pulled her hands from her gloves and the display dimmed, becoming almost transparent. Val pivoted her seat around to face Cole. “What the hell was that about? We are sure to get caught now! You can’t just leave a door open like that, what if someone walks into the bay and suffocates as all the oxygen is being sucked out behind us? That was incredibly irresponsible! I don’t even know why I helped you steal this damn ship. What is wrong with you? What is wrong with ME?” Cole merely grinned at her, listening to her fume. “And stop smiling all the time, it makes it really hard to be mad at you,” she finished, pursing her lips almost as if pouting.
“Are you done?” he asked. When she nodded, Cole answered. “We had to leave it open, because if we closed it, we would just need to open it again to get back inside later. Well, later to us that is. I have a feeling we made it just fine however, without getting caught by anyone.”
“I still don’t understand any of this,” she said. “We haven’t made it anywhere just fine, just away from the surface.”
“When we lifted off out of the bay, I saw a ship watching us. It was directly behind your head in the display, so you might not have noticed it.”
“Is that why you yelled at me to go? Don’t do that! I only react when things like that happen, I don’t stop to think it through. Now we might be in big trouble if somebody saw us.” Val started to really get scared. “I’m going to lose my license. They’ll never let me fly again!”
“Don’t worry, Val. Nobody followed us.” Cole’s voice sounded deep and soothing. “I think it was this ship that I saw in the display. I think you saw us leaving, and I think you were getting ready to land.”