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Utgardloki

Voyage of the Novemberweed

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This is the first draft of a short story I wrote for a contest. Anybody who wants to comment on it is welcome to.

Voyage of the Novemberweed

Jupiter loomed beyond the helium tanks outside the window of the Novemberweed. The Kind of Planets was still eighty times more massive than the Earth, and it was still the most impressive thing in what was left of the Solar System.

The Novemberweed was somehow going leave Jupiter’s orbit today. A Venusian spy named Rodri Pietro was to find out how they were going to do it. He also wanted to get off the ship, today, because once the ship reached its cruising speed of 500 miles a second, it would be difficult to get back to any planet in the Solar System.

A thousand years ago, fusion rockets connected the planets and stars. But now most of the hydrogen in the solar system had been turned to helium, and what was left was reserved for essential chemical processes – such as making up about 10% of every human’s mass. Rodri could find neither traditional fusion rockets, nor any tanks of hydrogen for use as fuel.

“I found a way to get you off this ship.” Rodri turned around, and there was Caroline Groziak. Rodri spent the next two seconds dark black hair and dark black skin, and a dark brown tightly-fitting tunic and a short copper-colored skirt worn under a gold trenchcoat.

“How?” he asked her.

“This way.” Walking gracefully in magnetic boots, she led Rodri to the Morgue.

“I prepared this coffin especially for you.” A titanium coffin with a transparent window slid out of the wall.

“I’m not dead yet.”

“Don’t worry,” she said, opening the lid. She then paused, just long enough to make him nervous. “I put in thruster controls, a two-way radio, and enough oxygen to get to Io.” The interior was well padded. Not be the most comfortable way to travel, but it beat a two thousand year trip to Alpha Centauri.

“This is big enough for the two of us,” Rodri said.

“No, I’m leaving the solar system if it will takes the rest of my life.”

“It will.”

“I know.”

“Io is not bad.”

“I can’t stand it here! Every drop of water is weighed and ransomed. My own sister was liquidated because she couldn’t pay the water tax.”

“If it’s the political system you object to -”

“It’s not politics. We’ve squandered this solar system. Do you understand what the Earth used to be like? It had oceans!”

“The simulations are better than the oceans really were.”

“Out there we can get a fresh start.”

“Or start the whole thing all over again.” A magenta indicator on the wall turned on.

“You have to go now,” she said.

“Come with me,” Rodri said as he settled into the coffin, leaving space for her to settle in next to him. “What do you have here that I can’t get you at Io?”

“Freedom,” she said as she closed the lid.

Pneumatic seals hissed. The coffin slid back into the wall. Then he waited so long that he was starting to wonder if Caroline had double-crossed him. Finally the coffin started to move, as magnetic rails and shot it clear of the ship.

About fifteen minutes later, many of the helium tanks on the back of the Novemberweed erupted, becoming rockets. Each rocket only fired a moment before it was jettisoned, but then another tank became a rocket to take its place. The Novemberweed was on its way.

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  1. Morashitar's Avatar
    I enjoyed the read. It drew me in - more please.