#66 At the Outer Limits

by John C. Mannone

“Roger that, Mission Control. Thrusters set. Correction for maximum slingshot effect in progress.”

Engines thrum. The ship’s bow yaws, and Jupiter looms in the spacecraft’s view port.

“Target locked in,” the captain said.

“Starship Lyra. You’re looking good. Maintain zero-niner-zero.”

“Roger.” The captain loosens his grip on the control wheel; breathes deeply; mumbles to himself,

It’s going to be close. Relax. I can do this. I won’t miss the critical point . . . But what if I did? If I’m just a bit too far out, I’d be flung into space and drift forever; if I get too close, then I’ll descend into Jupiter’s hell, no escaping its gravity.

His knuckles turn white again. Perspiration trickles down his forehead.

Amber and green lights illuminate the panel. All steady at first, then they blink wildly. Entranced, he stares at them. Whispers her name; remembers that evening before the launch. Christmas tree lights softly glowed green, red, amber; then just blue on her sheened hair. He placed a red rose there. And kissed her supple lips. Accents of her perfume linger in his mind.

“Starship Lyra! Starship Lyra! Come in, please. You have a system malfunction. Auto-throttle sequence shutting down. Thrust compromised. Entrance through the ‘keyhole’ may be impossible. Can you override?”

Lights flicker on the captain’s stolid face, and only blue drops glimmer in the vitreous humor of his eyes.

“Pull him out of there!” the doctor said. “He’s breaking down; terminate the simulation . . . You’ll have to find yourselves another astronaut.”

11 comments:

Janice D. Soderling said...

Unexpected. Very clever.

Anonymous said...

Hollywood lingo. Works every time.

JRVogt said...

Nice scifi scene with a little twist at the end.

Anonymous said...

Daydreaming about love will do it every time. Excellent, John.

Congratulations!

Lucinda

John C. Mannone said...

Thank you Janice, Anonymous, JR, and Lucinda.

I am thrilled that you all like the flash.

I can only imagine that if I were in space, my physics would only give me so much joy; the bulk of joy, of sanity would come from memories of all the lovely women in my life…. Hopefully, then, I would not panic.

John Riley said...

Very smart story. Love the ending.

Christopher James said...

Wistful sci-fi twist ending. cool

Anonymous said...

Another good one. Clever Scifi with a twist of reverie and love.

P. Frey

Anonymous said...

Very good - has a Twilight Zone-ish feel to it.

Kudos, John.

John C. Mannone said...

Thank you John, Christopher, Peg and Anonymous. I appreciate the comments.

And I think it was a Twilight Zone episode that tangentially influenced this piece.

Douglas Campbell said...

Good one, John. Business and pleasure just don't mix!