Goodbye spaceport, hello space!
You stand at the observation window in your cramped, sparsely-furnished cabin, watching the Earth recede as The Bejeweled Diva leaves its berth at the orbiting spaceport and accelerates into space. You’re keen to explore, but the view of your home planet is too spectacular to miss, a living, breathing ball of deep blues, browns and wispy white. Who knows when you’ll be back?
A tight sensation grips your stomach. Your mouth feels dry, and you swallow. Nerves? Despite being the number one space cadet in your school, you’ve never been off-world until this trip.
No one ever told you space was this big.
And it’s quiet. The soft thrum of the engine accompanies a slight vibration in the floor and walls, a bit like turbulence in an airplane. Except it’s not turbulence because there’s no atmosphere in space. So, it must be the spaceship shaking.
Better not think about that. The ship’s not going to fall apart. It’s an old, classic model, after all. Been flying for years. Or is it decades? Either way, ships of this type were built to last. Weren’t they?
You shake your head to clear it of these disturbing thoughts. Instead, you wonder about the live animals the steward told you are in the cargo hold. What are they? Also, the other passengers looked an odd bunch, especially the two Proximeans, short, big-eyed, blue creatures.
After acing the school exams and cadet work, the school offered you a chance to exchange places with a student from the colony at Proxima B for a few weeks, live with a family there and learn more about operating starships. Your family readily agreed. You’ll miss everyone, but this was too good an opportunity to pass up.
The little spaceport disappeared from view long ago. As you watch, the Earth shrinks to a bluish dot in the darkness of space. You turn away from the window. At some point, the starship must make the string jump to the Proxima B system.
The captain left you a message saying you could visit the Bridge or Engineering after the starship is underway. You grin. That’s the best part of the whole journey, being able to see how a starship operates first-hand. Maybe you’ll be allowed to take the controls sometime, too. That’d be awesome.
A jolt almost throws you off your feet. What happened? Did we hit something? It sure felt like it. And that gravel sound. How’s that possible out here?
There’s nothing but empty space outside the windows. No clues there, but you’re not sure if you could see something that doesn’t have its own illumination anyway. Face pressed to the viewport, you peer outside, straining to see. Is some of the view darker than the rest? A patch where there are no stars visible?
Something is different. What? You tilt your head, listening. The engine sound has changed. A louder, grinding, churning mechanical noise has replaced the soft thrum. The floor’s wobbling more than before, too.
That can’t be good. You bite your lip. Did some space debris damage the drive? What if we can’t maneuver? There’ll be no way for the starship to slow down. It’ll hurtle through the solar system until we reach the asteroid belt and collide with an asteroid in a massive, fiery explosion.
You take a deep breath. Is this a good time to visit the Bridge? Or Engineering? See what’s going on? Or should you save that for later and go make friends with some of the other passengers? It must be time for dinner, surely. But if you go to the passenger lounge, will you miss something exciting—or dangerous—happening on the Bridge or in Engineering?
It’s time to make a decision. You have three choices. Do you:
Go to the Bridge and ask the captain about the grinding noise?
Go to Engineering and ask the engineer about the grinding noise?
Go and meet the other passengers over dinner?