Saturday, December 28, 2013

Unconsumed Love

The following is a work of fiction. The characters are fictional.  Any resemblance of characters to real people is a mere coincidence and unintentional.
 
She was there once upon a time.  She made me feel so free and yet so bound.  It was a freedom I could never have, a morsel I could never consume.  Have you ever had time stop, just stop, to savor a moment?  I go back to that moment all the time.

"Mark, the Johnson's are here," said Mary, my wife, so gleefully.  It was our Christmas party at our home in Kirkwood, Missouri.  Kirkwood was a small suburb of St Louis.  We had invited many friends and family.  Ralph Johnson was Mary's boss.  He was a very giving man, a good friend to anyone who needed a friend.  He brought her.  The moment I lay my eyes on her, it was like my heart stopped, and motion in the room halted.  I could feel gravity anymore.  Then and all of the sudden, reality started back up again.

"Meet Ralph and Emily," said Mary making the obvious introductions.  The sounds of the many people in the room and in the living room became louder.

"Nice to meet you," I said shaking Ralph's hand.  I turned to take her hand to give the same greeting.  Something happened when our fingers met.  Something extraordinary, and yet it was....what should I say...sweet, no, beyond sweet more like passionate.  I looked into her eyes and it was as if I knew her forever.  I knew who and what she was from the beginning of time.  Her gaze told me she felt it too.

"Nice to meet you...huh...Emily, is it?" I stammered.

"Yes. Yes it is.  And you must be Mark.  Nice to meet you too," she said.  Her voice was familiar.  So familiar like I had known it all my life.

"Take their coats, dear," said Mary.  There goes reality again.

"Yes, of course."  They handed me their coats and I took them upstairs with the rest of the guests coats were.

As I returned to the party, music was going and people were dancing.  Mary and Ralph were dancing and having a good time.  Emily was standing by herself.  I joined her.  She handed me a cup of punch.

"It seems like they are having a good time.  Like they have some kind of office romance going on," she said.

"Mary? No.  I can't imagine a good guy like Ralph would do it either."

"No, I guess he wouldn't."  Did I hear some disappointment in her voice?

A slow song started to play, and she took me out to the floor.  We held our bodies close.  Her hand on my chest and mine on her waist.  It was heaven.

"Have we met before?" she asked.

"No.  But I could've sworn so."

"Me too."  Her face was quizzical, like she was searching for an answer but none was found.  We continued dancing.  The floor, ceiling, room, and guests seemed to have flown away and we were dancing in space.

The moment came.  It was a magnetic or a gravitational pull.  Our lips drew closer.  I was aware of it and so was she.  Our lips accelerated towards each other.  Soon they were going to meet.

Then I stopped, and she stopped.  The room and the guests returned.  We were still dancing to the same song.  Nothing had happened.  Nothing, to anyone else.

"I love my wife." I whispered.

"And I love my husband," she whispered back.

"We have our own lives."

"Yes, yes we do."

The song stopped, and we retreated from the floor.  We met Ralph and Mary by the punch bowl.  I stood by my wife, and she by her husband.

"What a great time this is," Mary laughed.  Ralph and Emily agreed.  Then she was just another guest, one of many.  The party went on until its usual end.  The guests left, coats were confused over, and the mess remained.

"Oh! I'm beat," said Mary.

"It was an exhausting night," I lied.  I felt duty to agree with Mary at that moment.  Yet, I still felt quite vigorous.  I took Mary in my arms and kissed her passionately.  It wasn't like with her, but it was familiar.

Yet, I go back to that moment again and again, thinking of what could have been.  I suppose if it never was it couldn't have been lost.  In spite of my reasoning, I still felt loss.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

No One Heard, No One Cared

The following is a work of fiction. The characters are fictional.  Any resemblance of characters to real people is a mere coincidence and unintentional. Warning: This story contains violence to children and women.

Emma dressed in her skirt, stockings, blouse, jacket, and hat for the evening stroll with her children.  She had Armando wear pants, shoes, shirt, a hat, and a jacket with lapels.  Ellie was dressed in a red dress with long sleeves and white trim.  She also wore a jacket and a hat.  They were ready for their evening stroll around to neighborhood just before dinner.

They walked their usual route form their home and stayed on the sidewalk.  Then they turned a corner.  To their amazement there were gangs of young men in brown shirts smashing windows of stores.  The baker's, the shoe maker, the bank, all were being smashed and ransacked.

"Com'on children, let's leave," said Emma trying to get her children to turn around.

"Some one should stop this," said Ellie.

"Yeah, let's get the police," said Armando.

"No, children.  Let's go back home this is not our business."

Emma tried to move the children away from the scene when someone grabbed her arm.  She was yanked hard, and her body swung around.

"What do we have here?" said the young man in a brown shirt who was holding onto Emma.

"A lady and two little brats," said another man also in a brown shirt.

"Let's have some fun," said a third.

Two of them gabbed Ellie and Armando and took them a few feet away.

"No! Don't hurt them.  They're my children," cried Emma.

Armando and Ellie tried to fight the men off but were too young.  The men started to rip the clothes off the children.  Emma watched in horror as she was held by the young man who was laughing.

As one of the men started to unzip his pants, another man shouted.  The young men stopped in their tracks.  Emma looked almost behind her and saw a man in a grey military uniform and a grey cap with a black brim.  He also wore high leather military boots.  She didn't notice the SS insignia on his lapel nor did she care.

"Help! Help! Help us sir!  These men are violating my children," cried Emma.

"We cannot have that here!  You men stop at once," the military man said.  He pulled out a handgun from a holster on the side of his coat belt.  He pointed the gun at the young men.

The young men stepped away slowly.  Ellie and Armando stood together and crying.  Their nice clothes half torn off.  Their jackets and hats were thrown to the ground.

"The children are not to be harmed," said the military man.  With that command he took aim and shot twice.  Ellie and Armando slumped to the ground.

"What have you done! Oh God...," howled Emma.

The military man grabbed her arm.  "Now no one will hurt the children.  Come lady, you are to give entertainment to these patriots.  He delivered her into the hands of the three young men  who proceeded to rape her right next to her children's dead bodies.

No one in the town cared to hear Emma's cries and shrieks.  No one thought it was their business when her voice fell silent.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Working the Rails

The following is a work of fiction. The characters are fictional.  Any resemblance of characters to real people is a mere coincidence and unintentional.

Somewhere in solar orbit between Mars and the Asteroid belt, Nick and Jack work on Deep Space Station 1.  Shaped like a helix, or a spring, this particular station was an ore processing plant with its own artificial gravity accomplished by centrifugal force, that is, spinning.  Nick and Jack each operated a hefty robotic arm (RA) to capture incoming spacecraft and pass them on to Berthing Robotic Arms (BRAs) to be berthed on the outer side of the station to any number of ports.

"Did you catch the game?" said Nick as he looked up from his cupola on his side of the space station to Jack's cupola on the other side.  Between them spanned a truss and rails which their RA's rode on.

"Yeah, Seahawks won. You owe me $100," came Jack's voice over the intercom.

Nick had an automated cargo ship on his RA, and he was commanding it to roll towards his side.  Jack's RA was rolling towards the middle to capture the next one.

"Wait a minute, the bet wasn't who won or loss.  It was if Johnson scored touchdowns. You dope." Nick's temper was showing, like it always does.

"Sure he did.  You still owe me $100."  Jack started focusing on his monitors and lining up the capture target for an ore filled ship.

"Damn it.  How many did he score?" Nick's RA came to the end of the track right next to his cupola.

"Enough."  Jack secured the ore ship and started to orient it so it hanged toward him.

"Enough, what does that mean?  I need a number.  You...."

"Quit the chatter, ladies," said a middle aged female voice they both recognized as Victoria, their super.  "Nick, are you going to pass on that ship or keep it till Christmas and give it to me all wrapped up?"

"At ease, disease.  I got it."  Nick manned his controls again and passed the cargo ship to and outer robotic arm that would find a berthing port for it.

"Now boys, work nicely."

"But he started it claiming I owe him $100....." Nick complained.

"I don't want to hear it, Nick.  You two work nicely or I'll put one of you on disposable cargo duty. Got it!"

"Yes, ma'am," both workers said in unison as if they got caught red handed with their hands in the cookie jar.

"Good.  Now a passenger capsule is coming.  This is a VIP ship.  I expect you both to behave in a professional and respectful manner. V out."

Nick, Jack, and their RAs went back to work.  For a while things ran smoothly.  The cargo ships were pulling up to their position, and the RAs was grabbing them.  The arms rolled down to their respective sides, and made the passes to the BRAs.

Suddenly, Nick gets a message on one of his many monitor screens: - You still owe me $100. -

Nick's temper started to rise again.  Yet, he took some deep breaths and came up with a plan to nip this in the butt.

- Double or nothing - , he messaged.

- OK.  What do you propose? -

- The first who gets to the capsule wins -

- OK. I'm game. -

Nick patted himself on the back for his ingenuity and cunning.  He focused at the task at hand.  His work rhythm got faster and faster.  Jack, seeing that nick picked up the pace, didn't want to fall back.  He picked his pace up as well.  In no time, the line of the waiting cargo ships dwindled to a couple of ships.  Then the news broke: the capsule was coming into position to be picked up.

Soon, Nick was handing off his last cargo ship to a BRA.

"Com'on, com'on you stupid BRA.  Hand-off already." He looked up at Jack's side.  He too was handing off his last ship.  The BRA clasp onto the Nick's ship and he unclasp as fast as he could, and rushed his RA screaming down the track.

"Get that ball! Yeah!" Nick yelled at his RA knowing full well that neither his voice would reach it nor it would know what to do with the message, stupid RAs.  To his surprise and his demise, Nick saw Jack's RA was screaming down its track as well.  Both arms seemed like they were on a collision course.

"Com'on, com'on.  Get a finger on it."  Nick knew RAs didn't have fingers, but he was caught up in the game.

The capsule parked itself in position to be captured by the station.  The commander inside saw a strange sight.  Two RAs were coming toward him at either side at a tremendous speed.  Before he could contact station control, his ship rattled and banged startling not only him but his 10 VIP passengers as well.  He looked outside and he couldn't believe it, the two RAs had latched on and were trying to pull the ship both ways.  This was highly unusual.

"He's mine. Let go."  Nick struggled with his controls.

"No, he's mine."

"Cease and desist!" Victoria's voice came over the com.  It was so loud that pierced Nick's and Jack's brains and they froze.  "Nick, let go of the ship."

"But I had it. I got their first." His whining resembled that of a boy who lost the ball to the other team.

"Nick, the capsule is to be berthed on Jack's side.  Jack pass it on and then both of you are relieved.  You are to report to my office.  That commander of the capsule is agitated and wants to pull your heads off personally. V out."

Nick obliged his supervisor and released the capsule.  Jack transferred it over the the BRA and passed it on.

Nick was gathering his things in his cupola when he got another message.

- You owe me $200 -

He just stuck his tongue out at the monitor and left.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Ticket to the Moon

 The following is a work of fiction. The characters are fictional.  Any resemblance of characters to real people is a mere coincidence and unintentional.

"Can we really go to the moon, Dad? Can we, can we?" Nathan's small arm pointed in the night sky at the bright unworldly object in the sky.

"Sure we can, son." Scott was setting up the telescope with the right angle and magnification trying to concentrate and keep the conversation going at the same time.  There were other families on that hill that night doing the same thing.  "We'll take Mom with us."

"Alright!" Scott took hold of the wheelchair and rolled its wheels over the grassy floor.  It was now in position.

Nathan leaned forward and looked through the small lens and exclaimed, "Oh boy! I can see Theophilus crater.  She's a beut'."

Scott had already bought tickets for a trip to the moon months ago.  He had just told Nathan about it.  The flight was to the first hotel on the surface of the moon.  It was a trip of a lifetime for Nathan who enjoyed all of nature and especially space.  Scott smiled at the thought, and then took a deep long involuntary sigh.  Nathan didn't notice, but just kept on enjoying the view.  Scott patted him on his bald head covered by a cotton hood.

A week after their astronomy night, Scott and Nathan found themselves strapped in some seats with eight other people.  They all wore some pressurized suits with helmets.  Scott could see Nathan really enjoying himself.  The boy marveled at all the gadgetry and took in the full experience.  He was elated and awed at the rumble of their spacecraft as it lifted off the ground and into the black sky of space.

Well on their way to the moon, father and son played fearlessly in the weightless environment.  Their capsule had two inflatable rooms to make more space after launch.  The other passengers were also enjoying them.  This setup made the three day trip to the moon more comfortable.

"Weeeee. Look, Dad, I'm flying like Superman." Nathan whizzed by Scott.  He caught his son by his heel. "Gotcha."  The smiles and laughter filled the spacecraft contaminating the other passengers with giggles, smiles, and jokes.

At one point, Nathan looked out the window and marveled at the large blue green marble outside. "Whoa!"

Scott came up beside him, "That's Earth, Son."

"I know what it is, Dad.  I just wish Mom could've seen it."  They watched it roll for a while and noticed that it was seemingly getting smaller and smaller as their craft hurled away from it.  The laughter and smiles turned into solemn contemplation and yearning.

Their craft finally docked to Lunar Station 1 in orbit around the Moon, and they took a lander to the surface where the hotel was.  After getting set up in their room, Scott got Nathan ready for what they came to do.

The airlock door opened and Scott stepped out onto the surface of the Moon.  Nathan followed in a motorized wheelchair.  Both were trying to get used to their space suits as they took in the sights.  Grey peaks and dark shadows were all around in stark contrast.  They looked around the strange world they found themselves.

"Come'on. We got to move." Scott pressed in a certain direction and Nathan followed closely behind.  Soon they came up to what looked like a black iron fence and a gate.  The gated area had carved stones all about it.  They went in and stopped in front of a hole next to a pile of dirt and a shovel in the pile.  There was also a head stone that had the engraved words, "Let thy Blue face shine brightly from my resting place - In Loving Memory - Evelyn Brookes - 2015 - 2045."

Scott ritually reached for the pouch in the back of the wheel chair and pulled out a metal urn with "Evelyn" inscribed on it.  He place it in the hole.  Then he stood up.

"Want to say a few word, Son?"  Nathan nodded in his helmet.  The comm had a little static, but it was enough.

"Goodbye Mom.  I hope you like the view from here.  The Earth is bright."  Tears started to stream down his face.  "I miss you, so much."

"Goodbye Darling.  You will always be with us.  Nathan and I are looking out for each other...." Scott tried to compose himself but failed.  He bent over in his sobbing.  After a few minutes he covered the urn with the dirt.  Then, father and son hugged.

They enjoyed the rest of their time at the hotel and spent every minute with each other sharing thoughts and playing games.  Then it was time to go home.

A year passed.  It was a rather stressful year for Scott.  There was a lot of paperwork to do, as well as work and all the rest of his responsibilities.

He was sitting on a bench in the large room.  His sorrow was drowning him.  How will he go on now?  He still had duties to accomplish.  A well dressed man in a black suit came up to him.

"Mr. Brookes.  Here you are."

Scott stood up and received the metal jar from the man.  He fingered and caressed the name scribed on it, "Nathan."

"I'm sorry for you loss. No one should have to bury their son.  Where will you place him, Sir?" Scott paused.  The man seemed so damn relaxed and normal.  Scott pulled out a single ticket out of his pocket.  He inhaled air and rounded up some courage.

"With his mother, on the Moon." 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Interview With An Astronaut - Part Two

The following is a work of fiction. The characters are fictional.  Any resemblance of characters to real people is a mere coincidence and unintentional.

Read Part One.

Only a few minutes to go.  Dan was now strapped into his seat on the DreamChaser.  The DreamChaser in turn was strapped to the font of a large slick looking airplane.  He was just finishing up his pre-flight check list.  The instruments looked great.  All the flaps worked.  The pressure gauges for the main engines and the RCS system looked good.

"Catcom, Dan.  I'm ready to go.  Pre-flight check list is complete."

"Roger that, Dan.  Standby one, please." That was Dan's backup pilot and friend, Tony.

Tony was a great guy with a wife and twins on the way, a first rate pilot.  Dan didn't have anyone special.  His last girlfriend was looking for money.  Unfortunately for her, test pilots have more flight-time than money.

"Dan, Catcom.  Okay we're ready to go here.  We will resume countdown on my mark. Mark!"

Dan placed his hand on the abort handle.  His brain started to race.  His eyes glanced over the instruments one more time, then down the longest runway he'd ever been on.  It wasn't his first time on it, but it was sure long.  He'd hoped the helmet glass in his pressurized suit didn't fog up like last time.  That was a wicked landing.  Flying by feel was hair-raising.

"And three, two, one..."

He felt his body sink into the seat.  His ears heard a tremendous roar.  His chest felt the roar trying to beat his heart out of sync.  Then the runway started to run away.  It took a whole second for his brain to realize his ship was moving down the straight away at a unbelievable acceleration.  Good thing mission control and artificial intelligence software were piloting.  "Three G's," he told himself.  It looked like more since he was on the runway.  He grunted all the way trying to keep from being crushed.  He kept his hand on the abort handle not wanting to move it one fraction of an inch.

The nose of the craft lifted up pointing towards the sky.  The craft leaped off the ground rocketed into the wild blue yonder.  The craft was made up of two crafts.  The DreamChaser lifting body spaceplane was attached to a much larger unmanned mothership that had rockets and scram jets.  Suddenly Dan felt the carft rumble.  "Transonics," he said.  Then the scram jets lighted up and the first stage rockets fell off making clunking sounds.  This staging cause his body to lung forward and then back in his seat.  "Seat straps are doing their job," he said.  Then he felt his body increasingly sink in the seat as the craft roared to mach five.

"How we doing?" Dan heard Tony's voice.

"Your doing fine, how about me?" said Dan.

"Spare me your self importance and tell me you status."

"Just a little jolt.  Otherwise OK."

"Good to hear."

"Now remember you need to.....," Tony was interrupted.  "Fuel pressure is rising.....too high....ab..t."

"Abort," Dan finished the sentence as he activated the abort handle.  Just then a series of explosive bolts fired freeing the DreamChaser form its mother.  Then her engines ignited, and she fled from the mother craft.   Dan grabbed the handle in time to veer right and see a flash of light as if behind his craft.

"Aborted safely," Dan yelled into his mic.  "Need vector.  Altitude 91,000 ft."

"OK. We.......you.  Try ve.........52."

"Repeat.  Can't make out your transmission."

"I said w.........," then all Dan heard was static.  His comm was out.  Now he head to find his bearings on his own.

He checked his artificial horizon and pointed the craft straight up.  He was changing his flight from an orbital to a suborbital.  He thought this will buy him time to find the airport and runway for a landing.  Then his thoughts were about his lifeline, the DreamChaser itself.  If the comm was damaged by the explosion, what else was?  Will the flaps still work? Will he find the runway? Does he really need to give Donna her sweater back?  He always like that sweater hugging her curves.  She broke his heart and then left it behind.  It's funny what you think about when your life is in danger.

Suddenly the engines stopped.  The ship started to pitch slowly.  Dan could see dust flying around the cabin and he felt weightless.  It was no time to ease up, Dan had to think about reentering the atmosphere.  He flipped some switches and activated the Reaction Control System (RCS).  He pointed the nose of the ship at the appropriate angle.  The only question is what direction should he face, but he had a little time to determine that.

After five minutes, he could feel his body settling in the seat again.  The ship around him started to rumble, then shake slightly.   He was coming through the transonics.  Now that he was subsonic, he had to figure out what direction he needs to head in.

"Oh, where. Oh, where. Did my little landing strip go. Oh, where. Oh, where has it gone?" He hummed to the tune of 'Where, Oh where has my little dog gone.'

He shut down the RCS and tried to maneuver the craft in a broad circle.  The controls seemed sluggish, but at least they were responsive.  He scanned the terrain and started to identify things on the ground.  Moments passed, and his altitude was falling fast.  Finally he caught sight of the Space Port and the landing strip.  He glided his craft in a direction to take him in a landing path.  "Whew! The major hurdle was down.  Now for the rest of the landing.  C'mon Dan. Get land this puppy!"

In the mission control room, Tony was watching the landing.  They were getting the video feed from the camera guys outside by the landing strip.  "That Bastard's going to stick the landing without us."

"Well, at least he's bringing her home," said the Mission Control Commander, Mike.

"Yeah.  But where does that leave us?"

"It leaves you an opportunity for next flight, Tony.  So get it right."

"Yeah, I guess your right.  He's landing now.  Guess, I'll go out and greet him."

Tony walked out onto the flight line in time to see the DreamChaser touch wheels on the strip.  A beautiful sight, even though not all the mission objectives weren't met.  He got in one of the trucks heading out to the craft with the recovery crew.

The crew opened the hatch in the rear of the craft and Dan emerged in his shiny pressure suit.  A couple of photographers snapped his picture.  Then Tony came up to him and shook his hand.

"Way to stick the landing, you son of a bitch."

"Thanks, Tony.  She's a good craft." Tony helped Dan out of his unused parachute equipment.

"Any craft is good that brings you home."

"Can't argue with you there.  But she also withstood some explosions along the way."

"Yeah.  Hey, we got a debrief in about 20 minutes."

Just then some young looking blonde reporter came up to Dan, "Dan, That was an extraordinary landing for a extraordinary flight.  How do you feel?"

"I feel fine.  The Dragonfly mission will go on.  We have a second mothership.  Of course there will be a study in what happened and we'll adjust.  But we will fly again."

"That's great to hear.  Anything you like to say?" The reporter smiled and looked really cute in Dan's eyes.  She was thin and well trimmed and didn't look like she'd get her hands dirty for anyone.

"Here," said Dan picking up his dusty parachute pack, and plopping it in the reporter's arms.  "Tell Tom Riverfall that it's all about living no matter what.  And give him the chute."

He walked away with Tony and the crew leaving the reporter to struggle withe the weight of the parachute.





Saturday, September 21, 2013

Interview With An Astronaut - Part One

The following is a work of fiction. The characters are fictional.  Any resemblance of characters to real people is a mere coincidence and unintentional.

"Test, test.  Is this thing on?" said Tom Riverfall checking his microphone.  He tried to look past the blinding lights to see his audio guy.  All he could see was the camera men.

"It's working, Tom," came a voice in his earphone.  He adjusted his suit and got ready for the mission at hand.  Then he looked straight into the nearest camera.

"2030 is the year of more commercial space progress.  The Dragonfly project is going to take off tomorrow around 6 am in the morning.  The project will test an in-line air boost to orbit concept in the hopes of competing with the reusable rocket family from SpaceX.  This is Tom Townsend live from Cape Canaveral.  Here with me is the pilot of the mission, Dan Darger.  Dan, what got you interested in space?" Tom looked starlight at his guest in a silver pressure suit that had several logos of sponsors on it.

"Well, Tom.  That's a good question," Dan said trying to calm himself to say the right thing. "I think it started when I was pretty young.  You see, my Dad got me and himself tickets to ride a Virgin Galactic spaceplane.  I guess it was love at first launch."  Dan felt really good about that answer.

"Was that the SpaceShipTwo class or later classes?  I think were up to SpaceShipFive if I'm not mistaken."

"Uhh. Yeah.  It was a small ship that seated six passengers and took us up to about 100 clicks."  Dan paused a moment with his finger ponting to Tom with a up an down motion. "The thing that struck me was the view of the Earth.  I always thought the rocket ride up would be the coolest, but the Earth....Man!  That was something." Dan's mind went back to that moment, that emotion.

"I heard it's a magnificent site."

"You haven't been up? Oh man! You gotta go, you just gotta.  You don't know what your missing until you go." Dan smiled at Tom feeling a little superior.

"Well, I guess I just might.  But let's talk about your mission tomorrow.  What is the significance of it?" Tom attempted to gain control back after feeling a little put down.

"Well, Tom.  It's a winged craft with scram jets and a orbiter attached to its nose.  I will be riding in the orbiter.  The two crafts will take off from the space runway here at the Cape with the first stage rocket.  Then that will be jettisoned.  It will scream up into the atmosphere gaining acceleration as it goes using the scram jets.  At about 100,000 ft, the orbiter will detach with a small rocket and go into space.  Once in initial orbit, that small rocket is jettisoned, and the orbit is stabilized by the orbiter's main engines."  Dan could feel himself relaxing and getting the hang of this interview.

"OK.  What will happen to the mothership?"

"Oh, right! It will fly back down to the runway."

"I know the project is about the mothership, but tell us a little about the orbiter."  Tom put on the best interested tone he could muster.

"Well, the orbiter has been to space before.  In fact, it's been in orbit more than a hundred times and was retired about 5 years ago.  It was built by SNC and it was the original Dreamchaser.  It's a lifting body style craft that flies well in space and the atmosphere.  It was refurbished and retrofitted for this mission." Dan went through the data in his mind to see if that was enough for the answer.

"So, why are you not piloting the mothership rather than the orbiter?" Tom smiled smugly at the camera then at Dan.

"Well...uh....isn't it obvious?" Dan looked quizzically.

"Not everyone is a rocket scientist, Dan.  The folks out there want to hear your expert viewpoint.  So tell us why your in the orbiter."

"Oh...right!  Well the project is about getting to space cheaply.  So the mothership was designed to fly without a pilot on board.  The actual pilots will be on the ground.  It is also smart so it can fly independently if need be.  I'm in the orbiter to do orbits.  Yeah, for the system to be proven, I have to get the orbiter to orbit and then land back safely on the runway."

"Good.  That sums the mission up pretty good." Tom felt back in control and Dan was all smiles patting himself on the back. "So, Dan, what are you wearing?"

"This is my pressurized flight suit.  It keeps me alive in case of a loss of pressurization."  Dan looked down at his silver suit. "As you can see it has logos of my sponsors."

"Yes, it's very colorful.  And loss of pressurization means when the orbiter looses air Dan won't die because of the suit."  Tom felt a little ticked that Dan didn't elaborate on that detail.

"Yeah, that's it!  On top of this I will be wearing a parachute."

"A parachute?"

"Uh....yeah! In case something bad happens." Dan felt that was enough said.

"Something bad?  Like you blow up?"

"Ah...well....yes, but not exactly.  If the orbiter blows up I blow up with it and the chute is no good.  But if the mothership has a bad failure I can just detach the orbiter and fly it down to safety.  Now if the mothership is badly damaged and the orbiter is damaged as well but in one piece but can't get back to land, then I have the chute to bail out and fly another day."  Dan felt that that was a blunder of an explanation and it was uncomfortable to say.

"Oh I see.  You just want to live no matter what."  Tom stated the obvious but he felt it needed to be said.

"Ah, yeah! Don't you?" Quizzical look again showed up on Dan's face.

"Sure I do.  And we all do." Tom laughed his way through embarrassment.

"Well, good luck on your flight tomorrow.  I hope the Dragonfly project is a success," said Tom concluding the interview.

"Thanks Tom," said Dan with a big smile.

Tom gave a cut sign to the camera men.  The cameras lenses dropped like horses stopping to graze.

"Feel nervous about tomorrow?" asked Tom.

Dan slumped back in his seat with a sigh. "Not as much as I do about this interview."

Tom looked at him quizzically.