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Monday, July 20, 2015

.0012 Degrees by Crystal Collier

You are free to choose your actions. You are not free choose the consequence.


Deacon slipped the welding shield over his face and lifted his torch, just enough that the guards would believe he was working on the vessel that would shortly make the trip to earth.

His grandma was born on the moon. His dad was born on the moon. He was born in Luna Maleau, Hyperion district. He lived in earth simulated gravity as a harvester, “farmer” by old earthen terms, until he convinced Rian to trade places.

Deacon didn’t know a thing about welding, but he wasn’t about to say that out loud.

Piston flames burned around him, melting the broken panels into place, but he climbed the ladder into the metal beast’s nose. The fare to earth cost more than all his lunar possessions along with those belonging to his parents and grandparents. Only one family in their colony could afford the trip, and they would be taking the flight in the morning. That’s how he’d made it to the port, crouched down in the back of their Mercedes hover. His back ached from being curled over in the space under the luggage compartment, but he’d made it. That was further than Rian said he’d get.

His boots echoed hollowly in the maintenance hallway, and he glanced over his shoulder. If he got caught, he’d be tossed in the prison for life, but it was worth the risk.

Earth was the place of opportunity. There you could walk through fields of wild grass or misty woods. You could breathe without regulators or fear of filter contamination. You could sleep under the stars and meet wild animals—things that thrived outside of ranches. But the reason he wanted to go there was tucked safely in his back pocket.

Grandpa’s coin collection: Worthless on the moon. A fortune on earth—especially since no one used coins anymore.

They promised his great grandparents their hydroponic research would be invaluable on the moon. They promised his family would be well taken care of. They promised a lot of things. What his family got was a farm comprised of moondust to somehow turn fertile. Every experiment failed, and thus they’d built dirtless farms, but the farms required excessive amounts of water, the next most valuable resource in lunar bargaining. The cost negated any profit that might have been made, and his family had survived by tradingoff harvested plants, barely keeping enough to fill their bellies. He remembered his last birthday when he got a whole melon to himself. It was so sweet, so juicy, but he could only eat a fourth of it. The rest he sliced and dried for this trip.

On earth they never went hungry. On earth they had real opportunities. They could ride a gas-guzzler and pollute the air all they wanted. They could go ten minutes without worrying their harvest would shrivel if not sprayed. They could walk an entire continent rather than the length of their district.

Earth meant freedom.

From the surface he’d transfer funds to his parent’s account to pay for extra water rations. Perhaps he’d even earn enough to fly them down. One day.

The apex panel blinked like a crimson beacon—a flashing red gateway to freedom. Deacon pried the barrier free and ogled the empty space behind. This was it, his cabin for the next three days.

An echo down the hallway…

He slid into the hideaway and pulled the panel back in place.

Footsteps neared.

Keep moving. Keep moving!

They halted in front of his hiding place. His heart dropped. What had he done wrong? Closed a piece of clothing in the gap? Left his torch out in the open? Nope. The torch dangled from his hip and his jumpsuit didn’t pull tight when he shifted backward. Deacon held his breath.

The footsteps resumed. He let out a breath and leaned carefully back into the hovel. It scraped his shoulders, just wide enough to take in a deep breath of air. This was going to be a long trip.

***

The flight engineer handed in his specs, clearing the shuttle for takeoff. Passengers boarded. The preflight checklist was completed. Ten seconds to take-off. Nine. Eight. Seven…

***

Deacon closed his eyes, ignoring the shaking pipes against his back. Soon now. He could almost smell the earthen air or feel a breeze laden with pollens. It was going to be amazing!

Belt locked around the pipes behind him, he squeezed his fists and prayed the leather would hold. 

***

Three. Two. One.

G-force knocked out half the people in the cabin. The pilot scanned his instruments, checking passenger’s vitals and watching the gauges for the right vector of exit. That couldn’t be right. He tapped the display, asked it to refresh, scrolled through the different values. They were veering slightly to the starboard. Was it a trick of the mind?

The readout hadn’t changed. They weren’t going to make their destination with this takeoff. Someone must have left a power tool or supplies on board that hadn’t been calculated into the flight weight.

He swallowed and checked his gauges, running quick calculations on fuel usage with the anomaly. He hoped this would work. With a subtle course correction, he manually overrode the expected course by .0012 of a degree. 

He ran all the calculations again. And again. And again—getting a different result every time. He blinked, eyes bleary from advanced mathematics. It had to be right. Or (in his oxygen-deprived state of mind) close enough. That should work.

The G-force finally took him.

***

Deacon slipped the last dried piece of melon into his mouth and attempted to ignore the pipes bruising his back. The readout on his wrist said they’d been flying for seventy-three hours. He had woken twenty-four hours after takeoff, his neck stiff, his legs shaky. Since then he had dozed in and out, attempting to ignore the growing aches and stiffness. Not long now.

Force buffeted the hull, like slamming into a water tower. Pipes rattled. The shaking intensified. The ship was trying to vibrate his teeth loose! Hissing burst somewhere over his head. More hissing.

Their farm’s pressurized water tank exploded when he was thirteen and shook the entire homestead like the moon was going to collapse in on itself. This was like that.

Creaks. A crack. Beeping.

Deacon gripped the pipes for life, his head whipping from side to side. Darkness, heat, bile…

Light!

Burning light!

He was free.

***

People on the ground marveled at the flaming masses pouring from the sky. Two teenagers making out on Overlook Hill were thrown apart as a chunk of metal slammed into the dirt at their feet, spraying them. The girl wiped dust out of her face as the boy leaned over and exclaimed, “Cool!”

The hollowed out nose of a space shuttle rested in front of them, like a giant cracked egg. In the center sat an open tin, scorched coins spilling out.

Source
That evening, news reports speculated why the moon cruiser failed its return flight. The captain had an outstanding record. The ship model had been the latest and greatest—all green energy and fit to the stripped-down requirements of the government. They chalked it up to mechanical failure, and the religious fanatics called it an act of God.


But it wasn’t an act of God. It was an act of choice.



Crystal Collier may spend too many late nights munching cheese and thinking up bizarre story twists, but she does so to appease the scientists locked in her Floridian basement. *wink wink* (Who else is going to finish building her teleportation device?) She figured she might as well make a dime on all that effort and became an author who pens everything from dark fantasy, historical, and romance tales, to inspirational stories and comedy. She has lived from coast to coast and now occupies the land of sunshine with her creative husband, four littles, and “friend” (a.k.a. the zombie locked in her closet). Secretly, she dreams of world domination and a bottomless supply of cheese. 

Check out more of her midnight meanderings HERE.