Tag Archives: space travel

At Least We Share the Same Sun

<message sent 10:34:04 SST, July 13, 2144: Europa Station 5> How are you these days?



<message sent 11:18:23 SST, July 13, 2144: New Alba, PA, UNAS> I’m okay. Busy, as always. You?



<message sent 12:04:39 SST, July 13, 2144: Europa Station 5> Busy too.



<message sent 12:50:08 SST, July 13, 2144: New Alba, PA, UNAS> When do you think you can come visit next? Everyone keeps asking about you. The kids keep growing like weeds. Harris is walking now, you know.


<message sent 13:35:56 SST, July 13, 2144: Europa Station 5> He is? That’s great. I don’t know when I can come back. We opened a new mine last week. The new crew’s a bunch of morons. Gotta keep them in my sights or they’ll end up blowing up the whole moon.


<message sent 15:02:43 SST, July 13, 2144: New Alba, PA, UNAS> Yeah. I understand.


<message sent 15:49:12 SST, July 13, 2144: Europa Station 5> Are you mad? Look, I’m doing my best. This is better than Alpha Centauri.


<message sent 17:19:00 SST, July 13, 2144: Europa Station 5> I know it’s not ideal, but I’m literally 99.9999% closer to home than I was there. There are shuttles every month now instead of every three years. You can get a message here in 45 minutes instead of 4 years.


<message sent 19:33:45 SST, July 13, 2144: New Alba, PA, UNAS> We just miss you, that’s all. But please don’t feel like I’m judging you. You’ve got a great job there as mine supervisor. You are doing great things, I’m sure.


<message sent 20:19:55 SST, July 13, 2144: Europa Station 5> Actually, to be honest, I feel like I’m in exile here. Europa is fine, but it’s lonely. I moved to be closer, but I feel further away than ever. Now I’m just far away from everything. Also, there are no butterflies here. It’s a minor point, I guess, but you should have seen the butterflies we had on Alpha Centauri. They were beautiful enough to make you tear up. I’m sure you’ve seen pictures, but pictures, even videos, don’t do them justice.


<message sent 20:21:13 SST, July 13, 2144: Europa Station 5> Sorry for that. Just getting things off my chest.


<message sent 21:29:51 SST, July 13, 2144: New Alba, PA, UNAS> Sorry you feel so down. If it makes you feel any better, I do like having you in the same solar system. After 4 lightyears, 390 million miles seems like just down the street. Gustav even wanted to get a telescope, so he could see you. I told him we could try.


<message sent 22:16:21 SST, July 13, 2144: Europa Station 5> I’ll wave sometimes, in case he’s looking at me. 🙂 Well, even if I can’t come by for dinner every week, things are improving little by little. At least we share the same sun now.


<message sent 23:03:49 SST, July 13, 2144: New Alba, PA, UNAS> Yeah. 🙂 Maybe someday we’ll even share the same moon again.




“And finally, here’s something to keep you sane,” the freight captain said, pointing to the complex 3D matrix of wires and spheres bolted to the table. He said “sane” as if he meant the opposite.

“What is it?” I asked.


And then we shook hands and he sealed me into the echoing metal coffin that would deliver a hundred million tons of ore back to Earth, five years from now.

I spent a week doing basic maintenance and chores before I even looked at the game. It took me a week to read and understand the rules. The first game took a month, with constant references to the rulebook.

The second game took even longer.

The fifth game took four years.

I realized it wasn’t a game. Not really.

Each of the 72 spheres was like a planet.

I named each one.

I knew the inhabitants.

I agonized over every move. Every one affected everything else.

I cried when I eliminated one, thinking of its inhabitants, snuffed out suddenly and completely.

I heard some noises but I ignored them.

I felt a hand on my shoulder and jumped. “Who are you?” I asked.

“Atmosphere Enforcement,” he said. “You weren’t responding to radio calls. We had to break in.”

“Where am I?”

“Earth. Your journey’s over.”

I turned back, trying to block out his voice. I needed to concentrate on what was important.

Bureaucracy…in Space

This is a piece for the Sunday Photo Fiction challenge. (The title is a take-off of Pigs in Space. If you don’t know what that is, click here.)

Bureaucracy…in Space

Bruce pulled himself to the bathroom and squeezed out a few painful, amber drops. The purifiers banged and vibrated and he waited with swollen throat for that tiny cupful of pure water to emerge. He was still twenty-two days away from Earth, far too long to survive like this.

There was a blip on his radar—another ship in range. With trembling hands, he hailed them.

“This is Scout eagle 45AZ. What type of ship are you?” he asked.

“Scout eagle 45AZ, this is Transport 50TS.”

“TS? You’re a terraforming ship? What are you carrying?”

“Water,” came the reply.

“50TS, I need water,” Bruce called. “My tank sprung a leak and I’ve been venting water. I just need a few gallons to get me back to Earth.”

There was a pause. “I’m sorry 45AZ, but our tanks are all sealed. We need permission to open them.”

“Then get it!” Bruce shouted. “I’m dying here.” His voice cracked and he started coughing.

Several minutes passed before there was a reply. “45AZ, I’ve obtained conditional permission. I’m sending you the order now.”

A message flashed on Bruce’s screen.


Permission for water tanks to be opened is granted, contingent on the applicant appearing before a tribunal on Earth in two days time to explain the necessity. Thank you for your cooperation.

Morale Games

I’m not saying this is anything like Ender’s Game, but is about space and it has “game” in the title. This is a story inspired by a suggestion by Sharmishtha Basu, who suggested in the last Open Prompts story that I do a story about “a spaceship caught in a predatory spiderweb” I already had all my elements for that story, so I promised I’d write a separate story. If you’re here looking for something serious, I’m very sorry.



Captain Morgan let out a sigh of resignation and keyed the intercom on the starship S.S. Titmouse.

“This is your captain speaking. I have some good news and some bad news. Let’s get the bad news out of the way first. We are currently caught in the web of a space spider, from which there may be no escape. Death is not inevitable, but it’s probably a better bet than a coin toss at this point.”

He paused. In leadership training, they had always said to never give bad news by itself. Always look on the bright side; always give the troops some positive thing to take away. Good morale, above all else. He sighed again. “The good news is that we have decided to break out our supply of hazelnut coffee in the cafeteria. There’s only enough for one cup each, so whenever you have a free moment from the crisis, pop down and grab your cup.”

Commander Rambling, the executive officer, raised his head from where he was getting a massage on the side of the bridge. Daily massages for officers was part of an initiative to raise morale. “I don’t see anything on the screen. Maybe it’s gone.”



“It’s made of shadow, sir,” Hyrpees the android piped up before anyone could stop him. “It’s showing up on my sensors just fine.”

“Yeah, great. Good for you,” Morgan said. “Listen, is it really even a threat to us? Our ship is made of metal, for crab’s sake.”

“The Galactic Shadow Spider only eats metal,” Lieutenant Nimrod said from the other corner where he was reading a novel and smoking a pipe. “We’re exactly what it wants.”

“I wonder if we could sacrifice Hyrpees to it,” Morgan said. Another thing he learned in leadership training was always to look for win-win situations.

“That would be inadvisable,” Hyrpees said quickly. “I am the only one qualified to drive the ship, plus it would be bad for morale.”

“Actually, I think it would be wonderful for morale,” Morgan replied. It wasn’t just that he hated Hyrpees: everyone had hated the android since he had stepped onboard. But there were new models of androids out now. Female models and ones with adjustable personalities. With Hyrpees gone, he could apply for one.

“It would be bad for my morale, sir,” Hyrpees said.

“I can understand that, I guess,” Morgan said. “Well, what about our thrusters?”

“They’re offline.”

“And the laser cannon? The gravity beam? The jaws of death?”

“All offline.”

Captain Morgan called the operations officer, Lieutenant Happylucky. The portly, glowing-eyed alien appeared on the video screen. “Where’s the engineering officer, Major Xynflyn?” Morgan asked.

“He’s getting a massage, sir.”

“Well, he’s got to cancel it. We need him to get us out of here.”

“That might not be good,” Happylucky said. “Can you guess why?”

“Bad for morale?”

“Could be.”

“Well, that’s too bad. We’re all about to die here.”

Happylucky sucked air through his fangs in an apprehensive manner, causing his breath to ignite. “I don’t know if that’s a good idea. Xynflyn’s race doesn’t take bad morale lightly.”

“Fine. Give him another fifteen minutes, then ask nicely.” He clicked off the video screen.

The whole ship suddenly rocked, as if it had been picked up and shaken by a colossal toddler.

“The spider has us in its claws,” Hyrpees said. “It will now start eating into our hull with its acid.”

“I recommend we use the escape pods,” Commander Rambling said. He sat up from the massage table and stretched.

“No, I can’t lose a ship,” Captain Morgan said. “Do you know what it’s like to share a name with a brand of alcohol? The pressure is incredibly high. No one cared what Lieutenant Morgan did or even Commander Morgan, but as soon as I became captain, suddenly the pressure was on. I can just see the headline: Captain Morgan steers his spaceship into a Galactic Shadow Spider web. Probably drunk. Haha.”

“But, you were drunk, sir,” Hyrpees said.

“Well, that makes it even worse, doesn’t it? I swear, if Admiral Jack Daniels hears about this . . . He will take it out of my hide.”

“Not to mention President Johnny Walker,” Hyrpees interjected.

“Hyrpees, you’re not afraid of anything, are you?” Captain Morgan asked suddenly.

“No, sir.”

“Good. Go outside and get a sample of the spider’s acid, would you?” The android saluted and left the room. “Thank prawns,” Morgan said. “I don’t think I could have taken another moment of him.” He reached under his seat and took out a flask.

“I can still hear you, sir,” Hyrpees voice said through the intercom. “I wired my systems to the ship’s computer. I’d like to let you know that although that comment was very hurtful, I am still going to do my duty. I am now leaving the airlock.”

There was silence and then, abruptly, the ship stopped shaking. “Hyrpees, are you there?” Morgan said. “Hyrpees, come in. Do you think he’s dead?”

“We’re not that lucky,” Commander Rambling said, walking through the bridge on his way to the squash court.

A few minutes later, Hyrpees crawled onto the bridge, one leg melted off and still steaming. “I am afraid I could not get an acid sample, sir,” he said, “except for whatever is left on my leg. The spider attacked me.”

“You don’t say,” Morgan said.

“But apparently I poisoned it. It went into convulsions immediately and floated off into space. I only had one leg left, but even so, I took the liberty of freeing us from the web while I was out there.”

“Oh really? Well, good for you. Climb back in your chair and get us out of here then.” Morgan took another quick sip from the flask and slipped it under his chair.

“Sir, I demand a citation for this,” Hyrpees said.

“What? Yeah, yeah. Sure thing.”

“With my name on it. Not just ‘that robot’ like last time.”

“Are you crazy? I’m not putting ‘Hyrpees’ on an official document.”

“No, sir. Use my full name: Hyrpees Q. Fartbender. It is a name that I have carried proudly since I was named by the fraternity Triple Omega at Stanford.”

“I think you should do it,” Lieutenant Nimrod said, closing his book and knocking out his pipe on the side of his chair. “The men would find it a great joke. It would be wonderful for morale.”

“Perfect,” Captain Morgan said. “Win-win.”

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