“I’m Sarah,” the young lady offered a small bow, “I’m a third-year like Jason there.” She pointed at Handsome.
“I’m Leah Ross, a new cadet.” A girl in casual clothes smiled and also gave a little bow.
“That just leaves me, I’m Vivek Lamb, also a cadet.” The boy also gave a small bow.
“Nice to meet you all. I’m Colin, though I guess you knew that already.” He let out a nervous chuckle and glanced in the direction of Jason Handsome.
“Well let’s get going you were the last to get here, means you sit in the back!” Jason laughed and headed through the airlock ahead of them.
“Ignore him,” Sarah said, ushering them all through the airlock after Jason and she entered last.
“Eclipse start standard launch procedure,” Handsome said as he disabled his magnetic boots and propelled himself forward hands still in his pockets.
He looked around at the airlock, there were a whole bunch of warning and advisory messages for its proper use it seemed it could fit two people in full “Extra Vehicular Activities” (EVA) suits. He felt a light touch on his back, pushing him forward. He looked back, Sarah smiled, indicating he should go ahead. Next was a larger compartment that could fit eight and had collapsable cots.
“Quarantine,” Sarah said from behind. There were alcoves either side that went up and down again lots of warning messages were both physically there and appeared as holograms.
“Those go to the machine rooms and cargo.” Hand still urging him forward. Next were small coffin-like sleeping pods and a pair of short corridors leading to a lounge, restroom and a couple of shower chambers, science labs and the medic room. He already knew the basic layout, but seeing it first hand had him as giddy as a kid, Sarah patiently pointed out little things in retrospective it was more likely to keep him moving than anything else. Still, it did help him keep his pace up.
After a few moments they were in the ship’s cockpit it was large enough, Sarah deactivated her mag boots. She hopped over to her seat, Jason, Vivek and Leah were all already seated. There were enough seats for six people, he scanned the room and noticed several fold-down seats in nooks and crannies.
“Permission to depart has been granted, and I have completed pre-flight checks.” A disembodied voice announced, the ship’s computer he reasoned.
“Thanks, Eclipse, release the docking clamps and maintain contact with Gateways computer.” Jason directed while looking at the console in front of him.
There was a soft sound of a thud against the ship, and outside of the window he could see the ship slowly moving past ships that were docked either side of the scout. Then as it past those, they slowly began to pass the monolithic structures that covered the inner construction of the Gateway spaceport. He could see in the distance a search and rescue watch pylon emergency launch vehicles clamped to every side of it and a large observation window. The more he looked around, the more details became clear, little balls of light darted around like fireflies, people in EVA gear worked on the outside of ships or the inner hull of the spaceport. Notifications, warnings, announcements and adverts both holographic projections and real vid screens were everywhere, it was entirely unlike anything he had ever witnessed in person or even in simulations. It took about ten minutes for the ship to coast out of the spaceport altogether a gargantuan water haulier slowly coasted past in the opposite direction a collection of automated tugs attached to its sides. Ships, as a rule, were not allowed in spacedocks under their own active power.
The other new recruits were similarly amazed by the scenes outside.
“We have reached the inner safe zone.” The computer announced.
“Well folks, let’s get a move on, Eclipse, take us to 20% power until we reach 100km from the station.”
There was first a hum that increased in pitch and then a rumbling sound that reverberated through the scout craft, causing noticeable turbulence and then pressure pushing him back into his seat.
“Sick bags by the seats, first one to chunder buys lunch!” Jason laughed from his seat at the front. Colin felt a bit queazy, and the other two recruits didn’t look great, but he refused to be the first to throw up out of the group. The ship kept accelerating at a constant speed that made it feel like his sister was sitting on his chest.
Suddenly a sound and Vivek had a bag at his face to that it helped the g-force smeared the sick back over his face then ran over the headrest and dripped backwards. Colin became doubly committed to not being sick.
“Nasty, you okay there, Vivek? Not gonna choke?”
Vivek shook his head, the smell of sick started to fill the cockpit.
“You’re one to laugh, I remember you had eaten a huge meal at the station.” Sarah started to speak, and Jason held up his hand a moment.
“This is true, and I have yet to live it down,” he said with a massive grin on his face.
“You are a very objectionable human being, has anyone told you that?”
“Yes, you a half dozen times a day.” He laughed, and she smiled and shook her head.
“We are at 100KM Handsome.”
“Thanks, Eclipse, I love you too, slow to cruise and activate the grav plates. Then lay in a course for Home and punch it.” Handsome punched the air as he said that.
The ship’s acceleration came to a slow halt and then a new hum started that of the vessels grav plate. Handsome and Sarah got up Handsome laughed as he took off his gloves and looked down at Vivek who looked sheepishly at him.
“Don’t worry about it, everyone has their moment out here. Let’s get you cleaned up.” Jason helped Vivek out of his safety harness and towards the back of the ship.
He remembered the next few hours being peaceful, occasionally Sarah would pop along and offer them something, but he was too busy watching space flash past him, he got tired and Handsome led him to one of the capsules.
“This is yours.” Handsome pressed a button, and a picture of Colin appeared.
“How long till we get to the station?”
“Home? About two days, it’s a pretty quiet trip, so enjoy the rest while you’ve can!”
Colin crawled into the capsule he was able to sit up in it. It had a whole suite of entertainment, he fired up the list of holosims and noticed a whole bunch that were unlabeled, so he clicked on them. A message popped up asking for his bank details and his age ID at the same moment Gura popped into his vision and glared at him with an accusatory look.
“And what are you doing trying to access those!?” She asked cartoon foot tapping in irritation.
“Pardon, what?” He panicked.
“Blue holosims! Away from Home for a mere day and you’re already becoming a degenerate pervert!” Gura rolled her eyes to illustrate her faux disgust.
“I didn’t know!”
“That’s what they all say.” She wagged her finger at him.
“Enough! I’m going to sleep.”
“You better mister, and no funny business!” She seemed to chuckle, and he curled up to sleep. An amused smile on his face as he slipped blissfully to sleep.
“EEEEEEEEEEEun. EEEEEEEEEEEun. Decompression Alert!”
Colin’s eyes shot open to the blazing of an emergency alarm “EEEEEEEEEEEun EEEEEEEEEEEun” his capsule was bathed in solid red light. Did it say decompression alert? He suddenly started to panic as he left his capsule, the corridor was bathed in red light, emergency notices and lights on the floor.
The other two cadets were stood looking lost and confused.
“We need our ESSs!” He yelled The siren repeated, it took precious moments as they looked around for the survival equipment all he could think about as they fumbled about was what he’d read about sudden explosive decompression.
“Here!” Yelled Leah they all grabbed a suit and desperately tried to pull them on the deafening siren, Vivek was crying as he tried to get the suit on. Leah had it on backwards, and he almost had most of it one when the alarm stopped, and the lighting returned to normal.
“What’s this, three dead spacemen!” Jason was stood at the end of the corridor, clapping his hands an image of a stopwatch hovering over his shoulder. Colin dropped the helmet he had in his hands, and his mouth dropped open.
“What was that?” Leah barked, almost crying.
“Emergency drill,” Sarah said, she was leaning against the wall behind them.
“It wasn’t fair!”
“Neither is space.” Jason laughed.
“Not too bad” Sarah looked colin up and down. “Still dead though” she scruffed Colin’s hair and joined Jason at the front.
Sarah continued, “we do this early to teach a valuable set of lessons, always have your emergency kit within arms reach, space is trying to kill you, always know how you’re gonna survive in any situation and, if it weren’t so dangerous it wouldn’t be an adventure.” She smiled at the three of them, a really mixed up look of excitement, sympathy and, amusement.
“So by the time we get to Home Station you’re gonna be able to find and get into that suit in under a minute!” Jason declared and pointed at the stopwatch that had just over five minutes on the face of it.