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Ninety Seconds – by Bokerah
UTC: 0820 23 November 2162
Somewhere Over the Equator
One million, two-hundred fifty-six subscribers.
Trace Williams grinned. He would get a bonus for crossing that seven figure mark. The last incentive paid for the move-in cost of living six months in one of the four, semi-circle-shaped studio apartments situated inside the space elevator counterweight.
Even as a bachelor, it was prohibitively expensive, but living there had increased his social media presence ten-fold. It was the first time anybody had generated a daily vlog from above GEO—or geosynchronous equatorial orbit—before, and it had rocketed him to the top of the social media trending lists. So far, perpetually cold toes and maintaining his relevance had been the only negative results. Although, living on the ceiling had taken some getting used to.
He scrubbed his hand over his face, pushing his dark hair back from his forehead. Procrastination had eaten up most of his morning. He’d made coffee, sorted through his email, cleaned up his HabPod, studied the curvature of the Earth’s atmosphere from his work desk, packed his bag, and then spent an hour in the kitchenette vacuum-sealed tomorrow’s breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It was still early, but less than an hour to departure. He couldn’t put it off any longer.
He paused the live stream sunrise cam and spoke to the empty room. “AVA?”
“Call Mom.” He took a sip from his antique NASA mug, thinking absently about adding something stronger to the creamy mix.
“Priority?” The disembodied, female voice answered in tones specifically modulated to be soothing at all times. AVA—or the A.W.A.R.E. Virtual Assistant—was a bonus of living in a technological marvel. Even so, she shouldn’t be so calm about his request. A.W.A.R.E. tech was too smart for its own good sometimes. “Trace?”
“No priority,” he said, finally. He didn’t want to start the conversation with an upset mother in the middle of an adrenaline-fueled meltdown brought on by inadvertently choosing the wrong priority.
Ava answered with two, monotone beeps. The line started ringing almost immediately, the vibrato sound piped through each of the dozen speakers in the room.
On the second ring, a woman answered. “Hello, Trace? Is that you? I saw your number.”
“Are you in the hospital again?” She coalesced in the center of the room as a three dimensional bust.
“No, that was a one-time oops.”
“Life-threatening oops,” she countered. Her image flickered. Communications between his apartment and Houston weren’t always dependable.
Welcome to the 22nd century. Dropped calls are still a thing.
“I told you not to go to the Sea of Tranquility for Spring Break,” she was saying. She was never going to let that go. It’s not like he’d died… or even had come that close.
“I’ve managed to keep out of the hospital since.” Trace examined his forearm and the thin, railroad track scar that followed his radius bone. Crater jumping in a Solar-powered four wheeler hadn’t seemed that dangerous, but self-directed triage in a Medical pod wasn’t as sophisticated as the care rendered on Earth’s surface. His ratings had shot through the roof, though. It was still his highest viewed ExperiVid since he launched his travel channel. A little blood in the lunar dust had paid his adrenaline junkie bills for months.
“Where is it this time?”
“Mom, I’m going to—”
“I’ll be a basket case,” she interrupted. She always worried. That wasn’t anything new. “Okay. Tell me. I’m ready.”
“Space diving off of the Venus station,” he continued. His viewers should really enjoy that, even if his mom didn’t. “At least I’m not hang-gliding off of Olympus Mons.” But only because he hadn’t been able to get the right clearance. Yet. The paperwork was a nightmare. But he didn’t mention that part.
She gasped, and her eyes widened. “That’s what’s next, isn’t it?”
He shrugged, but couldn’t stop the slow smile. She’d caught him. “Depends on the paperwork.” It would be a spectacularly unique view of the ferrous planet, but a football field’s worth of red tape blocked the way to the red planet.
“You look so much like your father when you smile like that,” she whispered the words. She cleared her throat. “Actually, you act a lot like him, too.” Tears polled, and her eyes turned glassy.
“I’ll be okay, Mom.” They’d had the conversation a dozen times. It never got any easier.
“I know, I know. It’s not that I don’t understand it. I just…” Her voice trailed away. “You’re missing out on some of the most amazing things I’ve ever experienced.” She meant a wife… grandkids. They’d been through that part before, too.
“I’ll get there when I get there. I’m not ready yet.” Though, he hadn’t met many singles above GEO. He hadn’t been out on a date in months.
“I know you don’t have to let me know before you do these crazy stunts, Trace, but I’m glad you do.” She laughed and wiped at her eyes. “Though, sometimes, I think it might be easier if I found out about them along with the rest of the world. I might not worry quite so much.”
He tilted his head. “We can do it that way.”
“I might never hear from you then.”
“I’d find the time.” He didn’t know whether it was true or not. He stayed busy. She shook her head slightly. She knew the truth, and so did he. He probably wouldn’t.
“When do you go?”
He glanced at the clock on the wall. “Soon.”
“Love you, bub.”
“Love you, Mom.”
The call ended, and her 3D image dissolved.
He wasn’t sure what waited for him at Venus Station, but space diving above the Venusian atmosphere surely wasn’t as dangerous as hang gliding on Mars.
Categories: Critique Group