Chapter 2

Chapter 2

“She reached out both hands, touched two spots on the wall and the disappearing bed swung down. With the chairs open, there remained hardly room for one person to stand.” – Description of a cabin in the Free trader ship Sisu; Citizen of the Galaxy by Robert A. Heinlein

"The Staterooms in their situation, spaciousness and appointments will be perfect havens of retreat where many pleasant hours are spent, and where the time given to slumber and rest will be free from noise or other disturbance". – Description of a cabin on the Titanic; White Star Line

**** *****

Entering my room was surprising enough that I stopped shaking. The news and documentaries have always shown the rooms on a rocket are small with everything folded away when not in use. Well the designers of this room never saw any of those documentaries.

To start with the room was not quite big enough for a volleyball court (but only because it was full of furniture, otherwise it would have been close). Entering the room there was a small sitting area, with the kind of chair that looks so comfy that you would growl at anyone trying to make you get up. Unbelievably, there was a 2 person couch. The walls seemed to be covered in oak paneling that complemented the carpeting quite nicely. But beyond the couch was a queen sized bed. In the far corner was wooden desk in the French Louis XV style, seriously nicer than the one I have at home.

On the wall, next to the entrance door were two controls. The first was a slightly more complicated environmental control. Where a normal one is for temperature, this also had a setting for humidity, and lighting – both listed with planet or colony name. Next to this was one labeled AG, also labeled with planet or colony name. So out of curiosity I moved the AG setting to Luna, and suddenly felt very light, as if I would bounce if I tried to walk around. I moved it back to Earth. So it seems that everyone could set the room to the light level, temperature, humidity, and gravity that would make them feel at home.

Sitting on the couch (not ready to risk getting caught in the chair) I touched my wrist pad, “Ok Brain time to sync.”

“BJ, are you pondering what I’m pondering?”

“Yes, and please download all information about this ship that you can find.”

So while it is update everything before we leave the Earth, I think back to how I ended up in this over decorated metal box.


This morning was just another Friday morning, I was just about finished with sorting out all the problems with the City’s Mycroft AI: Strange mistakes in salary payments (whoever saw a pay term with 9 zeros after the decimal followed by the correct amount?), Randomly shooting geysers out of the mayor’s toilet, etc.

Especially memorable was the glitching of the antigrav in the council chamber. This managed to leave the chairwoman’s chinchilla floating in the middle of the room. The sergeant at arms was struggling against 3G while trying to get to the poor dog. All-in-all those were tough 2 weeks on everyone involved. They suffered unexpected pranks while I worked out that there was a short in the positronic chip. Once I identified that it needed to be fixed to prevent the AI from acting with the sense of humor of a 6 year old. Replacing would have damaged the personality of a silicon citizen.

After I had restored proper function the City CTO came over and thanked me and handed me a card with an embedded data chip. “The mayor would like you to have this as a bonus in appreciation for the 2 weeks of 20+ hour days you have been working to get Mycroft back to his old self. I hope you don’t have another project scheduled as most of the prizes can be used almost immediately.”

After restoring proper function the City CTO came over and thanked me handing me a card with an embedded data chip. “The mayor would like you to have this as a bonus in appreciation for the 2 weeks of 20+ hour days you have been working to get Mycroft back to his old self. I hope you don’t have another project scheduled as most of the prizes can be used almost immediately.”

I ran the chip over my wrist pad (I was not worried I have better security than most governments) and saw that it was an entry to something called the Ultimate Vacation Contest, and that the drawing was in midtown this afternoon. Thanking him I packed up my gear and headed to the Park Place Hyperloop station and took the number 2 Midtown express and was in the lobby of the Empire State building in 2 min., it took almost as much time to come up the escalators as it did to cover the almost 6 kilometers from downtown. Right in front of me was the main location of Dulip and Company Luxury and Adventure Agency and right there in the window was a flashing hologram, imitating an old fashion scroll describing the prizes for the contest.

The agency was closed and the AI hologram said that they would be back to hold the contest at 14:00, consulting my wrist pad I have an hour to wait. So what to do with an hour? As I am contemplating this, my stomach casts its vote loudly enough for someone passing by to look up and then rush away: LUNCH. As I am considering this, I notice a delicious smell coming from my right. Noticing a hologram of a Chinese Dragon that resolves to read Sato Wong Sanchez Asian Cuban cooking. So letting my stomach have the only vote, I enter.

Sitting at a table the waiter AI greeted me in 4 languages


안녕하세요 선생님 ,무엇을 접대할까요 ?

Saludos señor ¿qué puedo servirle?

Greetings sir, what may I serve you?

(I only recognized the Japanese, Spanish and English – when asked it explained the other one was Korean).

It then continued in English, “May I recommend the special of the day our Peeking synDuck, Kimchee Empanada. We take fresh synDuck that is hand glazed with a layer of special sauces as it is left to stand in our kitchen for 24 hours, and then slowly roasted it in a closed oven until it is golden brown. We then add our own hydroponically grown napa cabbage which we make into a Baek-kimchi which literally translates as “white kimchi,” which is milder than its more traditional sibling as this style of kimchi does not include the hot pepper flakes. It is quite flavorful and is made with both chestnuts and pine nuts. These are combined in our special Empanada Dough and deep fried. We recommend this be paired with a small pot of green tea.”

Intrigued I agreed and added a small bottle of sparkling sake. The empanada was quite tasty and large enough for a full meal. When I went to slide my ident chip over the sensor to pay a fortune cookie popped out.

Opening the cookie there was a small slip of paper inside, I have not seen one of these in years. While nibbling the slightly orange flavored cookie I read my Fortune:

On the reverse side was written “Your lucky number is 1”, which seemed a little cryptic but at least the cookie was tasty. Looking up I see a small group opening the door to the travel agency so I packed up and walked over.

As I try to enter I find that the shop is quite crowded, and most of the people are carrying a card with a data chip similar to the one I was given. They were all standing around a large globe in the center of the shop. Actually stepping into the shop the AI greats me, and asks me to hold my card with the data chip over the scanner next to the door. “Perfect, you are the last of the contestants and we can begin.”

An attractive woman walked to the center next to the globe and addressed the crowd, “Thank you all for participating in our contest, I would also like to thank our sponsors who have donated the prizes we will be awarding. With your help we have raised 100,000 credits for the Colonization Relief Fund. Please allow me to go over the procedure and rules. In front of me you can see the clear sphere, below it the gravity has been reduced to zero, I have here 100 identical white balls, each with a prize chip inside. As only 100 cards were sold, each one of you is guaranteed to win one of the prizes. Each of the contestant cards is marked with a number based on the order it was purchased and this will be the order in which you will stick your hand into the sphere and chose your winning white ball. Once you have chosen take your hand out of the sphere – while holding the white ball that you chose. Then you should put it on the scanner here (she indicates another scanner next to the globe) and it will announce your prize.”

While speaking she takes the tube with the 100 white balls and pours them into the globe. They start to swirl around in the zero gravity and are soon bounce off of each other until they are well mixed.

“All right, who has card number 1? It was the last one scanned before we began.”

Looking down at my card, I see that it is marked 001. Looking up I call out, “I guess that is me,” I start to worm my way to the globe of bouncing balls.

“Wonderful, now if you would step over here and get us started. Just put your hand inside via this opening and select your prize.” Pushing my hand in I felt a pressure curtain that kept the balls from bouncing out. When my arm was inside to the elbow the vector of one of the balls put it right into my palm and without thinking my fingers closed around it. Since I was holding a ball, I pulled my arm out and placed the ball on the scanner.

The AI ran a red light over the ball (I am pretty sure it was only for theatrics as it was probably reading the contents of the ball via SPC - secure proximity communication). After the light went off it announced, “Congratulations, our first contestant is the grand prize winner of the all-expense paid 1 month trip on the Maiden Voyage of the L.S.S Venture and a tour of the colonized planets. The L.S.S. Venture departs this evening, hot jets and have a good flight. May we have the next contestant please?”

The woman who had welcomed us took my arm and led me away from the center of the action towards a screen with the store name and contest logo. As we posed for a picture she explained “The Venture will launch from the Intrepid launch facilities at the Hudson River and 44th street, you can board anytime now but please be aboard by 16:00. You will not need any luggage the onboard reflectors will be able to provide any clothing or personal care products you will need and will recycle them when you are done (and they would prefer to keep the lifting mass to a minimum anyway). The ship will have a number of themed events, where passengers will be encouraged to be creative in their attire to match the theme. Is there any reason you cannot take off today?”

Waiting for her to catch her breath I almost missed her question, “no reason. I just finished a major job and was planning a little time to recover before accepting another assignment. So this is perfect. Anything else special I should know about the trip or other passengers?”

“Funny you should ask, this is the maiden voyage with passengers, prior to the latest redecoration the ship did a shakedown trip out to Mars to make sure there were no problems. So that should be fine. But as part of this special voyage there are 2 groups joining you on the trip. The first is the special 200th anniversary Miss Universe pageant. As you probably know, over the past 50 years each of the colonies had a contestant, but this year they are holding parts of the pageant on or in many of the colonies. Also, the 200th anniversary of the Collier’s Symposium to investigate the feasibility of space travel in the near future. So this will be a voyage filled with beautiful women from earth and all of the major colonies, as well as astrophysicists and practical space engineers. If those don’t interest you there are the regular shipboard activities, the casino, “ground side” ; excursions, dancing, or the pool. A little of something for everyone ;.” Then as she is walking me towards the door, “There are details about all the activities on the chip as well as your ticket. We hope you have a great trip.”


“Excuse me BJ, but I have completed the download and they are asking all passengers to turn on their displays for the orientation and safety presentation.”

“Ok, Brain please activate the display and record.”


“This is First Mate Ethan Laidlaw, on behalf of Captain Englehorn , the crew and staff, I would like to welcome you on board the maiden flight of the LSS Venture offering the first ever Grand Tour of our Solar System with stops at each of the major colonies. As I mentioned, our spacecraft is under the command of Captain Englehorn. He informed me that our flying time will be approximately 4 weeks with scheduled stops at” ;

1 This Solar System display software was implemented by F. Panicali

  • Luna City on Earth’s only Moon, Luna
  • Cloud City, the main floating city above Venus
  • Helium, the capital of Mars
  • Hydropole, the capital of Jupiter’s moon Ganymede
  • Nivia, the capital of Saturn’s moon Titan
  • And then back to Earth.

Although we will not be stopping at them we will have close-up views of

  • Callisto (Jupiter’s IV closest moon)
  • Europa (Jupiter’s VI moon)
  • Ganymede (Jupiter’s 3rd closest and largest moon)
  • Io (innermost of Jupiter’s four Galilean moons)
  • Dione (Saturn IV moon)
  • Enceladus (Saturn’s 6th largest moon)
  • Mimas, the "Death Star Moon" (Saturn I)
  • Rhea (Saturn V and 2nd largest moon)
  • Titan (Saturn VI and largest moon)

“Future trips will reach Uranus, Neptune, and the further colonies.”

“While we are here to ensure that you do have a comfortable trip with us today, we are also concerned about your safety. With that in mind, we ask that you pay attention as we explain the various alarms and procedures that are part of the standard requirements of the Muster Drill. Each alarm will be spoken with a holographic image to indicate what is going on.”

I kind of phased out as his voice drones on in a minor variation of the safety instructions of every air/space-ship flight ever to have flown. As his voice changes and it sounds like he is wrapping up.

“Just to remind everyone, we will be slowly adjusting the gravity in the main common areas like the lobby and dining rooms to match the gravity of our destination. So for the next two days we will be adjusting these areas to one sixth gravity to match that of Luna.”

“If you are interested, you can call up additional information about this flight, the recreations available – like the zero gee pool, how to configure the antigrav to your comfort in your cabin, or how to order clothing or costumes during the trip. Just make your request from the system display now or at any time during your trip.”

“Thank you for your attention. We will be outside the atmosphere shortly.”

The display showed several icons for additional information that is available about the ship and its ports of call:

A quick review of the list indicated that I will need to review some of this later, but out of habit, I have Brain download most of it.

Next Chapter: Chapter 3