Experience the charm of gravity assists, they said, but all I was experiencing was the charm of my churning stomach as it bounced back and forth between my throat and my bowels. I can see now why this is touted as a once in a life time trip. They claim it’s because Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune only line up once every 175 years, but I’m sure the real reason are those damn gravity assists. Experience them once and you’ll never want to experience them again. Unfortunately, using the gravitational field alignment to sling our space shuttle from one planet to the next was the only means of interplanetary travel that we had this far out in the solar system. And I was at its mercy. Why couldn’t we visit some nice, easy to get to planet, like Mars? Most people say the architecture is amazing, a modern wonder of the solar system, but I hear that it’s the night life that is truly out of this world. Not that I would know, Pioneer22 never stops anywhere fun. But even we did stop somewhere interesting, it’s not like I could get off the ship to experience it anyway. Well, not without risking capture by the Planetary Police. Luckily, their jurisdiction didn’t reach this far out, what with us being in interplanetary space. The ship offered further protection, but only if I stayed confined within its walls. For now Pioneer22 was my home, no matter how boring the places were that it visited.
“What about the Miller’s daughter?” a trembling voice squeaked from behind me.
What about the Miller’s daughter? Did he really just dare to question me? I stopped abruptly, and turned to face him. He stood before me, a lanky, skinny boy with a mop of reddish brown hair that flopped over his eyes and covered half his face until he was nothing but lips and freckles. He was but a pesky mouse in my presence, so small that even my shadow towered over him. I leaned down, pushing my nose so close to his nose that they were just shy of touching, mere millimeters of air between us.
Today, the androids were returning from space. At exactly 2:52 pm, they were scheduled to land at the Landing Facility. Already, their ship had been spotted on radar, their moves tracked as they banked steeply left, then right, slowing their speed of descent. Homecoming was imminent. Every square inch of the Space Center Visitor’s Complex was bursting with people. Outside the complex, parked cars lined the road, throngs of people standing in the street, waiting for a glimpse of the spaceship as it returned. Inside, bodies crowded every inch of the spaced themed breezeways, their eyes turned upward at the nearest screen expectantly. All of the screens showed the same thing — the long, gray runway of the landing facility. There was a timer in the corner of the screen, counting down to the big event. T-2 minutes.
After their fight, Nancy stormed out of their 400 square foot apartment, down Sheridan Avenue, heading as far away from Bob as her feet would take her. He had no right to tell her she couldn’t take a night painting class, not after everything she did for him. His crisply ironed work shirts greeted him each morning, and his dinner was waiting for him when he got home. She gave him time to relax after dinner, away from her so that he could unwind from the days trouble, and she always brought him his scotch at 8 pm on the dot every night, neat, just the way he liked it. There was nothing she didn’t do for Bob. He had no right to deny her request.