Jazz remained completely ill at ease during the flight. She did not even relax when the Captain announced that we were approaching E.S.1 and would be docking shortly.
I flexed my hand within her iron grip. “I though you were born off-world.”
She looked at me and nodded yes.
“So why are you are so uptight?”
“Stations scare me shitless,” she faced forward again. “Give me a good solid cave on the Moon any day.” There was a thin film of sweat on her forehead, as her private fears circled around each other inside.
Knowing I could not put her at ease, I turned my attention back to the view screen, which showed E.S.1 coming towards us.
On the screen it looked like a five-spoked silver wheel, slowly spinning in the top right, against the star splattered black of night. The arc of the blue-green Earth shining on the bottom left. A curve of the bright lights of com-sats and stations chased each other over the Earths’ horizon.
As I watched, E.S.1 moved towards the centre of the screen, growing bigger, its spin starting to slow. The Earth moved up the left side. E.S.1 fixed itself dead in the centre. The Earth moved across the top. The Stars began to circle around E.S.1’s centre. It continued to grow and it’s slow spin ground to a halt, as the Earth and Stars speeded up their motion. There was a jolt, sharper than the others, and E.S.1 began to expand to fill the screen and more.
I was fascinated as the Earth and then the Stars, one by one, spiraled themselves out of the picture. And E.S.1 grew, like the exit to some star-lined, spinning tunnel. All across E.S.1 harsh shadows chased orbits around the projecting pieces of the station, disappearing off the edge of the wheel and back on further around the loop. As if the spiraling tunnel led to a valley filled with cubist fog, though which you could just catch glimpses of the men and machines adding sections to the incomplete second ring, of the expanding station.
Then my eye was drawn to the central section, as the docking lights came on. A bright circle of orange lights, enclosing a double cross of green, with blocks of red sequencing towards the docking port at the centre. The lights flaring out of the blackness, then faint in the sudden glare of sunlight, then flaring. A stillness superimposed over the circling shadows. Yet slowly expanding to fill the screen.
Then the tracking lights of the docking arms, as they were extended to greet the approaching shuttle. Slowly moving out of the screen, one to each side and top and bottom. A jolt as they connected with the docking runners on the Shuttle, a rolling sound along the body of our craft and a jerk as we were locked into the Station.
Then every thing tilted and the black of night came in from the bottom of the screen, as the Shuttle was turned so the docking port on top could mesh with the Station’s port. The Stars spun across the bottom of the screen, then the blue crescent of the Earth, followed by more stars. The top of the screen was composed of a view along the length of one of the spokes running from the centre, to the curved rim, of the station. The perspective of which was slowly shortening as we were drawn inward to complete docking.
Then a dull clang and a final jolt and we were docked. The picture switched to one of the Captain smiling, explaining that we were now fully docked and would be disembarking shortly. Followed by a short safety film on the dangers of free fall.
People started to unfasten their safety harnesses. I opened mine and stood up. Completely forgetting I was in free fall I stood normally and shot straight up into the overhead storage racks, head first.
Jazz reached up and pulled me back to my seat. A smile flickering about her lips, “Are you all right?”
I put my hand to my head and smiled back, “Yes, I am all right.”
Jazz unclipped her harness and gently pushed herself up to retrieve our bags. She then guided both bags and I out of the shuttle and into the station proper. At both ends of the docking tube there was a steward to help the those less use to free fall, such as myself. Then into the lift that would take us down to a “gravity” section, where the customs and emigration checks were carried out.
I took a good hold on one of the hand grips arranged around the sides of the lift and Jazz showed me how to hook my feet into the loops on what would become the floor. Other people crowded in with us, soon filling the lift. A steward checked that everybody was secure and closed the doors. A few seconds later I felt myself being pushed towards the ceiling. The pull lessened, then reversed, so gravity seemed to return. This gently increased. Followed by a huge sinking feeling as gravity returned with it’s full force and the lift came to a stop at the same time.
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