It's a Zoo out There
James Possible read over the list for the fifth time that morning. It kept his mind from going into overload. His pet project, his baby the Kepler mark five was on the launch pad. This was an upgrade over all his previous models. His craft had already made records before but this design was leaps and bounds better than anything he had ever produced. But that was not the reason that he was really so nervous. It was that his real baby. His baby girl was going to pilot the ship on it's maiden voyage. Okay, Kim was twenty-three years old and was in no way a baby. But she was still his baby girl in his heart. However, he knew there would be someone else in the cockpit of the Kepler.
Ron would be there with Kim as if he would be anywhere else. James thought wistfully. The boy, no check that, the man had gone to stars to rescue his daughter from the aliens. And now, he was going back to the stars at her side "screaming all the way". But, there was no one on the planet that Kim would be safer with. A slight cough announced the presence of the couple that was on his mind. He turned to see his daughter and her best friend no, not just best friend anymore, the understated ring on her left hand signaled that development, standing just inside the door to the control center.
Kim had grown into a very lovely young woman. She looked a great deal like her mother did when they had first met. The spaceflight suit fitted her lithe figure in a manner that he sure was distracting to the young man standing at her side. James frowned.
"Kimmiecub, I thought you two were supposed to be resting before the flight. What are you doing here?"
Kim smiled as she and Ron walked in the door.
"Now daddy, we are okay and I am sure we will be getting plenty of rest once we get out there."
James put on a stern face.
"Just make sure that those rest periods are for rest and not for 'other' scientific explorations. I don't want to hear that you are members of the 100 Mile High Club."
Both Kim and Ron started to resemble the red warning lights that they had hated during their training in the simulator. The sound of someone clearing their throat came to their ears. All three of them turned to see Dr. Anne Possible standing in the other door to the control room.
"Now James, just what makes you think that they would do something like that?"
Anne turned her head to look at her daughter and her future son-in-law.
"Now since you two seem to have so much energy then you can come with me so we can get you fitted with your bio-medical instruments. We also need to finish your full pre-flight physicals. Now march you two."
Kim's face flushed.
"Mom, we already had our physicals just a couple of weeks ago why..?"
Kim took one good look at her mom and ceased all argument. Her mom had that look that said. 'you will do just as I say, when I say or else'. Kim nodded and headed past her mom towing Ron along with her.
Anne directed Kim and Ron into the medical building and into a treatment room. There were two treatment chairs sitting there along with a number of staff. Kim groaned.
"Great lab rat time."
Anne scowled at her daughter.
"None of that young lady or I will make sure to use that certain instrument you were so interested in last time."
Kim quickly shut her mouth. A few months before her mother had requested a series of tests and Kim had found herself in another very similar room. On the table next to the treatment bed were a number of very uncomfortable looking instruments. She stopped and pointed to a certain one.
"Mom, I am not sure, but I don't think I want to know where that one goes."
Anne smiled as she pulled on a pair of rubber gloves.
"Well, you are about to find out. So, in so many words, pants down and bottoms up."
Kim had placed both her hands over the aforementioned spot and turned to face her mother.
"Mom, you really..."
Anne stood looking silently at her daughter making a turn around motion. Kim gritted her teeth as she dropped her pants and leaned forward over the bed. Her mother approached her from behind and picked up the object. Kim tensed as she felt her mother touch her.
"Relax, you are about to put something the size of a drink bottle up my …and you want me to RELAX!"
Kim screamed the last word as her mother plunged a needle into that part most exposed to view and gave her a shot. Afterward, Anne stepped back and placed that certain object back on the table along with the now used syringe. Kim stood up rubbing her bottom and glaring at her now smiling mother.
"Oh, that was so not funny. You could have told me you know."
"A mom has to get her jollies when she can. You should have seen the expression on your face when I told you to drop your pants and turn around."
Kim pulled her pants back up.
"I'd ask you if you wanted to watch me pull the same trick on Ron but I have a feeling that you might be admiring the view instead of his face."
Kim's face had blossomed red before her mother turned to leave the room.
Kim brought herself back to the present as she approached the bench where the staff would help her get into the flight gear that they would need to wear. This would not be like the suit she wore when she and Frederick had piloted the space plane. Their flight today would be a little more dangerous and it would require a little more protection. The staff motioned for her to sit down. Turning she gave Ron a quick kiss since it would be some time before they would have the same chance again. Kim took her seat and settled down to get ready.
Kim's headset squawked as she worked through the checklist.
"Kepler Five this is mission control. It is T-minus fifteen minutes. Have you completed the checklist?"
Kim looked over to Ron. He nodded and at the same moment fumbled the clipboard that held the checklist. By only quick relaxes that Kim was sure not normal, Ron caught the checklists before it fell. He gave her a sheepish look and nodded again. He spoke into his mike.
"Mission Control, this is Keplar Five. We have completed the checklists and are prepared for liftoff. MrDrP, are you SURE there are no black holes out there?"
There was laughter over the radio from mission control. Everyone was very familiar with the joke between James Possible and Ron. Everyone was also familiar with the story of the time that James took Ron to "The Black Hole" at the space center. He was the first but not the last father of a young daughter who had taken a young man there for a little man to boy talk. The James/Ron adventure that time had gone down in history for the little restaurant at the Space Center. James laughed into his microphone.
"Not that I know of Ronald, besides I think we are past all that now since you came to me man to man and asked for Kimmie's hand."
Kim's heart fluttered at her father's comment. Ron had approached her father without her knowing a thing. Her parents opinion of Ron went up, if that was even possible. He had dropped by the home when she was shopping with Monique. According to the story from her parents Ron had her parents sit down in the living room where with quite a bit of stumbling words had stood in front of the two of them and with as much formality as he was capable of had asked James for Kim's hand in marriage. Her mother told her that her father stood and took Ron's hand and with a tear in his eye gave Ron the permission he was seeking. It was a special moment between the two men of her life and they had become closer ever since.
Ron's voice filled her headphones.
"Just checking MrDrP."
Kim reached forward and flipped a few more switches on the console before her. It was all automatic for now.
"Mission Control, this is Kepler Five, internal guidance is up, all systems are go."
James sighed and spoke into his mike.
"All Stations are we go?"
Within seconds all the different stations called in that they were go. MrDrP reached forward and flipped the final switch for the launch.
"It is t-minus 15 seconds, 10 – 9 – 8 – 7 – 6 – 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 – ignition. We have lift off."
Kim and Ron felt themselves pushed back into their acceleration chairs as the Kepler lifted off the pad. They could see their progress through the clouds as they gain altitude. Ron reached over a pressed a switch that disabled the auto abort.
"Mission Control, mission abort is off and we are gaining altitude. Starting to level off for orbit insertion. Altitude is 35 miles and gaining."
Kim broke in.
"Mission Control auto program functioning at 100%. We should be reaching orbit with no problems."
James relaxed. One of the main parts of the mission had gone flawlessly.
Kim floated to the rear of the cockpit and down through the deck to the living space. Ron was at the food station whipping up a meal for the two of them. The last time Kim had tried to fix a meal during training in took the two of them the rest of the day to clean up. A couple of the engineers tried to test the remains. It had adhesive properties that were very promising for zero gravity and vacuum applications.
She glided through the air and wrapped her arms around him. Wonderful smells were coming from the food packets in front of her.
"MMMMmmmmm. That smells good. What's for dinner?"
Ron turned around as he floated in the air. He gave her a kiss on the forehead before reaching around and handing her a tray.
"Chicken ala Kimberly, green beans, mashed potatoes and drink of your choice. For dessert, a slice of seven layers of heaven chocolate cake."
Kim's eye popped open wide.
"How did you do that?"
Ron smiled as he pulled a container from the food area. Inside was a slice of Kim's favorite dessert.
"I fixed a few pieces up and put them in small containers. I left the Nacos behind."
Kim nearly choked on her food. She stared into his eyes. They were clear and full of love for her. A tear formed on her face.
"You left your Nacos behind? Ron! You didn't have to do that!"
He shrugged his shoulders.
"Well, it was the only way to get the cake on board. There was only so much room and so much weight. So I ditched the Nacos for your cake."
Kim stared at him with a look that made his blood pressure go up a couple of notches.
"Well, I'm glad that we don't have those bio-med monitors on anymore."
She set her food down and floated over to him. Placing her arms around his neck she planted a kiss on his lips.
"Cause if we were, the sensors might be overloaded after I finish with you."
One of Ron's eyebrows went up.
Kim was feeling slightly flushed as she settled down into her flight chair. The two of them had enjoyed some couple time after their meal and dessert. Now it was time to get on with the business of the flight. Ron moved into his chair and strapped himself in.
"I wish Rufus was here."
"I do too but you know he got that cold just before we blasted off and he could not come. We'll be back in a day or so and take him to get a Naco all to himself."
"I think he'll require two to completely forgive us."
Both of them turned their headsets on and set them on VOX. Kim's eyes ran over the cockpit board as she spoke.
"Mission Control, this is Kepler Five. Unless I am mistaken it's time to start the checklist."
Their headsets crackled for a moment before her father's voice came back.
"Kepler Five, this is Mission Control. We were just about to call so let's get down to business. Set breaker S-five to on."
Ron reached over and flipped the proper switch.
"Breaker S-five set to on."
Kim and Ron worked together as they went over the checklist. They flipped switches, checked breakers and set dials. After an hour's work Kim's dad called out.
"That completes the checklists. Please confirm the engines are online and the navigation program is running."
Kim typed a series of commands into the computer. A series of small rockets fired pointing the Kepler up.
"Kepler Five is reoriented and ready to leave orbit. Mission Control do we have permission to leave orbit?"
MrDrP's voice came back.
'Kepler Five, you have permission to leave orbit. Fire boosters one through four at fifty percent."
Ron punched the commands into his console. Far in the back of the ship, the four boosters fired and they left orbit smoothly when they had gained enough speed. The boosters turned off and the Kepler coasted into deep space. It was time.
Kim and Ron both sat back in their chairs and took a deep breath. For a moment they glanced at each other and held hands. Then they got back to the flight. They both tightened the harnesses to their seats and seated their headsets tighter on their heads. Kim typed the final commands into her console.
"This is Kepler Five, all engines are online and gaining charge. Engines will fire in five, four, three, two one, ignition."
The four complex engines started and pushed the spacecraft out into space. On the console in front of Ron was a gauge. This signaled the power up of the engines. The would slowly increase speed until they reached their optimum output. At that point they would fire up into maximum thrust. If all went well they could go faster than any craft has ever gone. The craft vibrated as the speed increased. Ron called out the power output.
"Engines at 50% of optimum. All other functions nominal."
"Engines at 70%."
"Engines at 85%."
An alarm sounded and several lights started to flash. The engines started to stutter as the craft shuddered and shook. Kim called out as the Kepler started to spin from the imbalanced thrust.
"Mission Control, we have an imbalance in thrust. The computer has gone off line."
Before she could say another word the engine ignited a full power. The two of them were thrown deep into their seat by the acceleration. Kim looked up in horror to see the sun in front of them. The radio sputtered and crackled.
"Kepler Five, Kepler Five, you are off course, you are off course. Emergency shut down!"
Kim and Ron both tried to reach the shut off switches but the acceleration was so great they could not reach them. Kim moved her hand down to the side of her seat where the emergency override had been placed in such an instance. The sun started to grow large in front of them. She pressed the override and only two of the engines shut off. Unfortunately, the engines on the left shut off but the two on the right continued to burn. The two of them were pushed to the side. Ron called out.
"Kim what are we going to do?"
James' voice came over the speakers.
"Kimmie, restart the engines, repeat restart the engines. Maybe that will reset all of them and then you can cut them all off."
Kim pressed the two switches to refire the engines. They instantly went to full burn. The remaining engines joined to two newly started engines in going to optimum thrust. The needle on the board in front of Ron moved closer to the jump speed. Ron called out.
"Kim we are pointed in the wrong direction. If we jump now there is no telling where we will end up."
Before Kim could answer the needle on the board jumped past the jump speed and pinned far to the right of the dial. Kim and Ron felt as if they had left their bodies as the craft leapt forward. Their eyes dimmed as they lapsed into unconsciousness.
James Possible watched the readouts in horror as the ship he built with his daughter and future son-in-law on board went wild. The ship went wildly off course as the engine imbalance forced the ship into the wrong course. Then just when he thought the engines might settle down they surged to optimum thrust and the craft disappeared from their scopes. All the data coming from the ship went off all the scales then dropped to no signal. The last course they had was into deep space. One of the crew called out to him.
"Dr. Possible I think you need to see this."
James walked over to the screen and glanced down. The technician pointed to the screen.
"Dr. Possible, this...this can't be right. I don't even know if it is theoretically possible. The engines were not designed for this. Even if the engines could produce this, would the crew be able to survive? I...I just don't know. They went beyond the speed of light. Even if some part of the ship survived there is no way any human could have survived the acceleration."
Anne broke into the main control and ran over to where they were standing. She looked over at her husband.
"James? James? What happened.?"
He took her into his arms.
"Something went wrong. The engines malfunctioned. The ship went out of control. The last signal we had of them was out into deep space. There was some type of explosion. Then we got some type of signal, but it can't be right."
Anne looked at her husband through tear clouded eyes.
"What do you mean?"
James pulled her in close.
"If the data is correct, they went beyond the speed of light. There is no way they could have survived."
The cockpit windows of the Kepler admitted the bright light reflecting off of the atmosphere of the planet. A computer screen came to life and data flew across the screen faster than the eye could see. Another screen came to life and showed a representation of the terrain on one of the land masses below. More screens came on line, two of which had Kim and Ron's names on them. The screen showed that the two of them were breathing and their heart rates were slow. The main computer screen blinked and a little of data appeared.
"Emergency Landing sequence initiated"
The Kepler spun out of orbit and entered the atmosphere of the planet. Within minutes it selected a open area the appeared to be covered in grass. Gauges started to flash warnings about low fuel as it not so gently rocked to a landing. One landing arm failed and the Kepler crashed over on it's side. Halon fire extinguishers washed over the engines extinguishing any flame that appeared. The metal of the craft creaked and popped as it cooled in the air.
Kim opened her eyes to realize a few things. One she was alive, two her head hurt and three, she was hanging upside down in her harness. She quickly glanced to her side to see Ron hanging from his harness. She could barely see him in the dimness of the emergency lighting. The cockpit windows appeared to be buried in dirt. She could tell he was breathing slowly. Reaching over she felt for a pulse and was relieved to find it slow and strong. He moaned and opened his eyes.
"Oooohhh mannnn, what a headache! You okay KP?"
Ron smiled his trademark smile as he reached over to cup her cheek. She smiled.
"Except for same said headache and the fact that we are hanging upside down. Let's get down from here and see what shape the ship is in."
Kim unsnapped her harness and flipped out of her seat. Ron followed her by unsnapping his harness and falling out of his seat to the ceiling or floor that it is was now. She giggled as she pulled him to his feet.
Ron rubbed the back of his neck.
"I am what I am."
Kim turned and started to check the equipment. Ron started to run some other checks including tests of the outside air. Kim's face turned to a frown as she checked through a series of tests. By the end of her check her mood was not as good as it was when she had started. Ron climbed over some of the equipment to settle down by her side.
"What's the verdict?"
"The Kepler is trashed but even if it wasn't the other news is worse. I ran a running position check from the navigation computer. At least what is left of it. It said that somehow an anomaly was formed when the engines went crazy. When the engines fired at full thrust we...we hit light speed or more."
Ron opened his mouth and then closed. He thought for a moment.
"Lightspeed? Is that even possible?"
"I don't know Ron, and Dad is not here. But, before the computer fried it was able to estimate our position."
"Ron, it said we are at least 10 light years away from earth. There is no way we can..."
"Kim, we'll never get home. The Kepler's trashed, we are so far out in space that..."
Kim reached over to grab him by his shoulders.
"Ron, calm down, it won't help any to freak out we are in a stich here remember?"
Ron's voice trembled.
"But Kim what will we do?"
"Well, you checked outside. What is it like?"
Ron forced himself to be calm as he could be, which for him was near to freaking out.
"Well, the air is just like back home. It actually warm outside, about 70 degrees."
She shrugged her shoulders.
"Well, let's take a look."
Ron grabbed her arms as she made her way toward the hatch.
"Kim we don't know what is out there."
Kim put her hand on one of his.
"Ron, like it would matter. We are here and we can't leave. We have to go outside sometime and it might as well be now."
Ron slowly nodded as he let go of her arms.
"Okay, but let's go prepared."
Kim poked at the fire that burned in front of her. They had spent the day searching the area around them and found nothing but woods and open land. Water seemed plentiful but they had not tried any yet. Ron had fixed some food with what they had with them. They would use the cockpit for shelter for now. Later they would have to live off the land and build their own shelter. So far they had seen some wildlife with one creature looked a great deal like a rabbit. Another check of the Kepler had given them some hope. It would take time. Maybe a few years but they might be able to repair the ship. But even if they did, to repeat the trip back would be beyond a miracle.
Kim turned to see Ron standing in the hatch.
"What is it Ron?"
Ron motioned toward her.
"We need to put the fire out and get inside. Just because we haven't seen any of the nasty type of wildlife doesn't mean that they aren't out there. It would be a drag to have traveled so far and only get eaten by some weirdo creature."
Kim stood and piled dirt onto the fire to put it out. She made sure that the coals were cool and out before she turned and entered the craft. Pulling the hatch shut, she closed and locked it.
Beneath a nearby tree two pairs of eyes watched.
Greetings everyone. I know most of you are waiting for the next installment of School of Life. Have no fear, I am working on it. But this one has been lying around in my computer for sometime and I wanted to get that giant plot bunny off my back. This little story is based on a Twilight Zone episode that is one of my favorites. I hope that you enjoy it. Please leave a review.
This is the Captain
Roger and out
Right hand salute