RED PLANET STOWAWAY CH. 6 - THE SHUTTLE TO CYDONIA
By R.A. Hunter
You decide that, no matter what, the president must be protected. You run to the shuttle ticket office. “One to Cydonia,” you say.
“That’ll be Greel Pinlax,” the ticket agent, a Martian woman who resembled Earth women save for her gray-tinged translucent skin and complete lack of hair, said.
“Come again?” you ask.
“I didn’t come the first time,” she says.
“That’s because you wouldn’t understand that I was intentionally ignoring you if I said everything in Galflorn."
“Yeah, it’s Martian. Just like you speak Earthenese.”
You take a deep breath and try a different tactic. “Look, I’m sure you get a lot of demanding tourists here who expect you to cater to them without even bothering to learn basic… what was that, Gandalfish?”
“Yeah, sometimes people don’t even know what the language is called,” she says with an eye roll. “Some people actually think it’s just called Martian.”
You sigh a little. “Okay, that’s fair. I apologize. But I’m not a tourist. It’s very important that I get to Cydonia.”
She stares at you, blankly, her sarcasm entirely vanished. “Why is it so important that you get to Cydonia?” she asks coolly.
Suddenly you realize that this lady may be more than just a pain in the ass. You decide to proceed very carefully.
“I’m… meeting someone there,” you say.
“Oh, all right,” the ticket lady says. The cold edge melts from her voice and you tentatively breathe again and she turns her attention to her keyboard on which she begins typing. “But I hear traffic is being tied up over some big wig or something staying there.”
“Yeah, it’s President Womack,” you say without thinking. You bite on your lip but it doesn’t bring back the words.
The ticket lady looks up at you quickly. “I didn’t know anyone knew about that,” she says, striking a final key which produces a bright red ticket.
She tears the ticket from the dispenser slides it under the divider separating the two of you. “That’ll be twenty Zircons.”
You pay her quickly without making eye contact and cross to the line forming at the shuttle door. You watch as the customers board one by one handing their tickets -- which you can’t help but notice are white – to the conductor as they do so.
You glance at the red ticket in your hand. She gave me the wrong one. You think but just as you realize this you are shoved to the front of the line where the conductor takes it from you.
“Ah, sir,” he says after glancing at it. “You want the next car.”
He points to the second car of the two-car shuttle craft and you walk in that direction. You stick your head inside but no one is there to accept your ticket. You look back at the conductor who is now speaking with the other customers.
You shrug, assume someone will be by shortly to take your ticket and sit in the seat which looks most comfortable. You can do this because there is no one else on board this car.
You pull a magazine from the back of the seat in front of you and become engrossed in an article on mustard-based diets. You don’t realize how much time has passed until the shuttle’s engines growl and you feel it lift of the ground.
You drop your magazine onto the seat beside you and look out the window. You’re already sixty feet in the air; these new shuttles aren’t short on pick-me-up.
You look at the people milling about on the ground. You can’t be sure but you think you see Malloy standing just below the shuttle. He’s standing there and he’s… he’s waving… at you.
Suddenly you here the unmistakable sound of your car unlocking from the rest of the shuttle train just before the shuttle blasts off to Cydonia -- and you plummet right back down to the unforgiving terrain.