Transmat World: Chapter 10, Episode 1

Between the Earth and Moon; Wednesday, October 6, 2145 A.D.

Glen Hendrix
6 min readFeb 27, 2022
Image courtesy Kts / Dreamstime

Like Lindbergh, Enrique had fallen asleep on his historic flight. Unlike Lindbergh, there was someone there to wake him up. The pilot of Lunacy One had found Enrique’s hedset band, and the gravelly voice now pummeled him into consciousness.

“Lunacy One to … uh … Moon Suit Maniac: Is that an alien spacehopper eating your leg or is that your hedbot?” said Chuck, moving a toothpick to the other side of his mouth and scratching a nascent beard. The order to deploy had caught him before his daily ritual of shower and shave. It took a lot of coffee to make that right. A positive-seal space travel cup full of Starbru fresh from the Transmat was a hand breadth away from his casual grip on the joystick controls. Sip drips still quivered on the puckered mouthpiece and kept time with the vibration of the ship, reluctant to go anywhere in the one-sixth gee acceleration.

“Moon Suit Maniac to Lunacy One: Affirmative. Alien spacehopper is devouring my leg,” replied Enrique deadpan. “Let it be noted that not only am I the first to fly a space suit to the Moon but the first to make alien contact, as terrifying and painful as it is.”

“You will pay for this, Enrique Ramirez,” said Rousseau through clenched mandibles.

“Even more incredible, you have made the first English-speaking alien contact, bucko,” interjected Chuck. “But you’re not going to be the first to fly to the Moon in a space suit. You’re going to be the first to go splat on the Moon in a space suit if you don’t turn around and start shedding velocity.”

The warning light for that very event was just coming up on Enrique’s head-up. “Rousseau, were you just going to let me sleep through that?” asked Enrique.

“I was going to awaken you when Mr. Lunacy sneaked up behind us and butted in. I might add, he could not have done so had you popped for the built-in radar package when you made my lease agreement.”

“Ooh, that’s a sassy hedbot you got there, buddy. You must have pissed off somebody at TecHed. I’m Chuck, by the way. I assume you are the famous Enrique Ramirez and his trusty but cantankerous sidekick, Rousseau. It’s all over the Internet. Anytime you feel like you’ve had enough, just let me know, and we’ll haul your ass into the cargo bay.”

Rousseau spoke up, “Chuck … Chuck … Charles … Charles Barnworth. Aren’t you the same Charles Barnworth that flunked his fifth grade flight simulator class by crashing what is now known as the Ozone Lounge twice, taking out one of the space elevators on — “

“Thanks for the offer, Chuck, but no thanks. Since we’ve come this far, we’re going to see it through,” said Enrique.

“Gotcha. Suit yourself. We’ll be on standby. I’m taking a coffee break. Holler if you need saving or something. And don’t forget to turn,” With that, Chuck broke contact and reached for his coffee cup. “That hedbot makes me nervous,” said Chuck to nobody in particular as he replayed in his head the events of that bad day in school. The crew studied their control panels for a full five seconds before someone burst into laughter. They all join in, including Chuck. Having done all the bad things on simulators, he was supremely secure about his piloting skills.

“Thank you,” said Rousseau.

“And what are you thanking me for, Rousseau?” asked Enrique.

“For saying ‘we’ve’ come this far,” said Rousseau.

Enrique said nothing for a few moments.

“Sorry for saying something so sappy that it made you catatonic,” said Rousseau.

“How are we going to turn, Rousseau?” asked Enrique.

“If you had confided that before we left I would be more than willing to clue you back in. As it is, I am assuming it has something to do with that swivel thing on the thruster unit. Just like I’m assuming your question is rhetorical and any second you’re going to say ‘Hang on, Rousseau! We’re going to turn!’” said Rousseau, his voice rising toward the end in a remarkable simulation of hysteria.

“I could do a big wide loop until I’m pointed back toward Earth, but that would take me a bit off the calculated path. I could just take off the thruster unit, turn the whole thing 180 degrees and lock it back in place. The problem with that is the center of gravity will be off, and I’ll have to be correcting course all the time for the rest of trip. Besides, I’m tired of looking at the Moon. I’d like to watch Earth for the rest of the journey.”

“Jeez Louise, I could have booked us a maglev trip through Alaska and saved us a lot of hassles. They don’t charge extra for hedbots, you know.”

“If there were another means of lateral thrust, I could turn around in place with the main thruster off and then fire them up when the crosshairs lined back up on the Solar Positioning System. If I just had some other means of thrust. Can you think of any other means of thrust available, Rousseau?” asked Enrique.

“Hmm, let me think,” said Rousseau. Enrique heard the faint sound of little grasshopper digits tapping Rousseau’s brain casing to which the hedbot’s external mike attached. “Oh, I have it! I can gnaw a hole in the leg of your suit and the escaping air will turn you around.”

“That’s not what I had in mind, Rousseau. Just change your position until your thruster pods are perpendicular to my leg and give me a little nudge.”

Rousseau took up the position and gave a small bark out of his butt thruster. Enrique slowly began to pirouette around his center of mass. When his feet pointed toward the Moon, Rousseau reversed his position and squirted the same amount of gas in the other direction. It was an almost perfect maneuver. Enrique had to make minor adjustments to make the Solar Positioning System happy.

The folding, angled mirror Enrique installed below his chin was deployed and worked well. He could see where his head is pointed without constantly looking out the top edge of his faceplate. He now had a great view of Earth. It was still a fetching blue planet despite the ravages of industrialization and the Hit. Enrique warned Rousseau and cranked the Transmat thrusters back to cruising speed. They decelerated toward the Moon.

Enrique had planned well; as well as any hare-brained scheme to fly to the moon in a 150 year old space suit could be planned. He had been enjoying his view of Earth for some time. Europe and Africa were coming into view. A storm was brewing off the coast of Africa. Somebody stuck him with a pin in the calf of his leg.

“Rousseau, you wouldn’t really be trying to gnaw my leg off, would you?”

“Only if you asked me to, Enrique, and even then I require assurances I will not be held accountable for my actions due to your direct order. Also, I need assurances of surviving this trip even though you have only one — “

“I am not asking you to gnaw my leg off, Rousseau. There was some pain in my right calf. It was probably a muscle cr — “

“Yikes! Enrique, there is a hole in the leg of your space suit. It is venting air! How is your leg? Is there any pain? What can I do? Speak to me, Enrique. Are you there!?”