This is Part 2 of the sci fi series called “Good Night.” (Read Part 1?) There is even a lesser probabilty that you would like this!
For a fraction of a second, Pete’s heart seemed to have shot upwards to his mouth, which was stuffed with space food. His mind raced with distant memories of the fateful day when the Pegasus caught fire. No, please no, not again!
It was then when something totally remarkable happened. He actually felt his feet losing contact with the ground. He was, in every sense of the term, flying. Flying…as in, floating in mid air. Pete blinked …and then sighed with visible relief, as he slowly realized what had happened. The Ring had simply stopped rotating somehow – his keen ear had perceived that the distant, humming motors were no longer humming. The loss of artificial gravity would be inconvenient, but it was certainly not a life threatening issue. Most probably, one of the flywheels that caused the Ring to rotate was jammed. He presently resumed his eating, or at least tried to. He took a pinch out of the mixture of nutrient rich algae with a spoon and brought it to his mouth. The hard mix lost contact with spoon midway through the journey and became a projectile. Pete gave up – the tasteless food wasn’t very appealing anyway.
Like most spacecrafts of the day, the Starry Messenger was equipped with a centrifuge – the large Ring, several hundred meters in diameter. The Ring would be made to spin, so that the occupants inside would feel a force toward the outer rim of the Ring, due to influences of centrifugal force. This was the only known way to create gravity, but it definitely did not feel like “normal” gravity. For starters, the inmates would feel that the ground was always concave, instead of flat. Walking throughout the Ring’s circumference would be quite a curious affair, as the all the person’s visual senses would tell him that the ground is rising, but he could easily “climb” the ascension. People, with bad humour, often likened this to a hamster running inside a horizontal drum. Second, if you happened to release a ball while inside the Ring, it actually will not fall straight to the ground. Instead, the ball would trace a complicated curve, so that it would land a few feet away from where it was released.*
The reason for artificial gravity was, of course, to spare the astronauts from the tiresome burden of exercise – without gravity the bones got weaker, which could only be remedied by exercise. Now that the Ring had stopped spinning, Pete found floating extremely likeable, and he would have easily preferred zero gravity and tiresome exercise to the alternative. He closed his hands around his knees, and by pushing on the wall near him; tried to achieve a couple of mid-air somersaults, with spectacular results. Peter Floyd becomes Peter Pan, he thought idly, remembering J. M. Barrie’s flying fairytale character which formed a part of children’s bedtime story curriculum. Presently, he saw two of the ship’s maintenance crew, Kolya Mikhailovitch and Jason Nedland, heading for the hatch which lead to the main axis of the Ring. Pete hurriedly grasped a wall to stop his spinning.
“Everything okay Kol?”, Pete asked Kolya.
“Wha- oh. Yeah, it is fine. It seems that the motors got burned. Don’t worry – it is even remarkable that they lasted for so long. We have loads of spares, it could be fixed in a jiffy. Probably three or four hours will…uh-oh, we got to go mate,” Kolya said, with an hurried articulated gesture toward Jason, as one of the loudspeakers announced angrily, “Would Mr. Mikhailovitch please report to the axis immediately!”
Pete watched as Kolya opened the hatch and left. As he now had nothing else to do, he floated around the the Ring, holding on to the railings and avoiding any obstacles that were floating because of the gravity-loss, before finally deciding that it was time visit the observation room. Again.
When the circular hatch leading to the observation room was opened, Pete immediately felt almost a complete darkness engulfing him. He glanced once at the distant wonders that lay beyond the strong glass windows.
His first reaction was to look away. The stars were just too beautiful.
You ever had the feeling, when you just leave the examination hall, knowing that you have screwed up? You know, not just believing but knowing? I sort of feel that way about this part..if this sort of disappointed you, I promise the forthcoming parts will be much better. Deal?
*If you do not understand the whole ball-traces-a-curved-path thingy, check out this site with a Java animation. This is called as a Coriolis Effect, and can be seen when you are in a merry-go-round and you throw a ball at a person in the opposite side of it. To a person outside watching this, the ball appears to move as expected, but to you it appears to take a bent path.