“Look, Mom, we’re just concerned about you here alone. This flyby Planet 6 is gonna be big. That’s what the experts are sayin’. We’re just tryin’ to make sure you’re gonna be all right.”
“I’ll be fine. I’ve been taking care of myself all these years. I’m sure I can take care of myself during this flyby. What you don’t remember was the Jupiter flyby when you were just a baby.” Tia Hapmen pointed at the first of four living room chairs on aluminum pedestals. “I sat right there and held you in my arms. You weren’t but a few weeks old.”
Moses grinned. “Mom, you’ve only told me about that a hundred times since I was a little kid.”
“Well, it happened. I brought you here to live in your daddy’s compartment. He was a fine man. He saved the whole starship. Gave his life to save everybody else.”
Moses leaned close to his wife’s ear. “I’ve also heard this one a million times,” he whispered.
Ninsu’s pretty mouth made a sweet smile. “She’s just rememberin’, Honey,” she whispered.
Tia Hapmen spun around. “Are you two talking about me?”
Moses grinned and moved closer to his mother. “We sure are, Mom. So, Ninsu will come here to this compartment tomorrow mornin’, probably pretty early.” He turned to his wife. “Eight o’clock, maybe?”
Ninsu nodded. “Yes, eight to eight-thirty.”
“You don’t have to come, Ninsu.”
“But Mrs. Hapmen. . .”
“I keep telling you, Ninsu, it’s Miss Hapmen. I never did marry Moses’ father. We were planning it before those things happened. Hell, just call me Tia.”
“I don’t feel comfortable doing that.”
“Then call me Miss H.”
Ninsu made an uncomfortable smile. “If you like.”
“You don’t have to come here tomorrow, My Dear.”
“Mom, the flyby is gonna be very dangerous. This planet is much bigger than Jupiter. I think they said it was about one-third bigger. So things are gonna get broken and knocked around. I want Ninsu with you to make sure you’re all right.”
Tia raised her hands in a gesture of helplessness. “Okay, okay. It’ll be nice having the company anyway. It’s supposed to last three or four hours.”
Moses smiled. He was greatly relieved. His mother could be very stubborn, but he had been warned that this flyby of Planet 6, as they called it, was going to be extreme.
The starship was traveling at approximately 172,000 miles per second, just short of the speed of light. As their starship entered this solar system, they had to really slow down if they were going to be able to establish an orbit around Planet 3, the one they called Hyksos.
That third planet was their target planet. They had been collecting more and more information about its surface over the almost fifty years of their journey across the Galaxy. Hyksos did seem habitable and that’s where they hoped to finally start a new life.
Moses had never known anything but this starship. He had seen the old videos of life back on their home planet, Mars. It looked really kind of cool. This new planet would be different. At least that’s what he had been told. This Hyksos planet was supposed to have more water than Mars and more vegetation.
Of course, all this was guessing. They wouldn’t really know the details until they went into orbit above the planet and sent unmanned drones down into the atmosphere to have a look around.
He had heard rumors that some of the people aboard the starship might not be able to go down to the surface of this new planet. The engineers were calculating how much fuel would be needed for the shuttle to make all those trips.
But maybe that was just a rumor. Maybe it was just somebody’s idea of being funny. He hoped so. Actually, it wasn’t all that funny.
But he did wonder if the older people like his mother would be able to survive a trip down to Hyksos. That kind of glide down into the turbulence of the atmosphere might be extreme and his mother was seventy- seven years old. Not exactly young.
Moses put his hands on his mother’s shoulders. “Give me a hug, Mom. I have to go on duty tonight. We’re gettin’ everythin’ ready for this flyby.”
Tia Hapmen put her arms around her son and kissed his cheek. “You keep them in line. I’ve heard you’re doing a good job running the ERC, taking care of all those emergency repairs. Years ago, that’s what I did. Of course the starship was a lot newer then. Not too many problems, unless you had a meteor strike – like the one that killed your father.”
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