R is for Rocket

That’s no Sun….

Hong Kong, China
Zhao Family Apartment 
[07/21/2097]
local time: 1:35 am

Children come quick!!

Jumping down the steps two at a time, they filed into the living room to catch what was to be their first Launch. This was the first time their parents had allowed them to stay up to watch the event on TV, and the day could not have come any sooner. All the stories they had heard from their older friends could now be put to rest… the glowing sky… the trembling ground, even the gullible minds possessed by the young were not naive enough to accept these claims as true. Hesitant with doubt yet consumed with curiosity, the kids prayed for the day when they would finally be allowed to experience first-hand what they had heard so much about. Sitting close and eyes fixed to the screen, they were ready to document all the details of a world so foreign to their own. Having already experienced a Launch, the parents calmly sat back taking enjoyment from the nascent wonder in each of the children’s eyes.

The program began. A wavering flag, red white and blue, dominated the screen as the Star Spangled Banner blared from the TV’s speakers. A proud moment, not only for the Americans but for the entire planet. The two adults couldn’t help but grin at the achievement of the human race. Launch day brought all who watched a sense of pride as we reached ever farther into the heavens. When the anthem had finished, the flag disappeared and the camera focused in on a sign which appeared to be mounted to the base of a large concrete building.

Kennedy Space Center — Launch Complex 81- A
Cape Canaveral, United States of America

Mixed in with sounds of rushing wind and squawking gulls, whistles and cheers were roaring from a crowd hidden from those watching on TV. The camera began to zoom out, revealing to the viewers the true identity of the structure to which the sign was mounted. Quiet gasps erupted from each child as one by one, the rumors were slowly verified. Floating just above the sign, forty-two giant silver bells hung gleaming in the Sun from the bottom of a metallic tower. Panning up, the camera rolled over the Rocket with a pace that delivered the immense scale of the day’s feature presentation. Through the clouds of vapor, letters could be made out on the side of the vehicle.

S

P

A

C

E

X

“SpaceX” the parents read aloud for the kids. The name sparked dreams of the future… a future where Earthlings have spread out into the Universe exploring the sweet void of the Cosmos.

A timer appeared at the top corner of the screen.

T — 00 : 03 : 00

Giggles from the children, creeping ever closer to the screen. On the TV, not a soul in sight. The majestic beast stood erect, stirring in it’s cryogenic sleep surrounded by a barren coastline. Oh how the children would love to go and see the Rocket with their own eyes. A trip to America?… the desolate landscape surrounding the spaceship was not lost on this desire. The camera seemed careful not to stray, but glimpses of scorched earth and a fouled ocean shoreline dampened the smiles on their faces.

T — 00 : 01 : 30

The Rocket began to tremble. Audible through the TV, the low hum of a million parts beginning to wake from their deep slumber. Overwhelmed with excitement, the children swore they could feel the ground shake. Unconsciously, the father gently slid his cup of tea away from the edge of the table.

T — 00 : 00 : 30

One by one, the engines slowly sprang to life, building up enough thrust to push off and away from the planet. To the children, each engine as bright as a Star. The Rocket now rested comfortably on top a bed of fire, stretching its legs, aching to be let go.

Children look!…

T — 00 : 00 : 09

Shadows from the flowers on the window sill were growing across the floor.

T — 00 : 00 : 04

The night sky no longer dark rather a premature dawn painted the Eastern horizon, over-powering the Moon in its attempt to shed some light on the shadow of the night.

T — 00 : 00 : 00

The Rocket broke free. Tearing away from the mechanical clamps that strained to contain it.

T + 00 : 00 : 14

Visibly, the battle was tough. The Rocket struggling to overcome Earth’s Newtonian tug, it lurched forward with a pace that made it appear to hover.

T + 00 : 00 : 52

Pushing through the atmosphere, the Rocket was on its way. Crackling and gimbaling, a freshly formed cloud trailing in its wake. Looking out the window, the Eastern horizon now resembled a mid-day sky, one which forgot to rise with the Sun.

T + 00 : 08 : 21

As the kids sauntered off to their rooms, exhausted from the adrenaline fix they had just received, the Rocket had one more dose to deliver. It came first with a low rumble, the children now sure they were feeling something. From all directions their world began to shake. A current of fear and joy swam through the children as they daringly tried to stand up, screaming…

Look!! No hands!!…

Car alarms blaring in the distance, it disappeared as quickly as it had arrived. With an abrupt stop, the final departure of the rocket was signaled with the sound of the tea cup shattering on the floor.


Jacksonville, Florida, United States of America
Launch Complex 81-A
[07/20/2097]
local time: 12:35 pm

Children come quick!!

Jumping down the steps two at a time, they filed into the elevator to hide from what was to be their first Launch. This was the first time their parents had allowed them to stay up on the surface this close to Launch, and the day had crept up on them much too fast. All the stories they had heard from their older friends would now be put to rest… the endless caves… the Earth-splitting quakes. Driven by curiosity yet consumed with fear, the kids prayed the day would never come when they would witness first-hand what they had heard so much about. Tightly packed in the service elevator with hands squeezed tight by their parents, they were hardly ready to document the details of an event so widely feared. Having already experienced a launch, the parents anxiously stood next to their kin, taking no comfort from the nascent wonder in each of the children’s eyes.

As the elevator accelerated down into the Earth, ambient light fading and the air becoming cooler, no longer could the children hear the squawk of the gulls or the familiar crash of the ocean tide. The parents held tight to their fidgeting children, warning sirens still ringing in their ears. They knew full well that even with all the evacuation procedures in place, safety was no guarantee.

The elevator came to a stop with the doors opening to reveal a vast subterranean shelter. Quiet gasps erupted from each child as one by one, the rumors were slowly verified. Stepping out into the foyer, the children got their first glimpse of the underground world whose only purpose was to shelter them from the Terror above. Unable to see the far end of the cave, the atmosphere was noticeably heavy with a mixture of naivete and agitation.

They were directed to their bunk area located somewhere off along the far wall of the shelter. As they walked along the path, they passed the spectator pavilion. A windowed terminal furnished with seats, loud speakers and TV screens lining the walls. Packed with only adults, cheers and whistles emanated from the room as they looked on at the Rocket, their life’s work waiting quietly up on the surface, ready to be released.

A spectacle to some, a terror for others. For the latter, “the ultimate sacrifice to ensure humans continue to spread the seeds of life throughout the Universe”… so they were told. Not everyone wanted to live such a noble life.

A deep voice echoed throughout the shelter, calling out the countdown.

T — 00 : 03 : 00

Whimpers from the children, creeping ever closer to their parents. The majestic beast stood above, stirring in it’s cryogenic sleep surrounded by their barren home. Oh how the parents would love to go and escape this madness. To live a life not dominated by the Rocket, waiting weeks for the fallout to pass only to surface and start again. A trip to China?… as far from this life as possible, they wouldn’t even know where to begin.

T — 00 : 01 : 30

The Rocket began to shake the Earth. Through the leagues of soil above them, the collective scream of a million parts began to wake from their deep slumber. Overwhelmed with fear, the children swore the ground was about to shake apart. Consciously, the father gently pulled his child in close to shield them from what was to come.

T — 00 : 00 : 30

One by one, the engines slowly sprang to life, building up enough thrust to push off and away from the planet. To the children, each igniting engine a new nightmare. The rocket now rested comfortably on top a bed of fire, stretching its leg, aching to be let go.

Children look!…

T — 00 : 00 : 09

The parents directed their gaze to meet their own eyes, hoping to project a sense of comfort and safety.

T — 00 : 00 : 04

Their vision no longer defined but a constant blur, faces indistinguishable from the next. Rather then the distinct sound of a Rocket launching up above, Armageddon deafened all.

T — 00 : 00 : 00

The monster broke free. Tearing away from the mechanical clamps that strained to contain it.

T + 00 : 00 : 14

Physically, the battle was tough. The Rocket struggling to overcome Earth’s Newtonian tug, its plume smashing against the Earth’s surface and all those who hid below.

T + 00 : 00 : 38

Pushing through the atmosphere, the Rocket was on its way. Crackling and gimbaling, a toxic cloud trailing in its wake. From the spectator room, only a black Earth could be seen on the TV.

T + 03 : 56 : 21

As the kids sauntered off to their bunks, exhausted from the adrenaline fix they had just received, the Rocket administered a continuous dose. The tremors lingered for the remainder of the day, the children unable to remember days when the Earth was calm. From all directions their world shook. A current of fear and exhaustion swam through the children as they tried to ignore the tremors, pleading…

Mom!! Make it stop!!…

Recovery alarms blaring in the distance, it disappeared as slowly as the tide retreats. With a gradual fade, the final departure of the rocket was signaled with the sound of weeping, children and parents alike.

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