...so, how ARE we going to get into space?
During an era of terrorism and commercialism,
what happens when the two come together
The Ballad of the Horny Jay
by JA Howe
BALLAD OF THE HORNY JAY
by J.A. Howe
First there were all the legal issues. Then came fights to get to the
top, and the hassling with the ad people. And then came the accountants
and brokers -- _stock could go through the roof_ - and Fox Crampton
had his line. "My beauty, my very own little beauty," he said softly,
looking up at the fifty-foot rocket that would launch in two days to a
record crowd of six million. That total included only the people who
would be there personally, too, not just the millions who would watch the
TV broadcast. He could see them now, each staring reverently at the ship,
sighing with the knowledge that someday that could be them. Even after
twenty years of this, the idea of space still excited people.
His bird, as he called her, was blue. Fifty-feet long, with three
engine bays that would shoot out majestic columns of flame -- like a
phoenix, he thought lovingly; she just keeps coming back - it was powered
by a thrust that in this day and age was called "nuclear" by awed children
because of the sound it made when it went up. NASA and the international
station people might complain about "space tourism" and how tacky it might
be, but they got a substantial cut of the pay and with the media coverage,
their funding had grown by leaps and bounds during the past twenty years.
That station on the moon that had been spoken of for years was there at
last albeit in its beginning stages. SETI had a brand new station
out in Nevada, with better equipment than ever before. All because of the
Horny Jay. He now had twelve ships in his fleet, but she, his first, was
"What a gal," he said lovingly, stroking a wall as he walked around
before launch on a Wednesday in June, 2069. "What a gal. You know,
you're maybe the most famous ship in the world these days?" he crooned.
"Out with that Titanic; you're better built, aren't you, Babe? Haven't
failed me yet. No, you're more like the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa
Maria all combined; you're going where nobody's gone yet." Fox, whose
real name was Will, had watched _Trek_ religiously since he was a
kid. The thought that he was actually doing something like his favorite
Captain was a big thrill. Fox had had a few of the celebrities from the
old series on his rides.
Now, he was going to fly the President. Oh, he'd flown Presidents
before: Baker had gone up for a week, and the Chief of Staff to Mrs. Neal
had gone six years ago. He even knew the current VP, Jack Onassis - who
he teased constantly about his name. But this President was a little
different. He wasn't really flying her.
There had been a terrorist threat; several of them lately, as the man
from the Pentagon with whom he'd spoken had said, and two had been carried
out. One suicide had lunged a train right through Penn Station in NYC and
another had attempted to launch a dirty bomb out on the Needle in Seattle.
They'd had to close the area for blocks around for two weeks, while
everything was cleaned and tested for radiation poisoning. This threat,
they had no doubt, was just as real.
"You want me to be the dummy," Fox had said trying to recall a certain
_Trek_ episode. _What would the Captain have said?_ The
Pentagon official had just nodded.
"You are going to carry a Virtual Reality version of Ms Briggan," she
said. "It will be on all the news channels, everywhere we can get it, and
seem to be a media leak because `the CIA wants to keep the President
secure in these times'. That sort of deal. The VR will be programmed
into your ship computers and we'll have somebody go up shielded by
`lawyers' and Secret Service people for effect. You understand the
importance of this, Mister Crampton."
"I'll do it," he said, feeling about to burst with pride. "For my
country, I'll do it." _Imagine the ratings..._
Copyright © by JA Howe
All rights reserved unless specified otherwise above.
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