Thursday, November 6, 2008

Diary of a Mad Astronaut

This is my entry in Bruce Bethke's Friday Challenge writing contest, based on an alternate universe setting.

October 10, 2010

At least that’s what they say the date is. Who knows whether they’re telling the truth or not? It seems about right, but that’s the only part of this that does.

Take this lap top they have me using to keep my journal. The tech guy told me this little box has a computer in it. I just laughed at him. There’s no way you could fit any tubes inside something this small! I think I offended him by laughing because next thing you know he’s telling me how much more powerful it is than the autopilot in my lander. I laughed again and he got even madder and gave me a demonstration. By the time he finished, my mouth must have been hanging open because he had a smug look on his face as he left. When I go back, this lap top thing is definitely going with me!

But I’m getting ahead of myself. They want me to keep a journal, no doubt so they can read it and figure out what I whether I’ve really lost my memory or not. Too bad I’m not writing in English. An old college girlfriend was a huge Lord of the Rings fan. Figuring it would help me score, I learned how to write love notes to her in elvish. (Yes, it worked.) Took some finagling, but I worked out to write elvish using a standard keyboard. I should be long gone before they can figure this out. And if I get the lap top out with me, I can translate it before landing.

I’ve been here for a week, locked up in some building somewhere on Edwards Air Force Base. I’ve managed to figure out what happened, but the idiots in this universe won’t believe me. Yes, this universe. I don’t know how I hopped to another universe, but it’s obvious I did. But the IIC (Idiots In Charge) here keep insisting there’s only one universe. How can these people be so advanced in some things, like this lap top, and so backward in others?

I’m tired. Sleep now, write more later.

October 11, 2010

Yep, they tried to read my journal. Wanted to know what language it was written in. I just played dumb and insisted it was English. Then they wanted to know what it said. I told them it said I hoped the good fairies would come and take me away. One of them made some crack about San Francisco that the others thought was funny. I have no idea why. So now they either think I’m crazy or lying. I’m hoping for crazy.

Time to catch up on the first week after I landed. First, their cars still use wheels! Where are the flying cars? The hover trucks? They say they’ve got hovercraft but they aren’t all that common. Damn, getting ahead of myself again. Okay, I’m just going to try to do this in order.

I woke up on the Galileo nine days ago. I was the only one who woke up. The rest of the crew were dead. Looks like their cryo capsules failed for some reason. I got pulled out of cryosleep because the autopilot couldn’t pick up any of the space markers that were supposed to guide it back to earth. I had to eyeball it until we were close enough for the mass detector to pick earth. With that info, the autopilot pulled the ship into orbit at the L-1 point.

I got into the lander and headed for Edwards, calling on the radio to let them know I was coming in. When the response finally came, I didn’t know what to make of it. They thought was I was some kind of prankster or something. Then I guess they picked me up on radar and scrambled jet fighters to check me out. I kept talking and they decided not to blow me out of the air. But they insisted I land at Edwards, which is what I’d been asking permission to do all along. IIC strike again.

I landed and was grabbed by armed guards as I came out of the lander. The weird thing was that they knew me. Called me by name, asked what had happened to the… Damn, what was that word again? Shuffle? Yeah, asked what happened to the shuffle. They didn’t like it when I told them I had no idea what they were talking about.

I’ve been in this building being interrogated – they call it debriefing, but I know what an interrogation is – ever since. The really stupid part of all of this is that they keep insisting I’m their Maj. Clayton Thomas. I guess that part isn’t so stupid, since I look just like the guy in the pictures they’ve shown to me. No, the stupid part is that they insist I must have found some place in space to trade their shuffle for my lander. I told them yeah, I stopped by the used spaceship lot on the moon and traded for my ship. Told them I got a good deal and to be careful with my ship because I still had 45 more payments before it was mine.

I learned something important from that. The IIC have no sense of humor. I was tossed into a locked room and left alone for two days before they talked to me again.

Hell, they’re here for more “debriefing.”

October 12 2010

This bit of interrogation actually went well. The IIC tried to shake me out of whatever they think is wrong with me by bringing my wife- his wife to talk to me. Damn, that was cruel. She looks just like my Janet. Talks like her, dresses like her and even smells like her. But it doesn’t make her mine.

She cried and tried to talk sense into me for a while. And she was convincing, too. I almost started believing I was the man she thought I was. But then I got her to do something. I got her to give me a kiss. The IIC didn’t stop us, so we kissed and it felt almost right. Within seconds of our lips meeting, I felt her body stiffen and begin to pull away. She stared into my eyes from just inches away for a few seconds and then she was convinced.

I told her I wanted to get back to my Janet just as much as I knew she wanted her Clayton back. The IIC were just staring at us like we’d both gone crazy. Janet was trying her best to get them to understand the truth as they led her out of the room. Then it was back to interrogating me. Typical.

October 17 2010

Today is my 29th wedding anniversary. I just hope I will be back with my wife soon to celebrate. I missed the last five days of writing because I’ve been really busy. I’ll bring this up to date now.

I saw this universe’s Janet again the following day. The IIC said she’d realized she was wrong about me and wanted another chance to convince me. I couldn’t believe it. What would it take to convince someone on this world that I was telling the truth? They brought Janet to my room but this time left us alone. She came and sat next to me, very close. I was sure they were watching us and was going to warn her when she leaned in for a close embrace and whispered the same thing in my ear.

Turns out she still believed me and could think of only one way to get Clayton back. She was going to help me get to my ship and escape. If I could figure out how to get back to my universe, she figured her Clayton could figure out how to get back to his. She had it all figured out. She was going to pull the young, hysterical wife bit while talking the general who was nearing retirement age. Janet said he was one of those idiots who thought all women went for a older man in uniform. He ought to be easy prey for a dish like Janet.

And he was easy prey. Just about what you’d expect from the IIC. Janet cried, got clingy and the IIC escorted her into his office, shutting the door. I wonder if her Clayton knows the general wants to have his way with his wife? Anyway, once the door was shut Janet used something she called a taser to take down the general. She had brought a roll of duct tape in her purse and duct taped his arms, legs and mouth and then hidden him under his own desk. I was confident my Janet would have done the same thing. Or maybe she was doing the same thing. Damn, this parallel universe stuff is complex! And I’d better not find out my superior officer wants to have his way with my wife!

Apparently, the rest of the staff knew to leave the general alone when he takes a woman into his office and shuts the door. No one bothered them and Janet just waited for the shifts to change. Night shift is a lot lighter, which helped a lot. She took the general’s key card and just walked back to my room and got me out. I grabbed this lap top and we scooted.

In the movies, this is the part that would involve lots of chases, fist fights, gun play and probably big explosions. Reality doesn’t work that way. We just walked out. Only a few people even knew who I was and we avoided them. Janet did have to distract the guards at the hanger for a few seconds, but she did that by asking directions. No fake seduction scene or anything like that. I got into the lander and locked it tight then began the start up sequence.

Yeah, things got exciting when I ran the engines up and rolled out of the hanger, but there still weren’t any explosions. Lots of people were running around and I saw men running toward jet fighters but I doubted they could catch me and I knew they couldn’t reach orbit in those planes.

Four hours later I docked with the Galileo and then the real work began. I studied every single print out from the autopilot and the mass detector, trying to figure out what might have caused me to end up here. It took a full day, but I found a big mass reading right as we came out of light drive. I hoped I could hit it things the same way again and be thrown back to my universe.

I’ve spent the last three days maneuvering and preparing for a really short light drive run. I just hope this works. At this point, it’s all in the tubes of the autopilot. I’m keeping this lap top running so I can keep track of what happens. I know the big brains back home will want to know. If I get back home, that is.

We’re on final approach right now. Just a few seconds before DFoqwu09 . Wow, that was one Hell of a lurch the ship just gave! I smashed my face onto the typing keys. Figure I’ll leave the junk my face typed just for fun. But the real question is where I am, my universe or hers?

Then the autopilot gave a beep. Just an ordinary beep, but it meant a lot to me. It’s the beep the autopilot gives when it picks up a standard space marker. It beeped again. And again. My eyes are so full of tears I can barely type this. I’m home! HOME!

Janet from the other universe, I know how do to this now. If your Clayton is here, I will bring him back to you. You have my word.