IMAGE CREDIT: Adapted from NASA/JPL, Visions of the Future
Jered smiled back half-heartedly, and moved into the arrivals line. Unsure about etiquette violations of holding one’s nose while also holding up an interplanetary visa, he shrugged, got a mental hold on his gag reflex, and tried to breath normally while taking in the scene.
Vesuvius Station - no misnomer there - seemed fairly crowded. At least two dozen tourists ahead of him, waiting. So, he thought about what he would do once checked into Sol’s classiest, and only, cloud city.
First, a bath. Well, probably cleansing sound waves washing over his body. He’d heard that water out here’s a commodity not wasted on spaceport dirt removal. Then, a nice brunch of whatever local fare seemed new and inviting. Afterward, the reason he came - surfing. Cloud surfing to be precise. The supposedly most intense thrill in the solar system.
He’d marveled at it. Religiously even. Ever since Cherise came back from her vacay two years ago, showing anyone and everyone in the office the wild holovids. She and her twins, streaming past cloud tops, bellying along updrafts, living the hell out of life at hundreds of kilometers an hour.
Then, his brother. This past advent. Who’d gotten drunk, of course. And boarded a Third Arm Tours shuttle not knowing where he was going, of course. And then surprised him with a wild email, recorded midflight, as he surfed with the Venusian Wildfires.
How he’d gotten hooked up with a professional cloud-surfing team, who knows. Classic Joel. Always trying new things, hanging ten as the old saying goes, without a care in the world. Jered envied him at times. In fact, lots of times.
The line moved forward by one family. Jered shifted his bag, and pulled out a well-worn holocard, thumbing past the headers to the meat of his brother’s email. He’d probably read it a hundred times.
“Hey bro! Check it out ... skating across the clouds! Whoo! [HOVER FOR EMBEDDED MOTION PIC] I’m on Venus! If you hadn’t guessed. Won’t go into the details, but yeah, it involved alcohol. But I’m sober now, and having a blast. Met these fellas last night in the city - you wouldn’t believe that place. Classy joint, and everybody’s happy. Anyway, they’re flyers! Some sort of team, and didn’t even care if I had experience. Said they’d be happy to show me how. So here I am.
“I thought it would be like skydiving, you know, how we jetted off Everest a few years ago and then freefell back? Not. Even. Close. The hab suits we use fit tight to the skin. I swear I can feel the different gases, the acid droplets, the water, everything! We jumped off a bit lower, and when we hit 300 kph our flight leader motioned for us to lift. The foils on our arms and legs, they just skidded along the atmo, and we soared. Once, I rolled over to look up, and there she was, our sun, good ol’ Sol peaking out above the haze, among wisps of dark - we’re that close to space! I tell ya, this is one kickass trip. I’ll be home soon, or maybe not.
“They say we can almost breathe the air up here, except for the acid, which would fry my lungs. I’m tempted, brother, very tempted. Don’t really need a suit, since the pressure in the troposphere is about what we find on Earth but ... Hang on a minute, we gotta dive under this darkish cloud [unintelligible dictation] and anyway, I’m kinda glad I broke up with him, know. Wouldn’t be here now, that’s for sure. We’ll be diving soon into the lower mesosphere soon they said, and catch a shuttle ride back to the city. Until then, I’m flying, little brother. I’m. Actually. Flying! Later.”
The line lurched forward again. Jered tapped the card’s little screen. He wouldn’t read it again. Never again.
This time, finally, he would live it.
The line shifted once more.
Time to go.
Still trying to work some scifi postcard magic on Patreon. I’m not fond of the platform per se - the monthly “patron payments” kinda guilt me into being creative on a schedule, which I find anti-creative, so I’m gonna change it soon to how many do it: All posts free, with options to donate monthly to my art.
If you want to read this post over there, on my Third Arm Tours page, go to http://www.patreon.com/posts/16678520, and click around for more posts like it.
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