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Open Features: No Way Back

Derek McQueen's sci-fi tale tells of disaster on the hour-long rocket flight to Perth, Australia.

Every one was agreed that Smyth's death was a tragedy. Only thirty-two and in the peak of health, the accident was unexpected, sudden and dramatic. He was senior captain of the flagship, rocket service to Australia and had been flying this important route for five years.

Tuesday May 3rd, 1500 hrs., the third of the day, was a company special. Passengers would pay up to $50,000 to be married in space and the happy couple Monica and Geoffrey Blumental had been looking forward for months to the amazing, once in a lifetime, experience.

Traditions from the past had been adapted to the 23rd Century and the marriage ceremony was no exception. The wedding guests had made arrangements to be in Perth to greet the happy couple. The best man Charlie Dungworth and the chief bridesmaid, were to travel by rocket with the bride and groom.

Cottesloe beach Perth is quite stunning with crystal clear water, perfect for bathing and snorkelling. An avenue of trees provides ample cooling shade when needed. Monica and Geoff had arranged a beach bbq and remarkably eighty guests would be making the journey from Canada.

One week prior to the wedding, Monica and Geoff visited the CRT, Canadian Rocket Travel headquarters in Toronto. They needed to finalise financial arrangements, present documents and be fitted with a space suit each. Simon, one of the engineers, took them through the procedures for leaving and re-entering the rocket and also positioning themselves in space for the five-minute ceremony.

"You will be able to hear each other through the headset built into the space suit helmet." he said. "You know the rocket captain, Donald will go out into space with you to conduct the ceremony and declare you married?"

"We must have photographs," Monica said. "What a wonderful opportunity it will be. Will I be able to manipulate a camera with these gloves on?"

"We've thought about that Monica and our engineers have built a camera into the back of the padded gloves. That means you can both take pictures but you have to be quick about it. You only have six minutes in space including the marriage. I have some cctv footage here. It was taken in the rocket and in space and hopefully it will answer many of your questions. If not, just fire away when it's over."

"I'd like to spend more time in the suit," Geoff said, and then, "I think you’ve covered it very well for us Simon."

The day for the special rocket flight came around at last, with great excitement from the wedding flight quartet. Charlie, Geoff's best man fussed around the bride and groom, calming his own nerves if the truth be known. The day was cool but clear. Perfect for the rocket launch.

"There are two hours to wait, I'll get champagne," Charlie said.
Amazing that champagne was still the drink of celebration after four centuries. Monica looked beautiful. No matter that the bride would not have a silver and white dress or bouquets of silver flowers. It was a small price to pay for a wedding in space.

Simon came over to their table in the rocket waiting area. "When you've finished the champagne, I want to do a final briefing with you both. Charlie and Hazel will provide any personal support you may need on the flight but of course they stay inside the cabin. You Geoff and Monica, both put on the suits in the holding area. Familiarise yourself with the spacewalk straps in the suits. These clip to the door and tether you to the rocket. You can take your helmet and gloves with you and put these on in your seating space at the front of the rocket. Place numbers 38 and 39.

When the captain signals to get ready, you both go through the door, Geoff first and the captain will follow. The captain today is Donald Smyth and as you know, he will conduct the 5-minute ceremony. You can have the sound relayed to passengers inside the rocket but this is at your discretion of course."

"I would just love that Simon," Monica said. "Please go ahead."

"Fifteen minutes to go. Time for the suits and I'll see you on board," Simon said.

The rocket roared off the pad exactly on time at 1500 hours. At 1600 hours they would be in Perth.

At 1530 hours Geoff and Monica went through the vacuum chamber and let out the tethering straps. The view of earth was awesome.

Donald Smyth was last out with a cue board of the ceremony.

"His strap is loose," Monica screamed. "He's not fastened to the rocket."

Sure enough, Donald Smyth pride of CRT, their most experienced pilot, was slowly drifting away into space and was soon out of sight.

He had no way back.


For more of Derek's stories please click on http://www.openwriting.com/cgi-bin/mt-search.cgi?IncludeBlogs=1&search=Derek+McQueen


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