“Solar Romance”

Meghan Howard

All rights reserved by the author

 

            “We are using the latest technology to create the ultimate vacation for our customers!  Imagine a beautiful and scenic trip to exotic Jupiter!  You can stay in our new luxury resort on the gorgeous beach overlooking the sea,” the television announcer’s voice echoed throughout the airport waiting room.  The Cornell family sat there listening to the commercial description of the journey on which they were about to embark.  They were surrounded by two other families, both anxiously awaiting their flight departure.  Kenneth and Victoria Cornell were adventurous millionaires, the heirs to an oil fortune, and their two daughters were just as adventurous as their parents. Each year Becky and Rachel chose a new and exciting place to vacation and this year they decided to volunteer the family as guinea pigs and test out the new Jupiter vacation package.  Becky also decided to bring along her friend, Katie Gadbaw, for the trip. 

            “Are you nervous,” Becky asked Katie but was interrupted as a man in a gray business suit entered from a side door and asked the families to follow him.  Everyone quickly grabbed their carry-on bags and followed him down a long corridor.  The corridor turned into a terminal and suddenly the families were entering what looked like a normal airplane.  Everyone stowed their bags in the overhead compartments and took their seats.

The man in the gray suit then introduced Captain Purvis and disappeared through the entrance.  Captain Purvis was an older man, in his forties with brown hair tinged with gray and green eyes.  He reminded the passengers that until the solar sails deployed, everyone must remain seated.  He disappeared behind a red curtain in the front of the cabin and the aircraft began to shudder as the rockets ignited and those who hadn’t already, hastily fastened their seatbelts.  The Cornells glanced at each other as the craft began to shudder.  They could feel the power of the rockets pushing the craft upwards.  The sheer force of the launch was similar to that of roller coasters and pushed everyone against the backs of their seats.  Becky could feel her stomach in her throat as the craft accelerated even faster.  They were traveling almost straight up and the force was so strong that the passengers could not even turn their heads sideways.  This experience lasted only a few minutes, and they could feel the pressure lessen as they broke through the earth’s atmosphere. 

Captain Purvis came over the loud speaker and announced that the solar sails would now be deployed.  The passengers had been educated on the process of using solar sails before they signed up for the trip, so everyone understood that the sails were compacted into a wooden square meter box located on top of the passenger area.  Becky turned in her seat to look out the window and try to catch a glimpse of the massive sails.  She watched as what looked like a giant shiny kite began to unfurl itself.  When it was completely open, the sail stretched for what seemed miles on either side of the craft.  Everyone relaxed as the craft leveled out and began traveling at a slower pace.

“This is so relaxing,” Vicky Cornell observed.  “Much more relaxing than our plane ride to Bermuda last spring.  I can’t believe this is only supposed to take us two hours!  Technology is amazing.”

At that moment the craft shuddered and creaked.  None of the passengers seemed alarmed, as it was not as severe as plane turbulence.  Becky looked at the window and saw what appeared to be flaming rocks flying by the craft and piercing the giant solar sails.  As she noticed the meteors, so did many of the other passengers.  Gasps and whispers could be heard throughout the craft as everyone became alarmed of the situation. 

Captain Purvis came over the loudspeaker once more, with noticeable alarm in his voice this time.  “We are in the middle of a severe meteor shower and are being taken off course.  I don’t mean to scare anyone but it’s better that you understand the severity of the situation.  We will have to make an emergency landing on Saturn, which will be tricky.  And we only have enough fuel to launch the rockets once so we’ll only have one shot to make it home safely.  Please remain seated and calm, my crew and I are confident that we can make it home.  We will be landing in approximately five minutes.” 

            “Well this is exciting,” Becky exclaimed to her worried parents.  “Who else has ever experienced something like this? We are going to have some awesome stories to tell.”

            ‘I love how you think,” Rachel joked, but there was worry behind her smile. 

            “How could this happen? Are we going to be okay?” the other passengers  asked.  Everyone was anxious as the craft began its descent to Saturn.  In order to land the solar sails had to folded back in and the craft switched to rocket power.  There was a slight jolt as the craft landed on solid ground.  The passengers unbuckled their seatbelts but remained sitting, unsure of what to do. 

 

Captain Purvis appeared from behind the red curtain to address the families, “Now that we’re on Saturn, without food and supplies, we have to quickly head back for Earth.  The atmospheric pressure on Saturn will damage the solar sails.  My technician, Andy Devins, is headed out to check on the sails at this very moment.  We suspect that we’ve sustained much damage that will need to be repaired, but there is also a problem with that.  We only carry a small repair kit and if we run out of patching materials we don’t know what we can use to patch the rest of the sail.  But for now, we need to assess the damage.  So everyone sit tight while Andy goes to work.”  And he disappeared into his cabin again. 

Just then another man appeared from another cabin, wearing what looked like a mechanic’s body suit.  He was tall and muscular with dark hair and blue eyes and looked to be in his early twenties.  He introduced himself as the technician, Andy Devins, and disappeared again.

“He’s cute,” Becky remarked.

“Some how I knew you’d say that,” Katie replied.

Many of the other passengers began to fall asleep to try to forget about the stressful situation a bit.  Becky decided to see if she could help in any way and approached Captain Purvis’s cabin.  She pushed the red curtain aside and stepped into the control room.  The captain turned around at the sound and saw Becky Cornell standing there.  He thought she was very attractive for an eighteen year-old.  Becky was short and petite with blonde hair and blue eyes. 

            “Can I help you,” Captain Purvis asked.

            “Umm, actually I was wondering if I could help.  I can’t just sit there with everyone worrying and not do anything to help.  Is there an extra suit so I could go help Andy,” Becky asked.

            “Well there just happens to be an extra suit and it’s small enough for you as well.  I guess if you want to help I can’t stop you.  Basically Andy is just assessing the damage at this point, then he’ll report back to me and we’ll decide the course of action to take,” the Captain explained.  “Follow me, I’ll get you all suited up and introduce you to Andy.”

            Becky followed the captain through a side door into a small room with equipment strapped to the walls.  Andy Devins turned around and smiled. 

            “Andy, this is Becky and she is going to help you with the sails today.”

            “Nice to meet you, Becky.  It will be my pleasure to work with you,” Andy smiled as he looked at the cute young girl.  “The other suit is right over there,” as he pointed to the far corner. 

            Becky suited up and was ready for action in no time.  The pair stepped out onto a platform built into the side of the craft.  They were not surprised to see many rips and tears in the fragile sails.  A few holes were as much as three feet wide.  They both realized there was not enough patching materials to repair all the damage.  Becky’s mind raced as she tried to think of any material that could possibly work, just well enough to hold the sails together. 

            “What about using clothing for what the patching material won’t cover,” she asked Andy.

            “That could work.  Actually that’s a great idea.  If we use the patching material for the bigger holes, we could use clothing just for the smaller ones.  Although the clothes won’t reflect the sun’s photons, they will hold the sail together long enough for us to get back to Earth.  Good thinking!”

            “Thanks,” Becky replied, remarking to herself that Andy was incredibly good looking.  She hoped that they would still keep in touch once this trip was over.

            They stepped back inside the craft and went straight to captain Purvis and told them about the damage and the clothing idea.  “That is a great idea, you two work well together,” he replied when they were finished.  “I’m going to tell the passengers while the two of you begin repairs.  I’ll get some clothing from them, so come back when you run out of patching material.”

            Becky and Andy grabbed the emergency kit and headed back out to the platform.  The two worked side-by-side and began patching the bigger holes.  Every few minutes they would exchange smiles and it was obvious Andy thought Becky was as attractive as she thought him to be.  In no time they had used all the patching material and were headed back inside to retrieve the clothing.  They were surprised to find that the patching material covered about eighty percent of the damage.  Captain Purvis was very pleased with this news and handed them clothing from an enormous pile he had accumulated. 

            Becky and Andy raced against the clock to finish repairing the sails.  The clothing was bulky and hard to use, but they managed to cover all the holes.  When the last hole was finally covered, they returned to Captain Purvis’s cabin once more.  He was very pleased and in a hurry to attempt the re-launch.  He was afraid the pressure would begin to affect the sail and then all hope would be lost. 

            Becky took off the suit and went to join her family.  Captain Purvis entered the passenger cabin and announced that the sail was completely repaired and that they would now be attempting re-launch.  Everyone fastened their seatbelts and patiently waited for the take off. 

            “How was working with Andy,” Katie coyly asked.  “You two probably became pretty close.”

            “He’s a great guy,” was all Becky was willing to say at this point.  “Very cute though.”

            The passengers were silent as they felt the rockets igniting.  The tension was thick as everyone felt the pressure pushing them into the backs of their seats once again. 

            “I think this is a good sign,” Kenneth Cornell whispered.

            Captain Purvis announced the deployment of the sail as the pressure returned to normal levels.  The craft leveled out and began sailing at a steady pace.  Everyone breathed a sigh of relief that the launch went well.  The captain’s voice came over the loudspeaker once more and informed the passengers that all was well and that it should be smooth sailing for the rest of the trip. 

            Becky stood up and approached Andy’s cabin, ready to take the initiative and give him her phone number.  He turned around as she entered and a smile crept across his handsome face. 

            “Well this has been a crazy trip,” Becky started.  “I’m really glad I got to know you and help in some way.  I want you to have this.”  She handed him a small, yellow piece of paper with her number written on it.  “Use it.”

            “Of course I’ll use it.  Here, have mine,” and he handed her a similar slip of paper with his number. 

            “See you later,” Becky said then rejoined her family.

            “What was that all about,” Katie questioned.  “Did you just give him your number?”

            “Maybe,” was all Becky would offer, knowing that this trip had been well worth all the obstacles. 

            “Way to go Beck,” Rachael exclaimed.  “I’m proud of my sister and he’s hot! Go for it!”

            “Maybe next time we won’t sign up for something as crazy as this,” Vicky Cornell joked.  Everyone laughed along with her as they relaxed and waited for the landing.

 

© 2003 by the author

All rights reserved