Major_Tom

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
For those who know the song, this a story to go along with it. I just felt (While driving home from an oil rig in East Texas) that I wanted to put a story to the music. When you are on hour 36 of a shift, things wonder into your head while jamming out to music on the drive home. Hope you enjoy. Cheers.

Submitted: November 09, 2014

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Submitted: November 09, 2014

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MAJOR TOM

 

~~Standing there alone the ship is waiting. Icarus was given the green light after nearly twenty years of careful planning. It waited for Tom to strap into the pilots seat so it could follow his commands. The newly installed experimental fusion drives were nestled within its hull much like a baby in a womb. They were suspended in an artificial gravitational field generated by its own power. They remained secured in place with some of the most complex of methods in order to make sure there was no damage to the systems that would soon power the ships first flight outside our solar system.
Tom looked up in marvel at his hard work over those past twenty years as it sat on the launch pad. His team began this project with the expectation that although they may make some headway, it would be after they had long past on until this dream would become a reality. Instead though it happened just before his forty fifth birthday.
It was twenty years ago when he was working in the NASA lab with his wife, very unhappy, at the doorway as she watched promises of a night out slowly drifting away.
“Tom!” she finely shouted. “You said just a minute five minutes ago, let’s get out and celebrate your birthday like we planned. A quiet romantic dinner with no talk of work. NASA has the rest of your life to use that juicy nerd brain but right now we are young and your new young wife wants attention.”
Tom let out a classic sigh indicating he would give in and get out of the office for once. His new career had him working a lot. It was more by choice than force though. His theories on providing a new way to power a spaceship got him this position and he had to make progress. But there were small annoying complications that would keep him up at night.
“Sorry babe.” Tom replied. “I know, I’m a nerd, let’s go. “Yeah but you’re my sweet sexy nerd and you belong to me not NASA.” She replied.
It was an hour later that they had arrived, Tom still in his work clothes, at the restaurant were their first date had taken place only two year before. They were both twenty three then, both still in college and both very much in love and still are. In college she studied biology and loved every bit of it. Tom studied Thermal dynamics, physics and everything he could get his hands on.
They walked in the door and Tom was received by a warm welcome of friends there to celebrate his twenty fifth birthday. No one yelled surprise or popped party poppers. This was more of a silent acknowledgment of respect passed back and forth with a mere glance or a nod. The group was small. Four of his closest friends from before he started college.
He shook hands, greeted them all and remembered how they had all in one way or another been there when they needed help or encouragement. Jose was always there to lend a hand. Didn’t matter if it was fixing that damned red Datsun Tom loved so much or fixing a leaky pipe. Jason was another of the few who Tom could call friend. There were times when Jason needed someone to steer him in the right direction and Tom was always there to give it to him.
Sometimes it was about a job and sometimes it was about his relationships with his girlfriend. Jason always seemed to pick bad girlfriends and yet it was him who introduced Tom to Kristen which led to their first date in this very restaurant.
Phillip and Mike were old friends from high school. They had become friends oddly enough after a brawl in the school parking lot. There was a fender bender between Phillip and Mike that led to an argument over who was the bigger moron. This eventually led to a shoving match. Not realizing that both had left their cars without putting the parking brake on, being standard they slowly rolled down the slight incline and made a distinct “crunch!” sound as Phillips followed by Mike’s car rolled into a red Datsun just parked and just purchased by Tom as his first car. Tom purchased it from an older couple that took good care of it on the outside but not very much on the inside. So Tome spent his weekends studying or working on the car.
This of course led to the two men now arguing over whose fault this was now and as a clearly upset Tom approached the two began to push and shove. Tom in his anger called them both some salty terms while implying they had intercourse with each other’s mothers. This led to Mike and Phillip both trying to hit Tom. Tom side stepped them they clambered over each other in a mid-swing.  Tom lost his balance and grabbed both of them on his way down. They all ended up in a comical spill over each other feeling stupid and angry at the same time. Ever since then they were friends.

The bond was probably made after they all talked about how their car was their first and they spent hours working on it.
The night was filled with tales of a not too distant past. Their wives and girlfriends also exchanged stories of whose man was the more stubborn or thick headed. They all relaxed and as the night came to a close is when the idea came to him. Tom was watching an old classic movie about a young man who went back in time and then back to the future only to discover things were different than expected. It played silently on a screen in the reserved room they had the party in. Tom had seen this movie before as a kid and loved it. His favorite part is the hovering skateboard.
This was the moment. This was when Tom had the idea twenty years ago at that twenty fifth birthday party. Electromagnets. That was the answer. It was the next day that he spent hours without eating or sleeping as he worked on the formulas and requirements to use powerful electromagnets in order to suspend the reactions in the fusion reactor he had been working on. He used a twin core fusion reactor design. One for the ships power and one just to power the gravitics and electromagnets.
Now he had a proposal that with future technology at its current rate of advancement, would allow them to construct a fusion reactor small enough and powerful enough to get humans outside the solar system one day. This kicked off a large amount of funding from the government like none other. Tom spent the next twenty years working on his idea. His team of some of the best and brightest participated in what was to become the Icarus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


ICARUS
Tom looked up at the Icarus on the launch pad soaking in this achievement. Due to safety concerns the full power of the reactor had never been tested. A mere one percent of its estimated power was tested on Earth and it proved to be stable but the final test was to take place in space.
Atop a Space-X rocket specially designed for this mission, Icarus was integrated into the design in order to minimize drag and distribute weight as evenly as possible. Icarus had retractable wings and the engines core was centralized with the reactors within. There were two engines on either side that were powered by the fusion reactor core. This left little room for more than one person and a small payload of instruments. Much of the space was dedicated to sensors and equipment for gathering data. If this worked, they could implement a reactor in key locations on Earth and solve the energy crisis.
With Earths constant dependence on oil and the fighting politicians who lined their pockets with money caused the world to suck it dry. Additional environmental issues such as the raising temperatures of the planet caused short but colder winters, less but more powerful rainfall. The sea levels began to rise more quickly as the oil industry began drilling at the poles. This project, this mission, this would change the world in a way that would allow the Earth to begin a recovery. The project if successful would become open source to the major governments. Everyone could have power. 
The ship also contained something very special besides the fusion reactor though. It also contained the first deflector shield. This of course was top secret and would not be open source. Using the technology from the electromagnetic gravitics system in the reactor, they were able to direct from the nose of the ship a field that would be able to deflect physical objects. This required enormous amounts of power and the reactor provided this. The tests for this also performed using only one percent of the reactors power and its full potential was still left unknown for just how much the shields could repel. It came down to mass. It could be big or small but depending on how dense depended on how much energy would be required to stop something from getting through the shield. This was developed by the Japanese who had sent some of their top scientist to help with the Icarus. Japan had suffered many more nuclear reactor failures when they were bombarded with several tsunamis over the past few years. The USA and Japan agreed that they would share the shield if we shared the fusion reactor with them once it was cleared to be used on Earth. We needed them and they needed us.
The U.S flag was painted on the left wing and the Texas flag on the right. The initials NASA on the tail all signifying that if history is made today, everyone would know exactly where it took place. The same goes for any disaster that may happen as well.
Once Tom tried to explain the way his fusion reactor worked to a group of middle school kids touring NASA. Tom started with the typical nerdy explanation which left blank faces on the students. He then tried to simplify it by saying “Think of a group of magnets so powerful that they can repel themselves away from the earth using its own magnetic field. Now think of them as also being able to pull another field of energy that would otherwise escape back towards it just enough to keep it in a specific spot. This is what keeps the reactors core from erupting in an explosion and also allows the deflector shield to keep the ships safe as it travels through space.”
The students had mostly blank faces but there was at least one out there that looked like they may have understood it. One kid yelled out “Sounds like a major pain in the ass!” The teacher quickly yanked that kid to the side as the others laughed. This was several years ago in the projects infancy. This was also where Tom was known as Major pain in the ass Tom. The other guys even used the label maker to put MPAT on all his stuff as a joke.
Eventually it became Major Tom. The name stuck and was a private joke among his team at NASA. Whenever he would piss someone off or would have a disagreement they would refer to him as Major Tom.
Now though, he stood on the walkway to the Icarus. His suite clean and new. When he knew the project was nearing the testing phase three years ago, Tom began training. He knew that due to the complications and risk, he would have to be the one to be on the Icarus when it launched. He could fix any problems he may encounter while in space.
The ship was designed and built by Space-X and he was there every step of the way to make sure he was familiar as any one of its designers. He spent countless nights in training classes as well as several actual flights to the International Space Station before it was decommissioned.
The Icarus was waiting for him. He walked towards the launch hatch where technicians were waiting to strap him in and perform the final checks. The smooth exterior made the doorway seem invisible until it opened. The precision put into every inch left the ship looking like some sort of metal goddess.
His wife was not happy at the idea of him taking on this mission but she also understood it was a life’s work. At forty five years old Tom knew that it was now or never if this was going work in his lifetime. He stepped into the pilot’s compartment. The seat swiveled back and to the left in order to accommodate the angle. Once in the seat the technicians began plugging in wiring harnesses and tubes. These were for a dedicated backup air supply as well as water and waste disposal. The wiring harnesses provided vitals back to Houston as well as communications. Once he was secured in place the technicians gave him a salute, turned and walked away.
His boss Fred then appeared in the hatchway. He didn’t like heights and he struggled not to show it. “Tom.” He said. “Here is that package you asked for but if anyone asks, you didn’t get it from me.” He handed Tom a small metal, magnetized case. Tom thanked him with a slight nod and attached the case to the bulkhead inside the hatchway. The strong magnets holding it in place. Fred knew that this could be the last time Tom would see anyone and so gave him the package and then left down the walkway.
It was another hour of checks and double checks. Eventually Tom acknowledged NASA’s last check. “All systems are go.” He said over the coms.  “Are you sure?” His brain nagged him. “Yes.” He answered himself quietly. “What was that Tom? You said your systems are a go?” “Yes.” He replied again but to them this time. “Roger that we are a go, beginning countdown.”
As the countdown began Tom began thinking of all the components in the ship. What could go wrong right now? The hull could buckle along an unknown weak point. The experimental rocket could explode on the launch pad. The power couplings from the reactor to the gravitics could fail when he powers them on once he reaches space resulting in a hiccup in the chain reaction. The engines would shut down. There would not be any explosion, just a silent core. With no containment it would not be able to sustain itself. The energy within would dissipate into the power converters which would feed it to the engines. As a safety precaution it would then use the engines to burn up that remaining power but directing them in all directions or in a single direction, whatever the pilot chooses.
“Thirty seconds.” Announced over the headset. Everything still a go Tom? “Um... Yeah, Still a go, no need to abort, computers show everything is green.” “We don’t feel convinced Tom.” Said Fred over the headset. “Yeah, it’s a go dammit.” Tom said back with a smile. “Alright Major Tom, four, three, two, one!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Earth Below
The thrusters went to full. Everything was in some way experimental. The Icarus, the engines, shields, the fusion reactor and the rocket he was sitting on top of. It had all been tested and re-tested. Improved many times over the last ten years when the project moved from the drawing boards into the physical realm. There was no reason to believe this mission would be met with disaster but as history has painfully reminded humanity, nothing is always what it seems, if it can happen it will happen, even the best laid plans and so on and so forth ran through his head.

Tom could only then think of what he would miss if he perished today. His wife of course. His friends, his team, bacon, his cat Panther. He would regret not finishing his Isaac Asimov collection of books that he had put together and re read over and over since childhood. There was still a few original prints he wanted to find.

The rocket began to shake and thunder as its engine billowed out smoke and fire. If this mission was successful Earth would no longer have to depend on liquid fuel to get into space. The cost would drop significantly and perhaps humanity can save its future in the cosmos. The technology would allow for breakthroughs into other fields and experiments. The cosmos rather than the sky was now the limit.

The vibrations were dampened by the special seat he was strapped into but even this chair as well designed as it was, still shook his bones down to the core. The tower broke away along with the temporary scaffolding which kept the rocket and Icarus in place. From the outside viewer, one would see debris shedding from the rockets. The viewport was closed but a screen which also shook violently displayed multiple views outside. The funny sensation of the lift off always sent a chill up his spine for that first few seconds. Sort of like when you ride a roller coaster and it drops you down. That moment of weightlessness. That funny tickle it gives you as your body experiences something it was never prepared for.

Tom looked over lighted buttons and displays searching for anything that may be going wrong but everything was as it should be. The rocket screamed and sent its fury downward propelling its rider up into the sky. Tom could see the view looking down as the rocket climbed higher and the Earth seemed to disappear below, drifting and falling away as if he was stationary and the Earth was moving.
Everything quickly shrank into what looked like a tiny little landscape of lines and colors that was the world below. Nothing was identifiable at this point save for the continents.
The second stage was set and began as he entered orbit. He began to hear something in his ear but it wasn’t clear at first. One of the displays had a speech to text which would translate the incoming messages.

-THER IS A PROBLEM WITH THE ROCKET FUEL SYSTEM. YOU WONT MAKE ORBIT. YOUR ONLY CHANCE IS TO EJECT THE ICARUS AND GO TO THRUSTERS FULL THEN…- END TRANSMISSION.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


3,2,1
Tom saw the warning indicator. It showed that the fuel tanks had used up its fuel faster than it should of. Perhaps a calculation error or a problem in the mixture. Either way he was about to run out and fall back to Earth. He could abort the mission and eject the Icarus as it free fell. The ship could be glided down back to Earth but that would be difficult. With no flight plan in the computer and the AI system offline until orbit, manual flight was very risky.  If he didn’t gain control of the decent or the engines failed he would smash into a billion pieces. Not to mention the pieces of the rocket that could smash into the ship.
“Houston, I’m engaging the Icarus drive system. Will go to twenty percent thrust. I hope you are receiving. “Live or die this is going to be awesome.” He thought. “Three. Two. One. Engage!” He flipped up the toggle covers and flicked the switches labeled as Reactor Startup Sequence one, two, three and Startup.

The Fusion drive system hummed to life, came online and showed everything to be functioning. The rocket ran out of fuel and for a moment the rocket along with Icarus and Tom seemed to float in place as if suspended like a hot air balloon. Just as gravity took over Tom released the Icarus from the main rocket. He punched the manual sequence for the release charges. They blew away a series of clamps designed to hold the Icarus in with the rocket. Icarus floated just a little bit higher and before it could fall back to the Earth he cut in the engines while simultaneously flicking on the deflector shield to protect the front of the ship. He didn’t know how much power he should apply or needed to break lower orbit. Without the AI to run calculations he was guessing. Another switch was flipped. This one was under a protected cover. It activated the ejection of one of the flight recorders back to Earth.
The shields barely registered any power drain from the system. The engines howled to life as the reactor fed into them. It was like hearing an ancient flying beast scream before swooping down on prey. It was a truly awesome sound to hear. At first it was the one percent of power they tested them on Earth with. This was just a warm up. Tom grabbed the thrust control and pushed both engines to twenty percent. There was no sound, no feeling or thought. Just a sort of numb calm that washed over as the ship accelerated. Tom could see himself stretch and yet he wasn’t moving at all. Everything blurred in an instant, it felt like a dream you just awoke from. Sort of half-awake and half asleep and the dream is still going on but fading out as you reach full consciousness.
The passage of time could not be determined. It felt both like a short couple of seconds and as if a few hours had passed that he couldn’t remember. Sort of like the thousandth drive to work in the morning. You know you made the drive but you just don’t remember experiencing it specifically because your brain is on autopilot. It was perplexing. Sort of a disorientation of thoughts. An alarm came on and the display indicated an abnormal gravitational field event. The automatic fail-safes cut the thrusters and the ship traveled on the momentum alone. If it wasn’t for this he may not have come out of his disorienting state. He then realized he was not anywhere near Earth. The flood of information and amazement was a huge impact on the mind combined with the danger he felt as he stared at the monitors. Tom opened the viewport to see for himself what the computer could only represent as numbers and figures along with several indicators of “Anomaly Detected.”
From the ground at NASA, they could only watch as they witnessed the rocket fall to Earth. No one knew what happened after the Icarus separated. It was as if it was there and then a flash of light in the most unusual pattern that nearly blinded those watching and then the Icarus was gone. There was a strange streak of light and color leading up into the sky that sort of remained in place for several days in the atmosphere. No instruments could measure it. The clouds cover seemed to warp around it as if an invisible tube had been placed their leading like a straw into space.
 It had been a month since the mission failure. Tom had vanished in an instant. The ship assumed to have vaporized in the atmosphere or something went wrong with the experimental reactor. No one knew for certain at the time. The mission was labeled as a tragic accident that would be fully investigated.
Tom’s wife along with everyone was mourning the loss. It left a silence in the halls of NASA. A good friend gone. The investigation team that went over the wreckage from the rocket determined later that the cause was from a colony of spiders that apparently liked the fuel and they had laid their eggs in some of the equipment around the fuel delivery system. A short in the control module caused the rocket to stop sending fuel to the engine. They found this out quickly as a backup rocket sat at Space-X and when the investigation team went over everything, they found spiders all over the rockets fuels systems. This led to the eventual discovery of the problem.
It was a freak accident they said on the news. The entire world was mourning. This was supposed to be the breakthrough that would change the path of humanity forever and now this setback seemed to be unrecoverable.
Up in the capsule of the Icarus, Tom marveled at the scene before him. He was in disbelief of what he was seeing even though he knew full well this was real. He also knew what it meant for him. He got onto the communications and sent a message in the direction of Earth which from what he could tell, was light years away. He sort of thought about what this all meant. He had traveled beyond the speed of light. “How does one even fathom this experience?” He thought.
He spoke into the receiver. “This is Major Tom. I’m alive. I’m not sure of my coordinates but I have traveled light years from Earth in mere moments. I am now looking at a black hole pulling in a binary star system. The view is… Beyond words. Beautiful fails to fully explain what I’m viewing at this moment. My ship is caught in its gravitational pull. The engines are offline and I cannot escape. I am calculating my coordinates and will send this massage to Earth. I will have perished long before this message is received but if my wife is alive when you get this, send her my love.” Tom ended the transmission with nothing more. The time it would take for this to reach earth. No one would know what happened.
He went over the systems again and tried to find out what was wrong with the engines. The ships computers were running on the backup power and it was taking a long time to get answers. It looked as if he had traveled well beyond the speed of light in what seemed to him a matter of seconds. It would have been a month or more on Earth if what he was looking at was true. The transmission he sent would take nearly forty five years to get back at its normal speed.
Tom looked out again at the black hole. It was hard to look at. It was frightening and amazing at the same time, even through the viewport filters. The two stars blue and yellow swirled around the vortex where it was just a solid black spot with no discernible boundaries. Light just sort of dimmed as it reached the event horizon. The stars gasses mixed and blended together as they entered the black hole to be lost forever. The color was amazing.  It was a battle among giants. Like ancient gods in a slow motion power struggle. The end result already known seals their fate. Nothing escapes.
Tom looked over at the bulkhead and located the magnetic package left for him by Fred. He unlatched it and lifted open the lid. Some particles of foam floated out. Tom removed an inner padding to reveal a bottle of Jack Daniels along with a child’s Sippy cup. This must have been a joke from Fred. In space you had to drink through a straw so this was the closest thing to a shot glass.

He then refused the cup and opened the bottle. Using his thumb he let a few bubbles of liquid float out. It was a weird site to see. The alcohol had nowhere to evaporate to. So it sort of floated in a cloud outside the bubble of bourbon like an atmosphere. Tom then sipped a few directly from the bottle and decided to perform an experiment.
After a few minutes he had placed a straw next to the bubble and a series of drops of alcohol next to the bigger bubble like a trail. Tom took another swig from the bottle and thought. “This will be cool.” The idea was to see if he could blow all the bubbles together into a big one. Just for fun using nothing but the straw and then drink them out of the air as they floated. “What else could he do but float there and wait for his demise?” He thought.
Then another thought occurred to him. He grabbed a pen cap and placed it between a smaller bubble and the bigger bubble. “I need an ignition source.” He said. He then went through the tool box and found a mini torch. He lit the small bubble and it erupted in a little fire ball like a small sun exploding in front of him. The ball had expanded and pushed the pen cap away from the bigger ball which then also exploded. What was important here is that the pen cap was well outside the blast radius from the bigger bubble. This gave Tom an idea.

 

 


Return
His hands were tired, his head was sleepy and everything was sort of blending together. It turns out he was approaching the event horizon faster than he thought. The ship was still in free fall so to speak towards the black hole but what was more alarming was that he was in the path of one of the two stars. The blue star was between him and the black hole.
Tom found that the fusion reactor was fine and the problem was the power converters being damaged from the burst of power escaping Earth’s gravity and then suddenly getting shut down without dissipating the excess charge. He replaced them and then used the damaged units to construct a thicker casing to hold it together. For his plan to work he would need to have everything hold together.
The fusion reactor was fully operational again. The repairs were holding and holding well. The computers now with full power were able to run the calculations. He was far from the black holes event horizon as far as space was concerned. It would a couple hundred years before gravity would suck his ship in but he didn’t have that kind of time. According to the computers he would not be able to get enough velocity to escape the black holes gravitational pull before exhausting the reactors burning up the engines. As powerful as they were, they were still no match for the awesome power of the cosmos.
Tom strapped into the command chair and turned the ship around. He pointed it to Earth, punched in the coordinates and let the computer make the final adjustments. Based off the data received from the launch and the power of the engines, the computer calculated he would have to eject the core, ride the shockwave outside the reach of the black holes gravitation pull and then do full power burn to the engines to reach Earth.
The really tricky part is the power inverters had to store the power from the core, eject the core and detonate it like a bomb and ride the shockwave. Additionally he would have to hope that the power inverters could hold the power long enough before he could use it to get home. Once he dumped the power into the engines that was it. The rest is on backup systems which means no engines, only navigational thrusters.
Tom carefully went over the plan, set the computer, removed the fail safes and punched in his override code for the engines. He set the process to automatically cycle through the process on his command.
He gave a final look at the scene before him. He captured as much data as possible while he could. He then finished off the last of the Jack, strapped the bottle into the case and was ready.
“Computer.” He said. The system responded the acknowledgement chirp that it was listening for commands. “Execute on my mark Alpha sequence.” The computer chirped the acknowledge response and displayed on screen the procedure in which he designated verbally.
Everything looked good. Tom couldn’t take the chance he would black out and so automated the sequence. The computer would run through sequence Alpha, then Beta and finally Charlie in succession. Four. Three. Two. One. Mark!
The ships computer sounded the emergency alerts as it built up the power storage units to maximum capacity. Tom could imagine them swelling like a pair of bad batteries. The seams creaking in protest. This was of course not what they would actually look like if he could see them right now. The power converters however were a different story, they had to convert all that power very quickly and they had already been repaired once. They acted both as inverters and sort of fail safes for the backup storage. If something went wrong they would break first sort of like a bad fuse only these fuses were the size of Voltwagon Beatles.

“Maximum power storage reached, power converters holding, begin execution of sequence Alpha.” Sounded the computer. The ship made tiny micro adjustments to its direction and then the decompression could be heard from the fusion reactor core room. The computer was venting the air in order to preserve it before ejection. The core isolated itself. The connections to the reserve systems and converters were severed. The core was set on stand-alone mode. It would continue to feed into itself but the fail safes were removed. The system would soon erupt into the most fantastic explosion no one will ever see. Tom on his reserve supply strapped into his chair, helmet closed could feel a shake as the core left the ship. His life’s work just made a dramatic exit into space. “Goodbye.” He mumbled.

“Executed Sequence Beta.” The ship announced. The shields now directed to the rear. The power capacitors were also at maximum capacity before the core was ejected. Tom hoped they would hold together. The core ejected and the shields blinked to allow it to pass through.
When the core reached the calculated distance from the ship it detonated. The ship showed a simple diagram of an arched line traveling at great speed towards the Icarus. Tom braced for impact.
The shock wave propelled the ship forwards at break neck speeds overcoming the pull of the black hole. The navigational thrusters compensating for drift. Tom felt himself blacking out but clung on to witness every moment. There was another arched line in red representing the minimum distance he had to reach to be able to engage the engines in order to break free of the black holes gravity.
The ship began sounding more persistent alarms about the hull integrity. The shields were holding and acting like a wing that caught the shock wave like a surfboard on a wave. As Icarus reached the threshold laid out by the computer the ship announced. “Executing Sequence Charlie.”
The ship then diverted the shields to the front of the ship, the shockwave now passed through Icarus as it faded away. The ships computer activated the thrusters at eighty percent. Icarus accelerated faster than it had before. The shields still holding. Tom watched as the power supply drained quickly. Time and space melted into a soup as if one concoction of time and space with matter as seasoning. Tom’s thoughts seemed to happen all in a single instant. Everything seemed slow and fast. It was that weird sensation again but worse.
He wanted to vomit but held it down. Maybe he shouldn’t have had that drink. He looked at the displays. The ships viewport closed as an added safety precaution by the ships computer, these displays were all he had. The computer seemed to have trouble translating visually what was going on outside. There was sort of a swirl of colors representing matter and energy.
Tom could only deduce that he was seeing stars, planets and other wonders passing by and the computer could only represent these detections as swirls of color. It was in its self like staring at a living work of art on a canvas that hadn’t fully developed into the master piece it was destined for.
The Icarus computer then powered down the engines. The ship entered into Earths solar system. It was still traveling at the speed of light and when it reached the right distance from Earth it used the shield generators and gravitics system to repel itself from Earth gravity slowing its approach.
The energy reserves were down to seven percent. Tom commanded the computer to open the viewport so he could see Earth. As they approached the fail safes kicked in and closed them again.
Down on Earth at NASA’s command center there was Fred along with several others discussing the budget of NASA and what was to be done about attempting another mission. As they all argued over wither or not to attempt a second mission with Toms reactor and eventually an Icarus II.
At that moment Fred noticed a coms light winking that there was an incoming transmission. It was on the mission control board where he sat when the Icarus mission met its end a month ago. “Just a moment guys.” He said as he walked over to the coms mic and opened the channel on speaker.

A distorted voice came through. “Hello, Houston? Are you receiving? This is the Icarus, I’m going to be entering Earth’s orbit in… Forty five minutes… Houston. This is Major Tom and I’m coming home.”
Fred’s mouth hung open for a moment before he replied back. “Acknowledged Tom, we are receiving you. What is your estimated approach?” Tom replied. “Get the coast guard ready, I’m plotting a course for the Gulf of Mexico. And Fred… Please tell my wife.”

 

 

 

Home
It was about five minutes before the Icarus with Tom in its captain’s seat would enter the atmosphere. Fred had called Toms wife along with all of the closest available control room personnel. When he told them to report as fast as they could, that it concerned Tom, they dropped what they were doing. It was a skeleton crew but it would have to do. They brought up the displays and calculated projected course. They established a link to the Icarus and began downloading data as to its condition.
Toms wife was there biting her nails while she overheard everything. “This can’t be right, the ships core is gone? What the hell did Tom do and where has he been?” Fred mumbled. “Will he make it?” Tom’s wife asked? “Tell me he has what he needs to get home.” Fred replied to her honestly. “He’s Major Tom, if anyone can make it…” He cut off as the Icarus entered into orbit. Fred was back at the seat looking at the scene he could not control. “It’s all up to Tom, we can only watch and respond.”

The Icarus entered the approach angle using the control thrusters. The ship belly ached at the abuse. With the weight significantly less and the reactor core missing this would make it impossible for the ships computers to compensate, especially since the power was quickly reaching zero on the emergency power. Tom gripped the seats arm rest and watched as several alarms screamed for attention. The ship had suffered a lot of shock and structural stresses. “But would it hold?” He thought.

He knew the ship, he tested it and he pushed it in the labs beyond what the computers estimated was possible. The Icarus could take it. Tom held on as the re-entry superheated the hull. More sounds of protest came from the innards of the ship.

On the ground those watching could see a cloud trail streak across the sky. Tom switched over to manual control. The ships computers were failing to control the ship as the reserve power cut out. The flight stick was activated for manual control. The seats hidden controls expanded from the sides and the steering yoke popped out form the center consol. The seat moved into place on its own as the final breath of power faded.

Tom thought about the last seven percent of power in the converters. He routed five percent to the engines. He waited till he cleared the atmosphere and could feel the wind trying to provide lift. He deployed the wings into the full lock position for re-entry. These ran on their own power packs for emergency landings so there was no additional power drain. The Gulf of Mexico came into view as the Icarus broke through the cloud layer. What was left of a storm system made a truly spectacular display as the Icarus broke through. Tom fired the engines with the last five percent of power he gave them. They kicked on and helped stabilize the ships entry.
More creaks and groans emanated like a great beast fighting for survival to the very end. He slowed the speed down to three hundred miles per hour. He could see the coast line in the distance. He had to get as close as he could without crashing into it. The ship arched as he pulled back on the yoke skimming the surface of the ocean sending steam and spray in its wake.
He was still going too fast. He diverted the last two percent to the shields and directed them to the bottom of the ship. He deployed the air brakes and the flaps slowed the ship just before tearing off. He was still too fast. The ships engines sputtered as they whinned down, running out of power.
The Icarus made a sharp dip of the nose and appeared to be floating as the deflector shields attempted to repel the water. They were designed to stop debris in space as it speckled the ship. It was a way to avoid death by peppering of tiny micro meteors. This was well beyond its design. Having mass impacting one hundred percent of the field. From the outside you would see a silvery shimmer in a bowl shape in the water under the craft. The ship was now a sled. It was like being on ice.
Tom yanked the landing parachute handle. It deployed out the rear as two pairs housed on the sides of the hull. This pulled the nose up, the shields failed and then the Icarus’s nose dipped sharply into the ocean causing the ship to dive into the water. The sudden jerk sent Tom into the console but was spared by the restraints holding him back, but it still hurt. Tom saw black as the lights faded and the viewport filled with water.

 

 

 

 


Recovery

The Icarus being sealed and full of air didn’t sink right away. It bobbed around like a buey in the waves. Tom had waken and wasn’t sure what was going on at first. He couldn’t see anything. A dim cabin light stayed on and a light flashed on the console. It was yellow with the words “Ejection”. The ship was built with many things in mind. One of those things was a water landing. The ship didn’t auto eject because you may be upside down. One didn’t want to eject into a mountain or into the depths of the sea.
Tom realized the ship was still afloat but started to sink. Even without the heavy reactor core, it was a paper weight ten-fold. Eventually it would sink as the engine filled with water. Tom manually removed the remaining flight computer along with its backups. He placed them in a secure case designed to float. He strapped into the pilots seat, removed the safety cover and hit the ejection button. The Captains seat tightened the straps and a neck brace connected to the back of his helmet. His headset said “Please keep hands and feet clear of exit. He hugged the flight computer box. The ceiling opened up letting the bright sun into the craft. It was less than a second and the seat propelled upward. The force made his guts wrench. The chair flew close to a mile into the sky on miniature thrusters before petering out.
He then fell for another second before the parachute deployed. He slowly glided back down to the ocean’s surface. The arm rest control pad then blinked a question. “Water landing. Select Yes or No?” He hit yes. A small package was ejected from the seats back just below him as he splashed down. A small life raft deployed. It was just big enough for one person of course. His suite also had a blinking light it was his locater. It turned on automatically upon ejection. This would let NASA and in turn the coast guard know where he was.
It was maybe a few hours before a search and rescue helicopter hovered over him. This was no the coast guard but the US Navy. They pulled him up and when they got him aboard Tom asked “Mind if I get a lift home?” The rescue diver responded to him. “Sir, you are our only mission, welcome back. You are home.”


The End


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