According to the calendar Cadmus should reach 3a in another two days. Draco.763.3 was starting to loom large on his screen. It was a lovely planet with swirling yellows, browns, reds, and greens created by hurricane force storms of noxious elements that appeared suddenly and then disappeared just as suddenly. Nobody had ever set foot on 3. They say the gravity would crush a shuttle and everyone inside it like a flimsy tin can.
Lonesome was lying at his feet while Cadmus sat in his command chair at the instrument console. Lonesome was too busy gnawing his right front paw to look up at the screen.
Cadmus noticed a small black dot creeping ever so slowly across 3’s face. He figured that was 3b. When he was a child he had been taught that 3b had been inhabited by humans who had destroyed their moon, turning it into a cinder in the sad eye of 3. That was a long time ago, Cadmus reflected, and there are no records or artifacts to provide any evidence of their existence.
Cadmus fed Lonesome and then pulled up the rocking chair next to the window. He picked up his diary and sat down to gaze out. There were more and more white lines zipping silently across his field of vision as hyper-drive ships dropped out of hyper-space into what they deprecatingly called sub-space. The ships were all sorts of shapes and sizes. He liked looking at them as long as he didn’t have to ride in one.
Suddenly a loud and urgent sounding male voice interrupted the reveries of Cadmus:
“HEY YOU! WATCH WHERE THE HELL YOU’RE FLYING!! DO YOU REALLY WANT TO BE PLOWED INTO? SPEED IT UP BUDDY OR STAY THE HELL OUT OF MY LANE!”
Cadmus saw a huge white splotch open up in the space-time fabric near his window and a thick white beam of light plunged through it, solidifying into a gigantic space ship hundreds of times the size of his small solar sail ship rushing toward his picture window. He dropped his diary and lunged for the steering controls, knowing he could not possibly change course in time.
“EMERGENCY! EMERGENCY!! IMMINENT LIFE-THREATENING DANGER!!!” the loudspeaker blared repeatedly while the instruments flashed in synch.
A moment before impact, the bow of the huge ship started to rise, exposing its vast hull which filled the picture window.
The loudspeaker went silent and the instruments stopped flashing, returning to their normal displays.
Cadmus broke out in a cold sweat. Lonesome was whimpering. He looked around him and listened for hissing or other tell-tale signs that something was wrong. He heard nothing. He slowly scanned each instrument to see whether all systems were nominal. They seemed to be. He checked his course plot. This was definitely the course he had been given by the flight authorities. He’d copy the logs and send them to the flight authority to find out what or who went wrong.
Lonesome nudged his leg. Cadmus looked down and saw a small yellow puddle near his foot. Cadmus took a paper towel and soaked up the mess. He tossed the wet towel into the disposal and took Lonesome for a walk to calm him down.
After Lonesome returned to his normal care-free self, Cadmus sat back down in his rocker and picked up his diary, opening it to the pages squeezing the ribbon. He wrote:
Day 268: Today Lonesome and I had a pretty close call.
from Out of Time