Aphelion Issue 245, Volume 23
November 2019
 
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Orion

by Andrée Gendron




Complimentary inflight viewers featured 3-D holographic images along with firsthand accounts and travel tips from average people turned travel writers who ventured from Earth in the same direction our current flight was headed in. The marketing business had never been more sophisticated. In watching each console offer different enticements depending on who was using it, I could see the benefits and profits of such an interactive devise. For example, grownups saw one thing while their children saw something else about the same port of call thereby targeting each person individually. Families generally split their vacation time up based on these inflight recommendations. Most passengers already had a particular destination in mind while others like myself left home just for the ride.

One Asian family near my assigned seat had obviously never been on an intergalactic vessel before and made a loud fuss over every minor detail of its interior. They even took snapshots of commonplace things like the hardware, wallpaper, and lighting fixtures. It was weird to watch.

This was to be my twelfth ride to nowhere. You can get a special round-trip rate if you choose not to disembark. That may sound strange or like a huge waste of time and money to some folks, but it was my time and money. And like the newbies could attest to, these luxury liners offered roomy and lavish accommodations. I should note that I travel alone as an space marshal in training, which meant I wasn’t allowed to carry a firearm or badge yet, but my passport and boarding passes were now specially marked with a symbol to let flight attendants know they could ask for my assistance should they ever have need of it. All passengers with medical training had a similar symbol on their passports. The only real difference was the color code.

FYI, space marshals belonged to a different group than air marshals. We dealt with zero-g matters on flight beyond breathable atmospheres.

We were only four hours into a two-week flight moving at 30,000 kilometers per hour once we completed the ever popular circumnavigational trip around Earth through the upper atmosphere, or more accurately the thermosphere, when an ’incident’ occurred. Yes, I was asked to help remedy the situation.

Gina, a veteran flight attendant, quietly approached me to confirm that I was Mr. Lee Aldrich. I said, yes, and showed her some identification. Then she informed me that a large man in the forward observation lounge was drunk as hell and threatening two male Afghan passengers. I tried to follow closely behind the petite woman but she moved surprisingly fast for her size and age. I guessed she was in her late fifties. Her hair was turning salt and pepper but she still had lingering locks of auburn from her youth. And her eyes were deep green pools and her figure was not only better than most older women but amazing. No surprise since she probably walked for miles every single day aboard these ships. Gina was attractive and once a real head turner. Yes, I have come to appreciate older women for many reasons.

When I arrived on the scene, I discovered that the rude lush was actually the on-duty space marshal who, indeed, had a pair of men from Afghanistan cowering in a corner booth with a loaded pistol aimed straight at them. No one else was in that entire space except the unflinching bartender. The only other things that filled out the room were soft lighting and even softer jazz My first thoughts were that this was either an elaborate test of my skills by agency officials or a rogue marshal in need of apprehension. Neutralizing him would have proven difficult since I had no weapon of my own. Then again, my size or lack of weapon were not supposed to matter. Of course, I could have simply smashed him over the noggin with a bottle from the bar. Then again, if he had a valid reason to suspect these men were terrorists, I would be expected to work with him despite his impaired condition. Then again, he could be one of those bigoted fellows who mistrusts anyone who wears certain clothing items like turbans. The thought of knocking him out then dealing with actual terrorists on my own seemed unwise.

Thankfully, there were no hostages for us to worry about. Everyone who had been enjoying the ship’s forward lounge must have scattered like scared rabbits to the safety of their cabins as per instructions from their travel agents and the standard safe space travel pamphlets.

I asked Gina what she knew of these Afghan gentlemen. She said they had taken over thirty flights each to the same planet over the past five years. Yikes. That sounded expensive. These were not bargain-basement space buses for economy class ticket holders. I wondered who was paying for all of those trips? The form of payment used to purchase so many flights was unknown but I was willing to bet it was cash. When I asked her how long they were there she quickly reported an average stay of three days as though the marshal had confided in her earlier about his findings. If that were the case then why hadn’t she stated all that from the beginning instead of describing Marshal Myers as some belligerent drunk? Hmm. She told me that this one known fact about our two mystery guests appeared to be what initially piqued the inebriated space marshal’s interests. He had access to information on each passenger: where they were from, the nature of their trip, how long they planned on staying, and their travel history. And, of course, he would also be allowed access to both their hand luggage as well is their belongings stowed in the cargo bay.

That was when some further investigation turned up another interesting fact. Apparently neither of these men had claim stubs for luggage in the cargo area which was a second red flag in addition to their suspicious travel histories. I wondered how they could have ever left the spaceport without ground security pulling them out of line? This was looking more and more like a show strictly for my benefit. Who takes a two-week flight without a change of clothes or toiletries? Who indeed?

Their hand luggage contained stacks of documents written in Dari (Afghan Persian) along with photographs of major cities across the globe. That did not seem normal to me, although I noticed none of the images were of places considered strategically important such as bridges or dams, defense manufacturers or military installations. If this was some sort of test, I was supposed to leap to the conclusion that we had a real threat on our hands. I would need a trustworthy translator to determine the nature of the written materials in their cases. In the meantime, these items had also raised the hairs on Marshal Myers thick neck who may not have thought he’d be needed to deal with anything so early into our flight.

As a rule, terrorist incidents seldom occurred so soon on long trips. On the other hand, it provided the perfect test of what to do when something unexpected happened. And it’s cited as the number one problematic area in which space marshals get caught flatfooted. Apparently, these two men weren’t doing anything wrong when the marshal first confronted them about their so-called business trip. He didn’t question all of their trips. Just this one which was precisely what he was trained to do. Don’t worry about the big picture. Focus on immediate concerns only. But when terrorists did make their move it was generally just as flights approached certain remote outposts or just before they returned to Earth.

Marshal Myers must have ordered a bottle of scotch for himself and dove straight into the passenger manifest profiles from the moment we lifted off the ground. I don’t blame him. Our vessel, The Orion, potentially carried up to five hundred souls onboard including passengers and personnel, which was a lot of information for one person to wade through.

Another side note: pilots got to move freely about the ship once she was pointed along her predetermined trajectory while the autopilot made any minor course adjustments on route. Pilots were required to wear earpieces at all times to alert them of anything they needed to know about in real time. I wondered why they were not in the forward lounge with the rest of us. They would’ve helped fill out the vast space at least. More to the point, however, this was a tricky situation that would have certainly warranted their attention. Air marshals are not expected to work alone. It seemed odd to me, so I ordered Gina, the most attentive flight attendant ever, to locate them both at once.

“Yes, sir.”

You may think all this took an unreasonable amount of time when in fact I assessed the entire situation, with Gina’s help, within five minutes of arriving upon the scene, which was the limit to my window of opportunity. My time had already run out to take swift action. I had already decided not to clobber the marshal over his huge head mostly because he may have been evaluating my response time and actions to a staged crisis. Instead, I introduced myself to Myers from an angle in which he could see me without looking away from his captives. He knew who I was, but did not appear concerned about me or my dilemma. Perhaps he knew I had already lost the element of surprise for a rear attack on him or that I was unwilling to tussle with a guy who greatly outweighed me to try taking his gun away. That would certainly be a mark against me. But I wasn’t afraid of him since even rogue marshals had difficulty overriding years of training and experience. On the contrary, I told him I was glad he was aboard and had his badge and authorized firearm out and at the ready. I also said I was glad to see that the two suspicious characters were unarmed. He took my meaning and shifted his unsteady weight to his back foot, but kept his pistol raised high enough to plug them both with ease. I was okay with that posture for the time being. It was a step in the right direction anyhow. I just wished he wasn’t so damned drunk. Maybe the beast pretending to be pissed but was as sober as me.

“Tell me, Mr. Aldrich, how do you know Asef and Javad here are unarmed?” he asked.

“Because you would’ve shot them both by now if they weren’t,” I replied.

That made him grin in a rather sadistic way. “Yeah right,” he slurred.

Gina had placed another urgent hail to the pilots, her fifth attempt, but still got no response. I was forced to juggle four things at once: Marshal Myers’ compromised condition and gun, two terrorist suspects, Gina’s much needed albeit limited abilities to help, and two missing pilots. Suddenly, it occurred to me that the two men trembling in the booth may have actually been our pilots playing the convincing roles of would-be terrorists. If that were the case and I was being tested I needed to pass and soon.

“I’m going to have to insist that both of you gentlemen remove your head coverings at once,” I ordered.

If they were in truth the unaccounted-for pilots, they would have their earpieces in as required by law. They not only had to wear them in the shower, but while sleeping, and even during the act of sex. They could lose their pilot’s licenses otherwise.
To my surprise and disappointment, they both obeyed me without hesitation to reveal nothing of interest. They made no sudden moves and even turned out their bowl-shaped caps to show me they were not hiding weapons.

That caused Marshall Myers to bust a gut laughing while keeping his gun trained on his quarry. “Oh no, you did not honestly think these two clowns were space yacht captains, did you?” he balked. “Christ Almighty, Aldrich, that’s hilarious and one scary ass thought. You must be one of those nitwit progressives. Think about it. Who the hell would get on a ship with two Arab mugshots on their boarding passes?”

He brought up a valid point even if it was rudely stated. All passengers were provided photos of the on-duty pilots on their boarding passes in case they needed or wanted to speak to them. This was implemented due to the fact that many of these flights included pilots in uniform as fellow passengers who were merely traveling to other jobs or off-world homes and had nothing to do with the ship’s operations. To help prevent them from being mistaken for the ship’s on-duty pilots everyone was shown who they were up front. How and why had I forgotten that basic fact?

Myers was still laughing at me loudly.

If this was a test of my abilities to cope with a relatively low-grade no hostage situation I was doing poorly. I wanted to say, no, that I thought they might have had concealed weapons, but held my tongue. Lying to a marshal to save face would have only resulted in another strike against me. I also had to guess whether or not Myers was an actual bigot or doing a very good job of pretending to be one. Then again, if two middle-eastern pilots had been pictured on our boarding passes it would have given even the most progressive-minded passengers cause to pause.

Which brought up another forgotten fact. These men were wearing traditional Afghan clothing. On-duty pilots were only allowed out of uniform when they were off-duty, which was basically only when they worked out or slept. All my training was sloshing around in my head and seeping out through my sweat glands as I reminded Gina that we still needed to locate those pilots asap, and a reliable translator as well. She informed us that she had already found a Baptist missionary worker on Deck C who could translate Dari to English but who insisted on doing so in another compartment.

Both Myers and I shot her a look as if to say, “No kidding.”

I pulled myself together then and thanked her for her much appreciate assistance in this matter. I also insisted that she quickly get some strong coffee into Myers who tamely agreed with that idea. Gina managed to make us all coffees in no time at all at the nearby bar. She even made some for the two uneasy suspects. The tension in the room was getting somewhat better but not knowing what became of our pilots was bothering us all. I decided to go with Marshal Myers’ gut instincts about these men despite his unprofessional consumption of scotch. I slammed one fist on the table top, and demanded to know what they had done with the pilots.

This rather loud outburst surprised everyone including myself. I waited for Myers to laugh at me again, but oddly enough, he didn’t. He slurped down his hot coffee with one hand while holding his gun up with the other. He knew that pilots were easy targets once they came off their securely locked bridges. It wouldn’t have been an unprecedented event. Four pilots had their throats slit in as many years while heading toward the dining hall or sitting in the ship’s cinema. A few years ago, two others met their maker in the locker room of the gym right after playing handball. Every time it was the act of terrorists.

Myers seemed to like that I took his side and backed me up by repeating my question in a quieter, but no less insistent tone, which made me feel slightly better about our working relationship. I should have sought him out as soon as the seatbelts signs turned off, but I stupidly assumed I had more time to do that. Instead, I spent all my time aboard the Orion observing passengers and jotting down my candid impressions of them as part of my field training. In hindsight that was dumb. I could have been on this case from the beginning instead of playing catchup with a guy who may not have had so much to drink if he had company early on. Who knows, I may have even been a valuable resource to him, although I could not imagine how at that very moment.

The Afghans just kept looking at each other, shaking their heads, and repeatedly saying, “Please sirs, we know nothing about these men. No, nothing.”

“Look here, Asef and Javad,” I said, “dozens of ship’s personnel have been out searching for the pilots while we’ve all been sitting here. The fact that they haven’t yet been found looks as if something has befallen them both. Otherwise they’d be here or they’d answer our calls or someone would have found them by now.”

“Please, sir, we know nothing,” was all they could say.

The translator showed up just then with an entourage of assorted people: ship stewards, fellow Baptists, and a few curious passengers. She was a young black woman who stood timidly near the doorway without coming inside the lounge. Gina brought her the cases of documents and asked her to make a quick assessment of their content. Shortly afterward she returned to report that they appeared to be travel logs like those passengers read on inflight viewers.

Looking at Myers only Asef said, “Yes, sir, that is correct just as we told you. We are paid travel writers, but you say no, that we are terrorists. We show off-worlders what Earth is like.”

Javad added, “He means we make recommendations to visit places on Earth.”

“Why are they written in Dari?” I asked.

Asef replied, “That is our native language, sir. Only the pieces we submit for publication get translated for off-world travelers. This is a highly competitive market. Articles are sometimes stolen by unscrupulous people.”

Myers cleared his throat. “Excuse me. I’m confused as you already know. Why would you two need to write travel articles about sightseeing on Earth? We already provide travel journals they could view showing the Colosseum in Rome, the pyramids in Egypt, or Disneyland’s Mickey Mouse.”

Javad explained, “Forgive me for saying this, sir, but not all visitors wish to see such sights.”

“Oh no?”

“No, sir, Asef and I have lived for many years amongst off-world tourists, spent much time studying them, even offered our services as traveling companions to them.”

“You speak their language.” I guessed more than asked.

Asef nodded.

Javad replied. “Yes, sir. How do I say this politely? They may not appreciate these places you mentioned the way Earth’s inhabitants do. Understand that their planet has extreme climates. Those living in the hot regions would much rather visit Death Valley at midday or picnic beside an active volcano than go to Vegas while those from the cold region would wish to explore underground caverns or visit the penguins in Antarctica than ski in Aspen.”

Myers chuckled.

Suddenly I was reminded of the Asian family taking snapshots of hardware, wallpaper, and lighting fixtures. Not everyone saw things with the same perspectives as ourselves. We spent weeks on that very topic as part of our cultural sensitivity training. Myers would have had to deal with it on the job as a space marshal all the time. “I see, but none of your photos show any of those places.”

Asef answered, “Those were taken for a different project, sir. My other photos you did not study are of cold places. City subway systems for example are becoming quite popular with cold blooded off-worlders.”

Myers removed more photos from Asef’s case. The first two envelopes he grabbed were each marked with one word: The Underground and Cold Files. That made him burst out laughing again.

Miss Desiree Stevens, the Baptist translator, decided it was safe enough for her to enter the lounge and even offered to read excerpts from the questionable documents for us. Myers looked too embarrassed to speak so I respectfully asked him to holster his firearm.

He stood down, and drank more coffee.

Then I said that we would all appreciate Desiree’s help in clearing up this one matter. She pulled out a random article written by each man and read them aloud in English. Sure, enough they both wrote enticing articles about extremely hot or cold Earth regions where certain off-worlders would most desire to spend their vacations.

So Asef and Javad were not the terrorists our gun-ho space marshal had suspected them of being, but rather well-paid travel writers for an off-world tourist publication. It never occurred to me before that someone from Earth would be helping other world advertising companies to attract off-worlders to our planet (incoming tourists) through the same target marketing that we used for our outbound passengers from Earth. Makes sense. They might have said so sooner, or better yet, I should have been on the case sooner to hear their explanation for their odd travel itineraries. “Okay but how do you explain not having luggage?”

“Placed onto the wrong flight from New York to Houston,” Asef replied.

Javad nodded. “We placed a call to the space terminal before leaving Earth’s orbit. They apologized and said that our belongings would be waiting for us at the first layover.”

Myers’ eyes rolled in his pounding head. “What are you going to do until then?”

Asef replied, “A fellow Afghan we met aboard the Orion kindly offered to share his many Perahan Tunban and kufi with us.”

“His what?”

“Clothing, sir.”

“Ah, I see.”

We still had two problems here if not terrorists. Myers nearly shot two harmless writers just out making a decent living. Good for them, I thought at first, then wondered if they might get the idea to write an unflattering piece about this unfortunate incident aboard a topnotch Earth vessel like the Orion. Regardless of what they wrote, that was a problem for the spaceline to deal with, not us. Space marshals made mistakes from time to time, but it was always best to air on the side of caution than dismiss their instincts. Sometimes our mistakes were newsworthy and we had to make restorations to gain back our reputation in the public’s eyes. Myers may in fact be a bigot which is not uncommon. I would ask to speak alone with him about that later. Meanwhile the right thing to do would be to release these gentlemen, reopen the lounge to passengers, and continue to quietly search for the missing pilots. That was our biggest problem. For all we knew they were both getting laid or secretly dating each other--which sometimes happened--or they were passed out stoned somewhere. After all, pilots must know of great hiding places on these behemoths that other people didn’t know about.

That flash of brilliance gave me a new idea. I decided to temporarily take charge of the situation which was not a violation of my training. “Thank you, Desiree, that will be all. You men are also free to go. We apologize for detaining you and for anything Marshal Myers may have done or said to offend either of you. Gina, where do space yacht captains go when they don’t want to be disturbed?” I asked.

Myers looked up at me from the table and smiled without looking sarcastic for once.

Gina thought about that for a minute or two then said she knew of four restricted areas aboard the ship where Orion’s pilots sometimes hung out. She only knew about them since they would sometimes call a senior flight attendant to bring them things.

Her remark made Myers’ ears perk up after he repeated my apologies word for word to Asef and Javad. Good. At least he looked and sounded sincere. “What sort of things?” he asked Gina. I was happy to see him sober and back on the job.

Gina was obviously uncomfortable with the idea of discussing the subject in front of guests so we waited for Desiree, Asef and Javad to leave our immediate vicinity before pressing her for an answer. “Well, one captain asks for off-worlders.”

I gestured to the bartender, who had been standing as still as a statue all this time, to reopen the ship’s lounge by posting it on the message board. Myers, Gina, and I found a quiet booth to chat in.

“Excuse me?” Myers whispered.

“You mean off-world females?” I asked already forgetting my sensitivity training. Dammit.

As an overdue side note here, all travelers not of Earth origins were referred to as people or peoples, the population or citizens of..., and off-worlders since space was a giant melting pot full of pure and mixed lifeforms and the chances of us guessing their origins incorrectly were high.

Gina replied. “No, couples mostly.”

“Really? That’s interesting,” I said. “Why?”

“Well, as you know the bridge has the same inflight viewers as the rest of the ship.”

“And?” Myers asked losing patience with this sudden shy side of Gina we hadn’t seen before.

“And since there are no minors on the bridge many pilots . . . watch off-world porn.”

“Christ Almighty,” Myers groaned.

Once again, I was reminded of all that time I spent watching adults versus kids looking at different target marketing ads on their complimentary inflight viewers. “Oh Lord, those can show 3-D images, can’t they?” I blurted out like some tittering adolescent boy.

“Yup, well, this particular captain likes to roam the ship once we’re underway looking for attractive romantic off-world couples. Then he invites them to take a private tour of the ship’s inner workings. Most everyone accepts his generous offer.”

“And then what?” Myers asked.

“If he feels as if they hit it off during their tour, he asks me to bring the couple to one of the restricted areas of the ship. Again, few people say no.”

“Then what?” I asked.

“Then he asks if he can watch them make love,” she replied.

“So, he’s a voyeur?” Myers asked. “He’s not into interspecies sex?”

“Oh no, he just likes to watch, but...”

“But what?” I asked.

“He secretly films them.”

“He does what?” Myers croaked.

He and I both snorted our coffees out our nostrils. Thank goodness it had gone cold.

“That’s not only illegal but immoral as hell,” I pointed out.

“Yeah, but I’m pretty sure he only shows them to his copilots for laughs.” That was more than Gina wanted to say on the matter.

“We’re going to need that captain’s name,” I said without asking Myer’s for his thoughts. It was a no-brainer.

“What else do pilots ask for?” Myers asked.

She looked like she was about to cry so I spoke up. “Never mind that. It’s far more important right now that we locate them than it us to judge their conduct. Leave the big picture to the Department of Internal Affairs,” I said directly at Myers. Quoting basics from our manual to him was like a cold slap in his face to which he glared back at me. I didn’t care. We needed to get moving. “Take us to the nearest hiding spot,” I asked Gina.

We all got up just as passengers slowly trickled back into the lounge. They looked pleased to be there but were unsure what to make of our serious expressions. We forced ourselves to smile at them on our way out a starboard side door. There was no need to let them worry or panic. We knew that ordinary people could turn on flight officials worse than terrorists. It was actually the number one threat to passenger safety that space marshals, flight attendants, and pilots had to deal with. I couldn’t even think about people who snap under pressure or mob mentality at that moment. This was the first occasion in twelve trips that I have assisted in an inflight incident. It was already shaping up to be an enlightening experience, and I was certain we were about to get an eyeful of something unpleasant if not illegal. It made me wonder if my candid journal notes would later do it justice.

Our first stop was a small compartment directly behind the navcom system where a guy or gal could catch some shut eye near enough to the bridge to return to duty quickly. It was also a good place to sabotage the ship by redirecting her course heading from the back door. No luck.

Our second stop was a rather spacious locked room where surplus medical supplies were stored in the event of a ship wide epidemic of some sort. If a ship the size of the Orion ever needed to be quarantined it had to be stocked ahead of time with all the meds necessary to deal with it for several days if not weeks. It also provided another opportunity to terrorists in the off chance that they decided to release a biological agent into the airflow system while destroying the cure. No luck.

The third place we looked for the pilots was through the galley locker rooms where one hidden room behind a wall panel was rigged up like a sauna while another one appeared to be an empty walk-in freezer. However, if there were off-world people who either preferred it hot or cold, perhaps the kinky captain invited them there to make use of these hidden compartments for his peepshow. Nobody was around. When I asked Gina why these locker rooms were considered restricted areas, she looked disgusted and said that some of the men who worked as cabin stewards or in the galley were occasionally charged with raping coworkers or even passengers.

“You come down here with passengers?”

“No, I hand them off to the captain before we ever come near this place,” she replied.

“But then you have to retrace your steps alone to get back up to the unrestricted passageways,” Myers said.

“Yeah, well humoring pilots is part of the job,” she said.

I didn’t want to know what she had been asked to do over the years. “Yikes.”

It was bothering us that no one was having any luck locating the pilots. We hailed several of the ship’s personnel who all reported the same thing. “No luck.”

Our last stop was below the cargo bay. The floor panels were individually locked but lifted out to help accommodate larger items like automobiles, boats and even RVs. No kidding. Anyone wanting to tamper with luggage would have a field day down there. But it was also a perfect spot for stowaways. A lot of them. And that was exactly what we found. I immediately wished I had a gun at that moment because these were no religious refugees fleeing persecution. They looked like hardened criminals. There were big bucks to be made in smuggling illegals to and from planets. As if they didn’t make enough money as space yacht captains, we found our two missing fellows in uniform with ear pieces sitting cozy amongst their latest batch of migrants. Life on Earth was apparently either too competitive or unsympathetic for these ex-cons to eke out a living so they paid to be ferried off-world to get a fresh start for good or ill. Myers quickly ordered the entire ship’s security detail to the cargo bay. He also notified two off-duty pilots returning home to take over the ship’s operations for the duration of our trip.

Shortly after returning to the agency I cited the bartender of the Orion for allowing a space marshal to overindulge in scotch. I cited Marshal Myers for getting drunk on the job and for not calling for my help when he first suspected Asef and Javad of being terrorists and all the while both pilots were not responding to his calls. He was supposed to know better than to ignore a trainee from his own agency. I cited Gina for not reporting the captains’ habits of going off-grid during flights and for aiding them in their unsavory hobbies and/or side jobs and for not telling the marshal about these restricted areas sooner. My full report added numerous comments about unprofessional conduct and low scores for cultural sensitivity by both spaceline and security personnel. But it also pointed out all my own many mistakes as well which I had hoped would earn me a gold star, my peacemaker, and my spurs. In other words, a license, firearm and a badge with Marshal Aldrich on it.

In addition to my debriefing of the incident I had to attend three hearings. The captains’, who behaved like elitists throughout the proceedings, lost their wings and went to jail. Gina, who wisely coughed up more names and violations rather than plead guilty to charges of endangering souls and for being a paid accomplice, left the spaceline to take a ground job in the private sector. Marshal Myers, who had disciplinary action taken against him, was on suspended duty while attending a do over class in basic cultural sensitivity training amongst others. When he returned to work, he was subjected to mandatory in-flight screenings to check his blood alcohol levels and was also not only ordered to introduce himself to agency trainees within an hour of leaving a spaceport but to notify them of any findings worth mentioning.

I received both good and bad marks but nothing more. After the hearings were over, they sent me out on several more discount roundtrips. Still no disembarking. I learned to conduct myself differently like knowing who the on-duty pilots were and keeping tabs on them. I assisted space marshals in handling various incidents--some life-threatening. They gave me tips on what to look for in carryon bags and passenger manifests.

On two occasions I bumped into Asef and Javad. They never wrote a piece smearing our agency’s reputation. As they put it, the marshal was just doing his job and the matter was dealt with properly by the authorities. Besides a story like that would only discourage space travel to Earth and their style of writing was upbeat. They mentioned getting an invitation from Marshal Myers to visit the space marshal’s training facility in Houston. He even asked if they’d be interested in giving a lecture on off-worlders. I found that highly amusing but redeeming somehow.

After that I learned to look at everything differently to try and better appreciate objects, places, and peoples. Stuff I once considered mundane. I even signed up for foreign language studies. Still waiting for my spurs.



THE END


© 2019 Andrée Gendron

Bio: Andrée Gendron lives in Massachusetts. Her writings recently appeared online at Folded Word, The Five-Two Poetry, Aphelion Webzine, and Down in the Dirt. Check out her publishing credits, poetry, fiction, and artwork at www.andreedianegendron.com.

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