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
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
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
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.
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
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,
“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
“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
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.”
“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.
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.”
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
“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
Asef replied, “A fellow Afghan we met aboard the Orion kindly offered
to share his many Perahan Tunban and kufi with us.”
“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
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
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
“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.
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
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
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
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.
© 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.
Comment on this story in the Aphelion Forum
Return to Aphelion's Index page.