Chapter 8

Ætherglow #142

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Here in the Moon’s shadow, you see the stars like you haven’t seen them in months. Their pale light fills your little compartment, with the cabin lights off. The arm of your galaxy drifts by your little circular window as you strap yourself in for a maneuver. Once the indicator light goes red, the belts tighten down on you, and the thrust of the main engines push you down into your seat. As the craft rotates, the dark limb of the Moon occludes the stars. Against the black surface, only the glowing spiderweb of city lights floats by as you cross Mare Moscoviense.

The shuttle, on a direct descent trajectory, switches over to its landing engines. Korolev City regulations forbid using nuclear engines below a certain altitude. The spaceport comes into view. You can’t see anything but a web of lights, but the shuttle knows where to go. As you slow for landing, the pull of true gravity overtakes you. You wonder if you can really tell the difference or if the 0.16G is just nostalgic to you.

As the craft makes its final descent, the city’s familiar streets and domes sprawl out below you through your window. Sitting atop of the rim of Tereshkova Crater, the spaceport overlooks Korolev from a high vantage.

After a soft touchdown, the lights come on, and the indicator goes green as your straps release. You stand up in your familiar gravity well and get your bag out of the compartment. It’s going to be cold out there. You wrap yourself up in your purple coat. You have your blue plaid skirt on over top your best insulated leggings, with cute striped socks over top of them. Your parents are sure to hate it. Thinking of them, you remember to check in.

2254-08-01 17:39:23 Aydan > just landed. Moon sweet Moon

No immediate response. They must be busy. Next to you, your classmate and worldmate Vik gets their things together. They’ve really started to glow up since leaving home. The lavender highlights in their hair suit them nicely.

“Good old point one six,” Vik says.

“I almost missed it,” you say.

A generated voice speaks, “Docking complete. You may now egress the vehicle. Thank you for flying with DreamFlight, where our dream is your pleasant voyage.”

You open the door and climb out into the central corridor. Memories of your last experience with a shuttle like this all come back to you--you and Vik floating through a corridor like this in a half-dissociated haze trying to find the hypospray, grappling with K as he nearly ended your life. It seems like so long ago now.

You exit to the walkway overlooking the spaceport and the city far below it. Ana walks by you. “Have a nice vacation, Aydan,” it says.

2254-08-01 17:45:55 Ana > and you tell me if you need anything, ok?

You glance over at it and nod.

Inside Valentina Tereshkova Spaceport is warm. The rush of travelers moving about to their terminals brings your mind further down to the Moon. The cacophony of voices around you in familiar Lunar Russian reactivates a part of your brain that’s been at rest for a while. Languages really are entire ways of thinking. You wonder if you’re even the same person in Russian as you are in Lunar Mandarin, or JSL, or Amharic, or any of the other many modes of speech you’ve acquired since leaving.

You pass by the crowds and the food vending machines and get to the elevators. This one has a nice glass wall letting you see down on the city lights as you descend. The elevator drops fast--it’s a long way down. You hold onto the rail as your body enters freefall. Five kilometers from the peak of Tereshkova rim to the pit of Mare Moscoviense. Even at the top, you’re still lower than the Spaceside highlands beyond the Moscoviense basin. If it was day you’d be able to see the distant cliffs from this altitude.

“So nice to be home,” Vik says.

“Home...” you say, looking up at the sky.

“I think I have a few things to confront my parents about when they see me...” Vik says.

“Good luck!” you say. “I hope they aren’t traddies or something.”

“Nah, nothing like that, but you know how Korolev is about femboys,” they say.

“Hey Aydan, what are your parents like?”

1) “Pretty normal I guess. My mom is always in a conference and dad is usually arguing with some underling.”: 2 (33.33%)
2) “My dad is pretty absentminded but my other dad can be a real uptight.”: 1 (16.66%)
3) “Both my moms are what just you’d expect from corpo-girlboss-types.”: 3 (50.0%)
Expired 1 years ago (2023-03-26 17:09:56)