This story is by Philip Shepherd and was part of our 2017 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
The sun, in its Red Giant phase, was about to destroy the planet Earth. Skena Frolocfay, a business woman on Ganymede, was watching it on a monitor. The screen went blank, her boyfriend, Culbert Bloodlocks, wanted to video-talk.
“Hi honey, I’ve got us a holiday on the ocean moon Europa. Can you take a full orbit off work?”
“Sure, it’s funny, we have a business deal, and it is taking forever. There’s an undecided customer. We’d need to rent a shuttle—got any ideas?”
“There’s a company called Max-Travels Ltd. giving cheap flights this orbit. I’ve got a deal. See you later.”
Skena’s screen returned to the scene of the Sun consuming the Earth.
They both arrived at the docks. Skena noticed Max-Travels was only one man and his beautiful girlfriend. Both were servicing an old shuttle.
Skena said, “Hello, we booked a return flight to Europa.”
“Oh… Yes, I’m sorry. I’m Maximus Blackglove, and this is my business partner Deidra Magic, I own this company. It’ll be thirty minutes. Ok!”
“Isn’t there oil dripping into a bucket?”
“Yes oil, it’s working, we’ll be leaving in thirty to forty minutes. The senior shuttles are in excellent shape,” said Max.
The ship hotel was sailing on Europa. Skena and Culbert had an apartment and then visited the wine bar for the evening. They had a bottle of alcohol. Culbert said, “I’ve got you something, and this is an excellent location to ask you. Look in your handbag; there’s a small box.”
“Oh yes, where did this come from?”
“Aww… it’s an engagement ring.”
Culbert took the ring from the box. Holding her hand he asked, “Skena, will you marry me?”
“Oh sure, we are good together.”
Skena saw Maximus and Deidra behind Culbert. They were dancing on the dance floor wearing little clothing and looking sexy. Later in the evening, Skena’s phone made a signal. She saw it said her business manager wanted to talk. “Oh, it’s Tawnee, my marketing director, I’ll take this call outside the room.”
Returning to the table, she said she needed to visit Callisto, another moon of Jupiter. She should talk with the undecided customer. She would be back within a tenth of an orbit.
Culbert said, “What, you have to go?”
“Look, I’ve got responsibilities too. Men don’t run the show.”
“Ok, be safe and come back soon.”
“I’ll have to use Max-Travels again,” said Skena. Her face looked concerned.
Skena knocked on Maximus’ door; it was open. She could see Maximus and Deidra on the bed together having fun. Maximus noticed Skena and jumped from the bed using a sheet to cover himself.
“I need to visit Callisto for my business. I’ll give you an extra five-hundred credits.”
“Well I don’t know, we’re on holiday too.”
Max turned and looked at Deidra, she looked upset and dropped the sheet she had been covering herself. He turned back to Skena and said, “This is an upper management meeting.”
“A thousand credits.”
“Well… you’ll be back soon?” said Max.
“Ok, another trip. One thousand credits.”
During the flight, there was a radio announcement; “Solar flares could hit.”
“Damn, bad news, we’ll have to go back to Europa to wait this one out,” said Max.
After he finished speaking, the shuttle shook. The electrical equipment was emitting sparks all over the shuttle. “Oh shit, we are going to have to land fast.”
“Where, we’re far from Europa?”
“Jupiter has sixty-nine moons; there’s one a minute away.”
There was a loud crack, and a bright light filled the shuttle. Max crash landed the shuttle on a small moon. The radio circuits didn’t appear to work, and one of the rockets no longer functioned.
“We’re going to get rescued, aren’t we?” said Skena.
“Look, our radio and a thruster is not working, but we are in one piece. This small moon could be Thebe. There should be a beacon on this moon, and we could turn off the signal. Someone will come here to fix it. We’ll call for rescue through their radio. We’ll both have to look for the beacon, I’ve got another space suit for you.”
Both were out on the moon and Max had a map of where the indicator should be. They followed the map to the location of Thebe’s beacon. But it wasn’t there.
Max frowned and said, “Ok, this is not Thebe. It could be Amalthea, another moon of similar size close to Thebe. Amalthea doesn’t have a beacon.”
“So how are we going to get rescued?… What’s on Amalthea?”
Max sighed and said, “You and me. We could be here a long, long time.” Max shook his fists and screamed, “Agh… No…”
“Look, calm down. I need you to continue to be the courageous and confident captain as you have been so far.”
Max finally became calm, and said, “We should go back to the ship and fix the radio. We can make water. Don’t worry water is hydrogen and oxygen, I use them for fuel, and there’s plenty of fuel on board. The food will only be little bags of emergency rations.”
“You know you can be useful, sometimes.” said Skena.
A full orbit had passed on Europa. The emergency centre called both Culbert and Deidra telling them Maximus and Skena were overdue. Maximus hasn’t answered his radio, and both of them assumed dead. The situation was upsetting, so Deidra clung close to Culbert and said, “We should go to my quarters and have sex. Everyone has sex when they find out someone close has died.”
“What? Not everyone,” said Culbert while wiping tears from his eyes. Her sexiness and attitude tempted him, although, he was still upset about Skena.
A full orbit had gone by on Amalthea. Maximus and Skena were unable to fix the radio. While looking out of a window, Skena saw two small shuttle craft landing close together. She screamed and said, “Ohh, there is two other craft not too far away. We could get rescued by signalling them.”
Max and Skena left the shuttle and walked towards the two new ships. There was a bright flash, and one ship exploded.
Max said to Skena, “Shit, they must be pirates, and if they find out we are here they will kill both of us. We must get back to my shuttle and risk taking off with one thruster.”
While climbing back into the shuttle, there was another bright flash and Max collapsed. Skena managed to push Max into the shuttle.
Max was becoming unconscious but managed to say, “Look, sit in the pilot seat, and I’ll try to show you how to fly the shuttle. Bu-but, if the thruster stops working at any point, w-we will continue moving on that trajectory for ever more. Then run out of oxygen and die.”
The shuttle lifted off the moon, and Skena got them back to Europa. The shuttle lost the last thruster, and it splashed deep into the water. Max was now unconscious, but they were close to a ship with people who saw the crash.
The people on the ship rescued both of them and took Max to a hospital. They had spent a long time together helping each other to survive.
Skena and Culbert talk about what happened, and Skena finds out Culbert had slept with Deidra. Skena said, “Oh, I’ve fallen out of love with you and in love with Max.”
Skena smiled as Max was awake. “You’re looking better.” She rolled a monitoring computer aside, then pulled the chair closer to the bed and sat.
Max touched dressings on his head. “Yeah, still hurts, but the doctor says I’ll live.” He glanced at her then went back to watching the sports game on his screen.
Skena laughed nervously. Her fingers played with the edge of Max’s blanket. She didn’t expect things to go in this way. “So, Max-“
“What, Skena?” he snapped.
Her stomach sank, but she wasn’t giving up that easy. “What about us, Max?”
“We had something, didn’t we?” Skena tried to keep the fear building up inside, out of her voice. “I thought we lo-“
“Look,” Max turned to her. “I’m not moving to Ganymede and becoming your secretary. You’re not likely to become my co-pilot,” he said and sighed, “my life is too simple for you, and yours is too complex for me.”
Skena had tears welling in her eyes. “We could make it work. I know we could.” She reached for his hand. “Please, Max. We could give it a try.” The look on his face made her voice falter. He’d shut her out.
The tears fell freely now. Skena let Max’s hand drop as she stood to leave. “Not that it matters…I just want you to know; I love you.” She hurried out the door realising she was incapable of preventing the feelings of love for anyone.