Rory’s Story Cubes Mini-Story #4
With a great deal of dramatic license, dedicated to the Great Bird of the Galaxy, Gene Roddenberry.
The dunes glowed white beneath an unrelenting sun and reminded the pilot the oasis on the horizon was a B-movie device. For him there would be no cool grasses, no desert flowers, and the water would probably be poisoned. If he were writing this little drama—and if he survived, he would—the mayday call would have gone through, and the search planes would be on the way.
He looked back at the cracked shell of the plane’s fuselage, at the row of graves, which the desert would erase in the next sand storm, at the survivors sheltered beneath the wings, and finally the column of black smoke rising from where he’d set strips of rubber from the tires on fire. That had to be visible for miles. At least, that’s what he’d told the passengers. His duty as captain was to keep spirits up, even in the face of futility.
The worst part of this? His wife. Ever since Pan Am had hired him, she’d nagged at him to get a safer job. Flying planes was something he’d wanted to do since he was a kid, and thanks to the U.S. Army and World War II, he got to fulfill that childhood dream. For him, though, planes were as close to space as he could get, considering spaceships and rockets were still the stuff of fiction. When he was in the cockpit at the controls it wasn’t a Constellation he flew but a starship. The airports he departed from and arrived at were spaceports, full of alien life.
If… When he got home, “I told you so” would be the first words from his wife’s mouth, and right now he accepted her prescience as his reality. And he’d have to fulfill his part of the bargain. He’d promised if he’d ever had an accident, he’d accept the job his father kept waiting for him back in L.A. Being a cop had to be safer than airline pilot, right?
The sun glinted off something metal in the sky, and the drone of engines met his ears. His passengers cheered as the rescue plane began to circle the crash site. The plane he had christened Spaceship Galileo would also be subsumed by the desert, but he and six survivors would go home. Someday, he’d write that story, too.