This is the twelfth section of the first chapter of Sonnets from a Proton. The novel starts here.
The next section is here.
Tom found himself staring out the window again. What seemed a small speck in the distance slowly grew to be a recognisable outline then he could see it. The classic rotating wheel space station with the hub in the centre for ships to dock in looked like home. He told himself he’d been back on Earth too long. Out here was where he shone. This was where he mattered. That said he looked forward to trying out the improvements in his physique that his training on Earth had given him.
He thought back to the journey from the port, the back crushing lurch as they were hurtled down the maglev, the stomach wrenching drop between leaving the maglev and the main engines started. He’d almost screamed at that point, several people had. Then the gradual but always powerful climb to the upper atmosphere, then again the heart sickening moments as the carrier’s engines stopped and separation occurred. All the time Laurence was talking at him, yes at him was the right description; going on about mass fractions and the hydrogen scavenging the oxygen from the atmosphere filling the orbiter’s tanks or something. He tried to let this wash over him. Then the rocket’s engines fired, and he knew they were off into orbit. Breathtaking though they were with their force he always felt the power of a rocket pushing him into his seat reassuring, as long as he was unable to comfortably move in his seat he was safe, when he couldn’t feel anything then he worried. The reassuring roar of the engines had long since cut off and Tom was looking forward to them kicking in again and guiding them into the reassuring womb of the space station. He saw the occasional puff of steam of what he assumed was manoeuvring jets keeping then on course. He watched longingly at the space station just wanting this all to end. In the distance he saw a small speck leave the now much larger space station. Clearly whatever that was it was heading back to Earth.
It was all Tom could do not to yelp as the speck that was the other ship got larger and seemed to be on a collision course.
“That’s not really a window you know” chimed in Laurence
“It’s actually just a TV display. There’s not even a camera seeing what you think you’re seeing. It’ll be a 3d reconstruction of what’s going on out there.” Laurence could see he was being looked at funny. “Seriously, why put forty or so cameras on the outside, just put two or three and then reconstruct a virtual representation of it and then play it back to people. Hey don’t look at me like that, long established fact that people feel claustrophobic in a tight space such as this. They tried to get rid of windows in the early airplanes to save weight, but people felt too uncomfortable. It would be stupidly dangerous or at least way too heavy to do that for Earth to orbit transports, so we have the virtualisation solution you see here. The first attempts of course tried surrounding the entire cabin with the effect. But then it became obvious it was an illusion. With the fake windows people buy the illusion and feel comfortable.”
“You’d tell a child Father Christmas doesn’t exist wouldn’t you?”
“Sorry I got the impression you were curious about how things worked to get rid of your phobias.”
“Not about the support mechanisms that keep my phobias at bay”.
Tom yelped as the ship lurched
“God you’re jittery, that was just the tug docking with us to take us in”
“Not my fault if I’m bally nervous.”
"You were the one who introduced yourself to me remember. Maybe there's a reason I was travelling alone"