Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Eve 2311

Up until an hour ago, Randy Hobbs was doing great. He had been visiting some friends at the Titan station that he hadn't seen in a while.

Randy had also been delivering some much needed care packages from family and friends and some crucial repair materials for the station. Randy was a professional transport operator, or in other words, a space trucker. He had been doing this for ten years now, and knew a lot of people out in the void as he liked to call it. That's why when he got the call for an urgent run on Christmas Eve, he said no problem. He knew if all went well it was only three hours each way at near light speed or N.L.S. to Saturn space.   So when he promised his family he would be home in time for Christmas morning, he had no doubts of fulfilling it.

Randy put the transport in auto pilot, sat back and enjoyed the view of Saturn and its many moons. "What a lucky man I am", he thought. "Friends everywhere I go, sights that only few have seen in person. Going to be with family soon, Yeah it doesn't get much better." Those good feelings lasted all of ten minutes, but were shattered when warning alarms broke the spell. Randy glanced at the flashing lights again hoping for a positive change, no such luck. The lights that had burned orange for most of the hour, now turned red and announced stabilizers 3-5- 7 [ IMMINENT FAILURE] At this speed he would shoot off course and into anything in his path before regaining control.

 “Just great!” he exclaimed out loud as he started the throttle down process.

It would take about fifteen minutes to reach a safe speed. After all you can't just slam the brakes at three hundred million mph. Until then he needed to be ready for some quick maneuvers.

“Well so much for getting home on time, an hour and a half turns to a day and half,” he said to the empty cockpit.

Randy watched the speed read-out drop, and kept his hands firmly on the controls. Then without any further warning the stabilizers failed. At first nothing happened, steady on course the rig flew.

Randy held his breath, watched his instruments and waited. Then slowly the rig started to yaw and roll to the right. He tried to compensate but was not having much luck with two thirds of  his port side down. Randy fought with the pitching and rolling ship for what seemed like hours, decelerating all the while.

Just when he was beginning to gaining control he caught sight of what? A ship? It can't be, not this far out of the space lanes, but he didn't have much time to figure it out. He was heading straight for it, fast.

Firing full reverse and star-board thrusters, the rig veered left and slowed just enough to avoid hitting the other craft full on. There was a light thud and that awful sound like nails on a chalkboard. Randy brought the rig to a relative stop ending that terrible assault on his ears, and just sat for a moment pondering what could have just happened. “Where did that ship come from?” Randy mused silently. “There was nothing on my scanners, no proximity alarms, nothing.” He looked at his scanner, still nothing, “That can't be right it, was working perfectly.” He mumbled to him-self.

The crackle of the comm. broke the silence with a much too happy voice. “Hello in the rig, how are you this fine day? Anyone hurt?” Was the long string of questions that come through speakers.

“Fine day, really?” thought Randy.

“Uhh yeah, I'm ok here, how are you?” He quickly answered

  “I'm just marvelous my boy, marvelous, it's a splendid night to be out among the stars.” The cheerful voice called over the comm.

“Wow this guy’s not right in the head or something, he is way to happy after what just happened. I've got to make this quick and get moving,” Randy thought as he watched a red colored transport very similar to his own, come to a stop next his.

“I'm sorry for the damage and any inconvenience I have caused you.” Randy apologized to the odd person in the red ship. “I'll send my contact info to you so we can get ya fixed up, all right?”

 “I've got a better idea, how about we dock and I'll bring some of the Mrs. hot coco and cookies over to share.” The voice suggested. “ Then we can talk things over then, what do you say Randy?”

 “Umm, I usually don't let anyone on board. I think it would be easier if I just sent the info to you and we get on our way.” Randy said then let the silence help tell the other person of his unease.

“Please Randy, its Christmas Eve after all, humor an old man.”  There was something in his voice was very compelling, and before he realized what he was doing, he had agreed.

 A few burst of the thrusters put the ships into docking position. A small bump and the snap of the locks as they engaged let Randy know it was time to greet his unexpected guest.

Randy left the small cockpit and went to the air lock which was located between it and the living quarters. The safe seal light glowed reassuringly as he opened the inner door lock. He then went to the outer door and cycled the lock. There was a brief hiss and a slight pressure on the ears as the two atmospheres equalized, the door began to opened. Before the door opened even part way, a pleasant aroma wafted into the lock. Randy could smell a multitude of different things. Fresh pine, cinnamon, peppermint, gingerbread, turkey, ham, everything he associated with what? “Christmas, it all reminds me of Christmas.” Randy thought

Just on the inside of the air lock stood a man of  average height, with a large round belly. He had kind, bright blue eyes that looked out from beneath bushy white brows, which were a matched set with his full beard. His age was hard to determine, ageless almost. He was clothed in deep red coveralls and black work boots. He was holding a large thermos and a tin of cookies.

“As promised he said,” lifting the objects in his grasp slightly. “May I come in?”

 “Yeah, sure, right in there,” Randy said gesturing to the multipurpose living area.

“Where can I set these ?” the man ask looking around for a table to put the cookies and the thermos. Randy went to a panel on the wall and pressed, a section folded out and locked into place  for a table, and two seats appeared as well. “Ah, wonderful,” the man exclaimed as he set his load on the table.

That done, he turned and offered his hand, “My name is Kris, so good to meet you,” he said. 

Randy took the offered hand and looked into the man’s eyes. He saw no malice or anger there, just joy and wisdom. “Glad to meet you too.” Randy said. “There is something familiar about you, have we met somewhere?”

“Oh, it's quite possible,” Kris answered, “I do get around, especially at this time of year. I just finished delivering some packages to several of the farthest outpost. You know those people don't get many visitors, or the chance to return to earth very often. So I make it a point to stop by and bring some Christmas cheer. It does my old heart good to see the joy a few gifts and friendly conversation can bring a person. I'm sure you know exactly what I mean.”

 “Actually I do know,” Randy said.

The silence grew longer until Kris said, “Well speaking of Christmas cheer, how about we try these goodies I have, shall we?” 

“Yeah that sounds good, umm won't you have a seat” Randy said gesturing to one of the benches.

He went to cabinet and grabbed two cups and set them on the table. Kris began to talk as he poured the coco, which smelled incredibly good.

“I haven't seen many travelers this night, most are at home with their families,” said Kris. “So Randy what brings you out this far on on Christmas Eve? I'm sure you would rather be home yourself.”

 Randy relayed his story of how he came to be here to a man he didn't know, but became increasingly more comfortable with by the moment. He told him how he promised to be home Christmas morning and how that wasn't going to happen now. Kris sat and listened while Randy poured his heart out to him about his wants and desires. It was so easy as they talked, drank the hot cocoa and ate for what seemed like hours. Randy looked down at the cookie tin that had been full and now was three quarters empty.

How long did we sit here?” he thought.

 Kris must have recognized the look because he stood up and took the used cups to the small sink and washed them. “Well Randy I think it's time we got on our way, we both have long trips to finish. It’s been very pleasant talking with you, made my night memorable. Feel free to keep the cookie tin and what’s left inside.” Kris scooped up his thermos and headed for the lock quick as a flash. “W…wait a moment.” said  Randy as he hurried to catch up. “What about the damage to your ship?” 

Kris stopped just inside his own ship and turned to Randy and said, “What damage? there's no damage.”

“But I hit your ship Kris,” said Randy.

“Listen my boy, you just get home to that family of yours. They are waiting for you. Again, It has been a pleasure.” Kris shook his hand once again and was through the door.” Oh, and by the way, Merry Christmas! Ho ho ho,” he laughed as the door closed with a hiss and a clunk.

Randy stood for a moment trying to absorb what just happened. He went back to the table and sat down. “That was interesting,” thought Randy as he toyed with the cookie tin Kris left. He noticed the lid was on and the tin felt too heavy. “I could have sworn that lid was off a minute ago.”

 Randy took the lid off and saw the tin was full of cookies once again. “How,” thought Randy.

Inside was a note that read, “Dear Randy thank you for your hospitality, I had a fine visit with you. Keep on being a friend to those around you, stay generous and share the spirit of Christmas always. I know you will, I have been watching you for a long while now. Because you have a kind heart, and everyone should be with their family on Christmas day, I'm giving you a special present. You may be disoriented for a moment, it will pass. Enjoy the cookies and Again Merry Christmas.  Your friend Kris K.  P.S. Look out  the cockpit window.”

 Several thoughts went through Randy's head all at once. “When did he put that note there, watching me, how did he know my name before he came on board, I never told him. What is he talking about?” Just then reality seemed to spin, and flashes of colored sparks were everywhere, along with the the feeling of movement hit him at once.

 As fast as it came it was gone. “Whoa what was that?”

 Randy sat until the slight dizzy feeling stopped. “Kris must have started his N.L.S. engines to soon and blasted me.” He mumbled to the empty ship.

Randy headed up front to check for damage. Looking quickly at the instruments, they showed green lights, even the thrusters that were offline just… what? Thirty minutes ago? How, what is going on? I know it has been longer than that and the thrusters work now? Randy sat down hard in his chair wondering if he was losing his mind. And then he lost his breath when looked up, and stared out the window. It was not possible what he saw there.  He closed his eyes and willed himself to wake up. When he opened them again the view was the same. Somehow in just seconds, his ship moved millions of miles to sit just outside earth’s orbit. He was home. Randy Hobbs never forgot the best gift he ever received, or the man who gave it to him on that special Christmas Eve.

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