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Monday, February 11, 2008

The Launch Rail Ticket (Part 1)

The sound rolled across the ocean, and rushed over Jeremy like the salty wind: Wheesh! Morning sun glinted off the small metal dots rising in a gentle curve over the horizon. As the sound faded, they disappeared one by one into the sky. Mornings like these haunted Jeremy. They made him remember his dreams of space flight that never panned out.

At age of twenty-two, he knew that not all dreams came true. You didn't make valedictorian because you took an art class with a teacher who didn't believe in first-semester A's. Your favorite college rejected you because you attended Podunk High, rated number one in the state for academic grade inflation (except for the art teacher, of course). You were denied that aeronautics job because your background check showed you stole a candy bar in the eighth grade.

Some days, Jeremy looked over at the rail, then up at the morning sky, and wondered if his waning enthusiasm for space travel was a big case of sour grapes. Despite this growing feeling, the curvy liftoff of those metal dots captivated him. He may not be a spaceman, but he was educated as an engineer, and the launch loop that propelled those metal ship-dots held his mind like an invisible steel leash. Oh, to ride it.

Then, one Saturday morning as he sat idly daydreaming on the beach, that supersonic wheesh! washing electrically over him, he saw a kid and his dad flying a kite nearby. The kite had two tails like apron strings, and someone had tied a toy figure to one. As the kite fluttered past with its danging aeronaut, an idea crashed into Jeremy. And suddenly, that steel leash tightened hard.

He didn't have all the details worked out, but he knew he had found his ticket to ride the launch rail.

(Continue to Part 2)

Thus ends part one of our short fiction series. As you can tell, a device called a launch loop features prominently. It's an alternative idea to the space elevator, and it functions as a means to get objects from Earth to space in a way that's cheaper, faster, and more reliable than how we do it today.

This serial will run every day this work week, and conclude on Friday.

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