large, round space station slowly rotated five hundred miles above the planet Phaethon. Far away, a small, winged shuttle-craft slowly approached it from high orbit. Inside the shuttle-craft, manning the controls, sat an old, grizzled looking man with a shaggy, white beard and a wool trimmed denim vest. As he piloted the vessel he stared intently at his destination, the space station bracketed by two of the planets three moons with the light of the system’s two suns glistening off the windows and solar panels. With his left hand grasping the control, he punched some digits into the console monitor with his right and lifted the microphone to his mouth.
“Space Station Helias 1 - Come in Space Station Helias 1. This is Captain Jack Fisher aboard Shuttle-craft Wayword Son, requesting permission to dock - do you read me?” He waited a few seconds, holding the mic a few inches from his face before impatiently trying again.
“Shuttle-craft Wayword Son to Space Station Helias 1 - am I clear to dock?” Again, he waited a minute, tapping the mic on the control board. He was about to try for a third time when a woman’s voice came through, crackling from the microphone speaker.
“Space Station Helias 1 to Shuttle-craft Wayword Son. All docks are currently occupied. Please sync orbit and hold your position until further notice.”
The grizzled, old man looked at the console monitor to check the Phaethon date: Monday, 10 Maymonth, 1985 P.R.
“Oh, for chrissakes, it’s Monday. This is going to take forever” he grumbled. He tossed the mic, tapped the retro rockets, flipped the switch to auto, leaned back, and pulled a flask from his denim vest.
By the time Flight Control came back through the com, the old man was fast asleep in his chair. They had to try calling him three times before the fourth call woke him up.
“Helias 1 Flight Control to Shuttle-craft Wayword Son - do you read?”
The old man yawned and fumbled with the mic. Its curly cord had gotten tangled in the co-pilot controls when he tossed it across the cockpit. The flight control lady continued trying to hail him as he untangled it.
“What!?” he yelled into the mic when he finally got it to his face.
“Shuttle-craft Wayword Son, you are clear to dock at Bay Three. Please follow proper docking procedure and enjoy your stay on Helias 1.”
“Yeah, yeah,” the old man replied tiredly, “Shuttle-craft Wayword Son preparing to dock.” He fired his thrusters and resumed his approach.
Meanwhile, five hundred miles below, on the surface of Phaethon in a country in the northern hemisphere known as Buffelland, an entirely different adventure was unfolding.
James Starkey switched it into low gear as he skidded his foster father’s vintage sports car around another corner. He and his good buddy, Tyler Keefer, were going for a joyride through the dusty back roads in the forests outside their home town of Fort Hamely.