You can see a complete game of Space Oddity played out in last week’s post.
I’m going to tell you a short genre story that makes sense of the inscrutable lyrics of an otherwise popular song. I’ll do it in very brief parts to keep things interesting. There will be weekly clues.
Your job is to guess the song before the story is done. The first person to correctly guess the proper song receives…High Praise Indeed ™.
The crusted linoleum tiles of the belowdeck prison-hold hallway had not been steam-mopped in 198 years and doing so now would probably have splintered them and exposed the raw magnetic flooring underneath.
It was no place for a Senior Conductor.
He hadn’t been off the more natural gravitronics in a very long time, and felt wobbly and seasick..
“It is out of our hands,” he said, his head cocked and jaw jutting, his arms finding purchase on the rails and bars of nearby empty cells as he walked. The nervous brakeman (whose name the Senior Conductor had forgotten – the little fellow was some archivist in the legal department) held his prone-to-float spectacles against his own nose with a finger.
“Technically, quite in our – begging your pardon – in our hands,” the brakeman mumbled, his voice catching. “We are forty-five days out. The Engineer doesn’t want the jubilee spoiled.”
By Potočnik! The Engineer! The Engineer! The old emperor had already outlived two senior conductors, and now he lay, framed in the zigzag iron cage of his antique Earth-bed, just as he had for years. He only had to survive a few weeks more, and his name – Engineer Bruce Dimsall – would be the one remembered. He would be the forefather of the New City, the New World.
Senior Conductor Robert Morhtwedt – the one who had done everything during this last, critical deceleration – would be nothing. His window of opportunity was closing fast.
Robert ducked his head to avoid the lone dangling lightbulb. It was a thick little thing, and misshapen, clearly one of the glass-blower’s rejects. Robert was surprised it had even fit into its screw-in base without shattering. The light it cast was weak, but strong enough to illuminate the huddled outline of the Enemy.
“Wake up!” snapped Robert.
“I am,” said the shadow on the cot, his voice quavering. “I can no longer stand.”
“We are forty-five days from New City. Do you even comprehend this?”
“Of course I do,” he wheezed.
“So you will recant? I can’t assure you that you’ll survive exile when we arrive, but it is far better odds than the fate you are scheduled for.”
“They have scheduled it?”
“No. Not officially. But I’m about to make that happen. I can save you too. Recant, and the world literally opens up to you.”
Burbling laughter erupted from the dark cell.
“Recant?” he said. “Recant the truth? And go mad? No. I have been beaten. I will be stoned.”
…and then beheaded, thought Robert. But even the prisoner couldn’t bring himself to tell that truth.
“And unnecessarily so,” he replied, doing his best imitation of someone who cared. “It is a barbarism that was never supposed to be used. You don’t even have to believe it. Simply apologize. Say you got caught up in the last days of the Long Voyage, that you beg forgiveness and exile. I can make that happen.”
Robert could make it happen, but he knew he would not have to. The Enemy had long since proved that his will had as much iron as his brain had shattered fragments.
Still, he wanted to be sure that when he hurled the first rock, it would be done with a conscience that was crystal clear.
The prisoner sighed. “No, and again, no.”
Robert set upon his own face a doleful expression, for the sake of the brakeman.
But his spirit danced.