Curved Space

Curved Space

By William Kiraly
December 18, 2014

Prompt: A Pizza delivery guy proposing to a spaceship captain

“Earth Ship Neil Armstrong, Captain’s Log: September 9, 2437: If the chronometers can be believed, it is now 2637 Earth time, 2394 in our ship time. That means we’ve been asleep for over 120 years our time and something like 250 years have passed on Earth. We’re lucky to be alive, if that adjective can be applied to us in our current predicament. The ship was designed for no more than 80 years of life support which should have been more than enough to get us through the wormhole and into the Tau Ceti system.

“The ship began waking us up about 24 hours ago when the SA systems starged to fail. Eighteen of us have survived, we’ve lost five of our friends and shipmates already. The dead are Master Chief Thomas Clay, Ensign Lara Hillary, Spaceman First Class Angus MacLarther, Spaceman First Class Barrow Liamyeska, and my first officer, Lieutenant Commander Agatha Leandro. These were good people and I am proud to have served with them. They will be missed greatly if we ever have the leisure to do so.

“Our situation is serious. Our air and water supplies are good for now. Heat is too low, we are all cold but it is survivable for the moment. Unfortunately, most of our food supplies have become infested with bacteria and much has rotted and turned poisonous. Even if we could disinfect it, I doubt we’d be able to eat much of it.

“Since the SA sleep changers have failed, we can’t put ourselves back under to try to get home and given our limited food supplies, I’m not sure how we’ll survive more than a week or so. Maybe our five dead are the lucky ones…

“We’re trying to figure out what went wrong. Our best guess is that we somehow miscalculated the far end of the wormhole or maybe it is not completely stable and moves around on this end. We’re not sure exactly where we are. Our best guess is we’re still somewhere in the vicinity of Tau Ceti, maybe a quarter parsec. As we narrow down our calculations, I’ll send out further updates.

“Our situation is desperate, I’m afraid the Armstrong’s mission to take the first humans to another star is going to fail. I’ll keep broadcasting for as long as I’m able.

“And I’m sorry, all I can think about right now is Momma Carina’s pizza, where we went almost every Friday while planning this mission. Well Earth, if you get this message sometime before we starve to death or become the first Donner party in space, please send us one of Momma’s Pepperoni Thick Crust specials… Captain Accardi out.”

It was a day later, I was in the Galley with Doc, trying to find some way to use the recyclers to turn our ship’s rotted food into something edible. We were already starting to feel lightheaded and sick from hunger. That, combined with the wooziness that normally accompanies you for a week or so after waking up from SA, I guess I was already starting to fade a bit when Doc nudged me and pointed at the intercom. It took me a second to register Maneesh’s voice saying, “Captain to the bridge, please. Captain to the bridge, can you hear me Captain?”

I clocked the responder button. “Captain here, Lieutenant. What’s up?”

“Captain, you have to come see this!” There was an edge of panic in his voice. I looked at Doc. “Can he be hallucinating already?” I asked. She shrugged back at me. “Maybe, everyone reacts differently.” We both floated to the hatch and moved fore to the bridge.

We came through the bridge hatch and at first couldn’t see much because Lt. Loke, Ens. Hrdlicka, and Spaceman Seth were all already there blocking our view of the porthole. Five people in the bridge of the Armstrong starts to get a bit crowded.

I pushed my way through enough so I could see then stopped dead in my tracks.

There was a creature in what looked like a spacesuit hanging on to our hull and holding a cardboard sign against the window. That was shocking enough until I read the sign then I nearly cried.

The sign said “Did somebody here order pizza?”

“Holy mother of God,” I muttered to myself. “Jamie, hand me that clipboard and pen floating over there.” I gestured. He snatched them and floated them to me.

“Who are you?” I wrote and held up my sign.

The creature peered through his helmet for a second then shook its head, threw away the cardboard sign and wrote another. As the old sign drifted away, I realized it was a pizza box. My mind was scared out of its wits but my poor, abused, hungry stomach rumbled loudly in anticipatory pleasure.

The new sign said, “I can’t read it through the glass and my helmet. Can you let me in?”

All the old vids ran through my mind at this point, 2001, Contact, Krasper’s Escape. And I saw the weird effects as the aliens ran them through psychedelic sequences of pretentious images and thought our meeting with a space-pizza delivery guy was just about right. Real life never lives up to the movies.

I waved my hand and pointed to where the airlock was on the ship, hoping like hell it, too, wasn’t failing with age. The creature gave a thumbs up and started pulling itself along the hull towards the airlock. We all pressed our eyes against the glass and by God, it was trailing a rectangular box on a lead.

Doc grabbed my arm. “Al, what about the protocols on meeting an alien for the first time.”

I stared at her, dumbfounded. “Drea, were all about to die of starvation and you want to turn down the pizza now?”

Ens. Hrdlicka noted “I don’t know how we’re going to get EASA to pay the delivery charges, though.” I think we all snorted at once at that.

Ten minutes later, the entire crew, well those who could still stand, were in the airlock portal room or in the two storage rooms which connected to it. We heard the hiss of re-pressurization and opened the hatch and out of the airlock stepped something that looked human holding a sealed box tethered to it’s spacesuit. It put the box down then started releasing the seals on the helmet and pulled of the helmet to reveal a definitely human young man, maybe in his early thirties. He had a mop of unruly red hair, a face full of freckles and a mischievous grin he kept trying to suppress.

He grinned at us and said “It’s about time you guys showed up.”

We stared at him, I don’t think anyone knew what to say at that moment. He laughed a bit at our staring faces and said “I’m Mikey, I do pizza runs for Thomas’ (he said it ‘Tō-Măz’) Pizza and Subs. I hear you guys are hungry.” At this point, he flipped open the latches on his box and the smell of garlic and pepperoni filled the cabin. I think we could all hear the rumble of all of our stomachs at that point and I could see them surging at the hatches from the other rooms.

“Okay, I know you guys are probably really, really hungry but I only brought these two pizza’s over but there are a bunch more on my ship and I’ll bring those later. I think when you’re really hungry, you’re not supposed to gorge yourself, at least that’s what I’ve seen on the vids, so I want everyone to take a only one piece first and I can get you the rest later.”

Doc snorted at his speech but didn’t say anything. I tried to think of anything I was supposed to do to make sure this was all real and he wasn’t going to poison my crew. That’s when I started thinking maybe this was all an hallucination but the pizza smelled so damn real.

The Armstrong’s crew, however, followed his instructions and took one piece each. Some shoved it into their mouths but some of us ate it daintily, trying to savor the touch of food on our tongue. I don’t think I was the only one crying at that moment which is a really annoying mess in zero grav.

“Okay Mikey,” I said after we had all had our slice, “Thank you for this. You’ve given us all a little bit of heaven now and I don’t know how we can every repay you…”

“It’s on the house, guys.” he said grinning. “Don’t even expect a tip!”

I shook my head. “Okay, can you explain what you are doing delivering pizza to a spaceship some 5 or so light-years from Earth?”

“Ah, well, you see, I live on Garland, which is a planet in what you’d call the Tau Zeta system. It was probably about 50 years after you left Sol that someone developed the Star Bridges which are ways of creating temporary artificial supercurved wormholes between star systems.

“What this means is that when the Yuri Gargarin finally reached Alpha Centauri in 2476, humans had already been settled there for 35 years.

“When the Ibn Battuta reached Barnard’s Star. humans had already been there though nobody wants to live in that hellhole of a star system, they were able to meet the crew there and take them back to Earth.

“Nobody could figure out what the heck happened to the Armstrong, though. We’ve been watching Tau Ceti hoping to find you for something like a hundred years but we know the wormhole you went into had shifted erratically a number of times so we didn’t know where or when you might have come out. I think we’d all given up hope for you, figuring you couldn’t have lasted this long.

“So I nearly fell out of my skin when I picked up your broadcast log entry a few days ago. I’m a pilot on the Garland-Haven run. I was on my way to Haven and just happened to be in the right spot to pick up your transmission. Good thing too, you’re several degrees off from the right vector to hit earth so your transmission would never have been heard if I hadn’t been in the right location…”

Of all the things he was telling me, I don’t know why I picked up on the least relevant point, maybe because I had been a pilot and astronaut all my life and this seemed so weird at that moment. More likely, I guess, I was probably in shock and not thinking. “So you use a spaceship to deliver pizza?”

Mikey threw his head back and laughed at that question. “Naw,” he said when he could talk again, “not exactly. I run a freighter between Garland and Haven for the biggest Pizza franchise on Garland. Thomas is very, very picky about the produce he uses for his pies and no one grows produce like the Amish. When I go to pick up new produce though, I always bring a ton of pizzas with me. They may wear black and only drive cars that don’t hover but the Amish sure like our pizza. Everybody does, it’s the best pizza in the know universe. When I heard your transmission, I figure the produce can wait. I could fulfill you pizza fantasy and my ship has the power and room to take you all back to Garland—or Haven if you are more Amish-ly inclined. It won’t be luxurious, it’s a freighter, after all, but we have all the half-baked pies you could ever want. And the boys at home will be jealous as hell of me. You don’t know this but you guys are larger than life heros, you know.”

“What?” Doc asked.

“You had one of the longest-running vid series ever. The great and sexy Capt. Accardi and his noble crew sent by a wormhole to the farthest reaches of the Galaxy trying to find their w.ay home. I think the series went on for like thirty years in the last century and there were three different guys playing Capt. Accardi and this actress Lena Dunar Wai playing his beautiful lover, Doc Cho. Us pilots of course, have watched every episode and can recite lines from our favorite shows. We are all fans of the great space explorers, just like Armstrong and Gargarin bit Capt. Accardi in his beautiful form-fitting suit is the favorite on Garland.” Nodding at Doc, he continued. “You must be the real Doc. A lot of guys loved you too, even guys on Garland but your character got killed off early saving the ship from the evil Draaks, a race whose homeworld was destroyed and who now live in space ships looting other worlds. Capt. Accardi always has your picture hanging in his cabin.” Mikey grinned that lopsided grin of his at her. Doc didn’t seem to have anything to say about all this, just looked at him with an open mouth with a sort of smile and sort of frown on it.

I think she was as nonplussed as me with all the things Mikey was telling us as she, too, picked up on what seemed like the most irrelevant detail. “Haven is an Amish Planet?” she asked.

“Ah yes,” Mikey replied, “I guess there’s something else you probably don’t know. Ever since space travel became cost-effective, a lot of humans have moved off-planet. We’ve found a lot of planets that can support human life but no Draaks or other intelligent life, at least not that we can tell. Certainly no technological life. There are ruins on Tau Ceti 6 that someone once lived there but its pretty inhospitable now. Anyway, some of the new colonies are just extensions of Earth society as a whole but several of them are separatist groups that felt they could live a more authentic life away from society in general. Some failed, like New Atlantis, which was supposed to be a progressive communal society where everyone lived like Marx proscribed. They kind of starved to death. There was also the New Aryan Paradise which went to hell in a handbasket pretty fast.

But most of us separatist groups have survived and thrived. Haven was the destination of the Amish. They couldn’t fly the Starbridgers themselves but they paid others and Haven continues to be one of the most peaceful, pastoral planets in the human realm.”

“And Garland,” I asked.

“Ah,” he said, “we’re the gay planet. A lot of Gays and Lesbians decided we could make our own lives better without feeling so out of place among the straights. Not all gays came but pretty much anyone who comes to live on Garland is gay. But we get a lot of straight tourists all the time, something Haven prohibits, because we have the best food, the best entertainment, and the best shopping anywhere.”

One of my crew, I couldn’t tell the voice, said’ “Too bad about Barrow, then. He would have loved your place.”

Spaceman Komo asked. “So if we go with you to your planet, does that mean we have to become gay?”

Mikey laughed again. “Nooooo, like I say, we have a lot of straight visitors. And just like everyone else, we have a lot of kids of our own who don’t grow up gay and most of them choose to move off planet when they grow up. We’ll fix you up and get you ready to live in the 27th century. And you better believe we’ll throw you the biggest welcome home bash you could imagine. But after that, you’ll be free to stay with us if you wish or go wherever you choose.”

Then looked at me, his mischievous grin back on his lips. “Now you, however, are just as sexy as all guys who played you in the vids once you put some weight back on.” he reached into his box and found one last slice of pizza and handed it to me.

“You can stay with me however long you want. Just remember, on Garland, space is really curved, there are no straight lines here.” He laughed at my expression but I have no idea what that expression was.

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