Inspired by the Departures board in NY Penn Station.
One would think they’d have fixed this by now. But no, Bob had to wait as he fidgeted with his fingers. His mother always told him to put his hands in his pockets if he couldn’t find anything better to do with them. Bob thought fidgeting was a perfectly fine thing to do with his fingers. Sure, people thought he had a tick, but he didn’t.
Wait, did Bob have a tick? He wasn’t sure. It looked like Bob had a tick. In reality, Bob was calculating, always calculating, especially when he was presented with numbers that change, which is what he had in front of him now. This was interstellar travel in the year 2065, for crying out loud. We’d already solved global warming, renewable energy, and were now conquering space. But still, we couldn’t get real-time flight updates to our wetwire chips. So Bob watched the board change as arrivals and departures from far away worlds were delayed. Some delayed 15 minutes, some 8, some 5.
Bob hated waiting, so he calculated. He calculated the weight of his new home given the geological makeup of his new planet. 5.9678 x 10 to the 24th. The cubic volume of his new apartment, if he had been told the dimensions correctly. 36.4244 cubic meters. Not big, but not terrible for an astrophsyicist on the run.
Just when he was about to calculate the gravitational pull of a medium-sized black hole, his flight began boarding. He stopped calculating (fidgeting to everyone around him and his mother) long enough to look behind him. The ESA (Earth Security Agency) didn’t even try to conceal their identities. Oil slick jackets with ESA emblazoned on their backs. At one time, they used to go undercover, but they decided it was too much work, apparently, and goose stepped over the need for hiding their identities. The fear and fright making up for their lack of indelicacy. Also, they all wore cyber glasses, a nasty piece of wetwork that extended from the bone on their temples to the front of their eyes.
You just couldn’t get that tech anywhere but in the terrestrial government. Thankfully, Bob’s hair color change and temporary cheek implants changed his appearance enough to hide him from the agent’s facial recognition programs. He was on the ramp shortly after they moved past his gate. Once he crossed the atmospheric line dividing Earth from the Solar Wind, he was effectively dead to the ESA. They may have figured out Interstellar travel, but it was taking forever to figure out interstellar law.
As the jets lifted him off the pad, Bob started fidgeting. It was really fidgeting this time. He didn’t like to fly, didn’t like being a blonde either, but here he was none-the-less. A blonde flying coach across the galaxy.
The troposphere passed, the mesosphere passed. He was out. Only five minutes until the jump, and he was gone. Really gone.
Just as the fasten seatbelts sign flashed and they were about to enter the Warp Tunnel, Johnathan sat down next to him. His cyber glasses pulled away from his eyes. His crinkly ESA jacket sliding cooly against Bob’s arm.
“Hi, Bob. You didn’t think you weren’t important enough to follow, did you? How did you think you got that job on Igloo?”
“It’s called New Haven.” Bob didn’t like the colloquial name at all. Too imprecise.
“I know, Bob.” Johnathan patted him on the arm as they made the jump, digging directly into the universe’s underbelly.
Bob started fidgeting.
Short Fiction: The short fiction category on robotissmiling is where I write, you guessed it, short fiction. Could be a character sketch. Could be the beginning of something bigger, but the inspiration could come from anywhere. Could have been something I saw or read, or just something that passed through my mind. The only rule I have is it has to be written in 20 minutes or less and I only get one edit.
The Board Ticks by Christopher Hazlett is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at https://robotissmiling.com/2015/08/03/the-board-ticks/