Lift-Offby Fiona LehnGenre: Romantic Science FictionThe world’s first tourist space cruise launches from the International Spaceport in White Rock, British Columbia, on New Year’s Eve. One hundred free cruise tickets are hidden all over North America. You have three days left to find one. Would you...Break and enter? Risk a billion-dollar inheritance? Betray the love of your life?It’s a random universe. While millions around the globe celebrate the Quicksilver spaceliner’s impending launch, a handful of our heroes struggle to achieve their stellar dreams.One of them is a methane heiress desperate for a free ticket. Another is a newscaster digging for a killer scoop. And another is a veteran astronaut who’s never been in space.There are more. Tween twins attempt a secret mission, a star is almost born, and everyone is trying to get to the launch before the Quicksilver—you know—launches.A lot can happen in a random universe. Do-gooders become saboteurs, cowards muster courage, and loners find love. Who will crash and who will soar? The clock is counting down to one moment that will change everything: Lift-Off!
“Dammit!” Zoom leafed through the tech modules hanging from his belt and cranked up the compression ratio on Kembly’s handheld. “Kembly.” Zoom spoke into the microphone that connected to her earcomm, “Kembly, if Mercury eats any more of that mic, the audio will distort and Station Manager will reassign us to Cartoon Hour. Back him off!”
Up on the News10 location stage, several yards from where Zoom stood with camera rolling, Kembly inched her handheld away from Mercury. “Subtle,” Zoom said. “Nice work.”
Unfortunately, Mercury’s mouth followed. “Others maintain that space is a pipe dream, future music, abandonment of the home world, or a financial black hole.”
Zoom cursed and re-adjusted the compressor settings. Though lacking in mic technique, the guy sure knew how to work a crowd. Kandy Kembly, a veteran newscaster who could command the undivided attention of a two-year-old for hours, had dwindled to mere eye candy in this interview, while Mercury posed, poised like a superhero on the News10 stage—hands on hips, chin raised, gaze sweeping the sky above Semiahmoo Bay. His shoulder muscles rippled under the thin fabric of his t-shirt—who wore a t-shirt in December in Canada? And it was at least two sizes too small, probably on purpose. “All this guy needs is a cape,” Zoom muttered. “I’ll be wiping blobs of charisma off Kembly’s handheld for days after this.”
“Cut to aerial,” the station crew chief’s voice crackled in Zoom’s earcomm, “in three, two, one.” The station crew cut from Zoom’s live feed to the News10 drone-cam hovering above him, bird’s-eyeing the audience and the stage at the north end of the pier, or what used to be a pier. Widened, reinforced, and extended, the hundred-year-old promenade now served as the primary thoroughfare from the mainland to the International Spaceport nearly three miles offshore.
The drone skittered fifteen-hundred feet south along the old structure to the point where the pier extension jutted southwest and the no-fly zone began. It then veered to the western rim of the bay and lingered there, buffeted by the wind coming off the Georgia Straight, vying for a clear distance shot of the spaceport’s bulbous domes and flat launch pads, which never failed to remind Zoom of a giant water hyacinth.
“Some see romance in the stars,” Mercury said, as voice-over. “Some see a welcome release.”
When the station crew cut back to Zoom’s live feed, he was capturing Mercury’s chiseled cheekbones and sun-burnished visage in a tight close-up. Slowly, Zoom widened the frame until it again included Kembly and a background of cerulean sky.
“I say venturing into space is the greatest manifestation of the human spirit yet, and I can prove it.” Mercury stamped his foot dramatically, and the portable stage shuddered. “I will prove it—in three days, at midnight UTC, on New Year’s Eve!”
“We’re about out of time,” said Kembly, regaining control of the handheld. “Could you briefly tell us why you decided to launch that day?”
“Love to.” Mercury smiled. “The New Year has long symbolized rebirth, a chance to start again, to live a better life. My space cruise leads us into a new, enriched era of unification, here on Earth and in our entire universe.”
Fans cheered and pressed against the temporary fencing at the foot of the stage.
“Thank you for your time today, Mr. Mercury,” Kembly said. “You must be incredibly busy, preparing for the imminent launch of the Quicksilver.”
“Yes, I’m universally occupied, you could say, ha ha!”
“Aces. Wrap it up.” Zoom directed via her earcomm. “I’m panning away in ten.”
When Kembly reached out to shake, Mercury tugged her glove off, bowed, and brushed a kiss across the back of her hand, all in one fluid movement. He was some smooth operator.
“My, you’re gracious,” Kembly said. “It’s been a pleasure. Let’s hear it for Mr. Herm Mercury, everyone—CEO and founder of Mercury Spaceliner corp, and the genius behind what is going to be the first tourist space cruise in history! Mercury Spaceliner corp—stellar tours of the future, today.”
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Little is known about reclusive writer Fiona Lehn, but legends abound. Some claim she emerged from her mother’s womb singing “We Are the Champions,” a half-written story clenched in her angry fists. Many believe she is serving life without parole for leading an Ottawa sit-in demanding that cloudberries be made one of the four food groups. Others tell that Lehn daily frolics with Sasquatch in glacier-fed slipstreams. Still more assert that Lehn will only answer to “Hermit FiFi” and wields a bedazzled staff like a weapon, fending off house-size mosquitoes and meteorites with a single blow.All we really know is this: Lehn lives in Canada, has ME/CFS, and lovingly serves a Feline in perpetuity. Her songs have earned the praise of Billboard magazine, and she is a Writers of the Future winner.Follow the tour HERE for special content and a giveaway!$5 Amazon