The Translocation of Dr Pepper

Many residents of a small Oregon town have their lives uprooted when the soda fountain in a local diner begins to teleport, threatening the very existence of the planet at large.

This is meant to be a lighthearted, fun, and somewhat humorous story.

First draft.

Work in progress.

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9. The Legend of the Michigan Light

.            Dr. Cassandra Averalez’s plan to tell the world about Level 95 had slipped through the cracks the same day it had begun the moment NASA shut down her communications. For the five days that followed, she had begun to understand the effects her isolation had truly had on her mind. In short, Dr. Averalez was losing her mind. She had read about this before agreeing to do the mission. Streaks of light in the edges of her vision and the inability to separate fiction from reality. It was all very textbook.

.           When she was able to listen to the radio and talk to ground control or email her sister, she had been able to make believe that she was not truly alone. Now, solitude was all she knew. At times, she would find herself looking at the brilliant blue earth from high above to try to see people on the surface of the planet far below. She knew it was impossible but her eyes still combed shorelines for movement and silhouettes of figures. Sometimes, she would believe for a fraction of a second that she had seen one. But she knew she was wrong. Cassandra played he CD at full volume so that she could at least hear a voice aside from her own. Other than her pending insanity, however, life pretty much went on as usual.

.            One day, the lights in the Solstice Lab stopped working. When Cassandra awoke that day, she believed that she had gone blind until she fumbled her way through the air and found the window. The light from the Earth illuminated the room long enough for her to find a flashlight. Everything aboard the space station was beginning to power down. No matter what she tried, she was unable to turn anything back on. The reason for this was that Level 95 was powering down the station remotely. How lucky they had been that their only security breach was so killable and inconsequential. They would tell her family there had been an accident. A completely unavoidable accident. And, with that, Dr. Cassandra Averalez would be silenced.

.            What they had not accounted for was Dr. Averalez herself. A resourceful woman who, despite suffering from temporary space madness, was far from stupid. The CD player was battery powered and so was not effected by the power loss. Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire was playing through the speakers. Cassandra noticed when the volume began to grown quieter. Sound cannot travel in a vacuum. The air was growing thin. Level 95 was draining the oxygen from the station. The volume was decreasing at a steady rate. From this, Dr. Averalez was able to calculate a rough estimate of how long it would be until she would have to air left at all. Twenty-five minutes to come up with something or, barring that, twenty-five minutes to live. Give or take a few.

.            The temperature began to drop as well as the heat began to shut down. Cassandra decided to solve both of these problems by finding her pressure suit, helmet and all. It had an oxygen tank made to last for up to two hours and could withstand the freezing temperatures in the void of space. She would put it on when oxygen levels became too low. With this action, Cassandra extended her projected life span by two hours. Not long enough. It became apparent that the only way to ensure survival was to make it to the ground.

.            There was an emergency return capsule that was to be used in dire situations. Dr. Averalez, in her present mental state could not remember how to operate it. Furthermore, the door to the capsule had an electronic lock that was being controlled remotely and would not open. Cassandra first tried to break the door by hitting it and throwing things at it. But the force behind these strikes was practically nonexistent in a zero g environment.

.            Struggling through the dark, Cassandra eventually found the wall of clear-fronted cabinets. She took two objects from inside. Her journal and a flathead screwdriver. The astronaut tried to use the screwdriver to pry open the capsule door. All the while, Johnny Cash was becoming increasingly quiet. Light headed and breathing heavily, Cassandra was forced to stop her efforts and put on her pressure suit, helmet and all. She zipped her journal inside of it with her because she did not wish it to be lost.

.            Once she began to breathe normally again, Dr. Averalez set back to work prying open the door. First, she had to find and catch the screwdriver that had floated away from her. After she did this, she used her remaining strength to wedge it between the panels of the door and force them open. This was no small feat considering the bulky gloves of the suit. Once through the door, Cassandra found herself in an airlock, meaning she would have to do this all over again. She groaned and rolled her eyes, yet quickly got ready to work. She discovered, however, that this door was still unlocked and opened it with the keypad.

.             After opening the second airlock door, Cassandra was relieved to see the capsule intact and disappointed that it looked nothing like the inside of the Millennium Falcon like she had pictured it. It was, instead, a crudely made piece of junk added to the Solstice at the last minute in order to meet new regulations. Most importantly, the lights inside the capsule were on. She was never meant to make it this far. Dr. Averalez still had no clue how to drive the capsule, but she managed to find a button marked ‘Release’ and figured, correctly so, that this was the button to press in order to separate from the ship. She closed the door she had come in through and pressed the release button.

.            On the ground, Level 95 went on high alert. Every agent on duty at the NASA Huston ground base who was privy the Oregon Situation filed into the control center. This was a security breech unlike any the organization had ever known. All they could do now was watch as Cassandra Averalez separated from the Solstice Lab in an escape capsule with the most sensitive piece of secret information ever to become known by a civilian. The radio technician who had accidentally broadcast the situation to the space station had already been executed for treason. The lower level NASA technicians in the room had been dismissed days ago and, now, the control room was filled with men and women wearing neat black tuxedos and sunglasses indoors.

.            Cassandra’s vision had become impaired by oxygen deprivation as well as the hallucinated flashes of light that occasionally crowded her eyes. Because of this, she was unable to read any of the smaller print control labels. The capsule had separated from the station but remained next to it in orbit as though it had never moved to begin with. Cassandra strapped herself into the chair and tried to find anything that looked familiar. She had corrected the trajectory of the Solstice Lab nearly a dozen times. She recognized the thruster controls. Cassandra’s most pressing problem was that the capsule, while able to withstand reentry, was not equipped to reenter the atmosphere on its own. It was designed as an emergency escape vessel meant to allow residents of the Solstice Lab to remove themselves from a dangerous situation on the station and wait in orbit for a manned shuttle to retrieve them. But there was no one coming for Cassandra now. She would have to find her own way out of the orbit.

.            To maintain an orbit, an object must move at or above a certain velocity. Without this speed, it will simply fall to Earth. While Cassandra realized it was not the ideal form of reentry, she knew what she had to do. Slow down. She spoke these two words out loud again and again. Slow down. Slow down. Slow down. Slow down. Her oxygen was running out. Slow down. Slow down. Slow down. Slow down. She turned on the thrusters facing the direction of the orbit. Slow down. Slow down. Slow down. Slow down. It wasn’t much but it was enough.

.           On the ground in Huston, Texas, a woman stood watching the monitors in the control room. Her name was Deborah Valentine and she was praying for Cassandra to die. In that moment, it appeared that these prayers would be answered.

.          “She’s going to miss the ocean,” she declared, stoically but excited.

.          The Solstice Lab escape capsule would only survive the reentry if it landed in the ocean. The water was necessary to cushion the landing. If the capsule were to hit dry ground, it would turn into debris on impact. In that moment, seconds from that final moment, the capsule’s path was still headed for the middle of the North American continent. Even after the sensors burned up and the monitors went dark, everyone in the room knew that there was no way the escape capsule could have reached the ocean. Cassandra Averalez was dead. Everyone cheered.

.           What the monitors failed to show was Cassandra floating in the water next to her capsule which was still falling apart and her opening her eyes when she heard the sound of her pressure suit alerting her to her dropping oxygen levels. She saw nothing around her and was almost too exhausted to move. She turned over and caught sight of something other than the murky waters in which she found herself. The sky. And it was blue. And she was home.

.           Dr. Averalez swam awkwardly through the water and tried to hoist herself up onto a chunk of debris. She found that her muscles were not yet ready to fight gravity and felt as though her bones would snap in half if she kept on trying. She just held on as best she could to a seat cushion and removed her helmet.

.            Air, real air, filled her lungs and water splashed her face. Looking around, all she could see was water for miles. A little bit of water had gotten into her mouth. It was not salty. Overhead, vultures circled. Cassandra heard a sound like a boat motor. It was a boat motor. Cassandra craned her head to try to see where the sound was coming from but this proved to be too dizzying and she promptly vomited in the water.

.          “Gross,” said a voice.

It was the voice of a little girl. Cassandra managed to look up just enough to see a speed boat. On it was a family of three. They pulled her aboard and welcomed her to Lake Michigan.

.          After that day, reports spread throughout the area about a light that had fallen from the sky. Many UFO experts hailed this phenomenon as an instance of an extraterrestrial space craft crashing into the lake. These reports even made their way to Marina Pinebill, who believed every word. No matter what people believed this object to have been, they all called it the same thing: the Michigan Light.

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