Up There so High

What do you get when you have a space fanatic, a runaway princess and a bunch of miscreants? Well, you get the three E's; Explosions, Expletives and Enemies.
You may not laugh along with this story but you may sing (because the main space man is very much fond of that).


6. The Process


~The Process~



The flash of the camera, even though the camera itself was small, blinded Everett and left him squirming on the stool. He was lucky that before the train he had managed to put some effort and product into his hair to make it just right. Otherwise he would have looked like humpty dumpty on his ID photo.

Emily chuckled from beyond the tiny camera, “Look at your lanyard and see something amazing,” she gushed nodding her head towards the green lanyard hanging around his neck. He grabbed it and looked just as the photograph pixelated itself onto the ID coming on chunk by chunk, first a cheek or chin then an eye and part of a smile. 

He smiled then and he found that it wasn’t as fake as posing for a photograph. Then he was chucked off the stool as the rest of his group took their turn.

“Why do I have to always look awful in photographs?” the shy guy muttered to himself.

“It can’t be worse than my secondary school graduation photo, I sneezed halfway through taking it and managed to punch myself in the head while I was at it,” Everett piped up and smiled at the guy, “I never managed to get your name…?” he asked and realised just how British he sounded.

“Joshua,” he answered, “I imagine you hid that photo and every copy of it?”

“Only if my best friend of the time hadn’t printed A3 copies of it and plastered them around the whole neighbourhood,” Everett had to cringe at the past. Tammy had been a bitch but she had been a good friend until that. And of course until she had slept with Everett and then the leader of the football team. “I’m Everett by the way.”

“I gathered,” Joshua laughed forcing a hand into his longish hair, “I can imagine your face when you realised that.” He laughed a silent laugh, something with a wide mouth and sub vocal sounds. Everett wished that his laugh was less embarrassing than it was.

“Alright Nova’s, let’s all head to the concert hall,” Emily gushed as she leapt up from her own stool after taking the last photograph. She led the group up a flight of stairs and to the back of a medium sized room, one set out like a university lecture theatre. The only detail was that the screen at the front was projected on all four walls so that in every direction Everett looked he saw either people or a galaxy background with white text.

Welcome Flies to Program Venus Fly Trap, it read in a stocky font and a man stood at the front with his hands clasped behind his back. He had glasses and slicked back dark hair, a checked suit on his shoulders, and a budding moustache on his upper lip.

They were the last group to be seated and like the deviants they were they sat at the back.

“It’s great to see the last of our slow ass Flies,” the man at the front chuckled. Everett was overjoyed that he still had his backpack because then he could fit in and pull out a notebook and pen to take notes.

His luggage had been taken away presumably to where he was going to be staying. He wished that he still had it to maybe wear something more presentable in front of the dapper man.

“I’m Jeffrey Saunders one of the leading Engineers on the project and I welcome you all,” the dapper man spoke into his pocket microphone and flung his arms out on either side of him in a welcoming gesture. The writing on the walls changed to the word Hello.

Emily stayed with them, seated at the end of their row while Mr. Noland went to join Jeffrey at the front.

“I and my colleague Brian Noland, a researcher on the team, will be your leaders while on this programme.” Brian waved as he fit a pocket microphone to his suit lapel and the rest of their group looked at each other.

“I personally prefer Kurt,” Abbey whispered from beside Matthew on Everett’s right, and he had to swallow a sudden laugh. Laughing now would be too embarrassing.

“Yes and we’ll be supervising your progress deciding who is the top dog on the leader board,” Brian spoke as the microphone was finally fitted.

“You weren’t meant to tell them that just yet,” Jeffrey muttered purposely and grinned as the forty six trainees laughed. “But we will tell you what is going to happen…”

Everett’s ears hyper focussed as Jeffrey explained the intense six month journey, split sporadically with intelligence tests, athleticism tests, teamwork tests, personality tests, capability tests and everything else. Everyone would be scored on their progress and their progress would be displayed on a leaderboard in the foyer room.

The last person on the board at the end of every week would be sent packing. The first person on the board would be rewarded.

They then took them all to said foyer room where the leader board was projected on one of the long walls. Everett gulped.

A bit of friendly competition never hurt anyone, right?

His room was sparse but different, a bed, a desk, a computer that looked more like a TV but wasn’t. He logged on and immersed himself into a universe he was ready to explore. He would do this. He would.

He was driven out of his stupor when a knock echoed on his door. The clock on the computer alerted him that it was night, and it was a time when not a normal person would knock on another person’s door.

A man with a topknot and a gap toothed smile was on the other side. “Hi, I thought I’d introduce myself to everyone on my block, I’m Nick Thornby.” Nick chucked his hand out and Everett had to blink a few times to fully take Nick in.

He flung his own hand out in common courtesy. “Everett Tyson, it’s awfully British of you to introduce yourself like this.”

“Well I’m a Londoner bone and bred, some of us are having coffee and games down in the foyer, would you like to join?” Nick asked hiding his gapped teeth by biting into his lips. His lips were awfully chapped Everett noticed.

Everett knew the time, he should have really gone to bed in that moment. He had to be up early in the morning for a group test. But then again the NASA programme did boast getting to know people and make the most of their time there.

“I would love to.” Everett replied.

Down in the foyer it was relaxing. People of all types, maybe about half of the people in the programme, where there, and Everett felt like these were his people.

That was a mistake.

In fact Nick Thornby was a mistake.

He should have stuck with Joshua but Everett couldn’t turn back time. Just yet anyway.


Nick Thornby was the type of person who was always around. Once Everett knew who he was he couldn’t get rid of him. In the first task that they had the next morning, a group challenge where they had to assemble part of a transmission radio by themselves and then assemble all of the parts in their group to form a fully functional radio, Nick was always haunting Everett two benches in front. He kept looking behind and winking at Everett when he was fitting his radio parts together.

Everett had to push Nick aside in his mind and focus on the task at hand.

Muscle Guy, who was called Anthony, and Nervous Girl, who was named Matilda, were puttering about at their parts as Everett finished. His part looked like the picture did and he wouldn’t know if it would work until they put them all together.

Everyone in their group finished and Everett noticed that Nick was already crowded with his group putting their radio together. “Alright guys, let’s assemble this thing,” Everett motioned and they all collated at the bench at the back.

Emily smiled at them from her places at the back seat, she wasn’t allowed to help but she would encourage.

“My piece goes in first,” someone said and then the group were lost to hysteria as they faffed around trying to put everything together.

Of course Nick’s group finished first.

That’s when Everett started to hate him just a little but he pushed it to the back of his mind. That was just the competition talking and not the good parts of Everett.

Nick was the type of person to appear on the top of the leader board after that task. Everett’s group was placed third to finish theirs so he was in the middle of the board somewhere. There were ten groups so that wasn’t bad but he could improve.

Everett hardly got any time to just look around and relax. It was NASA so there was always something to do or see, someone to meet and network to try and up your place on the board. NASA was a sprawling maze of genius, it was everything and more. Everett found that there were models of space shuttles and planets hanging from the ceilings of meeting rooms and socialising foyers which he laughed at every time he saw one. He could live in NASA if he could because there was a particular room called the Dark Space Room which was pitch black with a telescope pointing to a gigantic circular window. Everett could sit there in his spare time, which wasn’t much if you asked him, and just stare at planets.

Usually he sacrificed his sleeping time to be in this room.

He must have visited the room a couple of dozen times and he had only been there for a week at most. He had been worked to the bone with tests and this was his room to relax.

It was on one of these nights, when he had his eyes glued to the scope looking up at Saturn, when he felt a tap on his shoulder.

This was it. The Ghosts of NASA had finally come for him.

But no it was just Nick Thornby. The guy who was everywhere. Everett began to think that he had a stalker.

“Dude, you scared the shit out of me,” Everett whispered as he looked over his shoulder and retreated a single pace away from Space.

“I apologise,” Nick whispered back and leaned in close, “This is cool right?”

“I don’t think there’s anywhere cooler, this is what NASA is about after all.” Everett nodded his head towards Nick and walked further away from the telescope just to burn some bridges between them. Nick was one to get close to people and stay there, like a desperate pigeon looking for food. Sometimes it was annoying. Sometimes it was a bit endearing.

Nick was that sort of guy.

“I think there’s somewhere cooler,” Nick whispered, his voice dropping an octave. He appeared too calm.

Everett should have picked up on it. But he didn’t.

“What’s cooler than this?” Everett asked.

“Let me show you,” it wasn’t a question, like it should have been, it was more of a direct order misguided as a friendly question. Everett didn’t pick up on that either.

He went along with the guy because, although the guy was beating him, he was nice enough to Everett.

Nick led him down to the basement, where the trainees had only been once, when they were looking at a space shuttle prototype a couple of days ago. Nick pulled a swipe card out of his pocket and swiped at the doors to gain access.

“Where in holy hell did you get that?” Everett enquired, an eyebrow raised in shock.

“My group leader gave it to me, it’s a reward for being at the top of the leaderboard this week.”

Of course it was.

Nick led Everett to a warehouse styled room, long and metal and full with lab tables arranged in squares across the space.

On each table there were either blue prints or some sort of machinery.

“What is this?” Everett was in awe and his mouth popped open like he had swallowed an egg whole.

“They call it the Blue Room, even though nothing in here is blue, it’s full of blue prints and first drafts of things.”

That was so cool. Everett had to explore. Nick chuckled as he watched him wander about like a zombie.

Everett wandered to the second nearest table and began to look at the pages on the table. “Cross-dimensional travel, that means that there’s other dimensions!” he was muttering to himself and not noticing how loud he was.

“Have you not heard of the Optical Illusion Principle?” Nick asked as he moved close to the other boy.

“That’s not on the internet,” Everett remarked and felt stupid as he said the words. You couldn’t trust Google on everything.

“My group leader was telling me, do you know those illusions where you look at a point of a picture and then it looks like all the circles are moving but if you look at the circles they’re still?” Nick was saying, his smile bright and natural.

“Yeah?” Everett answered looking up from the blue prints.

“Well NASA think different dimensions are like that, you have to ‘look’ at something in particular to see it, they figured that Earth vibrates on a frequency and every dimension vibrates on a slight deviation of that frequency. You access that frequency and it makes dimensional travel a thing.”

Everett was nodding. One decision was said to have at least three million possibilities, that he had heard from the NASA speculation pages.

There would be one dimension where he hadn’t agreed with Nick to come down there. Maybe Everett’s life in that dimension would have gone better.

“And over here,” Nick was saying from the other side of the room and Everett had to follow him, “is the evolution of space travel.”

Nick was pointing at the prototype of an engine, smaller to what would go into a space craft, but definitely an engine. “It’s designed to go so fast that we get to Uranus in about nine months instead of nine years.”

“That would completely fry your cells,” Everett pondered as he read the blueprints. From the writing he gathered that the fuel was a combination of two systems, one of a new plant based fuel and the other from a twin Nitrous Oxide system. It looked fast and Everett pondered on how they would work, they would operate in tandem but not as one. The compound made from mixing it could be deadly.

“That’s why they’re building something to stop your cells from fluctuating until normal speed is maintained afterwards. Basically, we would use this new system to get a width away from the planet's orbit. Then we would resume normal speed for a while and allow our cells to regenerate before we employ the systems to go through the orbit.”

But these were just prototypes, they would have flaws, that’s what prototypes meant.

“How do you know this?” Everett added.

“I just do,” Nick proposed with a wry grin, his lips lifted on the right side of his face. His topknot was loose and his eyes looked genuine enough.

In another dimension Everett would not have believed those eyes. But this was not another dimension and so Everett fell hook line and sinker for the man who had access to secret lairs with hidden blueprints.



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