Bill Bartlett Day One

November 23, 2052 2:27am.

     The 90 decibel blast of Stan Roger’s “Witch of the Westmorlands” blaring from my alarm immediately got my attention. Yelling “OFF!“ a bleary eyed glance at the 6 inch letters scrolling across the ceiling brought me totally awake. The first thing I thought was, “12 hours, 2 bags, and my personal craft to “HOR-Sat“. Can I Even do it?” It would have been much easier if I actually owned a personal craft that could reach orbit rather than an 18 year old syn-fueled roadie. The transponder ID codes would never let me take a borrowed flier to orbit so that was out of the question. I suppose I could have gotten a friend to take me up to the Hilton, or even to Chicago Port, but I couldn’t put that good a friend into the position of abetting something that was fast on it’s way to becoming a criminal act. A Net check showed that if I made Green Bay by 8:50 a flight would get me to Chicago’s Spaceport in time for the 11:42 Getaway Special . I was able to book a seat on both flights, maxing out the credit line on both of my cards, and printed out the confirmed boarding passes. Since it was a bit under four hours to Green Bay that left me left me with just over two hours to pack. No Guts No Glory….I‘m Going!

     First the Clothing, Boots and an Extra Pair of Hiking Shoes. That took up most of the Suitcase. Then… Stuffed in the extra space and Carry On Bag:

     Real Paper Notebooks, Pens and Pencils, Chocolate, Tin of Peanut Brittle, Solar Cloth, (Six Square Yards folded into the bottom of the Suitcase took up about 3/8th of an inch of height). Personal Comp and Spare, Photos no Frames, a Bible, Pen Knifes, Data Cubes, Fly Tying Fishing Supplies in a couple of Plastic Boxes including Three Tubes of Glue, a Miniature Vise, and Small Toolkit, (If anyone asks it’s my life long hobby and even on a cruise I must indulge). A Magnifying Glass, Sewing Kit, Bow Strings, they look like fancy twine, tying up the gift wrapping on a Bottle of McPherson’s Scotch, and a Package of Shot Glasses. Shaving Kit, with a few First Aid Supplies, Extra Belt.

     Pack clothing in a Light Canvas Carry Bag inside the suitcase.. Brass Folding Telescope, Harmonica. 2 LED Penlights, 3 Key Clasp Rings, (house, car and luggage). Digital Cam with detachable lens and flash. Another Suitcase with Dress Clothing for the supposed cruise (that‘ll get left behind). Wish I could take Grandad’s Pistol but never get it through the boarding screen. Wait maybe there is a way.

     The bags full but not bulging. I didn’t need anyone wondering why I hadn’t packed another one. Should I message anybody? A call into the Papermill telling them I had to go out of town on a family emergency. It was Saturday and I wouldn’t be missed till Monday, and only then if I got a call in, but still a good idea as I didn’t know how secrete the departure was. Laura? I’ll decide in Chicago. Out the door and gone.

     I was twenty minutes ahead of schedule but blew five of those at the Automail in Marquette, sending two smallish, under 1lb each, packages to myself. Bill Bartlett, care of the Lancer. I would mail the two others from Green Bay. They held, of course, Grandad’s old Glock and 4 extra Mags, broken down in in small enough packages so as to avoid the normal inspections. They ought to make it to the Lancer before I did. At least I hoped they would. The light snowfall wasn’t a problem so I kept it on cruise at five over. I made Green Bay with time to spare and left my roadie in the short term lot. Considering the time of day, 8:30 in the morning, there were surprisingly few people about the terminal. I presented my pass at inspection and was on my way.

     Chicago was a different story. The terminal was packed with travelers, it was the weekend before the Thanksgiving Holiday Week after all, and I was thankful the suitcases were already in the baggage handling system. These days almost none are lost, (cross your fingers Bill), which left just the carry on to get through check in . It contained a strange assortment of stuff but nothing on the proscribed list. The boarding guards had used a lot of time hassling the Couple ahead of me, so except for the few dozen standard personal questions which were pro forma, I thought I had gotten through easily. Didn’t even trip the stress monitors. A couple of quick shots at the Spaceport Grill probably explained that. Then the woman at the data terminal looked up.

     “Mr. Bartlett” she said, “I see here your cards are maxed out. Just how do you intend to pay for all the incidentals on an outer system cruise?”

     I looked at her and said the first thing which came to mind. “It’s all paid for in advance”, and then with a silly grin, “I bought the package plan.”

     She glanced down again at the terminal and punched a few keys, looked at the screen, and then, with a dull perfunctory stare, back to me. “I see, and 3500 on account. Have a nice trip Bill.”

     I hate it when they get friendly. Old man Hamilton, or his AI program, got that part right anyway. Out to the ramp and onto the shuttle, I hadn’t even messaged Laura. What would have been the point?

     Lift off was to the second, (maybe the micro second), and with a powered flight all the way I never even experienced zero gee. It’s amazing when you consider the piloting difficulty of docking with a rotating orbital stations outer rim. All done automatically no doubt. But at “HOR Sat” only the best. We exited the shuttle through a hatch in the roof stepping onto the Resorts outer rim floor. Baggage retrieval first, then I had 40 minutes left to get aboard the Lancer. I made it with minutes to spare towing both suitcases and following the floating holographic arrow. All seemed orderly no alarms, flashing lights, or any outward signs of disturbance. I wondered how those with their own transportation had made out as the flight attendant approached, clipboard, (how archaic), in hand, and welcomed me aboard.

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