My #fridayflash and this week's entry in the writer's weights exercise. The challenge: write a scene of 1000 words or less with one or more allusions. The theme: wheel.
The wheel-ship spun through the moon's sphere of influence and began the final approach to Earth. Penelope sat in the smooth upholstered captain's chair that had been relinquished to her when the last of the scientists had died. Her captain's display captured the cratered surface of the moon and Penelope wondered -- for the hundredth time -- how the solar system would look if you could see it with her own eyes instead of through CARL's monitors. Of course, the wheel's spinning around a central needle would've left any view a blur. Noise, black and white dots from an analog signal, interrupted her view before resolving into an old man whose jowls hung from his cheeks.
"This is space control. Do you Roger?"
Penelope muted the audio. She wasn't sure she was ready to return. Born during the seven years of experiments that her parents ran on Calypso, Saturn's moon, everyone she'd known had grown old and died. She knew little about earth except the stories her parents had told her. A lifetime of drifting on the wheel ship.
CARL's cyclopean eye glowed red with an oscillating punctuation to his words. "All I want --"
All they wanted was to guide her in. Penelope knew that. Penelope looked at CARL's aperture, one of many on the ship from where CARL, Cerveau Analytique de Recherche et de Liaison (Analytic Research and Communication Brain), monitored the ship. "I'm scared." She thought of the broadcast show that CARL had intercepted from Earth. An entertainment show with a house full of plate glass windows hanging from the carbon nanotube infrastructure of a space elevator. A dozen contestants on the show had lived under a camera and voted their housemates away. They weren't that different from her living under CARL's eyes.
"A thousand hours."
A tear rolled down Penelope's cheek as the man from space command became more agitated, his mouth jerking as he shouted in her displays. "Can't we go back?" She waited but the eye aperture remained dark. An entire lifetime lived on the wheel-ship traveling to Saturn and through the asteroid belt as the researchers had taken samples on Scylla 155, Charybdis 388, Circe 34, and many other asteroids. "Look at me, a pale girl who's never sunbathed."
"How beautiful you are."
An AI's words. The solar radiation had taken its toll. It left CARL with a weakening mind until now, she was left with her only companion someone who's only words were song titles.
"One more time."
Did she have a choice? Penelope toggled the mute and enabled visuals. "This is Penelope from the wheel-ship Discovery."
The space controller's eyes lit up. "The Discovery?"
"Yes." Penelope completed the final approach plans. Her screen darkened to pinpricks of stars until she refocused it on the station with Earth's blue oceans in the background. She shuddered.
She had time to work out and shower before they'd dock and hoped the weights would cheer her up. As she passed CARL's aperture, he said, "Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me".
Penelope palmed her hand over the glass sphere of the aperture.
"Hot! Hot! Hot!"
Penelope smiled. At least one thing to anticipate. Real conversation.