The story of an intrepid Astronette.
|The Black Gargoyle
Trixie stirred restlessly in the warm cabin. A sheen of sweat gleamed on her upper lip in the dim light of night cycle. The narrow bunk was padded with soft memory foam, but it wasn’t nearly as comfortable as her mattress back home on Earth.
Her time aboard ship was arranged as sixteen hours of light and eight hours of darkness to match the daily cycle of the southern California control room. Trixie's mentor, professor Stephen Allgood, had explained that there is no night in space. Only a relentless glare much harsher than that which filters through Earth’s protective atmosphere. The thrumming rumble of the cooling pumps was her only assurance that the small ship wouldn’t burn up in the blazing heat of its sunward flight.
The sheer synthlon nightdress she slept in did little to conceal the generous curves of a healthy young woman in the prime of life. Trixie's physical condition had been a major factor in her admission to the Astronette program. More important though, was her unique mental makeup. The professor and his assistant, Martin Dooley, had been quite impressed with her evaluation, despite a low score in general space knowledge.
“Trixie, before you accept this mission, I must warn you about the very real danger of space psychosis,” professor Allgood had told her. “The pervasive cosmic rays of interplanetary space can affect the human psyche in strange ways, and those rays are stronger near the sun. No one is completely immune, but your alpha-theta readings are the most highly resistant we’ve ever measured. I’m certain that you’ll be able to tolerate the inevitable space hallucinations without breaking under the strain."
Trixie felt vindicated. She’d always believed she was special, but her father had snorted derisively when she told him about signing up for the new Space Force program.
“You? A space pilot? You can barely pilot a bicycle!”
He’d never believed in her, but now she’d show him! Trixie was absolutely determined to make good as an Astronette.
Professor Allgood had been on her side from the first, and he worked hard to ensure that Trixie could handle the mission. He trained her on the ship’s navigation system, and made sure she fully understood the life support functions. He’d explained about the inertial damping field that would counteract the tremendous G-force of blastoff, and then be reversed to provide an artificial gravity while in space.
“You mean I won’t even feel the rocket taking off?”
“Well, there will be lots of noise and vibration, but very little acceleration. Once in space, you’ll barely feel the difference from being on earth,” the professor had assured her.
Martin had been almost too helpful. He'd taken her measurements several times, making sure that her space suit would fit properly.
“It shouldn’t be necessary to use the suit, but we have to be certain that it fits exactly, just in case,” he’d insisted.
The launch went smoothly, just as professor Allgood had promised. The engine roar faded away as the small ship exited the Earth’s atmosphere and Trixie soon set to work collecting the space survey data. She didn’t fully understand the technical aspects of the measurements, but the professor had impressed on her that they were critical to the exploration of the inner solar system. He’d given her detailed notes to follow as she spent each day cycle pressing buttons, turning knobs, and sending back the data from various dials and gauges.
The highly automated ship actually had little need of a pilot. It was following a preprogrammed orbit that would take it on a high-speed loop around the sun and back to Earth in less than a month. It was a lonely trip, but Trixie felt proud whenever the radiotelex chimed and printed out a message of praise. Professor Allgood had explained regretfully that intense solar static would preclude any voice contact during the mission.
And he’d been right about the space psychosis. The ugly black creature had appeared in the viewport during her second night cycle. Its strangely immobile face gave no hint of the passions that burned within. The bulging eyes certainly weren’t human; it probably wasn’t even alive. How could it be when it floated comfortably in the vacuum of space without a protective suit? Still, there was something about it that reminded Trixie of an image from Art History class, a gargoyle maybe?
By the end of the week, Trixie felt sure that the black gargoyle was more than just her imagination. The apparition seemed entirely real, even though she had no explanation for how it could enter and exit the ship. The rubbery feel of the finger-like appendages and the weight of its body on hers might be imaginary, but the fiery hardness of its alien phallus felt very real. And she certainly wasn’t imagining the stains on her nightdress!
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
“I gotta hand it to ya, Steve. This rocket ship set-up is your best gag yet. The special effects are kinda cheesy, but that dizzy dame really believes she’s in space! Can I be the Black Gargoyle tonight?”
“No, I don’t want to risk ruining the continuity. She’s used to how I play it. And you almost ruined things with all your spacesuit measurements. Be patient Marty, the new mask is almost done. Tomorrow you can introduce her to the Green Martian.”
Author's note: ▼