The Girl Who Touched the Stars

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The Girl Who Touched the Stars
By
Valentina Michelle Smith

With characters from the neighborhood of Bob Arnold’s Cyber Café.

The day dawned warm and clear, without a hint of cloud or breeze.
The air was slightly cool with the promise of comfortable warmth in the
afternoon. The sun was arching upward in its trek across the sky. The
land was budding green, heralding an explosion of lush growth to come.
In short, it was a wonderful spring day, just perfect for flying a
rocket.

Nora Spencer had anticipated this day all winter. She normally spent
weekends working at her store, The Bear Market. But this day was
special. She was taking two little girls out to the country to fly
their first rockets. Maggie and Becky were proud of their creations,
and rightly so. They had built under the expert tutelage of Nora and
Alice Merren, and were anxious to see their little craft soar into the
sky. Becky had built two rockets, and Maggie had built three. All were
painted and ready to lift off. Alice had also built some rockets while
showing the girls how to construct them properly. And Nora had a few of
her rockets of her own to fly.

The day began at The Bear Market. Nora had hung a sign in the front
door that read “Store Closed Today – Out to Launch.” Becky and Maggie
paid the sign no heed as they entered the store they called “Plushies
an’ Wockets.” The girls had actually outgrown baby talk, but Becky’s
little sister Cathleen gave the store its unofficial name, and in the
minds of the girls it was carved in stone.

“Hi, Aunt Nora!” they called out in unison. “We’re here!”

“Cathleen is helping Mommy go shopping!” Becky said.

Nora turned to see her two “nieces” run into the store, displaying
the seemingly boundless energy of youth. “Well hello, girls,” she said.
She could not help but smile at their enthusiasm. She remembered
her own youth, a time when all the world was huge and every experience
new. Now she was guiding two young ladies in their own new experience.
“So are you ready to go fly some rockets?”

“We are!” they said as one. “When do we go?”

“Just as soon as Alice and Doc Travis show up,” she replied. And as
though it were on cue, the front door opened with a cheery jingle as
Alex entered.

“Alex,” said Nora, “I thought Alice was coming with us today.”

“She is,” he answered. “I stopped at Bob’s to pick up a cup of his
special brew.” He carried a gym bag in one hand and a styrofoam cup in
the other. “Mind if I borrow your bathroom to change?”

“It’s a little cramped in there, but go ahead.”

“Thanks. I won’t be a minute.” Alex entered the small bathroom and closed the door behind him.”

Nora was a little bit embarrassed. “Girls, do you know about…?”

Maggie answered her question before it was finished. “It’s okay,
Aunt Nora. Uncle Alex is gonna drink some special coffee and turn into
Aunt Alice. He does it every day.” She spoke with the candor only an
eight-year-old possessed. Nora was astonished. For her, Blue Crystal
coffee was a marvel beyond imagination, but for Becky and Maggie it was
just one more natural part of their accepted universe. It simply was.
They accepted it, and that was that.

The doorbell jingled once more as a tall, burly man entered. The
girls recognized him immediately. “Doc!” they called out in unison,
running to greet the new arrival with hugs.

Doc Travis, the neighborhood physician, scooped up both girls in his
strong arms and lifted them up off the floor. “Well look who’s here! If
it isn’t Becky and Maggie! How you little ladies doing today?” He was
rewarded with two incredible hugs.

Doc loved kids, even though he and his wife, Nancy, had none of
their own. Nancy was a pediatrician, and together they had a practice
in the neighborhood. Their office was decorated with Grateful Dead tour
posters, all tastefully framed, and they lived in an apartment just
above their office with their cat, Cosmic Charlie, and their dog, Casey
Jones.

“Glad you could join us, Doc,” said Nora.

Doc set down the two girls and took Nora’s outstretched hand, making
a big production out of bowing and kissing it. “How could I resist such
a gracious invitation from so fair a lady? Especially when it involves
flying rockets.”

Just then Alice emerged from the bathroom. She was physically a
little smaller than her alter ego Alex, and her skin tone was a bit
darker, suggesting an Hispanic heritage, whereas Alex was about as
white as they get with a complexion on the pasty side of a tan.

“Hello, Doc,” Alice said. “Nice to see you.”

“Good to see you too, Alice,” said Doc. “But why Alice? I thought
this was your day off. I thought you only became Alice for the extra
tips you got waiting tables at Bob’s café.”

“Oh,” she said, “I just thought it would be better if we made this a
girls’ outing. I think it’s important for Maggie and Becky to see women
doing technical things like rockets.”

“So that’s why you always transformed before you showed them how to build?”

“Too right!” she said. “I don’t like to see young girls get brainwashed into playing dumb just because they are girls.”

“And it’s really not just an excuse to spend more time as Alice?”

“Well,” she stammered, blushing, “that is, I mean…”

“Now come on, Doc,” said Nora, rising to Alice’s defense, “what’s
wrong with Alex wanting to spend some Alice time with the girls?
Besides, you’re not exactly inexperienced with Blue Crystal coffee.
You’ve enjoyed a cup yourself.”

“Only once,” said Doc. “Nancy and I each drank a cup to help celebrate our 10th anniversary.”

“And how did it go?” Alice asked.

Doc just grinned.

“C’mon, Aunt Nora!” said Maggie, “we want to go fly our rockets!”

“All right, girls, let’s get going. Doc, did you bring your stuff?”

“I have it in my truck. Should I follow you?”

“No, there’s enough room in the van. Why don’t you load your stuff up and ride with us?”

“Sounds sweet to me. I get the company of all these pretty ladies.
Especially the cute little ones.” That always made Becky and Maggie
giggle.

They all piled into Nora’s camper van to drive to the country. Their
destination was a dairy farm. The farm was located in a county proud of
its rural status and anxious to preserve its open space. Zoning laws
fairly well precluded the onslaught of suburban sprawl. This particular
farmer felt an obligation to give something back to his community, and
so he made the land available to hunters, school children, and some
model rocket enthusiasts. Nora learned of his generosity from a fellow
hobbyist and secured permission to fly on his land.

Maggie and Becky were excited, watching the roadside transform from
the urban sidewalks they were familiar with to the more bucolic
surroundings of the country. They were in awe of the herds of cows they
observed as the farms passed by.

“Look, Aunt Nora!” said an animated Becky, “there’s cows everywhere!”

“I see them too, Aunt Nora!” young Maggie chimed in. “Look, those
cows are brown, an’ there’s some black ones, and there’s some with
spots!”

“Goodness,” said Nora, “you would think these girls have never seen cows before.”

“They probably haven’t,” said Alice. “They grew up in the city, and the only place they ever see milk is in plastic jugs.”

Nora slowed down and turned into the road. It ran along behind the
farmhouse and between the barn and several silos, winding beside fields
of freshly planted alfalfa. They parked on a grassy area next to an
open field.

The doors of the camper opened, and the company piled out.
Immediately they were greeted with the earthy, musky smell of a farm.
The girls reacted predictably.

“Eeeww!” said Maggie, “what’s that smell?”

“That’s just the cows, ladies,” Doc said. “The farmer keeps the
cow’s droppings and he spreads it out on the field to make the alfalfa
grow. So watch where you step!”

“Don’t worry about the cow pies, girls,” said Nora. “They’re already
in the soil fertilizing the alfalfa. The smell is from fresh manure,
and that’s kept in the barn. Just stay away from the pasture and you
should be fine.”

Nora, Doc, and Alice unloaded the equipment from the back of the
camper and set up the launch pads. Doc had brought two pads with him
built from PVC pipe. Nora had made her pad from an old camera tripod.
Alice had a smaller commercial pad. The pads were set in a line about
40 feet from the camper and five feet apart from each other. Wires were
run from each pad to a table that sat about 30 feet from each pad. The
wires all connected to control panels and were hooked to batteries. Doc
had a motorcycle battery powering his two controllers, while Nora and
Alice used gel-cell batteries.

“Remember, girls,” said Nora to Maggie and Becky, “safety is
important. Don’t go to the pad unless I say you can, and whenever we
arm the launchers you have to stay here at the table. And we don’t run
after the rocket until I give the all clear. You understand?”

“We understand, Aunt Nora,” Becky answered for the two of them.

“Good. Well, let’s prep your rockets for launch.”

Maggie had painted her first rocket orange, to match the fur of her
plush kitten, Pixel. Becky had painted hers pink and decorated it with
stickers. They were the cutest little rockets Nora had ever seen. Doc
had a rocket with raked fins and a very futuristic appearance. “What’s
that, Doc?” asked Alice, who was prepping a Big Bertha.

“That’s a classic Centuri Laser-X clone. I found the plans on the web.”

Motors were loaded and igniters installed. Parachutes were checked
double-checked. The rockets were placed over the guide rods on the pads
and the igniter leads were hooked up. Then the daring rocketeers
returned to the launch control table.

“Maggie,” said Nora, “you’re my Range Safety Officer. Do you see any aircraft in the sky?”

Maggie scanned the heavens, taking her role seriously. “No aircraft, Aunt Nora!”

“Good. Pad 1 is armed. We’re launching Becky’s pink rocket.
Countdown. 5-4-3-2-1. Launch!” Nora pressed the launch button. Out on
Pad 1, a hiss emerged from Becky’s model, which then leaped into the
sky on a column of smoke and fire.

The thrust lasted for less than a second, but that was all it took
to get to a speed of about 300 miles an hour. The little rocket then
coasted on the speed it had built up, slowing down as it trailed
tracking smoke. Then, as it dwindled into a dot, it arced over and
began to return to earth. But before it could fall very far, a gentle
pop sounded. The ejection charge pushed the small parachute out of the
airframe tube, and Becky’s rocket settled slowly and gently to the
ground, finally landing about 20 feet from the pad.

“Nice flight, Becky!” said Nora. “Okay, Maggie, it's your turn. Is the sky clear?”

Maggie made a quick scan of the sky. “All clear, Aunt Nora. But Pixel wants to launch her rocket for herself.”

“Oh, she does now?” Nora said.

“Yes, she told me so,” said Maggie. “Can she launch it? Please?”

“Of course she can,” said Nora. She placed the plush kitten's paw on
the launch button. “All right, Pixel! Countdown. 5-4-3-2-1. Launch!”
Now the orange rocket rose from the pad trailing smoke and fire. Becky
and Maggie cheered as the tiny model coasted into the sky, finally
popping out its chute and settling gently to earth.

In a similar manner, Alice's Big Bertha and Doc's Laser-X lifted
off. Nora removed the arming keys from the control panels and gave
permission to Maggie and Becky to retrieve their rockets. Doc walked
out to the field with them, picking up Alice's rocket for her. He
showed the girls how to stow the parachutes back into the body tubes,
making it easier to carry them back.

Nora was busy prepping a rocket of her own. Maggie looked at it curiously. “What's that rocket, Aunt Nora?”

“It's a scale model, Maggie,” she replied. “This is a
Mercury-Redstone, like the one that took Alan Shepard into space. He
was the first American to fly in space.”

“So he was the first man in space?” she asked.

“No, the first person in space was a Russian Cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin. Shepard was the second person who flew in space.”

“Wow. Did Yuri fly in a rocket like that?”

“No, he flew in a much different kind of rocket called the Vostok. It was actually much bigger than this.”

“But not as big as this one, little kitten!” said Doc, bringing out
another model. “This is a Saturn V. This was the rocket that took us to
the moon.”

Maggie's green eyes widened in amazement at the model Doc Travis had
brought out. It was almost as tall as she was! She almost forgot to
prep her own rocket until Alice reminded her to get it ready. Four more
rockets were put on the pads, and four more sailed skyward.

This pattern repeated over the next few hours, with everybody flying
different models. Finally it was time to go home. Nora, Alice, and Doc
went about the task of disassembling the launch pads and wrapping up
the control wires. It had been a busy day.

Maggie was at Nora's side, helping her put the equipment away. She
could not help but notice a little tear make its way down Nora's face.
“Aunt Nora,” she asked, “what's wrong? I thought you liked flying
rockets.”

Nora wiped away the tear. “Oh, I do love them, it's just that I was thinking about when I was younger.”

“You mean when you were little?”

“Yes, when I was little. It was right in the middle of the space
race, when everybody was talking about going to the moon. My heroes
were the Mercury astronauts, and I wanted to go into space just like
them. I wanted to be an astronaut.”

“Did you try to be an astronaut, Aunt Nora?”

“Oh, yes, I tried. I did everything I could to get into the Air
Force Academy. I didn't make it, but I managed to get into ROTC. That
was my ticket to pilot training, and I hoped into space.” She left
unvoiced the fact that she had been male back then, before Blue Crystal
coffee turned her permanently into a woman.

“Did you know I was a test pilot, Maggie?” she asked.

“Really? Wow! Did you fly jets?”

“I sure did. I got to try out all of the new jets and the experimental aircraft. But I never could get into the space program.”

Nora sighed. “By the time I could apply the Apollo program was
winding down, and the Space Shuttle was just a dream. It would be many
years before we would need new astronauts, and I was caught in the
middle. So I never got my shot at flying in space.

“Eventually they cut back on the X-planes budget, so they didn't
need as many test pilots. That was when my life took a different path.”
Nora's mind wandered to her fateful meeting with a recruiter for
America's most covert agency, and how she started her new career as a
special agent protecting transgendered persons vital to America's
security. It was an exciting life, and she had no regrets, save one.

In the silence, Maggie said something profound. “Aunt Nora, do you think I could go to space some day?”

Nora looked at the little red-haired girl with the piercing green eyes. “You know something, I believe you just might.”

* * * * *

The world can change profoundly in thirty years. Science and
technology could make staggering leaps, making available wonders
unimagined. Attitudes of prejudice and intolerance could somehow seem
to vanish. And the national will of a people could also change
decidedly.

It didn't happen overnight, but it happened. Where people once had
been blasé and dismissive of space exploration, it now seemed to
capture everyone's imagination. Everyone followed the news of America's
lunar colony and the three orbital space platforms of China, Russia,
and America. Once again, space was king. And leading the charge was
Mars Expedition 1.

The expedition was much grander than the original advocates of a
Mars mission ever envisioned. A transfer vehicle with two landing craft
powered by a VASIMR nuclear motor had been built in orbit. The
40-megawatt engine cut the travel time to Mars from a planned nine
months to less than four. And the expedition mounted not one lander,
but two, each with six astronauts and a payload of equipment and
supplies. For these landers would serve as the first components of a
permanent base on the red planet. Humanity was coming to stay.

And yet, despite profound change, some things just seem eternal. For
instance, a certain neighborhood within the city managed to retain its
unique flavor despite the passage of time. True, the inhabitants of
this neighborhood could not escape the inevitable onslaught of the
years; they accumulated their fair share of wrinkles, aches, and hair
loss. Children grew old, and had children of their own. But the
essential character of the neighborhood survived. Children could still
play hopscotch and jump rope on the sidewalks, protected from any harm
by the patient supervision of their neighbors. One could still walk
into the curious and wonderful shops owned and operated by neighbors.
And one could still get the best Reuben in the known universe at Bob's
Cyber Café.

It was on a very special afternoon that the neighbors all gathered
inside Bob's. They had come to cheer one of their own as she made
history millions of miles away.

Bob looked much the same as always, with the addition of some
wrinkles and gray hairs. He was bringing some milk and cookies over to
the children's table, where three little girls and a pair of twin boys
were riveted to the computer screen.

“So are you kids excited?” he asked.

“You bet, uncle Bob!” one of the boys answered. “Mommy's gonna land on Mars today!”

Bob looked at the two redheaded boys, Mitch and Chuck. Their mother
had left over four months ago, but they managed to keep in touch with
video messages every day. As Bob watched he was reminded of a day, many
years ago, when a tall red-haired meter maid fainted in front of his
cafe. He brought her in, gave her a diet soda and a sandwich, and set
in motion a chain of events that led to this momentous day.

A petite blond waitress, Misty, interrupted his musing. “Hey boss,
Doc and Nancy both want Reuben's a' la Bob. Can you fix them up?”

“Sure thing,” said Bob. He looked up at the crowd that had gathered.
In one booth, Doctor Travis Dupree and his lovely wife, Nancy, sat with
Nora Griscom (nee Spencer) and her husband Mike. Nora's teenage
daughter Rachael was waiting tables for Bob, and her younger daughter
Madeline was seated at the children's table. Bob walked over to chat.

“Can you believe it?” he asked. “Out little kitten is landing on Mars today.”

“I envy her,” Nora said. “You don't know how much I wanted to go into space. I am so glad she realized her dream.”

“So am I,” said Nancy. “I can't believe this is the same little girl
Shelly would bring in for checkups and shots and skinned elbows. I'll
bet Shelly is proud of her.”

Shelly was sitting with her sister Jenna and Jenna's two grown
daughters, Becky and Cathleen. They were enjoying some muffins and tea
along with Maggie’s husband, Mark Flannery, and Cathleen’s husband,
Frank Scanlon.

“How hard has it been handling the boys without their mother?” asked Jenna.

“Oh, it hasn’t been too bad,” Mark replied. “Besides, I got a lot of help from their Grandmom.”

“It was a pleasure, Mark,” said Shelly. “I get to spoil them and
then hand them back to you for baths and bedtime. If I knew that being
the grandmother was this much fun I would have done it first.”

“The boys love you, Shelly. I’m glad you can watch them when I’m at work.”

Just then a voice sounded out. It was Alex. “Hey folks, I'm getting
the NASA feed now. Everybody check it out on their monitors!”

Millions of miles away, Maggie had her hands full.

The feed was delayed several minutes, thanks to the inevitable lag
of radio propagation. Data could move through space at the speed of
light and no faster. So the cheering from Earth would happen a few
minutes after the actual landing.

Right now this did not matter one bit to Maggie. Her hands were on
the controls of the lander as it plunged through the tenuous Martian
atmosphere. Six souls were literally in her hands, her own and the crew
of the lander.

“Houston, attitude nominal. We are in position to deploy chute.” She
did not wait for acknowledgment, since the answer would take minutes to
receive. She had to rely on her own judgment, her training, and the
mission profile. She flicked a switch on the panel. Outside, the
hypersonic parachute was propelled out of its canister, capturing the
thin air of Mars in its folds. It unfolded with a sharp snap, rapidly
decelerating the lander.

Maggie still had some control over the flight. The chute was, for
all intents and purposes, an inflatable wing, and aerodynamic control
could be exercised via the shroud lines.

“Maggie, I have positive contact with the probe,” said Joyce Aiken, her crewmate. “We are on nominal glide slope for landing.”

“Confirmed,” said Jeff Franklin, her co-pilot. “Looks like we're right in the slot, skipper.”

“Acknowledged, guys,” Maggie said. “Let's stay sharp. We don't want to screw the pooch when we're this close.”

She worked the controls while alternating her attention between the
bank of instruments and her own view. The lander was oriented so that
she had a limited direct view from her window. For landing she would
have to rely on the instruments and the rear-looking camera. She had
made this run many times in the simulator, and killed her virtual crew
more than once. But now she felt confident.

“We are over the landing site. Preparing to cut lines for final decent. On my mark. Three. Two. One. Cut!”

Jeff flipped the line switch and the lander fell free, pulled down
by a gravity that was slightly more than a third of the Earth's. Now
Maggie moved her hand to the throttle at her side and advanced it.
“Landing motor to fifty percent. Landing motor to seventy percent. Full
thrust.” The lander vibrated under the thrust of the motor. Its speed
dropped to zero. Maggie read her instruments and reduced thrust.
Slowly, the lander dropped to the surface, riding fire in the Martian
sky.

“Contact light on,” Jeff announced. A probe that extended from one of the landing pads had touched the surface.

“Acknowledged,” Maggie said. “Shutting motor off.” She pulled the
throttle back, turning off the supply of fuel to the motor. With no
force to oppose it, the lander dropped the last meter, bouncing
slightly as the shock absorbers actuated.

“Houston,” said Maggie, keying her mike to transmit, “Olympus Base reporting. Challenger has landed.”

Challenger was the name chosen by the crew. It was almost rejected
by NASA who did not wish to invoke the name of one of its most
notorious disasters, but the crew would not accept any other name.
Likewise, the second lander bore the name Columbia, and each lander had
the name of the fallen shuttle astronauts emblazoned on its skin.

As news of the landing reached Earth, boisterous cheers rang out.
Mission control in Houston temporarily looked the other way on its
smoking ban as cigars were passed around and fired up. But in the
lander now resting on Olympus Rupes, just southeast of Olympus Mons,
there was only a sigh as six nervous souls relaxed for the first time
in hours.

“Okay, people,” said Maggie, “let's go down the checklist. We now

have a rest period and go EVA in six hours. Then Jeff, Lenny, and I
will make our way down the ladder and step off together.”

That's when she noticed a conspiratorial wink being exchanged
between her crewmates. Jeff spoke up. “Skipper, we took a vote, and we
decided that there can only be one first person on Mars. And we also
decided that it has to be you.”

Maggie looked at her crew in disbelief. “Look, you know the rules.
No solo EVA’s. There has to be at least two people out at any time, and
the landing protocol calls for three of us to go together for the first
trip out.”

“And we’re going to be right behind you,” Jeff replied. “But none of
this stepping off together bull. Think about it, how will history know
who spoke the first words on Mars if three people talk at once? You go
first, Thundercat. You earned it.”

Maggie was taken aback when Jeff used her old call sign. They had
flown together during their early days as test pilots, and knew each
other’s call sign well. NASA didn’t use call signs.

Jeff continued to press. “Go ahead, Mags, we’ll be right behind you.
Go plant the flag and say something profound. Besides, it’ll give us a
head start to get back in the lander when the Tharks grab you first.”

Maggie just had to laugh at Jeff’s reference to Burroughs’ character
from the early 20th century. “All right,” she said, “I won’t argue. But
what am I going to say?”

“You’ll think of something as you suit up. So let’s get going.”

“What, right now? We’re supposed to take a rest break before EVA.”

“For crying in a bucket, Maggie, we just landed on Mars. Do you
really think we’re going to be able to sleep? I sure can’t! So let’s go
work up a sweat and get tired enough to rack out for real!”

“This is mutiny, you know!” she said.

“So court martial us when we get back to Earth. Now suit up!”

Maggie gave up arguing. She made her way down to the habitation ring
of the lander where the air lock was located and the EVA suits were
stored, along with Jeff Franklin and Leonard Brown, her crewmates. As
they helped each other get into the EVA suits, her thoughts turned back
to a day over thirty years ago, when a tall, skinny transsexual meter
maid with thinning hair found her way into a certain cyber café back on
Earth, where her life took a dramatic change. She remembered how she
had been transformed into a little girl, and started her life over as
the daughter of a witch, Shelly Shalimar. Shelly had given Maggie a
special tea to make her forget her former life, but the effects of the
tea wore off over time, and the memories returned.

No matter, she thought as she adjusted the fecal containment unit
about her waist and pulled on the thermal regulating underwear. She had
been given a marvelous opportunity to do life over, and this time she
had discovered the secret. It really wasn’t all that difficult. We just
need to keep that child inside of us all alive. For while Maggie might
have grown to adulthood, she never lost that sense of wide-eyed
wonderment and playful eagerness every child has. She felt sorry for
those who suppressed their inner child, much as she had many years ago,
for they approached the world with a jaded cynicism. So much better to
be a child, where every experience is new and fresh, and every day is a
joyful one.

The three astronauts had now completely suited up and entered the
airlock. Jeff worked the controls to cycle the air out of the chamber,
equalizing the pressure with the thin atmosphere of Mars. The hatch
opened, and human eyes beheld the Martian landscape for the first time.

Maggie stepped forward. She turned and climbed down the ladder, her
crewmates still at the top, and made her way to the footpad. “Last
chance, guys,” she called up. “Are you sure you don’t want to share
this with me?”

“We’re sure, skipper,” said Lenny. “Hey, it never hurt Buzz Aldrin, did it?”

Maggie said, “No, I suppose not.” Then she turned and looked out over the landscape.

They had landed at Olympus Rupes, a scarp just southwest of Olympus
Mons, the tallest mountain known to man in the Solar system. The view
was magnificent and just a little bit overwhelming.

As she stood at the footpad, Maggie stretched forth with her senses
the way her mother Shelly had taught her. Wouldn’t it just scare the
pants off a few people at NASA if they knew that their star astronaut
was also a full-fledged witch? But Maggie had continued her magical
training under Shelly’s expert tutelage, just as she studied and
mastered the arcane arts of Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, and
Thermodynamics. After all, what was magic if not another kind of
technology?

There it was! She could sense it! The power was there! She knew that
this new planet would be a welcome haven for the human race.

Now was the time. Humanity was holding its collective breath as she
stood on the footpad. “Oh, Lord,” she said to the people listening back
on Earth, “I wish I were a poet so I could do justice to what I’m now
seeing. I can see Olympus Mons just to the right of me. The sun is low
in the sky, and the sky is pink. The ground has a rusty sort of tinge
to it, and the ground seems to be littered with rocks of various sizes.
Okay, I’m stepping off the pad.”

She stepped forward, and her boot hit the regalith of Mars. “This is
for all the children of the world, that they may touch the stars.”

Back on Earth, in millions of gathering places all over the globe, a
cheer emerged that was heard around the world. People of every land, in
every language, cheered and offered prayers of thanks. And perhaps it
was loudest at a certain cyber café in a certain neighborhood of a
certain city that Maggie called home.

Already millions of journalists recorded her words, preserving them
for posterity. The flickering video images would be archived in the
vaults of history, and forever etched in the minds of all who witnessed
them. For decades, people would stop and ask others, “What were you
doing when?” It had become a defining moment for humanity, and Maggie’s
words were now forever associated with it. For with those words,
Colonel Mary Margaret O’Malley, test pilot, astronaut, and mother of
twin boys, became the first human being to set foot on the planet Mars.

(c) 2004 Valentina Michelle Smith

Thanks
to Maggie the Kitten, Bob Arnold, and all of the fabulous residents of
the neighborhood, for letting me include you in this story.

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Absolutely Fabulous

What a great story! It brought back fond memories of my own model rocket days, and reminded me very much of some of my favorite stories from Robert Heinlein (it even had a Pixel!).

I really enjoyed it, thank you so much for sharing!

Sincerely,
Scott

Sincerely,

Scott

Calvin: You can't just turn on creativity like a faucet. You have to be in the right mood.
Hobbes: What mood is that?
Calvin: Last-minute panic.

Thank You

Thank you for reading my story and leaving a comment. I'm so glad you enjoyed it.

Tina

Space

What a wonderful story for all of us who remember the moon landings and dreamed of space. "Yonder sky is calling and I must go. Fair winds on your journey and cool water at it's end." I know a mis-quote, but it fits I think.

Plan? Ain't got no Plan!
"Beyond Thunder Dome"

Plan? Ain't got no Plan!
"Beyond Thunder Dome"