Zen and the Art of Spaceship Repair by Hunter Liguore

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ZenAndTheArtOfSpaceshipRepairCover

ZEN AND THE ART OF SPACECRAFT REPAIR

Hunter Liguore

I.

I can see by the clock on the dashboard that it’s 0100 hours, and morning time, despite the black void surrounding my space cruiser. Without taking my hand off the steering column, I stretch in the cockpit, twisting and turning best I can, to get out the aches and pains. The temperature is near-freezing, causing the windshield to ice up, and the cab to be cold, regardless of my attempts to keep the heater pumping out warm air. It’s an old craft, the kind my father used in his day, but as far as I’m concerned, the TK-100 is still the best way to get around the cosmos.

With temperatures this cold, this early, I can’t help think the day is going to be rough. I’m supposed to be rendezvousing with my son, Derek, on Kuna in the Delta galaxy, located two-thirds of the way from the sun, a warm planet with mild winters. His mother took him to live there when he was first born, 400,000 megamiles away from where I live in Cephei. I’m about two days late, and hopefully forgivable. A boy of twelve, who has only seen his dad on birthdays every other year, probably expects it. I sent a telcom-scribble telling him I had spacecraft trouble, but who knows if he’ll believe me. It’s not a total lie.

The highway, nicknamed Penguin Road, ‘cause it’s so damn cold, is an old two-laner that doesn’t get used all that often. (Roads in the figurative sense; it’s really nothing more than the right coordinates and dark matter). Above me, I can see the steady stream of traffic on the Interstellar Highway that replaced it; at this time of the morning it’s packed stern to prow with luxury cruisers and a ton of rush-hour express vehicles. All of them are on autopilot and have genome hardware and engines that are programmed to self-diagnose and replicate the proper mechanism in the event of engine failure. A bunch of guys stand around waiting for something to happen, just so they can report it, not actually fix it. And they call themselves engineers.

I try to avoid those kinds of ships at all costs. The last big spacecraft I traveled on was about a year ago, a battle cruiser that saw a little wartime. On board, you never could see what was going on outside. But everyday I was able to go out and witness it all up close in my sleek, one-person fighter-craft, as I scouted the boundaries over Cephei. Life was good, until I took a minor wing-hit from an enemy fighter, and ended up with an honorable discharge, since I broke my leg during landing. Twenty years I served in the Cephei space force, just like my old man. I miss it sometimes. But I always said if I retired, I wouldn’t waste it sitting around in a cantina getting drunk on ice-rum all day. After my leg healed, I decided to go out and travel the cosmos, and do it in a TK-100, so I could actually see it up close and personal.

When I pass an ice meteor, I realize I’m in for the ride of my life. I click the lever to release the semi-rusty periscope, which back in the day was one of the features those sales guys used in order to sell the craft. It allows me to see much better what’s coming further down the road, and prepare for it. The cab gets colder each time I shift the craft right or left to avoid a direct hit into one of those ball-busting ice blocks. This goes on for stretches, until I transit onto Fake Hill Highway—known for its up and down movement that’ll make the toughest pilot lose his or her lunch—before exiting onto Post Road, a cut-through that’ll save time in reaching my destination.

I couldn’t be happier on this old road. Not a lot out here to look at, only an occasional hunk of space junk or an abandoned ship left out to rot. Sure, I could avoid this altogether and take the easy highway like everyone else. But that’s the problem. We’re all too used to everything being easy. Easy and automated that’s what we’ve been sold. Automatic toilets and bartenders. Automatic cooks and cruisers. Automatic books and hairdressers for the ladies. They even have a new device now that sleeps for you; you just have to have a chip implanted right at the bridge of the nerve fibers in your brain, and there it is; in one click, it’s like you’ve slept a whole night, or whatever you decide to set it for—a nap, hybersleep, three winks.

None of that is for me. The more I can do on my own, the better. So what, if I have to stop every few thousand miles and refuel; or wait for days, until some junkyard can locate the part I need when something gets busted for good. This spacecraft can give me things, the others can’t. I like to see the asteroids coming at me, and feel the adrenaline kick in every time I brace the steering column, wondering if I’ll avoid it or smash straight into it. I love feeling every bump and gravity change, and seeing right up-close the space dust and junk bunnies that hook onto the hood of the craft. You can’t get that in those state-of-the-art metal cans.

II.

I make a pit-stop at the Underpass off the main road in order to refuel, get some gruel, and even some shut-eye. The spacecraft-stop caters to old beasts like the TK-100, and as soon as you scan your eyes over the rest of the ships docked in a line, under the atmosphere dome, you can’t help be reminded of the olden days.

I spot an elderly couple, Tommy and Jeanne, originally from the Alpha galaxy, that I run into on the old routes from time to time. They own a two-person TK-camper they call home, and are spending out their retirement cruising. They invite me to sit with them at one of the café booths. A real person takes our order, and later drops our food, and we reminisce about when times seemed simpler.

“Mitchell,” Tommy gets my attention. “When are we gonna meet that son of yours?”

Last time I ran into them, a month back, they were pulled over on the shoulder of the space road, and needed a new flash-plug, something I always keep extra in the toolbox. Neither of them knew how to put it in. So I stuck around, told them some stories about my son, and how I wanted to take him cross-galaxy, and made the repair.

“I’m on the way right now to see him,” I boasted, taking out the latest photo I had of Derek on his tenth birthday.

Tommy and Jeanne squeezed close together and passed the telcom-scribbler back and forth. “Just lovely,” said Jeanne. “Real lovely boy.”

We started sharing stories about our childhoods, and I couldn’t help but reminisce about the times when my dad was still alive, and used to strap me on his lap in the cockpit and take us as far out into the galaxy as we could get on half a tank of fuel, then turn right around and fly home. “All along the way, he’d tell me stories,” I told them. “Most of it I can’t remember, and I’m sure he made up a lot of things.” But I remembered the feeling, how he had a way of making me feel like I was something special. I thought my wife could do that for me. And maybe for a year she did. But we were different people. I had one head in the stars, and she had hers in her work, until we ended it, and went our separate ways.

After a couple hours and plenty of good old-fashioned coffee, not the synthetic kind you get on the cruisers, I bid Tommy and Jeanne goodbye, and told them if they were ever in Cephei to look me up. Course, I wasn’t sure I was going back home any time soon, and told them so, which made us all laugh.

“See you on the old road, Mitchell.” They wave and pull the hatch closed on the camper; after a few tries, the engine kicks over and the wings open up; they lift off in a gust of exhaust, headed west, same direction as me. I wave, hoping to see them again.

Back on the road, I put on some music and sing along as I cruise long stretches of endless space without so much as a gravitational bump. I’m anxious to see Derek more now than when I left Cephei. Maybe it’s because it feels a lot more real, or that I’m getting closer to him. Even though it’ll be winter when I get to Kuna, we’ll still have ourselves some fun. Maybe I’ll take him to climb Mt. Suka, as far up as the salt caves, where people go to visit and get healthy. We’ll go, ‘cause it’s an adventure. Or maybe we’ll head down to the Interstellar-VA, and sign up for a session on the dual-pilot simulator, and fake fly together. Lots of vets took their sons. So I can too, if he wants to.

Part of me, when I look down the road into the future, tries to see things as real as they possibly can be. If I didn’t, I might end up like one of those space-heads who end up locked away in an institution, jacked up on a daydream simulator 24/7. You only get that way from spending too much time in the Unreality. People check out. They have to, they say, to survive. But I think they’re all just weak. Get your head out of the clouds. Go out and see something new. Talk to people face-to-face. Keep the real things close, and the artificial ones far away.

Sure, I like to daydream about spending time with Derek, but I need to keep it real. That’s how you avoid disappointment. For him and me. I have a couple ideas for something to do, nothing too crazy that the ex-wife might shoot down, but nothing too imaginary as to pull me to the other side. Like the saying goes: the real road is the one you can feel under your feet; if you trip and fall, it’ll hurt. And that’s the beauty of it. If you don’t feel a little pain from time to time, then how do you know you’re living?

Last time I saw Derek, we celebrated his tenth birthday. His mother made sure to make any suggestion I had, on how to celebrate, difficult. I don’t blame her. She’s in control of his life everyday, and then I come in, and start putting ideas in his head. “You’re new and exciting,” she’d said, “And when you’re gone, it’ll be back to his boring life.” I told her it didn’t have to be like that. I really tried to help her find ways to disconnect from the day-to-day rush, you know, take some time off work, go for a stroll in the neighborhood, or take a flight without a destination, just to see something with fresh eyes. She just looked at me and laughed, saying I was the one living in Unreality.

Disappointment is too kind of a word for how I felt by the time I left there. In a whole week I saw Derek two times. But here I am again, only looking forward, and hopeful things will go different.

At the ten megamile mark, close to the border of Delta galaxy, a piece of space junk bores a hole right into the left wing, causing the whole craft to go off-balance; I nearly crash into an old TK-Olds, but put the ship in neutral to stop the spin, then hit reverse, with a lateral rotation, and clear the lane and ship. A hole in the wing is like getting a rock in your shoe; you can still walk, but it’s annoying. As soon as I can, I stop at a spacecraft-stop, and make the repair—only I’m all out of materials to patch the hole.

So starts the real fun. Tracking down something that’ll do the job. I head up and down the line of ships, starting out with the old classics first; when someone opens the hatch, I tell them what I need. The first three are no help, even when I say I can use a six-tier patch if they have it—everyone has one of those. But no one’s feeling generous.

I give up for a little while and make a call to the ex-wife. She doesn’t show any sympathy when I tell her I’m still a day’s travel away.

“You know how the road is,” I say. It’s unpredictable—that’s the joy of it. But she doesn’t get it.

“You’ve missed the party, Mitchell. The one you promised you’d attend.”

“I’ll make it up to him.”

“I have no more excuses to give Derek, and frankly, I don’t think he cares if you turn up or not.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I hold the telcom-scribbler close, so she can see my face real good.

“Just hurry up and get here,” she says, turning, as if maybe Derek had come into the room. “If you’re not here by tomorrow, don’t bother. It will only interfere with my plans.” She disconnects the call before I can answer.

Truth is, one day out was a good estimate, that is, if I had a solid wing. I could try to fly with the hole, but it would be tricky, and a lot more risky, since it’s harder to keep the damn ship straight. I give myself an hour to find materials, or I’ll have to head out and take my chances. If I cruise the rest of the day, even with the bum wing, into morning, I just might touch down on Kuna by the following nightfall.

III.

I manage a six-tier patch of the left wing, by removing an equal six-tier square from the right side; a fully functional wing has twelve layers of material. It takes me a little less than an hour, and causes a lot of interest from other TK owners, who circle around the ship and watch. One or two come through with the right tools when I can’t find my own to finish the job.

I’d read about this kind of renegade patchwork in a magazine, during one of my many trips to the doctor’s office, while my leg healed. The article, if I remember correctly, said that the patch, though only six layers, should serve to keep the vessel protected, but also balanced; it also said that it would completely leave the stronger wing weakened, both really, and to avoid excessive space junk lanes and extreme heat or ice. I also figured that I was opening myself up to two possible wing fractures, should I run into more flippant space junk, which would force me into a shop for some serious repairs. Something I didn’t have time for. Once I got to Kuna, I could look into something more permanent.

On the road again, I concentrate on making the best time per hour, and by nighttime I spot the ringed planet on the outermost frontier of Delta galaxy.

My eyes are burning and tired, and my body aches from being in one position for so many hours without stretching. I have at least two more hours to go before I needed to refuel, and start watching for road signs to find the best options for stopping. I decide on the Landmark spacecraft-stop, about an hour and forty-five minutes out; I didn’t want to cut it too close, and this one promised to be free of cruisers, which hog up all the fuel and food lanes.

This gets me thinking about how quickly things change, and not always for the better. Looking back, people started demanding more luxury when it came to traveling inter-planetary, or they just weren’t interested. If you tried to stuff a family of four into a mini-cab space-cruiser, popular some ten, fifteen years ago, and the forerunners to the big beasts out on the roads today, then you were asking too much. Instead, give them a home away from home, a ship with all the amenities and the latest tech, and then they could start calling it a vacation getaway. From the intimate mini-cab or camper cruisers, suddenly it became sheik to boast a 2000 sq. ft. cabin on an intergalactic cruiser.

And what got lost in the process? For starters, the destination no longer matters. Where you went, or how long it took to get there, stopped being important. For all the passengers know, they could be making a huge circle around their home planet, and some actually do. Many of the big cruise line companies have the gimmick, it’s not the destination, but the journey—and a lot of people bought into it. They sacrifice pure adventure; they’ve given up their damn control of the whole process. No more do families sit around the table pouring over galaxy-quest maps, picking out new places to discover or learn about. It takes a brain cell or two to plan the mileage, or fuel costs, or arranging sleeping and food, and the best part, entertainment. Now it’s all done for you as part of the cruiser package, which makes it so you don’t ever have to leave your cabin.

What’s this say to the next generation? It means they might as well get used to not thinking for themselves, that’s what. It’ll only get worse down the road, the way I see it.

When I reach the Landmark stop, I refuel, get some food in my stomach, and stretch my legs, knowing I have one more eighteen-hour stretch before reaching Kuna. I’ve gone longer, so I know I have it in me. Before take-off, I set an alarm for thirty minutes, and take a quick nap. When the bell rings, it hardly feels like more than a few seconds have passed. I know I could sleep for another thirty minutes—maybe hours, but Derek’s waiting for me, so I head outside to make one last inspection.

I check the patches on the wings, which held up just fine. I clear some space gunk out of the landing gear, and take a quick look at the engine for any leaks or other possible issues. I learned how to take care of a ship by standing on a ladder, leaning over my dad’s shoulder every weekend, while he built a TK-100 in the garage from scratch, with parts from vehicles people left abandoned on the space roads. I learned by watching and asking questions. Those two things are still important today. It proves to me that we can still function in the world, by doing things on our own and with our own intelligence, rather than always letting someone or some thing, like a machine, take over for us. Sure, there’s a time for using machines, but I just think it shouldn’t be the only way.

Back inside the cockpit, I rev the engine, drop the wings, and liftoff. It never gets old, the seesaw feeling as the ship toggles upward, until it levels off, steadily catching orbit as I steer toward the open road. Soon, I get the music going, and marvel at a supernova on the right—though it’s thousands of miles away, it’s close enough to get a look at. I tuck the image away in my memory, and hit the throttle.

IV.

I touchdown on planet Kuna just as the sun begins to set. A purple-orange hue blankets the hillsides around the enormous city in the West Island district, an area known for its prestige and wealth. The first thing I do, is locate a shop to get the wings fixed. I find a hole-in-the-wall garage downtown willing to take a look at my classic.

When the mechanic sees my TK-100, he gives a high-pitched whistle. “You don’t say.” He lifts a retro ball cap from his balding head, the kind my father used to wear when they were in style. “I haven’t seen one of these in… oh, maybe twenty years.” He squats to look under the carriage. “I used to own one, and boy, did it have power—real power, if you know what I mean.”

“I do.” I nod, lifting up the hood so he can get a look at the engine. He marvels a little more and reminisces about the ship he used to own. Then I show him the work I need done and the patch job, which he commends, saying, “I’ll take real good care of her.” He tells me to check back in a couple hours. “I should have it done for you.”

I head over to the road, which is tied up with night traffic and commuters trying to get home from a day’s work. The walking does me good, but I’m quick to call a robo-cab to take me over to the ex-wife’s village condo in the hills, where a dusting of snow has covered the brown and green terrain with white.

On the way, I call her on the telcom-scribbler. She doesn’t answer on the first try, but finally does on the second.

“It’s late, Mitchell.”

“But I’m here,” I say. “I’m on the way over now.”

“It’s almost Derek’s bedtime.” She gives a heavy, long sigh. “I should’ve told you not to come in the first place.”

I see the whole thing unraveling right there in front of me. If I didn’t put up a fight, then I wouldn’t see Derek. But to me, dealing with this is no different than needing a new fuse-plug or having to scrape junk bunnies from the hood. It’s part of life, the disagreeable that comes right alongside the agreeable moments. If you can, you strive to balance them both, so as not to put too much weigh on either side.

“Have him ready. I’m taking him out.” I disconnect the call and tell the robo-cab driver to make it snappy, which is pointless, since they‘re programmed for one speed—slow.

I realize the ex-wife can still keep me from seeing Derek, but I have to take the one chance that she might let me in. It’s about the trying. Sometimes that’s all we’re left with, when things don’t go our way.

At the main gate, the ex-wife accepts my request and lets the cab in. I tell the driver to wait, while I go to the door, where a robotic butler greets me. Once inside, I can feel the adrenalin pumping the same way it does when I’m cruising past asteroids.

The ex-wife leads me to the kitchen, when another robo-servant pours us a bottle of fancy wine, and we make small talk. I tell her she looks good. She tells me I look the same. She asks me what I’m doing for work. I tell her I’m retired now. I can tell by the way she raises an eyebrow that she thinks I’m too young, and that this acceptance makes me seem lazy. It’s not my imagination; she’d said it often enough when we were married.

When a lull comes, I ask to see Derek. It’s all or nothing. She starts to protest, but I remind her how far I’ve traveled. “If you’d only let me see him more, and not just birthdays every other year, I might be a better dad.”

She’s quiet. I know that if she had her way, I’d never see him. But I got a court order in Cephei and Kuna that commits her to the lowest parental visitation, which is based on the average planetary travel.

“Please.”

The old please did the trick, or maybe the fact she sees I’m not going anywhere.

When she brings Derek into the kitchen, I hardly recognize him. He’s taller; his face looks a lot more like hers, and less like mine. His once straight hair has a curl to it. I try to hug him, but he puts out his hand instead. I shake it and shrug it off.

“Two hours,” says the ex-wife.

Two hours to last me another two years. “Three,” I bargain.

“Okay, but he needs to check in after an hour.”

Derek follows me outside, and we hop in the cab.

“Where to?” asks the mechanized driver.

I have no plan, no destination. It’s too late to hike a mountain, or any of the other activities I’d come up with. I think fast, trying not to let on to Derek, whose wide eyes stare back at me.

Just then, a call comes through on my telcom. I assume it’s going to be the ex-wife rescinding the offer before we even pull away, but instead, it’s the mechanic.

“This was easy!” He starts to chuckle.

There is that word again.

“You’re done, my friend. Come and pick up your bird.”

V.

At the garage, I pay the mechanic, and introduce him to my son. It’s one of those rare moments for me when I get to do so. I ask him if I can leave the ship, while we go get something to eat across the street.

Inside the restaurant, Derek finds a booth that looks out onto the hangar where my TK-100 sits off to the side, over-shadowed by the big cruiser next to it; it’s like a mountain standing beside a hill.

We order. Most of the food is synthetic, the kind Derek’s used to, and the wait staff automated. I ask him questions about his life, the party I missed. He’s not too talkative. Beside me, I have my dad’s old cap on the seat, the same one I wear when the space-roads are clear and open, and I’m having the time of my life. I have nothing to give him but this, only I don’t know if he’ll understand the importance.

“Want to go for a ride in it?” I ask.

His eyes are indifferent, not one way or the other. He gives a shrug. It’s good enough for me. I pay the tab, and take him over to see my pride and joy. I find myself saying things my father told me, like, “keep your friends close, but your toolbox closer,” and other bits of advice I haven’t forgotten.

Seeing him lose interest fast, I skip the inspection and buckle us into the cockpit. I rev the engine and in moments, we lift off. I couldn’t be happier—my son and I actually flying together. I think I see a smile on his face reflecting in the window. Moments later, he says, “I should check in with mom.”

“In a second,” I tell him, a little perturbed that he’s keeping track of the time.

I hit the throttle and show him what the spacecraft is made of. I steer through a star field, which sounds like metal rain on the hood; I whip us close to the next planet, guessing he’d never been this far out, but he says nothing. I fly inverted and make loops through the black void. Finally, he gives me something.

“What’s that?” Derek points to an abandoned camper in a breakdown lane about half a megamile away.

I hover close to it, and his eyes get bigger. It’s enough to start a conversation. He wants to see more, and before I know it, we’re cruising on the back roads looking for junk heaps.

An hour goes by. Then the next. We locate twelve junkers. Everything seems perfect. I’ve finally made a connection. This whole time, I’d been treating him like a mini version of me, as if he’d act and think just like me, just because I’m his father. But he’s his own little man, and smart too. Suddenly, I don’t have such a gripe with his mother. I feel a deep sense of accord with the way things have gone, and believe they can only get better.

It’s time to head home.

I fly the ship up to the Interstellar Highway, knowing it’s the swiftest, most direct route home, even though I hate driving on it. Hardly three megamiles in, and the engine starts coughing, and then shuts down completely. I start it up again, and get only a few hundred feet, and then it’s us in the breakdown lane.

We take out our atmosphere helmets, get out, and I open up the engine. In the meantime, Derek makes a call to his mom, who’s furious with me for taking him on a ship—she used the word junk-heap. I ignore the threats and her anger, and try to focus on troubleshooting the problem. But I can’t find anything wrong. For the sake of looking in-charge, I change the fuse-plugs, flush the internal engine, and scrape some junk bunnies from the pole-rods. I try the engine again, but it’s useless.

Another hour passes. I still can’t find what’s wrong, and I’m forced to call a Kuna-bound tow-craft. Once the ship is hitched, we take a second cab that drops us off at a bus-cruiser, which will take us straight to the West Islands.

Onboard, Derek falls asleep in the seat, despite the beauty of outer space gliding past the window. But it’s not real, only a simulation. I had to pay extra for it.

When we touch down on Kuna, the ex-wife is waiting for us. I try to say goodbye to Derek, even tuck my dad’s cap into his jacket, but she finds it, and tells me to take the dirty thing back.

Just like that it’s over.

VI.

Before the sun comes up on Kuna, I’m on a military ship heading home to Cephei. Earlier, I had heard from the shop where my TK-100 had been towed. The problem was an easy fix. All it needed was fuel. Somehow caught up in the disappointment of the moment, I overlooked the obvious. If only I had focused, the whole affair might’ve gone different. I was mad. Mad at myself for not seeing what was right in front of me. When the shop asked me to come pick up the ship, I said, sell it for parts, and send me the money.

Back in Cephei, I spend my days in the cantina on base, drinking ice rum, the good stuff that still has mineral chunks from the asteroids floating in it. I try not to dwell on the past. I have to keep it real, and let it go. I let it all go. I even start to think about trying to reenlist, but I know it’s only to prove something to the ex-wife, but I stopped doing that a long time ago. So why start.

When nothing presents itself I head to the mountains. A lot of pilots do it after a long flight. It’s the only smart way to rebuild the muscles you stop using, and get your land-legs back.

Once there, I settle in and admire the beauty. I start to make a plan to get a new TK, maybe a camper this time, so I can go farther, longer.

On top of the mountain, looking out over the Cephei glass pyramids and tall skyscrapers, I run into an old friend from the military; we’d served in the same squad during wartime. We compared scars and reminisced about the good ol’ days, and how we missed the adventure.

Todd leads me back to camp, where a group of vets, a mix of guys and gals, gather around a primitive fire—not one of those fires-in-a-can they sell in stores, but a good old-fashioned fire. What’s more, they’re crowded around a newly printed galaxy-map, and making plans. He introduces me to everyone, and I settle in.

“Where to?” I ask.

“Omega Galaxy,” says one of the guys.

“Bet you’ve never been that far,” jokes Todd.

“Has anyone?”

Everyone shakes their head no. Omega is revered as the true last frontier to people like me—to a whole bunch others, it’s like going back to the Second Dark Ages, and to be avoided at all costs. Here is a planet geared towards easy living, to tinkering with your hands and using your mind to get you out of a predicament.

“You’re not seriously thinking of going, are you?”

“We leave tomorrow.”

I sit quietly near the fire, and warm my hands as the sun starts to set. From my pack, I take out my dad’s cap, looking it over, wondering if I should’ve insisted Derek be allowed to take it.

“You thinking about it, Mitchell?” Todd asks. “There’s room for one more.”

My dad always said there was a time to plan, and a time to let the forces around us do the guiding. At the time, he was teaching me how to fly my first ship, and it made sense; it made sense now.

“You’d be an old man by the time we ever returned,” Todd adds.

Derek would be my age, his youth past him. My best years maybe past me, if I bought into that kind of logic. Nothing would be the same.

I gaze out over the sunset, one I’d watched a hundred times, each time wondering what lay beyond, and not stopping until I could answer it.

I put my cap on, pulling it low over my forehead. “I’m in.”

And just like that I get myself on a ship heading to the outer fringes of the universe. “You need help planning?” I point to the map. “I know a thing or two about those.”

“Sure thing,” says one of the gals, “let him in.”

By morning, I have a new destination, a new road to traverse and learn from.

Some think life is all about the journey. But for me, what I’ve learned on the open road is that it’s all about uncertainty. We can’t know what lies ahead, so there’s no use in trying to figure it all out. Best to hold the steering column firm and make adjustments where and when they’re needed. If we always play by the rules, then we have no one to blame when we wake up one day bored with life.

Like my dad used to say, life is lived with your eyes fully open.

Food for Thought

  1. How will relations evolve in the future? Mitchell lives on another planet from his son, and finds it difficult to see him regularly. Will space travel increase our connections and relationships to one another, or hinder them? How will we define society?

  2. Mitchell makes the argument that something human is inherently lost when we can’t fix things on our own. With the growth of technology, will the ability to fix things on our own disappear? And if so, will this be a benefit or disadvantage?

  3. Mitchell’s life is inconvenienced at times because of using older tech, but he maintains that something personal is lost when everything is automated. Do you agree/disagree? What kind of society unfolds when everything is automated?

  4. Mitchell says, “When I look down the road into the future, I try to see things as real as they possibly can be,” yet most of what he conceives as the future is a false nostalgia for the past he can’t return to. He also considers others in “Unreality,” for not keeping close connections. Later, his ex-wife accuses him of living an unrealistic life, despite his constant connection to living on the “road” and trying to foster relationships? In your opinion, is Mitchell keeping life “real,” or living in a false delusion?

  5. Mitchell makes a connection with his son, Derek, over finding old junk spacecraft on the Interstellar highway. Distracted with wanting to please his son, he loses track of his own sensibilities when his craft breaks down, enough so, he can’t get it to work again. In the end, Derek, not adapted to this kind of experience, wants to go home. How does the influx of old and new technology, in our own society, cause gaps between families and relationships? How do they bring us together?

About the Author

Ms. Hunter Liguore is an American writer, who holds degrees in history and writing. Her published work has appeared internationally in a variety of venues, including: Bellevue Literary Review, The Irish Pages, New Plains Review, The Master’s Review, Strange Horizons, Descant, Amazing Stories, Rattling Wall: PEN USA, Spark: A Creative Anthology, among others. She teaches undergraduate and graduate writing in New England. Her novel, “Next Breath,” is represented by the Regal Literary Agency. She is currently working on a reinterpretation of Plato’s Timaeus.

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