This is the 25th in a series of 365 Flash Fiction stories I’m writing. You can find out more about the challenge here.
The Fisherman’s Son, by Jonathan L. Lawrence, 26th December 2012
Word count: 876
Theme: father and son, bonding, learning the ropes, the paths of our fathers, sci fi, civilian sci fi
“Okay, let’s just fix that right there, shall we?” the captain said with fatherly tenderness.
Jack just looked at him, he was eight but didn’t say much. This was the first time his father had taken him out on his old boat.
“Fix that line!” the Captain shouted down to the deck. Jack looked out over the railing, down below men scattered around fixing cables in place.
“All set for star drive, Captain,” the first mate said.
“Course set?” Captain asked his first mate.
“Alpha Centauri, on the slow route,” the first mate confirmed.
“The word is go,” the captain said, then turned to his son, “Okay I want you to hold on to this handle, it’s going to be a bumpy, and it’s always scary the first time you go to star drive.”
Jack nodded, still watching the hive of activity below as the crew set about preparing the ship to go faster than the speed of light. Little Jack had studied light drive at school, but of all his class mates, he was the only one never to have gone faster than the speed of light, despite his dad owning and running The Star Cruiser, a fishing ship operating in the prestigious and profitable space between Alpha Centauri and Earth.
“All hands, prepare for star drive,” the first mate’s voice boomed over the intercom, followed by klaxons, “First jump in three, in two, in one.”
Jack wanted to cover his ears, there was what sounded like a huge explosion, but the noise carried on, and then he felt himself being pushed back. He could see down on the decks experienced sailors were setting their feet and riding out those initial gees, but Jack was only little, and he found himself being lifted off his feet and being pulled backwards. If he hadn’t have been holding onto the strap he would have been thrown against the rear of the Command deck, he clung on to dear life, his little hands turning white at the knuckles from the strain. Then a sharp feeling spread through him, and the interior of the ship seemed to stretch before him, further and further.
“Hold on their son,” his father said leaning over to grip his little boy’s hands, though his body seemed miles away.
And then suddenly the explosion lessened, and gradually faded to background noise, and Jack found himself lowered to the ground.
“Welcome to faster than light travel Jack, just like I promised.”
Jack ran to the one of the plassteel windows that dotted round the command deck, each one was twelve inches thick, but perfectly clear. As he looked out he could see lines of light stretched all around.
“I’m impressed,” the first mate was saying, “He didn’t vomit once.”
“Us Sterns are made of bold stuff,” the Captain said with a smile, “He’ll be a captain himself one day, mark my words.”
The first mate winked at the young boy, “I’d be proud to call so stout a man Captain,” he said.
“Thank you daddy,” the boy said running over to hug his father at the waste.
“Thank you son,” the Captain said, “Now let’s go put you to work. Every man of my crew pays his way. I’m thinking the star charts could do with reorganising.”
The next few hours were tedious for Jack, yet he loved it, in order to put the star charts in their proper order, he had to open them and read their contents, every so often he would spend time manipulating the 3d image to get more of an idea of where he was in the universe right now.
Then when it was time to drop out of faster than light travel, his father came and sat with him on the bunk, putting his arms around his little boy, relying on his first mate to command the ship. Coming out of faster than light was traumatic.
First there was the sound of the explosion again, and then everything was shunted forward, the world became squshed and terrifying. It was all Jack had to not scream, but his father strong arms wrapped around him gave him courage, the words he called into his son’s ears above the noise of the braking engines reassured him, and even when he lost his sight, the musky smell of a man who spent weeks without proper access to water was enough to let him know that his father was there and he was safe.
“Well done Jack, well done,” the Captain said with a smile. “Just twenty seven more jumps to Alpha Centauri, you’ll be a seasoned sailer by then.”
Jack smiled weakly.
“In the meantime, how about helping your pops find a nice big fish to take home with us?” he asked.
The Captain showed his son the scanners, and where to look out the windows through visual enhancers at the asteroid belt they had stopped in.
It was the happiest Jack had ever been, and he couldn’t wait to get back to school after the holidays to tell everyone all about it. They had been on single jump trips to the planets of the solar system, Jack had travelled to the stars, with his great and glorious dad, and caught a fish.