Under the Milky Way – part 9

“Great! Sooner we go, the sooner we can get back.”

“I have to let my cousin know I’m leaving. Otherwise she’ll have the authorities on your tail faster than you can spit.”

“Okay. Where is she?”

“She’s next door.”

He followed her to Sophie’s room, waiting impatiently as Storm spoke to her. She brought her up to date on the attempted assassination as well as her trip with Luke.

“I’ll be gone awhile, Soph. I’m following up a lead on that transport issue.”

“What if folks need to talk to you?”

“Take appointments. They want to deal, they can wait.”

“You got it, cuz. I wish I could go with you, but Mama would have my hide if I put a joyride ahead of her tavern. Besides, Mr. Wonderful is waiting. Y’all have fun!”

“Baby!” A man’s voice called from the bedroom. “You coming back to bed?”

“Coming! See you later, sugar.” She hugged her cousin and went back in her room.

The security officers escorted them back to Luke’s ship. Somewhat the worse for wear, he gave the orders for the ship to leave port.

The crew assembled on the bridge, all of them looking at Storm with curiosity. Busy taking the ship out of port, Lukas didn’t introduce her right away, so the intensity of the stares increased by the minute. Feeling the pressure of their scrutiny, Storm gazed out the portal ahead of her, watching as they left the space station behind.

When the station was out of view, Luke turned to the crew. “Hey, everyone. This is Storm. She’s going to be taking a ride with us to the moon and back. If all goes well, we’ll have a real job when we get back.”

Storm wasn’t expecting the explosion of sound that followed that statement. The five person crew yelled and cheered, thumping Storm on the back.

“Gabrielle,” Luke said quietly. “It’s time.”

“As you wish, Lukas,” came her disembodied answer. “Destination?”

“The dark side of the moon.”

“Of course,” she replied calmly.

“Oh, you might want to sit down,” he told Storm, pointing to his seat.

Taking a position behind her, he held a strap that was bolted to the wall. She noticed that all the crew members did the same thing, legs wide to steady themselves.

The ship paused. A shiver ran through it from prow to stern. It leaped forward as if it had been launched from a catapult. Storm lost her balance, sliding to her left. Lukas caught her, holding her to her seat as the ship sped up.

Stars flashed by, their light becoming silver streaks against the black of space. Soon, the light blended together, a white glow surrounding them. With a push, they hopped forward once more, gravity releasing long enough for their feet to leave the floor. Gradually, it reestablished itself, though Storm could tell it was less than normal. The view outside had changed subtly. The stars passed at the same furious rate, their color changed to pink and lavender.

“What’s happening?” Her voice sounded strange, hollow.

“Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore,” Luke quipped. “We’re in a maze run.”

“A what?”

“That’s what we call it. Gabrielle didn’t have a name for it.”

“I’m confused,” Storm shook her head, holding it as her equilibrium failed her.

One of the women took pity on her, bringing her a carbonated drink. “The ship makes a sort of tear in the fabric of space,” she explained. “Then it slides in, covering the distance much faster. The pathways are interconnected, so we called it a maze.”

“How much faster?”

The ship slowed, paused and leaped forward once more. The stars looked the same again, twinkling happily around the ship as they established an orbit around the moon.

“Oh, my God!” Storm walked to the portal in disbelief. “How long were we traveling?”

“Altogether?” Lukas looked at his watch. “Longer than you’d think. One thing about the maze run, time isn’t the same as it is in our reality.”

“It felt like five minutes.”

Lukas showed her his watch. Five hours had passed since they took off from the space station. Storm grabbed his wrist, incredulous.

“No way!”

“Way.” He laughed.

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