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32. Space Express

Now don't you say, begged Warren Kingsley, it'll never get off the ground.

I was tempted, chuckled Morgan, as he examined the full-scale mock-up. It does look rather like an upended railroad coach.

That's exactly the image we want to sell, Kingsley answered. You buy your ticket at the station, check in your baggage, settle down in your swivel seat, and admire the view. Or you can go up to the lounge-cum-bar and devote the next five hours to serious drinking, until they carry you off at Midway. Incidentally, what do you think of the Design Section's idea nineteenth-century Pullman decor?

Not much. Pullman cars didn't have five circular floors, one on top of the other.

Better tell Design that they've set their hearts on gas-lighting.

If they want an antique flavour that's a little more appropriate, I once saw an old space movie at the Sydney Art Museum. There was a shuttle craft of some kind that had a circular observation lounge just what we need.

Do you remember its name?

Oh let's think something like Space Wars 2000. I'm sure you'll be able to trace it.

I'll tell Design to look it up. Now let's go inside do you want a hard-hat?

No, answered Morgan brusquely. That was one of the few advantages of being ten centimetres shorter than average height.

As they stepped into the mock-up, he felt an almost boyish thrill of anticipation. He had checked the designs, watched the computers playing with the graphics and layout everything here would be perfectly familiar. But this was real solid. True, it would never leave the ground, just as the old joke said. But one day its identical brethren would be hurtling up through the clouds and climbing, in only five hours, to Midway Station, twenty-five thousand kilometres from Earth. And all for about one dollar's worth of electricity per passenger.

31. Exodus | The Fountains of Paradise | THE FOUNTAINS OF PARADISE