To the Lifeboats: An Excerpt
By Jamie Beckett
Randy Tagget’s palms were sweating profusely. Under the circumstances, his was a perfectly reasonable reaction to what he feared experiencing over the coming hours, days, maybe even weeks.
A light breeze blew in off the Atlantic. An otherwise stunning panoramic view of the beach was obstructed by the steel lattice of the elevator he rode in, moving ever upward at a quickening pace. His stomach turned a flip or two as the elevator accelerated.
Tagget had never been fond of heights. Considering this particular phobia, Randy Tagget was a deeply conflicted man. The best he could hope for and the worst he could imagine were happening to him, simultaneously.
Closing his eyes tightly, Randy was able to quell his nerves, at least momentarily. They would not rest for long, however. He knew with rock-solid certainty he would be on edge, jittery and raw for at least the foreseeable future. No matter what, his short-term outlook was driven by abject fear of what might occur in the next two hours. If he survived, his focus would shift to the days to come, and from there to a totally unpredictable future.
The unknown was not something he enjoyed. Yet he was about to be thrown deep into foreign territory, perhaps never to return. The thought scared the bejeezus out of Tagget, so he tried not to think about it. But the effort backfired and he found himself unable to think of anything else.
Randy swallowed hard, clenched his fingers into tight fists, and shook them loose again. “This thing’s been tested, right?”
“Shut up!” A white suited tech wearing a high filtration medical mask locked eyes with Tagget. The tech’s stare was intense, as if intended to drill a hole through the back of the engineering whiz kids’s head.
Randy was known among his peer group for possessing movie-star good looks, a quick, agile mind, and the ability to be creative and effective even when others came up empty. Unfortunately, he was also known for being as timid as a little girl when it came to physical risk.
Tagget blinked hard and grabbed for the safety rail. The elevator continued its ascent, passing two-hundred feet above the tarmac below, still headed upward. He fidgeted compulsively and the thought crossed his mind he may have just peed a bit, although he couldn’t be entirely sure. His nervous system was nearing the overload point, and many of the sensations he was feeling were suspect, at best.
Randy stammered, “I…I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to offend you. I’m just sort of nervous.”
“I know what you meant,” the tech challenged defiantly. “You’re scared.”
Randy shifted his gaze to the soft fluffy booties covering his feet and made a conscious effort to avoid the eyes of the nameless tech charged with the safe delivery of he and his fellow crewmen. The tech’s belligerent tone made Randy thankful his responsibility was limited and finite. It extended from the transport bus to the launch vehicle, where he was assigned to help strap the passengers and crew into their couches. That was it. There would be no opportunity for them to ever meet again, no matter what.
“You’re all scared,” the tech’s voice took on a hard edge. “You’re afraid the booster will explode and kill you during the launch. Or you’re afraid the capsule’s seals won’t hold and you’ll decompress – causing your blood to boil, leading to certain death.” He paused for effect. “It’s a quick way to go, but it’s excruciatingly painful.”
The tech’s mask was inflating and deflating rapidly with his respiration. It pumped in and out faster and fuller as he spoke. His voice rose in volume as well as intensity.
To the Lifeboats is the first of five in the Lifeboat Augusta series. All five ebooks are available through Amazon.com.