Welcome Briefing At The Obayashi-Ragan Youth Hostel
by Fran Wilde
Listen carefully, kids: I’ll tell you things the other hostel folk won’t. Budget carefully. This ride isn’t forever. Don’t be afraid to go it alone.
Sure, you’ll meet someone out here. Most everyone does. Two someones, maybe. You’ll make plans. She’ll be headed for Peary Crater Moon Hostel or Eris YHA. He’ll want to see the ice-flowers on Europa. You’ll promise to meet up again. I’ve seen it happen. Take what comes in stride. Travel and romance have that in common.
Yes, the ISS excursion is still running. Seventy credits for the intact modules. Bring your own oxygen. Mars? Sure. Two hundred. I’d budget for the rover experience too. Skip the Santa Claus Conquers the Martians exhibit, we have that movie in the library.
No, I never went as far as the Oort Cloud. Too risky and expensive. The guy who runs Moon Base YHA tried. He ran out of juice for transport back and had to sell his gear. He’s a little strange now, but if you tell him you know me, you’ll get a discount on the pressure-showers.
Dearies, this is a long trip. Don’t let your socks and underwear float around. Annoys everyone.
We ran out of astronaut ice-cream in 2174. We have food tubes for purchase: apple, chocolate, and fish paste. If you’re going to be sick, do it in the vac-bath.
I’ve got your IDs on file. You’ll be billed for any cleanup.
The long-haul shuttles and elevators of the moving YHA are one hundred percent reconditioned parts. Your dedicated staff — that’s me, sugars — know emergency maintenance. We passed inspection last month. Mostly.
There’s nothing wrong with a little jury-rigging. Makes your experience more authentic, no?
How you budget is your call. If you can’t pay a tab, you sell gear or work it off in most places. Don’t loan money, and if you do, don’t tell anyone. Things get expensive fast out here.
Heads up to you, sugar, in the corner with the love bites on your neck: don’t do the Event Horizon Jump, no matter how much he says he loves you. Sounds romantic to fall together forever, doesn’t it? But trust me: the feeling doesn’t last the fall.
Sweethearts, once you arrive at your next stop, do more than visit the settlers’ museums, the moon-spas, and the build-your-own water-condenser farms. Take time to stare out at the edge of space, to contemplate how tiny home looks – if you can find it.
Read the ancient poets: Neruda, Wordsworth, Kubrick.
Everyone falls in love out here. It’s the stars that do it. They’re too close, and they’re so far away. You feel like the universe is breathing with you. You mind moves away from itself and becomes part of something bigger. Travel and love, darlings.
And if you hold on too tightly to a destination out here, you’ll never be anywhere.
Like I said, don’t forget about the trip home. Everyone has return tickets, yes? I see you, rolling your eyes like you won’t need one. You’re planning on teaching Standard to kids on Io station? Or discovering the next astro-vein? Sounds just like me and mine, a decade ago, and look at me now. So keep a hand on your ticket. Give yourself an out.
Me? Mr. Moon Base begged me to sell my ticket, but I didn’t, not then.
These days, I’m all about the journey. Catch that empty food-tube, will you? I’m not your mum.
The Pleiades observation excursion is fully booked. The comet? You’re a decade too late. Of course I saw it. Back when I was all alone and had nothing to look at but stars.
Mr. Moon Base? Sure. He ran out of gear, shopped his organs. Begged friends to buy him a hitch back. Anonymous donor paid for him to upload, eventually. He’s working it off at the Hostel. Rest of him is still out there, I expect. Ask him about the shower discount.
He knew Neruda by heart. Said we’d love each other to infinity.
Just remember, the trip is the goal. Don’t get too attached. You might fall in love on the passage out, but infinity’s not a destination and the return will break your heart.
Enjoy the ride.
Fran Wilde is an author and technology consultant. Her short stories have appeared in Asimov’s, Nature, Daily Science Fiction, and (upcoming) Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Her interview series Cooking the Books–about the intersection between food and fiction–has appeared at Strange Horizons, Tor.com, and on her website, franwilde.wordpress.com. Fran’s first novel is forthcoming from Tor/Macmillan in 2015. You can find her on Twitter @fran_wilde and Facebook @franwildewrites.