This short story was inspired by this pobble 365 image of the Air Hotel 3000. It was written during a vacation in February 2019. It’s the first short story I’ve written.
Air Hotel 3000
The drone piloted champagne bottle followed its pre-programmed trajectory. A flight path which to onlookers seemed as though the bottle was swinging by a gossamar thread towards the new ship. It was an old tradition to christen new ships by smashing a bottle against the hull and the king of the Voathi civilization was a stickler for tradition.
On a space platform, protected by an invisible force field, the king and his officials watched as the bottle reached its intended target. “I name this vessel, the Air Hotel 3000. The finest ship in the Voathi empire. God bless all who travel in her.”
The air hotel would be departing on its maiden voyage in two weeks time after its crew had taken a quick lap around the solar system to perform initial tests and calibrate the ship’s systems.
The hotel would carry wealthy passengers from all over the Voathi empire on a holiday of a lifetime. A tour which incorporated the highlands to the north, out across the three purple oceans to the outer rim habitat before returning via the great valley rift formed during the last great ice age. A journey that would take twenty-one rotations of the Voathi homeworld and set the travellers back a years salary.
The Voathi was a class four civilization, spending their days focused on philosophy and the arts. Over the centuries they had lost the engineering knowledge required to build a ship like the 3000. As such the building contract had been outsourced to a neighbouring species called the Bushrak. The ship was delivered on time and while it looked modern and boasted a free energy source it held a macabre secret.
“Captain, the last of the passengers have just disembarked the shuttlecraft. We’re ready to leave.”
“Thanks, ensign,” said Captain Thomas. He opened a communications channel to the engine room, “Engineering, once the shuttlecraft has left the safety parameter you’re free to start propulsion, let’s get this hotel on the move.”
First officer Wesley checked the battery array which powered the engines. Fully charged. He sighed with relief, he wouldn’t have to order the use of the controversial power source, well not for a while.
The five hundred guests were having a great time. The hotel had a swimming pool under a large glass canopy which allowed the late night skinny dippers a stunning vista of the star-studded night sky. There were nightly recitals of classic Voathi plays, performances by the all-female orchestra and debating sessions discussing the practical philosophical issues of the day.
On the third day, Wesley contacted the bridge.
“Captain, the battery array is down by twenty per-cent. Permission to switch on the power regeneration source.”
Thomas replied “Granted.” Turning to the crew of the bridge the captain commented: “let’s hope the Bushrak know what they’re doing.”
As part of the shipbuilding contract, the Bushrak had insisted that they would control the power source. In a sealed off section at the base of the ship, Bushrak personnel got the message to start power generation.
The prison guard flicked a switch and the fifty Bushrak prisoners where given a severe shock through their shackles. This was their sign to start peddling. Chained to stationary bikes they started to pedal. Any prisoner deemed not to be peddling fast enough was given an additional shock.
After six hours of constant peddling, the battery array started to show signs of being recharged. One prisoner had already collapsed from sheer exhaustion. The scene of the prisoner compartment wasn’t that different from the ancient wooden sailing ships of Earth which used slaves to row and power the ships.
The prison guard laughed, turned to his college and said, “I’d loved to hear the Voathi debate the morality of using prisoners to power their precious ship.”
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