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The Fluco Beat

  • February 20FCHS will be offering the ASVAB test to interested sophomores, juniors, and seniors. For details, please email [email protected]
  • February 20The FCHS Music Department is hosting a "Night at the Movies" Concert at 6pm on Thurs. Feb. 22. Tickets are $5. See Ms. Harkrader in room 1517 for details.
  • February 19The FCHS Library will be hosting a Read-A-Thon on Thurs. March 7. It is $1 per 30 minute block or $10 for the entire day. Funds go to Dolly Parton's Imagination Library.
  • January 20Juniors and seniors taking the SAT in March should check their email for information and a calendar invite from Ms. Blevins. Email [email protected] with questions.
The Student News Site of Fluvanna County High School

The Fluco Beat

The Student News Site of Fluvanna County High School

The Fluco Beat
Kevin Gill
A simple model of Earth using Autodesk Maya by Kevin Gill used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

In the Atmosphere

Up until the last decade, the ruthless vacuum of space has been something that humanity fears. It is something I thought I’d be afraid of too, but looking out the window at the Earth down below, the only thing on my mind now is hope.

“The race begins in five minutes,” the announcer says through the speakers. “All contestants report to the launch pad.”

I call my wife, Skye, as I pass into the hallway, activating my magnetic shoes. She picks up immediately. “The race is starting,” I tell her.

“We know,” she responds. “We’ve been watching for an hour now, just keeping up with everything,”

“You know you don’t have to watch this, right?” I ask her.

“You know I wouldn’t abandon you like that,” she answers. “If things take a turn for the worse, at least we will have been there for you. The real question is, are you sure you want to go through with this? There’s a reason humanity hasn’t landed on Mars until five years ago. We weren’t meant to reach for the stars, Keenan.”

I fall silent as I walk down the corridors. “I know,” I confirm. “But this is our chance–our only chance. We can’t live the rest of our lives in the slums. Just think about the kids.”

“The kids will be fine as long as they have you,” she says. “You know there’s always another chance.”

“I’m sorry, Skye. I can’t pass up this opportunity, but I won’t let you down. I promise.”

She falls silent, but eventually responds, “I hope you know how much love it takes for me to let you go up there in the first place.”

“Yeah,” I reply, “I know. I love you too.”

I finally pass through the airlock and float out onto the launch pad. The Earth looms over us like a crow hovering over an animal it knows is dying. I walk over to the edge of the platform. The moon is literally below our feet. “It looks the same,” I think to myself. “Even all the way up here.”

They must have us diving with the moon in that position and the helmets lit up so we can see each other better from a distance. This isn’t the first time anyone has made the dive. In fact, it’s the tenth time. In fact, NASA has made space diving as safe as it can be without turning it into a different sport. The suits are failproof, completely invulnerable to entering Earth’s atmosphere. The jets we’ll be using to propel ourselves to the Earth are powered individually, each by its own battery concealed within the suit. Glowing “guide rings” float between us and the Earth to make sure we don’t stray off the designated path. The only things standing between us and reaching the Earth safely are the obstacles littered around inside the track defined by the guide rings, the one deadly thing about this race.

“Attention all competitors!” the announcer barks. “The race will start in one minute.” I see Adrian staring at me in the corner of my eye. He’s the current space diving champion, number 43. He’s held that title ever since 2032, and for good reason. His knowledge of the Earth is unmatched. I know I can’t hope to beat him, but if I can at least make it to third place, it should be enough to start picking up sponsors. Adrian smiles at me through his helmet. I try to ignore him as the announcer finally starts counting down.

I kneel down and rest my elbows and head on the floor so the catapult doesn’t injure me. I take a deep breath, finally starting to consider what Skye was trying to tell me. I suddenly find it hard to breathe. The announcer finishes the countdown and the catapult releases, sending us flying toward the Earth’s surface. In the brief moment before we reach the first obstacles, I start to fear my entry-resistant suit in the same way a skydiver fears their parachute, even though I know the statistics are well in my favor.

I activate the jets in my suit and easily maneuver around the first few obstacles while staying within the guide rings. I spot what appears to be a windmill floating in the distance, but as I try to decide how fast the blades are moving, someone floats up beside me. I realize that the space between the blades must only be wide enough to fit one racer between them at most, meaning whoever is beside me is trying to guide me into one of the blades. Knowing I can’t pass the person before we reach the windmill, I slow down and let my competitor go ahead, but before they completely leave my line of sight, I look at the number on the suit: 43. Adrian, the champion, is trying to get me killed!

Skye’s name appears on my visor. She’s calling me again. “Keenan!” Skye yells as I pass through the windmill. “He just tried to kill you!”

“I know!” I yell, not considering how loud I’m being.

“He’s not going to get away with that, is he?” she yells just as loud as me, making me relieved that she’s as stressed as I am.

“It’s technically alowed as long as he doesn’t touch me,” I admit.

“What? That’s crazy!”

“Yeah, I know — but that doesn’t mean I’m going to allow it,” I say as I aim the jets behind me, propelling myself forward and through the next few obstacles.
“Wait, don’t do anything–” she yells, starting to panic before I hang up. I slowly catch up to Adrian until I’m right beside him. By now, we are much closer to the Earth. I feel like I can almost reach out and touch the clouds. I aim one of my jets in Adrian’s direction. Not enough to burn him, but enough to scare him. He becomes so annoyed that he completely misses the fact that he’s headed right for an obstacle. By the time he realizes it, he swerves out of the guide rings. I successfully dodge the obstacle, landing myself in first place.

Skye calls me back and, somewhat relieved, I answer. “Don’t hang up on me like that!” she yells.

“Sorry, I had to concentrate,” I say, a bit breathlessly. “But look where it got me!”

“You’re saying you ignoring me is a good thing?” she fumes.

“No!” I panic. “I’m saying concentration is a good thing! I was wrong to ignore you, but I didn’t have much of a choice!”

“Fine,” she says. “Sorry, I guess I didn’t take the pressure you’re under into consideration.”

“It’s alright,” I reply.

“But don’t keep making up excuses,” she orders. “You’re in first place now. Be careful. If Adrian was out to get you, who knows who else is?”

“I know. I’ll be careful,” I say.

“But I feel like I should remind you that you don’t have to win,” she says. “We’re not worth dying for. The fact that you’ve gotten as far as you have has made me proud, but also afraid. I don’t want to lose you.”

“I know,” I clarify. “I’ll be careful.” I hang up as several more racers gain on me, Adrian in the lead. This time, he uses his jets to tear a hole in my suit.

“You’re crazy!” I yell as he passes me and my skin burns from the friction. I use the jets to try to catch up, but my skin burns worse and worse. Only one thought stands out in the pain: my family. I search deep down for some other way, but I know there is none. I have to give up.

I make it through the next few obstacles, allowing myself to slow down through the twists and turns, and finally aim my jets forward. I pass by the obstacles slower and slower. It gives me time to realize just how beautiful the Earth is. Adrian immediately passes me, but as soon as he does, a massive obstacle floats out in front of him and he crashes. The sound of his bones crushing echoes through the guide rings. I pass by him and can’t help but notice the blood inside his helmet. If I hadn’t slowed down, that could’ve been me. Skye comes back through and I immediately hear the relief in her voice.

“Did you just do what I think you did?” she asks.

“Yeah,” I answer as I pass through the clouds. “I slowed down.” I can now just barely make out the goal in the distance: the brightest light in sight, meant for us to easily make out in the sea of lights down below. In response, I spread my arms out almost as if I am hugging the air. I deploy my wingsuit and slowly tilt upward into a glide.

Suddenly the thrill is gone, replaced with nothing but relief as I let all of the other divers pass me. Safely back in the atmosphere, my helmet disassembles and retreats into my back. The wind tosses my hair. I can hear the ocean down below. I’ve never been so glad to smell fresh air. I continue to glide like this until I reach the goal, then deploy my parachute and drop down to the platform. The smell of saltwater clears my head as I just stand there, panting. Then I see Skye run out from the crowd. She slams into me and I hug her. I can feel the hateful stares of die hard fans who don’t respect my decision to give up the race, but I don’t care. I didn’t give up on family, I didn’t give up on life, and I never plan to do either again. Maybe there’s a place for me down here.

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