Raymund Eich

Sputniki Yupitera


An interplanetary science fiction short story.

Americans under the thumb of interplanetary Russians. Can they strike a blow for solar system freedom?


SKU: sputniki-yupitera Category: Tags: ,


Americans under the thumb of interplanetary Russians.

Can they strike a blow for solar system freedom?

Andrew wanted a new start, far from a fallen USA under foreign hegemony. The American colony on a moon of Jupiter needed nuclear power technicians like him. To get there, he must journey for months on board a Russian ship.

Not alone. Locked in with fellow American colonists who proclaim the New Covenant, just like him. But soon he discovers they worship God and venerate the Presidents with far more piety than he feels. Can he share their intense level of faith? Or fake it?

If he fails, he’ll end up scorned by every American he’ll ever meet. For five months trapped on the ship. For the rest of his life in the cramped tunnels of a Jovian moon.

Then the leader’s beautiful and headstrong daughter enlists him in a daring plan promising new hope for Americans across the solar system.

Sample of “Sputniki Yupitera”

Handhold to handhold, Andrew pulled himself through the main corridor of the ship.

Whether from the dose of anti-nausea drug or a natural resistance, he handled free fall without trouble. He flexed his ropy arms and twisted like a dolphin, easy as childhood summer days in his hometown’s public pool. He passed curtained sleeping berths, autocook stations venting steam smelling of boiled potatoes, and bulging pipes of liquid uranium salts. The ship’s systems hummed and throbbed with takeoff prep.

For a moment, he imagined himself in a scene pulled from history, something out of Armstrong and Aldrin, updated as if the last century had gone differently.

Then the pack tied to Andrew’s waist bumped into a bulging pipe, knocking him off course. He flapped his arms uselessly, as if he’d been thrown in the deep end before learning how to swim. He bumped into the clear plastic cover of a control panel. A grab bar at a cockeyed angle. He jutted out his hand and steadied himself.

From behind him came words spoken in Russian. He had no idea what they meant, but the tone, and that of another Russian back there making a reply, was stuffed full of mockery.

Andrew bit back on angry words. He hid his face from the Russian men leading and trailing him. The one in front glanced back with a smirk but kept going at normal speed. Andrew pulled himself after him.

They continued down the main corridor to an open circular hatchway leading off at a right angle and labeled вход в капсулу 5. The Cyrillic text was as unreadable as Chinese, but Andrew had memorized it when cramming for the passenger test. Pod entrance #5.

A Russian spacer, his baggy flight suit and impatient, sunken eyes both of light blue, waited at the hatchway entrance. “Weber?” He waved Andrew toward the hatch. “In, in. Must leave, very soon.”

The spacers on Sputniki Yupitera couldn’t be in that much of a hurry—the ship’s nuclear salt water rocket could make up a few meters per second of delta-vee on the five-month journey to the moons of Jupiter. A glance at the spacer’s icy pits of eyes showed Andrew what really drove the crew: the petty spite of someone with a little power over someone with none.

But that would change, in time, when the American colony on Callisto fulfilled its destiny.

In time, but not now. Andrew put an apologetic look on his face and pulled himself through the hatch.

The pod was a hollow sphere sixty yards across. Its wall, a windowless shell of alloy between cosmic rays and hard vacuum. But what shocked him was the interior. Thin plastic sheets as blue as the Russian’s eyes, stretched and distended by posts, and stuck to the bulkhead by globs of translucent glue, formed a tent village at the far end. Like a displaced persons camp had been lifted from California or New York up here to L4.

Dread pooled in Andrew’s stomach. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be⁠—

Behind him, the circular hatch clanged shut. Bolts engaged with thunks resonating through the pod.

Trapped, Andrew took a closer look at the people he was locked in with.

Fifty, sixty strong, they represented the full mix of the Church of the New Covenant. Mostly whites, with enough Latinos, Asians (East and South), and African-Americans to show the church’s multicultural outreach efforts bore fruit. Though they might be displaced persons, their two dozen tents stood in a gridded array around a central open square with a speaker’s rostrum at one end. Seen from the top down, Andrew could barely make out the cross behind the rostrum, jutting up from the presidential seal.

Men looked his way from holographic chess sets and foursomes of dominoes. Women, from private conversations in groups of twos and threes. Dolls and toy horses drifted near groups of girls. In the open space to Andrew’s right, near conduits running along the pod wall to ship utility hookups near the hatch, four boys, ages around eight to ten, thrashed their arms in a game of touch football. At the end of a play, they took a time out to stare at him.

Trapped? They might have more fervor in their faith than he did, but these were the nearest thing to his people for a quarter of a million miles.

Andrew found a grab bar near the hatch and pulled himself toward the open space in the middle of the tents.

A dozen waited as he coasted through warm air toward them. A dozen more moved toward the space as Andrew drew closer. Years of privation had lined the faces of the adults, showing above the trimmed beards of the men and plain on the makeup-less faces of the women. The discomfort of free fall added to their long-suffering expressions. But their eyes exuded farsighted serenity, as if they knew their wanderings in the desert were drawing to a close, and the promised land was in sight.

Andrew reached the bulkhead. Men and women, floating like kelp with their ankles hooked into fabric straps glued to the bulkhead, steadied him while he guided his foot into an unused strap. They gave a few muttered words, but no fully-voiced greeting.

The group shifted, making room for new arrivals. The man had dark blond hair trimmed as short as the beard over his square jaw. Though he looked middle-aged, his green eyes blazed with vigor. Eyes not content with seeing the promised land in the distance, but mapping out the trail to get there.

With him came a dark-eyed young woman. In her early 20s, Andrew guessed, about five years younger than him. The skin of her oval face was uncreased and a shade darker than the man’s, and a mass of black hair piled on top of her head. The angles of their cheekbones matched. The man’s daughter?

They stopped in front of Andrew. The young woman lithely slipped her ankle into a bulkhead loop, then helped the man do the same with his barely-bending left leg. Through a wince, he gave her an approving smile, then turned to Andrew.

“Welcome, fellow American!” The man’s deep voice filled the pod. “In the name of the Lord and the presidents. My name is Martin Young.” He extended his fist at the end of a lean, chiseled arm.

“Andrew Weber.” He bumped fists with Young.

The older man gestured to the young woman. “My daughter, Jacqueline.”

She gave a demure smile, then offered her fist in greeting. “Blessed you could join us,” she said. The calm expression in her wide brown eyes told Andrew she believed the words.

He gave her fist a soft touch, lining up his knuckles with the hollows between her fingers, and held contact for a long moment while he looked into her eyes.

The others in the open area leaned forward. Their greetings and names crashed together.

Martin Young raised his hand. “Take it easy, fellow Americans! You’ll have five months to get to know Andrew. But now—” Young flexed his wrist to show the crowd he checked his old-fashioned smartwatch. “We have to prepare for departure. Assuming the Russians can launch this tub on time.”

The crowd dispersed with good-natured laughs. Jacqueline helped her father extract his foot from its loop. Around a grimace, Young said, “Come with me, son. We’ll get to know you first.”

Andrew followed them to a tent just off the open plaza. Jacqueline unzipped the flap and bade him enter after her father.

Inside, the tent was cramped. The fabric roof, steeply slanted to the top of the center pole, reminded Andrew of the angled ceiling inside his grandparents’ attic. Zipped-up sleeping bags and duffel bags, two of each, all drifting on carabiners hooked into bulkhead-mounted loops, took up much of the space. More loops hung from the center pole, like overhead hand straps on a subway train, out of some movie set in America’s golden age. For the leader of a colony flight, Young and his daughter lived simply.

Young grabbed a strap, Jacqueline another.

Andrew took a third. The warmth of other people, and especially Jacqueline, eased him into a state of calm alertness.

A voice crackled from a loudspeaker near the hatch. English spoken in a gruff Russian accent. Sixty yards of air and the thin sheet of plastic did not mute it. “All passengers. Prepare for thrust in ten minutes. Thrust duration: six days, point-oh-one gee. All passengers. Prepare….”

Young scowled until the voice switched to Russian and the background noises of the camp resumed. He shook his head to dispel the expression. “It bothers me that we have to be cargo on a Russian ship, instead of flying to the planets like Americans should. It bothers me that the only place we can be Americans, real ones, is on a moon of Jupiter. But I accept my generation has to go through these things as punishment for our sins, so Jacqueline and the children have a chance to live in the light of God’s blessing. Don’t you agree?”

Andrew didn’t know about sins and punishments, but he knew Jacqueline smelled of soap and shampoo a few inches from his nose. “Yeah, sure.”

Young scowled at him. “Are you a sheep or a goat?” Jacqueline’s eyebrows shot up and she leaned away from Andrew.


“I know why Constitutiontown made you a last-minute offer to immigrate. They need a technician for the colony’s fission power reactor, and that’s your line of work. Or it was, till the Chinese puppets in Washington mothballed your plant.”

Bad memories and current anxiety churned in Andrew’s gut. “That’s all true.”

Jacqueline peered at her father. “You never said he was a nuclear power tech.” She shifted to Andrew. Her brown eyes looked like she wanted to soak up his every word. “You know how to work the ship’s nuclear salt water rocket?”

Fuel rods and moderators versus molten salts and superheated water. “Power plants are very different⁠—”

Now Jacqueline faced her father. “Dad, why didn’t you tell me?”

“Because he might not truly believe in our church’s teachings.” Young gave Andrew a look as granitic as a statue of one of the presidents.

“Sir,” Andrew said, with anger and defensiveness both in his voice, “I passed my catechism test with a perfect grade. I go to church every Sunday.” He tuned out the sermon when it veered to the miracles worked by Christ or the wise leadership of the presidents, though his mother was never the wiser, God rest her soul. Jabbed by conscience, he added, “My pastor gave me a letter of recommendation⁠—”

“Because he wanted rid of you?” Young shifted his voice to one of parental wisdom. “Dear girl, from time to time, colonies need an expert or two to join them. Colonies can’t always be picky. They can’t always hold out for someone who believes with them that God called them to colonize to increase His glory. Sometimes they even promise the expert that he can live outside the rules binding everyone else.”

Jacqueline studied Andrew’s eyes, searching for a clue. “But if you didn’t really believe in the Lord and the presidents, why would you come with us?”

“He needs a job,” said Martin Young. “Maybe he thinks getting out of our broken homeland is worth paying lip service to the New Covenant.” He fixed Andrew with a look that iced the younger man’s blood. “Is that true, son?”

“No,” Andrew blurted. He glanced at Jacqueline’s smooth skin and brown eyes, and his next words turned from half a lie to an aspiration. “In both the Lord and the presidents, I believe.”

Additional information




Raymund Eich


There are no reviews yet.

Be the first to review “Sputniki Yupitera”

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.