William woke up to the sound of giggles. His crew sounded as rowdy as the party before launch quarantine. There was also a high-pitched voice, like a childs. It was rambling a mile a minute, interspersed with guffaws from the crew.
"What on Earth is happening?" thought William. Like any curious person, he climbed out of bed and started towards the source of the noise.
"Good morning, William!" exclaimed Laure. "Had a good nap?"
"Very well, thank you "
Califa cut in, "Dr. Boateng, Mr. Commander, hello. Are you mad at me? Im sorry for not talking then. I felt like a Hobbit in Moria and was very, very shocked. Your crew -- my new friends -- have told me that I am on a space station somewhere high up in the sky and that the large red ball outside is a planet, like a red star in the sky. I find it very fascinating. I do not understand that I come from a book, though. I know what a book is. I brought a book with me in my pack. I don't know how I could have come from a book. Maybe you are the book and I was transported to it?" They tell me that Hobbits are characters in a storybook written by a very famous man. My Uncle Bilbo was a very famous hobbit, not a man. Well, he wasn't my uncle exactly. He was my great, great, great, great, great uncle. Have you read my Uncle Bilbo's story?"
William opened his mouth to speak, but Califa, obviously on a roll, continued.
"Mr. G has given me a wonderful adventure. Of all, I love to float around in what you call microgravity. But, if I am falling around the planet Mars, how come I do not feel it? Your friends are extremely kind to me and I hope our giggles didn't wake you up from your nice rest. I know when I was back in the Shire I very much liked my naps and did not like interruptions."
"Please stop," said William, trying to calm down the little Hobbit. "Did she have some espresso or something? Hello Miss. Could you tell me your name? I think it would be nice to introduce ourselves first."
"Did I start rambling again? I think I said that one too many times today." Speaking slowly and deliberately, as if he was thick and slow to understand, she continued, "My name is Califa Bolson. I come from La Colina in the Shire in a place called Middle-Earth. It appears that your people know about my ancestors Bilbo and Frodo Baggins. I live a few roads from Bag-End, which is still standing. I have seen humans before and even have some human friends in Gondor, but you look very different from them. Kind to meet you. May I have your introduction now?"
They shook hands.
Feeling a little subordinated by the tiny Califa, he replied proudly, "Im William Boateng and I command the Mars Space Station. My hometown is Christchurch, New Zealand, where I am a wing commander of the armed forces. I have been an astronaut, who is a person who goes into space, for many years now and so have worked with many space agencies on various new technology projects. I like to work especially on plasma and ion propulsion."
"What is plasma? You have your eye on propulsion?"
"Ha, ha! Plasma is like gas, like the air you breathe, but is electrically charged, much like lightning is charged. Ion, spelt I-O-N is an atom, or the very small bits of matter that everything is made of, that has an electrical charge as well. These particles are very effective for propulsion of the spacecraft that send us to the planets."
"Think of when you cut up firewood. Every time you chop the piece of wood, you get a smaller piece. If you could chop it up into a piece so small that you cant see, there is a point where you cant chop it up by physical means anymore. This is an atom. Everything in the world is made up of different kinds of atoms and by combining them in different ways you get different things. You yourself are made up of billions and billions of atoms."
"Billions and billions?"
"Uh, yes, and they are made up of even smaller--"
Realizing that the inquisitive hobbit would continue to question him for eternity, he stopped. William scanned with his eyes the entire module, peeking behind the crew and through the adjacent corridor. Where was Gaea?
"Where is Gaea? Where did she go?" William quickly maneuvered through the space station hub and found Gaea on the astronomy deck, looking out at Mars.
"Good morning, Gaea. Have you slept? Why arent you with the others?"
"Sir, I do not understand. This is all too much for me. I am on this metal vessel floating in the heavens, looking at a planet that just two days ago I saw distantly with my telescope. I was alive hundreds of years ago and now happen to be in the future. This is all very disturbing. If you should have happened to be in my situation, how would you react?"
"Well, I dont know and neither do I understand. My mind tells me that this is impossible, but I cannot question what I am seeing."
"Neither can I!"
Scratching his head in dumbfoundedness, William continued, "I hope you do adjust to living on the space station. You have to understand that how you arrived in 2031 might be supernatural forces, something beyond our control. I do dearly hope that we somehow find a way to bring you back home, but you being an intelligent person should know that you may be here forever."
"I should hope not. I already miss my dear family. While I have always wanted to travel to distant lands, I think this much too exotic."
"Gaea, I think you will learn to love it here. While you might think you are a fish out of water, you share a lot of commonalities with us. We are at the leading edge of science and I hope all that we have to offer will inspire you. You love physics and astronomy. Here is astronomy. Here is physics. The lot of it! It would have been Galileos paradise."
"Yes, this is quite incredible, but what is my family doing in Padua? Am I missing? Are they looking for me? Have I disappeared from existence? If I were truly one of the prominent female scientists from the 17th century, would I have existed if I never returned? Would what I was known for be erased from the history books? What if I did return? Would I change the course of history with what I know?"
"I cant answer that, but my advice is to enjoy whatever you can. This is beyond our control, so you should make the best of it."
"Sì. I know."
"So, lets start anew. First of all, you can stop calling me Sir or all the ladies Madam. We go by first names. Culture in the 21st century is much different from your time. People will act differently from what youre used to, but please put everything into context."
"I shall try. Thank you, William, for being so patient with me."
"My pleasure, Lady Rossi."
As William turned to leave, Gaea motioned to make a remark, but upon further contemplation, she decided not to.
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