Go Boldly by Dan Barr

* T-minus two minutes to launch. * came a voice over the loud-speaker.

Mission Director Arabica was going through the instrumentation readouts and everything looked good.

Arabica pushed the intercom button on the panel in front of her and spoke into the mic. “Captain Kaldi, this is Director Arabica. Over” 

“Good morning Director Arabica, this is Kaldi. Over.”

“Just want to go over a few final checks before liftoff. How's the grind looking on your end? Over.”

* T-minus one minute, 30 seconds to launch. *

“Grind is good here ma'am. I'm showing a consistent medium-coarse consistency. Over.”

Arabica nodded her head to no one in particular. “And your water temp? Over.”

“I'm showing just about 97º C. Over.”

“Good,” Arabica said, “keep that temp up, we don't want to have a cold brew situation while you're flying through the air.”

“No ma'am,” Kaldi laughed.

“I just have one more question for you captain,” Arabica said, “How does it feel to be the first man flying into space on a coffee-powered rocket? Over.”

* T-minus one minute to launch. *

“Ma'am,” Kaldi said, his pride leaking through the speaker, “it's the greatest honor a person could ask for. And it's been an honor working with you. Over and out.”

Arabica leaned back in her chair and took a deep, relaxed breath when suddenly someone yelled “HOLD THE LAUNCH!”

It was Dr. Mill, who'd been a burr in Arabica's side since the mission was first initiated.

“What is it, Dr. Mill?” Arabica extended the pronunciation of “doctor” to express just how unimpressed she was his title.

* T-minus 30 seconds to launch. *

“The numbers are wrong!” Mill expressed in a panic. “We thought the pour over would create enough rich, bitter flavors to break through the atmosphere but look!” he shouted, pointed to hastily scribbled notes, “we didn't account for the water's longer exposure to air. There's too much cooldown! We need to go with a French press!”

“Do you know what that would mean, Mill? That would mean starting from scratch! Totally rebuilding the rocket. Billions of dollars wasted!”

* 10 seconds to launch. *

“We're talking about a man's life!”

* 7, 6 *

“Every rocket scientist in the country has double-checked this math and they've all approved it. The launch goes!”

* 4, 3 *

“I can't let it happen!” Mill lunged for the abort button on Arabica's console and was promptly tackled by her.

* 2, 1, we have liftoff! *

The room filled with cheers as the coffee-powered rocket rose from its pedestal, blasting aromatic steam in its wake.

“Kaldi! I need a report on your status!” Arabica yelled into the mic.

“We're all black here, everything's looking tip-top,” came the distorted reply.

Arabica smirked at Mill. “See Mill, you're a paranoid old fool who's drinking way too many espressos. Maybe we oughta start you on mochas. They're basically hot chocolates.”

“Wait,” came a staticky voice over the speaker, “something's wrong, I'm getting error messages.”

“STUBB!: Arabica screamed, turning to a man at a computer screen sitting a level below her console.

“I . . . I don't know ma'am,” he said. “Fruity flavors are rising while bitter and chocolaty notes are dropping fast.”

“Don't you see, it's the water!” Mill exclaimed. “By the time it reaches the bottom of the grounds, it's not hot enough to leach out the more bold flavonoids. It's going . . . mild.”

Arabica's face dropped. 

“Ma'am, we're losing acceleration. What do we do?” Stubb asked.

“Ground control, I'm getting a lot of alarms here,” Kaldi's voice came through over the speaker. “Should I eject?”

Arabica looked at the warnings blinking on Stubb's screen and sighed. “Affirmative, captain. Prepare to eject, we're aborting the mission. Over.”

“Wait,” Mill interjected, looking through his stack of notes, “I have an idea. Here!” he said, pointing to a spot on the mission plan.

“Captain Kaldi, this is Dr. Mill from mission planning. I can get you and your ship into space but you have to follow my instructions. Do you copy?”

“I copy,” Kaldi said, “but make it quick. Boldness is dropping dramatically up here and I'm not sure how much longer until I start to freefall.”

“On your right hand,” Mill began, “there's a button that says 'Morning Lift Off'. Do you see it? Over.”

“Got it,”

“Wait,” Arabica said, taking Mill aside. “That brew is meant to boost the ship into a higher orbit, not for liftoff. If he uses it now he won't be able to complete the mission.”

“If he doesn't use it now the mission is already a failure,” Mill replied. “Do you want to be the mission director of the first spaceship to reach low orbit fueled by coffee or do you want to be the mission director for the first coffee spaceship that fell back to Earth?”

Arabica swallowed the bitter taste in her mouth and returned to the mic. “Captain . . . steep the Morning Lift Off grounds now!”

“Aye aye ma'am!”

Everyone at mission control held their breath as they waited for the shuttle's statuses to change on their screens.

“The bold coffee flavor is getting stronger!” Stubb called out. “The ship is accelerating! It worked!”

“Mission control this is Kaldi. I got green lights across my board. That Morning Lift Off was just the strength I needed to get my ship back on track.”

“No surprise there, captain, it's the strongest brew in our fleet,” Arabica said. “And thanks to the quick thinking of Dr. Mill, it'll carry you the rest of the way.”

Dr. Mill blushed. “It was nothing. The answer was there the entire time, I just noticed it first.”

“Control, this is Kaldi. My instruments tell me that I've just reached the thermosphere. We did it! You guys did it! The first coffee-powered rocket. You saved the mission!”

“Don't thank us, captain,” Stubb said into the microphone as the rest of the ground crew cheered and embraced each other, “thank Morning Lift Off.”

“I owe you, Mill,” Arabica said, patting the man on the shoulder. “What do you say we hit the commissary and I buy you a cup of coffee. Maybe some Morning Lift Off.”

“I think I'd prefer a mocha,” he replied, and they both laughed.


Dan Barr is a writer and editor living in Sacramento, California. The only thing he enjoys more than a good cup of coffee is a good story. He has not been to space.

Dan's "Go Boldly" won Sci-Fi Coffee's Coffee Lifts Creatives Contest.