Deep Space Express

Prologue
The Beginning of the End

Deep Space Express: Now Boarding

The date is Saturday, July 2nd, 2011. It’s Independence Day weekend in Rockford, IL, and the Saturday brunch crowd at the Forest Hills Country Club is as big as ever. The golf course is busy with the weekenders too busy to play during the work week. Preparations for the 4th are in full swing with rides and games scattered around the grounds. Staff bustle about with food and drink for members, and children are invariably underfoot, largely unattended by their parents.

For those unaccustomed to the scenery, the sea of khaki pants and polo shirts is nauseating. A more self-celebratory crowd is hard to imagine, but they pay their bills and usually tip well. Behind the scenes, the kitchen is a battleground between the straight-laced and formal attitude of Executive Chef Gary Prusa and the indolence and apathy of some of the teenaged wait staff.

In the dining hall, the acoustics are kind to conversation. The room buzzes with a mix of idle chatter and animated banter, but it doesn’t overwhelm talk across the table. The view of the lawn is pleasant, and the gardens are well tended. Bathed in midmorning sunlight, the rolling greens make it easy to forget the sterility of the office and the repetitiveness of work.

Two days until the Fourth of July. Two days until the USA becomes 235 years old. Two hours before the shift change at noon. Two minutes until the end of the world.

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