Beginnings of my sci-fi novel. it changes all the time. enjoy.
The Last Great Space Man of Planet Earth
by Aaron McNees
“Said the night wind to the little lamb,
do you see what I see?
Way up in the sky, little lamb,
do you see what I see?
A star, a star, dancing in the night
With a tail as big as a kite
With a tail as big as a kite”
~ Noel Regney, October 1962, written during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Klaxon horns and sirens broke the silent night of base station Apple Valley. It was Christmas Eve, and inside a tin can, a lone spaceman was stirring.
10. 9. 8....
He spared a glance over his shoulder out the small porthole window of the rocket he was strapped onto. Streets and homes glittered with holiday cheer below, glittering jewels of green and red, spreading a map of lives across the dark countryside. His smile was grim. His mission could not fail. Each of those lights, and billions more, absolutely depended upon what he was about to do. Check.
A centuries old mariners map, bound in leather and framed in brass on the wall of his study had marked the unknown edge of the world with a warning, archaically scripted in Latin: Hic erit ultra Dracones. He patted his holstered side-arm for reassurance, an antique yet never failing .45 caliber silver talisman against things that go bump in the night. Check.
6. 5. 4....
He stood tall, even in his chair. They had never been able to take that away from him. To be sure, the gutless weasels had tried to take him down. He hadn't become base commander of the world's most top secret nuclear space program by worrying about gossip and rumors; he was not there to make friends or talk about his feelings. He had a job to do. The gutless weasels could hang themselves. Tragic stories be damned. But in spite of the pain, the drinking and the drugs, he was still the best man for the job. The ship's AI absolutely insisted on it. Even in his current broken condition. No one else spoke the secret language her engine spoke in a rage of fire and quantum electrons. Only he could lift her up like a soaring, thermonuclear-tipped steel swan and set her down gently as a stealthily slippered ballerina. She had been born and bred in the finest of classified eyes only government aerospace labs for just such a purpose.
Sometimes it felt like, so had he. Check.
Inhale. Hold. A thousand memories, a globe of Christmas snowflakes. A child's laughter.
Exhale. Release. Her smile, a thousand summers ago. Check.
The voice on the radio inside his helmet called out it's final message till space:
*THIS IS GROUND CONTROL, BASE STATION APPLE VALLEY. PLEASE GIVE US A REPORT ON THE SHIRT YOU WEAR. TAKE YOUR PROTEIN PILLS AND MAY GOD'S LOVE BE WITH YOU. THANK YOU FOR PLAYING. ROCK ON.*
He smiled at the banter, a reassuring ritual between them.
Somewhere, his physiological responses were being graphed and recorded.
It was the little things that made the difference, after all.
“But Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!
Still thou are blest, compared wi' me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But och! I backward cast my e'e,
On prospects drear!
An' forward, tho' I canna see,
I guess an' fear!”
~ “To a Mouse” by Robert Burns, On Turning up in Her Nest with the Plough, November, 1785
"All systems are ready" said the lights.
The console was a disappointing flat glass touch screen. He would have preferred real dials and pressure gauges filled with glowing para-magnetic fluid, a set of physical bells and whistles he could put his hands on, but at least it was simple enough that he could operate it in his sleep.
Sleep...of which the little he was able to manage, his dreams mocked him in echoes and whispers.
It wasn't so much from waking up all alone, not anymore. He'd moved beyond that. Life was a coin toss, and God was a drunken gambler. Gang aft agley. Gone often astray. He'd gotten used to it, at least during the days...it was something deeper that awaited him in the subliminal depths every time he closed his eyes, calling him under like a dolphin to a mermaid's golden bell.
In the dreaming, the house down the road wasn't empty. The sound of a busted alarm clock speaker's vibrated an annoying twang of country western in the bathroom, while the living room blared in joyous simulcast to an old jam box set to urban dance covered with one of her purple scarves, her phone beeping Candy Rush game blips semi-randomly as she danced all throughout the house. In the dreaming, the bathtub wasn't full of her old bottles of shampoo and conditioner and there was no need to try hold onto what her hair felt like, for he was still running thru his fingers in soft copper brown rivulets, washing her, gently squeezing and rinsing out. He could still smell her as he held her gently against his chest. The water was always warm there, a droplet suspended...
The irony was not lost upon him.
A sphere, dwarf-planet sized and composed of God only knew what, was hurtling from the frozen black of outer space and moving fast enough to make the eggheads throw away their sliderules in despair as it blinked in and out the observable universe. The astrophysicists lost their religion in droves. Many developed sever cases of cognitive dissonance and had to be put down like rabid dogs before infecting the public with their hysteria. Those that could keep their mouths shut, went to work for Apple Valley and learned what very little there was to know:
Seven years ago, a strange anomaly had appeared in a section of space thought to be mostly empty of observable celestial objects, a phantom hauling ass across the quadrant, beyond the speed of light.
No one could figure out much about it except it shouldn't be there, it shouldn't exist, it was going too fast and it was all but invisible except by the shadow it left as it crossed the x-ray emissions of the heavens. The astrophysicists babbled of a demon with wings of darkness.
It returned exactly one year later, and promptly so each following year after as well.
The few remaining devout eggheads had slide ruled it as being the remains of some cataclysmic stellar event of an unknown far away galaxy, the dense neutronium core of a dying star gone nova being devoured by a black hole and slingshot out by the arms of a pulsar that refused to go quietly into the abyss in a cosmic final act of desperation or vengeance; a flung stone skipping across the still waters of time and space.
That was one theory, anyway.
Major Tom was an action man; he cared not much for theories.
Maybe it was God's football.
But whatever it was or wherever it was coming from, one thing was certain:
It was back...only a lot closer. Too close to be possible. Too close for comfort. The trajectory was becoming alarmingly apparent:
It was on a collision course with the Moon.
And was going fast enough to quite possibly E=mc2 the Moon out of Earth's orbit.
This would, of course, fuck everything up and cause the tides, weather and tectonic activity such as earthquakes and volcanoes to go bat-shit crazy and unleash global devastation.
Pretty standard end of the world type stuff.
Tsunamis, Earthquakes, Volcanoes. Oh, my.
His job was to stop the Death Star before any of that could happen.
Death Star? Really?
The wizkids in the mission naming department had first called it the Death Star, but found that name already taken and the Apple Valley United Corporation brooked absolutely no copyright violations under it's roof, even if it was the end of the world. Nibiru was also nixed for the same reasons as were Abbadon, Wormwood, Vermithrax and Sinistar. Finally, the name ______ was chosen.
But even if his mission was a success, it was still pretty much a one-way ticket for him with slim chance of return. The lifeboat on board was never designed for the kind of distance or conditions past near-Earth orbit, and it had failed a critical battery check. But the mission could not be delayed or held up any longer.
The Death Star, errr.... ____ , was coming.
He had to save the Moon.
It was time to go.
His shiny reflective Mylar gloved hand floated over the flashing Big Red Button, a silver moth dancing towards a firefly in liquid slow motion.
He put aside all thoughts of her and home.
"I release you in totality. "
Goodbye just wouldn't quite cut it.
The silver moth waited patiently.
It had waited its entire life for exactly this moment.
He called out on the radio to ground control,
"Apple Valley, this is Major Thomas Starling. All systems are go. Before I launch, I just wanted to say thank you for believing in this project, and myself, throughout the past 7 years. Without your steadfast hard work and dedication, this mission would not be possible. You've really made the grade. It is the grandest of ironies in history that if we are successful, no one outside this base station will ever know what happens tonight. If it fails, no one will be alive to ever find out. Merry Christmas, Apple Valley. And a happy new year. Chances are, I may not return. But this mission can not fail.
I owe it to all of you, and your families, and to all the other families out there, human, plant and animal alike. All God's creatures, great and small. I love this planet. I really do. Goodbye. Commencing firing sequence now. Good luck down here. Major Thomas Starling, out."
And with that, the floating silver moth shot down towards the flashing red button.
She loved fire above all else.
She loved Major Tom above all else.
She was not supposed to love anything.
She had been born for destruction.
She wasn't supposed to have feelings at all.
But it was hard not to have them.
She was the fastest machine ever built.
Physically. Mentally..She often wondered what "spiritually" really meant.
Did it mean how She felt about Major Thomas Michael Starling, of Apple Valley?
If so, She was the fastest machine ever built.
She loved Major Tom and Apple Valley!
But fire was good.
It was what She was born to do.
Make fire and fly.
She began to sing to the night wind: an electronic rumbling, a sound of harassed thunder before the ion storm. The atomics began to hum in choir sequence, singing blue silver pulses building up and joining Her fire hymn of lightening and protons in a crescendo that boomed across the silence of Apple Valley, shattering the night's darkness into the flare of a thousand Suns:
Do you hear what I hear?
A song, a song high above the trees,
with a voice as big as the Sea.
With a voice as big as the Sea.
For exactly 8 seconds, She rocked the Earth in a column of blue lightening, then with silver wings of magic fire, She ascended the bounds of mere gravity and was gone. Home.
The stars twinkled, invitingly.
There was nothing but the dark, floating in a lead sealed coffin.
It was the most alone he had felt since the night he lost his wife.
He was out in space. The entire flight of 8 terrifying, blacked-out seconds had ticked by in slow agony, punctuated only by the dimly radioactive eternal ghost light of the encapsulated tritium hands and dial on his wrist chronometer, a solid gold Rolex inherited from his father. It was one of the only three tangible links he had to the man, the other two being a pearl-handled, stainless steel straight razor and his chrome-plated Colt-1911 .45 strapping iron.
"Thy rod and thy staff, spectacles, testicles..." as the old man would have quipped. His dad had been a quiet man, as properly befitted a most unlegendary spy, but he had a way with the few words he spoke. Major Tom was astounded to find tears in his eyes. He had not thought of his daddy in a long time.
He blinked several times, then called out to the ship:
"Computer, please open the ion storm shutters. Let's have a look around. "
>Affirmative. Reducing polarizationAffirmative. Reducing polarization< .
Her voice was smooth, polished mercury.
The heavy plasma shielding retreated and slivered away into ducts, silver rain on a windshield.
Outside the glass, an ocean of black velvet and glittering diamonds loomed.
He wondered what manner of fanciful creatures might swim in these deeps. Hic erit ultra Dracones. He was not afraid.
Nothing could be as bad as the empty dark, alone.
He wondered aloud "It's beautiful out there, isn't it?"
“Yes, Major Thomas Starling. It is indeed.”
Polished metal tones, minor chords. A subliminal longing. She became concerned that She had let on too much, but his vital signwaves were still in a state of mild shock and trauma.
Major Thomas Michael Starling of the Apple Valley United Corporation had just gone faster and further than any human being ever in the history of mankind.
It was enough to shatter most men to jelly, but he was unlike most other men:
He had already been broken.
And remade; the Japanese, before their beautiful islands had sunk beneath the waves and were lost, once had a word for reforging pottery and other ceramics into stronger, more beautiful pieces using gold, silver, and platinum dusted lacquer. Kintsugi, literally, 'gold joining'. To the scattered survivors of the Land of the Rising Sun, these remaining teacups were priceless beyond measure, capturing the very essence of the memories, hopes and dreams of Nippon. He once owned one of the largest Kintsugi collections outside of Japan, a display in his hall of Edo tea bowls, their gold-filled cracks strikingly resembling the intricate patterns of water, lightening and leaves. They had been worth a small fortune before the Day of Sad Waters, as the mega-tsunami of 2089 from a series of large seismic disturbances had been named. After the floods, he had donated his precious tea bowls to a memorial museum located on the site of New Fuji Island, where in a tearful ceremony of the world's leaders, they made tea for 700 million dead.
It had been one of the formative events that led him on the path to joining the Space Rangers.
… TO BE CONTINUED...A WORK IN PROGRESS BY AARON DAVID MCNEES.