Sunday, November 21, 2010

Space: The Sound of Silence Echoes

The Sound of Silence Echoes

The sound of silence echoes.  Blood scatters across the surrounding blackness with every movement of the lone figure that spins wildly away from me. The heavens are stained with light and drops of red that will never run dry as I drift away from the only chance I’ll ever have at returning back.

The final moments that replay through my mind over and over again are interrupted by a thundering clap in the foreign sky. In this land of the perpetual sun the quickest shower crosses the horizon as the rain begins to fall. As the oversized drops of rain pound against dry surface of the planet I realize that the rise and set of the sun on Earth will bring about the fifth day of our journey on this distant rock. Water pounds against the ground in buckets. Nothing could be measured like this on Earth where it’s not even possible for rain to exist here.

There’s a lot of things that they got wrong about here. Here where impossible is possible. Here where there’s atmosphere and elements. Here where day isn’t much different than Earth and a hint of blue jumps out of the sky. Here where there shouldn’t be anything much less rain where I stand looking out and filling my lungs with the last hours of breathable air in this tank.  

From where I stand there’s nothing left to salvage on the Lander. We came in pretty hot on contact without the landing gears. After a landing like that there wasn’t much else to do except set up camp and try to re-establish communications. Communications never recovered after we broke our extended orbit of the Moon and kept spiraling out. It may have been sheer luck or sheer miracle that Stevenson and I where able to guide the Lander closer to the Martian orbit solely on manual navigation. However, nothing could prepare us for what would happen after landing on this red rock.

Carefully I continue to close up the remaining breaks on the exterior of the Lander as the Martian thunderstorm subsides when I hear it. Beep. Beep. Beep. Steady as a heartbeat. The timing of an alarm is never perfect even though you know what it means. From the sound of the alarm on my current tank of air, I’m almost out. Which means wherever Stevenson is, he’s out too. And without the repairs to the grid there’s no way of reaching him on comm.

Pulling out the Specviewer, I take one last glance at the perimeter of the valley before moving back into the Lander. Three clicks over the southern ridge I can see the distant winds gathering speed as the sands lift up into the atmosphere. Oddly enough, there’s been no word from Stevenson. He headed across the southern ridge nearly a day ago looking for mineral deposits that might help to salvage the communications grid and hasn’t made it back yet. There are two more tanks of air in the back of the rover. That should be plenty for the trip back if he’s coming back.

Closing up shop. Preparing for the Martian storm that approaches. I plan to weather the storm with an open frequency and reviewing the logs that were retrieved from this morning’s diagnostic scan. A few are older entries and two recent. The new entries have been uploaded from Stevenson’s rover. The last just entered minutes before the storm closed in.

“Scout left us no choice,” are the last words that echo in Stevenson’s first log. For just a second I think he may have gone AWOL and then I hear it. It’s been at least a week according to the flight logs since Scout left us. Left wouldn’t be the right word since he didn’t exactly go on his own accord. There’s no indication in his words that he’s been contemplating anything outside of the mission but something in the sound of his voice sounds pretty bleak on the log. Shooting and killing Scout weighed pretty hard on Stevenson, but I can’t imagine him not returning over the matter. Any which way, I hadn’t planned on continuing without his return yet I will. I replay the log and listen to his personal rant.

“Capt. Scott will never understand the weight of this feeling that eats away at me. I’m glad to be out on this red rock. Out rolling on this open expanse looking for something instead of trying to restore life to something dead. Part of me wants…  no, expects to see something jump to life as I drive toward the deposits. Anything other than this big empty.”

After hearing that isolation suits him just fine, I take a break from the logs and turn up the frequency on the radar. Three nights ago Stevenson caught a transmission from Mission Control to Echo Launch One. The transmission set him theorizing that with the proper elements we might be able to establish open comms with Echo and transmit back to Mission Control.

09:00 hours. Three lights are blinking next to the logs. The frequency is jumping with Echo Launch One bumping out a pulse to the unmanned outpost on Titan when I spot the new logs. There’s at least five new from the last twenty-four hours as the system updates. Like the previous day two are new. The recent is from Stevenson.

“Captain Scott. I… there’s no point in avoiding this. I’ve made contact. There’s no need to re-establish communications. They have a way for us to make contact. The exact coordinates are embedded in the message….”

I cut off the last message and jump back to the one I ignored from the previous day.

“Captain! There’s a storm moving in! I can’t tell you what this is like. It’s pretty amazing to see up close. I’m almost out of air on this tank and calling it on account of the storm. And not to worry the deposits are three meters away. I should be back by 04:00 if this weathers out. HOLD ON! Wait. There’s… There… Oh my… SCOTT! There’s something coming. It’s… my god! It’s… a human. I mean she’s just like… Thank you for coming. You…”

The rover’s light on the Lander’s Comm panel clicks off as the transmission ends and somewhere over to my right Mission Control orders Echo Launch One further toward the asteroid belt. The sounds of the intermittent pulse remind me of an old fashioned telegraph wiring orders across the expanse of the universe.

It’s hard to believe there’s nothing out here but machines and madmen.

Stevenson’s logs become more and more erratic. Some talk of breathable air and houses within suburbs. People and towns that cover the Martian surface. As I replay the final entry in the log again I come to the conclusion there is no other way. I have to set out after him. There’s no real choice.

Rover two is equipped with its own external working communication grid. It’s a shame I hadn’t realized this when we landed but I could have stripped the mobile unit and kept Stevenson in the Lander until rescue arrived. As I navigate toward the southern ridge I transmit a rolling beacon of distress on a back channel to Echo and Mission Control. There’s no guarantee I’ll find Stevenson, or what happened to him. As a matter of fact, I’m uncertain what’s out there as I’m rolling toward the unknown.

After reaching the last known coordinates on Stevenson’s log I realize I’m exactly three meters from the deposits. After stepping out of Rover Two I can see three distinct objects in redness. Still air surrounds my slow approach. Steps are longer and more pronounced in resistance to advance. My eyes and mind have already formed a perception of what lies ahead. The lines of a human skull are visible beneath a slight covering of red soil. The remaining objects, Specviewer and sample kit are nearby when I see it.

Quicker than my approach I descend back toward the Rover while it follows me. An isolated being moves toward me. Patching directly into comms on the Rover I attempt make contact as this stranger follows in my footsteps.

“Captain Adam Scott.” I speak calmly into the comm. “I repeat, my name is Captain Adam Scott. I mean no threat to you. Where is my man? Have you taken him? There is no reason to hold my man hostage. Release him. I don’t…” As I manage out the last words the stranger becomes quite clear.

A woman shrouded in a suit that resembles mine nears carrying a large piece of equipment. She’s wearing Stevenson’s suit and handing over a part of the Lander. It’s part of the gears that broke off on entry. Without words she urges the piece of equipment toward me. I can’t understand what it means except she’s helping. But this isn’t what happened to Stevenson. They killed him. She wants to kill me.

I manage to reach inside the Rover for my weapon. And it happens quickly. She drops the equipment and I fire. Drops of blood expel from the suit along with the short supply of oxygen that pushes air and life into the dead stillness.

“Where is my man?” I question the unfamiliar stranger who stops to remove the helmet to respond reveals a dark haired woman, with the brightest blue eyes. Electric eyes that stare through me as I demand. “I’ll shoot you again if you don’t answer. “You’re wearing his suit Where is he?”

“D-e-h-h-h-d,” is the reply she pushes out. “As you call it, he no longer is. Much time passed. Waiting. He is gone. His suit was meant for you. A comfort for your mind. Take your part. Leave here.”

“What do you mean “time passed”? Tell me what this means. I want answers.”

Without any further discussion she pulls the release on my weapon and I fall to the ground. More blood scatters. Mine. Black onto redness. Soon the death of the stranger follows. The electricity in those eyes fades to grey and there’s nothing left here. Here where I should not be.

Only the sound of silence echoes in my mind. Across the Martian surface there’s no sign of life. The sole remains of life spill out from my veins onto this reddened isolation. Recalling that the last time I saw blood spilled was the last chance I had at returning back. And now as my own blood spills I know that death is the only certainty I have.

The sound of silence echoes. space. revisited? continued. This is for my friends and anyone that loves a bit of sci-fi and even those who do not. This idea is many months old as I’ve held back much material this year. Anyhow, old is new. New is old. Circles. Love those circles. Going to let this one stand on its own. There is more. Enjoy. kisses. m.

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