Monday, January 27, 2014

Space: Revisited & Reimagined

Freedom is what you define as giving you the ability to contradict what limits you. I suppose it's an adventure. Space is an adventure and a fabulous place I wandered into for fiction. Yes, I'd been accepted to apply for Mars One but felt like that adventure wasn't for me at the time. Eh? By the time I have grandkids we will be vacationing on Mars in space cruise ships.  So no worries there. For the moment fiction is it. And yes, it is finished but I doubt I'll post the entire epic online or in print without urging from management or payment of course. 

Needless to say I was inspired to revisit my story excerpts today! Why? This photographer whose work I really admire, [yes just his work, you can't say much about a person you've never met or who refused to sign your books after promising to try & forgets to sell you a print in the size you asked for], has captured the event horizons of space and absence of gravity in a new series. It reminds me of Space and how wonderfully these images capture the storyline amazingly. You may visit his site for more images and info here

Email me for information about the Novel. If you're a fan of the story I will understand and possibly consider arranging for you to read it. I do like to follow through on my "try's" unlike others who deem themselves too busy or too important.  Otherwise... please enjoy these few excerpts from Space. 

Kisses, m

Stars - c/o Tyler Shields

No one can hear you scream. 

No one can hear you scream. Absence of sound. They say within the vacuum of space, there’s no sound. That’s not entirely true. See, the last thing I’ll ever hear is the sound of my own voice screaming inside my head as I drift off into nothingness.

Disconnected. Drifting. Severed from all communication. The Lander gently spirals through a sea of unending night. Blackness meeting light with slow rotation. My own pale reflection graces the bay window as the Lander comes about, pointing us directly toward the lunar shadow in the far distance. In the span I’m able to just make out the lights of the ‘Apollo’ colony against a sea of blue. The blue within my pupil seems to come alive. World within a world. Shudder. Somehow that view always sends chills up my spine. 

Lander 5. Do you read? That was the last link to external life. As the doors sealed me in, the only thing reaching out was that voice. Somehow the mission went horribly wrong and there was nothing left to do but run. The only way out of the compartment is the venting system. Armed with the code key and the necessary tools, I make my way towards the damage. I would need to make the repairs alone. No one could be trusted since my two crewmates had turned and cut me off. 

‘Scout, can you handle this on your own?’ My father used to always ask me before sending me off to school. Each and every day I’d reassure him, I had it under control. But the knot in my stomach disagrees with my usual confidence. For the first time in my life I’m not certain things will be fine. I can honestly say I doubt I’ll make it out. The communications grid is offline and the landing gear on the port side has a fracture, needing dire repair. The window for repair is slim, as the window for re-entry is quickly approaching. My own admission to hating the walks doesn’t stop me from handling the repairs. Of course navigating the maze of the communications grid would be a minimal challenge, but the repairs on the exterior would be quite intensive. 

Alarm paralyzes my mind. Section by section continues to shut down as I work quickly to repair the grid. It’s no use. The others are still working against me. My movements are being sabotaged from within the sealed portions of the Lander. I can not see my enemy, but I know all too well what’s happening. “Scout, cease your activities and return to the main cabin.” The voice of my co-pilot fills the compartment, as I continue to work. Soon there would be no chance of internal communication as the grid begins to fail. Time to move on there’s no hope for the grid. 

Despite the efforts of my crewmates, I remain a step ahead. Managing to suit up and grab a few extra tools I quickly move toward the exterior doors. Scrambling unseen from within I can hear alarms sounding as doors cascade shut in an attempt to seal me off from reaching the damaged port gears. No matter as I’ve reached my destination. Tethered to the Lander by a small cord, I navigate slowly toward the fracture. The damage is greater than I could have imagined, yet I have to try to make the necessary repairs. Settling in next to the break I begin this work. My concentrated efforts are falling short. Small pieces around the break continue to drop away and the opening widens. When it seems all hope is lost, I start to make headway. Just as the seal has finally become secure, a large shadow moves towards me.

A lone figure moves towards me, armed and motioning for me to step back. “Scout you’re done sabotaging, now get up and walk towards me. I don’t want to shoot but if you continue with this course of action we’ll all be killed.” Continuing to step forward he pushes the gun against my suit. Despite the thickness of my uniform, it isn’t a match for this weapon. Gracefully, I maneuver myself into a position to face my opponent. 

“Sabotage? You disabled the external communications and sealed me off from the rest of the ship…” The blank stare of disbelief crosses the enemy and changes immediately to disgust as I’ve uttered this accusation. 

Pressing the weapon harder into my suit and using force to grab at my arm. “Scout, you disabled the communications! We sealed you in… After you killed them! Don’t you remember? Come with me now.”

“NO! NO! NO! There are only three of us. No one is dead! I’ve been working to make repairs to save us and you’ve being trying to stop me. Enough. You’re mad! I have to finish.” Looking down, I attempt to remove my arm from his grip. My tool within reach, I motion towards it, when something catches my eye…

“Scout, there are four people dead in the main cabin. Come back and I’ll show you.” His voice pauses for a response, but I have none as my eyes are completely locked. “If you need proof, look at what you’re doing! The hole in the ship you’ve created!” Eyes are completely enraptured by the beauty of my work. The gaping expanse that remains created by removing the landing gears. The work is incomplete. It must be finished. Methodically, I motion him to move us back toward the doors. In my mind it is certain… I have to kill him. Necessary casualty.

Slowly we make our way toward the door. As he pulls my arm along there is just enough freedom in my other arm that grips a large… WAIT! The large weapon makes contact with my suit and I’ve dropped my tool. Down. Losing Air. Quickly as I watch, he’s unhooking my tether and opening the doors. Just before he enters, one last shot and I’m completely free. Movements are spinning out of control. There’s no chance of securing myself. Rapidly my powerless body drifts out and away.

Peaceful and serene is the black landscape painted all around me. My final moments should be filled with stillness. Nothing. Yet the sounds of my tortured mind continue to tear and haunt. There’s only a matter of minutes left for me to live and I’m completely certain these sounds will follow me into death. 

c/o Tyler Shields

The sound of silence echoes
(November 21, 2010)

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 Quiet

The Quiet. The sound of nothing. Even nothing has a sound. And nothing sounds a whole lot like something. Something familiar. Reminiscent. Past memory. A memory that can’t help but haunt you to the very depths of your psyche. Something known that can not be placed. Yet it’s known nonetheless.

Out into the sea of black the probe navigates away from the Lander. My silhouette reflects dimly in the port window as I switch the controls to auto-pilot.  Here the view lends itself to much privacy. The last unmanned reconnaissance unit spins off before navigating its course toward the last marked coordinates of L5. The clamps retract gracefully as the thrusters’ fire one long burst followed by several intermittent pulses. As the probe banks further off port, the Lander partially greets the red Martian landscape in the far distance. The eerie stillness of the red planet fills my soul with an aching that I can’t ignore.

“DELTA. This is Lander 7. Can you comeback?”

“L7. We’re reading you loud and clear. Mission control is recalling the order. You need to move back in.”

“Delta. Forward Mission Control back. I’m alright out here. I’ve got three more probes. Then I’ll head back to Apollo base. “

“L7. They’re calling it a shore recovery. Crew recall immediate.”

“Delta. I’ve got a bare bones crew. There are three of us out here running things, and there’s no collateral damage to the ship or crew so far. No recall required.”

“Helena. Don’t be foolish. There’s a solar storm moving through. We can search for them tomorrow.”

“Tom. Tell them we’re gonna ride it out on the front line. Both of my earlier launches are returning telemetry. It will be fine.”

“L7 your orders stand. Return immediately.”

“I’m sorry Delta. But I’m going to have to disagree with those orders. Scott wouldn’t stop looking for me, if it was me out there. Both Jansen and Webster are in agreement.”

“Helena. Return now.”

“Delta this is L7 signing off. Out.”

Silence isn’t always a bad thing.

As I flip off the comm. The quiet. Drowning out all other sound. Stillness that creeps into your bones like the icy chill that a winter’s day leaves behind. The Lander spins around to face the front of the Earth and the silent alarm flashes on the switchboard. From the looks of things the last few bay sensors are picking up ghosts. The light beacon flashes intermittently. Every indication signals that docking stations 1900-2001 have been decompressed. There’s been some hard-wire malfunctions thanks to the solar storm but they couldn’t trip the bay sensors. It’s nothing but the sensor ghosts. I need to make my way down and reset the grid manually.

Hunting. Hunting a ghost. The destruction of my own ship may come long before I’ve left command. Three more hours until the full scope of the storm will hit. As I suit up I realize I should have called Jansen before moving down toward the lower deck but there’s no sense in the both of us losing sleep over a few sensor ghosts. I’ll send a system wide echo to see if Webster bounces it back from the communications grid. He’s probably still laughing at my last conversation with Delta.

Nothing. Three minutes have passed since I’ve opened the bay doors. The loss of gravity overwhelms me. I can’t recall loving the feeling but there’s nothing like it. Webster final bounces my echo back as I reset the last sensor on the unmanned stations. I push the comm. for the radio and there’s no change in the signal. I must have disabled internal communication when I disconnected from Delta. I bounce another signal back to Webster to let him know I’ve wrapped up on my end.

As the bay doors begin to close I see the faint line of red beads glisten across the view of the black horizon. In the pit of my stomach I already know what I’m looking at and quickly step back towards the internal chamber. Quickly the sensors begin to dictate what will happen next. The chamber begins to compress and I can visualize the distinct figures before me. Webster. Jansen. Their lifeless bodies tethered by the thin cord of the oxygen tanks remain hanging above the ground. In a moment that feels like an eternity I manage to move myself closer to them. My hands carefully untie the thin cable when I come face to face with a ghost. A ghost that pulls back and shoves a serrated tool into my suit, before stepping back to look me in the eye once again.

“Scout. How?”

I’m spinning down and further down looking up at a madman with a thin coat of blood across his smile. And without his answer the darkness takes hold of me.

There’s only one sound when I emerge from the depths of my mind. It comes slow. The deep sultry voice only familiar in a memory. It tells me of solitude. Reminds me that the loneliness is palpable before pushing me to act once more. I think of Adam stranded somewhere on the Red Planet before I think of Jansen and Webster bleeding out by the hand of a maniac. It’s in that only moment of solitude that I manage to find the strength to flip on the comm. The lights of the switchboard reignite the dark chamber.

“Delta. This is Scott. Helena Scott. We’ve been boarded. Assistance required. L7 Out.”

And that sultry voice within leaves me to the sound of nothing once again. A nothing that sounds more familiar than ever before.

I always thought I knew when this would end. Where it ended and I begin. The weight of death hangs above, trapping my thin body in the corner of the chamber without escape. The distant sound of a faucet set to a slow drip is what my mind conjures up. Drip. Drop. Every drop of blood makes a sound before sliding down the faceplate of my suit. The stillness drifts in and out of my skull as I listen to the sound of something known.

There are a thousand things to say but no one to hear them…

c/o Tyler Shields

It’s oh so still
(May 20, 2011)

It’s oh so still. The calm before the storm. Right before every storm is about to hit there’s the calm. It’s like nothing else. The world seems to stop and eddy closer toward the inevitable. People like to believe that there’s nothing quite like the storm, but I like to believe that everything you need to know about a storm comes ahead in the calm.


My own name sounds unfamiliar when it blares out across the comm. panel. Emerging from darkness it feels like I must have been asleep for three days. By the feeling that pounds violently within my skull I know that it’s been considerably less than that. The lights on the grid blink out of control and the ship’s alert blaring out a reminder to recompress before the hull breach expands. Between the frantic alarm my name jumps back at me once more.

“HELENA! Answer the comm. This is Delta. Come back.”
“Scott here. I’m… I… There are two casualties. I’ve got company.”
“Damn it Scott. You should have…”
“Tom. No time for “I told you so” I have two dead men and a ghost. Honestly I don’t know what I’m up against right now.”
“Helena? Hel… are you ok? Your sensors are telling me that you’ve got a hull breach and…”
“Hull breach is handled. I recompressed and sealed it off. Can you tell me anything about this ghost?”
“Hel, that’s the thing. Aside from the breach, there’s no record of an unregistered intruder. Could you have hit your head?”
“A blow to the head that’s possible. He may have…Tom, I’m not imagining things. It’s real. It’s Scout he’s… alive.”
“Helena I’m not saying that.”
“I’ve been stabbed but it’s artificial. I can do this if I have to. Tom, you have to send…”
“Helena. Don’t do anything. Seal off your chamber and wait. I’m coming.”
“Tom any word on Adam?”
“Helena, I’m sorry to say this but they declared the Mission as a fail. The crew’s all considered dead.”
“Are you sure?”
“There are no more readings from your probes or the satellite uplink. I’m sorry. They’re calling it.”
“Tom. I can’t give up.”
“Stay safe. I’m on the way. Delta out.”
 Out. The lights on the comm. blink out. When I stare back they blink on and the internal grid comes to life. Remembering what Tom said I lift myself to seal the doors. Without another movement the lights blink off and the door remains open. Powerless.

The ship powers up and down intermittently while the engines remain on standby. I can't see or hear anything but I know its coming. The air is still and I can feel the tension mounting. The electricity in the small chamber crackles when it pops the small breakers to life. Between the door and the exterior wall panel there’s the cord to my tether. If I cut the cord to release the door then it will seal closed without power.

Sealed in. Cut off from the ship. Minimal air supply. That’s exactly what the madman wants. I’m not about to give it to him. Not this time. He may have tricked Adam but I’ll be damned if I’m letting him get under my skin. There may be little time but I’m not about to let someone dictate whether I live or die. Certainly not without my permission. Webster had another gun below his belt when he was hanging. If I can reach it I’ll be able to defend myself against this monster.

“Webster you bastard, you weigh more than a dead man ought to.” I talk to the body as if it were about to react at my insult. Beneath the layers of his suit I manage a spare round to accompany the weapon pinned to his waist.

Armed. I’m ready to face this maniac. I make my way toward the next best step, Navigation. As I lift and apply pressure to my wound, I can feel a broken rib. It’s far too quiet and I’m sure he’s almost finished with the engines and moving onto the fuel tanks when my decision tells me to head to the south bay to head him off. The controls for navigation and helm can be accessed through rear facing panels along that spread. Half back around the cargo hold it’s still relatively quiet and no sign of the monster. I’m not sure what I’m expecting to happen when I come upon him. I only know that it means control of the ship if I do. And the first thing I need is the navigation and perimeter secure from where I stand. The door releases without give. And I’m welcomed by the sound of sucking air echoing down the south corridor. I’m certain that he hasn’t been through the chamber. The breach in the hull sealed off this corridor now pressurized by my movements.

Walking down the vacant hall I can see the shifting light of the lunar colony mirror the colors of Earth. It’s been too long since I’ve walked along the surface of the blue planet. Something about the blue reminds me of Adam and I want to cry but there isn’t time for that. The memories of home and our life on the coast of Maine call to my wandering mind in this moment where the only thing keeping me sane is that crystal blue expanse that lives in a reflection off the lunar surface. It’s then I turn back to see the blackness that fills the remaining windows and understand that I can’t go back anymore when I reach the panels. Whatever is coming. And it’s coming quickly.

Working quickly my fingers shift and tumble through the mechanisms that lay within the paneling. Its last maintenance was two years ago when it left space dock at Apollo colony. Navigation has never been routed through a south channel until now. The sound of my own heartbeat fills the silence in my head. The sharp sounds of metal against my fingertips echo across the stillness. There’s nothing like the still stagnate air to remind you of something unseen that will emerge without warn. One by one the pieces fall into place. The puzzle makes sense. I’m laying in the course when it comes softer than any storm should.

“Helena Scott. I thought I killed you. Just like your old man thought he did me in.”
“I like to surprise.”
“I can see that. Since you like surprises, what shall we do about this?”
“You can have the shuttle. It’s small but it’ll take you to the far side of Earth if that’s what you want. I won’t tell them…”
“Helena, that’s not what I had in mind. And I thought you might enjoy the shuttle from the outside.”
“Scout. Don’t. It’s too late. I can’t correct the course.”
“I can. Move aside. This time I won’t make the same mistake.”
“as you wish...”
Three steps into my conceding walk I spin and fire. When I take it I know there’s a slim chance I’ll hit him at this range and a damn good chance I’ll blow a hole in the ship, but I fire anyway. Madness steps back when it hits and misses his intended place at the controls. Watching him shake off the stun without a glint of pain sends a shudder up my spine. I step back and without a second thought I’m running. The sound of fire echoes in my head and I’m barreling up the southern deck. At full force my feet fall one after another. I can’t hear it coming, but the madness is chasing me down. I can feel it coming. Then I stop.


The moment I catch my breath he’s got a hold of me. Striking me. Cutting the skin on my face. Tearing into my suit. And…

Everything that flashes in front your eyes before death is a lie. You aren’t really experiencing life again. You are just telling yourself this isn’t happening. But it is.

“ Helena, wake up.”
“Scott where am I?”
“Helena it’s Tom. What happened to you?”
“What? Tom. Where?”
“Hel, what were you thinking? The panel could’ve killed you. The explosion must have been massive.”
“Scout? Where is he? The shuttle. I gave him the shuttle. You have to…”
“There’s no one here. The shuttle is still docked. You’re missing two probes. Looks like misfires. There’s good news though, Webster’s alive. Barely. But he’s breathing. Doc Cox thinks he’ll suit up just fine again.”
“Where is Scout?”
“Helena there’s no one here. I can’t tell you what I think… I wasn’t here.”
“Tom, track the probes. Someone will…”
“Helena, I’m taking care of it. Rest.”

The sounds within  my mind continue to haunt while the air remains still. Watching the world from the medical bay on Delta’s port view and it’s oh so still from the surface. There’s nothing quite like the stillness that comes before. The blue washes up and over to meet the browns and greens of the land masses. The small slender white clouds blanket the southern region. Millions of miles beyond them lie the cool dark surface of the moon that speaks its own language without words. Calmly and quietly the absence of sound fills the tiny chamber of the medical bay and I’m out of my head back on board Delta enjoying the final moments of the calm. Cause there’s nothing like the calm before. The storm is coming. You know it is. It’s those tiny little moments before that give a little warning of what’s to come. If you pay attention there’s nothing quite like the still that fills the air.

c/o Tyler Shields

Into the great calm
(June 24, 2011)

It always seems calm from within the storm. The gaping distance of still surrounded by chaos. And truly there’s nothing like swimming in the small silent moments of your thoughts while the rest of the world is caught up in the storm.  

It’s been thirteen hours since I’ve broke from L7. Scott will be on my tail soon enough. The chances of Helena letting this go are slim to none. She never lets anything go. Damn stubborn woman. And now that she’s aware of my existence there’s nothing going to stop that woman from pursuing me to the depths of hell itself.

There’s an hour left on the old probe’s life support system and Apollo dock shouldn’t be more than thirty minutes off according to sensors. The timing couldn’t be better as I’ve got a kink in my neck and my shoulder’s a little stiff from this travel. In my ear the chiming of controls signal the depletion of energy.

Lucky for me this probe has been sub-programmed to act as a hibernation unit in case of emergency crash. These old archaic units ought to have been outlawed but somehow there’s a few left and they’re virtually untraceable to scans. Not a chance the scent of my trail will be noticeable.

“Probe 9, initiate protocol.” The narrow voice of the Apollo docking agent blares through my tiny intercom system. Out along the horizon lines there’s three small docking clamps maneuvering to grab a hold of the probe by manual authorization. Underneath the lines of metal piercing into metallic cautiously I can see the golden colors of the sun hitting the earth before kissing the edge of the planet. It’s when the black becomes blue that the magic of the universe sends my mind in awe of all that has been and will come. The small clamps initiate a dance along the port side of the probe while I disengage myself from within my untimely coffin.

As I expel myself out of the small unit I’m awe-stricken by the sheer size of my surroundings. Apollo docking station Alpha happens to be the largest port on the lunar surface. The size and magnitude of the station can be seen from the surface of earth in a large city with minimal visibility. There are three captains docked alongside the final resting place of my celestial sarcophagus. Three mechanical C units stop short of me before moving onto locating the probes navigational array. Aside from standing in a zone that prohibits any life form from entering the units have already detected the missing array and signaled for a Dock Marshall to investigate immediately.

Silently the triggered alarm flashes throughout the dock without much more than a blink of lights with a red flash. There are now two men accompanied by a large F crane and medical C unit to research the small craft that lays dormant in the bay. Ducking below an armed storage cabinet I can make out three small ships newly serviced and ready for launch.

Without a ship I’ll never make it to Mars. And outrunning Helena will be more than difficult without the proper speed. She’s probably neck deep in the red tape of having to reinitiating the flight protocols to stabilize the ship systems. Navigation is blown to smithereens. That damn ship won’t do anyone a bit of good. But knowing Scott she’ll try. Should’ve killed that one when I had the chance. And that’s the thing about chances you never get the same one twice. Helena may follow, but I’ll be ready when she does. Waiting… to finish what was started on L7.

“Sir, excuse me. Sir you can’t be on this dock. It is a restricted area only.” A deputy dock Marshall stands behind me interrupting my thoughts with a tone in his voice that makes the nails on a chalkboard sound pleasant. Silently I arm the nearest gun waiting for another reason to fire. Without much warn he nods with a stern grimace before scooting out a nearby opening after a small group of pedestrians wearing Christian Alchemy Bingo shirts. The tiny cult of nomadic Jesus gamblers sends the deputy barreling up the north corridor after his own daywear and freedom from the grind.  

After his absence I continue back to my view of the open dock and help myself to a few pieces of gear from the locking cabinets before setting the explosives. Two rounds of ammo should aide in the destruction of the dock after I’ve broken clear of orbit. Timer’s been set for ten minutes when I round up the last pieces of equipment and seal the hatch on Orbital 4. There’s little distinction between this craft and the nine other’s that make up the north corner of the dock.

Aboard the Orbital two crewmen are easy enough to take out. Disabling the controls upon entry I handled the helmsman then the second mate falls into the line of fire. Without much effort I slip into the crewman’s uniform before the front cabin. Still a surprise my entrance sends the Captain scrambling for his weapon. Too Late. Man down. Last in line falls fast. Quickly I’m in control and pressing in the coordinates toward Martian space. L5’s last known coordinates.

Escaping the space dock opens the view of Earth to the Orbital’s observation floors on the port side. Nearly half the Orbital is blanketed in the crystal blue reflection of Earth. The view is partially blocked by the gray darkness of the lunar surface that acts a like an unwanted blemish in the view of the blue in a sea of silence. A calm that is broken by the sound of static.

“Delta. This is Delta. Can anybody read me?” Across the helm the comm. panel spouts the sounds of the nearest recon missions. “Mission Control. Apollo. Come in. Delta has boarded and explored L7 and recovered survivors.  There is no need for addition measures. Buoy for tow has been dropped at coordinates.”

Delta shouldn’t be on its way back already. But nevertheless it is. And with company. There may be time for a detour yet.

“Delta. This is Orbital 4. Can I be of assistance?” looking down at my lapel I continue. “I’m crewman Jenner. Over.”

“Jenner we’re heading into Apollo for repair. No assistance needed. Delta. Out.”

“Orbital 4. Out.” I signal before flipping the comm. off and watching the view once more with the intermittent static filling my ears.

Blanketing the sky in instantaneous color, the boom of explosion shakes the calm as it fills the expanse. Grey upon blue is now covered in an array of colors that seem more appropriate if they existed on the surface of the blue planet. The growing expanse of colors expands and contracts in a new unseen pattern as the Orbital makes its slow departure out into the darkness unseen.

A great calmness fills the air and sends me off into the direction of my destiny as I break away and turn down the sound once more.

formation c/o Tyler Shields

Pursuit into peacefulness
(October 12, 2011)

Into the peacefulness the unknown lies ahead. And the pursuit of the unknown is all that I can focus on. The stillness surrounds and expands out into the darkness. Like a still darkened surface of water the view seems to reflect and capture light. Even the distant hue of Mars is a mere shadow against a calm sea of dark that passes through before my view in the Flyer’s main window. Once more as I circumnavigate the echo of Earth’s brilliant blue resting in corner of the view that leaves me without breath. The reflection of colors brilliantly illuminates the damaged portions of Apollo dock. A reminder that something is no longer here.

Here where they doubt my resolve and disregard what I know to be true. I know that nothing I can say or do will change what’s happened. And there’s only one thing I have to know with certainty. It’s the only thing that remains firm in my mind as I press the controls to spin out towards the distant red planet. It’s been merely hours since I’ve left dock in this Flyer. This old ship should get me there and back. There’s something to be said about driving another man’s car. You can learn a lot about a person from how they take care of their car. In this case I’m using another man’s ship and aside from the outdated equipment panels, this old girl works better than my Flyer.

It’s been a week since they recovered remnants from the missing probe. There’s no sign of the passenger only the confirmation that its course was manually input. It’s “nothing more than a trail of crumbs” as my grandmother might put it frankly. But something I’ve learned over the years is that there’s always a chance with bread crumbs, you just have to follow the birds to find the way.   Apollo dock has repairs underway as I say goodbye to an old friend.

“Jansen” was a good man, brother, husband, father, soldier and friend…” Even as the words escape my mouth I can hardly come to grips with the loss of my friend. The tone in my voice falters despite the strong words that come out. “It’s not every day that someone you love looses their life, but the losses happen every day.  We must find the strength…”

Strength and flawless reserve are what make a person.” Tom says before approaching me.
“Spare me the lecture, I…”
“Helena, I wasn’t mocking… I liked your speech. Jansen would have liked it. And I just wanted to see how you’re doing.”
“I’m alright. It’s just that…” I tell him that I’m alright. The same way I keep telling everyone else that I’m alright. But alright is anything but the truth. My husband has been declared dead. I’ve been stripped of my rank due to an extended psychiatric observation. Three different science surveys couldn’t pick up any traces of Scout. As far as Command is concerned the issue and book is closed because of the apparent question of my mental state.
“Everyone keeps asking? Yeah, It seems that the boys upstairs think… well Helena I won’t mince words with you. They think you’ve been under a lot of stress. You know, losing Adam and…”
“I didn’t... Don’t say it Tom.”
“Helena, I won’t. I believe you the same. Just come up to the cabin. Stay with Amy and the girls. I want you to let this all blow over. They’ll clear you for duty soon enough.”
“I can’t. You know I can’t. You should know why? Did you call it in?”
“Please. I wish you would reconsider. And don’t ask me to…”
“To what? Tom we’ve been friends…
“For fifteen years, Helena. Don’t ask if I understand. I know why you are doing this. I can’t say I wouldn’t be doing the same if it where me standing in your position. And I called it in.”
“Thank you, Tom.”
“Don’t thank me for this Helena. It’s your career and mine on the line.”
“Tom… what if he’s alive? Isn’t that worth the risk?”
“What happens if you come across Scout? Are you prepared for that?”
“Tom, I don’t… it won’t be… I’ll admit there may be the chance I cross paths with him. But that isn’t my concern anymore. That man has another agenda.”
“Why do you say that?”
“The coordinates he was plugging into my navigation didn’t match up to anything. I can’t be afraid to go out because of something that might or might not happen. Tom I have to go.”
“Helena, please reconsider.”
“It’s Adam. If he’s out there I have to know. If there’s a slim chance he’s still alive…. Tom, he would do the same for me. “
“I know he would and damn it if I wouldn’t be helping him too. He’d sure as hell be helping me if it was Amy out there on that rock.”

With his last bit of wisdom said and done, Tom gets quiet. In his face I see the lines of worry turn to sadness. The silence between is interrupted by the opening of the launch doors. The probe carrying Jansen’s body is about to launch. Its schedule course sends him out to orbit Earth once more before making its final course into the sun.  The door cast a brilliant shadow of color onto the dock. The blue fills the room and I’m in awe of the beauty of the Earth. The blanket of blue continues to pass in front of my eyes and there’s a feeling of loss tugging at my soul that I can’t seem to ignore. Luckily for Jansen tradition grants the fallen traveler one more view of the world before sending him off on his way.

On my way. Just like Jansen I’ve finished circling and made my final course.  The storm came and went taking with it whatever information my ship had regarding the Lander’s whereabouts on Mars. Three logs filled with coordinates wait for my able hands to decipher and work through for leads on where the L5 went down. It’s my trail of bread crumbs that requires patience. Patience for a task that should keep as I make my journey out towards the unknown abyss. As I keep watching the calm open expanse open, the small moments of silence never seem to end. It’s the first time I know what I need to do, even if it brings me to face the truth what happened to Scott. At least I’ll be facing it. Once you face the truth, then you know exactly what you’re dealing with.

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