To avoid alienating my audience with discussions on politics that are completely boring and academic, I’ve decided to make a return to fiction.
Once again, I will challenge myself by writing in a genre that I’ve never done before. This time HARD science fiction (if you know what I mean 😉) a la Arthur C. Clarke, albeit in first person because that’s the only way I know how to write.
And instead of descending into pure action schlock, as my stories tend to do, I will try to end this one on a hopeful note.
Per usual, I will be winging it and make no guarantees that it will be good.
“Fuck space!” I said to my executive officer while we were docking at Space Station Tranquility Bay orbiting earth. “This will be my last mission, so help me GOD!”
“You said that 5 missions ago, Bill,” the XO replied. “Personally, I love it out here. It truly is a never ending frontier.”
“Speak for yourself, Jackass!”
Dr. Sergei Jackass and I served together for 15 years. I was a military man. He was trained astrophysicist from some dump of a university in east Europe. We came from two different worlds, but together we made one hell of a team.
After our ship, the USV Jim Varney, completed docking maneuvers, Dr. Jackass and I were ordered to meet with Admiral Stockdale for debriefing.
“Captain Kananga, I trust that your mission was a success,” the Admiral said.
“Yes sir,” I replied, “the two years studying the black hole around Uranus was money well spent.”
“We gathered all the sufficient data sir,” Dr. Jackass interjected.
“Good. You men will have a fortnight’s rest and then report USV Carl Sagan for your next mission.”
“Wait a minute, sir,” I said, “with all due respect, there’s a reason why the Sagan is called the Starship of the Imagination: because your imagination is the only thing that works on that piece of shit. If you want to send me into deep space in that thing, then you can have my resignation.”
“Captain Kananga, I understand that you want to be on the front lines in the war in North Africa, but this is important. We need you out here.”
“What can be more important than fighting for peace and democracy?”
“Because this information is classified, I was going to wait until you reported to the Sagan. But I will tell you now. We have received a strange transmission from a planet orbiting Tau Ceti.”
“Admiral,” I said, “I’ve been on one end of the Solar System to the other, and let me tell ya: there ain’t no aliens.”
“Space Fleet Command disagrees. STRONGLY,” the Admiral replied, “take a look at this report.”
The Admiral handed me a folder filled with charts and graphs I didn’t understand. “You know I can’t read this shit,” I said, “I’m a soldier, not a mathematician.”
Dr. Jackass took the paperwork and was stunned. “My god,” he said, “Captain, this is for real this time.”
I paused and rubbed my face. “Tau Ceti is over four light years away,” I said, “there’s no way the Sagan could make that kind of journey.”
“The Sagan has been updated and outfitted with all the necessary technology for interstellar travel,” the Admiral added. “We need you Captain. Damn it Bill. We need you. BADLY.”
The Admiral extended his hand.
“Okay Admiral,” I said as I shook his hand, “one more mission.”
I celebrated my birthday while on leave. I was somberly drinking myself into oblivion when Dr. Jackass stopped by my London flat.
“Doctor, I don’t want to be lectured,” I said.
“All I said was ‘happy birthday.’”
“With all the heavy interstellar objects that we’ve spent so much time around, we’ve aged so much slower than people on Earth. I’m the same age as my son now! Nobody told me that was gonna happen!”
“Is this about not being able to fight in the war?”
I took another drink. “I don’t know doc,” I said. “I feel like I’ve let so much time on Earth pass. This planet’s gone to shit and I’ve been wasting time flying around space doing nothing about it. The resources dedicated to Space Fleet could have been redirected to fight this war. I feel useless. Old.”
The doctor poured himself a glass of Irish Whiskey. “Captain, I know we haven’t always seen eye to eye,” he said, “but the exploration of space is Earth’s destiny. War is a machine of humanity’s past. It’s time to put childish things away and build a future.”
“Dr. Jackass, you’re an idealist. I’m a realist. We don’t live in the future. We live in the present. And presently I’m drunk as shit, depressed, and want to kill people.”
“You’re too short sighted.”
“No, I see the universe for what it is: a vast empty wasteland, void of any meaning or God. And if there is a God, he has to answer for creating this shitty planet. I swear.”
“I think you need to sober up.”
TO BE CONTINUED…