General Fiction posted July 22, 2016


Exceptional
This work has reached the exceptional level
Futility Personified.

~ The Cross ~

by write hand blue


             
















                                                                                 
                                                         

                
A smile adorns my face. And why shouldn't it? I have, after all, attacked a sleeping, heathen monster, The Great Satan. Awakened now, my life is in its last phase. As you read my account, you will know why I smile. I press transmit, and my shout is deadened within the confines of my helmet. "Death to all  Infidels..."   distorted words that blast towards Earth. "Praise be to Allah!  You already know me.  I'm Mohamed Abu Yaheb."
 
 A warning bleep catches my attention. With fifteen minutes left, it's time to turn on the oxygen reserve. It will take them a few minutes—I allow my mind the luxury of wandering back in time.   
 

♦♦

 
Five days ago, we landed here without any problems on Mare Imbrium, that vast lava plain. This the first international mission to establish a Lunar Base (One).

♦♦
NASA knows me as Mark Richmond and I suppose it's natural to feel jittery. On the inside of my silvered sun visor, I see the red eyes of a soldier of Allah. It's just as well that I've disabled my face camera; the thought sends my heart racing like a spooked horse. Taking a deep breath, I flip up my visor and look out through the darkened plastic of my haven. I'm keenly aware of my stiff EVA suit, with its oxygen rich air pressure, fighting, any movement. I both curse and bless, this exhausting life preserver. A self contained micro-planet encompasing my being.
 
 Comfort is not hard to find. I have time for reflection and to look around. This moonscape is a vista of black desolation, made stark, by the bright light and black shadows. A bit like my life. The black shadows of family life, the bright lights of my academic achievements and high IQ.
 
My father will be proud of my sacrifice. But mother will never be allowed to venture an opinion, a wife should only do and say as a husband demands. I drift back to the present and my heart leaps again. Back at Moon Base; little do my crew members suspect, that they are about to become a page of history.
Praise Allah!
 
I'm careful to keep my thoughts internal.— 'Don’t say a word. Remember your captain carries a loaded firearm and will use it.’—This was drummed into me during certain training that NASA would love to know about.
 
Control has logged my two non-functioning suit cams, as a fault in the internal battery supply. Wrongjust duct tape stuck across the lenses, this did the job before I left the Base. I can’t allow myself, or the five inch cross and craft knife, to be seen on camera.
 
Silently, I recite a prayer to Allah under my breath, this livens my spirits. My birth world will soon ring with the sound of my new name.
 
I almost smile, when I think about how my Infidel masters are deceived. They have never discovered my true character. I show the right face when required, a chameleon who changes its colours. I hate Satan's people, because only Allah is the future.
 
 The OXY tank level reading is OK so I scroll, increase, on my wrist display. And a short, extra, burst of cool oxygen, hisses into my two million dollar pressure suit world. In seconds I feel much better, as those butterflies in my stomach disappear. With the help of Allah, I will not fail.  

Ben the base doctor, speaks loud and clear from the back of my helmet. “Mark, are you walking? Your heart rate is elevated."
 
“I'm collecting a geo. sample.” I don't have to live this lie for much longer.
 
The sun bakes my suit to the tune of plus 120°C in the sun, and minus 150°C in shadow.  This means, the climate control system has to work hard to keep me at a cool, 19 degrees centigrade. Sitting stationary is not recommended, so in a few minutes I'll have to move, despite liking the view. The reality of all this snaps me back...
 
I look across at the multi-coloured ball we call Earth. There it is, Pakistan my country of origin. Lying like a sleeping lady under a duvet, a patchwork of green, brown and purple. My eyes wander over to the crushed purple velvet of the Pir Panchal mountain range to my secret training camp. From under fluffy cumulus rain clouds, Islamabad peeps out like that shy maiden. This has to be my omen. Those three months where I studied, are very special to me. I imagine the scene down below, as my instructors drink their sweet scented tea and wait for my next message. How I would like a cup of that tea right now, so much nicer, than the purified water provided in my suit. I swear I can smell lavender waft through my helmet.
 
An hour ago, I sent a coded birthday greeting back to Islamabad. Translated it read... 'My great task has begun.'  A voice in my helmet startles me and causes my pulse to race again.
 
“Mark, how's the collecting going?” Eunice the base commander, sounds concerned. Or is it my imagination?
 
“I’m at twelve clicks, by crater L15 and about to head back, with a box full of samples.”
 
“Good, use airlock three.”
 
“Ok.”
 
Airlock three should serve me well, because it faces the main work and living area. Pleased, I kick away from the rock and hop over like a rabbit in the 17% gravity. Waiting for me is the electric lunar buggy, dull looking and covered in black dust.
 
It's an easy drive back to Lunar Base, on this now well used track. With time to spare, I give a little thought to the five other members of the crew. Their names, for the record are… Eunice Day, Mission Commander. Ryan Powel, pilot and engineer. Ben Withers, doctor and Physiologist.  Laura Hardwick, Biologist. John Parks, Geologist and myself the Electronics technician. Despite my excitement, I feel a curious numbness towards these Infidels.
 
♦♦♦
 
Meanwhile back at base, a tired Eunice sits back on the commander’s seat. With her arms behind her head, she speaks to her second in comand. "I can't sleep properly in this low gravity." Staring at the blank display, yawns, “Rhyyyyan—what do you think is wrong with Mark‘s cameras?” Her head shakes to rid herself of the last vestages of tiredness. 

“I’ve never heard of both going offline like that. They have independent circuits. I can't understand it."
 
She rubs her chin in thought, mutters a barely audable. “Uhm." And drags a casual finger across the display screen. The 3D holographic picture zooms onto the moving buggy.
 
Ryan’s sharp eyes spots something, “Look, the lens on his shoulder cam is silver—a covering, it could be tape. But why?”
 
They look at one another in astonishment.
 
“I must say, Mark looked ill at ease when he left for his EVA."
 
“Yes?” She stares at Ryan.
 
Ryan merely nods. His unusually serious expression registers with Commander Eunice.
 
♦♦♦
 
Approaching airlock three, I notice the camera on the habitation module turns to follow me. I park the buggy in the usual place, next to the yellow and black striped, re-charge point. There is no time to waste, because I must get this over with. The air hisses out of the airlock to equalise to the Moon's vacuum. The green light indicates ready, this enables the outside airlock door to open, with a turn of the handle.
 
Once sealed inside the tiny airlock and with my back to the inside porthole. I override the air pressure regulator, turning up the pressure to 4 pounds higher than the normal internal pressure of 14.5 psi. This has been rehearsed so many times in Pakistan, that it's second nature and takes me only a few seconds.
 
I mutter my homage to Allah, as I remove the brown plastic cross from my side pocket. I nearly laugh at the thought of what this symbol means to the infidels and is about to do. My hands shake, as the craft knife cuts around the square shaft at about an inch from the bottom. A thin layer of plastic peels away to reveal a hidden joint near the end, this twists off with a click, and exposes a plastic screw. I'm ready...
 
A turn of the screw, allows highly pressurised liquid gas to escape, this vaporises on contact with the air and creates a billowing cloud of yellow poison. I waft it about in the tiny space, to make sure that it is evenly dispersed. It's just as well, I'm still, fully suited up.
 
I turn to check the inside door and find Commander Eunice’s nose is pressed hard against the porthole.
 
 “Mark, why have you taped over your body cams?”
 
“We can talk about it when I come in. So if you stand aside.”
 
 “You are still in your EVA suit. Remove it first. And what is that yellow mist?—Oh my God. No!.." She notices the air gauge red lined at overpressure. Realising, she turns to run to the gun locker, but is too slow.
 
I act quickly and slam the door release handle. The relative high pressure, blows the door open with great force and hits Eunice on the back of her head. Unconscious, she is thrown across the room like a rag doll. A smoke ring of yellow mist, rolls after her and rapidly disperses across the inside of the module. With a loud cry of,
“Allahu akbar!”  I charge forward.
 
Lara and John, are working on their laptops next to the airlock.
 
"What the?"—John attempts to stand up, and doubles over in a fit of coughing. While Lara gasps and slumps sideways, they both die in seconds. I jump over Eunice as she chokes noisily in front of me on the floor and rush past Ben. He slumps forward, spilling coffee across his desk.
 
Only Ryan is left, on the far side, and ahead of the yellow cloud. He quickly realises what is happening and takes a deep breath. Grabbing a bunch of keys, he tries to open the emergency gun locker. His hands are surprisingly calm. After fruitless seconds of trying, he throws the keys down and dives into the toilet compartment. There, he slams the plastic concertina door shut. Fresh air gives him a temporary refuge. His voice is straining and loud through the door, “Why—have you done this?”
 
“I don’t have time, to explain.”
 
“There was always something dodgy about you.”
 
I shout.
“In the name of Allah!”
 
And with my knife, I slash the door in several places. In one desperate movement, Ryan slams it open and takes a lunge at me in an attempt to destroy the integrity of my EVA suit. This isn't impossible, but hard to do with bare hands. He grabs for my environmental back pack with one hand and tries to grab my right arm. I turn and hold the knife up out of his reach, he moves to try and take it with two hands. So I grab it with my other hand and throw it across the living area. In extreme desperation he releases me and runs for the knife. Although I'm a little clumsy in my suit, I do manage to grab him from behind in a rugby tackle and slow him down. He is strong and tries to crawl. So I do what I have to do and he fights well for a long, two minutes—then he weakens—and takes a breath…
 
A rest is in order, so I drop onto the captains seat. Panting with the effort. And with my visor partly steamed over, I sit looking up at the roof, unable to chance a look at the bodies. A passage from the Koran comes to mind, but there is no time now.

 I quickly turn off all all master isolators and cams. As per instructions, I side lined the laboratory, a small room packed with complex testing equipment.
 
And now for the important part. The red, air dump valve lever, is turned on to 20%.
 
The poisoned atmosphere slowly hisses away, into the vacuum of space. It has to be slow, because we don’t want the poison to condense out of the air. A slight mist clears, as the hissing stops, and I check the gauge is at zero. In minutes I have both doors of the airlock open. The bodies are light, and easy to drag outside by their feet, in this low gravity. Dumping them without care, or ceremony, in front of the main switched off camera is intentional. I still ovoid looking at them. The World will view them later, when I'm ready. "Praise be to Allah."
 
It should be safe now to re-charge the atmosphere. With the doors closed again, this takes a few minutes. With no need for secrecy and on my own, I find comfort, in the sound of my muted voice, " In a few minutes I'll have this off my head," this spurs me on my way.
 
In my toiletry kit, I locate a special tissue I’d hidden. This is to test all surfaces for contamination. The result is negative and the air is safe to breathe.
 
With my EVA suit helmet removed.  It's time to enjoy a badly needed carton of juice from the fridge locker. My instructions are to delay contact with the media for at least an hour, this is to achieve the best coverage. Despite my need for food, my devotions call and I spread out my special towel, my prayer mat. Many, are my thanks to Allah, for now I can pray in a proper fashion.
 

 
Later, while eating, my thoughts stray to the glory days to come. Shortly, I'll be in Paradise, where forty virgins are waiting for me.   
 
“Now, for more important work.” In my laptop a file is located, titled, Family Messages. A quick scroll down to ‘Remember This,’ and the entry of a six digit security code, produces a numbered list on the screen.
 
It's time to power up the external com. system and connect my laptop as normal, when sending video messages. A sequence of numbers on the base computer, produces the correct signal, and connects me with my tutors in Pakistan. They promised me that my hours of pre-recorded voice messages to the Glory of Allah, will be played on Al Jeera and broadcasted around the world.
 
I move the cursor to 1 and press play...
 
♦♦♦
 
"I want some answers and quick." At JPL Control Centre, a worried Flight Director FD Bob Martin turns away from his subordinates. Reluctantly, he stretches out his arm and grabs the ringing phone.  For an hour he has sat before the large screen, fencing off calls with a standard response. "No sir, we have no further news. All I can say is that contact has been lost with Lunar Base One. And yes, it's only temporary."
 
He replaces the phone into its cradle after two tries, his attention is on the small screen just feet away. With several others he watches a looped video sequence. This is inside Lunar Base One and shows someone in an EVA suit dashing across the field of view of the control monitor camera.
 
On the large screen the hourly news is about to be displayed.
 
“This is the CNN midday news and I’m Jennifer Walters. Here to give you the latest news from around the world.”
 
“An interview with Eunice Day the leader of the moon base Lunar One team, was postponed today, when it was revealed, that all contact had been lost earlier with the base.”
 
Flip to a library picture of a Lunar Habitation Module with a sign captioned, LUNAR BASE ONE.
 
“Concern is mounting on this fifth day of the month long mission. And NASA has refused to comment further on this strange situation. Starting at 10:32am EST this morning, two video channels, and all data channels were progressively turned off—We interrupt this news item..."
 
All eyes are on the direct link monitor as snow is replaced by the—'Acquisition Of Signal' caption. This speech follows at full volume.
 

“My name is Mohamed Abu Yaheb, and I speak to you from Lunar Base One. I have taken it over in the name of our great Allah—and now re-name this first moon base 'Jihad One.' Many are my thanks for this chance to advance the cause of Islam, and, strike back at all the infidel devils who have challenged the Prophet Allahblessed be his name. Now I can reach out to our devoted followers to strike at that great Satana country with a black heart. In the name of Allah, Death to all infidels!”
 

♦♦♦
 
 "Damn it." FD Martin has heard enough.
 
“Turn that TV volume down and lock the doors. No communications leave this room, nothing at all. And gather round, all of you!"
 
 He re-lights his cigar, and surveys his staff through a cloud of smoke. They comprise of a dozen specialists with various fields of expertise. All eyes are on him as he signals quiet with his hand.
 
"The administration, the media, the President,—everyone, is going to want a serious piece of our ass. What the Hell! We have no protocol for this. It's a serious embarrassment, I need answers and quick."
 
Not a sound emanates from the white faced audience, he continues.
 
"At 10:30:06 EST, the main interior consol camera on Moon Base One, picked up the movement of a figure in an EVA suit. At 10:33:47, all direct links were turned off. That is except for emergency signals. Two minutes later we picked up an emergency depressurisation warning. What do we know about this Mohamed what's-his-name?"
 
Ground Controller (GC) Ben Withers speaks up. "We have identified that person as Mark Richmond. He had just returned from an EVA."
 
"And the others? Do we know anything about them?"
 
"It doesn't look good because the rest of the crew were working inside."
 
"How can we find out about their status, with the vital signs monitors turned off?" FD Martin fires back.
 
"There may be a way. Leave it with me." Astro physicist Bernie Gold is already on his feet heading for the door...
 
Forty minutes later, a pink faced Bernie Gold hurries into JPL Control Centre clutching his Apple ipad. Trying to regain his breath and with trembling hands, he connects it up to a main computer. "I called in a few favours and had the new J54 deep space telescope re-directed to scan Mare Imbrium. —Ah!—That's the one." In seconds, high definition pictures of the moon fill the large screen. As he talks, his hands manipulate the display of pictures.
 
FD Martin leans forward as if to get a better look. A distant shot of the Base appears as a round silver shape with three short arms. The screen blurs and zooms in to centimetre resolution.
 
"Now, just look at this!"
 
A crystal clear image, reveals the shocking sight of five bodies piled up like, discarded dolls. The silence is broken by a shocked and disgusted FD Martin.
 
"For the record—we have the first evidence of the murder of five crew members. This is a whole new ball game."
 
He raises his voice as he picks up the phone. "It's time to speak to the big boys."
 
♦♦♦
 
Later, in the White House Situation Room, an informed and newly elected President Alan White, sits with his advisers. In deep thought, he leans back and looks deceptively relaxed as he doodles on the large sheet of buff coloured blotting paper. His anger boils up and he brings his Parker ball point pen down hard. This sudden movement, startles, several of the top brass who are unused to his ways. Clearing his throat is a signal for the background murmur to die down.   
 
"He must be silenced! We can't let him get away with this atrocity. Justice is to be done and seen to be done, with all the mess it entails. This is of prime concern—to be implemented right away. Damn it! I want that voice off the airwaves!" His ashen face and slightly raised voice is the only giveaway to his normaly placid exterior. 
 
"We have just the man for the job.—Right here." Secretary Of State, James Gummer's hand, waves towards CIA Chief, Alan Barker.                                      
 
"I guess you read my mind Secretary. The CIA funded HS2 Space Beam weapon, that last remnant from the Star Wars programme, can be used at an hour's notice. I was about to suggest that we fire it and annihilate that S.O.B." He looks at the President for approval.
 
"Can it reach that distance?" The doodling with the pen continues.
 
"There may be a slight degrading effect due to dust particles, but confidence is high that it will do the job."
 
"There is no other way, so you have my permission to silence this maniac." He throws his pen down and rises to leave the room.
 
♦♦♦
 
With all the checks completed I try to relax in my EVA suit and read the Koran on my computer. Through a window I see a blinding shaft of light as it creeps across the terrain towards Lunar Base One.
 
I know what it is and grab my helmet... fast. "This is that green sighting laser—already— Damn it!" The short distance to the airlock seems to take forever. The door slams behind me and seals me inside my sanctury. There is barely time to thank 'Allah' for being suited up, with just the helmet to put on.
 
As I place it over my head...
 
♦♦♦
 
One hundred and sixty miles above Earth's equator in a geostationary position, sits a huge cylindrical satellite the size of a school bus. Circuits have warmed up and a large, green, emerald laser streaks out to an area of the moon, 220,000 miles away. This cylinder is surrounded in a ring, by eight smaller ones. Within seconds one detaches, then small thrusters speed it away to a safe distance where it aligns with the laser. After a few seconds the cylinder starts to glow with the force of a small, internal 5MT (metric ton) controlled atomic explosion.

Huge electrical energy charges fight to control the gamma radiation. For a millisecond there is a hesitation as it builds up to an unimaginable force... Then following the laser pointer, a pink beam of gamma radiation, ten centimetres across, streaks on its way to the moon... 1.18 seconds later a trail of gasses drift into space.

♦♦♦

  A small circle of aluminium alloy on the air filtration plant starts to sizzle and spit. The beam melts its way through to the Lunar base roof, this too starts to melt.

 Escaping gasses transmit their hissing as a vibration—then a first shudder rocks the whole structure. Working quickly I seal my helmet.—Down the seams like an orange—rapid depressurisation rips the roof apart. The airlock is blasted violently aside and myself with it.
 
Stunned by the shock wave I lie there at a strange angle. The beam's fifteen second burn completes and silence prevails. Wreckage is strewn in all directions. A scene of utter desolation and radiated heat, greets me as I gaze through the window.  I notice the centre consol is reduced to a pile of melted plastic and metal.
 
"Damn!" That's the broadcasting finished. With just my suit com left.
 
A movement in this silent vacuum of space draws my attention to the main LOX tank. A pipe has been fractured and oxygen is escaping fast. Soon there will be none. That leaves me with only about forty five minutes of oxygen left in my EVA suit tank.
 
"That's me finished as well." I mutter as I extract myself from the wrecked airlock.

After a quick inspection of the wrecked base, I notice the buggy is untouched. "I know where I'm going. But first I have some work to do."

I manage to retreive the undamaged gun, a light weight revolver with six rounds in the chamber. There's equipment here that the enemy can use and it's my duty to destroy all I can. Trouble is the trigger gaurd is far too small for the bulky suit fingers to be able to reach. I think for a moment and remember my personal tool kit strapped around my waist. An expanding screwdriver will serve the purpose.

My first target is the huge LOX tank. Carefully I kneel down and lean forward. My hands are wrapped around the pistol; somehow I trap the screwdriver across the trigger and squeeze. With the barrel pointed up this means that the reaction forces push downward. Inertia and mass are constant, so this is no harder than on Earth to accomplish. The bullet passes right through and out the other side of the tank. Next is the Lunar Ascent Vehicle which stands twelve metres high. I fire three rounds into it and hit the ascent engine, the crew module and the hydrazine tank, this erupts into a huge escape of gas. Had this been on Earth and mixed with oxygen, there is no doubt, it would have been an explosion.

And my last target is the most important. Our nuclear generator contains 3.5 kilos of plutomium. I fire the remaining two rounds into the radiation shielding fins. These shatter and vessel ruptures. That's two thousand years of contamination. The first wasteland on the Moon. At this stage, I don't care if I'm iradiated.

It's time to ride the buggy...

♦♦♦
 
Meanwhile in the White House Situation Room an appalled President is watching the events unfold in real time.
The tension can be felt as the buggy drives away from the wrecked Lunar Base One.

"Where's he going now?—Get him ASAP before his air runs out. You got that?"
 
Allan Barker is on his mobile. After speaking for two minutes, in a low voice he announces.
 
"We're standing by and tracking him. All we need is for him to be stationary for a few minutes and we'll have him."
 
♦♦♦
 
I'm back to my favourite resting place and admiring the view. I spot a movement as the green beam edges towards me. The target has been acquired. I'm laughing my head off. "Come on! Come on! You got me full in the chest. Now zap meeee."
 
A death pink, buzzing sound, eats away with great heat the silvered insulating layers. My suit works well but is no match for the power of the beam. I can feel each layer burn through.
 
 "My work is done, now it's time for my reward. "Allahu akbarrrrr..."



                                                                       
 ~♦~

 
 

 


Write About This contest entry

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Notes.
My writing is in UK English, so I hope this will be allowed for. Thank you.

My intention is not to glorify in any way religion on either side. It is for the main character to receive what he believes is his reward. This is Death. The word 'reward' highlights his mental state... An illustration of what "Futility Personified" is meant to convey inside the context of my story.

'The Big Satan,' is a description of the USA used by extremist Muslims.

These acts of madness are becoming all the more frequent and part of our lives. As such I thought it appropriate to use this subject in a story.

I wish to thank anyone who read it all, any reviews are of course most welcome and appreciated.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

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