detonation

One of his immediate regrets was not undocking from the Ascension sooner. A hasty and sloppy undocking procedure, coupled with forgetting to strap himself into his seat, made it so centrifugal force kept him slumped in an uncomfortable corner of the vessel he was in, mere feet from the cockpit. The shrill pierce of alarms cut and bounced off of every surface of the vessel, the brief pauses bringing only a brief relief until the alarms continued their shrill ritual again. He tried to listen and identify each one, but after a moment of listening he could not distinguish them all. They all rallied under one particular sound that would make any young spacefarer shit their pants.

The nav ball was going crazy, stabilizers were malfunctioning, a monitor displayed a graphic depicting a flight trajectory complete with an absurd amount of exclamation points. Seems like time to relax in the comfy corner would have to come to an end. Of the many alarms ringing, the one that struck out to him was the high ping of the G-sensors tripping. He would have to make his way to the cockpit soon before the rising gravitational forces knocked him unconscious. Then he’d really be dead, making this whole ordeal a waste. The crew of the Ascension was a competent bunch who would surely find a way to undo what he did.

Maybe he was a dead man anyway. He couldn’t return to normal society after this. His face would be plastered on every database, every screen, every system capable of sending and receiving information. His face and personal information would be broadcast for all of humanity to revel and hate. He had a few hours before the closest outposts received the SOS from the Ascension. Maybe a day or so before all sixty billion humans in Sol knew his face. He didn’t know if he could handle that kind of publicity, and smirked at the thought. Mass shooters of centuries past might have envied that level of attention.

Two gs. Two point five gs. Three. Six. Bit by bit, he could feel the increasing weight, making his arm movements more lethargic and laborious as the seconds passed. He clamped onto the armrest of the cockpit seat, and with a powerful burst of energy he brought his other arm to grasp a handle on the rear of the seat. He tried his best to breath calmly, sipping the oxygen, while trying not to feel disoriented as he positioned his feet to stand up. He could feel the blood moving through his body to his feet, a flesh-borne rainmaker.

Relative to him, the cabin appeared to be slanted at a seventy degree angle, making the task of squeezing into the cockpit seat an awkward affair. He was beginning to feel faint. A few more minutes of this and he would pass out. Bringing his left foot onto the seat and using it as a stool, he was able to reach the controls and triggered the RCS boosters. After a few frightening minutes he could feel the cabin returning to weightlessness.

It was in this moment he was finally able to relax, at least for a moment. He pulled the pilot’s checklist from under the controls and began troubleshooting the remaining alarms. One by one their screams began to fade, until the cabin was shrouded in silence. The only exception being that incessant hum of life support. His hand, in an automated manner, reached over and shut off the radio band. He let his head ‘rest’ on the seat of the cockpit and closed his eyes for a moment.

The radio band must have been going crazy. Amidst the madness of the detonation, the crew aboard the Ascension would eventually notice the absence of a certain crew member, the disappearance of a certain ship from the shipyard. Until then it would be the constant chatter of frustrated engineers cursing trying to figure out what happened, and terrified astronauts whose main priority had shifted to the task of staying alive.

And of course there would be ‘ground’ controllers trying to hail him right around now. Maybe he’d send them some sort of cryptic message. Maybe he’d hail them and say some bullshit about how sorry he was for what he did.

Or perhaps, he would say nothing. A small screen off to the side of the control panel lit up. A message. A message he was expecting. But not this soon. His mission wasn’t complete yet. With a single touch he brought the message onto the main screen.

YOU ARE NEEDED PLANETSIDE.

23°N 189°E

WE HAVE BEEN WATCHING. BASED ON YOUR CURRENT POSITION WE WILL EXPECT YOUR ARRIVAL IN FOURTEEN HOURS.

WE WILL BE WAITING.

 

He switched off the message. Attached to the message was a set of flight commands that would take him to the frozen surface of Pluto. He ran the coordinates to determine the landing site. It seemed like a rough approximation, but the general area was Norgay Montes.

 

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