Todd Jones                                      8,200 Words

8968 Pentecost Hwy.                             (Novelette) - ONLY CHAPTER 1

Onsted, MI 49265                        Disposable Manuscript

734.254.0284

tjones@myriadminds.com

 

 

  

 

 

Moon Walk

 

 

Chapter 1

 

Jared bolted up right, knocking his brow into the unforgiving hull of the small spacecraft. He groaned as the image of Jade, his late wife, circled his dream-laden thoughts. Rubbing the forming contusion, he shook off the recurring nightmare. It was always the same image of Jade calling out to him, her arms beckoning him to stop and come back to her.

“At least I saved part of you, my love.”  Jared swung his legs over the edge of the bunk and resigning to face another day without her he stood up.

“I don’t understand the CME’s failure.” –- Coronal Mass Ejections (CME) protection system designed to protect electronics from magnetized gas eruptions from the sun. When the CME shielding failed, one of the X12s had miscalculated Jade’s heat signature for a mineral deposit. Her mining suit could not withstand the robot’s laser cutter long enough for her to shut the ‘bot down.

Jared’s fingers tugged on his unkempt hair. “I ran a full diagnostic on that damn system two days prior.”  

 “There was no explanation. Someone on the project had to have sabotaged it.”  A throbbing pain settled in his head, like a splinter under his thoughts. The others were jealous of his exploits. He could care less about them down there on Earth. They always seemed to want something or to ride on his proverbial coat tails. No, he would not put sabotage beyond them. Not Jade, though. She was the only one who ever understood him, the work he wanted to do, the life he wanted to live with her. She made his life matter.

The X15 robot would never be her, could never be her. He knew that, but at the time he needed to do something to keep her alive, even if it was only in their work. 

The something Jared did was to modify the X15’s hyper-fiber processors and fuse them with an experimental superconducting neuromagnetic Alpha-Theta wave simulator. He could then upload Jade’s 6-10 Hertz ELF magnetic patterns to the X15’s solid-state storage system, which allowed the robot’s programming to access her thought process.

He leaned on the edge of the sink for support and strained through bloodshot eyes to focus on the mirror. His obsession was apparent in his matted hair, stubble-ridden face and myriad bags that rimmed his eyes. He had a twitch under his left eye from the long hours, lack of food and excessive stress.

"You look like crap," he said to himself. Thinking out loud was a habit he picked up while working alone in the eerie stillness of the moon’s desolate environment.

He was so close to fulfilling their dreams and this latest beryllium find could be “the one.”  If he stopped now, Jade’s death would be for nothing.

The moon was a place to get away from everything: the corporate lies surrounding his wife’s death; the reporters that wanted a scandal; and the family members that wanted to “talk through the pain.”  All he wanted to do, all he needed to do, was finish the project they had started so many years ago together.

Jared shook several green pills out of an unlabeled bottle and popped them into his mouth; washing them down with day old coffee he found in a cup next to his bunk. The liquid was cold and smelt of burnt grounds, yet his throat was thankful for the lubricant. He tossed the plastic mug into the sink and headed to the control room.    

The lunar craft served as a makeshift laboratory and housing unit; not very luxurious, sparse in amenities compared to the newer JX6000 models, but practical, and cost-efficient. Frugality was something Jared had to consider since the corporate investors continued to threaten to pull funding at every corner.

Jared shuffled around reels of micro-fiber wire, piles of silicon nano-transistors and other computer robotic equipment debris that littered the floor and every other flat service of the lunar craft. A miniature hydraulic pump caught his pant leg and a deft shuffle-skip saved him from toppling into the control room. He plopped his 81.5 Kilo, 1.9 meter frame into the chair at the master console and a holographic display module powered up. A small three-dimensional depiction of Jade flickered into life hovering above the console.

“You always believed in me, my love.” Jared reached out and let his fingers pass through the image. She had been taller than him and sturdy enough to hold her own in a scrap, which seemed to be a frequent occurrence in the mines. Still, she possessed a softness that was apparent in her hazel eyes, petite nose and warm smile.

Jared sighed as thoughts of a life gone by flashed through his mind. He had been a robotic-engineering specialist for the leading international mining corporation when he met Jade. He dreamed of utilizing mechanical miners to work in environments that would be difficult or too hazardous for humans. His theories and experimentation on the “Moon Walk” project earned him initial respect as a “ground breaking” innovator.  Jade was assigned to the project as Jared’s technical field representative. They hit it off from the onset and were married within the year. Things were going great and when the robots started reporting mineral deposit the project was corporate funded.

Then the “accident” happened on the moon and Jared became a workaholic. Sleep was a luxurious salvation he could not afford once the project mysteriously became riddled with disaster after disaster. Cutbacks, layoffs, money hungry conglomerate bastards were often the first grumbling words that emanated from his mouth each morning, and sometimes the last words he uttered before passing out from exhaustion. Remote diagnostics could not pinpoint the difficulty and a human expedition was the only hope to save the project.

Jared pushed thoughts of his past aside and jabbed a finger down on the log RECORD button. "The mining ‘bots have been experiencing excessive difficulties excavating the inner sanctum of sector 12. Although initial readings were optimistic, we have avoided mining the sector due to excessive electromagnetic signatures that disrupt sensors. Early this morning the X15 'bot reported a breakthrough before we lost link-up with the unit.”  He released the button and leaned back in the chair.

"Incoming transmission," a tinny computerized voice emulated from the console’s small speakers.

"Put it-"

"Jared, are you there?" A gruff authoritative voice said.

Jared sighed. It was James Hamilton, CEO of Hamilton Enterprises, who it seemed had made it his personal mission to aggravate Jared.

"The computer shows your presence onboard, so answer you ungrateful little weasel," Hamilton’s voice roared over the speaker.

"Yes, yes. I am here."

"Where is my daily update?"

"Where are my parts?"

"You over estimate your importance to the company."

Jared rubbed his forehead, trying very hard to not let Hamilton’s goading get to him.

"Your parts have been requested from the supply facility."

It was the same line he had had heard for months.  It did not matter how many forms he filled out the supplies were never allocated. The corporate misers promised him state of the art equipment, but he knew now that he would rot on this rock before anyone would even read his requisition forms.

Jared clamped his lips tight and ground his teeth. He knew the company had given up on him and his dream. No wonder he could not meet the unrealistic deadlines, corporate would not let him. Where was his team?  Where were his critical parts?  The last thing he received was a discontinued maid robot, which he promptly disassembled for parts, and an AI (Artificial Intelligence) module that some college intern must have programmed between getting his boss' suits cleaned.

Hamilton’s ramblings had become background noise to Jared.  "With all we have done for you, funding your butt on this project, getting you on the cover of Engineering Times."

He had learned to tune the man out. Even thinking about the two sentences about Jared in Engineering Time, among the Hamilton Industries hype, brought back his headache.

“This project is billions over budget. This is your last extension. You have until the end of the week. Do I make myself crystal clear? "

"I'm in the middle of-"

"Last extension!  A material find or all funding will be withdrawn."

"But-"

"No more excuses or I will leave you on that rock."  The director shut the communication link.

The vein in Jared’s temple throbbed. "Hamilton, you blood-sucking leech, I will show you. Leave me up here to rot, screw you."  He was so close. He would pull the Moon Walk project together, his project, not corporate’s. He still had some scrap parts left. He would get at least one more robot functioning before tonight.

"The hell with the reports.”  Jared ran his fingers through his hair and down the nape of his neck. “I'm suiting up to investigate the dig site-"

THUD 

"What the hell?" Jared almost toppled from his chair at the sudden sound that reverberated through the ship.

THUD 

The sound was closer, louder and more forceful as it worked its way down the hull.

Jared sprang from his chair, knocking over a pile of rocks he had determined held no monetary value whatsoever.

“Computer, where is that sound coming from?” 

"The source of the disturbance is emanating from outside the ship," the computer said.

"Obviously," Jared snapped, peering through a porthole.

THUD 

Metal on metal, the sound came echoing through the ship like it was being battered in and making it hard to pinpoint its origin.

Jared ran to the entrance hatch.

Still nothing!

THUD

Something large slammed against the hatch's porthole where his face was pressed.

"HOLY-" Jared stumbled backward, his feet becoming tangled. The air pushed from his lungs as he struck the floor.

"Some…something is…is out there, but there can’t be." His lungs strained to bring in air through the short fast breaths.

"Do you wish the hatch opened?" The computer said.

"Are you nuts?"

"Is that a rhe-tor-i-cal questions?" 

Jared rubbed his hands over his face in frustration. He made a mental note to wring the little geek's neck that programmed the ship’s computer when he returned home.

"What the hell could be out there?"

 THUD

"Crap!" A high-pitched squeal escaped Jared’s lips.

He sat there for a couple of minutes, until nervous curiosity outweighed his better judgment. He reached for his spacesuit, grabbed a Tazer and headed for the hatch.

The outer hatch opened and he stepped into silence.  It was the kind of silence that crept into your mind, filling more than your sense of sound. His hand shook in the hermetically sealed glove as he clutched the Tazer.

Nothing.

He scanned the area and everything appeared still and quiet. Jared stepped farther from the ship and punched in the proximity sensor activation sequence on his suit's forearm control. A translucent circular diagram appeared on the inside of his visor marking the ship and his position clearly.

Still nothing.

Then a sudden blip shot across the screen from his right. He turned and caught a glimpse of something metal traveling toward him. Jared fumbled with the Tazer; the bulky suit lagging behind his movements.

THUMP

The deafening sound echoed inside his helmet with such force that it left a residual hum in his ears.

The ground rushed up as if to swallow him.  He collapsed, unable to even moan in defiance.

Something large loomed over him, but he could not make it out. Jared raised his hands in defense as he felt himself fading into blackness.

"LEAVE HIM."  The deep grumbling voice was like rocks being ground together to form words.

Jared tried to focus.  Where was the sound coming from?  The strain only served to urge the impending blackness on.  His surroundings, the voice’s origin and the shadow that loomed over him faded away...

{This story is being submitted for publication so I can not post the completed work online.  If you are interested in reading the rest you can e-mail me at tjones@myriadminds.com }