“Commissar Berevzin, Soyuz 2 is approaching the object.” The technician said, not looking up from the grainy screen in front of him.
“Thank you Isahev, this is a glorious day for the motherland.” The commissar said smoothing his greased hair back. He turned to his aide. “Strakhov, pour some shots of vodka, so we can toast our heroes of the Soviet Union.” He lit a cigarette and hovered over the technician’s shoulder looking at the screen blowing clouds of acrid smoke over it, adding discomfort to the technician’s nervous unease.
A voice boomed from behind the Commissar. “Berevzin, this is a military establishment and those are my men up there in the cold vacuum. We will have no drinking here.”
Berevzin turned impatiently as General Gagarin entered, leaving his two guards standing by the door. He noticed, in irritation, how all the technicians seemed to suddenly have stiffer backs when their heard the General’s voice, even these civilian scientists effected a military like manner in his presence; despite this being a party mission, one that Berevzin had ultimate authority for. The General always looked the part, his uniform immaculate and creased, the decorations won in the Great Patriotic War on his jacket.
“Oh hello General,” the Commissar sneered, “I didn’t think you would join us, as you look down upon this enterprise.”
“I might look down on this enterprise Berevzin, but I look up to my men up there, risking their lives on your behalf.”
“They are not your men General,” the Commissar snapped back,” They are men of the motherland, loyal servants of the party and what they are doing will shift the balance of power in space firmly in our favour, perhaps on earth as well.”
“You think so? Why are we chasing Tesla’s phantom when we should be racing for the moon like the Americans?” the General asked amused at the Commissar’s obvious fraying temper.
Some of the technicians struggled to keep straight faces at the General’s question. The Commissar bristled with annoyance.
“Don’t say that Croat dog’s name in my presence General.” The Commissar’s face seemed almost purple with rage. “That capitalist dog may have first recorded the signal every 25 seconds from the Chernyy Bogatyr*, back in 1899, but it has nothing to do with him. Are you scared General? The hero of Kursk is a frightened little girl?” The Commissar blew his acrid smoke in the General’s face, wishing to provoke him.
The General didn’t flinch or cough but held the Commissar in a steely gaze. “I fought at Kursk, it is true. I was terrified throughout the experience. This thing we are investigating has been overlooking us for thousands of years, if you are not scared at what we doing then you are a fool. We have no idea what we are facing here.”
“Like I said, you are a frightened little girl.” The Commissar said, “I will make sure you are not mentioned in the history books. This will be my investigation then, my place in the annals of the glorious Soviet Republics. Strakhov, pour the vodka.”
“Your place in history, Commissar? Your place alone?” The General walked past the Commissar and stood behind the technician. Noticing how the man shook he placed his hand reassuringly on the Technician’s shoulder. He looked at the grainy image on the monitor that the technician was fixated by and a sense of foreboding took him. “What is that thing? Open the channel to Commander Bondarenich.”
The monitor was in monochrome from the spacecraft’s camera, but as Soyuz 2 approached, the size was all too apparent. It seemed an odd shape, almost like a monolith set adrift in space and yet it maintained a constant polar orbit around the earth. The Technician gasped. “It must be around 20 tonnes.” He whispered.
“Hello Baikorur. We are reading you, over.” The voice of Commander Bondarenich crackled over the speaker.
“Hello Vladimir, we read you loud and clear.” The General replied.
“Greetings General Gagarin, are you seeing these images?” the disembodied voice asked.
“Yes Vladimir, what can you make out of it?”
“It seems completely black and smooth, there appears to be no port or hatch. It doesn’t look like anything the Americans could have made. General I have to admit I am scared of this thing, it looks.. unearthly…”
The General swallowed and continued “Try and go around it and take as many photos as you can Vladimir, but make no threatening moves towards it. Take what readings you can but…”
“Belay that order, Commander Bondarenich.” The Commissar interrupted. “You are to claim that thing for the USSR, Commander. Do you understand? You are to find a way in. Conduct a space walk and investigate it thoroughly.” The Commissar signalled for the Technician to turn off the microphone. He faced the General. “We are going to claim this alien technology for ourselves. Let the Americans go to the moon, this will propel us light years ahead of them.”
“But Commissar, we don’t know what we are…”
“Quiet, I will have no frightened little girls threaten this mission.”
“Baikorur, do you read? Do you read?” the voice crackled through the speakers.
The General instantly flicked the microphone switch himself and leant into it. “What is it Vladimir?”
“The object has increased velocity.”
On the monitor the object could be seen pulling away.
“Then increase speed, catch up with it Commander!” The Commissar ordered.
The Technician looked at the up. “But Commissar that will use their reserve fuel supplies…”
“Silence! Commander, you have your orders.”
“Understood,” the disembodied voice said, “Maximum burn.”
They watched the monochrome image as the strangely shaped object began fill the monitor once more, but something was changing, the object seemed to turning its other face to the Soyuz.
“Baikorur, we have used all main engine fuel, we will have to use retros for re-entry navigation. Are you seeing , Oh god no…” The speakers filled with the screams of the Soyuz crew which faded into the white noise of static.
“What is happening?Commander!” The Commissar was stopped suddenly as a bright flash lit the monitor screen and the speakers hissed a static scream.
“General, the Soyuz has gone.” The Technician said, his voice almost cracking.
“What do you mean gone?” The Commissar demanded.
“It is no longer on radar, Commissar. All readings are dead. Soyuz 2 has gone.”
The Commissar looked wildly around. “I don’t understand, what happened?”
“What happened? Officially?” the General said signalling to the two soldiers to come forward. “Brave Cosmonaut Vladimir Bondarenich and his crew died during the launch due to the mismanagement of this mission by Commissar Berevzin. It was suspected that the Commissar was secretly an alcoholic. He and his aide were shot resisting arrest”
The Commissar turned white. “You can’t…”
Two shots rang out.