Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Apollo 18 - Part 4

The nightmare that once had been Gerald Carr shuffled forward, its gloved hands reaching out. Commander Gordon backed away from the animated corpse. He had seen Carr die with his own eyes, exposed to the cold and vacuum of space, beside him in the Lander. He could retreat no further as he felt the Lunar Rover against the back of his legs, his hand reached back to steady himself and found the handle of the spade in the tool compartment, he gripped it tightly. He swung it, hitting the dead astronaut in the side, tearing the fabric of the suit that barely contained the vacuum swollen flesh. The creature staggered and Gordon swung the spade again, in an upward motion this time, catching the rim of its open helmet, knocking the monstrosity backward in the low lunar gravity.

The force of the blow had an equal reaction on Gordon, forcing him backward he fell into the Rover. Instinctively, not waiting to swing his legs inside, he grabbed the joystick and pushed it forward. The rover trundled away gathering speed, pushing up clouds of dust that hung in the airless void before falling slowly back to the moon’s surface. Gordon didn’t look back, eager to put some distance between him and whatever had possessed Carr.
He pulled backward on the stick and the Rover slowed to a halt. Assessing the situation he checked battery power on the rover, it would be touch and go if it could get him back to the Lander, but looking at his oxygen gauge his recent exertions had used much of the precious gas up. He was a good distance away from the Lander which was hidden amid the hills and mounds of the southern part of the Copernicus Crater, beyond the ancient crashed craft. Fearfully he looked up then and looked at the northern edge across the smooth expanse. He felt terribly exposed to whatever had tried to destroy the Eagle as it had landed.

Under the rim of the crater were the structures, like buildings, he had seen, the dwellings of humanities' jailers. He could see clouds of dust beginning to curl from the surface in front of them. There are no winds on the moon. Whatever resided there was coming! He quickly sat in the Rover and strapped himself in. He threw the joystick forward and it picked up speed, as he swung it in an arc and headed south as fast as he could.
He turned the Rover camera to look behind, he needed to record and log as much data as he could. He felt his heart hammering and his breathing sounded laboured. He forced himself to breathe slow and steady; he had to conserve what oxygen he had. The aches, both in his body and stomach, reminded him how tired and hungry he was. He hadn’t eaten or drunk fluids for hours now; adrenaline alone had been keeping him going.
The site of the wrecked craft lay to the east of him and he turned the joystick to edge towards the area of hills, estimating where the Eagle was and avoiding the unnecessary use of battery power climbing and weaving among the valleys and mounds ,that had been the feature of his journey northward.  With 30% battery remaining he pushed the joystick left and headed into the undulating moonscape that concealed the lander. He looked left towards the north, the clouds of dust was halfway across the plain. His oxygen gauge showed he was down to 10%, soon he would begin recycling the CO2. He climbed a slope and in the distance he saw the glint of the amber foil that clad the descent section of the LSM. He felt a surge of hope as he strove to concentrate on navigating his way through the hills and valleys, but he felt so tired.
He had lost 2 hours in the crashed craft looking into the data crystal; he remembered the dream-like journey it took him on, from Earth’s orbit to Mars. Mars… and yet that ancient Mars was different, not a red desert, but green and blue with cities and pyramids. There was something else he recalled, from the edges of his mind, something on the Martian moon Phobus. It was a monolith and written upon it in hieroglyphs and symbols were star maps, a myriad web of wormholes linking the system of Sol with the stars beyond. That was it, the secret, the key to interstellar travel; the knowledge lost when humanity was bombarded back to the Stone Age long ago.

He felt a violent jolt and he opened his eyes. He had fallen into unconsciousness and crashed the Rover into a boulder. He unstrapped himself, he felt so tired. He yearned for cool air, if he opened his helmet just a little to... He blinked and looked at his oxygen gauge, it was in the red. He felt dizzy and nauseous. Up ahead was the Lander, there were two of them. He blinked again dispelling the blurred image. He realised he was experiencing CO2 poisoning. With one last effort, he fell out of the Rover, grabbing the onboard camera and stumbled towards the amber coloured oasis. The space between him and the Lander yawned wide, he willed himself onward as his head throbbed in pain.
Reached out his hand felt the smooth metal of the steps and he hauled himself up, his hand found the latch, through the blurred blindness and waves of nausea. Pushing it open he fell in and pushed it shut behind him. His weakening hand found the oxygen tap and turned it. A hissing sound began to build as the vacuum was filled. Unclasping the helmet he lay on the floor as he drank in the life giving oxygen. He gave a prayer of thanks but on the periphery of his hearing he heard the tapping of tiny objects peppering the hull of the lander. With an effort he hauled himself up to look through the viewport and with a shiver of fear realised the dust cloud was now wreathing all around. Emerging from the dust cloud, the husk of Carr dragged itself toward the steps.

To be continued

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