Thursday, 17 September 2015

Apollo 18 - Part 5

“Get the hell away from me, leave me alone.” Commander Gordon shouted between sobs.
Outside the Lander, the creature that once was Gerald Carr hammered at the hatch. Gordon saw the latch move up and down, but due to the positive pressure inside the capsule, compared to the outside vacuum, it would be impossible for the thing to swing the hatch door inwards. Impossible for a human, anyway.
All around the Lander he now heard knocking and tearing as something tested the capsule. He heard a ripping sound as something tore at the amber coated foil that encased the descent section, felt the Lander judder as some unseen entity pounded at one of the legs. He wasn’t due to liaise with Vance in the orbiting CSM for approximately 15 hours, but would they have winkled him out by then? What if he entered a different orbit than Vance, would he have enough fuel in the retros to alter his orbit and dock? Once more he felt the Lander shudder and heard the screech of tortured metal. He looked out of the portal, beyond the foul animated remains of his dead comrade, something else moved within the cloud of dust that had followed him across the crater; something wholly alien like a huge crab with tentacles. If he didn’t launch now, he probably never would and everything, including Carr’s death would have been for nothing. Flicking switches he powered up the LSM and strapped himself in for take-off. The hammering on the hatch grew in intensity, he looked towards the portal, and there was Carr, his skeletal face staring at him from its empty sockets. Gordon extended his middle finger, flipping the bird at the monster, and hit the rocket switch. There was a roar and Gordon felt the acceleration as the Eagle left the moon. He half expected to be shot at once more, as they had been landing some six hours previously, but he smiled to himself as he realised the cloud of dust had covered his escape, in the weightlessness the camera from the rover floated past. Checking his trajectory and alignments he made slight alterations with the retros.

A sudden thought entered his head and he felt around for the bag attached to his utility belt, breathing a sigh of relief when he found it; inside was the data crystal he had found on the remains of the ancient Empress Pandora. Unstrapping himself from his chair he floated to the portal and looked down at the moon, already the Copernicus Crater was disappearing as his momentum took him away. Satisfied, he sought some much needed nourishment and water and secured himself once more to the chair. As he ate he pressed record on the bulky tape machine and related his report into the microphone.
“Eagle, this is Lightfoot. Dick come in.”
The voice from the Command Module crackled over the radio. Gordon blinked, realising he had fallen asleep. Setting the tape machine to one side he smiled as he replied.
“Lightfoot, this Eagle. Good to hear you Vance. I’m already in orbit. Turning on rendezvous beacon.”
The radio crackled white noise before Vance replied. “You said, I’m in orbit? Gerald?”
“He didn’t make it Vance…”
Once again there was a pause. “Understood. I see you, 12 km distant, approaching for docking. Let‘s get back home.”

Present Day NASA - Mars Science Laboratory

Curiosity Mission Coordinator Darren Brown turned off the playback machine, he looked solemnly at his superior, sat with him. Newly instated NASA Director Chuck Bolden looked perplexed and shell shocked, shaking his head in disbelief. “Jesus Darren, and the President knew of this when he appointed me? I’ve never even heard of the Apollo 18 mission.”
“All Presidents since Nixon have known of the alien presence on the moon, but we have only known the true nature of the threat since President Reagan’s tenure in 1981.”
“I don’t understand, the recording?”
“The recording, videos and data crystal – all the data from when Dick Gordon opened Pandora’s box - were only brought to earth in 1981 when the Space Shuttle Columbia rendezvoused with CSM Lightfoot in 1981, on her maiden flight. The remains of Vance Brand and Dick Gordon were also recovered.”

“They didn’t make it?”
“No. CSM Lightfoot suffered a catastrophic accident whilst taking up geo orbit. It was tragic, they almost made it home; they were true heroes, not just for America but for all of humanity; their story, however, their sacrifice remains uncelebrated. The bodies of three homeless men of similar builds were released to the relatives of the astronauts; the official story was that all three died in an accidental capsule fire while training on earth.  The mission itself had been launched in secret and no knowledge of the true nature of their deaths was ever revealed. Back in the 70’s, prior to the internet, such a cover up was possible. As far as anyone knows, the Apollo mission was halted due to financial constraints after Apollo 17. Now however, in an age of free access to data and hackers we are facing a severe problem of controlling information. Not for nothing has the President gained executive powers to shut down the worldwide web if required. Obviously such an action would be the last resort; in the meantime we keep on questioning the mental state of sources revealing data.”
“What data, and what has this to do with the Curiosity mission?”
Brown stood up and poured two cups of water from the water cooler, passing one to the Director. He sighed before continuing. “We analysed the data crystal and other operatives confirmed the information that had been relayed to Gordon. Mars had indeed once been a home to humanity prior to a global nuclear bombardment by extra-terrestrial forces. We had to be sure. Viking orbital missions saw the Face on Mars but we managed to discredit whistle-blowers; it was merely shadows and the psychological phenomenon of Pareidolia.”

Bolden took a sip of water. “I take it we’ve found further evidence.”
“Indeed, we’ve found remains that are difficult to explain as natural geological features…”
“Such as?”

“Statues and wheels. The statues can be put down to Pareidolia, but the wheels, no. Meanwhile the orbiter has focused on the moon Phobus…”
“The monolith?”
“Exists, yes. Its a massive boulder, differing from the surrounding geology, some 238 m across.”
“We need the information written upon it. Are our planetary jailers still active?”
“We avoided the moon as we thought that was where their main observation post in the system is. The recent Chinese, Jade Rabbit, probe was destroyed soon after landing, although the authorities there said the probe was merely in a hibernation phase. We have tentatively warned them but they are intent on a home grown manned mission. I hate to think what the outcome may be…”
“Are our jailers elsewhere?”
“Yes, our recent Dawn mission photographed a base of some kind on Ceres, a large moon in the asteroid belt.”

“But are they on Mars?”
“The Curiosity Rover photographed this.” Brown said, handing a photograph to the Director.

“My God… the tentacled crab, as described by Gordon! I don’t know, I just can’t…”
“It’s a lot to take in Director, I know. If will you excuse me, I had better get back to sifting the newly arrived data.”
“Of course Darren, of course. Those poor men though, to have come so close to safety and die so close to home, its tragic. What was the nature of the accident they experienced?”
“It’s revealed on the recording from point 548, I warn you it’s not easy to listen to. I will speak with you soon Sir.”
Brown shut the door behind him while Bolden fast forwarded the digital counter to 548. Soon the long dead voices of Gordon and Brand, and the insistent beeping of alarms, filled the room.
“What was that explosion?”
“Oxygen levels are plummeting, what the hell happened?”
“We’re venting gas, the paneling outside has ruptured, hang on, what the hell?”
“What can you see? What is it? Life support is failing!”

“There’s something moving in the gas. Oh my God, its… its CARR…”

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