VOICE LOG—RANKIN, J. CMDR. UN SPACOM
Three days ago, an asteroid was detected on a collision course with Earth. I personally led a team of astronauts from space station Gamma 3 to plant explosives on the asteroid and destroy it. The mission was a success. Unknown to us, a particle of a substance that I can only describe as “green slime” was brought back on one of our space suits. This slime, which was found all over the surface of the asteroid, soon fed off of electricity and any other form of energy it encountered. It then mutated into creatures with one eye and two tentacles. Before we knew it, the station was crawling with them. As the creatures were strengthened by any form of energy, we were unable to negate them by conventional means. In my opinion there was no other option. I ordered the evacuation of Gamma 3 and its destruction. Several crew were lost in this action, including Commander Vince Elliot, without whom I would not have been able to effect the evacuation. I recommend the highest commendation for Commander Elliot...posthumously.
Space is cold. Yet its frigid temperatures pale in comparison to the icy glare of a woman wronged. As Jack Rankin extended his hands, bound for the shoulders of Lisa Benson on a mission of comfort, Dr. Benson turned her back. Jack’s arms recoiled while she stood staring out the porthole and at the Earth below. He could smell the steamy waves of hate radiating from her.
“I’m sorry about Vince, Lisa,” Rankin said.
She did not reply.
The space shuttle dropped through the atmosphere and UN SPACOM HQ (United Nations Space Command Headquarters) came into view. The complex was a sprawling one. Covering several square miles outside of Tokyo, it had grown over its twenty years from a UN spaceport into a small city, containing schools, shopping malls, and a Seminole casino (the first overseas branch). With quiet grace, the short range orbiter touched down at docking bay 94 of the megaopolis.
As the Gamma 3 refugees filed down the disembarkment ramp, the ground crew met them with the mixed mood of a victory party and a wake. Those whose expressions were sullen were greeted with handshakes that pumped with slow speed but firm caring. The astronauts who laughed and nearly kissed the ground upon arrival were hugged and high-fived, depending upon gender. Those whose faces were blank with numbness and shock were avoided altogether as no one was really too sure what to do with them.
General Jonathan “Two-fisted” Thompson was there. As the commanding officer of SPACOM, it was an obligation, not choice. With the grim face that only a drill sergeant could love, he welcomed Jack back to Earth with a grunt of “Rankin.”
“Sure can make a mess, Jack,” Thompson said as his eyes took in the reception around him. “We got parts of Gamma 3 raining down all over the world. And that’s in addition to the asteroid fragments.”
Square-jawed Jack Rankin smirked and turned his face away to watch the scene of heartfelt condolences and relieved jubilation, appearing to him as a boy’s birthday party the week after the kid’s mother had died. Rankin had lost men before. Any space commander had. Yet none of them had been his best friend, estranged though he might have been.
“I heard about Elliot. How’s his fiancée taking it?” Thompson asked.
A flat hand struck Rankin across the cheek. His head jerked sideways from the force and the skin around the impact area turned red, outlining the woman’s hand.
“How could you let Vince die?” Lisa Benson cried. “You could have saved him and you didn’t! Why didn’t you do anything to help him?”
Like a professor about to expound upon an important point, Jack raised his hands with an open gulf between them. His mouth opened but no words were permitted to escape.
“Because you’re jealous! You were jealous of us!” Benson said with tears running down her face.
With that, she stormed away in grief. Those who were in closest proximity to the event stood and watched in uncomfortable silence. Once all eyes had followed Dr. Benson through a door to the rest of the complex, they swiveled and came to rest on Jack Rankin. He felt them, watching, scanning, and waiting for his reaction. He would not give them one, the ungrateful bastards.
I save their hides and they want pathos entertainment, he thought.
Expressionless, Jack walked away until he became secluded behind the landed shuttle. His eyes scrunched shut and his teeth gnashed.
“Vince,” he said in a whisper. “Why, Vince? Why?”
Jack knew tears were the fitting response, yet none would come.
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