Author: Thomas E. Simmons

That spring, the young woman we now know as V-3 crashed; purpled herself across a dead bocage of extraterrestrial mire with the proud medallions and Coat of Arms of the sovereign clipped to her lapels, while back home they made a wearisome postage stamp in her honor; to ‘stamp her with honor’ some said, in red and grey, and thereby credit her as a heroine; a martyr; the first smelt craft to reach the surface of another system’s planet, and rather dramatically at that.

The assembled bureaucrats claimed credit and sang songs of achievement.

There wasn’t much left of her (or of the medallions (or the Coat of Arms, either)) given her speed of impact, except that honor.

It wasn’t what you’d call a soft landing.

She became ejecta.

But before that, with her long passage across the chasm between two orbits behind her, she’d aimed herself steadily at her target.

She situated the vector of the second orbit in her crosshairs.

On her first attempt, her trajectory had been unfaithful to her and she’d bypassed the ragged fur of the outer atmosphere by sixty thousand kilometers or so, but the neuro-communists doggedly programmed a corrective maneuver into her temples and rammed her into the planet, they say, on the first of March.

From a ravine back home came the tuneless singing. The banal praises.

And within that singing and labyrinth of human motivations which powered her could be found ambition, allegiance, a clove or two of fealty, and some sizable cravings for creation-revelation fixes, but there was a germ in the petri dish, a minotaur in the maze, a basilisk in the nursery, against which she lacked any immunity because, you see, contemporary outer space historians have concluded (more or less in concert; a dissonant concert-choir of lovable, nerdy men who disdain contact lenses for reasons no one can identify) that the new soviets actually lost her in the cusp of her flight in mid-April – when she scalped – and that she never exuded upon a curve at all and – as a result – was devoured sideways (by dishonesty and dissembling, rather than via a heroic mashing) and that if she did (perish prematurely in a bellow of propaganda, as now seems the case), she may never be truly credited; her honor thereby dis-credited, except for the official and wholly unattractive postage stamp bearing her fissures which even the most dedicated communist-friendly philatelists deride for its stretched-homeliness; its hollow-headedness in recalling the lady’s deeds (if she achieved them, which we’ll likely never know) and a split-abdomen of slumping reflected upon a cancelled stamp and the medals rudely sutured to her before she’d taken her leave.

Such was the journey of V-3.