Author: Alastair Millar
I’m trying to ignore the shaking; they warned us that the final approach was going to be bumpy, and thank all that’s holy for the motion sickness shot. Head against the bulkhead, I’m remembering why I’m here.
I can see that kid’s face in front of me now, hands over mouth as if even breathing too loud might give him away. In the end, it was Jimmy’s contraband chocolate that tempted him out of the cellar. Once I’d shaken the Geiger counter and the instruments told us the town wasn’t infected, my buddy had taken his hazmat helmet off; luckily, it turned out, as the boy wouldn’t have come otherwise. I kept the photo I took for the report: it would be wrong to forget.
We’d been hoping to get home for that weekend, but when the entire population of a small town literally vanishes overnight, guess what? They call the Marines, and plans go to hell. We were with the first team on site, and that frightened face was the only living soul we found.
We’re going to be in the vanguard today, too.
It took weeks before anyone took the alien abduction theory seriously; long days of talking heads and ‘experts’ slowly debunking every other possibility until, as Sherlock Holmes would say, all that remained, however unlikely, was revealed to be the truth.
After that, the eggheads were people on a mission. Irregularities from satellite and probe data were analyzed and interpreted; our kidnappers had come from Titan, Saturn’s moon. Suddenly all the stories of close encounters of the third kind made more sense: our visitors hadn’t crossed interstellar space at all, but were the damn neighbors. Jimmy joked that it was like a true crime documentary.
Our own journey comes to an end today; whether as triumph or debacle remains to be seen. Assuming we get through this damn turbulence.
Once we knew where we had to go, it was all just a question of engineering. United at last by an external threat, two years of genuine international cooperation brought us a new astrodrive, and cut the flight time to four months. After sixteen weeks in a tin can, killing time with fitness routines and weapons training interspersed with sleep, food, and wondering whether any of those people were even still alive, we’re ready to rumble.
So here we are in our unit dropships, suited up, psyched up, drugged up, and heading down through the thick Titanian atmosphere.
Who knows what we’ll find – we’ve got no idea what the methane breathers even look like. Tentacles? Antennae? Fangs? All of the above? They could have warrens, or cities, or anything. We don’t know if our people are still alive, or what those poor souls have been through. But for Jimmy and me, it’s more than a mission. We’re here to send a message for all Mankind: that we refuse to look into the night sky and be afraid.
An almighty bang, and we’re down, the shock frames keeping us conscious before releasing.
Hatches open! Move, move, move!