posted on Jan, 2 2014 @ 04:46 PM
A thousand flashbulbs went off below us, as all watched in silence. Weightless, wordless, and worried. That was the day mission control went dead.
That was the day we realized that none of us would be going home. My name is Richard Grant, and I am thirty two years old. I will die up here.
Commander Eric Roberts, decorated military hero, will die up here. Science Officer John Dempsey, will die up here. Flight engineer Tim Grayson will
die up here. That rich old fool who paid his way onto a rocket to see the stars, Blake Engleton, will die up here.
“I know the situation looks grim, but we’re the cream of the crop. We will survive this. Assembled on this station are some of the finest minds of
our generation. As your commander, I promise you all we will make it.” Roberts always tried to inspire us. The old coot, Engleton, clapped and
hooted. Dempsey knew as well as I did that we weren’t ever going home. I could read it on his face.
“Sir, without resupply…” Dempsey was always polite, but pragmatic. It was always rank and then name, or sir with him. Before this whole
nightmare happened, I thought it funny. Stuck up in orbit around a dead planet, I couldn’t find the humor in it anymore. The dead weight billionaire
could, though. Even before the bombs dropped, most folks were dead to him. He had said as much.
“Hah! Billions of useless eaters, gone in an instant! I wonder if my family made it? Think of it, you filthy plebeians! All that inheritance…”
He cackled, jumped for joy. He was rich! Or rather, richer. The last few members of the Engleton family had hung on to enormous sums of wealth during
the last half century, dwindling, dying off, consolidating. Now, Blake remained the sole heir to an enormous fortune. Grayson, on the other hand, had
come from a working class background. He interjected by slugging him in the kidneys, gave a retort.
“My wife and kids are down there. My mother, my father, my dog, for Christ’s sake. You think this is funny?! Everyone is dead. Delta Echo Alpha
Delta, DEAD.” Grayson spoke, and I could see the fury rising in his eyes as Engleton just kept on laughing. Without gravity, conventional fist
fighting is clumsy, awkward, an act of frustration. That’s about the time Grayson realized he could just choke this man who owned half the world.
Then, a harsh shout echoed through the interior of the station.
“Grayson! Stand down immediately! This is a direct order, from your Commander!” Roberts’ voice held authority at a primal level, and
surprisingly enough, the engineer gradually removed his hands from the billionaire’s throat. The obnoxious laughter of spoiled blue-blood resumed,
albeit choked and raspy.
“Look at the ignorant prole who can’t even strangle a man right! You have to apply pressure on both the carotid artery and the windpipe. It’s
not just one or the other. Let me guess: You went to a non-Ivy League college… How NASA would ever hire you baffles me.” Tensions were rising
inside this sanctuary that rotated the Earth. I think we were all beginning to despise Blake at that point. Still, no one besides Grayson was willing
to admit it. We maintained our masks of sanity, at least for short while.
“Mr. Engleton, Engineer Grayson, we can’t afford to fight amongst each other. Hell, the human body uses more oxygen while under duress than at a
state of rest and tranquility. We’ve all got to remain calm, conserve the air.” Dempsey tried his best to stop an oncoming storm but it was clear
to me that trouble was brewing, no matter what. We would de-orbit in 90 days without boost from a shuttle, but my gut told me that more pressing
matters were at hand. Engleton was crazy, and Grayson was losing it.
“Your family is dead, Dempsey. This guy is laughing at us. Why are you so goddamned calm about this?! You keep showing around those pictures of your
kids, talking about hope. Don’t you realize they’re all dead?!” He was hysterical, but Dempsey didn’t react. He just stared, that odd
congenial look on his face. Off in the background, I could see the commander digging into the medical supply cabinet. He came back with a syringe,
crept up. He was going to sedate him.
“Grayson, you’re cracking up. We’re your friends, your brothers in arms. We want what’s best for you, and you need to take a deep breath, and
think about the consequences of what you were about to do.” I played along, wondering if the ends justified the means. If we could really afford to
go without the engineer for the hours he would be out. Dempsey’s eyes betrayed a sadness that it had come to this, that it was necessary to sedate
one of their own. We kept Grayson distracted, spoke in an effort to vindicate him, and calm him down.
“I can’t believe you people. We’ve got the monopoly man here. Hell, he owns seven out of the top ten producing uranium mines in Africa! He’s
responsible, goddamn it!” He anchored himself against an opposing wall and kicked Engleton, who fell, or more accurately, went limp in weight-free
“Ten out of ten now, you peasant! My two shiftless siblings owned the other three. Now, I’ve finally got it all. I can be happy now, without those
parasites of family members. Heh-Hah-hee! My ex-wives are dead too!” Engleton didn’t know how to shut his mouth. In my mind, I wished him ill, but
we were still decent facsimiles of civilized human beings at that time.
“Your money is nuclear ash, along with the banks, your mansions, and your eyesores of establishments you’ve plagued the world with. That’s the
one good thing about this whole end of the world… I’ll never have to shop at a goddamned Engleton’s anymore. Hell, the employees were probably
praying for death anyway. Radioactive rubble is an improvement over the blight you unleashed on this world. I’m with you, Grayson. This bastard
deserves it.” I spoke, and Grayson listened. Silently, the Commander had drawn close to him.
“Thank God, one of you sees the-... Son.. of.. a… bitch.” Roberts had spiked him, and with luck, found hit a vein. Grayson’s eyes filled with
hate and a hint of betrayal before they glazed over into narcotic sleep. He would be out for a while, but he’d live.
“I wouldn’t mind a shot myself, Commander. That slavering ape got one, and he’s the one who attacked me! I’m the victim, here.” He pulled up
his sleeve, held out his arm. Up and down the limb were pock marks and injection sites, numerous but perfectly maintained.
“We’re running low on supplies… But the truth is, I want nothing more than for you to stop talking. I’d give anything for a little peace and
quiet. Mr. Engleton, it’s time to take a nap.” Commander Roberts readied up a shot, one of substantial magnitude. I wasn’t quite sure whether he
meant to sedate the man, or kill him. I wasn’t sure if Roberts knew either. But Engleton offered up his arm, and took the shot without second
thoughts. He remained on his feet.
“Thanks for the shot, Doctor Feel-Good. But it’ll take a lot more than that to knock me out. Did I ever tell you… about… the time the
burglar… stole.. the… baby’s… bottle?” His head nodded forward, and he was out. His breathing became shallow, but no one truly cared about
if he lived or died.
Now, the more level-headed of us were able to speak without constant interruption. The only problem was that no one wanted to speak at that point.