Stranded on an alien world, twenty-five million miles from home.
By Mike Meadors, playwright
"A month," he said with a somber tone. A month. Four weeks. Thirty days. Every second ticks twice as fast hearing this news. As I sit in this sterile office all I can think about is how much time I'm wasting.
"Considering the intense strain of the virus, I'm amazed he made it this long."
So happy you're impressed.
"Is there anything I can do?" I know there's nothing, but I must ask. I'd sit in this chair and ask a million different ways if I wasn't wasting precious ticks remaining on my husband’s life.
"Vomoxinane is already being sent to your home."
I nod and stand to exit. Something stops me. A shiver strikes the spine and I spin around to snap,
"Look. If there-"
"-There has to be something you can do! Something you can give him!"
"The Vomoxinane will help ease his pain," he adds with a quiver.
"I'm not interested in easing his pain. According to you, in a month it won't matter what kind of pain he was in at all."
Possessed, I stride around the desk and confront him eye to eye. I can see the sweat beads of stress stream down his brow.
"Don't take this the wrong way," he squeaks. "But the kind of thing you’re demanding is a miracle drug. It’s above the pay grade of a NASA employee."
Not offended in the least. All I heard was miracle drug.
"So, it does exist?"
"It's being tested. We don't know if it will even work on humans yet."
I know it’s wrong to impose my will on this man, but time is not a luxury I’ve been afforded.
“Who is testing it?”
He slowly takes his pen and quivers as he jots a name down on his monitor.
Shit. I know that name. I close my eyes, hoping that when I open them, I’ll have read the name wrong.
In a surly tone the doctor whimpers, “He’s the one. Are you satisfied now, Capt. Kessler?”
“Capt. Kessler? Captain?”
The sardonic tone is lifted by the light of concern. My skin returns to a boiling point.
I open my eyes to find Valdez crouched over me. Our eye contact brings a smile to his face.
“Thank The Hand you’re alive.”
I close my eyes again. Hoping this time when I open them I will put me back on Earth. But I know it won’t.
“How do you feel?”
Emotionally, I feel like my heart has been trampled on. Physically, I’m okay. Nasty headache, but okay.
“I’m fine,” is all I have the will to say.
“I’ve got some good news and bad. Which would you like first?”
“I’m going to have to hear them both. You pick, Valdez.”
“Good news is everyone is alive. We survived the landing.”
“I thought you said that was the good news?” This crass comment is followed by a chorus of chortles. I can feel the crew standing around me. I must be the only one who was knocked out. I know I shouldn’t be, but I’m a little embarrassed.
“Hey, I heard that,” whines the weasel.
“I meant for you to hear it.”
I open my eyes, the haze and fog clears to reveal a huddle of humans staring down at me like an interesting lab rat.
“What’s the bad news?”
"Bad news is an understatement. We're fucked! We’ve only got ten days’ worth of food," blurts Odusky.
"We're not fucked, we just have to fix the can's compartment door," Mirav reassures.
This could be a fear greater than leaving my kids without a mother; being alive and knowing I'm never going to see them again. This truth takes a minute to sink in, the bickering between Odusky and Mirav becomes muted. Their figures go out of focus as I stare skyward. I can see the lime clouds swirling at a rate unseen on Earth.
I try to relax for a second. I'm the captain of the first crew of humans to die on Venus. I've secured my place in history. For a moment, I'm content.
Okay, moment's over. Time to survive. I sit up and take in my surroundings. It's so hot on this planet I can see heat rising from the surface and it’s barely bright out. As the carbon dioxide winds of this planet whip around at dull speeds, I can feel the warm gusts ripple against my suit. It's the thickest, murkiest heat I've ever felt or anyone may ever feel, for that matter. Good news is, my suit is doing its job by balancing out the atmospheric pressure on this celestial sauna.
The landing can looks bad, but it could have been worse. The opening hatch is missing a part, probably broke off on impact. I decide it’s time in interrupt the dispute.
“Valdez, where did we land? How far are we from our target?”
He checks his monitor and shakes his head.
“We’re in the Zemina Corona, 200 miles from our target,” he reveals.
“Mirav, what do you need to fix the door on the can?”
“We’ve got ion welding equipment. If you can get me a malleable metal so I don’t have to use an open flame, I can fix the door in an hour,” she bragged.
“And where do you propose to find a malleable metal on this rock?” Odusky was always a skeptic, all the years I’ve known him at NASA.
“A volcano. If we find one that’s just erupted, I may be able to fix it.”
“How far is the nearest active volcano, Valdez?”
He checks. He clearly doesn’t have good news.
“The Maat Mons. A thousand miles.”
Let’s do the math. We have to travel, on foot, a thousand miles with only ten days’ worth of food for five people. Do we have enough to make it?
Despite my old friend’s constant cynicism, Odusky’s unfortunately right on this one. We’re fucked.