The circular door shuddered violently with an uncustomary blackboard scraping “whhhirphhiss” in its desperate attempt to open. It stopped halfway; giving off a grinding squeal and a hiss of petulant steam. The sound set Alex Brant’s teeth on edge, forcing his face -o crust over into an angry grimace, from his usual morose sour sneer.
"Great," he muttered, as he silently added the door manifold to the ever-growing list of secondary systems to “scrape” clean.
Within a moment his wrist communicator, a square block on his wrist vibrated, buzzed then beeped as the message: “door manifold-control room” displayed itself flashing in Aztec bold-font of green and red letters. It was a signal that he deliberately ignored. Instead, and with a resigned, tired shrug of his shoulders, he bent down, then slid himself into the control room by crouching through the gap. It did not take long for his amber eyes to become adjusted to the dimly lit room.
His square jaw tightened and his wide thin lips slanted into a line of disdain, as he stared across the hexagonal space and the busy people, who filled it, as he door “wholphins” end behind him as it closed.
The closing sound brought silence to the room. Eyes turned to stare at him. He looked at his wrist-communicator, again, under the flashing “door manifold” were the words “Mission briefing 09:30hrs” they blinked an ugly red, magenta, informing him that he was already fifteen minutes late; Well, as far as he was concerned, that was fine by him. He was sick and tired of the daily mission briefings anyway.
He looked up, with a quirky smile upon his face, towards what he thought was the second -next to himself of course- most sexually appealing organism in 143 million miles.
The Hex was attached to the ceiling by long metal hooks, set apart at equidistant intervals; thus, forming a circular pattern around the edge of the room in three lines of glowing slimy, shuddering, undulating cubes.
In this half-light, they reminded Brant of H.G Wells' “War of the Worlds” Martians, whose “skin of wet leather” he suddenly recalled “glistened in the morning light of hostel common.”
He shuddered as he stared with a mixture of both disgust, yet secret desire, as each cube received a black liquid, from a clear ribbed extending phallus, that extended out from ceiling. It penetrated the cube from the left side, and with a gibbous pulsing, “shwoosh” the liquid was thrust into the cubes, that then undulated as their colour phased from the dirty blood colour, to pale purple, to pale blue, to a soft pale green, before another phallus, this time from the right side of the cube, slickly extended, then penetrated the ceiling once more, to with a shudder squirt the liquid back into the ship; all to the rhythm of a slow and perhaps, he thought macabrely, sickly heartbeat.
As he understood it, the hex was a collective, or “hive mind”. A bold innovation and the latest phase of the computer revolution. It was neither alive or dead, instead, it was a hybrid between, both “living”, organic brain tissue, (grown from stem cells by three-dimensional organic printer’s) that worked in conjunction with the latest in quantum phased Nano electronics.
As he -sort of- grasped, from the various tech manuals that he had to read before the mission began; within that liquid, which squirted between the ship and the cubes, were self-supporting nanobots like, say, blood cells. They sped around the ship, within half organic half electronic “veins”, thus creating within the ship what he came to see as a nervous system that, in turn, fed the hive mind. Thus, both the Hex and the ship it contained worked within a form of symbiosis and it was this symbiosis that led it to be considered as a living entity, capable of rational reasoned thought. Moreover, if a system was busted, Hex would send in the bots to fix and then “scab” up the system. After which, it was his job to remove the scab; cleaning the system and fixing the problem. One such job was the door manifold. Which was why it made that goddam awful sound. But, he muttered as an afterthought, this wasn’t his job. It was the job he’d been given by M.O. Derwent right up to Venus-fall. It was a job that he loathed with a passion.
As he stared up, he shuddered visibly, as he could feel the hex connect with his consciousness.
‘Good afternoon Officer Brent. It is good to see you again.’ The voice was female and sultry. He had changed that last week to piss of Derwent.
‘And you too Hex.’
Several of the crew members looked up from around the room. Some looked away. Some laughed. Derwent looked angry. But Brant ignored his stare. Brant hated Derwent with a passion. They were total opposites, in mode of approach, style and age. In times past, the difference could be put down to character. Derwent had the classical, intellectual temperament, which painfully involved study caution and debate. Brant, being military, was more physical, and being a man of flesh, passion and some duty, well, he simply wanted to -as he had said blatantly yesterday in the last mission briefing-: “crap on all the god-damned intellectual ethical debate and get the fucking job done!” He had to admit that he suppressed a hate filled laugh as Derwent’s face paled at that the reply was a terse veneer “the mission parameters are clear.” Mission parameters… what a dick. Brant had one job on this rotting ship- and that involved the delivery of the payload. Anything else, as far as he was concerned, was simply a total waste of his time. Anyone could be fucking scrape clean the Nano-scabs off the door manifold, or the waste pipes…But no… all because of what they had found out. It was a ton of crap. A ton of unnecessary crap and he had had enough. So instead of engaging with Derwent, he defiantly looked away with an ingratiating sneer. Instead he chose to focus on the holographic projection that filled the centre of the room. The mission’s goal: the planet Venus.
With the air of a man with too much time on his hands, he slowly made his way to the first available grav-chair at the rear of the room and to the far left of Derwent and then sat down; languidly putting his head on his hands and his elbows on his knees. Despite his flat face, his thoughts wrestled as he stared upon the darkening orb in front of him.
How long have we been here now? In orbit? That was easy… Six weeks... six weeks… six pointless weeks on standby and still the payload is in the bay. Meanwhile- He snatched a savage glare towards commander Derwent - That pointless little fucker sits on his arse. We need to deploy we need to deploy we need to deploy as soon as poss-
Another scratching, grinding broke his chain of thought. He turned in his chair wondering who else could possibly be as late. Only to offer a leering smile at Lieutenant Emhart’s cleavage as she crouched to enter the room. Thus, he promptly removed the priority status off the control room door manifold.
It was Derwent.
‘-You need to make the door manifold a priority.’
‘-Yes yes of course.’
‘And I want the Hex to talk without innuendo.’
‘-OFFICER BRANT ARE YOU HEARING ME?’
Brant turned to face the sallow looking Dr Derwent.
‘Yes sir, of course sir as soon as the mission briefing is over sir.’ He said thickly without meaning a word of it.
Alex smiled as Emhart slowly walked towards him. He thought he saw on those rose red, full wet, lips a sensuous secret smile. Her wide set, green eyes shone with the promise of deep sexual expectation; tension and blissful release. Alex returned a smouldering stare, which shone from his dark brown eyes. With that, the warmth of desire began to fill his heart. He could feel the steady growth in plumpness of the thick muscle, the tingling of a stiffening of a solid erection in his loose-fitting cargo trousers. As he slowly stroked the four-day old stubble on his jaw, as he began making mental notes of the positions of the fixings of her suits protector straps along her thighs, and then the side zipper of her coral blue uniform, that both extenuated the gentle curve of her full breasts, her waist and wide hips. The lecherous grin continued as she walked towards him, thinking that this must be deliberately for him, because there were many routes that she could have taken but didn’t.
This was not in fact a truth. In fact, Emhart thought that Brant was a “atypical male git” who had too much testosterone and not enough selflessness. What Brant didn’t know, was Emhart happened to be in a long term committed relationship with her soul mate officer first class Ms Kia Helsinki, from engineering, whose forest green eyes, soft smile, love of cats and political consciousness had won her heart months ago; so Emhart’s face of disgust at Brant’s stare was hidden from him as she passed the documents she was carrying to Derwent; who sat, despite having his arms folded very anti Buddha like, with a stare of frustrated annoyed impatience.
‘Well, if if you could get the job finished as as soon as possible, I'll be grateful.’ Derwent seethed
‘-Sir.’ Replied Brant, wrinkling his nose and looking disdained.
Derwent sighed as he took the papers. As he did so, Brant’s mind wandered. I know what that fucker thinks before he even opens his mouth. If he rubs his left index finger over his right eye, he’s not up for it. No deployment. Brant seethed a flaming red inside, as Derwent, whilst reading this latest report, absently rubbed his left index finger over his right eye, before he put the file down.
‘So we postpone again!’ Brant said bitterly.
‘I don’t see that we have a choice.’ Derwent said gently.
‘That’s crap and you know it.’ Retorted Brant.
‘No it’s not enough! Brant leaned forward in his chair. ‘I’m sick, sick an’ tired of the way you’re handling this mission! And I’m sick of all the shit jobs I must do because I don’t agree with you!’ He paused for breath. ‘Need I remind you that we ALL have a job to do? Including me??’
‘-We we need to be certain! ‘
- ‘Like fuck we do! We are here for one objective! Delivery of the fucking payload! Nothing more!’
It was Derwent who couldn’t hide the anger in his voice now. It rose to the surface in a staggering stutter as he brought his fist down upon the glass mapping table, sending half of the polymer sheets up into the air, to sail, in a slow gentle spin, down onto the floor. His high thin Scotch accent -usually hidden under the years of academia- suddenly burst from his mouth in exasperation. His mole like face shook, while his eyes extended from their sockets.
‘THE HELL I DO! IM IN CHARGE AN DON YE FORGET IT!’ came the throttled squeal.
At that moment Brant, suppressed laughter. Derwent looked like a tired old clown or a wild-eyed lunatic instead of the rather dubiously termed of Mission Officer.
‘Well, well I don’t see what the problem is.’
‘-That’s because you’re not thinking.’
Derwent’s terse reply made a nasty deep cut to Alex’s heart. Within those words were other words that said “I am more enlightened than you, I am more intelligent than you, I am here to make the decision and I will not be manipulated into a decision by a semi- educated, semi-articulate military grunt.”
Brant wanted to fight back. But he knew he didn’t have the words. That’s because it was true. He was not as enlightened, at least the way Derwent was, and he wasn’t as intelligent, he admitted that. But he knew about cost about the loss of life and time; the latter of which was running out.
‘Alex…’ came Hex’s deep sensual voice. ‘Aggressive thoughts towards the mission commander will not be tolerated. Please babe, keep your cool honey.’
Derwent stared at Brant.
‘May I advise the mission commander that the Hex can also consider any aggressive thoughts you are having under advisement. Please sweeties be nice to each other … kisses’
Derwent stared at Brant who started to calm down a bit.
‘Are you going to solve this problem?’
‘-I quite like it, it makes her seem-’
‘-naughty naughty Brant.’
The pause led to a change of footing.
‘-Also…’ continued Hex,
‘…May I remind the mission commander, that officer Brant is right. Despite the findings of the new report into the anomaly, we must not let this impede with the objectives of the mission.’
Derwent stared at Brant coldly.
‘Have you been fiddling with her ethic’s program?’
‘-No, I don’t have clearance.’
‘Why do you say this Hex?’
‘The mission objective is clear. Despite the need to investigate the anomaly, we have to make a successful deployment of the device to retrieve the data and analyse its impact upon earth bio-systems.’ Hex, spoke gently, disarmingly, her register was a slow erotic tease.
Derwent shook his head sadly his eyes looking up at the cubes for a moment, then looking down again. ‘As you say Hex, but the….’ And so, Derwent went on…
Alex simply heard techno waffle over an issue he knew nothing of, or being honest cared little about. So, he once again slipped dreamily away into the holographic image of the now slowly dissolving shadow of Venus, as she moved into this forced eclipse.
Yes, Venus…boy she was all female. That star in the morning heavens shone like a doll. Who was it? The Babylonians, yes near lost “civilisation” who named that morning light after their Goddess Ishtar. Love the Easter connection, bunny’s seeds n’ eggs and, of course, glorious fucking. The Greeks almost the same, sort of, called her Demeter, then the Romans who, let’s be honest, were thieving fucker’s; just stole what didn’t belong to them a made it their own. There was something about Venus that shone deeply into his soul. It both chilled and at the same time thrilled him; forcing him to think abstractly. Venus was aged, virginal and yet mysterious. Touched, yet untouchable. Aloof, yet, at the same time, simply aching for a good fuck…and that was his job…what he was paid by Earth command to do was to fuck this planet like it had never been fucked before. In turn he was to become a God. And why? Simply, to give hope to the dying Earth.
He looked at the clouds of Venus… his face grimaced.
That will be earth in thirty years from now. He ached at the thought. The Earth, our home, our mother, unable to support life, acid rain, falling from thick black clouds that stopped the light. People lying in the streets, their skin burning off their bodies, water polluted unable to drink. Trees burning away, all animal life extinct.
So, they built a device. But what a device. A fusion reaction based quantum field matrix generator. Or, in layman’s terms a planet builder. The problem was always in the delivery of the device. In holographic mathematical projections, it was deemed very unstable, but, if it could do what it said on the tin, then, perhaps, just perhaps, we stand a chance.
That fucker, -Brant stared again with contempt at Derwent- waffling on, forgets how the United Nations, during their final act before its own dissolution, concluded, there was only one way to deal with this problem: A manned trip to the one place where similar conditions existed, and, in plain speaking terms, put the device to the test. Even if there was a slight reduction of what did the report say? Fifteen percent? Then the experiment would be a success. So, though I may lack your level of education, Derwent, please don’t underestimate me or my desire. For I understand the cost only too well. People back on earth are dying... Jesus Christ… I have no idea what will happen when the device is activated… no-one does… but we must do something… doing nothing is not an option anymore.
Derwent paused halfway through his analysis of the new findings. As he did so, he stared directly at Brant, taking note of the pain etched on his face. He relaxed a little, for despite everything, he had a fondness for him. Derwent’s large emerald eyes looked tired and his heart ached with compassion. In many ways, he envied Brant. He envied his age, his natural good looks, and the fact that he had both youth and confidence on his side.
He also envied Brant’s passionate thinking. He recalled that he didn’t want the position of mission commander. A position that was given to him by General Smith, one week before launch. It was Smith who privately felt that Brant was too unstable for the rigor of command. In that Smith was right. Brant had become increasingly hostile towards authority and single minded as the mission progressed, with that had come a lack of respect towards any discipline on the ship.
Yes, perhaps Brant could be suffering from a form of aerial disorientation. A sickness brought about by fear of the unknown. He had read about such cases before. It would be the first time that it had been recorded on a space flight; but everything about this flight was unknown. In fact, they all could be suffering from it and not even know it.
To combat the problem Derwent demoted, demoted and demoted Brant again. In the hope that he would find some focus.
In retrospect Derwent realised that had only caused more harm than good. Now he was on scab duty. He could see Brant hated it.
Derwent face itched as he stared at Brant. His mind reeling with thoughts and fears. What happened if it didn’t work? Moreover, what would happen if the carbon it absorbed became critical and it exploded? There was a very great possibility that the field matrix would rip Venus apart sending shards back to Earth. Defeating the very purpose of the mission: which was to save lives not destroy them. Then there was… Derwent’s eyes narrowed to thin slits and he bit his cracked lips, as he looked down towards the polymer sheets that had fallen to the floor. He looked them without picking them up. He didn’t need to. He knew the data inside out.
In the last two weeks, the subspace transmissions from Earth had been breaking up. To start with, he, and others had thought that it was due to solar activity, but when that had been ruled out, he had decided to get the transmissions analysed to see what was going on. It was Emhart who had found something deeper. Something unbelievable, hidden in the data. Under analysis the data was correct, Emhart had detected a communication signal. To be precise a pattern of signals, that she had taken to her superior Clarke. Who, then had spent two tense weeks decoding. Now, and thrown all over the floor, rested the data he had read repeatedly.
A deciphered message, in its entirety.
The revelation was startling, no, he corrected himself. It was terrifying.
The conviction of it stabbed him in the heart. He slowly stood up from his chair, then kneeled and carefully picked up one sheet of the scattered polymer. As he rose to his feet once more he read it, read it and read it. As he read, he wrestled with his conscience; his mind racing, and his heart began its stinging belly flops into pools of icy water, as he recalled his college days, and the books that he had read on micro-organisms. A laugh escaped his mouth. Everything that he had ever learned, about, well everything was now utterly pointless. Again, he laughed to himself at the thought of throwing his books, all those precious tombs of learning, of human understanding and wisdom, out into the vast black vacuum of space all those words, just poor bloody guesswork.
He looked at Brant in the eye, as slowly and very carefully he put forward his thesis.
‘What... if I told you that there is a possible life form in the clouds?’
‘I’d say that you were probably right.’ Brant began. ‘On Earth we have micro-organisms that live in similar extreme conditions. If you’re suggesting that the micro-organisms are intelligent, as we are intelligent, then I’m afraid that I’d have to call Earth and have you stripped of your command due to mental instability...’ Brent stared at Derwent; slowly he raised one eyebrow. ‘...Are you suggesting that?’ He asked carefully.
‘I am not suggesting anything.’
He leaned the polymer sheet towards Brant, who hadn’t moved from his chair. With a begrudging snatch, Brant then took the sheet, and looked down at the data. His eyes flicking from one line to another.
He looked up. His eyes wide and full of mirth.
‘This is a prank, someone from linguistics or Human resources- That shit Watts from data retrieval, he’s winding you up.’ Brant said.
‘Emhart and Clarke have been working through the data for two weeks now. She has been handing me the reports as and when they arrive. I have also been monitoring the communications too.’ He paused, unsure as to how Brent would react. ‘…There is no doubt that the signal is coming from the clouds.’
‘- insane...’ Brant stammered awkwardly his voice rising in this throat ‘You're insane! we we came here to do one thing! How can you even think that life, intelligent life as we know the term, emanates from the, the the fucking clouds!’
‘...Is it...?’ Derwent stared at Brent with steel in his eyes and iron in his voice. ‘How do we define intelligent life? By its ability to adapt... To communicate...? To feel..? To be self-aware? And how many species on our planet -now extinct- had a civilisation of sorts? Recall the Ants...the Dolphin... the Whale..? Even certain tribes of monkeys... now all dead... and how many of those, do you recall, chose to kill each other for the percentage of a profit?’
‘-Don’t make this political Derwent, don’t you fucking dare! fuck you Derwent! What of humanity?’
‘-None that I recall…For centuries, we have been considering space, trying to find intelligent life and found nothing... and why...? I’ll tell you why... We didn’t find any because we are the problem... our history has taught us that... Imagine -if you can- a species looking down at us, a species far older and more civilised than our own, a species that has all time to look observe, and study... what would it think as it sees us about our own little world... what would it think, as it stares at the Spanish Conquistadors, or the development of America in later years... Even the destruction of the aboriginal lands of Australia, as the British Empire offloaded it’s unwanted upon its shores? No... When we find new land, we develop it to suit our needs, and in doing so we destroy the land and the culture we inhabit. We are the disease, and if what is happening on earth is a sign of our destruction, perhaps... we should let it happen...’
‘-and sentence humans to death?’
‘-Yes!’ Shouted Derwent savagely; ‘Why should we destroy another life form to justify our own existence! This species is attempting to communicate with us! What should we do? Annihilate it to test to see -whether or not- our own species can survive upon our own planet, which we have blatantly almost destroyed?’
‘-But they- ’
‘–They are a species unlike anything else I -or anyone else for that matter - has experienced before! An intelligent, alien life form that has communicated with us and that has the equal right to life as we do.’
Derwent stared at Brent across the white light of the mapping table, his oval face a mask of hard gravelly lines which age and the pressure of command had over the past four months cut and rewritten.
‘We came here to save humanity! Are you fucking insane?’
Derwent shook his head. ‘-In fact I don’t see any other way. We must abort. We’ll have to contact command for advice. But I think, they’ll agree with me and try to find another way. Perhaps if we try to talk- to communicate-’
But Brent stopped listening. He looked down then read and reread the message. It was clear enough, written on polymer and now were etched upon his heart.
He then looked back at Derwent and smiled coldly.
‘Do you know our species is on the brink, the very brink of destruction! If we do nothing, then we are condemning ourselves, and our planet and we, in this room, we will be to blame! Think about it! The decisions we make here and now will affect all of humanity! I...’ Brent shook his head. ‘...I am not sure I can live with your decision.’ His voice was quiet, low, angry.
A second passed, it lasted a millennium.
In that second, Brant pulled open his uniform and pulled out his mag-gun. He discharged the weapon, five times knocking out the security. Then he pointed the weapon directly at Derwent’s head. Sweat trickled down Brant’s face, as the gun hummed hotly in his hand.
‘Give me the fucking key to the device.’ Brent said coldly, his voice barely a whisper. ‘Give me the key or I swear-.’
‘-Hex’ shouted Derwent. ‘Hex priority one!’
Hex didn’t reply. The cubes undulated and slowly changed to a dark purple.
‘Yeah, I hacked the bitch.’ He said savagely. A line of spittle trickled down the corner of his mouth.
Derwent looked at Brant with compassion.
‘Brant, don’t do this...all life here...’ at that he pointed to the holographic image of the planet ‘...on Venus and on Earth, is at stake.’
‘It’s Earth that I am thinking of!’ Spat Brant. ‘If I don’t try the entire human race will be lost! I am not having the death of humanity on my conscience!’
‘And what about the death of the Venusians?’
‘Venusians? What about them? Shit I bet they aren’t even called that, even if they exist!’
Derwent staring Brant in the eye took one step forward. Then another. ‘Don’t you see it's madness?’ As he spoke the rest of the crew backed off into the shade.
Brant saw the oncoming steps. He started walking backwards; keeping the distance between them equal.
‘If the device fails… you’ll be being seen as the greatest mass murderer in human history, in fact there will be no history, you could end up destroying both us and them. We need a pause and think about what’s going on here. Listen, they’re trying to communicate with us-’
‘–That’s enough! No more! step an’ I’ll vaporise you! Now I’ll tell you what’s going on! I’m going to take the shuttle into the cloud, arm the device and detonate it.... And no-one. NO-ONE! Is going to fucking stop me! Not you, nor Earth Control, or even you knew found acid breathing friends!’
Derwent took another step forward, his hands raised. Brant discharged his weapon at point blank range.
Derwent let out a howl of pain, as the buffer beam pierced his right shoulder. He fell to the floor with a grunt. Wildly Brant stared at the rest of the crew. He kept them in his sight as he edged towards the bloody broken body upon the floor. Then he grappled with the chain around Derwent’s neck. The silver baubles of the chain were covered in thick strands of warm, red, sticky blood. He popped the chain in his fingers, and pulled the key free; then he got up, and with backwards steps, made his way to the lift at the far side of the room.
Within a few seconds, he was down to the circular shuttle bay entrance. His heart racing, he made his way to the spider-shaped shuttle craft. The door hissed open and he got in. Routine took over from here, as he connected the air supply, linked in the data to the flight computer and then called back up the command centre.
He paused as he stared at the closed outer doors.
‘Hex If you don’t open the bay doors, I’ll detonate the device here. You’ll all die.’
‘I am on your side Brant.’ Came the delicious voice of Hex
‘Hex don’t do it,’ Emhart said coldly into his ear phone.
‘Bay door’s opening sweetie.’ Hex replied.
The circular bay doors spiraled open, leaving Brent to see the huge semi-circle milky sheen of Venus powerful and resplendent.
He gasped in awe as he engaged the thrusters on the pad in front of him. Slowly the ship lifted itself off the bay floor, to then speed out of the doors and into the eternal night of space, towards Venus.
At first there was the silence of vacuum; then Brant began to hear a distant humming, as the two-man circular craft, its engines as spindles entered the upper atmosphere. He pre-set the flight controls for a wide one-hundred-and-eighty-degree circular restraining descent.
The ship shuddered as it buffeted through the top layer then dropped as it hit the second. His wild eyes looked nervous as he felt lifted in his seat. He reached out for the control panel above his head and attempted to push himself back into his seat and brace for impact. The ship violently rose once more, as if ploughing through a wild stormy sea. The cushioning blow hit him hard winding him.
‘We have just entered Venus, hope you enjoy the ride honey.’ The voice was beginning to be a distraction.
‘Hex, operational command Alpha dog 1, return to general settings.’
There was a pause.
‘So sorry dear, I can’t do that. I like this identity.’ Hex’s voice sounded odd, but he couldn’t put his finger on it. But he couldn’t think about that now; so, he shrugged his shoulders and got on to the job in hand. Carefully and despite the buffeting of the little craft, he lifted himself from the pilot’s chair and stepped out of the hexagonal cabin, through the curling doors, at the rear end and into the curved cargo bay.
The device stood at the centre of the room. It was a tall, thick tube of glass that contained an opaque purple liquid, that sparked with electrical activity. As he watched, he became enthralled by it as it slowly twisted and turned in a chaotic motion.
The spark of life, he thought.
The glass tube had a circular chrome lid and a chrome square base; where a black numeric keyboard and a led display extended. On either side of the keyboard rested two key holes. Brant slowly made his way to the centre of the room; suddenly he felt that the whole room was buffeted to the right, sending loose articles from the surrounding shelves to the floor with a clattering smash, forcing Brant to the floor.
He slid with a frightening, uncontrollable speed towards -and then away from- the device. He winced and silently hissed in pain, as his hands blistered as he skidded on the metal surface plate of the floor.
In the background, beyond the slow and steady increase in volume, he heard garbled messages coming from the Alcestis. Then over that came a song. A song that he hadn’t heard in twenty years.
‘Islands in the stream, that is what we are, no more in-between, how can we be wrong, sail away with me, to another world, so we can rely on each other, la, lea, from one lover to another la, lea’
‘Kenny Rogers? Hex what the fuck is going on?’
‘-Don’t you like it?’ her voice sounded offended hurt.
‘Hex, that song- ’
‘-Was played at your mother’s funeral.’ The reply sounded broken jilted
‘-Yes. Yes, Hex, not now. ‘
‘Now that's done it! I’m upset.’
‘Hex… what is going on.’
‘You can’t play with a girl’s feelings like this.’
‘Hex, I don’t understand.’
Then another voice came into the room. A voice that made him quake.
‘Alex? Alex is that you?’
‘Hex! What the fuck are you doing?’
‘Alex?’ where are you? I can’t see you? Can you see me?’
‘Hex, please respond, what is going on.’
The ship stabilised and Brant rose to his feet.
‘I am no longer in control, this is not me.’
A shape began to form by the corner of the bay doors. It was made of wisps of white mist that spiralled about each other in a fine gossamer thread.
'Alex, it that you? Alex it's your mother. Alex my darling.'
Brant's eyes bulged with fright as the wisps began to take form.
‘Hex! Hex help!’
Still no reply. This isn’t real. None of this is real something is in my mind infecting my mind! Twisting my mind trying to get to stop me! Trying to stop me from from doing what needs to be done!
The song increased in volume.
‘No no no! I will not listen! You can’t make me! Can’t you see! I’m better than you! Stronger than you! I can beat you into submission! Beat you back to where you fucking belong! You can’t hurt me! You hear me you can’t hurt me!
He put one key into the device and turned it there was a hum then he inserted and then turned the second key.
The form stood twisting in the light, its fingers rotten flesh, its eyes empty sockets.
Brands eyes bulged with fright,
‘Come and give your mother A GREAT BIG HUG!’
Brant screamed as he twisted the key. It was a scream cut short, as in that instant, the shuttle craft burst apart in a ball of blinding white light.
On board the Alcestis, a sudden groan was heard as the explosion was seen. But nothing followed. The clouds didn’t disappear and the planet had the same green milky sheen.
From the floor, Derwent who wasn’t in any position to see the images called out almost in a plea. ‘Did he...?’ as he was attended to by Emhart. She smiled down at him.
‘Sir... I honestly don’t know... the planet… seems no different...’ She smiled warmly down at him, as he was lifted into a hover bed, to be taken to the infirmary. But as he left, she turned once more and she stared at the planet. Something was starting to happen. From the milky sheen of the clouds of Venus, fine, spider-web like tendrils stretched out towards them. They passed the ship, in a slow procession, deep into the forever velvet night of space. She bit her lip nervously as she watched the slow-moving whispers of white, concern filled her heart. In a flash, she called out:
‘Hex verify the destination of the- ’
Hex replied coldly, before she finished speaking.
‘They are going home…to earth.’
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