Creative

The Ahavah VII: Prometheus

“I cannot live, I can’t breathe, unless you do this with me.”
— Angels & Airwaves, “The Adventure”

Read previous chapters here:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6

1

A space ship had just landed at Baikonur, and it was no less shocking than seeing a pre-historic pterodactyl soaring through the moonlit sky. Both relics were thought permanently relegated to the past, after all.

Even though I was not invited to Balga’s meeting with his four lieutenants — to discuss the seemingly miraculous arrival of the space craft at the cosmodrome — I could hear the spirited discussion from the dark hallway outside the candle-lit room. The whole citadel was buzzing about it, even at that late hour, as word spread quickly throughout our group — the Dizel Uldar — that a ship had touched down at Baikonur for the first time in years. For the first time since The Sickness had wiped out most of humanity and, with it, the sight of space-going vessels aloft in the sky.

No doubt, Balga and the leaders were debating whether or not to move forward with the launch of a much-discussed raid on the cosmodrome, given the new development. My own mind was focused on the possibility, however remote, that my sister Yara was on that ship.

Yara had departed Baikonur on an Israeli long-range space craft called The Ahavah before The Sickness struck. I never heard from her again, even after I returned to Gagarin City from Moscow at the outset of The Sickness. I guessed that fact was not surprising, since I had not actually made contact with anyone at the cosmodrome, precluded from doing so by a forced enlistment in Balga’s group of Outliers shortly after my arrival in Gagarin City.

Was it possible that Yara had made it back to Earth? I had to believe it was, and I had to investigate the possibility. Maybe the best way to do so was through a raid on the facility? While I had no say in the decision to attack or not — Balga would make that call — I found myself hoping that he would order it to go forward, and soon. I had to know.

At that moment, the meeting room door flung open, startling me from my eavesdropping, and my lieutenant, the young Kazakh man named Sanzhar, said to me, “Moshe, come in. Balga wishes to speak to you.” I followed him inside.

2

“Tell me, Moshe, about your sister,” Balga said to me after I had taken a place standing off to the side of the main table at which sat the five men who commanded the roughly 50 fighting-aged men of the Dizel Uldar. My commander, Sanzhar, nodded at me as if to say ‘go on.’ While he was young, possibly in his early twenties, Sanzhar had the look of a seasoned and capable leader. Maybe it was the jaded confidence in his green eyes. I supposed he was both capable and seasoned, as he had led his small group of men on a number of raids, scavenging runs, and skirmishes with rival groups of Outliers.

“What do you want to know about her,” I asked Balga, internally chiding myself for my sheepish-sounding voice. I was intimidated by the men gathered in this council. They had doled out plenty of heinous suffering, after all, over the course of the last number of years I had been with the group. I had personally witnessed all of them deliver violence on more than one occasion. Balga, with his sephardic-looking beard, directed his obsidian eyes into mine, seemingly willing me to submit before him yet again.

“What was the mission of her vessel? Its origin, crew, destination. Things like that. Don’t be obtuse, Moshe. There’s no time for that.”

“She uh, she was on The Ahavah, an Israeli long-range voyager,” I said. “It was designed for the long trip to Mars, and beyond that. I don’t remember how many people there were on her crew, but maybe five, total? She told us — her family — that they planned to be in Earth’s orbit for a short time, then make the trip onward to Mars. I think while they were there — on Mars — they would re-provision with supplies and fuel at Mars Station. Then they were to make a trip to one of the moons of Jupiter. The one with all the water and Ice. Europa? I believe they were to be a part of that research on possible life in the water on Europa. That is all I know. She planned to be gone for years.”

“So then it was a long-range scientific voyage. I imagined as much,” Balga said, looking around the table knowingly. The flickering candlelight shown in his face, illuminating the wrinkle lines spreading out from his eyes. “I assume there is equipment and supplies onboard that we can use, then, Moshe. Not to mention, the reactor. The reactor intrigues me. Do they train all of the astronauts on how to manage the reactor?”

There was genuine curiosity in Balga’s face, but not just that. There was also a greedy look about him as he asked the question. Of course. How could I have failed to predict it? Balga wanted the power that the reactor could provide. A lifetime’s worth of power. It was more precious than diamonds and gold in the post-Sickness world. It would bestow on him both control of the physical power it could produce — in the form of Terra Watt hours of electricity — as well as the figurative power that would result from his control of something so valuable to humanity.

Balga was looking to control one of the most precious resources left on Earth: a small and relatively manageable nuclear reactor.

3

I took a moment to think about what Yara had told me about her ship, and her training. I was probably not the best listener when she spoke about such things, but some of it had stuck with me. “My sister did receive training in the reactor, Balga. They all did, from what I remember her telling me. They each had to have a competent knowledge of its operation, trouble shooting, things like that. They would be alone in space with it, after all.”

I took another moment to remember the science and history lessons I had received in school about the Second Great Space Race. “We all know the story, of course, of the Second Great Space Race and the Americans’ Prometheus II project. It led to the first operable nuclear-electric propulsion systems that drove low-thrust ion engines for deep space travel. They also provided electricity for onboard life-support, communications, and navigation systems. From what I remember, the reactors are long-lasting, rugged, and compact. They had to be for long-range space travel.”

All school children knew the story of how man had made the leap into deeper space, thanks to the development of the Prometheus II reactors. The Americans had revived an early 21st century nuclear development program — Project Prometheus — and had successfully adapted the nuclear reactors for space travel. The rest of the rich world followed quickly with their own programs, and thus was born the Second Great Space Race. Humans had then made it back to the moon, to Mars, and on to Jupiter. Colonies and space stations were established and all of the sudden, humanity was no longer bound to Earth. No one could have predicted that The Sickness would follow such an achievement, but God sometimes mocks human glory.

“So we can assume, Moshe, that your sister, or really, any astronaut on that space craft that just landed — or any like it — can operate the reactor and keep it generating electricity. Really, any long-range space craft that lands there would have a similar reactor. This is, of course, of great value and is something we cannot ignore. Perhaps it is time for us to think more seriously about the cosmodrome.”

4

I sat across from Yara Harel as we both ate grilled horse meat and drank lukewarm water that had been boiled the day previous. I chewed the tough meat until it was soft enough to swallow, and said to Yara, “So, here’s where we are after the last few weeks, Yara. I think we have figured out a way to deliver more power to the Laser Communications System on The Ahavah. It was not easy, and I cannot guarantee that it will work, but as long as Commander Hollis’ Ka-band receiver is online, and his channel coding is still operable, I think we can make the link with the Lunar Habitat. It’s a bit of a shot in the dark, literally, the darkness of space, but it is worth a try.”

Yara looked at me and her eyes welled up somewhat as she moved the meat around her plate slowly, without eating much of it. “I knew you could do it, Michael. We owe it to Brett. He is alone up there. When will we try?” She swept the dark brown hair off of her ear and I noticed that she looked much healthier than when she had landed. She had regained weight and color. She was a beautiful woman. I shook off the thought.

“I don’t see why we can’t start tomorrow,” I said. “Once we are optimally in line with the Habitat, we’ll send the first voice burst. But, I have to ask, what do you hope to accomplish once we make comms with Hollis? We still have no way to rescue him. He will still be alone up there.”

“He won’t be alone,” she said, with conviction. “Not if we make comms with him. He’ll have us. He needs us, Michael. We’re all he has.”

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Mason
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Mason

Sir, thank you!!! I hate to beg, hate to bother artists when they create. But I was getting antsy, I was just about ready to plop down the needy whiny “Hey Fru, when is the next installment” . . . and here it is, glad it dropped when it did, or I would have gone all needy on you. Another great installment, so many vectors on a collision course here, and I love the dual trajectory story development.

Great read Fru, can’t wait for more!!

CE Albanese
Member
CE Albanese

This is a fantastic story, Fru. I am glad I stumbled upon it. And I look forward to reading further installments. Well done!

Mic-Mac
Member
Mic-Mac

Keep em coming Fru. It took me awhile to catch up but all set now❤️

Joni Smith
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Joni Smith

Well this makes an interesting twist. Now please don’t make us wait so long for the next installment of this tale. I was ready to start inquiring but I also know it’s summer. Busy time and you are hopefully doing fun stuff with your kids. Thanks Fru.

Susan B
Member
Susan B

I am totally involved in your story, Fru. I deliberately waited till you had a few more installments lined up to read as I am too impatient for the waits in between. It’s been a joy to read and I am caught up in your characters. The dialogue keeps it moving smoothly along for me. I’ll wait for you to get several more out to enjoy them in one grand read. 🙂 Thanks for spinning such a great yarn for us!

susanh
Member
susanh

Yay, Fru! I’ve just been thinking that I might have to reach out and beg you for the next instalment and voila! There it was! Thanks so much. I hope you are having a great time with your family over your summer months.

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