R .  Mac Wheeler Multi - Genre Author Suspense Urban Fantasy Fantasy Dystopian SCI FI
EUV Carrier Houstonian T he   Executive   Officer   was   lasered   and   tossed   out an   air   lock,   so   the   scuttlebutt   ran.   Did   he   die   from the    blasts,    or    did    he    experience    the    vacuum    of space?    The    man    would    never    disagree    with    his captain again. Do     what     you’re     ordered     or     else,     was     the expression     on     the     Houstonian .     How     could     a madman command a war ship? Perhaps the entire galaxy is insane. Marek   was   only   a   contractor.   Would   the   captain   hold   him   to   the same    discipline    as    he    held    his    military    crew?    Would    the    captain murder him if he interfered with the latest order? “Target is acquired,” the tech on station two reported. “And verified,” said the man on station three. Marek    was    in    space    instead    of    teaching    sectertiary    quantum physics    at    MIT.    He    had    no    choice.    The    Earth    Union    needed    his particular   skills.   Called   it   civil   conscription.   They   didn’t   need   him   in   a uniform.   They   just   needed   his   understanding   of   sub-light   and   faster- than-light drives and their reactors. Granted   the   pay   was   better,   but   in   front   of   a   classroom   he   didn’t have his guts wrenched by the decisions of war. Rather be indigent. Marek   supervised   his   team   as   they   readied   the   missile.   They   all listened   to   the   chatter   from   the   bridge.   Did   his   team   members   feel   as stunned as he did, hearing the captain’s order to prepare a nuke? A    hundred-thousand    kilometers    out,    the    missile    would    take thirty-nine   short   seconds   to   reach   its   destination.   They   had   no   need to   deploy   an   FTL.   The   resistance   didn’t   have   the   technology   to   target the Earth Union’s stealth missile, even if it was sub-light. They would wonder why no fighters or bombers exited the carrier. “A lot of people are going to fry today, Doc.” He   didn’t   look   at   the   man.   The   tacky   remark   incensed   Marek, turned   his   stomach,   but   what   could   he   do?   The   tech   didn’t   say   it   as   a joke.   The   man   needed,   he   figured,   to   say   something,   anything,   but   he couldn’t    express    the    true    emotions    generated    by    what    they    were forced to participate in. Marek felt like screaming. There    were    more    than    a    million    people    living    on    the    partially terraformed   moon   displaying   on   their   main   viewer.   Probably   only dozens   had   any   connection   to   the   resistance.   Yet   all   would   pay   with their lives for living, or just visiting a moon hosting rebels. Many   wouldn’t   be   lucky   enough   to   die   right   away.   The   initial   blast would   vaporize   thousands.   The   damage   to   the   surface   infrastructure would   doom   the   rest,   locked   behind   iron   doors   in   darkness   until   their air ran out, or they slowly froze with no hope of rescue. Marek   thought   of   the   enormous   effort   to   make   the   moon   a   home, of   the   millions   of   tons   of   oxygen   generated   every   hour   by   the   tiny amoeba   that   had   been   transported   to   the   surface.   A   city   was   under construction.   A   whole   new   world.   All   of   it   was   going   to   be   history, thirty-nine seconds after the captain said, “Fire.” It’d   be   no   big   deal   for   Marek,   as   the   Armaments   Control   lead scientist    to    disarm    the    warhead    in-flight.    But    what    would    be    the point?   When   it   reached   its   effective   destructive   altitude   and   failed   to detonate, the reason would be uncovered in seconds. Dr.   Marek   Janis,   physicist,   amateur   photographer,   runner,   reader of   fantasy,   Jaycee   and   Big   Brother,   loving   son   of   Drs.   Georgia   and Enrique Janis, would be summarily executed. The   techs   would   be   ordered   to   prepare   another   missile.   It   would start over. “Watch your levels, Anthony,” he said. Marek   didn’t   like   what   they   were   called   to   do,   but   he   had   to   do   his job,   didn’t   he?   He   was   no   soldier.   But   signed   the   oath.   Didn’t   have   a choice. Sign or go to prison, never work again. “Validate the reactor’s power outputs,” he told another tech. The    EUV    Carrier    Houstonian     had    fighters    that    could    deploy pinpoint ordnance to take out resistance craft, kill specific targets. Marek’s   focus   had   been   academics   his   whole   life.   Thirty-seven years.   There   was   no   woman   who   cared   for   him,   to   his   knowledge,   who bore   him   offspring.   He   wasn’t   sure   if   he   could   relate   to   a   spouse   or children   expiring   under   the   explosion   of   one   EU   bomb,   but   he   could understand that mass murder for any reason was wrong. This incident was more pointless than most. What   kind   of   person   could   make   the   decision   to   destroy   a   whole colony?   What   kind   of   sadistic   sonofabitch   could   do   that?   Was   it   that important   to   send   a   message?   Did   it   take   a   million   souls   to   make   an example? “Station one, report,” he ordered. “Station one is green.” “Station two?” “Green, Doctor.” “Station three?” No    one    had    any    excuse    to    deny    the    bridge’s    request.    Marek depressed   his   mic   and   answered   for   the   weapons   team.   “Captain,   AC is a go.” The captain responded. “Fire.” The   view   in   the   forward   monitor   was   disrupted   for   a   moment, before    the    distortion    of    the    SL    drive    dissipated    and    the    missile blended into the ambient background. The   green   patches   of   vegetation   that   had   no   doubt   just   begun sprouting over the last year were visible again on the moon. The   ship   was   too   far   out   to   make   anything   else   out.   The   scene otherwise    looked    peaceful.    The    surface    could    have    been    virgin, without a single human anywhere on it. The   firing   computer   displayed   the   countdown   on   the   large   viewer, as   well   as   on   each   station   monitor.   In   a   few   moments   the   accreting atmosphere on the moon would be burned off with a single flash. No   one   was   likely   to   ever   return   here.   Remain   a   cemetery.   Easier to   move   on   to   another   satellite   or   planet   than   clean   up   the   mess   they left today. Bodies would remain where they were. No headstones. Thirty-five seconds before mass murder. Marek turned and headed for the hatch. “I’m going for coffee.” “We’re   at   battle—”   one   tech   called   to   him,   but   Marek   ignored   him. He   didn’t   want   to   see,   hear,   or   think   of   any   of   the   people   on   the Houstonian .    Too    many    souls    were    about    to    perish.    His    stomach churned, throat burned. In   seconds   he   realized   he   was   lost.   He   wasn’t   that   familiar   with the   massive   vessel   to   begin   with.   He   had   been   assigned   there   almost eight   months   but   veered   very   little   off   his   comfortable   route   between his cabin, the galley, the shower, the gym, and his work station. That had been his world for eight months. His   mother   and   father   could   easily   be   on   the   moon,   presenting   a paper.    How    did    he    know    they    weren’t?    They    traveled    extensively. They   were   renowned   experts   in   their   field.   Both   or   either   could   be consulting with a corporate client at that moment, far below. How   many   babies,   children,   innocents   are   about   to   die?   Families starting over, far from the crowds and anger of Earth. Marek   jerked.   He   struggled   with   the   urge   to   vomit.   Sweat   beaded his forehead. He checked his watch. Twenty-nine seconds before mass murder. He   didn’t   remember   entering   a   stairwell,   but   he   stood   on   the   deck below AC. He walked to the next intersection to orient himself. He   felt   like   a   rat,   one   of   the   Houstonian    vermin,   lost   in   the   maze. The    air    felt    acidic.    Thrummed    with    a    life    of    its    own.    Polluted    by ozone. The effluvium of thousands of other vermin. Twenty-five seconds before mass murder. Vertigo    made    him    reach    out    as    he    looked    down    the    long, monochrome   corridor   in   front   of   him.   The   wash   of   gray   made   him feel   as   though   he   drowned   in   a   drab   ocean.   His   stomach   lurched   as   he ran to the near stairwell. Nineteen seconds before mass murder. Marek   ran   up   the   flights.   The   clanging   of   his   shoes   on   the   plating rang, the bells of a church tolling an impatient call to a funeral. Back   on   his   deck.   Where   the   hell   was   he?   Did   he   have   time   to   get to   a   com   station?   Could   he   call   Earth   and   see   if   his   parents   were home?   Was   the   Houstonian    in   communication   blackout?   That   was very     possible,     at     battle     stations.     Did     they     disable     external communication? He   checked   his   watch.   How   many   hours   difference   from   Boston? He   couldn’t   think.   Seven   hours.   Subtract,   would   make   it   four,   AM   or PM? Would they be on campus or fast asleep? He   would   wake   them   if   they   were   on   Earth.   If   he   woke   them,   what would   he   tell   them?   If   they   were   on   the   moon   below,   he   could   do nothing for them. What, just say goodbye, I love you? I’m sorry? Fifteen seconds before mass murder. His   brain   seemed   to   finally   click.   Thoughts   came   into   focus.   He recognized   the   letters   and   numbers   on   the   bulkhead.   He   needed   to travel aft to make his way back. Ensign   Tasken   greeted   him,   a   fine   young   man,   just   out   of   the academy,   had   a   great   sense   of   humor,   of   duty,   one   of   maybe   ten people     Marek     had     interacted     with     since     coming     aboard     the Houstonian . Tasken’s   words   wouldn’t   connect   in   Marek’s   mind.   They   made   no sense, rather they were irrelevant. Don’t you realize we’re about to erase a world? “Did you see the movie last night?” the man was asking. Movie? Who cares about a movie—don’t you realize? Marek    heard    himself    telling    him,    “No,    I    spent    the    evening reading.” “It   was   okay,”   Tasken   said.   “Just   like   every   other   re-make.   Never as good as the original.” Marek   nodded   numbly.   “I   have   to   get   back   to   my   station,”   he   told him. “See    you    later,    Doc.    Maybe    we    can    get    together    for    some backgammon.” “Sure, that’d be great.” Great?   How   could   anything   be   great?   We’re   about   to   kill   a   million people. Marek   hurried   to   AC.   Images   of   past   students   crossed   his   mind. Good,    young    people.    Caring    people    with    goals    and    visions    of    the future, who loved and were loved by others. They   were   going   to   use   their   education   to   make   the   galaxy   a   better place,   help   explore   those   thousands   of   sectors   no   one   had   yet   visited, assist in the terra-forming of worlds. They   were   going   to   improve   the   efficiency   of   FTL   travel   so   those worlds could be more quickly populated, to ease the burden on Earth. Nine seconds before mass murder. How   many   of   my   former   students   are   on   that   moon   right   now? What   does   blood   look   like   when   it   hits   a   vacuum?   Evaporate?   Float away? “Good. You’re back.” Marek glanced at Stephen.  We’re killing people. Nothing is good. He sat. Worked the console feverishly. “Doctor,   the   bridge   says   they   have   an   alarm   indicating   another missile is coming on-line?” “Just trying to be proactive,” he mumbled. “Sir?” “Ignore   it.   Just   running   a   test   so   we   don’t   get   caught   with   our pants down,” Marek told him. “Aye, Doctor. I’ll inform the bridge.” You do that. They’ll want to know we’re doing our job. “Doctor? The warhead has gone off-line.” “Couldn’t   have.   We   have   a   few   more   seconds.   Perhaps   on-board sensors   identified   parameters   that   modified   the   estimated   maximum destructive altitude. It may have overridden what we set.” “I don’t think so, sir. It just went off-line.” “Can it reset itself, sir?” another tech asked. “I’m checking,” Marek told him. “What   happened   to   our   bird?”   The   voice   of   the   temporary   XO   over the   com   was   calmer   than   it   should   have   been.   Probably   nothing   like the captain’s. He was surely screaming. Maybe he’ll have a painful coronary. Dirty bastard. Marek depressed his mic. “We’re checking, sir.” “Make it quick. Good thing you prepped another nuke.” You don’t know how good. “Doctor,   the   new   nuke   is   showing   a   simple   countdown.   There   is no target registering. It shows a five second timer— “Doc! It’s running down!” His   call   connected.   His   dad’s   voice   echoed   with   a   tinny   vibration in    his    earpiece    that    felt    like    an    audio    aftertaste.    Marek    tried    to swallow the sensation away. “Hi, Dad.” “Marek?   Why’re   you   calling   so   early   in   the   morning?   Is   everything all right?” “Dad,   sorry   for   waking   you.   I   just   wanted   to   tell   you   I   love   you   and Mom. I’m sor—” © R. Mac Wheeler 2017
R .  Mac Wheeler Multi - Genre Author
EUV Carrier Houstonian T he   Executive   Officer   was   lasered   and tossed      out      an      air      lock,      so      the scuttlebutt    ran.    Did    he    die    from    the blasts,     or     did     he     experience     the vacuum    of    space?    The    man    would never disagree with his captain again. Do    what    you’re    ordered    or    else, was         the         expression         on         the Houstonian .    How    could    a    madman command a war ship? Perhaps the entire galaxy is insane. Marek     was     only     a     contractor. Would    the    captain    hold    him    to    the same   discipline   as   he   held   his   military crew?   Would   the   captain   murder   him if he interfered with the latest order? “Target    is    acquired,”    the    tech    on station two reported. “And    verified,”    said    the    man    on station three. Marek    was    in    space    instead    of teaching   sectertiary   quantum   physics at   MIT.   He   had   no   choice.   The   Earth Union     needed     his     particular     skills. Called   it   civil   conscription.   They   didn’t need    him    in    a    uniform.    They    just needed   his   understanding   of   sub-light and   faster-than-light   drives   and   their reactors. Granted   the   pay   was   better,   but   in front   of   a   classroom   he   didn’t   have   his guts wrenched by the decisions of war. Rather be indigent. Marek   supervised   his   team   as   they readied   the   missile.   They   all   listened to   the   chatter   from   the   bridge.   Did   his team   members   feel   as   stunned   as   he did,    hearing    the    captain’s    order    to prepare a nuke? A     hundred-thousand     kilometers out,   the   missile   would   take   thirty-nine short   seconds   to   reach   its   destination. They   had   no   need   to   deploy   an   FTL. The       resistance       didn’t       have       the technology   to   target   the   Earth   Union’s stealth missile, even if it was sub-light. They      would      wonder      why      no fighters or bombers exited the carrier. “A    lot    of    people    are    going    to    fry today, Doc.” He    didn’t    look    at    the    man.    The tacky   remark   incensed   Marek,   turned his    stomach,    but    what    could    he    do? The   tech   didn’t   say   it   as   a   joke.   The man      needed,      he      figured,      to      say something,   anything,   but   he   couldn’t express    the    true    emotions    generated by   what   they   were   forced   to   participate in. Marek felt like screaming. There    were    more    than    a    million people       living       on       the       partially terraformed   moon   displaying   on   their main    viewer.    Probably    only    dozens had   any   connection   to   the   resistance. Yet   all   would   pay   with   their   lives   for living,   or   just   visiting   a   moon   hosting rebels. Many   wouldn’t   be   lucky   enough   to die   right   away.   The   initial   blast   would vaporize    thousands.    The    damage    to the   surface   infrastructure   would   doom the   rest,   locked   behind   iron   doors   in darkness    until    their    air    ran    out,    or they    slowly    froze    with    no    hope    of rescue. Marek    thought    of    the    enormous effort   to   make   the   moon   a   home,   of the      millions      of      tons      of      oxygen generated     every     hour     by     the     tiny amoeba   that   had   been   transported   to the      surface.      A      city      was      under construction.   A   whole   new   world.   All of    it    was    going    to    be    history,    thirty- nine    seconds    after    the    captain    said, “Fire.” It’d   be   no   big   deal   for   Marek,   as the   Armaments   Control   lead   scientist to    disarm    the    warhead    in-flight.    But what    would    be    the    point?    When    it reached       its       effective       destructive altitude    and    failed    to    detonate,    the reason       would       be       uncovered       in seconds. Dr.        Marek        Janis,        physicist, amateur   photographer,   runner,   reader of    fantasy,    Jaycee    and    Big    Brother, loving      son      of      Drs.      Georgia      and Enrique    Janis,    would    be    summarily executed. The    techs    would    be    ordered    to prepare   another   missile.   It   would   start over. “Watch    your    levels,    Anthony,”    he said. Marek   didn’t   like   what   they   were called   to   do,   but   he   had   to   do   his   job, didn’t    he?    He    was    no    soldier.    But signed   the   oath.   Didn’t   have   a   choice. Sign or go to prison, never work again. “Validate      the      reactor’s      power outputs,” he told another tech. The   EUV   Carrier   Houstonian    had fighters    that    could    deploy    pinpoint ordnance   to   take   out   resistance   craft, kill specific targets. Marek’s   focus   had   been   academics his     whole     life.     Thirty-seven     years. There    was    no    woman    who    cared    for him,   to   his   knowledge,   who   bore   him offspring.   He   wasn’t   sure   if   he   could relate   to   a   spouse   or   children   expiring under   the   explosion   of   one   EU   bomb, but    he    could    understand    that    mass murder for any reason was wrong. This    incident    was    more    pointless than most. What    kind    of    person    could    make the     decision     to     destroy     a     whole colony?       What       kind       of       sadistic sonofabitch   could   do   that?   Was   it   that important   to   send   a   message?   Did   it take     a     million     souls     to     make     an example? “Station one, report,” he ordered. “Station one is green.” “Station two?” “Green, Doctor.” “Station three?” No   one   had   any   excuse   to   deny   the bridge’s   request.   Marek   depressed   his mic    and    answered    for    the    weapons team. “Captain, AC is a go.” The captain responded. “Fire.” The    view    in    the    forward    monitor was    disrupted    for    a    moment,    before the      distortion      of      the      SL      drive dissipated     and     the     missile     blended into the ambient background. The    green    patches    of    vegetation that      had      no      doubt      just      begun sprouting     over     the     last     year     were visible again on the moon. The   ship   was   too   far   out   to   make anything   else   out.   The   scene   otherwise looked     peaceful.     The     surface     could have    been    virgin,    without    a    single human anywhere on it. The   firing   computer   displayed   the countdown   on   the   large   viewer,   as   well as   on   each   station   monitor.   In   a   few moments   the   accreting   atmosphere   on the   moon   would   be   burned   off   with   a single flash. No    one    was    likely    to    ever    return here.    Remain    a    cemetery.    Easier    to move   on   to   another   satellite   or   planet than   clean   up   the   mess   they   left   today. Bodies would remain where they were. No headstones. Thirty-five     seconds     before     mass murder. Marek   turned   and   headed   for   the hatch. “I’m going for coffee.” “We’re   at   battle—”   one   tech   called to    him,    but    Marek    ignored    him.    He didn’t    want    to    see,    hear,    or    think    of any   of   the   people   on   the   Houstonian . Too   many   souls   were   about   to   perish. His stomach churned, throat burned. In   seconds   he   realized   he   was   lost. He     wasn’t     that     familiar     with     the massive   vessel   to   begin   with.   He   had been     assigned     there     almost     eight months    but    veered    very    little    off    his comfortable   route   between   his   cabin, the   galley,   the   shower,   the   gym,   and his work station. That   had   been   his   world   for   eight months. His   mother   and   father   could   easily be   on   the   moon,   presenting   a   paper. How   did   he   know   they   weren’t?   They traveled       extensively.       They       were renowned   experts   in   their   field.   Both or    either    could    be    consulting    with    a corporate    client    at    that    moment,    far below. How       many       babies,       children, innocents   are   about   to   die?   Families starting   over,   far   from   the   crowds   and anger of Earth. Marek    jerked.    He    struggled    with the    urge    to    vomit.    Sweat    beaded    his forehead. He checked his watch. Twenty-nine   seconds   before   mass murder. He    didn’t    remember    entering    a stairwell,    but    he    stood    on    the    deck below    AC.    He    walked    to    the    next intersection to orient himself. He     felt     like     a     rat,     one     of     the Houstonian    vermin,   lost   in   the   maze. The   air   felt   acidic.   Thrummed   with   a life   of   its   own.   Polluted   by   ozone.   The effluvium      of      thousands      of      other vermin. Twenty-five    seconds    before    mass murder. Vertigo   made   him   reach   out   as   he looked    down    the    long,    monochrome corridor   in   front   of   him.   The   wash   of gray    made    him    feel    as    though    he drowned   in   a   drab   ocean.   His   stomach lurched as he ran to the near stairwell. Nineteen      seconds      before      mass murder. Marek     ran     up     the     flights.     The clanging    of    his    shoes    on    the    plating rang,   the   bells   of   a   church   tolling   an impatient call to a funeral. Back   on   his   deck.   Where   the   hell was   he?   Did   he   have   time   to   get   to   a com   station?   Could   he   call   Earth   and see   if   his   parents   were   home?   Was   the Houstonian           in          communication blackout?    That    was    very    possible,    at battle      stations.      Did      they      disable external communication? He   checked   his   watch.   How   many hours     difference     from     Boston?     He couldn’t   think.   Seven   hours.   Subtract, would   make   it   four,   AM   or   PM?   Would they be on campus or fast asleep? He   would   wake   them   if   they   were on   Earth.   If   he   woke   them,   what   would he   tell   them?   If   they   were   on   the   moon below, he could do nothing for them. What,   just   say   goodbye,   I   love   you? I’m sorry? Fifteen       seconds       before       mass murder. His   brain   seemed   to   finally   click. Thoughts       came       into       focus.       He recognized   the   letters   and   numbers   on the   bulkhead.   He   needed   to   travel   aft to make his way back. Ensign   Tasken   greeted   him,   a   fine young   man,   just   out   of   the   academy, had   a   great   sense   of   humor,   of   duty, one   of   maybe   ten   people   Marek   had interacted    with    since    coming    aboard the Houstonian . Tasken’s    words    wouldn’t    connect in   Marek’s   mind.   They   made   no   sense, rather they were irrelevant. Don’t    you    realize    we’re    about    to erase a world? “Did   you   see   the   movie   last   night?” the man was asking. Movie?       Who       cares       about       a movie—don’t you realize? Marek    heard    himself    telling    him, “No, I spent the evening reading.” “It    was    okay,”    Tasken    said.    “Just like    every    other    re-make.    Never    as good as the original.” Marek   nodded   numbly.   “I   have   to get back to my station,” he told him. “See   you   later,   Doc.   Maybe   we   can get together for some backgammon.” “Sure, that’d be great.” Great?     How     could     anything     be great?    We’re    about    to    kill    a    million people. Marek    hurried    to    AC.    Images    of past   students   crossed   his   mind.   Good, young     people.     Caring     people     with goals    and    visions    of    the    future,    who loved and were loved by others. They     were     going     to     use     their education   to   make   the   galaxy   a   better place,   help   explore   those   thousands   of sectors   no   one   had   yet   visited,   assist   in the terra-forming of worlds. They    were    going    to    improve    the efficiency     of     FTL     travel     so     those worlds       could       be       more       quickly populated,     to     ease     the     burden     on Earth. Nine seconds before mass murder. How   many   of   my   former   students are    on    that    moon    right    now?    What does    blood    look    like    when    it    hits    a vacuum? Evaporate? Float away? “Good. You’re back.” Marek   glanced   at   Stephen.      We’re killing people. Nothing is good. He      sat.      Worked      the      console feverishly. “Doctor,   the   bridge   says   they   have an   alarm   indicating   another   missile   is coming on-line?” “Just    trying    to    be    proactive,”    he mumbled. “Sir?” “Ignore   it.   Just   running   a   test   so we    don’t    get    caught    with    our    pants down,” Marek told him. “Aye,      Doctor.      I’ll      inform      the bridge.” You   do   that.   They’ll   want   to   know we’re doing our job. “Doctor?    The    warhead    has    gone off-line.” “Couldn’t    have.    We    have    a    few more      seconds.      Perhaps      on-board sensors     identified     parameters     that modified      the      estimated      maximum destructive      altitude.      It      may      have overridden what we set.” “I   don’t   think   so,   sir.   It   just   went off-line.” “Can    it    reset    itself,    sir?”    another tech asked. “I’m checking,” Marek told him. “What   happened   to   our   bird?”   The voice    of    the    temporary    XO    over    the com   was   calmer   than   it   should   have been.      Probably      nothing      like      the captain’s. He was surely screaming. Maybe       he’ll       have       a       painful coronary. Dirty bastard. Marek    depressed    his    mic.    “We’re checking, sir.” “Make    it    quick.    Good    thing    you prepped another nuke.” You don’t know how good. “Doctor,   the   new   nuke   is   showing   a simple   countdown.   There   is   no   target registering.    It    shows    a    five    second timer— “Doc! It’s running down!” His   call   connected.   His   dad’s   voice echoed    with    a    tinny    vibration    in    his earpiece      that      felt      like      an      audio aftertaste.   Marek   tried   to   swallow   the sensation away. “Hi, Dad.” “Marek?     Why’re     you     calling     so early   in   the   morning?   Is   everything   all right?” “Dad,   sorry   for   waking   you.   I   just wanted    to    tell    you    I    love    you    and Mom. I’m sor—” © R. Mac Wheeler 2017