Random Short! #8: The Serene Gail

This is a short story that I wrote a long while back.  I thought I’d post if for fun, so here it is!  Enjoy reading and let me know what you think. Cheers!


The bare expanse of the regolith stretched out before Gail Dustin Anthony. Surveying the packed and pockmarked horizon, he stepped from the open airlock and planted his booted foot outside the safety of the shelter, pausing to gaze out at the barren landscape before him.

Suddenly, someone shoved him from behind. Gail stumbled forward in the low lunar gravity. Taking several loping steps to steady himself, he turned and gestured with one finger back at the man who had shoved him.

There was a chuckle over Gail’s radio from the space-suited man as he climbed through the shelter’s airlock hatch. “Keep it moving, Mr. Serene Gail. We got no time for this staring out at the moon shit. You know we have a job.”

“And yet I always get to go first, huh, Roland?” replied Gail.

Roland chuckled again, closing the outer door to the airlock. The shelter was a small living space buried underneath a mound of regolith gravel. It was connected to a shaft that gave access to a tunnel leading all the way back to Lumina City outskirts.

“Alright, here come the other two,” said Roland moving over to Gail’s side. Gail knew he had his eye on the airlock.

The other two men on the crew were coming through now. All four of them were suited up and ready to get to work. Each of them carried their own set of cutting tools and utility kits. This was one job that none of them were going to pass up.

“Ernie, Keith, hurry it up!” called Roland over the suit radio. “We’re burning sunlight.”

Gail knew this wasn’t true, as the sun would stay high in the sky, floating next to the blue-gray sphere of Earth for the next month. It had been almost fifty years since the war of 2051. Since his birth on the moon, Gail had known no other vista than the scarred sphere hanging over the city. It was this same sphere that drove Gail’s dream of finding a way off of the moon.

“Hey, Gail,” called Roland as the two space-suited figures of Ernie and Keith climbed from the shelter. “The old pilot said if the ship isn’t too beat t’ hell, we can have her.”

Gail nodded inside his helmet, a smile touching his lips. He’d heard that as well. It was the very reason they were out here. They were the handy-men of the moon, the scavengers, and the people who would do just about any job. And they were all fixing for a new life in space.

“You think it’ll still fly?” asked Keith over the radio.

“It better!” cried Roland. “I don’t aim to gain much from scrapping it if it doesn’t!”

“It’ll fly,” replied Gail.

“C’mon,” said Roland. “It should just be over that ridge.”

 

The four of them started off from the shelter for the ridge in the distance. In less than a half-hour they made it to the crash site inside the rim of a large crater. Roland stood at the top of the ridge with Gail next to him looking down at the crashed spaceship.

It was a very mournful picture. The ship, a freighter, had come in at a steep angle and driven right into the wall of the crater, coming to rest at an angle. It had a sort of peaceful look to it, yet at the same time it made Gail sad.

“There she is!” Pride rang in Roland’s voice.

“Looks like she isn’t too beat-up,” said Gail, looking over the rounded thruster pod and then following the thin spine of the cargo clamps up to the living section and bridge of the ship.

Visible underneath was the bulk of a cargo container, still clamped to the belly of the ship.

“Would you look at that!” cried Ernie. “Did the pilot say anything about a cargo?”

“Naw!” said Roland. “Not that I recall. Bet it’s empty. We’ll take a look when we get down.”

He started off with Gail following behind. When they reached the spaceship, Roland started to issue orders over the radio. They had twelve hours of oxygen in their suits and more than a day’s work to do scouring the ship.

Roland sent Gail to check on the container.

He dropped down into the furrow that the ship had dug upon landing. A fine layer of regolith dust hung in the void above the ground. It was what remained from the debris kicked up in the crash. In the low gravity, it took almost forever for the fine dust to settle back to the regolith surface.

Tromping over to the small airlock that allowed access to the pressurized container, Gail worked at the mechanical lock on the hatch. The dust had settled over it and worked its way into the exposed parts, making the hatch hard to open. He finally wrenched it open, and stepped into the airlock.

With the way the ship was resting, it made it hard to walk on the decking, but Gail was able to wedge himself into the small chamber and pull the hatch shut behind him. He powered up the small control panel with an auxiliary battery pack from his tool kit. A red light blinked up at him from the console. The cargo container had been ruptured. There was no air on the other side.

Pulling the power from the console, he wrenched open the inner door of the container and stepped through, into the dark space. He flicked on his helmet lamps and shone them around.

Stacked one on top of the other, barely disturbed by the impact of the crash, were rows and rows of metal crates.

“Roland,” called Gail over his suit radio. “The container’s full.”

Roland’s response was almost instantaneous. “Full! Full of what?”

Gail went over to a section of the crates that had come loose and toppled forward in the crash. Examining one, he saw that it was sealed. There was no corporate brand on the crate either.

He ran a gloved hand over its edges. Suddenly, the rad-counter in his spacesuit started to tick rapidly. He pulled his hand back, startled.

“It’s full of crates… but there’s no markings and no real indication of what’s in them,” reported Gail. “And they’re radioactive.”

“I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” muttered Roland over the radio. “Open one up. I want to know what’s in ‘em.”

“Copy that.” Gail found the locking clasps for the lid of the crate and popped them open. A plume of compressed oxygen blew from the inside, shooting the lid off.

Inside were rows of high-grade food-stuffs. The packaging read MRE: meal, ready to eat.

“It’s food!” said Gail, surprise showing in his voice. “Meals, ready to eat.”

“MRE’s! Are you sure? Not that corporate nutrient paste?”

“No, ‘s not tube food at all.”

“MRE’s! Pre-war food of all things. Where in the devil did that pilot get MRE’s. You said it’s radioactive right?” asked Roland.

“Yeah, but just the outside of the crates, not inside. Looks like they’re shielded. Food’s clean.”

“Shit! He’s been to Earth. He got this stuff from Earth. But where was he trying to take it?”

“I don’t know where he was trying to take it, but I know who he was running from. We’ve got company Roland! Pirates!” called out Keith.

“Where are you!” called Roland.

“Outside. They’ve seen me! They’re in spacesuits!”

“Head for the airlock! Get inside the ship! I’m on the bridge, I’ll meet you there. Ernie, same thing!” ordered Roland.

“What about me?!” asked Gail. He was still standing over the open crate.

“Stay inside the container! Close the door and keep out of sight! I’m going to patch onto their radio channel and see if I can talk our way out of this. I want everyone to stay silent. If they don’t know you’re here, they won’t come looking.”

“Copy, going silent,” responded Gail.

He moved from the crate to the airlock and closed the hatch. Then he moved toward the stacks and stacks of crates. Slipping between the bracing between the crates and the bulkhead of the container, he wedged himself back behind them. Cutting his helmet lamps, he plunged himself into darkness. The only light left came from the display inside his helmet.

“This is Roland Augustus from Lumina City. We have staked our claim on this ship for salvage. You’re too late. Leave now,” said Roland over the radio.

“Shit, man. They are not talking,” muttered Keith. “No!”

“Aa-ah—!”

“Roland! Ah, man. Ah, man! No, don’t shoot—aah!”

There was a sudden silence over the radio. Gail listened, waiting for anything more. Numbness descended over him as he waited.

Finally, Ernie’s voice came over the radio. “No. They got Roland and Keith. No, no!”

Static suddenly crackled from Gail’s radio.

They were dead. All three of them were dead. He was the only one left.

“Please,” he prayed. “Please.”

He caught sight of movement at the airlock to the container. Two dark figures stepped from the opening hatch into the darkness. They turned on helmet lamps and flashed them around the container.

Gail tried to shrink back as the light passed over him. He prayed that he’d wedged himself back behind the crates far enough to be not seen.

The pirates didn’t react, but he didn’t relax either. There was still a chance they would find him. He watched and waited, anticipating the worst.

The two gestured around, talking. Then, they moved over to the stack of crates that had fallen. Each of them picked up a crate and started to remove them through the airlock.

“No, no!” pleaded Gail quietly to himself. If they removed all the crates they’d find him. There was nothing he could do about it, though, but watch.

 

For hour after hour, the two space-suited pirates removed crate after crate. Three more men came to join them in removing crates. They finished on one stack and started on a next. After removing two stacks of crates, they ceased. They spoke briefly with each other, gesturing again, then left, closing the airlock hatch behind them.

Gail waited, wedged behind the crates. He wasn’t about to move. Not yet. There was still a chance they would come back for more.

He didn’t know how long he waited. Minutes turned into hours; until finally he worked up the courage to move. Pulling himself from between the braces, he went for the airlock, bursting through onto the regolith outside.

The pirates were nowhere to be seen. They’d left as quickly as they had arrived.

Searching the outside of the ship, he found the crumpled forms of his friends’ bodies. There were several bullet holes in each suit. The emergency-foam sealant in their spacesuits had sealed the holes, yet each was still stained with dark blood.

Gail dropped to his knees a few meters from them, his heart sinking into his stomach. They were dead, truly and utterly dead. And he had survived—for what!

“Roland—Keith… Ernie,” moaned Gail. Only the quiet static of his radio answered him.

Why am I still here and all of you…dead… Why!? he thought.

Getting his feet under him, Gail turned toward the dark, looming form of the spaceship behind him. It beckoned to him, calling forth the dream he and his friends had shared.

He knew what he had to do.

“I’ll get her working—I’ll keep our dreams alive! We’ll all fly through space to a new life!” Gail shouted to the heavens.

 

He trudged back to the shelter with only four hours left of oxygen in his suit. Upon returning to Lumina City he told of the loss of his friends and gathered a party to return to the ship.

As he had laid claim to the spaceship after the death of this friends, Gail had also claimed its cargo, or at least, what was left of it. The pirates had not come back. After burying Roland and the others, he donated the much-needed food inside the container to the people of Lumina City. Then, he set to work.

With help from friends and anyone he’d done a job for in the past, Gail resurrected the damaged spaceship. He repaired everything on the inside and out, determined to live his and his friends’ dream of a new life.

On the eve of their deaths, one year later, Gail took off from the Lumina City spaceport landing-strip in his ship, the Serene Gail.

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2 Comments

Filed under Random Short Story

2 responses to “Random Short! #8: The Serene Gail

  1. Nancy

    Glad you posted this one–I always liked it!

  2. I love the voices of the characters, its very good :) also the greyish earth totally freaked me out, bravo indeed.

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