Violet Song drifted to the window, admiring the silent night outside the frozen window. Outside the triangular window, Mars floated alone in the night like a red full moon, She smiled. Violet had dreamt and worked for this day since the first day she walked. In a few more days, the Pandora would be making humanities first landing on Mars.
Screw you Armstrong!
This trip had been a long time coming. Seventy years had elapsed since Apollo 11 landed. Only ten years ago a lunatic had nuked Pyongyang in Korea. Then ten more explosions finished off the two countries one day later. For the next year the world grew very cold and in more ways than one. Her father had been wealthy, and she barely ate that year as the economy threatened to collapse in San Jose.
But the night is always darkest before the dawn. After the President died in an Air Force One crash, the country went through political turmoil. Rocha eventually rose to power and reunited the country. He promised to rebuild the nation starting with the space program. Violet had been fortunate to be selected for the first voyage. In school, she wasn’t even the best student. What she lacked in skill, she had made for in hustle. This hustling in time got her a research job at Caltech. Later on she formulated a new technique for landing rockets.
“Violet, you are needed immediately in navigation. There are some very unusual features on Phobos, “ ordered commander Marvel.
Feeling a bit tired, Violet floated down to the navigation compartment in the middle of the spacecraft. Much to her disgust, it smelled like a well-used locker room.
Floating next to a computer terminal was Marvel, neatly dressed in his former Navy jacket despite this being a NASA mission. Also present was Emily Andrews, the copilot.
“Check it out Violet. Control has been surveying the neighborhood ahead of our arrival. The Mars Barnard telescope detected an unusual structure on the Moon,” said Marvel distracted.
Emily enlarged the image further, showing the sharp edges of a red mountain range.
“Look at the colors. Could that be volcanic?,” said Emily.
“There are no volcanoes on Phobos,” commented Marvel.
“This could be a new discovery!” said Violet.
“There could be any number of explanations for the colors,” said Marvel interrupting.
“Any updates from mission control on the object?” asked Violet.
“Nothing yet. On our current path, we will flyby the moon in one day just prior to the de-orbit burn,” replied Marvel.
“I forwarded the images to mission control an hour ago, requesting instructions. Any response could be hours away,” said Emily.
“In the meantime Emily, I want you to pressurize the propellant tanks and run the checks ahead of our landing,” ordered Marvel.
“Aye,” replied Emily.
“As for you Violet, go into the cargo bay and check all of the payload ahead of landing. Brian is already there, working on warming up the life support systems.”
Inside the cargo bay, Brian was already hard at work powering on one of the four rovers firmly bolted to the floor.
“Hello Brian,” said Violet drifting in.
“Yo! Anything new in the cockpit?”
“The telescope detected a strange structure on Phobos, a long red trench about a mile across,”
“What is it?” asked Brian.
“No one knows. The images have been forwarded to NASA for analysis,” replied Violet.
“Until that happens, I have to check the experiments.”
“How is your family doing?”
“Well, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer,” replied Brian sadly.
“I don’t care. The bitch loved Scotch more than she ever loved me.”
“Do you even talk anymore?”
“No, my brother updated me. Really, I hate the guy too. Back in high school I walked in on him fucking my girlfriend Amy while my mother watched.”
“What the fuck, what happened after that?”
“Amy streaked out of the house and into the neighborhood.”
“That is fucked up.”
“You don’t have to tell me that. It is actually why I’m here. After that mess I buried myself in academics at Stanford. Then I worked at SpaceX for a few years, actually engineered part of Pandora’s guidance system. Now I’m finally here.”
“I’ve never known anyone to fall apart like that.”
“I’ve told no one for twenty years, but I will tell you now. Before that shit went down, I was planning to propose to Amy.”
“After all this time, would you have her back?”
“You know, I said too much.”
Violet floated into the first rover, and started up the computers on an instruments panel. The familiar windows screen opened in a minute and she turned on three switches. Violet then launched an atmospheric study application and opened an internal port on the rover.
“You’re not going to like this Brian. Turns out the atmosphere in here are 1% above specification for carbon dioxide. We are also 2% below budget on water vapor. That is odd, there is a slight excess of argon.”
“Are you going to chat all day?” interrupted Brian.
“You are supposed to run the results against the checklist.”
“I know, but you have to admit that we are a day from Mars. We don’t have the parts to fix any serious breakdown of any of our instruments. That is why the ship carries three of everything.”
“Just do your job Brian.”
“Okay, give me five minutes to finish turning everything on. You can’t be to careful with the equipment.”
“Fine, what is your problem.”
“Do you really need to ask?”
“No! Stop! That hurts! Stop!”
In the distance, Violet could hear Emily begging.
Emily’s begs quickly turned to screams, then agony.
Then a violent scream cracked the silence.
“What the Fuck!” shouted Brian jumping out of the rover and down the corridor.
Frightened, Violet raced behind him following the ever more intense screams.
“What is that!” shouted Brian as Violet encountered red globs floating in the atmosphere.
Then more screams exploded, now fading. Violet finally arrived at navigation, and was briefly blinded by a misty red cloud of…
“Fuck, this blood!” screamed Brian without hiding his disgust.
Violet swiped the mist away like it was smoke. Marvel, with the fury of a wild animal was violently tearing off Emily’s clothes. No, that wasn’t clothing! Pieces of her flesh floated in the air.
Not noticing her, Marvel continued to rip at her red chest. She was floating in a cloud of her torn clothing and tossing ineffective punches at Marvel. His face was neon red with fury, posed like a tiger ready to bite.
Without thought, Brian attempted to restrain Marvel from Emily. Marvel violently tossed him into a bulkhead without effort, and then resumed tearing at her ravished breasts. More bloody mist oozed out of her.
Now angrier then ever, Violet kicked off a bulkhead and tossed a kick in his face.
Without hesitation, Marvel dodged the impact and slammed away her ungraceful strike. Violet crashed into a bulkhead, breaking a tooth.
Already Brian was striking Marvel again, using a pipe he had torn off a panel.
Showing only mild annoyance, Marvel ripped the pipe from his hands and struck him like a baseball. With a wet crack, he was again against the bulkhead. Still more bloody mist filled the navigation compartment.
Emily by now had suffered too much trauma, and her strikes ended as she slipped into shock. Without noticing, Marvel continued tearing at the wounds on her body.
“This ends now!” screamed Violet tearing a fire extinguisher off the wall and striking Marvel with a wet splat in the face. She hit him again, and again. The wet splat turned wetter, like punching wet meat. Then a large glob of red floated into Violet’s face.
Finally, Marvel went limp and Brian tossed him aside like discarded trash. Violet gently grabbed Emily’s loose body and pulled her down the corridor into the medical bay.
“Brian, tie up Marvel!”
“He is dead Violet!”
“Do it now!”
Violet pounded an emergency panel, starting an alarm and notifying NASA with an automatic transmission.
Violet then strapped Emily to the bench and finished pulling off her clothes. Then she stuffed a bundle of bandages onto her injuries and wrapped her in a blanket.
“Brian, start an IV. She has lost some blood,” ordered Violet. Violet then gave Emily a massive morphine shot and connected an oxygen mask.
After Brian finished tying up Marvel with spare electric cable, he returned to care to Emily who was slowly returning to consciousness.
“Where am I? Let me go,” she said faintly under the mask, deeply disoriented.
Violet rubbed her auburn hair
“You are fine Emily. Marvel attacked you in navigation. I don’t know why, but Brian has beaten the shit out of him. He won’t ever bother you ever again. I broadcasted an emergency signal to NASA, but we won’t have any reply for at least a half hour,” said Violet.
“No that can’t be right, he’s my best friend. What did you do to him? Let me go!”
“You need to rest. He seriously hurt you.”
“No! Let me go!” ordered Emily straining at her straps with surprising strength.
“Where is Marvel? You killed him. You fuck, you killed him!” ranted Emily growing ever more paranoid.
“Emily, you need to calm down. Marvel brutally attacked you five minutes ago.”
“I won’t let you get away with this. You will pay for what you did,” screamed Emily with amazing determination.
“Enough of this,” interrupted a bruised Brian jamming a tranquilizer into Emily’s leg.
“I will watch her, go radio NASA for instructions,” commanded Brian.
After wiping the blood from her face and cleaning her dark hair, Violet called NASA on the nearest terminal.
“This is mission specialist Violet Song of the Pandora. Marvel has violently attacked Emily in navigation. She is seriously injured with lacerations to her chest and face. Marvel is dead. I had to kill him before he murdered Emily. All systems are nominal ahead of landing in twenty-four hours. One more thing, before the attack the Pandora observed an interesting feature on the surface of Phobos,” said Violet before closing the transmission.
In the quiet dead of the early morning, the terminal awoke Violet with an electric bell. Tired and disoriented from the rough trip, she arrived only to find Brian already present. He was more injured than she remembered and Mission Director Daniels was already online.
“Good, you’re here,” said the Director looking surprising dazed.
“What happened?” asked Violet noticing all the scattered litter on the floor of Mission Control in Houston.
“Sorry for the delay, somehow a riot broke out here. Nicole, Bradley, and Elliot were seriously injured. For reasons unknown, Bradley assaulted Nicole with an electric cable in the mouth before Elliot rescued her. Then Elliot stole a gun from a guard and shot at everyone in Control before another guard shot him.”
“Are there any other injuries?” asked Brian.
“No, but your images were forwarded to Caltech.”
“What are our orders?” asked Violet.
“Do you know any reason why Marvel would attack Emily?”
“No, they have been best friends since launch,”
“Is he really dead?” asked Daniels like an upset father.
“Yes, I smashed his face in with a fire extinguisher,” replied Violet without apology.
“I’m sure not ever crossing you! I can’t release that to the press,” replied Daniels surprised.
“What are our orders?” asked Brian.
“You have already missed the window to abort and return to Earth, and to be honest we anticipated loses.”
After a pause,
“Is Emily okay?”
“She is still badly injured and sedated in the medical bay,” replied Brian.
“Okay, your orders are to land as planned. Complete your preparations. NASA will release a cover story on the incident,” replied Daniels with anxiety.
Daniels closed the transmission.
“You murdered my friend!” barked Emily floating across the compartment wearing only a blood soaked blanket.
Then Emily fired her gun, propelling a flare into Brian’s back.
“Aagh!” screamed Brian as his shirt ignited.
Violet dodged both shots, swinging into the next compartment.
“You won’t get away with it!” commanded Emily behind the growing haze of smoke and Brian’s screams.
Violet swung into the next corridor and down into the cargo bay. Once in the bay, she ripped open a supply closet causing an explosion of parts to float away.
In the distance, Brian screams finally subsided.
“Where the fuck did she find the flare gun?” cursed Violet. The emergency landing kit was secured after launch.
Then Violet opened another locker, causing more tools to spill out. There must be something here.
“Fuck you Violet!” shouted Emily firing another flare. This time Violet exited the other hatch, but not before the flare burnt her leg.
She pushed herself into the next rover, then quickly out again into the cargo bay.
Once she was at the entrance, she pressed two keys unlocking the rovers from the bay.
“Really, is that the best you can do? We are in free fall,” said Emily mockingly.
Without making too much noise, Violet swam into navigation. Brian was sobbing in pain and applying ointment to his blackened back.
“Where is the bitch?” Brian said weakly.
Violet motioned him to speak quietly, and then she entered a command into the communication terminal to re-target the antenna. Immediately, the thrusters fired propelling the ship forward. Then they fired again rotating the spacecraft.
“Aagh!” a distant scream roared following by a metallic crunch.
“Alert NASA Brian!”
“I already did, five minutes ago.”
Violet cautiously floated into the cargo bay, only to find Emily flat against the bulkhead.
“Brian, she is dead. Turn off the thrusters.”
After cleaning up the debris, Violet peeled Emily off the wall like a grotesque painting. She then rolled Emily up and tossed her in a disused airlock with Marvel.
Another hour passed and Daniels responded again.
“Please tell me that you have some good news,” asked the Mission Director exhausted.
“I’m still alive,” interrupted Violet.
“The original report is true, Emily attacked Brian and me with a flare gun.”
“Where did she even find it? Emergency landing equipment is to be stored after launch,” stated the Director annoyed.
“She probably stored it herself,” replied Brian.
“Your mission orders have not changed. The Pandora is long past its final abort orbit.”
“What about the experiments Daniels? We don’t have the staff anymore to run them,” asked Violet.
“Then you don’t. The next flight, the Prometheus won’t be ready for launch for another year.”
“Is the supply ship still en route?”
“All systems are nominal. It should touch down two weeks after landing. Are you injured?”
“She gave me a serious second degree burn on my back,” replied Brian.
“Can you still work?”
“Just do your best.”
“Is Emily even alive?” asked the Director like a concerned parent.
“Not anymore, got crushed by a Rover,” replied Violet.
“How is that even possible in zero g?” demanded the Director.
“I unlatched them and fired the thrusters,” replied Violet.
“I never would have considered it. I’m never crossing you Violet,” said the Director with surprise.
“About the science, did Caltech ever analyze the results?”
“Now that I remember it, they never replied,” said the Director. The Director pointed to a team member.
“Jason, Call Caltech ASAP. Tell them we need the results of the last upload of Phobos.”
“Hold on, this could take a few minutes.”
“Should I run any experiments at all?”
“Run all the science that is automated. You are nearly to your window to deploy the observation satellite.”
“Director, Caltech has gone silent. The phone system is reporting a security lockdown.”
“Fuck!” said the Director in a rare curse.
“Fine, then I don’t have any more instructions for you. Good luck on Mars.”
The Director ended the transmission.
“Are you okay Brian?”
“The best I can be after getting shot,” he replied with mild sarcasm.
“Can you launch the satellite? The window opens in the next hour,” said Emily.
“Don’t sweat it.”
“Good, I’ve already switched it on. Please finish the checklist for deployment.”
Brian opened the checklist and read off the next few instructions.
“Firing the valve to arm the propulsion system,” said Brian pressing a few keys.
“The S-band array is now active and seeking a receiver.”
“I’m opening the bay doors,” replied Violet.
“S-Band lock on is confirmed. I’m starting the countdown for 32 minutes for optimal orbit insertion.”
“Go ahead and raise the platform.”
“I already got it.”
“Good, I’ve begun fueling the stage. It should take about twenty minutes.”
“In the meantime, I’d want to see the photos.”
Violet brought up the screen to monitor the fuel loading. It was automated, but mistakes can still be made. Then she heard a maniacal laugh from Brian, and saw the reflection of a blood red eye on his face. For some reason, he smiled and then floated out of the compartment.
“Are you alright Brian?”
Then a few minutes later, he quietly returned.
“It’s been a rough trip Violet, but it says that I can make it all better!”
Then Violet felt a profound pain in her shoulder. Frightened, she turned to find Brian plunging an electric saw into her. Instinctively, she moved to kick him but was blocked by the seat behind her. Terrified, she tried to push up from her seat but was met with the crunching wet sound of her shoulder getting cut.
Then she saw droplets of blood float up and she puked.
With nowhere left to go, she bowed down beneath the computer terminal and forced herself through the steel support mount. Deep agonizing pain rippled through her body and her stomach heaved. Briefly she got stuck.
“Don’t leave yet Violet, the party is only getting started!”
Then she felt an excruciating pain in her ass, followed by wetness.
Already nearly fainting from the pain, she pushed herself out and headed for the medical bay. Behind her was a misty cloud of blood like a comets tail. She quickly entered and locked the rather flimsy door. Inside, she tore off her blood soaked shirt and pants. Pulling open a locker, she found and applied sticky bandages to her shoulder and ass. The excruciating pain continued to ripple through her, and her arm turned numb.
“Oh Violet, please come out and play,” said Brian gleefully as the saw cut through the door.
With her time short, Violet stabbed herself with a morphine needle and felt the most incredible rush of happiness in her life. With the pain quickly easing, she shot herself with another and felt blissful.
Brian by now had nearly cut out the door. Without waiting, Violet unlocked the medical bench and rammed it through the door. Behind she heard screams as the door floated loose into the corridor. She pulled back and pushed one more time, propelling her and the bed out of the entrance. Outside, Brian was cupping his bloody face. Violet grabbed the saw from him and jammed it into his face. He shrieked and more blood and pieces of his jaw floated away. Holding the saw, she backed away from Brian and down the corridor.
“Get the fuck away from me! What the fuck! You almost cut off my arm!”
Brian removed his bloody hand from his face, revealing a smile.
“Loki wants to show us the way!”
“Your fucking crazy Brian!”
“I only want to talk to you,” he said smiling with a half missing jaw.
“You fucking cut me!”
“Loki says that your mind is trapped and must be freed,” he replied remarkably clearly without a jaw.
“What happened to you?” she protested.
“I have seen infinity, and met my Loki.”
“You really need help.”
“Put down the saw and I’ll show you my Loki,” Brian replied like a prophet.
Maybe it was exhaustion, or the blood loss was too much for her, but Violet did drop the saw. Brian: still not noticing that half his jaw was gone, moved to gently grab her hand. Then Brian gracefully led her back to the navigation compartment.
“The answer to all your questions is here.”
But before she could view it, Brian pulled out the flare gun and aimed. On instinct Violet jumped out of the way the moment he fired. She then slapped the gun out of his hand, grabbed it, and fired.
The flare ignited in his mouth and his eyes went wide. Instinctively, Brian tried to pull it out but it was already melting into his face. He snatched and clenched at his face with no effect, as it cooked his flesh. Frightened and moaning, he swam away trailing a thick trail of white smoke. Violet went back to medical and retrieved the saw, but could barely hold it with her numb right arm. Then an alarm went on.
“Fuck, the air lock.”
Violet propelled down the corridor and into the airlock port. Waiting for her there was Brian, still smoking and with his face burned black. Somehow he could still operate the switches, and was opening the door.
“Where you going Brian?” said Violet turning on the saw and sawing off his head. More droplets of blood filled the airlock.
“Fuck, it’s been a bad day,” said Violet returning to the main deck to see what this is all about.
Splattered in blood, the monitor was still showing the bloody eye. Fascinating! Violet looked closer, deep into the flowing fire that flowed like liquid crystal. Then she looked deeper still, until she could see the discrete crystals.
“Violet,” it said in a raspy voice.
“Violet. Welcome home,” suddenly the most incredible joy better than any orgasm or morphine dose flowed over her.
“Violet, you are the chosen one. You are here to lead the human race.”
“What should I do?”
“Come to Phobos. You will kill all humans that come. Mars is yours alone.”
“Yes” she replied entranced in ecstasy. Inside her mind a river of impressions of war and genocide flashed across her mind. Great cities evaporated under mushroom clouds, and blue skies turned dark and cold.
Above it all, the red eye radiating red light like a second sun.
Obediently, she went over to navigation and commanded the start of the landing sequence. The thrusters fired and reoriented the ship. Then the screen changed to a topological radar image with velocity and acceleration vectors. Violet positioned the landing target at a shallow crater adjustment to Loki.
Then Loki said, “You need to show the world my greatness.”
Without hesitation, Violet brought up the live view of Loki on the monitor. Then she switched on a feed to NASA and broadcast in the clear.
With the Pandora aligned to touchdown, Violet set the computer to automatic. It signaled main engine firing in 5,4,3…
Then with soft jolt, the engine fired. Her velocity steadily began to decline. Everything was within specification.
“Soon you will be whole again. Follow my path home,” said Loki. Joy radiated into Violet with each word.
Violet changed the camera image to a better frame and boosted the gain on the antenna.
Beneath her the roar of the engines increased.
“BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!”
Shit! She didn’t have the distance to touchdown!
Twenty minutes later and Daniel was beaten and bloody. Without warning a riot had exploded in Mission Control and people he’d known for five years attacked him and each other. His own Deputy Director Jason had attempted to eat his face but he’d had his own plans with a loose monitor. Order was finally restored by the armed salute of security. Yet standing amid all the ruin and the bodies, he still had a job to too.
After wiping the blood from his monitor, he restored the live feed.
The line was dead.
He accessed the web portal for the Barnard telescope and entered his passcode. The landing photographs should be available.
Daniel stood jaw dropped as the telescope captured a fireball rise above the horizon of Phobos in slow motion before fading.
Then a few minutes passed and a red thing climbed from the surface.
Daniel got on the phone and called dispatch “I need the President!”