Moonbeams & Lost Dreams

Moonbeams & Lost Dreams

A Chapter by Ray J. Lonsdale

"Dreams are like fireflies, glowing points of light we chase across the fields of our lives." - Captain Robert Allen Cutright, Commander - Daedalus 1, 1st Manned Mission to Mars


Pad 34

A white minivan bearing the NASA insignia rolled quietly to a stop several meters up the road from the remains of Launch Complex 34. As the whir of the electric motor faded into the gentle ambience of blowing wind and the distant rhythm of surf against sand, the driver’s side panel slid open and Captain Jonathan Cutright stepped out onto the loose gravel.

The path ahead led through the high grass to the place where his crew would all meet together for the last time before the launch at 07:15 hours tomorrow.

A quick glance at his wristwatch confirmed that it was now 17:31, a minute later than the scheduled rendezvous.  No matter. Captain’s immunity to be fashionably late, he thought.

Tiny pebbles scattered in all directions under his feet as the Captain made his way toward the crumbling concrete framework that stood like a looming space age version of Stonehenge amidst the overgrown support building foundations and discarded relics from the doomed moon rocket.  This was Pad 34, the place where mankind tried to take the first giant leap toward the stars, a place where mankind’s hopes for a brave new world ignited in a fireball that nearly turned moonbeams into lost dreams.

Cutright spotted the first of his shipmates standing in the center of the launch pedestal, staring up through the circular opening at the sky. Ironically, his First Officer’s name was Apollo. Apollo S. “Moonlight” Mayberry, no less. While the first name recalls the thunder of the legendary Saturn V rockets of long ago, his last name brings to mind a small town and a simpler time, a boy going fishing with his dad.

Interesting mix, Cutright thought to himself, but then, descriptive metaphors aside, Mayberry was an interesting mix in his own right. A Commander in the United States Marine Corps and twice decorated with NASA’s Distinguished Star Cluster for gallantry, Mayberry was one of those “hot dog” pilots who was always flying it too fast, too far and too hard. He’s the kind of pilot who believes it was his God-given destiny to be the best to ever grace a cockpit. He’s the kind of pilot you want at the controls when he’s the only thing that stands between you and the danger that is hurling at your spacecraft from the black depths of space.

As Cutright stepped up to stand next to his First officer he also turned his gaze skyward and was amazed to see the full moon, framed perfectly in the opening above. A majestic cloud formation transformed the entire scene into a moment in time that Cutright imagined would make this meeting the kind of fond memory he had hoped it would turn out to be.

“As you were Commander,” Cutright said out of the corner of his mouth while they both stood there.

“Thank you Sir,” Mayberry retorted without even so much as a glance sideways.

“Don’t tell me you’re the only one here, Commander,” Cutright said.

“No Sir,” Mayberry responded. “They’re all here, over there by the blockhouse.”

“I’ve never known you to be antisocial, Moonlight.” Mayberry looked over at the Captain, a wide smile forming across his face.

“No Sir, not antisocial at all. Just taking in the moment. Funny the kinds of thoughts that swirl around in a man’s mind being someplace like this. It does make you wonder.”

“What’s on your mind?” Cutright asked.

Mayberry bent down and picked up a fist-sized piece of broken concrete and ran his fingers across the jagged edges of the memento. “Just wondered if the view was the same for Gus, Roger and Ed… you know… that night when…”

Cutright interrupted, “They’re the reason we’re here Moonlight. The reason we’re going. That’s why I wanted us all to spend our last evening on earth out here on Pad 34. Come on, let’s get everyone rounded up.” Cutright clapped his First Officer on the back and together they strolled out from under the concrete structure in the direction of a pair of aging blast deflectors that lay discarded nearby. On the way across the platform, Mayberry stuck two fingers in his mouth and blew a loud whistle to the rest of the crew a short distance away.

Cutright sat down on the curved base of one of the blast deflectors and placed the shiny aluminum briefcase he’d been carrying next to him and flipped open the latches. Inside were 12 LCD flatpanel datapads and a small glass ball jar with a tarnished metal lid. The lid of the jar was perforated with several holes punctured haphazardly around the surface. From inside the jar, the yellow-green glow of tiny fireflies illuminated the Captain’s briefcase in a dim luminescent light.

Cutright lifted the jar up to his face and examined the insects, counting all of them to make sure that all 13 were still present and accounted for. He had painstakingly captured and transported his collection of lightning bugs here from his hometown of Evenston, Illinois for a very special purpose and he knew that if a single one of them had not survived the journey it might be viewed as a bad omen. Cutright had asked everyone to bring along something to this last meeting on earth that carried a special meaning for them and catching fireflies had been his contribution. His father had told him the first time they went out in a field armed with nets and a bug jar, “Dreams are like fireflies Son. Glowing points of light that we chase across the field of our lives.” Now, Jonathan Cutright held that dream in his hands. In less than 24 hours he would be in command of the second manned mission to Mars. He and his 12-person crew would be chasing those tiny points of light into the heavens, chasing far across a field of stars.  For a moment, the Captain fought back a tear as he pulled himself away from a fond and distant memory to focus on the group that was now beginning to congregate around him. He placed the jar containing the fireflies back inside the briefcase and took out the datapads.

“Good afternoon, everyone. I trust that you all found your way here without too much trouble, considering the tour bus makes regular stops at this landmark throughout the day.” Chuckles and nods of agreement came back from the astronauts and scientists that were now situated in a semicircle around the ground surrounding the blast deflector. “I also seem to recall that the tour guide used to mention something about keeping a lookout for snakes here,” Cutright added. “A snakebite would most likely scrub the launch tomorrow so please, let’s take the warning to heart. This meeting place was my idea and I wouldn’t be much of a mission commander if I were responsible for hospitalizing a member of my crew. Very irresponsible.” Another round of subdued laughter along with a few anxious glances under the blast deflector followed before he continued. “Public service announcements aside, let’s try to do a little work before it’s too late in the day.” Cutright handed the datapads to Mayberry and then pressed a thumb into the small, round identity sensor on his own pad, lighting up the transparent screen with a flickering image of the planet Mars. As Mayberry handed out the other pads to the crew, shimmering spheres of the red planet lit up one by one until everyone sat looking at the title page for the icarus I mission outline.

“Alright crew, let’s kick this off with a look at the launch. Dr. Sandoval, can you give us a meteorological for 0700 tomorrow?” Damaris Sandoval pressed her index finger over several tiny icons lining the bottom edge of the screen on her pad and the rotating image of the planet was replaced with an animated picture of the state of Florida. Several small patches of moving clouds obscured the state outline but the patterns were sparse and appeared to pose no threat or potential delay for the launch.

“Looks like blue sky all the way Sir,” responded Sandoval after she had thoroughly examined all the data that had populated her screen. “Some scattered clouds this evening but they’ll blow out of here in the next two or three hours. After that the Doppler is a clean slate.”

“Great,” Cutright responded. “Looks like we’ve got the all clear from earth.  How are things shaping up on the eastern slope of Olympus Mons?”

“Not quite so well, Captain, the last time I checked.” Sandoval’s fingers tapped several other icons on the screen and the view of Florida and the space coast blurred for a moment and then reassembled into an image of the Martian surface. The towering summit of the giant volcano Olympus Mons was the only landmass visible of the planet’s rough terrain. All around the mountain swirled a boiling red cloud of dust, a massive storm that blotted out every detail. The signal from the Martian weather satellite flickered and broke apart in a chaotic burst of static for a few seconds, accompanied by a blast of noise from the tiny speaker near the top of the pad. The video image rolled several times and then the signal was reacquired and the static faded back to a clear picture. Sandoval pressed her index finger into the exact center of the spinning vortex and in response the datapad generated a circular green outline with a set of crosshairs beneath her fingertip. She then tapped her finger twice on the glowing green circle and the image zoomed down to reveal the violently churning top of a crimson funnel cloud. Multiple vertices were now clearly visible, careening in a dance of destruction, the likes of which have never been seen on planet Earth. “This little beastie would make an F5 look like a gentle breeze. Based on the data from the satellite uplink, the diameter of the funnel is about 200 kilometers across and rises more than 1000 kilometers into the atmosphere. “ Sandoval smiled and pressed the icon to shut down her datapad. The shiny glass of the display brightened slightly for an instant and then winked out. She set the pad down on the ground next to her and then said, “In other words, conditions are perfect for the plugs-out test of the eyeball.”

“That’s what I wanted to hear,” Cutright responded. “What do you think, Moonlight? Will that be enough of an adverse weather condition to test out one of your new toys?”

The “toy” the Captain was referring to was latest scientific marvel in the risky endeavor of manned spaceflight. After the loss of all but three crewmen during the famed Daedalus Mars mission, NASA had commissioned the development of a new kind of probe that could be guided remotely using a virtual reality interface. After years of planning and prototype testing, subcontractor scientists and engineers developed what had come to be known as the Icarus Eye, a remote-controlled wonder that would be going into active duty on this mission. When the icarus spacecraft was constructed at the Fra Mauro shipworks on the moon, eight “eye sockets” had already been added to the construction specs.  Additionally, a VR flightdeck was incorporated in the design, as integral to the onboard equipment checklist as a mess hall or latrine. Now, in addition to his duties as pilot of the ship, Apollo Mayberry was in charge of bringing these new tools online. The VR suit was fitted to him, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.

Beaming with excitement but trying hard not to look too anxious about carrying out this particular milestone of the mission, Mayberry said, “Walk in the park,” then added, “For the eyeball, that is. Though it’s going to pose a bit of a problem if it gets to close to the proposed landing site. Especially if you still plan on looking for…”

Cutright interrupted, “We’ll see, Commander. Let’s just… wait and see. I’m sure everyone here wants a chance to leave a few footprints behind. Whether or not I go out on my little treasure hunt depends on a lot of scheduled tasks going exactly as planned... and in my experience that’s not too likely.”

That was the official story, anyway. No deviation from the mission objectives, especially when the Flight Director is standing within earshot. Cutright flashed a casual glance over at Chet Idlewild. “By the book, Chet; down the checklist and full speed ahead. Anyway, my dad was the first one to walk on Mars and that in itself is enough for me. It’s the journey, Moonlight, not the destination. He knew that and so do I. I’d love to see what he left up there for me, but it’s enough that I follow in his footsteps and make a few new ones of my own.”   Returning his attention to Sandoval, Cutright said, “Go or no go for launch?”

“Earth Sciences are go for launch, Captain,” she replied. Satisfied that her report had been adequate, Sandoval reached into the pocket of her blue jeans and took out two old copper pennies and held them up for the Cutright to see. “My treasure Captain. My contribution to our collection of mementos.”

“Interesting,” Cutright said, holding out his hand to take the coins. “And the significance of these for you?”

Sandoval looked lovingly at the pair of tarnished coins and said, “They’re wheat pennies. Very old. I guess they’re not really anything collectible, but what they are is very hard to come by. Currency in any form is vanishingly rare these days and making change is almost a lost art. I’ve always considered finding a wheat penny to be somewhat of a small miracle, to say nothing of two. They do say 'In God we trust,' you know. Anyway, I found both of these laying on the ground, right over there by the blockhouse.” She gestured in the direction of the aging structure.

Cutright looked toward the building and then back down at the coins in his hand. “You mean just now? While you were here waiting for our meeting?”

Sandoval hesitated for a moment and looked coyly down at her shoes. “Not exactly Captain. I mean, I did find them, as I said, right over there in the tall grass…  As a child, on the guided tour.”

Cutright chuckled warmly. “That’s pretty cool. I like that story. These will be a great addition to our little box of memories.”

Sandoval cupped her hands around his and closed them tightly on the pennies. “That’s my two cents… for what it’s worth.”

As Sandoval released his hand and sat back down on the ground, Cutright turned to face Lieutenant Commander Birdie Pomeroy, Astronaut Pilot and Navigator for the mission. Birdie, or “Ladybird” as she had been dubbed by her flight school instructor in the Royal Air Force, would be taking the helm of the icarus spacecraft during the test phase of the eyeballs being conducted by Mayberry.  Pomeroy’s primary duties throughout the entirety of the flight would be as ship’s navigator, both in route to and from Mars, as well as charting any and all course changes as required for a landing. A veteran of the Daedalus mission, Pomeroy had logged a lot of flight time plotting a round trip course to the red planet and her experiences there would be a valued asset to the success of icarus.

“Talk to me, Bird Lady,” Cutright blurted out.

A no-nonsense officer with a wonderful Cockney accent, Pomeroy replied, “Alright then Captain, here we go. According to my latest calculations the planets are in line and all is right with the world, well, actually both worlds as it were.” She selected the option on her datapad to remote link with all the other pads in the group and then proceeded to display the navigational charts that she had prepared for the mission. A three-dimensional rotating map of the solar system popped up on everyone’s screen, and using the palm of her hand, Pomeroy sent everybody on a ride to a position above earth’s moon. “Here we are everyone. Seven days from now if all goes as planned, this group of intrepid explorers will be lifting off the lunar surface at Fra Mauro. Also, if all goes as planned, we will be lighting up a new set of ion engines, a second generation apart from the nacelles that powered the Daedalus during our first go at Mars. This propulsion system will get us there in a fraction the time it took the Daedalus, 100 times faster than the moon rockets of old that carried your brave chaps. Combine these facts with the closest possible position in the Earth-Mars orbital trajectory, and you’ve got a recipe for setting a few historical records I should think.”

Leaning his chin in his hand and looking dreamily at Pomeroy as she spoke, Mayberry took the opportunity of a break in her report to say,”Will you read to us every evening Lieutenant Commander Pomeroy? That accent is, well, relaxing… stimulating… I don’t know, all of the above I guess.”

“Thank you Commander for your vote of confidence,” Pomeroy said matter-of-factly. “I regret that I shall be much too busy performing my duties aboard ship to be your personal storyteller. You’ll need to bring along your Mum, to read you stories and such. Or perhaps you might pick up the tellie and dial one eight hundred astro nanny.” She flashed Mayberry a devilish smile and pretend punched him in the shoulder, winking as she did so. Mayberry flushed with embarrassment and tried to smear on a little levity of his own.

“I don’t think me Mum will make the flight, terribly afraid of heights and all that rot.”

“All right ladies and gentlemen,” Cutright interrupted, “I want to finish up the formalities ASAP. Thanks Birdie, for the report. Go no go for launch?”

“As long as my illustrious counterpart here is in agreement, I’d say let’s go to Mars.” Turning to Mayberry she asked,” Commander, do you concur?”

“Helm and Guidance Systems are go for launch Captain. Let’s light the candle.”

“Very well Commander. Lieutenant Commander Pomeroy, do you have anything to add to this little collection I’m taking up?”

“Yes Captain, as a matter of fact I do.”  Pomeroy reached into one of the zippered pockets of her coveralls and produced a beautiful white eagle feather. Then, unzipping another pocket she took out a small candlestick and proceeded to give both of the trinkets to Cutright. “A feather and some featherwax Captain.” Cutright took the items knowingly.

“It’s up to you to make sure we don’t fly too close to the Sun Ladybird. Can’t afford any melted wax this trip.”

“I understand Captain… I won’t let you down.” Pomeroy walked over to stand with Mayberry, her hands clasped behind her back.

“Engineering and propulsion systems… Ridley, are we ready to stir the ion soup mix?” Chief Engineer Sawyer Ridley sat cross-legged on the ground and didn’t even bother to stand to deliver his report. Through the clear glass of his data pad an image of the icarus spacecraft engine nacelles flickered to life, accompanied by a stream of numbers that populated the cells of his engine monitoring system. The Icarus sat poised at the end of a long white ribbon of a mass driver catapult, the launch facility that was part of the Fra Mauro Shipyards on the moon. No matter how many times the crew had the opportunity to see their ship, it never seemed to loose any of it’s awesome majesty. Even on the tiny screen of Ridley’s pad the gleaming gunmetal blue hull shown like a monument in the midst of the desolate lunar landscape. Like the great sailing ships that had conquered the distance between the shores of Earth, the Icarus was now poised to sail the black ocean of space, to reach the shores of another world. Not only Mars but to any of the planets in the solar system. If this first flight proved to be a success, plans were already on the drawing board for even more ambitious missions.

NASA project planners were preparing to send the icarus to a rendezvous with the inner planet Mercury. Data for the Mercury flight path ITN (Interplanetary Transport Network) had been stored aboard the icarus mainframe since the vessel’s inception, and simulations of the mission were even now in the dry run phases back at Houston.

It had originally been intended that the Daedalus and Icarus would function together, each traversing the solar system with different mission objectives and yet, like their namesakes, both soaring around the sun in flights of discovery. Daedalus would begin with an ambitious mission to Mars and Icarus, a tour of the inner planets. Tragically, that eventuality was never realized. Mythology and reality became ironically reversed when Daedalus’ number one engine nacelle exploded during its’ ascension from the Martian surface. Captain Robert Cutright managed to get three of his crewmembers to a lifeboat in time. Just seconds after the lifeboat had been jettisoned, fire reached the fuel cells and the Daedalus exploded in a massive fireball.

Just like the Apollo 1 had nearly ended Kennedy’s dream of reaching the Moon, the destruction of the Daedalus all but shut down NASA entirely and ultimately delayed the completion of the Icarus for more than 15 years. Shortly after the tragedy, NASA organized the Project Featherwax Review Board, to examine the circumstances surrounding the explosion and to recommend a course of action for preventing anything like this in future missions, that is, if there would ever be another mission.

Featherwax examiners determined that the explosion had been caused by excessive dust buildup in the engine, a hazard of constructing a spaceship that doubled as a decent and landing vehicle, a fatal design flaw that cost the lives of all but three of a 9-person crew.

Now, exploration of the planet surface would be the job of the Icarus Eye. Captain Cutright fought and won an exception to this ruling, to take one brief walk around the Daedalus landing site near Olympus Mons, primarily as a fact-finding investigation of the spaceship debris field.  The Flight Director had gone along with this extra-curricular activity to assure the recovery of the vessel’s Black Box that would contain detailed information from the ship’s computers, up to the moment of the explosion. Although the Eye could have easily accomplished this task as well, Chet Idlewild had granted Cutright’s request to include a landing vehicle in the Icarus payload. The Eye may have been able to retrieve all the bits and pieces of a 15-year-old shipwreck, but it would not have provided much-needed closure to one of the most valued commanders in the space program. Risky though the venture was, Jonathan Cutright would be given the chance to walk in his Father’s footsteps this one last time.

Now the Icarus was poised to take mankind beyond this dark moment in history, to return to Mars and pick up the pieces, learn from them and finally, to move on.

Sawyer Ridley was from the deep south, Georgia to be exact, and made no efforts to disguise the drawl. “Looky here yaw’ll. The I-drives, er, a, VASIMRs that is, are operatin’ as close to spec as fleas on a bloodhound. I’d say we’re in for the fastest rocket ride anybody’s ever taken.” VASIMR, or Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket, was a new technology that had been refined from the first ion thrusters that were used to power several unmanned probes to the gas giant Jupiter. More recently the propulsion system had been incorporated into the Daedalus ship design. Unfortunately, no data as to the efficiency or wear and tear on the thrusters was ever collected and analyzed since the ship and most of her crew had been lost in Mars’ orbit.

Ridley glanced over at Pomeroy and wondered what it must be like to have been one of only three survivors from Daedalus, a mission that both defined a new era in manned space exploration, and also nearly ended the program for good and all. The Daedalus disaster had, however, paved the way for refinements and improvements in ship and engine design and Sawyer Ridley brimmed with confidence over the next generation thrusters. If his engines did their job well, the icarus would be able to reach Mars in a third of the time it took the Daedalus. Pretty soon, he figured, the solar system would all be in the neighborhood thanks to the VASIMRs, or I-Drives, as he liked to call them.

“We’re go for launch Captain, no doubt ‘bout that. All we gotta do now is climb on top of 1,100,000 pounds of high explosives, light it on fire, hurl approximately 238,857 miles through the icy cold vacuum of space to land on a crater-pitted ball of rock. Flyin’ the Icarus is a cakewalk after all that rig-a-marrow. The surface launch, that’s a whole nuther ballgame.”  Ridley reached over and draped his arm over the shoulder of the man seated next to him. “Whether or not we can all climb up on top’a that bomb tomorrow depends on what Chief Idlewild here has ta say.”

Cutright said , “Alright Ridley, we’ll turn it over to the boss now,” and then added, “You have anything you want to add to our growing collection Sawyer?”

Ridley carefully unfolded a handkerchief containing something he had been cradling in his lap. As he pulled the cloth away he revealed a small wooden carving of the Icarus spacecraft. The model was beautifully crafted and technically accurate down to the most minute detail. Ridley carefully stood up and walked the model over to the Captain. “Carved it myself,” he said. “Had the idea about two weeks ago when you first mentioned taking up this collection. I hope it’s OK, not anything left over from my childhood’er nuthin’.”

“Don’t sell yourself short Sawyer. This is amazing. It’s so close to the real thing I’d be surprised if it doesn’t fly!”

“Oh it’ll do that too Sir,” Ridley said. “Tomorrow, when we launch.”

Cutright took the model and carefully placed it inside his case with the rest of the collection. “OK everyone, I’ve got a go from my flight crew.” Then, gesturing to the man seated next to Ridley, he said, “let’s see what Mission Control has to say, then I want to hear from the ship’s Medical Officer and last but not least get a go-no go from the Mission Specialists. Chet, they’re all yours.”

Flight Director Chet Idlewild stood up and brushed several small grains of dust off his otherwise impeccable kaki-colored Dockers. Seemingly overdressed for this little gathering, Chet had carefully engineered a reputation at the Cape as the mission control equivalent to a food critic, insisting that every portion of his mission come off like a delectable four-course meal. If any of the milestones were not to his liking, the Captain and crew were in for a chewing post-splashdown that would most likely conclude with a great big piece of humble pie for dessert. Idlewild could be downright imperious and overbearing when the situation demanded it but only out of respect and concern for the lives of the men and women in his care. If failure was not an option for legendary Flight Director Gene Krans, than it might be said of Chet Idlewild that failure is not a part of the mission objective and therefore is not even up for consideration.

Chet had not been in charge during the Daedalus mission. His selection as NASA Flight Director for Icarus came about as a result of his appointment to the Project Featherwax review committee. His efforts to discover the flaws in the program and a tireless attention to every conceivable detail proved to his piers that Chet Idlewild was an individual that could lead these brave new astronauts into the unknown. Moreover, he could bring them back home.

Chet walked slowly down the line of Astronauts and Mission Specialists, looking each one of them intently in the eye, enough to be uncomfortably intimidating. When he reached the edge of the blast deflector on which the last of the crew was seated he stopped and looked up into the early evening sky that had faded into a rich cobalt blue. “It’s my job to get you up there,” he said pointing to the sky, “and my responsibility to get you back down.” Idlewild turned to face the gathering and could not hide the tear that was falling down his face. “You can count on me to do that for you. In return I expect that what you’re doing between the time I get you up and the time I bring you back is following my instructions to the letter as if your life depended on it because, quite frankly, it does.” He flashed a quick look at Mayberry and said, “I hope you’re taking this in Mayberry, you hotdog rocket jockey. You and the Bird Lady are driving the bus on this little field trip and I wouldn’t have signed the permission slip if I had any reservations about your driving skills. Take care of my kids Moonlight.”

Mayberry stood and walked over to the Flight Director and placed his hands on Idlewild’s shoulders. “Roger that Houston. I’ll give these boys and girls a safe ride.” Idlewild formed a fist with his right hand and lightly tapped it on Mayberry’s arm.

“I know you will Apollo. I know you will”.

The corners of Mayberry's mouth formed a crooked little grin as he flashed a quick glance over at Cutright and winked. "That is, as long as you OK my flight plan for the pre-launch." Idlewild took several steps back and looked over at Cutright too, then back at Mayberry. "Flight plan... pre-launch?"

Mayberry stepped up to Idlewild and put his arm around the man's shoulder, walking him off in the direction of the pad. "Chet my friend, we need to talk."

As the two men walked away from the group, Apollo's free hand danced in front of him like a sketch artist with a pencil, roughing out a picture of his plot. Unbeknownst to everyone but Cutright, Commander Mayberry was planning to transform the Icarus launch, and himself, into the stuff of legend. In a world that had so long ago forgotten about heroes like Superman, Apollo Mayberry would single-handedly put the super hero back on the map. After the Daedalus tragedy it seemed that the entire world stopped believing... in anything. Mayberry understood, as they all did, that it was up to the crew of Icarus to jumpstart the dream once more. Humanity had growth complacent in the trappings of technology and in doing everything the easy way. There would be nothing easy about making a successful voyage to Mars and back.

"Got me an idea for a little, a, what'cha might call, public relations program..." Mayberry said matter-of-factly.

After Apollo had moved the stunned Flight Director out of earshot, Captain Cutright shook his head and chuckled to the other members of his crew. "I believe it might have been Deke Slayton or maybe Alan Shepard that originally coined the phrase, 'that'll go over like a t**d in the punchbowl'." Cutright looked nervously in the direction of Mayberry still making his sales pitch several yards away. "Even if Chet green-lights this idea, which I doubt, I told him he needs to reconsider his song choice... at least that. Star-spangled Banner maybe?"

Pommeroy raised a suspicious eyebrow and looked quizzically at the Captain, all too aware of Mayberry's predisposition towards mischief. "Oh blimey," she exclaimed, already convinced that they would all be court-martialed as a result, "What is it this time?"

"Relax Birdie," Cutright said. "You know Moonlight better than anyone. He has to put his own special twist on things tomorrow with a little hotdog airshow over the Cape. You know and I know that the whole world will be watching tomorrow and Apollo wants to give us...," Cutright gestured to the group with a wave of his hand, "All of us a good sendoff, complete with musical accompaniment. Thing is, I'm not so sure the top brass is gonna agree with his choice of music. Anyway, if he goes and screws the pooch, it just means you get to log a lot more hours of flight time on this mission."

Pommeroy rolled her eyes. "Oh very nice! Of course that's what I like to hear." She stood up and scratched her chin thoughtfully. "Well, if he's going to go and get us all into trouble, I should hope that this little show of his might include a proper anthem. Perhaps 'Rocket Man', by Elton John?"

"Or something by the Beatles," Cutright said jokingly.

"Exactly!" Pommeroy blurted out excitedly. After a moment she frowned. "Though I don't seem to recall any of what I would consider heroic space music from the Fab Four... Across the Universe, perhaps?"

Cutright looked around the group with a knowing grin. "You're a sweetheart Birdie. That's what we all love about you. That unshakable devotion to King and country."

Pommeroy smiled widely. "God save the Queen. And God help Commander Mayberry if he buggers up our little red planet holiday."

Everyone in the group had a good laugh before Cutright turned his attention back to his data pad, ready to finalize the details of the mission from his Ship's Doctor and Mission Specialists.

The evening was coming to a close and he knew that everyone here needed to go get a decent-night's sleep before the launch, as if any of them would sleep at all. Oh well, he at least needed to tell them to get some rest, like one more item on the checklist, however unlikely it might be.

© 2012 Ray J. Lonsdale

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Added on May 8, 2012
Last Updated on May 11, 2012


Ray J. Lonsdale
Ray J. Lonsdale

Orlando, FL

I'm the founder and Creative Director of Flyby Studios in Orlando Florida. Writing has always been a passion of mine as far back as 6 or 7 years old! more..