Space ain’t for everyone…

A writing prompt on Reddit caught my eye, so I wrote a thing. Here’s the link to the post and below is the prompt and story. I figure this is at least a productive way to procrastinate on my revision. Mind you ,I am still making progress. I think I can see the light at the end of the tunnel… or maybe it’s just a near death experience.

The first human crew is on their way to Mars. Instead of being excited about Mars, the Commander is being driven to madness by minor annoyances from his crew.





2023.4.5 – Captain’s Personal Log

We’ve just become the first corporate vessel to leave Earth orbit, and the first manned mission to Mars. It’s an honor to be here to help prove that there’s nothing government can do that the private sector can’t do better.

I’m happy to report that our systems diagnostic came back with a clean bill of health. Jennings tells me that the seedlings are all doing well in BioTech, and Roberts in Engineering says that there are no noticeable changes in pressure or abnormal spikes. Looks like we’re on our way… What’s that? Yes, this is my personal journal, Edmonds… sure… sure that’s very clever…

Edmonds, our junior technician wanted me to point out that today’s date is 2345, which I suppose it is if you don’t count the 2 and 0 before it, but he’s a spunky kid and we’re happy to have him on board.

2023.4.6 – Captain’s Personal Log

As I look out to my left, I can almost see the moonrise over the Earth. The stars are more visible than I imagined and… just a second… What is it Jennings?… The seedlings? What’s wrong?… oh… okay, sure…. no, that’s cute.

Jennings just stated that the biometrics for the seedlings are showing an unusually high level of chemicals associated with relaxation, which is encouraging. We’re relying on these hybrid plants to boost oxygen levels once we arrive, not to mention as a viable food source… Oh, and Edmonds wanted to point out that the date is no longer sequential. Thanks Edmonds. Very observant.

2023.4.10 – Captain’s Personal Log

Edmonds has apparently named the seedlings in his spare time. I checked in at BioTech and there are neat little signs with names like “Penelope” and “Margaret”. I asked Jennings about it and she just rolled her eyes. Not sure where Edmonds is getting all this spare time, considering the amount of work we have to do. I asked him and he said he’s done it all. Roberts also told me that Edmonds has reorganized the tool cabinet about five times so far. So, good on him… I guess.

2023.4.15 – Captain’s Personal Log

We had an incident. I guess while the rest of the crew was sleeping, Jennings went and renamed all the plants to male names: Jim, Phil, Edward… Edmonds became hurt, and apparently felt that the carrots were female and should be named accordingly. Jennings explained that plants don’t identify that way, and now neither will talk to one another. Personally, I don’t mind the quiet.

2023.4.20 – Captain’s Personal Log

Roberts came to me today. It seems Edmonds has not only been reorganizing the tool cabinet, but has also been organizing other storage bins. I just spent fifteen minutes trying to find a damn pen. I might have to have a talk with the kid about personal property. I can’t believe I am having this conversation in space.

Just got back from talking to Edmonds. Did you know that there are ten different settings on a standard socket wrench? I sure do now. Apparently everyone on board does as well. I told him that I’d prefer if he left my things alone. He said “Speaking of alone, did you know that seedlings feel pain?” I spoke to Jennings about this and she agrees that the BioTech should be locked down from now on.

2023.4.21 – Captain’s Personal Log

Well that didn’t work. Edmonds has started sleeping in front of the BioTech door. Now when Jennings tries to enter he sits up in his sleeping bag and demands a password. We’ve all tried and no one can figure out the password. We’re good on regular food, and we can watch the plants from the cameras. I told Jennings it’s probably best that nobody goes in.

Jennings has just told me she needs to do her report. I explained that we’re far enough from earth I doubt anyone will write her up. She huffed, but I think she’ll be fine. She wanted me to know that the plants shouldn’t have names. I agreed.

2023.4.22 – Captain’s Personal Log

So now it’s Roberts. He’s a quiet guy, keeps to himself. I just found out that he’s actually been the one rearranging the cabinets. I apologized to Edmonds and… I’m almost too angry to really discuss it, but this is a personal log for a reason…

They were both in on it. Thought it would be funny to confuse me… I have no idea why they thought it would be funny since it seems they are the only ones in on the joke. They giggle now when they think I’m not around. I have no idea how they could have assigned me these two.

Oh, apparently Jennings threatened Edmonds and got the password, broke into BioTech and has locked herself inside. I asked her on the com and she said something about not coming out until her reports are done. So that’s great.

2023.4.24 – Captain’s Personal Log

I offered to deliver food to Jennings if she would open the door, but was presented with a few problems. 1. I can’t find the food, because apparently tweedle dee and tweedle dumb thought it would be funny to move the food for a day. I’d be surprised if they didn’t name them too. and 2. Apparently Jennings has been nibbling at the BioTech. I’m not sure how many carrots and potatoes she can eat, but she says the impact will be minimal and she’ll include results on her report.

I told her to fuck her report and to stop eating the ONE THING SHE WAS SUPPOSED TO BE LOOKING OUT FOR. She started crying. I would have said something comforting but instead she killed the com. Not like I could have gone in to comfort her anyway. Idiot.

I’m surrounded by idiots. This is what happens when you privatize space exploration. Fucking cost cutters, hiring this crew like they were contract-hunting for dry-wall installers. Roberts isn’t talking to anyone but Edmonds now, and I can hear them whispering through the capsule. I’m pretty sure I heard my name a few times, but when I said something they looked all innocent. Well two can play at that game.

2023.4.27 – Captain’s Personal Log

We’ve officially passed our halfway point, and I’m feeling better about this mission now. I’m taking the day off, locked myself in my quarters. Let’s see how those assholes like that. Instead I am going to just kick it with my iPod7 and listen to some classics. Man, Dave Matthews was a genius before he started that cult…

I could hear them banging on my door even over ANTS MARCHING. I looked up and they are all glaring at me, like I’mthe one who’s been acting crazy. I gave them the bird and turned up the volume. That harmonica player is just amazing…

2023.4.28 – Captain’s Personal Log

I must have dozed off.

There’s no one outside my quarters that I can see, and when I look it seems that the ship is dark. Instruments show a loss of pressure, so I can only imagine that we had a collision. The klaxons weren’t audible through my earphones… so that’s my bad. Now it’s just a glowing red as the emergency lights flash. I can see the bridge from here and I’m not sure if it’s just the emergency lights or if there is blood on the panel. Every time I look it seems different.

I tried contacting Jennings, Roberts, even Edmonds… nothing so far, but I haven’t given up. Pretty soon the automated systems will kick in and we’ll cease accelerating. I’m pretty sure we’ll be too late though. One things for certain, this ship can pretty much land itself. I might just wait in here until…

I just heard something. Sounds like a heavy tool being dragged across the wall… Could be in freefall, but I can’t see for sure…

No, it’s definitely someone, but they’re staying out of view. If I had to guess, it’s Edmonds with that socket wrench. Did you know it has ten settings? Apparently more than one use… I still can’t reach the rest of the crew, but I’m going to have to go out there anyway and talk to him. All I have is an emergency crowbar, but it will have to do….





Another quick reaction to Chuck Wendig’s weekly flash fiction challenge.

You could consider this to be the chapter after Cargo, since I’m five chapters in now and this seems to be turning into a thing.


This isn’t how it was supposed to go down. It was supposed to be a surveying job, just looking at some goddamn mineral readings—go to a sector, do a basic scan, report on any rare minerals. It’s supposed to be easy pay for easy work, then you fly back in fifty more years and start over. It was supposed to be a simple way to forget your past. WXE-52 is as far away from the past as you could get.

Captain Phillip Kendel watches as the planet grows to a monumental size filling the screen. Alarms buzz and crackle. He looks to his left and sees Michael Indiigan with his head split open in a parody of a grin. One eye hangs out of the socket, squeezed free by the piece of bulkhead that fell on him. Now Michael looks like he is piloting the ship with his face.

Kendel turns to his right and it’s nothing but smoke and gore. Bodies lay across the controls and panels, some of them in one piece. The explosion had been sudden and devastating.

“Engines…” he says into the hidden mic on his throat. Nothing. Static. A klaxon chirps somewhere behind him. “Security… Medical…” More static. Kendel is alone, the captain going down with his ship. Wind howls through the flute holes torn in the ship.

They had woken up on impact. The rock had been no bigger than a human fist, but at relativistic speeds it had hit the hull with the force of a nuke, tearing at superstructure and fuel tanks. Everyone on that side of the ship had died instantly. Kendel thinks now that he should have been so lucky.

You don’t get lucky, Phil. You were busy drinking in your bunk. Luck isn’t something on your menu of cocktails.

Decompression killed another fifty of the crew. They died screaming while he was stuck in his cabin, cranking the manual override trying escape his own room. The bridge was on fire when he finally arrived. More screams, the smell of burnt meat. He had taken his seat, hoping the graphene filaments would still work their way into his nerve endings allowing him to do something. Anything. They didn’t.

All he sees in his peripheral vision are red flashing lights, static. A feedback loop goes off in his ear as the ship’s AI screams and dies.

Now he falls down, down, down, straight into the giant green and brown planet.

He laughs as it grows in the view screen. The atmosphere down there is barely breathable. I’ll be living like a man hiking Everest. I’d be lucky to walk fifty yards without sweating.

Mountains, oceans, gorges, jungles. It all rolls past as he tumbles in a three-hundred yard metal coffin.

You could always run to the pods, says a voice.

And abandon my ship…

And what a ship she is, Chief! Spacious and capable of jumping across star systems. And now it even comes with a sunroof. You always wanted a convertible.

I have a job to do.

Your job is to live, Chief. Your ship is dead. Your crew is dead.

I have nothing to live for then.

You’ve got you. But feel free to piss that away.

He admits to himself he doesn’t have a good reply to that one.

Aren’t you at least curious? says the voice. Even if it’s the last thing you see, don’t you at least want to see what’s down there? Isn’t that worth dropping your self-righteous duty for once?

I have responsibilities.

Who exactly are you trying to impress?

He watches the scenery scroll past for what feels like minutes. Finally he stands and says, “Fuck it.”

Microscopic filaments tear away from his skin as he rises from the chair. The bridge rescue pod is laughably close. The body of his navigator lays just three yards from it… well half of him. Kendel steps over Tom Bixby and slams his fist against the red panel along the wall. A door opens with a hiss—he can feel the air escaping around it.

I’ll probably come apart in reentry. This pod probably took a piece of debris on the way in.

Oh well!

Kendel steps inside as the door seals itself. A white cushioned chair sits in front of him. It looks like the sort of accessory you’d find in a house, something in a living room to relax in and watch a sports game.

Another humorless laugh escapes as he spins on a heel to fall into it. Webbing covers him instantly, embracing him like a spider’s cocoon—it feels snug and warm, releasing drugs to calm him. Oxygen fills the empty spaces around his sealed face. He feels a heavy clunk! The clamps have just let go.

Then he is falling, falling, falling into the unknown.

As the capsule spins he can make out the USAS Luxemburg, a wounded bird tumbling through the air, shedding great black feathers of steel and graphene. A long ragged strip is torn from its flank, billowing smoke in a long trail behind a ragged aft. He sees pieces of debris emerge and twist like confetti from newly formed holes. Some of them are people.

He spins.

Less of the ship is visible now as atmospheric friction eats away at the hull. The USAS symbol that once was so prominent below the bridge tears away as the nose of the ship flattens, superheats, and explodes.

He spins.

The Luxemburg is how a cloud of smoke, lit in pink by an alien sunset. Arms of dust shoot off at crazy angles like drunk bats. They tumble away.

He spins.

It is just a cloud now, distant and fading. In the pink light of the alien sun it looks almost to Kendel like a flower.

Then the capsule begins to shake as he falls into the gravity well, the air heating the pod’s casing. He is only three feet away from ten-thousand degrees of hot metal, traveling at three times the speed of sound.

Mineral deposits, he thinks. A surveying ship, done in by a rock.

He spins and blacks out. Kendel doesn’t even feel the impact.


(c) 2012 marlanesque (Martin Kee)

Edited 8-8-2012