Space Race

free-scifi-space-race

by Nicholas Gentile

Welcome aboard the AVRO CF-11 Apollo Series™ — a Low Earth Orbit Passenger Cruise Ship dubbed “the ultimate in luxury space travel” by World Aviation Magazine! Lauded as “timelessly elegant, spacious yet intimate, equipped with all the modern amenities” by Air & Cosmos and named “this year’s MUST vacation!” by the editorial staff at TeenBop Monthly (see our ad in the August issue).

Valued guest, you have embarked on a premium tailor-made excursion that pampers all the senses. Be prepared to indulge in the highest expression of gastronomical artisanship at our many fine dining options, whether you’re in the mood for our flagship Laotian Charcuterie or the widest variety of gelatin-encased salads, we have something guaranteed to satisfy even the most discriminating of tastes. And the McQuay-Norris Theater, located on the Promenade (Deck 5), stages Broadway-style shows that’ll delight the entire family; our current production is Tony Award®-winning musical There’s a Bell I Ring When the Order is Up. Yes, even Packaging Digest agrees -- the AVRO is “the only exospheric vessel which caters to sophisticated voyagers seeking 5-star concierge service and lavish accommodations (acclaimed as the hallmarks of the Apollo Series™ experience).” But there’s something that sets this particular Low Earth Orbit Cruise Ship apart from all the others, beyond the three-story cascading tropical waterfall, panoramic Earth-viewing lounge, and award-winning antigravity shiatsu massage center – and that key difference is the cyclonic pillar of fire hurtling towards the Outdoor Pool & Floating Tiki Bar (Deck 1) at approximately 170 subparsons* per second.

*.17 subparishes/second

#

“Houston, we appear to be spiraling in flames towards a large unidentified spacecraft.”

“Gemini, this is Houston. Roger that. Please note that you are quickly losing power to your principal directioning system.”

“Copy, Houston. Duly noted. Michael just went back to the central turborotor; he’s drilling holes in the sole plate to bypass the spray drift mechanism.”

“Gemini – are you able to throttle up on your autothrusters?”

“Negative. We lost our forward control flap to the fire.”

“Gemini, do me a favor and switch on your peripheral telemetric beacon.”

“Roger, Houston. Data transmitting now via far-infrared spectral scope.”

“Gemini, we got zero on the radar.”

“Houston, I believe I can identify the spacecraft up ahead. It appears to be a commercial liner with sleek contemporary design and unmatched onboard entertainment.”

“Gemini, are you able to observe if along the broadside there appears to be a rather pleasing row of French balconies?”

“Negative, Houston. Though I do notice a few dozen verandas, each with a curved thatch roof.”

“Gemini, are you positive that’s thatched and not latticed?”

“Affirmative, Houston. What’s that, Mike? Houston, our monopropellant injector is leaking; the fire’s now breached the hull. We have a matter of minutes before complete mechanical failure.”

“Gemini, mission control is going to go ahead and recommend an emergency landing.”

“Houston, it sounded like you suggested we attempt a crash landing onto a moving commercial spacecraft. Please confirm.”

“Gemini, this is a passenger cruise liner, which is an incredibly reliable mode of upmarket transport. We can’t think of a safer place for you to be should anything go wrong during touchdown…”

“Roger, Houston. Bracing for impact...”

#

The CF-11’s captain, a stylish Buckeye with convivial tenor, quietly counts money in his private quarters. This would be enough to retire on, even after he pays off his staggering debts. And the passengers would be largely unaware of the tiny detour, barely three circumshifts off course. But why is this particular route so important to that former senator? How exactly is this, as he suggested, serving the country? And why now, during such a high-profile event? He concludes counting the bills; it’s all there. Suddenly, more urgent questions parade around his mind. To where shall he retire? Should he purchase investment properties with cash? Or no money down? Will he ever grow weary of golfing every day? And what was that loud explosion that just thundered from the upper decks??

#

Though there are no causalities from the crash, flying debris from Gemini XIII severs distinguished guest Rodman C. Rockefeller’s syphilitic pinky finger, which had been unfortunately raised during the moment of impact, decorously perpendicular to his tea cup. Three astronauts surface from the smoldering capsule, then stop-drop-and-roll on the bocce courts.

The captain arrives on the scene, lecturing, “There are easier and more cost-effective ways to get aboard the AVRO CF-11, boys.”

“Eagle? Is that you?” says an astronaut, in disbelief.

“It’s been a long time,” the captain shakes his head, both hands on his waist. “Not so long I don’t remember you, that is… nor long enough to still not be haunted by the pangs of failure I associate with that period of my life, but still… it has to have been at least two years. At least.”

“How refreshingly convenient!” chimes another astronaut, “Of all ships to crash land on, we crash aboard the one captained by the best pilot NASA’s ever seen, Neil Armstrong himself!”

“Shouldn’t you fellows be on your way to the moon?” probes Captain Neil Armstrong.

“Soviets shot us down. They had an advanced directed-energy weapon able to bypass our defense shields,” explains a thick New Jersey accent. The astronaut pops off his helmet, revealing the fresh young face of Buzz Aldrin. A Deck 1 cocktail waitress faints.

“Now which of you was steering this tin can?” inquires Neil.

Charles “Chuck” Yeager removes his helmet. “That’d be me.”

The two exchange contentious glances until the third member of the Gemini, Michael Collins, easily identifiable by his thick Irish brogue and military issue eyepatch, steps in between, “…’ay now, gen’lemen, don’t be puffin’ yer chests out. Looks like ye havin’ a domestic.”

Neil barks for Jimmy (according to a long-standing astronautical tradition, Jimmy is the nickname given to any on-duty cabin boy. Off-duty, this particular crew member is called Fred, as to avoid confusion, for his name actually is James) to find a room for the uninvited guests.

#

“Pleasure with a purpose!” hums Buzz, awestruck by the Neo-Baroque architectural style of the Edwardian Suite. “Look at that painting, Chuck. Is that a Gauguin?”

Tahitian Woman,” answers Chuck, suspicious of the surroundings. “Seems a bit out of place, if you ask me.”

“Well, if you ask me, a fellow sure can get used to such inconsistencies. Especially after that vertical landing,” Buzz pops the cork off a bottle of spumante and fills a tray of long-stemmed crystal flutes.

“Aye, lads.” Michael lifts a drink, “A toast. ‘ere is ta th’ Gemini. She wa’ a spaceworthy lass, but now she’ gone. May she rest in peace.”

“Gentlemen, this is no time for libations!” yells Chuck. “We are still on a mission!”

“Kinda ‘ard without a spaceship, Chuck.”

“Can’t you see, men? We’re ON a spaceship!”

“Now hold on, Chuck,” Buzz is already impatient, “this is a commercial cruiser in low orbit, it can’t get much higher. Besides, it’s loaded with civilians!”

“He’s right, Chuck. Bes’ ta just enjoy the surroun’ins while we can. I’m sure NASA’ll send us up again, considerin’ we’re still alive and already prepared for th’ voyage and all.”

“Didn’t you see those Soviets? That was no geostationary combat vehicle they were in. They were rigged with a far-range propulsion system.”

“Ye mean…”

“Yes, precisely. If we do nothing, the Soviets will be the first men to land on the moon.”

“Why,” Buzz flips a tray, sending a ceramic-lidded gravy dish over the tufted wingback settee and onto the floor, “that’s unthinkable!”

“We must act fast. I’m sure Captain Armstrong and I can put aside our past differences and work together. America is depending on us.”

“Th’ stars and stripes may ‘ave ta wait a bit, Chuck.” Michael rattles the doorknob, “We been locked in, from th’ outside! We’re pris’ners!”

#

The arrival of the astronauts has the Starlight Cigar Bar (Deck 3) in such a stir, no one notices Adolf Leipzig and his nubile South American mistress as they wade through the fumes to his reserved corner table. The secretive old Kraut had been a person of interest to his fellow passengers; there were rumors he had been an architect of the war, but evaded trial. This almost captivated the smokers as much as his companion, Cutinga, a tall golden-brown Brazilian who reportedly met Adolf at an outpost in Argentina, where she was known as “Farol de Mandinga” – the lantern of the Devil.

Prescott, a wealthy American banker and former senator, covertly slides into the pair’s booth.

“Meister Boosch,” croaks Adolf, “I vas vondering if zeh captain is still committed to zeh cause in light of recent events.”

“Neil’s got a good head on his shoulders, Leipzig. He knows opportunities for this kind of capital are rare for a man of his position in life.”

“And vhat position is zhat?”

“A man drowning in debt.”

“Zhen how good could zeh head on his shoulders be?!” snorts Adolf, slamming a fist onto the table.

“Adolf, he’s American. Money’s the only thing.”

“And vhat if he is a fool cowboy and decides his patriotic duties come first?!”

Cutinga hisses, as does a goose when its goslings are threatened.

“Let’s just say,” Prescott waves his smoking cigar at a Herculean bodyguard wearing mirrored sunglasses, “I have hired a crack team of experts who deal with non-compliance.”

#

Captain Neil Armstrong leans up against a window on the Bridge (Deck 7), the familiar and meditative beeps from the command center ease his mind until a state of cosmic consciousness dawns within him. He studies the moon. So far away. Always just out of his reach.

Security stampedes through the door with the crew of the Gemini, all tied up. “Captain, we found the three stowaways lurking around the Video Casino Palace.”

“Stowaways?” roars Buzz. “Neil, what’s going on here?”

“Protocol, Buzz,” shrugs Neil. “You know the rules. And I should’ve known that three men with Air Force backgrounds and space cadet training couldn’t be detained by standard pin tumbler lock mechanisms.”

“Neil,” pleads Chuck, “you need to steer a new course.”

“Where? To the moon, Yeager? And risk the lives of my crew and passengers just so you can go down in the history books again?”

“This isn’t about me, you, or Rodman C. Rockefeller! This is about American exceptionalism! This is to show the world that America’s great because we do great things! And we do great things because we can. Future generations might feel it was so long ago we fought for our freedom, yet they’ll remember what we were able to do because we lived in a free society, where merit and achievement were their own rewards. Isn’t that the planet you want? An Earth where not just the United States, but the entire world is independent, yet all working together towards a brighter tomorrow? And all because we risked our lives here today, and blindly but bravely took that giant leap for the sake of mankind.”

Neil squares himself up with Michael. “Be honest with me, Collins. Did he rehearse that?”

“Aye, sir. All mornin’.”

“No,” gloats Neil, “I’m afraid Chuck Yeager won’t be leading planet Earth towards a shiny new utopia today. The Apollo Series™ line is designed to be the apex of leisure, most certainly not capable of a trip beyond low earth orbit.”

“Then you leave us stowaways no choice,” grunts Buzz, who turns around and socks a security guard out cold. Michael and Chuck follow suit, then the trio pounce on Neil and fasten him to an interior steam pipe using cords from a nearby delta valve.

Neil explodes, “Just what the heck do you guys think you’re doing?!”

Chuck gazes steadily into the distance. “We’re going to the moon.”

#

The cosmonauts aboard the Luna 15 were selected on two main criteria. Firstly, the physical and psychological fortitude required for a lunar expedition. Second, a savage hatred for Americans and their pitiful democracy. Alexey Leonov glares at the dipole tone radar, scribbling down coordinates. He’s been honored with the title Hero of the Soviet Union, decorated with both an Order of Lenin and an Order of the Red Star, and will forever be the first human to ever conduct a spacewalk (March 1965, Voskhod 2). His reputation is unimpeachable, greatly due to his impersonal and systematic approach. The Luna 15 shot the Gemini XIII down, Dmitri Zaikin’s steady aim made certain of it. And while the odds of those imperialist swine actually surviving their crash into that luxury liner were nearly impossible, Alexey is not a man who takes chances.

He feeds the coordinates into the Nairi MG-13 telecomputer. A dual-beam antenna broadcasts the AVRO CF-11’s whereabouts to Soviet Russia’s least orthodox secret weapon…

#

Despite years of aeronautical training, Chuck, Michael, and Buzz find themselves woefully underprepared for maneuvering the megalithic recreational superliner.

“If you boys give up now,” taunts Neil, “I’m sure the president will still pardon you for this mutiny. Given the probability of a crew unfamiliar with the AVRO coded quad control scheme actually navigating this ship, we’re as likely to land in Duluth as we are the crater of Tycho.”

“He’s right,” sighs Buzz. “Without him and his crew, we’re about as useless as a Bissell Twin-Engine Carpet Steamer on waxed Congoleum flooring.”

“Neil, I beg you,” petitions Chuck, “with your help, we can still beat the communists!”

“Listen to you and your ideals,” Neil rolls his eyes, “communists and capitalists… presidents and premiers… democracies and Federal Marxist–Leninist one-party socialist states… it’s all the same. I don’t work for any nation. I work for money. Different forms of governments are just ways for the rich to diversify their portfolio. The sooner you realize that, the better off you’ll be.”

“You don’t believe that,” says Chuck.

Neil smirks. “Want to bet?”

“You didn’t used to. Not the Neil I knew.”

“That Neil died in the fiery crash that ruined his career.”

“So what if it wasn’t you that got to break the sound barrier?! You survived. No other pilot could’ve. None of us had the skills. The Bell X-0 was a multi-million dollar plane, sure. But since your accident, do you realize the amount of research conducted on the effects of ingesting artificial sweeteners while flying aircraft? Your testimony has saved countless American lives. Don’t you find that more valuable than a sonic boom?”

“Easy for you say,” whines Neil.

“How do you think I’ve felt all these years knowing I wasn’t first choice or best man for the job? Just merely Mr. Right-Place-Right-Time. But now that I see what you’ve become, maybe I was wrong. Maybe you are the big failure you think you are.”

“Now, you hold on just a moment!” Neil struggles free from the steam pipe and clocks Chuck, who bites his forearm. Neil claws at Chuck’s face while Chuck swiftly kicks Neil in the shins.

“Gen’lemen! Be’ave yourselves!” scoffs Michael, tearing them apart.

“Shhh… shhh… do you hear that?” Buzz draws attention to what sounds to be quite the commotion.

The piercing shrieks of passengers.

The earsplitting whir of conical drills.

#

The Grand Atrium (Deck 6) incorporates gorgeous crystal skylights and a tranquil reflection pool with a stillness that brings forth a sense of calmness and serenity. However, a gigantic funnel-shaped remote weapon, sporting two-dozen springy mechanical arms with drills for hands, currently terrorizes and perforates the travelers and crew.

By the time Neil, Chuck, Michael, and Buzz reach the atrium, the reflection pool is red with the blood of the ship’s security force.

“Now if’n that ain’t the mos’ gammy-look’n robot…” wheezes Michael.

“Sputnik 3,” utters Buzz. “The ultimate drilling machine turned ultimate killing machine.”

“What’s its weakness?” snaps Neil.

“No one knows,” Buzz says, emphasizing his lack of knowledge with an intrepid display of melodrama. “I heard rumors, but I didn’t believe it was even real.”

A lightbulb goes off in Neil’s brain, “I got it! Ever use your electric drill for mixing?”

“Of course not!” Chuck scowls with indignation, “That’d burn out the motor!”

“Precisely! Me, Michael, and Buzz will run to the Souvenir Station and purchase powdered cement mix. Chuck, you stay here and distract Sputnik 3. Make sure it stays close to the reflection pool.”

“Distract it? How?”

A drill dives at Chuck’s head; he ducks a bit too late. A patch of his hair gets caught in the drill and extracted from his head. He howls in distress.

“Just like that! Great job, Chuck! We’ll be back soon…”

#

Hours later, after much choreography, the motors controlling Sputnik 3’s many ductile arms have burnt out mixing the cement in the reflection pool.

An exhausted Chuck Yeager wonders, “Do you suppose there may be a multimetered gyroscopic modulator inside that thing?”

“Bloody likely,” affirms Michael. “Sure ‘splains ‘ow it mus’a got ‘ere in no time.”

“Let’s examine its insides,” Chuck unbolts the bottom hatch.

A mechanical arm wriggles itself loose from the cement; its drill spins so rapidly it smokes.

“Here we are!” chimes Chuck, detaching the modulator. “Wow, look at this beauty. This would be the crown jewel in any directioning system!”

“Chuck, look out!” shouts Buzz.

The drill plunges through Chuck’s chest and out his back. The others scream, wrestle the arm away… it flops down, the motor’s spent; the drill rests on the concrete pool, rotating sluggishly.

“Chuck!” cries Neil.

“Neil…” gasps Chuck.

“How strongly do you believe in the power of positive thoughts? If there were ever a time to believe you can overcome any obstacle, this is it...”

“I can’t feel my heartbeat, Neil.”

“Well, your heart is gone, Chuck.”

“Promise me something, Neil.”

“Anything, Chuck!”

“You’ll captain this ship to the moon… and you’ll beat those Soviets… for me… and America.”

“Oh. Well, Chuck, you see, I said ‘anything’ because I actually anticipated that you were going to ask me to sire a son with your widowed wife...”

“What?!”

“I see now my assumption was a little unusual, but don’t let that spoil the gravity of this moment, Chuck, however, I also made another promise that involves me not going to the moon, so now I must consider whether upholding a non-binding verbal agreement for which I have already been compensated is outweighed by a professional rival’s dying words…”

“Stay… away… from my family…”

“Wait, was that the promise you wanted me to keep? Chuck? Was that it? Stay away from your family? Chuck? Chuck, answer me!”

“He’s gone, Neil.” there’s a crack in Buzz’s voice. “He’s gone.”

“Th’ man died a ‘ero. May ‘e rest in peace.”

#

Michael Collins installs the multimetered gyroscopic modulator into the AVRO CF-11’s principal directioning system, located in the Engine Room (Deck 8). Thanks to Yeager’s discovery in his final moments, the city-sized spacecraft now has full spherical orientation control. Satisfied by his craftiness, Collins hides the leftover screws in his pocket, then rubs the grease off his hands with a pre-moistened industrial strength cleaning wipe.

Cutinga lurks in the shadows behind the accelerometric core capacitor, stalking Collins, waiting for the perfect moment to strike.

#

Neil Armstrong invites himself into the Regency Suite without even knocking. He finds quite the makeshift telecommunications center nested against the vertically-striped wallpaper. Prescott, Leipzig, and a wrinkly brood of scientists hover around a mahogany two-pedestal breakfast table, arguing over schematics.

Neil coughs to attract Prescott’s attention, “Pardon me, Senator…”

“Captain Armstrong! Are you ill?”

“No, sir. That merely was a ploy to get you to notice me.”

“Oh?” Prescott’s taken aback by the charade. “Honesty and transparency are virtues I hold most dear in business partnerships, captain. In fact, it rather worries me when someone I trust with a very important assignment begins to operate at this level of deception...”

“Senator, I’ve been thinking, given the present situation with the Soviets, perhaps it would be in the best interest of the great nation in which we serve, which includes but is not limited to the picturesque state of Connecticut which you have so honorably represented, if we postponed your slight change in the ship’s itinerary, and set sail for the moon.” Neil tosses Prescott a silver canvas rucksack. “Here’s your money. All of it.”

Prescott slits his eyes, “What about your insurmountable debt?”

“Well…” he contemplates, “I was only nine when I lost my Wapakoneta Public Central Library Card. I’m sure there must be a way to prove it wasn’t me who checked out the entirety of the branch’s Dewey Decimal class 849 (Occitan, Catalan, Franco-Provençal literatures). But as long as whoever never returned those books is still out there—”

“You veak-minded cowboy!” Leipzig’s finger darts toward the ceiling. He turns to Prescott. “Vhut did I tell you about you Americans and your foolish patriotism!?”

“Well, Neil,” Prescott rubs his chin, “seems you’ve become a liability. And it appears that the only security still alive aboard this vessel is my own personal team of highly-trained bodyguards. Looks like I’m no longer just a captain of industry. I’m now captain of this spaceship.”

“Two mutinies in one day!” bleats Neil, as Prescott’s security force stomps him to the floor. A bodyguard proficient in the martial arts twists Neil’s ankle until the pain renders him comatose.

#

“I should’ve just stayed hostage in the Edwardian Suite!” wails Buzz, sulking and pacing about the gloomy Engine Room, locked in from the outside.

“Did sh’ get ya too?”  asks Michael.

“Last thing I saw was this radiant beam,” recalls Buzz, “then I couldn’t move. Then I see the face of the Brazilian girlfriend of that old German creep. And that’s the last thing I remember.”

free-scifi-space-race“Aye, same for me.”

Buzz props up an unconscious Neil and taps him on the cheek.

Michael muses, “Out lik’ ‘n Irish Setta.”

“Michael, what’s that?” Buzz nods to a terminal radiation duct, slowly leaking, “That pink gas?”

“Th’ duct’s burst wide op’n! If I ‘adda guess, wear an’ tear.”

“Wear and tear? I thought this was a luxury cruise line!”

“I got ‘n idea, but ‘s a longshot… see that ventilation pipe?”

“The solid titanium pipe with collision-resistant thermo-enamel coating?”

“Aye. That pipe. Its output’s jus’ above th’ radioteletype inverter on th’ Bridge.”

“Of course. What about it?”

“Think ye can bust it op’n?”

“I can give it a shot. Why?”

“If I can juryrig th’ terminal radiation duct t’ that ventilation system, we’ll be able t’ breath long enough ‘til we can think o’ a way out.”

Neil murmurs in his slumber, unaware of the danger he’s in. Buzz can hardly see Collins, much less the pipe, through the noxious pink fog.

Buzz cracks his knuckles. “If this doesn’t work, Mike, it’s been an honor.”

#

When Neil Armstrong finally wakes up, Buzz and Michael have already escaped from the engine room thanks to a gaggle of lost elderly women looking for the Tea Room (Deck 3), thrown the poisoned corpses of Prescott’s ersatz crew overboard, and aired out the bridge of its redirected gas leak.

“Good morning, Captain,” greets Buzz.

Neil rubs his eyes, “Aldrin... Collins…”

“Yes, Captain?”

“Set course for the moon.”

“Aye, captain!”

“Not so fast,” Prescott saunters into the Bridge, aiming a Luger P.08 German service pistol at Neil’s forehead. “Next move made is your last.”

“What’s the big idea, Prescott?” scoffs Neil.

“You seem incapable of connecting the dots, Armstrong. You’re actually quite dense. The plan was: hijack the communications satellite Telstar 1 and broadcast a signal intrusion to Honeysuckle Creek Tracking Station during the first steps on the moon– when millions around the world are glued to their television sets.”

“Signal hijacking?” frowns Buzz.

“Yes, and since you ‘whiskey deltas’ can’t dogfight, we’ll just have to get a global audience under the pretense of a Soviet moon landing.”

“Wait a minute… that old German… he’s –”

As if on cue, Adolf Leipzig and his Brazilian traveling companion invade the bridge.

“Ja!!” he hollers, frothing at the mouth, “Und ve shall broadcast me! Zeh Americans und Zoviets sink they can separate zeh Fatherland vith a vall – zhis is zeh golden era of television! Zhere are no valls! I shall stir up not just zeh German people, but zeh entire vorld! Und vith a new army under my command, ve can complete zeh noblest und most sacred cause of racial purity, not just on Earth, but now on even zeh moon!”

“He’s a madman!” cries Buzz.

Neil growls at Prescott, “And what do you get out of all this?”

“By funding his first rise to power, I accrued an enormous fortune and remarkable political capital… and I stand to collect significantly greater profits during his next world war.”

“Traitor!” Neil cracks, striking his palm into Prescott’s nose. The pistol drops to the floor. Prescott takes a cocktail napkin from his pocket, rips it cleanly down the middle, rolls each half into thin wads, plugs one in each nostril to reduce the bleeding, then dives for the gun.

Adolf knocks down Collins with a spinning heel kick while Neil and Prescott play tug-of-war with the Luger. Cutinga shoves her light-diode trance-ray (a Lantern 450) in Buzz’s face, emitting a beam; however, Buzz wears mirrored sunglasses stolen off one of Prescott’s dead bodyguards. The hypnotic ray reflects from the lens into Cutinga’s quiet wide-set eyes—unwittingly stunned by her own weapon!

Prescott secures the pistol and discharges a few rounds at the astronauts.

Buzz buzzes, “Neil, kneel!”

Neil drops to a knee; a bullet ricochets off a Philco Twin-Tone Table Radio and sweeps Adolf’s nose clean off of his face.

“Mein nose!”

Neil nicks the pistol from Prescott and whips the butt against his head; the former senator sees stars as he corkscrews down to the vinyl-asbestos flooring.

 “You two just can’t keep your noses out of trouble, can you?” Neil knowingly chuckles.

“Cap’n!” Michael’s eyes scan the radar, “The Soviets are only 12 angular semi-parsecs from lunar touchdown!”

“Buzz, lock these conspirators in the engine room. Collins, did you install that multimetered gyroscopic modulator into the principal directioning system?”

Michael nods, “Aye, sir.”

“Then looks like we’re about to have ourselves a good ol’ fashioned space race.”

#

At this point the author would like to take pause and address any Hollywood producers who intend to option this story and turn it into a four-quadrant summer blockbuster combining elements of ‘edge of your seat’ action and tasteful period drama. Though the level of research that went into keeping this document as historically accurate as possible was diligent, to say the least, the author understands the fickle demands of an international market. Clever ADR (additional dialogue recording, also referred to as dubbing) during post-production can seamlessly alter the names of the two superpowers in competition. America and Soviet Russia could just as easily be replaced with “India and Pakistan” or “China and Taiwan” or “Iran and New Zealand” depending on the customary rival of the audience. A savvy director might only display flags by themselves when they are on-screen, as to allow clever editing to identify the ‘starring’ nation.

The author advises against the use of any iteration of “What a Wonderful World” in the trailer, as well as “Bad Moon Rising” and “Spirit in the Sky.” While these songs might highlight thematic framing, they do not adequately capture the zeitgeist of the setting as well as, say, “Surfin’ Bird” by the Trashmen.

Furthermore, promotional material should avoid placing emphasis on that iconic bit of dialogue “a good ol’ fashioned space race.” When Neil Armstrong uttered this eternal phrase, it was said with a true sense of gravitas; it would be disrespectful to usurp it as a mere soundbite for the sake of ticket sales. When the moment of delivery finally arrives, viewers shouldn’t come to expect it as a fulfillment of the worldwide advertising campaign, but rather they should feel they have been on the same incredible journey as these American [or otherwise dubbed] heroes.

#

The Luna 15, hurtling at 200 subparsons per second, is a mere 4 angular semi-parsecs from the moon when the cosmonauts notice a Low Earth Orbit Luxury Cruise Ship in their rear-view mirror. The Luna maneuvers an about-face, and Dmitri Zaikin evokes the physiological hyperarousal of his Mongol ancestors. The CF-11 is a steady target, but massive. This would call for the Luna’s most powerful weapon, the Szhatie Ship-Mounted Laser Cannon.

A pulsed energy projectile, roughly the same size and shape of a Ford Edsel, charges from the Luna and speeds toward the bow of the AVRO CF-11 Apollo-Series™…

#

“That was a big sucker that hit us!” screams Neil.

The impact causes the vessel to rotate with breakneck momentum; the centrifugal force combined with motion sickness results in a nauseating mess.

“If we keep spinnin’ at this rate,” Michael warns, “e’re gonna wind uppa ghostship floatin’ through infinite darkness.”

“Eagle,” crows Buzz, “if there’s a pilot alive who can save us, it’s you!”

Neil clutches the wheel and levels the hull, “Collins, engage the Titan II rockets… Buzz, flip on the offset stabilizers…”

The vessel screeches, bolts fly from the starboard hand, they’re grazed by another laser missile – but ultimately back on track.

“The Soviets are making their final descent!” yelps Buzz.

“Come with me, gentlemen,” instructs Neil, “The cruise director had something special in mind to help celebrate the first moon landing. It’s now time for the grand finale.”

#

All across planet Earth, television sets tune to the surface of the moon. A Westinghouse camera attached to a Lunar Module (sent with Gemini 12) transmits signals to Telstar 1. A flickering black and white image of the Luna 15 slowly descends towards the powdery gray surface.

Just as the President of the United States, pacing back and forth in the Oval Office, covers his eyes…

A flurry of tiny rockets bombard the Luna 15; one gets caught in the landing parachute, yanking the Russians away from the moon and up into endless space. The AVRO CF-11 lands on the surface as the tiny rockets combust into a brilliant performance of bright cascading colors… courtesy of Grucci Bros. stringless shell fireworks.

#

Neil’s footprints touch the concrete-like regolith, leaving behind man’s foremost extraterrestrial imprint.

“Such magnificent desolation…” Buzz awes, “Mankind can do anything.”

“Absolutely! But achievement only matters when man is in a state of freedom, not to achieve that forced upon him, but to realize the fruits of his own will. When man is truly free, Buzz, the moon’s not the limit… it’s just one small step for man."

Collins howls from the open air terrace (Deck 8), “We got ‘rselves some fugitives!”

Adolf and Prescott flee from the vessel, bouncing towards the dark side of Earth's only permanent natural satellite.

The Luna 15 nosedives into the rocky surface. The fuel supply combusts on impact, which reacts with the celebratory fireworks (creating what’s now known as the Clavius crater), and sends the overcooked remains of the Soviet cosmonauts, the German fear monger, and the former US senator up into the boundless expanse of cosmos just like the exploding stars of a Roman candle.

#

Michael Collins rams the US flag into the steely soil.

“You sure you want to stay on the moon?” asks Neil.

“Aye.” nods Collins, “Y’ know, ‘f America’s gonn’ stay ‘head the Soviets, we got t’ start a colony up here.” His hand gently reaches for Cutinga’s. “We’re gonn’ populate this rock.”

Cutinga bashfully gurgles as a means of acoustic signaling to express her willingness to breed.

“This has been the second most hazardous and dangerous and greatest adventure on which man has ever embarked,” proclaims Buzz.

Collins inquires, “What’s th’ first?”

“The next one!”

The trio laugh, but know this is goodbye.

#

The AVRO CF-11 uneventfully lifts off and is barely 2 circumshifts from the moon’s orbit when Neil clasps his chin and quizzically gazes at the positioning grid.

“Something wrong, Eagle?”

“Well, Aldrin, it just dawned on me. We didn’t beat the Russians. American spirit and ingenuity did. We’re merely products of a culture with certain intangibles – lateral thinking, outlaw sensibilities, a yearning for exploration…”

“I’m with you...”

“The moon is just the beginning… there’s plenty of other celestial objects the Soviets will be looking to land on first. And if we don’t act now, they just might!”

Buzz stands, thrilled, “We got a multimetered gyroscopic modulator in the principal directioning system and enough coffee and gasoline to drive up and down Route 66 twenty million times!”

“Then it’d be wasteful to go back home now, wouldn’t you say?!”

“Where to next, captain?”

Neil inhales, proudly. “The sun.”

“Yes, sir! Setting coordinates. Tilting forward stern. Activating thrusters!”

“Now this is what I call a giant leap for mankind.”

###

About the Creator

Nicholas Gentile's full published body of short stories appears in its entirety as-is above. Prior to this publication, a stage adaptation of "Space Race" brought daring thrills, strange romance, and the spine-tingling truth behind mankind's greatest adventure to audiences in New York City. He is considered one of the great beauties of our time.

Nicholas' Dear Aunty Stanky question can be found here.

World's Shortest Creator Interview

If you were to write a ten-volume epic fantasy starring a punctuation mark, which would it be and why? What would the one-sentence plot summary be?

When a semi-colon is mysteriously hired for an operations management position at a retail outlet mall, he discovers that an operations management position at a retail outlet mall isn't everything it appears to be. The semi-colon is the perfect protagonist, as it's not quite a comma, not quite a colon, it's separating of clauses serves as metaphor for being a mediator stuck between two works, in search of its own identity.

If you had to sing the plea of humanity for continued survival, what would the chorus be and what existing melody would you use?

I actually wrote the following song with this express purpose quite a few years ago. I feel it could be quite effective if the circumstances arise:

About the Artists

Pizar_kestrap and Yuri_B can be found on Pixabay.

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