24:2 General Shorty

OUTER SPACE  |  2055

“Captain, I’ve been trying to reach Mission Control, but communications are still down,” Konstantinov started talking as soon as she heard Major approach. As she didn’t bother to turn around, she couldn’t see how shaken the captain looked upon returning from the sick bay.

“What are you talking about?” Major snapped out of it and sprang into action, glad to have something—anything—else to focus on. As he slid into his seat, he began methodically trying to hail the base. “What happened, Nika?”

“Didn’t Pape tell you?” she spat. “We got a message that Mission Control was somehow under attack. I immediately sent her down to tell you.”

“Don’t be so hard on her,” Major said. “We were all a little shocked by what we saw down there.”

“Is it Bjoern?” Konstantinov asked. “Is he going to be all right?”

Major stopped flipping switches long enough to give Konstantinov his full attention. “I don’t know the answer to either of those questions right now.”

Jefferson One, this is General David Wadis of the Glorified Liberation of the World, do you read?” the radio crackled to unexpected life causing both astronauts to jump.

Major and Konstantinov turned toward each other with the patented what fresh hell is this? look they had perfected over the course of their training.

“Answer it,” Konstantinov mouthed as though she could already be heard.

Major clicked on and replied, “Mission Control, this is Jefferson One.”

“Captain Major, I presume?” The voice shot back.

“One and the same,” Major answered, wondering who this person expected to be answering the radio in the tin can floating hundreds of miles above Baja Nuevo. “General, can I ask you what is going on down there? We are in the final stages of launching a world-critical operation here.”

“I am well aware of your operation, captain,” the radio barked. “I’m afraid we can’t allow you to see it through. Sorry.”

“What organization did you say you were with? Who has given you the authority to sideline this mission?”

“We are G.L.O.W., the Glorified Liberation of the World,” the general boasted. “Our authority comes straight from God.”

Konstantinov rolled her eyes. “Wouldn’t that be G.L.O.T.W.?”

“Maybe you can leave out the articles when developing acronyms,” Major chuckled despite—or perhaps due to—the dire situation. “Want me to ask him?”

“We believe that the comet is God’s way of cleansing the Earth,” Wadis continued, clearly in love with the sound of his own voice. “To interfere with it would be to ignore His will. We do that at our peril.”

“A peril worse than getting smashed by a world-killing comet?” Konstantinov interjected, quickly losing her patience. “This is ridiculous. This fool is wasting precious time.”

“God is a righteous judge, and a God who has indignation every day,” Wadis continued. “If a man does not repent, He will sharpen His sword; He has bent His bow and made it ready.”

Psalm 7:11-12,” Major parried.

“So you are a man of God, captain?” Wadis asked, surprised.

“I am a man,” Major answered. “If I was indeed created by a divine power, then I guess I had better be sure to do my damnedest to fulfill my purpose. Why would any God give us the means to avert this catastrophe if it didn’t want us to use it? To sit and do nothing seems like more of an affront to me.”

“Oh, but captain,” Wadis sprung, “the flaw in your logic is that your science was not given to you by God. It is Satan himself that has led the world to the sorry state it’s in. What do you think God’s promise to Noah meant when he said ‘that the earth and those living on it will never again be destroyed by a flood?’ It meant the next time would be by fire.”

“I’ve heard enough,” Konstantinov declared. “Cut off communication.”

“I sense your hesitation, captain,” Wadis bemoaned. “That’s why we give you until 0600 to prove that you and your crew are disengaging from the mission, or I’m afraid we will have to blow the Jefferson One out of orbit. Again, sorry.”

“I hate this fucking guy,” Konstantinov cursed. “I want to go down and cut his legs.”

“Nika, prepare the crew for leaving Earth orbit. We have to get as far away as we can, quickly.” “Yes, captain,” she acquiesced. “This Wadis had better find himself a deep hole to hide in by the time we get back, or his little G.L.O.T.W. friends are going to be calling him ‘General korotyshka.’”

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