Sunday, January 4, 2015

"SATELLITE!" by Anonymous/Unknown

"SATELLITE!"
Anonymous/Unknown

On Earth people looked up at the sky and saw the huge United Nations Satellite making its orbit around the Earth, between the Earth and the Moon, and there was a name on everyone's tongue, a name that had become as intimate as each individual's own name.

"Bannon," they said. "Bannon's up there in the Satellite. The first person to man it."

And they'd look at each other with the wonderment of it all in their eyes and say, "The stepping stone to the Moon, they say. Ship is being built now to stop first at the Satellite to refuel and then hop on to the Moon. Wonder if the Satellite will stop the war we've been so afraid'll break out? They say the H-Bomb Warhead Guided Missiles in the Satellite are so powerful even the scientists won't commit themselves on their power. Could destroy everything, Earth itself, if they were used. They're counting on the Satellite and its pin-point Missiles as a threat big enough to make it necessary to use those missiles."

People would stop and think awhile about these things. Then the smile would come and they'd shake their heads and go back to the name again.

"Bannon! You've got to give that guy credit. The first man up there and has to stay all alone for a month, and brother, that's being alone, up there."

***

Bannon watched the ship that had brought him to the Satellite fade swiftly away until it was but a dark speck plunging toward Earth. He was alone now. Sure he'd gone through extensive training and conditioning on Earth. But this was different, this was the real thing. On Earth it was only make believe, Preparation. This now, this was the real thing.

He had his long look at Earth... it seemed so distant, so unattainable, and for a moment panic took hold of him. Would he ever get back to it? What was he doing out here on the edge of nowhere anyhow, swinging through infinity like a lost soul between Heaven and Earth? He clamped control upon himself. This would never do. The first few minutes alone and he was panicking. He turned to the radio hurriedly and signalled.

There was static for a few minutes then the voice came, the welcome voice, the voice that was his thread with Earth, his sole connection with the great Mother of Man, Earth, the environment which the human being had been made and molded for.

"Earth calling Satellite. Hi, Bannon. This is Martin here. Anytime you feel lonesome just give me a call and we'll chat. Everything O.K.?"

"Satellite here. Everything O.K.! Just checking. Good to hear you. It brings Earth a little closer. Time for a check of the place. Call you later. Over and out."

A gong rang. Checking time. Bannon walked to the control room. Artificial gravitation approximating Earth gravity made walking normal. Everything had been done that could be done to make the Satellite as close to Earth conditions as possible.

"Except for the aloneness... and the boredom that will come, being alone for a month with no one to talk to, cooped up in this tiny jail of a world."

He paused on his way to the control room to look out at the Moon, huge and silvery, so close he felt he could almost reach out his hand and touch it.

"Next step, Moon. But not for me. Let someone else do that, I'll settle for this, the Satellite. After I'm through I'll hand space over to others."

He checked the plant tanks where oxygen was manufactured and which supplied him with fresh vegetables. He checked the gravitational field and made readings from the myriad instruments. Then he went on to the weapons chamber.

The monster missiles slept in their metal caves, juggernauts of destruction awaiting the turn of a dial, the pull of a switch to awaken and roar out into the frozen, airless darkness, smashing toward Earth with their cargoes of death, pinpointed to an area of less than five hundred yards.

"Satellite calling Earth. Satellite calling Earth. Come in please, Earth. Bannon speaking. Over."

"More powerful than any atomic weapon yet tested. No one actually knows just how powerful they are or what changes can be made in them while traveling through space to their destination."

Bannon moved on, back to the lounge where he would do most of his living in the month to come. Already the walls seemed to be closing in on him and boredom came stealing tiptoe into his mind. Mentally he shook himself and called up all the things he had learned, all the powers he had been taught and conditioned to use.

A bell rang urgently. Warning bell.

Bannon jumped up and hurried to the control room. Red lights burned. The danger was from without, not from within. He pressed a button. A shield slid silently away giving him a view of the vast Heavens. And then he saw the danger, smashing toward the Satellite like monster, fiery bullets.

"Meteor swarm," he gasped.

Suddenly he felt a shock. The warning bell clanged and shrilled. The hands on a dial went mad for a moment then settled down. Bannon took the reading, his heart beating madly. He rushed to the radio and called Earth.

"Satellite to Earth. Do you read me? Meteor swarm. The meter shows that the Satellite has been hit just above the weapons bay. I'm going to examine it and repair it. I'll call back."

"Earth to Satellite. O.K. Bannon. Do your repairs first and you can report later. And be careful, son. We need you up there. Couldn't get another man to take over for two weeks at the least. Over and out."

Bannon hastened to the weapons chamber. He sighed with relief when he saw that the meteor damage had been slight and easily repaired. Methodically he went about making the rapairs needed, soldering, patching, making the globe whole again. When the ship came with his relief they would bring people from maintenance crew to check and make final repairs.

He went back to the radio to report. But before he clicked the lever for Earth contact the warning bell sounded again. The dial showed the danger came from earthside. Carefully, quickly, he scanned Earth through the sonicscope. Then he saw it... the tiny flash on Earth, then another and another, close together and... in territory that was communist controlled.

A chill ran through him as he contacted Earth. Was this it? Had they started even with the threat of the Satellite overhead? He touched a button that would shift the monster fissionable missiles into their firing sleeves while he waited for his contact with Earth. The voice came then and he reported, and listened grimly to the answer.

"Stand by to fire. Check will be made immediately. Pinpoint your target and be ready... and pray that you don't have to pull that switch, Bannon."

Silence. Bannon clicked switches on the weapons instrument board, pinpointing his target. The salt of sweat was on his lips, a bitter taste. Suppose he fixed the missiles and, when they struck they began a chain nuclear reaction which destroyed Earth. It was possible. And then... then he would be really alone, left up here in the Satellite, the last man, looking down at a ruined Earth... an Earth that he had ravished. Alone forever... and insanity plucked at his mind for a moment...

"Earth to Satellite. Relax Bannon. The flashes you saw were from a few of the rocks in that meteor swarm that hit you. Over and out."

Bannon sighed, clicked switches on the weapons board and leaned back. He looked at the clock. Only one day gone. Twenty-nine left. How would he ever stand the boredom he wondered...

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