Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Of Bombs and Ice-Cream

This well-written, interesting short story was submitted by Jonathan 'zoul-K' Kong. You can submit your essay and get it published on this blog too!

Her slender figure slumped restlessly against the window. She gazed out at the multitude of brightly coloured stars that lay before her.

Commander Assyria’s eyes were fixed on the big rock of green and blue that floated helplessly in space from her small, circular window panel located in her private quarters up in space aboard the Ulysses VI. She could not help but think how much she missed home so much ever since she had left for duty onboard the Ulysses fourteen months ago.

“Many things must’ve changed since I left. What with the growing turmoil that was going on somewhere in the Middle East the last I heard of. I do hope things have settled down back there.”

At that moment, Commander Assyria’s second in command on the Ulysses, Fleet Commander Lucas Bishop entered her quarters as the doors separating the quarters with the main hallway slid open with a silenced hush.

“Gazing out at Mother Earth again, I reckon? Doesn’t she just grow on you out here in space?”

“Here you go again with your senseless ramblings, eh?” joked Assyria.

“Oh well, that’s Luke! Anyway, I came here to tell you about a video conference with the United Nations later on at 1400 hours.”

Commander Assyria nodded appropriately and sent Lucas off to dwell on his never-ending ‘philosophies’ he calls ‘The Lucas Way’. Most probably a pun he picked up from studying The Milky Way for aeons.

“Another round of pointless debates with the UN again. It’s not as if there’s a meteorite whizzing past us every other day.”

Checking her data pad and seeing as how she still had a few more minutes to spare, she made a beeline to the station’s canteen for a nice, hot cup of coffee to keep her on track throughout the meeting.

Moments later, she settled herself down comfortably in her commander’s chair inside the conference room. The video screen immediately flickered to life and the familiar logo of the United Nations visualised onscreen. After a momentary pause, Dr. Sergio Camacho-Lara, the Director of Space Affairs appeared.

“It’s good to see you once again, Assyria. I trust things are going well up there?” said the doctor with his thick Mexican accent.

“As right as rain, director! Although we hardly EVER see it up here,” laughed Assyria.

“Good, good. Assyria, there’s something important I felt that I needed to tell you personally. It’s regarding your… family.”

“What… what is it, director? What has happened to my family?!” demanded Assyria with a clearly anxious tone compared to a few seconds ago. Her facial expression had changed almost quite instantly, almost as pale as a ghost.

“Well, it’s not going to be easy to say. There was… there was a recent terrorist attack against your home country. There were bomb blasts all around the main city. We fear that the casualty count has reached an all time high. Seeing as how your family stays nearby the city, we cannot help but wonder if they… had managed to survive.”

She sat in her seat motionless, silently watching the steam rising from her mug of coffee. Now speaking with a tone of distraught, Assyria said, “I’m sorry, director, but I will need some time to myself to think about this. Thank you for informing me.” With that, she immediately cut off the feed not giving the director time to even respond to her statement. She hastily made her way back to her private quarters to regain her composure.

She lay huddled in bed emotionally lost in her thoughts. She did not know what to make of the recent events that had just taken place. Outside her quarters, a few crew members had gathered wondering why their commander had been in there for such a long time. Lucas came whistling by and noticed the commotion.

“Hey! What’s going on? The commander got herself stuck trying on her spacesuit again? Boy, that was a scene I’d never forget.” laughed Lucas.

“It’s not that, Sir. The commander has been in there for quite a long time. She refused to see anyone at all. It’s quite unusual for her to be like this, isn’t it?”

“Indeed. I’ll go in and have a talk with her. The rest of you, carry on with your duties.” Following that, he rapped on the door and allowed himself in. Seeing her curled up into a ball on the bed, he calmly walked and sat down next to her.

“Ria, what’s going on? This is very unlike you.”

“Luke, my family… my… family… bombing… gone… gone! I hate… I hate this world. I hate the cruelty. The wars. The discrimination. I hate it all!”

Visibly shaken, Lucas tried his best to comfort her by putting his arm around her and holding her close. “Don’t worry, Ria. There’s still hope. They may still be alive. You need to be strong.”

“If I could change the world… THIS world… I’d just wish for all this pain and suffering to disappear forever! Wars… they don’t help further any cause. All they do is cause destruction and agony all over the world. The Earth… it looks beautiful from up here, but true evil lies snugly beneath it. How I wish I had the power to stop all these catastrophic events from happening. It hurts… It hurts my heart deeply… Luke…”

“If I could change the world,” paused Lucas. “I would’ve wanted it to be a peaceful world. A world where everyone could live together despite racial and religious differences. These are the things that ultimately give rise to wars and terrorism. It’s something all of us could do without… I’m sure anyone in their right mind would agree heartily…”

Assyria quietly leaned on Lucas’ side. She did not want to move too much as the emotional burden she was experiencing was too great. She felt relieved that she could share this burden of hers with Lucas.

“Luke, I’m going to be on the first shuttle leaving the Ulysses back to Earth. I hope you understand why. I want to look for my family or whatever traces that are left of them – my quest,” concluded Assyria.

“I understand, Ria. I’ll take over for you onboard the Ulysses until you’re ready to come back. I wish you God-speed.”

A few days later, the shuttle heading for Cape Caneveral, Florida was fuelled and ready for departure. By that time, Assyria was all packed and ready to embark on her mission – the search for her family, the moment she touched ground.

Before entering the shuttle, she managed to say her goodbyes to her crew. At the entrance to the shuttle, she found Luke waiting for her with a nervous look on his face.

“Why the look, Luke? Feeling sad that I’m leaving?” teased Assyria.

“Um… Ria, before you go, I just wanted to tell you that… there will be a ring with your name on it waiting for you when you return.”

Knowing conclusively what this meant, Assyria could not contain her emotions and hugged Luke affectionately. Without saying a word, she kissed him on his cheek and boarded the shuttle.

Luke, who was now all smiles, watched from the window panel of the station as the shuttle undocked itself from the Ulysses and began its voyage towards Earth. After watching the shuttle float steadily towards Earth, Luke turned around towards his crew and said, “Anyone for vacuum-packed ice-cream?”

Enormous groans emanated throughout the cabin crew as they were all too familiar with the awkward and near-rancid taste of the NASA quality-approved ‘I Scream’ as most crewmembers called it.

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