Join Date: Jun 2002
With a nuclear war about to begin, two men steal a spacecraft to take their families to a new planet.
“Frank? Hey, Frank! Are you going to act or what?”. Wednesday night poker. A ritual maintained by a group of men whose wives are friends. A ritual in place to sate the gathering's mutual need to gamble in a state which regulated such things. A ritual which, every passing Wednesday, was being exposed for what it was; pointless. The jovial small talk to small town affairs had been slowly chipped away, and, in its' place, a humour, which, had any of the men been comfortable enough to discuss it, would have been described as strange. This “humour” was the product of a group of men with a common death sentence. A group of men who, in the face of nuclear Armageddon, found themselves hilariously moving pieces of card and circular plastic chips around a kitchen table.
“Frank you're holding up the God damn game!”, cried John with faux-excitement. His mouth smiled, but his eyes were stoney. “You seem pretty eager to hurry this round along, John. Too eager. I fold”, replied Frank. A round of raucous laughter followed. Abiding the norms, going through the motions.
The clock read 10:17. Beer cans and snack bowls were empty. Around the table hung a cloud of cigarette smoke. Eyes were getting heavy. Julian Benson stretched back in his chair and, mid contortion, check his wristwatch. “Time's getting on, gentlemen. I think it's about time we settled”. They tallied up the evening's wagers. Frank was down $7.
People began to get jackets and check for keys and wallets. Frank was donning his coat when John asked “Hey, uh, Franko, why don't you hang back, help me clear this place up a bit”,”Yeah yeah, sure Johnny”,”I'll see you fella's tomorrow”, said Gordon, the last to leave, as he put on his trilby. “Yeah, good luck Gordon”, said John. Gordon closed the door behind himself.
Frank made his way over to the table and, eagle-claw fashion, picked up the empty bowls and glasses. He brought these to the sink and slid them into the warm, soapy water. He then pulled a bowl from the water and proceeded to work his way around the edge with a wet cloth. At this point John was wiping down the table.
“Good game tonight, huh?”, said John, not looking up from the table. “For you, anyway”, replied Frank, not looking away from his windowed reflection against the darkness.
He heard the noise of wet Jay-cloth on table cover stop, and the groan of a chair bearing a load. “Frank”. Frank set down the bowl and turned to face the table. “This whole, war, going on between us and the commies. It just keeps getting bigger and bigger. You've got to have thought about it”. Frank had thought about the impending Nuclear Holocaust, quite a bit, as he lay awake beside his sleeping wife. Frank had had a few ideas. Escaping to the countryside, as much good as it would do. Trying the slim chance of finding a bunker, or a place in a vault. Suicide had crossed his mind. “Yeah, I've thought about it. What are you getting at?”, replied Frank, a hint of aggression in his voice.” Well, I've thought about doing something”. John spoke in the manner of a timid teenager asking a girl out; trying to convey intention without explicitly saying anything. “I think, uh...”. He took his zippo out from his pocket and began to flick it open and closed, eyes fixed on the lighter. “You know the Jones' have that class 8 rocket?”.
Everyone had heard of the Jones' rocket. What's the point in buying something excessively expensive, if you weren't going to brag about it.Rockets themselves weren't anything out of the ordinary, but there were two things which made the Jones' rocket special. The first was , of course, its' class 8 rating. Class 5 was the standard fare for middle-income families; powerful enough for intercontinental travel, or a day trip to the moon. But a class 8 rocket was capable of interplanetary travel.
The second oddity of the Jones' rocket was that, presumably, it still existed.
Two months prior, the US government ordered a recall of all recreational rockets, so as that they could go towards the war effort. How they were being used was anyone's guess. Relieved owners were compensated in war bonds, and everyone watched and counted as, one by one, backyard irises opened and silver arrows shot off into the sky, never to return.
The launch of the Jones rocket was highly anticipated, but never materialised. The general consensus was that this had something to do with Ron Jones' military connections. Ron worked for the military, to what capacity nobody was entirely sure. That he was a scient hhh
Crucially, the rocket was presumably unattended. The valley of half drawn curtains and lifted venetian blinds spied the family filling their car with what, by all accounts, looked like more that a regular holiday's worth of necessities. No one had crossed the threshold since then.
“And what have you got planned”, asked Frank, a note of wonder in his voice, as if he was on the cusp of being relieved. “I've got it figured out, sort of”, replied John. “Friday night, we get our families to have everything we need packed, and go to some place out of town. Then you and me go over to the Jones', fly the rocket out to the others, pick them up, and leave.”,”Leave to where, John?”,”Leave to Mars.”. There was an audible pause. “We, we land in an undeveloped part and make our way into a settlement. Once we're there they can't deport us back to Earth”. Frank pinched the bridge of his nose, as he was inclined to do under stress. “But, John, what about...what about security at Ron's house?”,”I've got the EMP gun we use in work. Frank, I've got this worked out”. John stood up. “You're going to have to trust me on this. It's our only chance.”
Frank Bemis, a man down on his luck. A man who finished a night of gambling at a loss, and tried to earn it all back with one final wager. Unknown to himself, Frank has just gambled his way into, The Twilight Zone.
“The family all set?”, asked Frank. “Yeah yeah, all packed and ready”, replied John. The two men were standing in the backyard of the Jones' house. John had the EMP gun, a device which resembled the Proton Pack from Ghostbusters. ”Ready when you are”, said John. Frank gave a curt nod. John directed the gun at the house, then held the trigger. The supercapacitor in the gun's pack wined in ever-increasing pitch as they charged, before entering a sound frequency too high for humans ears. A filament bulb on the gun's barrel lit up, telling John that it was ready for use. The gun's simple internal electronics were all analogue, to protect it from itself.
Aiming the gun, John pressed a red button on the barrel. There was no visible emission, at least perceivable to regular eyes, but the effects could be seen.
The houses security alarm flashed a frantic, over-bright blue, before extinguishing. WhiteSec, the houses monitoring company, would be notified, but they had enough of a window to launch the rocket.
More worrying than the alarm was the audible crash heard from within the house. “What was that?” said Frank in a hushed tone. “I don't know, maybe Ron had a 'bot clean the place. Whatever it is it's 'safe' now”.
They made their way up to the back door. "So, why do you think Ron was able to keep his rocket?", asked Frank. " 'Cause he's in the military, isn't that what everyone's saying? You know it really gets to me that our taxes pay these guys and their the only ones who get a bit of security! And what do they need our vehicles for anyway? They're hardly practical for the war.". Frank shrugged his shoulders. "I don't know, maybe they're using them for parts, building nukes and shipping them out to Nevada","Why Nevada?","Well where else would you hide a Nuke, but out in a desert". Reaching the door, Frank took off his jumper, wrapped his arm in it and proceeded to smash the door's window. He then dropped his hand down and opened the door from the inside.
The two men crept quietly into the dark kitchen. They crossed over the room to the hallway door. Upon opening it, they were confronted with the source of the crash.
Before them lay a 'dead' Norden Mark 15 military sentinel robot, in a heap, its' eye-lights dimly flickering. “What the hell is this doing here?”, exclaimed Frank, “This isn't right John”, “It's fine, Frank, it's dead!”,”We should get out of here, we go, and we get everyone else, and we forget about this”,”Christ, Frank! We've come this far. Come on!”. John hurried down the hall, and through the door to the stairs which led to the garage.
“Look for a light switch there” said John in the pitch dark room, a request met with with the sound of hands grouping walls, then the click of a switch and a momentarily blinding light.
After adjusting to the light, they were presented with a stripped room. Thick cables ran unorganised between tall, headless, reel-to-reel computer which coolly spun their spools of dark magnetic tape. And in the center, its' lower half sunk into closely fitting hole under the chrome aperture Iris, the rocket. “What are these computers here for?”, said Frank. “I don't know, maybe they're from Ron's work or something.”,“Why has the room been gutted like this?”,“Does it matter? We don't have much time. I'll get the Iris open, you check the rocket out.”. Frank made his way over to the rockets side door and pulled it open. He then clambered inside. The rocket, it seemed, had suffered the same faith as the room.
The mod-cons expected in a rocket of this calibre were not there. Carpets had been lifted, bunks had been removed. Doors had been taken out, as had wall panels, baring subcutaneous wires, pipes and ducts. Even stranger was the large, circular plate of metal in place over the passage to the rocket's nose, the observation deck of the ship. Frank carefully made his way over to the plate and moved his fingers tentatively around the edge, gently prying at the obstruction. The plate was uncompromising, seemingly welded in place.
John appeared at the door, his voice startling Frank. “Iris is ready. We need to get this started up. WhiteSec will be here any minute”. Frank didn't question the order, and they both made their way to the navigations room in the rocket. The room had suffered the same faith as the antechamber, though the terminal for entering in coordinates was still intact. John jabbed at the power button. Both men anxiously watched the boot up sequence.
Instead of the ordinary VTec Rocket Technologies logo that came up on every rocket's terminal boot screen, a green picture of the patriotic eagle was splashed for a few seconds, before lines of script began to run down the screen. “Hmm, Ron must have some custom ROM running on the rocket, I've never seen a terminal boot verbose”. A bead of sweat ran down Frank's brow, and dripped onto the cold metal floor.
Unexpectedly, the rocket's engines rumbled into life. “What in Christ's name?! Did you mess with this, Frank?”,“No! What's going on John?”. The rocket's door locked, and Frank felt himself become heavier as the rocket made it's way into the air. A series of numbers flashed on screen. "Those look like coordinates!", said John,"Coordinates...coordinates on earth. Yeah, 09...f9, that's Earth! 11...02. That's, that's, Russia? Was Ron a commie?". This makes no sense, thought Frank. He began to think frantically. The security robot. The computers in the garage. The gutted rocket. The sealed off nose. "I can't change the coordinates! I can't get it to....Frank?" . Frank dashed up to the rocket's nose. Looking around, he found a metal rod, and, wedging it in between the metal plate and the frame, pushed on the makeshift lever with all he could. The plate came away.
Filling the observation deck were dark green canisters, wired together with red and blue wire. And on the canisters was a universal symbol. The warning sign of a Nuclear isotope.
Frank Bemis. A man who placed one final bet. And lost. Mr. Frank Bemis in, the Twilight Zone.