(Part 6) M31: First Blood
Posted By: Greg and Wes Foutch
Date: 28 July 2003, 1:44 AM
General Russ McAllister hesitated when asked to command the crew of the U.S.S. Santa Maria. It was not for lack of courage, ability, or will. It was not even, that didn't want to leave Earth. The fact of the matter was Russ had a family to think of; he just couldn't imagine leaving his wife and kids.
It was not as if he hadn't been away before. No, that wasn't it. He had been away, often for years, the longest being 4. Yet, he didn't want to be away. This was different. This time he wouldn't just be halfway around the world. He would be light years away, in outer space. If something happened, he couldn't just be shipped home, he would have to endure the mission. He would have to face whatever it was he would, good or bad. And whatever happened, he would never see his family again. It would only be a matter of years before the destination was reached. Light speed had been doubled over many times; anything less would be unacceptable.
His wife, Valeri, could easily support their three kids (John, Steve, and Joe). After all, working as an Aerospace Engineer and making 120 grand a year wasn't exactly hard times. It would be hard on her, but Valerie saw that Russ had to go, for humankind. As much as she didn't want him to, she told Russ that he should go. The General reluctantly agreed.
Is this a mistake? Russ thought as the taxi pulled away from his two story, four-bedroom house. For years, he and his family lived in that house. He had been in retirement for three years, and he was enjoying it. Ever since he joined the force, he had been in and out of the U.S., often being shipped to foreign countries to deal with the crisis. That is until he was promoted to General. He was more of a tactician than a fighter, so he was assigned a desk job. That was fine with him; he couldn't get around as well after getting shot in the leg during one particularly bad riot in Iraq. After six years at his desk job, Russ went into an early retirement to spend time with his wife and kids. And he lived happily ever after. He wished. The taxi was leaving the local area, headed for Los Angeles International Airport.
He had declined the opportunity to catch a ride from Beale Air Force Base; he wanted time to think. So he made a phone call and set up the flight for the next 747 to D.C.
As he exited the taxi he hesitated, standing by the door. Russ slammed the door of the taxi shut, and he walked up the steps to the main lobby. He found the area for his flight and grabbed his one bag. He didn't mind walking to the other side of the airport; he took every chance he could to observe, just watch the people. He noticed that the airport seemed empty, well, empty compared to normal anyway. It seemed like the souvenir shops, normally bustling with people, were seemingly vacant, with only a few people here and there. He was sure why, but he knew that he didn't like it.
He looked up. His plane was just down the large corridor. As he approached the service desk, he looked out the window. A 747 took off from the runway, just as another landed on the adjacent strip. A plane was nearing his boarding door, NORTHWEST printed on the side.
The sign above the boarding entrance lit up, and only then did Russ realize that his 747 had attached to the extended hallway. He hand the lady at the desk his tickets and boarded the Boeing. He walked almost as far forward as possible, up to first-class. As he sat down he opened his carry on: a black briefcase containing his notebook PC and important papers. His mission brief was lying on the top of his notebook PC. I've never seen this, he thought. I bet Valeri picked it up off the fax. He quickly read through it, thinking about the upcoming mission. He couldn't even imagine what he would be up against. At least I'll be up there with the best of them.
He was pushed back into his as the plane accelerated to speed. As soon as the aircraft lifted off the ground, Russ heard the faint hydraulic hum as the gears were lifted into the belly of the beast. It's too late now, he thought as he slipped the briefing papers into his carry on.