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Monday, December 24, 2012

Hammerhead Resurrection by @jasonandrewbond #NaNoWriMo


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Hammerhead Resurrection

Sequel to Hammerhead

Written by Jason Andrew Bond







(Raw) NaNo Excerpt


Leif looked out the thick leaded window to the white sheet of Europa.  Above, the curved shape of Jupiter hung like an orange and red banded Convex sky.  He touched the glass, warm despite the temperature being barely above 60 degrees Kelvin.  He had heard of temperatures at -100 degrees farenheit on Earth’s poles during winter.  The deep ice sheets he looked out on now lay locked in at -350. 

“So how’d you sleep last night.”

“Fine,” he said and turned to his wife Sarah.  She smiled at him as she pulled her straight red hair back into a pony tail and wrapped a band around it.  “You say you slept well but your eyes tell a different story.”   She walked up to him and touched his face.  Her jade green eyes searching his face as her fingertips moved across his jaw.  “Why aren’t you sleeping?”

“Don’t know,” Leif said, “Everything is going well.  He turned back and looked out the window to where a fusion rover hand just come into view moving away from the compound.  It’s wheels were insulated to keep the heat of the rover off the ice, which could explosively boil in the vacuume with temperature increases.  “The cores we have are amazing.  We’re gathering so much data.”

“Maybe too much.” Sara turned him to face her.  “You’ve been working too many hours Leif, you need to take a break.”

“And do what?” Leif said shrugging, “There’s nothing to do out here but work.”

“Not nothing.” She smiled and ran her fingers down his shirt to his belt.  She pulled the tail of it free.  “But,” she said stopping and patting his face, “I have to get down to my lab to check out the analysis on the samples that came in yesterday.”

“You’re a cruel woman.”

“Which is why you love me.”

“That and a thousand other reasons.”

She gave him the smile he had first scene at Stanford where he had gone after leaving the Army.  His brushes with death with his father and Stacy had brought something out in him, some drive to do more with the life which had nearly been cut short.  He remembered every day the moment he had been set free from thinking of the beautiful Stacy Zack who he had quietly fallen in love with, hopelessly fallen in love with really.  He had walked into the dorms and his new roommate had introduced him to his sister who was in her second year and three years younger than the out of place Leif holt.  His roommate had introduced himself and then stepped aside and said, “This is my sister Sarah.” She sat in the vynil padded chair at the computer terminal and when she turned her head her long straight red hair had bent over her shoulder like a river of dark magma, and when he saw those jade green eyes for the first time he knew he would love her the rest of his life.  He sat down on the bed because he felt his legs wouldn’t hold him and he had said something to her, but he had no idea what it was.

He could remember every moment from when he met her.  He recalled seeing her walking with her boyfriend the next day and felt his heart crush.  He had told himself he would put her out of his mind.  But he couldn’t.  He thought of her every waking moment and when he found her alone one night walking along, he had offered to walk her to where she was going.  She told him she was walking to her boyfriend’s apartment.  He had still offered to walk her there and she had accepted with an unsure look.  He had no idea what to say to her, and he stole glances at her lean legs in wool pants, and the curve of her hip and the delicate shape of her shoulders and scarf wrapped neck.

As they walked the winter wind curled her hair around her neck and face and she had to keep drawing it away from her lips with her fingers, pale and nimble.  And with each movement she made, every step, every word his heart ran quickly.  They had walked in silence for some time until she asked what he was here for.  When he had told her he had come to study languages, she had assumed there would be one.  “Which one?”  “All of them” he had said.  “I need a basis for linguistics for when we reach out and finally contact intelligent life.”

“I hope we never contact intelligent life again.”

He had nodded and fought the urge to brag on his father.  The war had been gone fifty years now and his dad didn’t like to speak of it, so Leif tried to respect that, but still he found himself with nothing else to say.

“My dad was a Hammerhead.”

She had stopped and turned to him and looked at him with one eye narrowing, distrustful.  “Are you messing with me?”

“No.”

“I thought they were all dead.”

“He’s one of the last ones left alive.”

“It’s not… Holt?”

He nodded at that.

“You’re Leif Holt?”

He shrugged at that.  He had become somewhat of a celebrity after the Naval fleet had to jettison all of its reactors.  They would have liked to cover it up, he was sure, but instead the press had hounded them.  Admiral Samuel Cantwell had opted for enough transparency as was prudent and that involved glossing over what the threat had been, but shoving Leif, Stacy and his father out into the limelight. 

“You’re kidding me.  I remember seeing you on TV,” she looked him over, “I had a big crush on you.”

He thought he might fall over.

“But look at you now.”

But look at me now?  That made him freeze, what kind of an mess did he look like to her.

“You were pretty skinny then, but still cute as hell.  Now you’re a man.  You look like your father.”

He smiled at that, “That whole thing had quite an impact on me.”  And then without realizing he was doing it, he told her what he had never told anyone, barely even let himself realize until then, “I had a huge crush on Stacy Zack, and well you’ve seen her on the TV, she’s a freakin’ badass.  So I started working out in the hopes of catching up to her.”

“Did it work?”

He looked down at Sarah’s delicate fingers, so much different than Stacy’s more compact hands.  “Not in the slightest.”  A small laugh escaped him, “But I found that I really felt better being active and stuck with it.”

“Good, it suits you.”

“Too bad you have a boyfriend I suppose.”  What the hell was that Leif, but the thought was already out and he felt so awkward for the whole exchange, opening his heart to a total stranger.  She looked away and blushed and after a moment shrugged and said, well I better get going.  He had thought to just walk away from her then, but he had made a commitment to get her to her boyfriend’s apartment. 

Always the fool.

He jogged to keep up with her and told her he’d walk her the rest of the way and she hadn’t said anything.  When they reached a tall apartment complex, with a gate, her boyfriend must have money, she turned to him and gave him a smile that struck him as strange and he thought to himself that she was the one again.  He just felt it down in his heart and his pulse crested and he felt dizzy and he thought to himself if you don’t do this now, you’ll lose her forever.  If you let he walk away from you right now, it’s over and you’ll regret it every day until the day you die.  And he reached out and took the collar of her coat, pulled her to him and kissed her lips, cold at the edge and her mouth parted and he felt the heat of her tounge and her hand on the back of his head and then she shoved at him and her hand caught his face before he realized what had happened. 

She had hit him hard and the quickness of his heart and the dizziness of the hit made him stumble backwards where his heal caught on a root and he fell backwards into the grass.

“Serves you right fucker.  Don’t ever touch me again,” she had said, “and the anger in her eyes and the pain across his face broke his heart.

When he saw his roommate again, he had asked him, “What the hell did you do to Sarah?”  Leif didn’t know how to respond.  He had to live with this guy.  All he could think to do was ask, “Why?” 

“Why?” she was ranting as to how much a prick you were.  And Leif felt himself unable to take any more.  “I don’t know, I’m sorry, I must have said something by mistake.”

“Just stay away from her okay?”  His roommate had stepped up then, got in his face and for the first time in his life he felt not intimidated, but the realization that he was bigger and stronger than the younger man.

“Okay, no problem man, I never meant to do anything wrong.  I’ll give her all the space in the world, never say another word to her.”

“You better,” his roomated stapped him in the chest with his finger and Leif, feeling like a damn fool didn’t feel angry or attacked, he felt it was justified.  It had been a stupid thing, and yet somewhere in his heart he was glad he had taken the risk.  He truly regretted putting her in a situation she hadn’t cared for, but now he knew.  He didn’t have to live his life wondering what could have been.  What could have been was what was, and that was that Sarah hated him and had no interst.  Yet, for the next several nights he would think about that moment when her mouth opened, when her hand touched the back of his head and drew him in.  There had been a half second of… but he had done wrong. 

Later in the week he had been walking along and Sarah and her boyfriend came around the corner of a building.  He had frozen.  She glared at him for a moment and her boyfriend had said, “Hey there’s your brother’s roommate, the famous one right.” And she had tugged at his arm and pulled him another way.

She had talked about him to her boyfriend, had told him what he had learned that night, but she hadn’t told him what had happened. 

That night a knock came at the door.  He opened it and found Sarah glaring at him.

“Is Steven here?”  Her eyes were flat and full of hate.

“No.”  Leif said trying to keep his eyes off of her, feeling as though he had done her a great wrong, but he couldn’t keep himself from steeling glances at her storming eyes, greet and her hair, flustered by the wind. 

“Where is he?”

“He just left to go see a movie.”  She stared at him her face going red, she looked furious, and he was afraid she might strike out at him again.  He decided he’d just back away, maybe close the door.  He backed up and started to shut the door and then he stopped and said, “I’m really sorry Sarah, I never meant to—“

“To what, ruin my fucking life?”

“It was just a kiss.”

“Everything was going really well for Carry and I.”

“I’m sorry, I’m not going to bother you again.”

“Don’t you get it.  You’re just another damn fool dude aren’t you?”

“I really don’t underst—” she shoved the door open and came into the room and he flinched when her hands came up to her head and her mouth collided with his, hungry and searching, and her hands tugging at his clothes as he shoved the door shut and threw the lock.”

She had caused him to have to re-take Organic Chemistry.  When his professor had asked him how an A student had failed to turn in three weeks worth of work he simply said, “I fell in love.”

“A broken heart?” the professor had asked, looking over the tops of her glasses.

“No, Ma’am, a full one.”  And she hand smiled and given him an unsolicited incomplete. 

When Sarah had graduated, she took an internship on the other side of the country.  Leif had a year left and he fell into mysery just a few hours after she had gotten on the plane.  Three days later, as he walked to class he heard her call out his name and he turned and searched the crowded lawn and thought that he must be going crazy until he saw an arm waving, a dark wool coat with a cascade of red silken hair over the shoulder.  She had spent three days in misery before apologizing that she couldn’t continue and when she explained why they told her she’d never make it if she let her heart get in the way of her career.  She had told Leif then that she would rather have a heart than a job and he had gone down on his knee right there surprising even himself and asked her to marry him.  She hadn’t said anything then, just covered her face with her hands and tears wetted her cold cheeks and she had pulled him to his feet, still with no answer and held him, and then after what seemed the longest moment in his life, she had whispered in his ear, of course.

They were married in the summer in a quiet ceremony attended by friends and family, just as many as could fit in the jump seats of a Kiowa gunship and his father had been under strict instructions to behave at the controls.  You are not allowed to make the wedding party sick.  Still the minister had become illish and turned green somewhere out over the Pacific.  They were married on a quiet beach in the Tongan islands where so many years before He and Stacy and his father had hid.  And he had felt so alone with Stacy ten years ago, so useless and now as he held the hand of his now wife on the same white sands he felt whole and loved, and he knew he had a place in the world. 

He had finished his masters in linguistics and then she had the job of a lifetime.  Geologic survey scientist with the Europa expedition.  She gave them the condition that they could go if Leif would be invited along, but no one was allowed to travel for free so he was signed on as a tech, and had to dig back to his chemistry classes and scientific method.  He had been able to come up to speed quickly and now here they were, living with the vacuume of space and a fleild of deep frozen ice just on the other side of their bedroom wall, and only four months left of the assignment. 

He couldn’t wait for that assignment to be over.  He had quickly grown sick of the small quarters and monotony of a Jovian moon station life and often complained of it.  She was supportive and he could see she showed signs of guilt for having brought him out to a place he didn’t care for, so soon he didn’t complain at all.  As long as he had her with him, he would be fine. 

“Leif? Are you going to answer me?” He lifted his head and found Sarah’s green eyes searching his. 

“Sorry, I was miles away.”

“Dreaming of open blue skies and sandy beaches?”

She knew him well enough to know that he didn’t want to be here in the frozen trap of space.

“I was thinking about when we met, about our wedding.”

“Where will we go from here?”

He sat quiet for a moment, seeing what he always had, a simple house with white walls and broad latticed windows, bamboo flooring and a dog.  He would be near the ocean, and they would go for walks among the sand, the crab grass rough and spiking at their legs as they passed through it. 

“The ocean,” he finally said, “I want to sit on the beach and watch the waves for a week.”

“After the money we’ve saved up on this assignment, we can afford that, and a down payment on a house.”  And then she walked up close to him and touched his shoulder, she leaned in on him and kissed his face and whispered in his ear, the softness of her voice tickling down his back, “We’ll need one with an extra bedroom for the baby.”

She leaned away from him and searched his face and he wanted to be happy.  He got what she was saying he understood it, but instead of the flush of joy he felt he was sure he was supposed to feel, he felt only dread.

“What’s wrong?”

“You’re pregnant?”

She smiled and said, “Yes, two months along.  The timing couldn’t be more perfect for our leaving here… but what’s wrong?”

He felt guilty then.  “I’m sorry Sarah, I really am excited.  It’s just a big step and I guess it makes me nervous.”

She held him close then and said, “You’ll be an excellent father Leif.”

He felt assured at her confidence, Can we name her Doris?”

She looked at him at said, “Your mother’s name? It’s a bit old fashioned an stodgy, but how could I say no?  But what if it’s a boy?”

“I have a feeling it won’t be.”

She shrugged at that and said, “Okay.”  She looked at her watch and whispered a curse.  “I’m going to be late, you always do that to me.”

She kissed him and then jogged out of their tiny quarters and Leif was left in the dead silence.  The air handlers hushing behind him.  He put his lab coat on and walked out the door himself.

“So what the hell?” Simons said as Leif came in the door?

Leif watched Simons for a moment before he spoke.  Phillip Simons was always going off about something.  He was only twenty two and fresh out of college.  An intelligent kid, life had been very easy for him, but if life on Europa station had been difficult for Leif it had been much harder on Simons. 

“You left the freezer door open yesterday.”

“What?”

“The damn freezer door to the core samples.”

“The main freezer?” Leif felt a shock rush through him as he imagined the long cores turned to water as they melted, all physical specimines lost for the mission.  There would be hell to pay, but the main freezer had temperature alarms and backups.  Those specimines were worth the cost of the mission and they had backups upon backups. 

“Not the main freezer.”  Phillip sat down, his thin shoulders hunched and he seemed to resign himself.  “That would be the end of us.  I don’t think they’d even fire us.  Probably would just leave us here when everyone else left.” 

“What did I let melt then?”

“The samples we sliced yesterday,” you left the freezer open.

“The wafer freezer?  I didn’t leave it open,” but even as he said it Leif doubted himself.  He hadn’t been thinking as clearly in the last few weeks.  He considered that maybe he should discuss it with the base medical staff.

“Yes you did.  I sure as hell didn’t.  You were the last person to put samples in it.”

“Okay, okay, I’m sorry.  I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean to.  I’ve just not been myself lately.  I’ll slice new cores and redo the work from yesterday.  You can move forward and if I have to work late to make up time I will.”

At that Phillip seemed to calm down. 

Leif went over near the airlock door.  This was the one place on the station which had a mini air lock. The rovers brought in core samples, slid them into the air lock here at the lab.  It was a long air lock, not much bigger than a man hunched over.  It hadn’t been intended for any equipment save cores.  Leif looked into the airlock.  He saw new sample cores had been delivered. 

“Phillip.”

“What?”

“Did you know they were going to deliver new cores today?”

“There are no deliveries scheduled today.”

“Well, there’s new cores in the airlock.”

“There are not.” Phillip came up beside him and pushed him aside and looked into the small window.  “Hell.” He said at having been proven wrong.

Leif walked over to the com and pressed the screen which flicked to life and he pressed the keypad for sample operations.  A man’s face came up and he said, “What’s up?”

“Hey Dennis, Leif from the lab over here.”

“Yup.”

“Did you folks deliver new samples this morning?”

“Oh yeah, sorry that we didn’t warn you.”  He looked down at a tablet in his hand.  “It was on my to do list this morning.” 

In the background Leif caught sight of a beautiful woman, long red hair pulled back into a pony tail which draped down the back of her white lab coat.  God he loved her.

“…had an easy drilling session yesterday, so we had stored two loads at the door.”

“Got it, just wanted to make sure.  We’ll process them.”

“Check.”  The com link went dead. 

Leif walked over to the airlock, pressurized it and unlocked the door.  He crouched over and walked inside to stand beside the tubes which immediately became crusted with frozen moisture.  His breath billowed out as the air chilled.  He looked over the labels, all filled out to speck.  He could already feel himself shivering in the super cooled air.

“Phillip.”

“What?”

God dammit Phillip, just come over here, always with the what.

“Can you bring me gloves and a coat and suit up?  I need help bringing these in.”

In a few moments Phillip came in wearing a thick parka and handed Leif a similar one.  Then he handed him thick mitten style gloves and pulled his own on.  He slid past Leif and walked down to the end of the airlock and looked over the ends of the sample tubes. 

“This one’s not capped right,” he began twisting at the cap with his gloved hands and it popped off in his hands.  “Shit.”  As the cap slipped from his hands and hit the floor it rang out and the floor began to shake.  Then it began to rumble with the walls.  Leif stood for a moment trying to understand how the falling cap had caused the airlock to shake in that manner and then The floor pitched and three him into the sample tubes he hadn’t put his gloves on yet and when his hands touched the pipes they froze and the skin at the wrist stuck to the metal. 

Then a huge cracking sound was followed by a hiss of air.  Leif yanked his wrist off the tube tearing flesh away and as he looked into the lab, the air went white with mist as the entire room depressurized.  He saw the mist begin to flush out the main door and he felt his ears pop and he jumped forward and, despite the cold of the switch, slapped the emergency airlock close.  The airlock door slammed shut and then the entire room bucked sideways and he felt his head crash into something and he went black…

When he came to He felt weightless.  That wasn’t right.  The gravity of Europa was light requiring frequent exercise and bone density training, but not this, not nothing. 

A hand gripped him and turned him and he saw Phillip there, his face white, scared. 

“What happened?”  Was there an explosion in the lab?”  His mind searched for where Sarah would have been.   She was on the other side of the installation.  An explosion in the lab wouldn’t effect her.  There were many fire doors between her and them.  Sarah’s fine.

“Not the lab,” Phillip said.

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