Machine before Man

They announce imminent death.

The choices are: pray or fix it.

John Boon decides on the second option and a third.

“The fuck’d this gas giant come from?” he screams at Houston, Lunar-base-Earth.

“Sorry, Johnny, bad math.”

He cocks his fist but refrains from hitting his instruments.

Boon knows the voice isn’t human. It’s the AI. The comp.

The silver XO rocket sprints through the first layers of pink radiation clouds and he feels it in his stomach. Under other circumstances, a beautiful ride, enjoyable, something no human has ever done.

“What now?” he hisses already losing his voice.

His command screen flashes green text – correct return flight.

The radiation eats at John’s skin in tiny, painful bites as he works. Like superpowered fleas. He sets the new course and coughs blood into his hand.

“Johnny, I’m sorry,” through the static of radiation breaking down the connection.

“It’s about the machine, right?”

He hits ‘Engage’ with a finger that lost its nail and through failing eyesight watches black smoke explode from the rear of the rocket, pushing the ship from the gravity well and toward home.

 

Machine before Man

Art by Dex Craig

In the Clouds of Saturn

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