Photo by Bryan Goff on Unsplash


‘ Try it again’,  the anger and panic  more than perceptible  than ever.
‘ Some one has got to be out there listening ‘.

‘ Their is no response Sir’.
‘ Goddamn, they ain’t gonna leave up here, and not care ‘.

‘ I don’t know Sir ‘.

As the space capsule traveled into infinity, and the vast mystery of the universe
he gripped the balcony rail very tightly. At least no one could see his physical tension.
When this happened in ‘ Star Trek ‘ and similar TV programs, of his youth, it was a fantasy, everybody knew that. But this was real.

‘ Try it again’,  he so wanted to swear, to express his anger and frustration. His fear and panic. But he was after all the Captain of the mission. The person in charge. He had a certain standing to uphold. A certain dignity. A sense of control. Were he to show his fear and panic, what was the likelihood of the young inexperienced crew remaining calm and measured. Very little, and he knew that. If ever he needed his acting capabilities, it was now. If ever he needed to put on a show, it was now.

‘ Okay, let us set a course for Planet Interstellar no.9. I believe the food and entertainment is pretty good there’, trying to interject some humour, and a sense of being on control, and to ease the palatable tension on the cockpit. A few of the others laughed. He glanced round the cockpit, and noted the wide eyed fear of the young crew. Fear is hard to hide. Anything to break the obvious tension and fear. What was that fear ? The very real fear, that perhaps they, and he would never, ever see there loved one’s again. Many believing rightly, that they were too young to die. Out here, in outer space.

‘ I’m gonna to retire to my cabin for some shut eye. Give me a call half an hour before we arrive ‘.

‘ Okay, will do’, the second in command replied.

In the privacy of his cabin, he knelt down beside his bunk, and called on God, or who ever is ruling the world and the universe.

‘ Please Lord, or whoever, help me now. I feel afraid, and don’t know what to do. Please show me the way. Shower me with your guidance an wisdom’. He demanded of the unseen Higher power, that seemingly rules the word, and our lives He waited for insight, for some type of revelation. Perhaps not the flashing lights, or the appearance of etheric figures, angels or whatever. But just some sign, that out there, in the whole, wide universe, that some God, some deity, some whatever, was listening. was willing to help. To offer assistance, to guide.

He was roused from the semi darkness of  his cabin, by the intercom, from the forward cockpit.

‘ Captain, we’ve had contact from base, and it’s not good. They maintain there is nothing they can do. That it’s out of their control. The President is due to contact us, within the next hour’.

‘ I don’t want to hear from the damn President, I want to hear from the people who can actually solve this issue, this catastrophe ‘. Finding it hard to control his loud voice and anger.. The reasons for their perdictemnet lay not with the crew around him, but with the people at the space agency on earth. It was of course a rhetorical question. Of course the crew, around him, had no answers.

As the space caspual speed towards the outer reaches of the universe and beyond. The Captain returned to the darkened cockpit, and assumed his position of command. The stars, the darkness zooming by the large fronted viewing platform. The silence of the nuclear powered engines, hiding their power and speed.

‘ You should have know better, than to take us on this course. You Knew it was untested, and unsafe’. The voice angry, bitter, and caustic. He did not need to guess who it belonged to. As it was well familiar to him.
He chose to ignore, and not respond to the verbal attack.

He reached for the ship wide intercom, and made his speech. A consoling, soothing helpful speech. At least in his view. He did reminded all of the crew, that it was their choice, initially to volunteer for the mission, and that they had been made well aware of the possibilities of failure, and disaster, and should they wish to go forward for the mission, it was totally their choice. Regardless of the consequences. It was what they had signed up for. He remained them, that they were pioneers, on their failed journey to Saturn, and the many that would follow in the coming years, would look back and thank them for the sacrifice they had made, and the knowledge that had imparted for their failed journey, and how much those that followed had learnt from their failure.

He further continued, they should be proud of what they had achieved, and what they had left behind, for other’s to follow. How proud, and sad, their loved one’s, and families would be of them. In the silence of the darkened cockpit, the young crew listened. Many sobbed, and wept.

‘ I don’t want to die, I’m too young. I have too much to achieve , too much of the world to see. To much to live for’. He searched the darkened cockpit, for a face to fit the lone frightened voice, and saw her young, pretty, but frightened face.

‘ Well it seem’s like, that it is not gonna be. We all are on this ship, heading towards God knows where. We have no control. Those at the base have no control, or, and perhaps don’t seem to really care. We are after all, expendable. That’s what we all signed up for. We all knew the risks.’

‘ I ask you now, to join me in prayer, or offer up to whatever God, or whatever you believe in, to look after you and keep you safe, on whats happen in the very near future, and to make your peace’.

In the darkness of the cockpit, the assembled  crew bowed their heads. Many sobbed, and prayed aloud, to the various different Gods and entities they believed in, and followed. Many were stoic, and silent.

As the space capsule, traveled at speed towards the darkness, and never-ending infinity of the outer reaches of the universe, it shook, and rocked, and vibrated strongly. Many of the crew held hands, smiled, wept and laughed. Mind, a hollow, empty laughter.

On earth, at the launch base, the operator tried again.

‘ I can only get static Sir’, he replied.




The work he completed was below par. Not up to what it should have being. He knew it. They knew it. Everybody on the site knew. But nobody really cared. It was after all, more money for all of them. Even when the lowly paid government inspectors came to check out the work, many were open to the large brown envelopes which everyone knew would help smooth the way of the project. Help to avoid any awkward questions or very close inspections of the work completed.
‘Get it done, and get it done fast, and get it done cheap’. That was the order from the top. Another rushed job, another contract completed at speed. Everybody making money, everybody happy. In the Arabian peninsula, the heat sapping, draining weather was always the same. No let up. Life was good here in these foreign lands, with good money to be made in quick time. The only few drawbacks as he saw it were the the lack of available alcohol, unless smuggled in surreptitiously, and the lack of a pretty woman to catch a man’s eye.
The Arabs, as determined by their governments, were forbidden to drink alcohol, which to him seemed a nonsensical and cruel law. Secondly the women were forced to cover up everything except for their eyes. Another crazy law in his view. He had being in the country for close to six months , and was looking forward to his return to normality, back to America. Looking forward to seeing his wife and newly born child whom he had yet to meet.
He didn’t want to leave them, but with the lack of employment in ‘The States’, and the subsequent continual arguments that the lack of money, and boredom were causing with his long term sweetheart, and now wife. It just seemed like the best solution to a bad situation, at the time.
In Arabia, it was good to be working once again. His happiness and joy for the occupation, replacing the depression, that had dogged him for many months, in the past. The feelings of worthlessness and failure he felt as a man. Unable to provide for his wife, and family. The thoughts of ending it all. How different it was now. Those bad times behind him, a happily distant memory. But money making was very high on his agenda, after so many, many months of being without. He had a lot of catching up to do, financially, and he was determined to catch up, in whichever way he could. Regardless of the consequences.
The management back home in America, were well impressed how he was able to move the job along with such speed. While keeping costs way down. Congratulating themselves on choosing some a competent man to oversee the work. It was of course his decision to purchases supplies and materials from the unlisted, unlicensed companies. His choice not to question the low cost of such purchases. Again his choice to pay the immigrant workers just slightly above the national rate they were paid. An incentive to work harder, and faster, which they happily adhered to. Of course, the wage they received, a pittance, in comparison to the wage paid to the workers from the west.

He didn’t like him, when he first met him. Something about him. That upright posture, and purposeful stride. The dark business suit. The tanned face, and the neatly trimmed black hair. He exuded an inner strength, an inner belief in his own abilities, in his own worth, for such a young man. No more than early thirties, Jim guessed. A man not easily pushed around, or persuaded. Jim tried the friendly route first. When that was having little impact. He went for the brutish, loud, angry path. But the schools building inspector, remained quietly solid, strong and unmoved. He demanded to see the schedule of work. Demanded to know how the work was progressing at such speed. He further demanded free access to inspect any of the materials used, and see the records and details of the current suppliers to the school building project. Of course he could not be allowed to have his demands met. So as the young inspector was leaving the building project, Jim approached him.
As he was stepping into his shiny black cadillac, he placed a hand on the inspectors arm. The inspector looked down at the hand, and then at Jim , with a look of disdain.

‘Here, take this package. You’ll enjoy it. Will make life easier ‘, offering him the stout envelope.
‘My life is fine, I don’t need nor want anything from you’, and he pushed the envelope away.

Early the following morning just as the sun broke the horizon, and work began again on the construction project, the young inspector returned accompanied by two further car loads, of similarly diligent civil servants. They enforced an immediate cessation of the work, and went about examining the materials used, and the contracts signed. It did not take them long to come across anomalies. Materials not up to standards, and regulations. Works completed in a haphazard and unsafe manner. It was enough evidence to enforce immediate cessation of the project.
Jim watched from the portacabin office, where he liked to oversee the progress on the site. With his favourite coffee cup in hand, he watched the young inspector accompanied by two policemen approach his office.

Bursting through the door in the blazing mid day heat, disturbing the dust and paperwork in the office.

‘ I am closing down this project’, with immediate effect’. He spoke slowly, with much assurance and calm authority. ‘You, as the project co-ordinator here, bearing full responsibility for all that goes on in this project, are to be prosecuted for using substandard and dangerous materials, and engaging in unsafe  and haphazard working practices. Endangering the lives the the employees currently working here, and the further employees and children who would have attended this school in the future. Also you are further to be prosecuted for attempting to bribe a government official’.

With that the two policeman stood either side of Jim, and escorted him down from his office. The next few weeks passed quickly, and before he knew it, he was enduring the sweltering heat and blazing sunshine from the confines of an overcrowded Arabian prison cell. He was slowly coming to terms with the violent prison guards, who delighted in tormenting and torturing their prisoners, especially foreign prisoners. Coming to terms with his violent prison cell mates, none of whom he could dare to trust. Forced to stand for up to twelve hours a day, it was an impossible torture. The stench of urine, of continual perspiration. The sense of claustrophobia, of being unable to move freely, of being trapped, with no space of his own. With unfriendly people he did not know, using a language he could not understand. The continual pushing and shoving. The sense of violence waiting to explode at any moment. His very real fear of homosexual rape. The lack of sleep, his anxiety. Wishing now, had he being given his time over, perhaps he may have being a more honourable, honest man. Not racing headlong chasing money and wealth at any cost.

His only contact with another english speaker, was the weekly visit from the middle aged man from the American council. His job to keep Jim informed of the likely date of his court case. It could take years, he had being informed. Arabia was in no rush to release the inmates of their prisons. Jim in a strange way looked forward to these weekly visits. At least it was some human contact, without the fear of violence. A short sense of freedom. A brief thirty minutes out of the stinking , overcrowded cell, that had being his home for the last three months. With someone he felt he could trust.
He walked into the light grey plastered room, with the open windows, accompanied as ever by two severe looking prison guards. He noted the brightly colored  bird sitting on the tree branch outside the window, chirping away  happily. Jim looked at the bird, and smiled, envied his freedom. The ability to do what he wanted, when he wanted. To have his own space. To fly away and be free, anytime he choose. The man from the American council entered the room. Jim immediately noted his more than usual serious demeanor. His grey and  drawn face. The deadness in his eyes. He sat at the table, slowly, and opened his black briefcase. Hids movements were slow, as was his speech.
Quietly he began. ‘Jim, I have some news from home, and I’ll come straight to it. I’m very sorry, but there has being a fire  back home, and their have been fatalities. Jim held his breath, and began to perspire slightly. The veins tightened in his arms and shoulders, and he clenched his fists. ‘It’s your wife’, then he stopped, to steady himself,and catch his breath, and after a moment, ‘and your newborn child. I’m so sorry’. Jim listened, but didn’t really hear, and asked for him to repeat what he had said. He sat back in the soft chair trying to comprehend what had being said, his body feeling weak. ‘ The initial outcome of the investigation are, the fire was the result of the substandard materials been used, when the house was first built’. ‘If there’s anything I can do’, his voice trailed off.
Jim sat back in the chair, and quietly muttered to himself, ‘Substandard materials, substandard materials’, over and over. Precisely when the thirty minutes were up, the two prion severe, angry prison guards , roughy lifted Jim from the chair. Pulled and dragged him back towards the overcrowded, sweltering, stinking, violent prison cell. The man from The American council watched for a moment, as he stood underneath the ceiling fan, enjoying its cooling air, before taking his briefcase, and making his way towards the exit.