Under the Hooked Cross – 12: Pluto

Previous instalments: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11


Under the Hooked CrossSilversmith felt slightly sick when he pulled himself into the communications pod, and it wasn’t the microgravity. He had the feeling that what he was about to learn would give him a responsibility he neither wanted nor could avoid. His father’s voice again. Seamus me boy, isn’t it a little late to be thinking about that fourteen years after you joined Argus?

Sweat beaded Henkel’s brow. He looked like a man emerging from an ordeal as he shut down the broadcasting equipment. Silversmith felt a twinge of sympathy. Henkel didn’t look old enough for the responsibility of broadcasting to the entire Reich. Silversmith wished he could stop liking the man.

“Good afternoon, Max.”

Henkel rolled to face him with the expression of a man facing a new ordeal. Better calm him down before he changes his mind. “What was today’s program about?”

“Pluto. The astronomers have some remarkable photographs.”

“Hm. Still can’t see who’d be more interested in a lump of ice named after a cartoon dog than my algae.”

Henkel looked bemused. “But Pluto is named for the Roman god of the underworld.”

Silversmith suppressed a wince. Don’t overdo it, boy.

“I never did learn much of the classics. Shall we have a quick look while we’ve got a minute?”

Henkel tensed, curling his legs under him. His nod was barely perceptible, but he turned and unlocked a cabinet full of rolls of 16mm film. “These were all taken in the secret pod. This is an example of what they’re doing in there.”

Silversmith edged closer to the screen. Henkel didn’t seem to be able to stop talking and his hands trembled as he loaded the film. “You understand that I can only repeat what I’ve been told? I’m no scientist. Well, you know the purpose of this station is to develop the technology for a Mars mission? But we cannot be sure what effect a two year mission will have on the astronauts when we’re only up here for six months at a time. We must know what happens to the human body over longer time periods.”

Henkel threw a switch to send the film whirring through the projector.

Next week: Harvest


Full story available from Amazon in Kindle format.

Author notes

Goodreads

Cover by Manda Benson

These other stories by DJ Cockburn available online: Steel in the Morning, Newgate Jig, The Endocrine Tyranny, Peppermint Tea in Electronic Limbo, Foreclosure, Cassandra’s Cargo and Mars One.

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