Blitzkrieg (first episode of an unfinished sci-fi tale)

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By John C. Paschalis

Captain Oswald Blitz was the iron fist of the Millenium Two. But the glove around that fist was the fair linen of a nation's flag--the red, white, and blue. In private, the other astronauts of his crew often spoke that he "cast a shadow even in total darkness." Their metaphor for his authority was not based on rumor. The Millenium 2 was a revolution in spacecraft technology: its muiltiple rockets, each equipped with stealth bomber technology that enabled the craft to travel at MACH 10 speed, required a complete renovation in the computer control system of the craft. Twenty years before the mission of the Millenium Two, the United States Army had provided Captain Blitz with an education in computer engineering. Blitz himself engineered an interface between rocket launching and computer control that ensured that the craft would break the sound barrier and do so safely. Technologically, he did influence every "weapons-control" computer onboard the Millenium Two. In every corridor, bay, and lounge, his authoritarian will was no less felt than his technological skill.

At forty-eight years of age, Captain Blitz would make history. He would lead a crew on the mission to end all missions: the mission to land human beings in solar systems beyond their own, to find alternate sources of energy or inhabitable terrain. In the year 2020, a solution was yet to be found for the United States' energy crisis, which affected every area of production which required fossil fuel. The high prices led to many areas of the economy on the verge of collapse. Recession had evolved into the Second Great Depression, in which forty per cent of Americans were out of work. Even the U.S. military had to eliminate several aircraft and ground-to-air weapons in its reserves, which left the citizens of America more open to attack by Al Qu'aida than it had been since the historic attacks of 9/11. The government placed its hope in NASA. A new Age of Discovery had begun. But this time, brave explorers would not be seeking what mysteries lay beyond the great Atlantic. They would be seeking what mysteries lay beyond the stars. And Blitz would be at the helm.

Captain Blitz was not a career astronaut but a soldier. In 2008, he was serving as Colonel in the Iraq war. One morning, he had learned that three soldiers, all on their first tour, had been captured by Iraqi insurgents. A CIA agent had informed him that they were being held by two insurgents by the names of Al Hassani and Al Mouhatani, in a building three miles north of his American base. But a field seargent of his own regiment had said that the same building was occupied only by a civilian family of Iraqis. Army lawyers warned him that if his own field seargent's information was true, and Blitz went to the building on a rescue mission, then any civilian deaths he could mistakenly cause would mean a court martial. But a solution to Blitz' Catch 22 was brewing in the strategic workings of his mind. "Have you ever seen an Iraqi insurgent who was not always armed?" He proposed to a committee of fellow officers. "They always seem to have weapons on them or within their reach. We should scale the building at night, enter the residents' bedrooms in stealth, and detect whether or not there are weapons on them (or laying at their disposal). And for certain identification, we have what the CIA gave us: photos matching the names of the kidnappers. If those men are there, holding my three boys, we will engage in a rescue mission." Everyone except for Blitz was too frightened for what might go wrong. They had seen the fates of others who had killed civilians whom they mistakenly thought were insurgents. Now, they cowered before the prospect of touching anything within civilian perimeters. And why, they reasoned, would they want to risk their hides for three grunts? But Blitz never cowered in his life before any judgment that was not his own. In the end, everyone but Blitz refused to go on the mission. He would have to go it alone.

Blitz leaped out of his Humvee, the night wind blowing against his back as if his jump alone had sharply stirred the air. There was no moonlight that night. As he ran toward the building, the only light came from the small searchlights on his helmet, which dizzily danced in circles like a firefly as he leaped forward. He reached the building and attached climbing suction cups to the mortar, and scaled the wall to the window. He quietly lifted the pane. He looked around him. He saw a small arsenal of machine guns against the wall. A man was sleeping on the bed. He thought to himself that it was probably Al Hassani but he wanted to see the man's eyes to make sure.

He took out his handgun and climbed onto the dresser. Pointing it at the man's head, he lifted one leg and placed in on the mattress. He was poised in between the dresser and the bed, with one foot on each, straddling the space in between them. He was able to lurch back onto the dresser in case the possible kidnapper grabbed his legs, and he was also able to pivot his other foot onto the mattress, in case he needed complete leverage to subdue the man, or an extra appendage to force away a weapon. He shook the mattress with his foot.

The man woke up. Now Blitz was sure that the sleeping man was Al Hassani. Hassani reached for and grabbed a machine gun lying on a nightstand that stood the other side of his bed. Blitz swivelled his foot away from the dresser so that it landed on the bed across his other foot; now, Hassani's head rested between his legs. As Hassani was bringing up the muzzle of the gun toward Blitz' torso, Blitz fired one round into Hassani's forehead. Suddenly, the door burst open and a man whom Blitz recognized as Al Mouhatani entered. Mouhatani, with shock in his sleepy eyes, was about to point his machine gun toward the intruder when Blitz grabbed his jackknife by the blade and flung it into Mouhatani's forehead. Mouhatani instantly fell to the ground. "Crane? Hartford? Sanders? Are you here?" Blitz yelled coarsely. "We're in the basement!" replied one of the men. Blitz followed his voice and quickly ushered the men to freedom.

The President of the United States awarded Blitz the Purple Medal of Honor for his bravery that night. A reporter in the press conference that followed asked him, "Why did you risk a court martial by entering into uncertain circumstances?" Blitz simply answered, "These colors don't run."

Following the rescue mission, a young soldier under Blitz command had granted him the nickname "Blitzkrieg." It was the name he came to be known as by every cook, soldier, medic and technician. It was a fitting name. Like those relentless air raids of World War 2, he always got the job done.

Blitz and Steppard were alone in the cockpit of the Millenium 2 as it orbited the earth. But they were not alone in the eyes of the world.

It didn't matter to the crew that some people resented the M2 as an example of grandscale technology. To these naysayers, all such technology was an arrogant lie designed to lift the self-image of man, whom they believed should have the spirit of a helpless caged bird--just perching and singing as the universe whirls around it. They believed that mankind's spirit was being whitewashed by the grand vision of spacecraft, cell phones, satellites--all the symbols of the twenty-first century. And it didn't matter to the crew that some people hailed grandscale technology (and, therefore, the M2) as the tool of man which could mirror--and perhaps ignite--the heroic potential that lay within every member of the human race. It only mattered to the astronauts of the M2 that they were on a mission to help the haters and lovers alike--to bring America back to the country she once was--to raise her peoples' standard of living, from sea to shining sea.

The M2 resembled a set of golden rings. It had one giant curve attached to five rings that each held a single giant rocket. As in all spacecraft, it did not need to be aerodynamic in order to serve the single basic function of all spacecraft: to hold enough mass to orbit a celestial body. It just had to be big. And the M2, at the size of five hundred thousand square feet, was a vast space nation--but a nation where the units of mass and space greatly outnumbered the number of individual passengers, leaving some observers to dub it the "Alaska of Outer Space."

Steppard was busily typing on the keyboards of multiple computers. Ultimate destination: the Centenium System (so named because it was the only known solar system with almost one hundred planets orbitting a giant sun). Distance: 23 lightyears. Speed: MACH 15. Rocket use: single launcher at 100 per cent quantum thrust. Time until launch: 30 minutes.

"Good work Steppard." Blitz said with admiration lighting up his blue pupils. "You programmed our course in four minutes flat. I'm glad to see my interface is comprehensible to you."

"Well, you know us Southern Boys. We like to do things slow."

"Is that a fact, son?" Blitz voice betrayed a mock fathely love. Blitz turned around and grinned at the captain, who

had no wife or family to speak of. As the Science Advisor, Steppard knew enough to guide the crew on its mission to find organic traces of life. Even though Blitz was the commander, he knew enough to know that Blitz needed his scientific acumen. So he did not feel he needed to go out of his way to keep Blitz satisfied in terms of proving his subservient, petty officer status. He said enough to get the job done and little more. He was more than a little bit interested in the change in Blitzkrieg's stiff-lipped demeanor. The commander lifted one large hand and clapped it on the boy's shoulder as if they were two old men who shared the same military regiment in their war-torn youth.

"Come. Let's get ourselves a mint julep before this mass of iron blasts away."

The bar was located in the Observation deck. It was a giant orb of glass that fitted into a tiny rectangle which housed the lounge area. As the bartender poured the drinks, Blitz twisted his cold blue lips into a protective smile of excitement, that of Daedalus who is about to send his son Icarus on the mission of his life. "You know Matt, my daddy used to say, 'If you need it and don't have, don't wave a sign in the faces of the crowd and make miserable the lives of the folks who just don't care. you go get it." Matt, though not much interested, listened anyway. "That's what just tears my heart up about this environmentalist movement. See you and I, we don't demand that industrial civilization come to a halt and use a dollar increase in gas prices as an excuse for our own personal nihilism." Suddenly, the M insignia of the Millenium 2 dropped from Steppard's upper left chest and fell into his drink. We use technology in the very service of that we are trying to preserve: civilization itself. We are the bearers of human civilization--we are not travelling back in time like the young ladies carrying their cotten baskets in supermarkets, instead we are moving ahead and fixing our problems bearing the insignia of the future."

Blitz briefly shook the M2 patch before Steppard's eyes. "She's your future, scrub. These are the years of glory. Watch out for this golden passkey to grace." Blitz smiled and, with a swagger, got up, twisted over and fastened the insignia to Steppard's chest. Steppard, like a teenager whom adults believe is dependant on the guidance of a nanny who made sure his basic needs were met, found this gesture slightly offensive. "We should go back to the cockpit to secure ourselves through our trip through the sonar wormhole." Steppard wondered if Blitz knew that the technical terms he thought he was uttering was jibberish half the time.

Back in the cockpit, Steppard announced tersely over the PA system, "15 minutes to take-off. All passengers please return to your seats." Steppard looked at the coordinates. General Von Naughting had informed him that they were supposed to visit a planet named Flora to look for signs of life. Yet the ship, in five minutes, was destined to head toward Centripetal C6193, unofficially known as the Pumice to people who were in the know in the scientific community.

"Blitzkrieg, an unauthorized personnel has switched our coordinates. We are heading for the wrong body: The Pumice is nothing but a chunk of barren rock--and we're heading right toward its atmosphere!"

"Matthew there's no time to change the coordinates. We've reported to NASA where we are going and they gave us the green light."

Matthew remembered that this was the case. "They gave us the green light to land on Flora, not its only moon Pumice. Remember when I showed you the map of Flora, it is dense with organic matter and planets and that is what we need!"

"Petty Officer Steppard, we are leaving in three point fifteen, what we need is for you to sit down and follow take-off protocol now."

"That's not the purpose of this mission!"

Commander Blitz stood up and approached Steppard. "Stand down officer. I will tell you what the purpose of this mission is. The purpose is what I make it."

"The purpose is what the people of America makes it, sir." Steppard began to walk toward the keyboard across the small compartment. Blitz curled his fist and swung it into Matt's cheek, sending Matt's hindlegs into the computer console. "That was self-defense. And required for the protection of this crew."

Blitz turned to sit down. In the silence he heard the click of a handgun and turned around. The gun was trembling gently in Steppard's hand. "The protection of this crew, as well as the whole human race, is a matter that depends on landing safely on the body that Von Naughting authorized. And your ship is not heading toward it."

Blitz laughed and swaggered backwards, falling clumsily into his seat. Smiling at Steppard in the inward way a schoolyard bully experiences his first shock of unbelievable destruction, with a smile that shrouds the absurdity of someone else daring to puncture his armor, he said sarcastically, "Now your starting to learn how to deal with people in the real world."

"This is not the real world, Commander. This is space. And in space, the rules still apply."

"But not the rule to visit Flora, boy. Look. Its too late to change the coordinates. We've passed the point of no return."

Steppard looked at the screen. It was true. He took his seat.

Edited by ValueChaser
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.... snip for brevity.....

"But not the rule to visit Flora, boy. Look. Its too late to change the coordinates. We've passed the point of no return."

Steppard looked at the screen. It was true. He took his seat.

A few points. No aircraft is going to go Mach 10 within 50 miles of the ground. It would have to be sub-orbital or full orbital (requiring 17,000 mph or Mach 18).

Also if we have to depend on NASA we are doomed. NASA is a bloated, top-heavy, management driven pile of sh*t. It has lost the edge it once had in the early days. Its best people have died, retired or been killed by NASA negligence.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Thanks for the reply. The first point about measuring speed is worth looking into. The second point about NASA is good too, but remember that this is fiction. NASA can be feasibly conceived as an efficient organization for the purpose of this fictive piece.

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Thanks for the reply. The first point about measuring speed is worth looking into. The second point about NASA is good too, but remember that this is fiction. NASA can be feasibly conceived as an efficient organization for the purpose of this fictive piece.

Any composition that puts "NASA" and "efficient" in the same sentence is truly fiction. Engineers from NASA mixed up British and Metric measurements on one of the Mars missions. The lander's braking rocket turned off too soon. When Hubble was first launched there was an optical error in the mirror which cost 100 million to fix. NASA and JPL had oversight on that. And of course two fatal missions with the STS. Cause was management arrogance and refusal to risk taking the heat for scrubbing a mission for safety reasons.

What has been NASA's "greatest" accomplishment? ISS or as I like to call it alpha-shit-can-one. And after 2010 NASA will not own a vehicle that can even reached that wretched mis-construction. The shuttle's are gonzo after this year. Now we have to rely on Russian Soyuz vehicles. Werner von Braun and Robert Heinlein must be turning over in their graves.

NASA's greatest sin was promulgating the myth that the Shuttle was a cheap means of getting cargo to low orbit. They lied through their teeth on that one. The freeboard weight is very low with the shuttle.

By 2011 NASA will not own a single man rated booster. Not one.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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