For All Nails #264: Rising Moon and Falling Star
by Phoebe Barton
Alan Fairfax had always seen a lady's face on the moon, and tonight her eyes were streaked with tears. He had little difficulty sympathizing with her sorrow, for neither was he a happy man as he sat in the starlight, the warm summer winds feeling like icicles in his back as he stared through his backyard reflector. Those were tears of loneliness up there.
He'd lost track of how long he'd sat, starting at the airless grey deserts that no human had even begun to approach. Long enough for the stars to cycle across the night sky, long enough for the city lights behind him to have faded into a dull smear along the horizon. Long enough to forget the newspaper on his dining table, long enough for the pain in his chest to go away.
"This too shall pass," he mumbled under his breath, not really believing it. There wasn't any kind of paraphenol FN2 to hide what gnawed at his insides. They'd been so close, close enough that he'd begun to imagine the Jack-and-Stripes planted in the selenic dust. In the theatre of his mind he had seen graceful lunamobiles jouncing across those plains of dust, poised on the edge of leaping into reality.
They had been beautiful. Now, though... now they lived only in the words of an unknown fantascience writer, FN3 one who hadn't been able to touch the dactylograph all day. How could he, when the very essence of its work had been ripped out and stomped on the footpath by a bunch of Burgoyne number-crunchers? The Confederation of North America may have shown the world its rockets were second to none, but at the cost of its future. Cynicism had finally triumphed in the CNA.
The fools thought they were invincible, and let their enemies pass them by. History will remember them by their foolishness alone. Fairfax's lip twitched into a smile as the line passed through his memory. Classic Zabozny. He wondered how long it would take for Lennart sodding Skinner to learn the same lesson. Just as soon as the Liberals went the way of the Conservatives, he imagined, giving a discontented snort.
Fairfax watched the procession of the heavens a bit longer before putting the telescope away. There were still three days remaining of his work holiday, and he had no intention of frittering away productive mornings beneath the blankets. He'd almost reached the stoop of his back door when he saw a light flash across the sky, probably a shooting star.
It took a moment for him to realize that shooting stars rarely made themselves known with a thunderclap, and never made the sound of a stricken airmobile on their way down.
- 800 feet above Lake Wolfe FN4
- 2 July 1975
Judith Eades fancied herself to command as much piloting skill as possible without having taken the shilling in Marlborough City. It had certainly seen her through half a dozen scrapes, from blizzards in the north of Manitoba to landings at fogged-in airparks with nothing but a barely functional altimeter, and if she hadn't been assured of continuing prospects in North America, her airmobile might be part of the volunteer squadrons keeping New Granada in the fight.
Now, she doubted that her talents in the cockpit would even get her as much as a slightly more distinguished tombstone.
It had all gone by too fast to understand. The engines had been complaining a bit -- not that unusual, and there was a fine maintenance team at the Pickering airpark -- so she'd begun her descent with a little more caution than usual. The alarms had barely begun to wail when the number-two engine exploded in a cloud of fire and shrapnel. She fought to shut the engine down, fought to stay aloft as the remaining engine began to escalate into a storming tantrum.
The controls may as well have been rocks for all they did. Still, she struggled with them a few more seconds before it became clear that the airmobile had a new pilot, and his name was Sir Isaac. She dashed to the rear compartment, towards the locker holding the precious fallscreens, towards the hope of survival. Scarcely two steps out of the cockpit, though, she was confronted by the twisted, bloody mass that had once been her passenger.
Was there a pulse? She checked, and thought she felt something still, but whether or not it was from the airmobile's mad descent was anyone's guess. A half-second's thought told her that she couldn't take the chance. A moment passed in bare seconds as she undid the restraints and heaved the body across to the emergency door. At this kind of height, the extra weight wouldn't matter much. The fallscreen wouldn't open fast enough to save her from two broken legs, at least.
There was the door. Just another three feet, steady... then a great clang that reverbrated through the metal tube of the airmobile as if it was a giant's instrument, and sent her flying against the floor. She felt the craft dive sharply, more than she'd ever thought possible.
It's not possible, she thought. Not if you want to survive, that is.
She'd missed her time. This was her coffin, now. The ground rushed up to meet her. She felt the fuselage begin to crumple. Then, too quickly to notice, she felt nothing at all.
Forward to FAN #265: Turncoats and Telephones.
Forward to 4 July 1975 (Alan Fairfax): The North Lakehead By-Election.
Return to For All Nails.