Denied the Stars (Part 4)

“Lyubov in our native tongue means ‘love’. I’ve always thought that was an odd name for such a hard man. By the mid-eighties the KGB was acting out of desperation. We all knew that the Soviet republic would fall, it was only a matter of time. Yet we acted as we had when the state was new, and Lyubov was no different.”

“I had no great love for government, less for a bunch of spies and assassins, but Andrei assured me this was the only way to the touch the stars I yearned for so desperately.”

“If Lyubov knew what we were he never said it, but there was something about the way he looked at us both that betrayed his true feelings. He would not shake our hands, and I did not offer mine. After a while you get tired of trying to explain why your grip feels like ice. His tone was terse, where with others he might have tried to be inspiring, with us he just laid it out.”

“Salyut 7 was not decommissioned after all. The crew that had docked from Mir had been a specially trained pair of agents who had outfitted the station with equipment to spy on the Northern Hemisphere, our friends in the Americas. Most of the station’s power was spent in constant surveillance, but something had gone wrong in the last few weeks and they were no longer getting any kind of  a signal. Lyubov needed an unofficial crew to go up there and repair the station, and run it manually if need be for the foreseeable future. Men of our kind were ‘the obvious choice’ since we needed next to nothing, even air to breathe.”

“How long can you live without blood?” I asked

“We don’t actually need it at all, but it dulls an ache inside us, one that threatens to rob us of our strength, and eventually our sanity. We can go for years if need be, though Andrei was a little concerned for me as I had not been one of his kind for long.”

“The mission was to go up in a few days, and Andrei and I spent the interim drinking. Just as we are without hunger, we are without satiation as well. Andrei said he was building up my stores of energy so I would be better able to survive, but I’m not sure if he truly believed this. If you drink anything in large enough quantity you can become drunk on it, and we spent a few last happy days in reverie before my silent and cold launch in the middle of the night.”

“The capsule was at least ten years old, one of the older models that had sent the first Salyut crew to their deaths, the first men to asphyxiate in space. The capsule had been thought to be scrapped and indeed it would no longer have been safe for anyone but me.”

“Though the mission itself bore no particular interest for me I could not help but be excited. Andrei was waiting for me at the base of the large tower and I embraced him with a grip that would have cracked the ribs of most men. We may not want to make more of our kind, but those we do welcome into our fold we treat like brothers. A few minutes later I was strapped in.”

“Lying back at the top of a rocket you lose a sense of how high up you really are. The whole sky reaches up above you, and it feels like you could be lying on the ground, or floating upward into the clouds. The force of the rocket was unmistakable though. Waves of gravity hit my body, hungrily trying to pull me back down even as I escaped the atmosphere. Then suddenly, nothing.”

“Weightlessness is a feeling like none that I have ever experienced. My body had always felt heavy to me, the need for blood when I was alive and dead kept me bound to the earth, and even the spaces beneath the earth. I didn’t think that it was only gravity after all, but for that brief moment I actually felt alive again, perhaps for the first time.”

“Salyut was stationed in geo-synchronous orbit above the east coast of the United States. As my capsule shot around the planet, licking up the distance above the ocean in minutes I saw something that I hadn’t glimpsed since I became what I am.”

“The sunrise.”

To be concluded…

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3 Comments

Filed under Short Stories, Writing

3 responses to “Denied the Stars (Part 4)

  1. I have a question: Do you speak Russian? I just want to know. 🙂

    • Sadly no. Only languages I have a talent for are programming languages. But the internet is a lovely thing when it comes to research.

      • Nice! I just wondered. One of my favorite songs has the word Lyubov in it about 100 times. Just thought I’d ask. I’m really liking this story BTW. 🙂

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