Stark Desolation. by Andrew Lawrence

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SUMMARY: A Chinese astronaut finds himself alone, with a secret he badly wants to reveal.

Stark desolation. Those words kept echoing through Cheng's head as he fumbled once more for the microphone switch. He knew that this truth he had found would re-write history books, it would completely change things we all knew.

"Beijing, Beijing.." he called, having long since disposed of using proper radio procedures. This was too important to be hampered by protocol. Nothing but static coming through the earpiece, then a glimmer of hope as Cheng thought he could hear lulled voices in the crackling static. The voices faded into the oblivion of silence, wrapped with the shower of noise.

Cheng could feel himself longing for years gone by, when things were simpler. Although he had been raised in the age of computers, Cheng had always found himself torn between the calculator and the slide rule. Often times he found himself fixing old TVs or radios for friends. If only his situation now were so simple.

Poking at the flickering computer screen Cheng found himself reviewing his decent and trajectory. "This has to be the spot." thought Cheng. There was no way around it, Cheng had put the spacecraft down exactly where it was intended to go. He had prepared for this day for much to long to be second guessing himself now.

On the day of launch he had never felt better nor more confident. Sometimes it had felt like he had been like he had been preparing for this mission for his whole life, and in some ways he had. The Peoples Republic had done it's job well. From his very first day in school he felt that he was being groomed for greatness. His time in the military helped set his resolve, and prepare him for things to come. No amount of training however, could have prepared him for those last few terrifying moments.

Still reeling from the impact, Cheng tried to wrap his thoughts around what had happed. Why had almost all systems failed just before touchdown? It did not matter now Cheng thought. What did matter was telling someone what he had found.

Cheng thumbed the microphone once again, nothing but static. He began imagine how a beached whale must feel, as he sat inside his crumpled tin can setting on the desolate lunar surface, completely helpless to move or communicate. "If only this had been a two person mission..." he thought, "then someone else would know."

Yes, this was the spot, he knew it, yet there was nothing here. As he looked out over the barren Apollo 11 landing site, he knew he was the first person on the moon, for he could see it in the stark desolation.