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JAMES F KREHAN, click here to update your pages on AuthorsDen.

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Saturday, July 12, 2003

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Jake, a mining engineer, leaves Jupiter's moon, Io, for Earth but encounters some problems.

Jake was glad his work period on Io was over. He had spent three Earth years on Jupiter's turbulent moon, mining for uranium and precious metals. Now he was on leave and returning to his native California in the year 2054.

His space vehicle hovered above the volcanic dust for a few moments and then zipped away over the horizon at 800 miles an hour. Jake was piloting the silver ship and he made it climb high above Io's igneous mountains for a last look at the mining centre that had been his home for a little too long.

"It will be great to see a blue sky and white clouds again!" he said to himself.

He gazed at the indicator screen in front of him that mapped out the entire Solar System and dreamt of being honoured at the Interplanetary University of San Francisco for his research into the geology of Io. He and his crew were bringing back some strange rock samples that had been discovered on this continually volcanic moon and Jake was confident he had made an enormous contribution to the University's Faculty of Mineralogy. Then Jake's gaze turned into a stare of pure horror. Earth and the Moon had disappeared from the indicator screen completely! He swivelled around in the pilot's chair to tell the others but found he was alone and the blue light in the cabin had turned to a bright orange colour. He felt dizzy and realised that he was slowly losing consciousness. Before he slipped into oblivion, Jake prayed to the God of Creation with a swift, silent prayer.

Jake lifted his head shakily and looked around him. There were three dead crewmembers on the cabin floor and the blue light had returned. He stumbled along the somewhat steamy corridor to the laboratory door that was displaying a red, flashing message on its tiny monitor screen: "Poisonous gases being emitted from rock samples!" The audio warning appeared to be not working. Jake found enough strength to open the door of the lab manually and haul himself inside. He immediately grabbed a gas mask that hung near the entrance and pulled it over his head and face. It took him a quarter of an hour to make all the rock samples safe by placing them in airtight containers. They had been left lying on the laboratory table and this had caused the disaster.

Jake now had to pilot the ship to Earth, which had obligingly reappeared on the screen but first he lifted up each member of the crew and placed them in life chambers according to his training. He arrived at Los Angeles Spaceport in just over three months - a remarkable achievement.

Jake became an overnight celebrity all over the world. During an appearance on global television, he was told the news that one of the crew had been successfully revived and would recover. Later that evening, after the glasses of African Champagne, Jake looked up into the starry night and towards the orbit of Jupiter. The giant planet was just visible with the naked eye. "I'll have to try that every time there's an emergency," he thought to himself. Jake had found the non-electronic solution.

James Krehan (1998).

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