Under the Twin Moons of X2313AR

by Jonathan Moon

Thick purple plumes of exhaust billow from the wreckage of the Jump Pod. As the smoke mingles with the toxins in the atmosphere it turns to rust and falls back to the crumpled metal below. It lands on Dax’s glass face-plate like iodine colored snowflakes drawing his attention from the lightning shaped crack. He blinks his eyes and crawls away from the destroyed spacecraft as commanded by the voice booming in his earpiece. 

“Holey moley, folks! That was a heck of a landing for Team Earth3! How about the thickness of the deadly chemical cloud around the planet, folks? We lost two out of three crew members, on the jump . . .” 

The booming announcer voice fades out and another thinner voice takes over in Dax’s earpiece. He knows the booming voice, the familiar baritone of host Bill Blingtree, will return. Dax will receive his final instructions from the thin voice while they play memorial montages of Tucker and Agatha for the multi-planetary home audience. Dax knows he has up to another three minutes to live, time enough to score his remaining teammates some much needed points. 

The thin quick voice, cold and professional, “Okay, your two other teammates died upon impact, that’s minus twenty-five points apiece. If you can get us a view of the rock outcropping that took you guys down before you die, we’ll give your team one hundred points, minus of course the minimum ten points your death will cost. If you can get us a view of the twin moons, a first for all mankind, we’ll tack on the Mission Jackpot of one hundred thousand points. Two hundred and sixty billion people on four different planets are seeing what you see right now, kid. Get us that shot, huh? We’re back to live in three, two, one . . .”

“Okay, Dax, you are the last hope for Team Earth3 right now! There are still points you can earn. Get us footage of the crag that clipped your jump pod and we’ll double the cost of Agatha and Tucker death penalties in points. Can you hear me Dax?”

Dax doesn’t cease his agonizing crawl, but offers an affirmative grunt into his in-helmet microphone. He tilts his head and his helmet cam scans the sharp arid landscape until he finds the spear-like slab of rock that tore the bottom out of their Jump Pod. Dax hears a boisterous round of applause from his teammates back on the Studio Craft. Blingtree continues.

“Get us a picture of the twin moons and . . .”

Dax leans back into a crevice, his shallow breath fogging his faceplate. Luckily, it doesn’t affect the camera. His eyes glaze over and he doesn’t see the image he sends back to the audience, and they don’t see how his chemical bleached eyes mirror the pale twin moons of X2313AR. 

Success. They cheer. Burning hot tears leak down Dax’s cheeks. Even Bill Blingtree is speechless at the sprawling alien landscape transmitted halfway across the galaxy. The purpled sands and jagged red rocks and previously unknown life forms of X2313AR have never been seen by human eyes, and no one could have predicted how the twin moons would look milky and gray from the surface of the planet when they appear so vibrant orange from the others nearby. 

Dax’s twitching lips curl into a smile as he hears Blingtree announce, “That is amazing folks! Look at those beautiful moons! Intelligent life! FIVE hundred thousand points to Team Earth3! Which puts them into 53rd place!” 

Dax sighs his last breath, content in his sacrifice, under the twin moons of X2313AR.