Click here to go to the Amazon online store where you can buy a copy of the book and read on. Grayson & The Astronauts is £6.00 paperback, £2.00 for kindle e-reader or free with kindle unlimited. The book is available on all international Amazon online stores.
This is the sequel to ‘WILLIAM’ but also works as a standalone book that has slight hints at an overarching plot.
You leave your front door,
To go and explore,
The whole human race,
Is heading into space,
Always trying to find out more.
The Stranger sat in his chair, reading a book that he had taken from his shelf only a few days before and was finally taking the time to finish the last few chapters
The book was called ‘How we found home’. It recounted the story of three brave adventurers, astronauts, heroes from a far-off planet. It told of how they had set off to find the golden tree to make it so that human life could become sustainable on Mars. According to the book only one of the men had survived.
What happened to the survivor after the trip to Mars – humanity’s new home planet – was well known because of the many monuments and statues devoted to him. Juan, that was his name. His rule of Mars was called a monarchy by those who complied with the rules but a dictatorship by those who rebelled. It is said that what happened to Juan on his adventure did something to his mind, made him paranoid so he ruled with an iron fist and destroyed any who dared oppose him. Juan the Ultimate Supreme Lord King of Mars passed his command on to his second who passed it on to his second and so on, each one more tyrannical and terrible than the last. From starting out at Juan who was a good man at heart but lost his mind because of politics, rumours and his past; the Ultimate Supreme Lord Kings had become more evil each time until the current one who had children that played in the street skinned for fun, then given back to the families so he could laugh at their reactions.
After reading the last lines and learning of how the tree had been cut down to create an atmosphere that could sustain human life The Stranger closed the book and put it back in its place on the bookshelf.
There’s one adventure I wish I could be a part of he thought to himself, saddened by the mundane occurrences of his everyday life. He’d had his CGTMmk.267 taken away from him by the Mars Brotherhood of Technological Safety so no longer had the ability to travel through time. Of course, he could make another one, but he needed a reason, an adventure that he really wanted to go on.
The Stranger’s yearning for a grand adventure was suddenly interrupted by the sound of barking coming from his garden.
“SARAH, make the garden wall transparent.” He commanded his Smart And Robotic Aware House.
The wall suddenly vanished but the painting of a duck that he’d bought at some hard to remember point in the past somehow remained nailed up and the door still stood, strong as it always had, holding the world outside.
Now The Stranger had a clear view into the garden in which there was a dog, his dog, a giant of a thing. The dog was chasing birds around, tail wagging and looking happy but as soon as soon as The Stranger opened the door and called “William!” The dog came bounding towards him, nearly bowling him over as it leapt inside.
He closed the door behind the dog and said aloud “SARAH, opaque.” And the wall returned to its previous, visible state.
The Stranger then journeyed into the workshop next to his kitchen, pulled out a blueprint and a metal thing that could have been a cheese grater if it didn’t have screws and other bits of metal sticking out of it. He screwed some more things to it following the blueprint exactly. Once he was done he kept going, making extra adjustments where he believed they were required.
That’s it! He cheered inwardly The CGTMmk.268, new and improved.
The problem now was his name, he didn’t want his real name in the history records and he couldn’t call himself The Stranger in the organisation that explores space and has very official, well preserved records. Stan Therger was the name he’d used in the past when he didn’t want to use his name and couldn’t call himself The Stranger. It looked like Stan was due another adventure.
“Major Thomas Grayson, Pilot Gordon Burns, Mission Specialist Juan Gomez and Flight Engineer Stan Therger. I have called you men here today for a very special and important mission which requires the attention of the very best, I have been informed that you four are the best. I’ll get to the point. Gentlemen, we are sending you to Mars.” Bellowed the Base Commander in his harsh, deep voice.
Every man in the room stood to attention awaiting orders.
“As you gentlemen know, we have been sending probes up to do reconnaissance for years and we think we’ve finally found the key to establishing life on Mars.” He marched back and forth, passing all four men, all of them holding their tongues until they had permission to speak. “We have found some sort of tree, this tree is golden in colour and we only know about it because all the probes and drones we’ve sent have been destroyed but the last thing every single one of them transmitted to us was code about this tree. First, we took it as nonsense but now we feel the need to investigate and maybe even destroy it. We believe that this tree could hold the secret to colonising the red planet, if it even exists. You will select your weapons for the operation in case there is life other than this tree. You may not tell anyone about this mission. You leave tomorrow. Understood?”
“Yes sir.” The four astronauts answered in unison.
“Any questions?” the Commander barked.
Now in a softer tone the Commander said “At ease gentlemen, you may leave and gather your things.”
Each of the four men shifted their stance into one that was more comfortable before turning towards the door and leaving the Command Centre.
The men then split up, the Major and Pilot went towards the cafeteria to have a final feast before leaving on what they knew was a suicide mission thought up by another madman who couldn’t care less about the lives of his men. The Mission Specialist headed back into his quarters which left Stan alone.
After a moment’s thought he decided to go to the Quartermaster to retrieve a weapon and get some practice in before going on a voyage that his books had little information on, yes, he knew the story, but he had no idea what terrors awaited him in his travels. Plus, he had to remember the addition of himself to the team meant there were four men instead of three, so the mission could go very differently to how it had before.
Shoving the small square fuel cell into the power chamber was as easy as it had been in training, the rifled barrel that Stan was holding had a bayonet on the end made of pure heat energy, it could cut through anything. This was an early version of the Energy Blaster Laser Rifle that he had used so many times back home in his own time when fighting for the resistance.
The first target appeared on the shooting range.
The first target turned to dust.
I’ve always been a good shot. Stan thought, praising himself. The dust made him disappointed at the newer Energy Blasters which didn’t look so spectacular when hitting things, they didn’t leave dust behind.
A second target appeared.
A second target turned to dust.
This same thing happened over and over for around one hundred shots until the fuel cell ran out. It’s a good thing we found a way to create cardboard out of thin air or this would be costing a lot although it didn’t do much good for the packaging industry.
As he handed the weapon back to the Quartermaster he said “Have this ready to be taken off base tomorrow morning.” To which the Quartermaster responded with a nod, he knew not to ask questions when people weren’t offering answers.
Stan then turned his attention to the mission itself, deciding that it was best to get more information he went to find Juan.
He was nervous as he approached Juan’s quarters, he was about to meet the man who would be Ultimate Supreme Lord King of Mars. Could he work with such a tyrant, with the man that everybody wished never existed? He even wondered if he should try and kill Juan to stop the trouble but there was no telling what the consequences of that would be, maybe the replacement that history chose would be worse. Time to face the future. He opened Juan’s door.
“Just the Juan I was looking for!” Stan cheered as he entered. “I need to know a bit more before we set off tomorrow.”
Juan smiled at his crewmate, patted the seat of a chair and being much nicer than Stan had expected uttered “Take a seat my friend, there’s a lot to tell.”
The next morning Stan woke up in his own quarters with no idea of how he’d got there. He opened his eyes to see a metal container sitting on his chair opposite his… bed, he called it a bed, but it was more like a mattress that folded into a space in the wall.
The container had the mark of the Quartermaster on it, so his first assumption was that it was the gun he had requested. His second assumption was that someone had let the Quartermaster in to put it on the chair as he didn’t remember doing so and try as he might, he still couldn’t remember going to bed.
He then picked the office wear shirt and trousers up off the floor, ashamed of himself for leaving them screwed up. Then he proceeded to fold them before donning his special suit which had been given to him at the start of his training, he had been told it was made of a new material that was perfect for space travel. He started psyching himself up as he went where plenty of men had gone before, the launch pads.
Upon his arrival, Stan found the Major, the Pilot and the Mission Specialist leaning against a wall with impatient looks on their faces caused by having to wait for their fourth crew member.
Together they left the safety of the inside to venture out across the bridge and into the rocket where each of them took their seats in their designated positions.
Major Grayson was disappointed at the lack of a crowd, no-one was there to see them off, to warm them up with a loving cheer that even in the cold, dark vacuum of space would give them hope of a safe return. There was only silence.
Pilot Burns must have noticed the Major’s disappointment, he placed his hand on the Major’s shoulder and whispered “The mission is secret, there is no-one to cheer. Just remember I’m always cheering for you.”
The Major smiled and all four men sat back in their seats.
“Major Grayson to Ground Control, we are here and ready for take-off, over.” He spoke into the radio transmitter sounding brave and bold as a heroic adventurer should.
“Ground Control to Major Grayson, all checks have been completed, you are cleared for take-off, over.”
The Pilot scanned his eyes over the plethora of knobs, dials, levers, pulleys and buttons on the control desk in front of him and pushed down hard on a big red button marked ‘T’.
Outside the space craft red warning lights started to flash and sirens blared for around two minutes. Then silence.
A robotic voice started to count down “T minus 10… 9… 8… 7…”
The thrusters of the rocket started to flare up, the noise of the engines blocked out the sound of the countdown. Fire blasted out, propelling the rocket upwards. Slowly at first as the rocket broke free from its supports, then faster and faster, gaining speed and momentum as it shot upwards through the air, piercing the clouds and vanishing out of sight of the ground.