The ancient solar dish had finally collapsed. Rusted from years of neglect and then welded into barely workable shape after a late resurgence of concern and dependency, the large rotating metal solar panel bent over and cast a plume of moondust three hundred feet into the air.
“That’s not good.” Dexter, who worked the center bunker, watched the plume rise. “Do we have other power sources?”
Michael radioed back from the starboard bunker. “There’s the thermal generator.”
“Will that be enough? Do we need to fix the solar dish?”
“Fix the solar dish!” Rafael’s voice crackled through the radio. It was Rafael’s record on the line. “Low power means low shields. Get some equipment and fix the dish.”
Dexter went into the utility closet and pushed around metal scraps with his boot. He kicked several tin sheets to the side and uncovered an ancient winch with a rusty hook.
“I’ve got something that might lift the dish vertical again. You got anything that might keep it there, Michael?”
“I’ve some some cement blocks and a melt gun. Think that’ll work?”
“Jesus H. Ghandi.” Rafael’s voice sounded muffled, as though he was rubbing his face and speaking into his mic at the same time. “Is that what you’re–”
Dexter jammed the frequency. Rafael’s voice disappeared, and the quavering waves of Tom Jones filled their headsets.
With the winch tucked under his arm and his helmet squeezed tightly atop his spacesuit, Dexter opened the airlock door and low-grav trotted towards the dish. Dexter placed the winch on the ground just as Michael appeared from the starboard bunker, pushing a hovercart of cement blocks. Dexter tapped his wrist screen and closed the jamming program.
“–CKING JAMMING, DEXTER!”
“Calm down, Raffy. We’re practically done fixing it.” Dexter made a lewd gesture towards Michael, who laughed and spit his gum directly onto his helmet’s heads-up display.
Dexter activated the winch, and it dug four prongs deep into the craggy ground. He then took the hook and tugged it towards the collapsed dish. He wrapped the heavy wire around the base of the dish, and secured it on itself.
“Winch command: Slow draw.” At Dexter’s voice, the winch began twirling the wire slowly on its spool. The solar dish trembled, then eased upright.
“I guess we can stack the bricks on the far side and then–”
“Is that you guys?” Rafael’s voice burst over the communicators. “Are you guys turning systems off?!”
“What? No. We’re outside. We’re fixing–”
The heads-up display on Dexter’s and Michael’s helmets began flashing SYSTEM ERROR in red, ominous letters.
“Oh no!” Rafael’s voice cracked. “Someone’s broken through the home shield. It’s a vessel! It’s heading towards you!”
“Michael, get back inside!”
Just as the words were transmitting across Titan’s vacuum, just as Dexter and Michael made eye contact for the final time, the rocky surface exploded underneath them. Dexter tumbled backwards like a pebble in a landslide. A seventy-foot, sleek duo-tone gun-metal gray and toothpaste white military space vessel rose from a crooked scar on the planet surface. It lifted slowly like a waking giant. Its cavernous laser barrels pointed at Dexter.
“You can’t let the angel escape,” Rafael said from a safe distance. “This is on my goddamn record!”
Through the settling dust, Dexter could see the pilot’s lips twitch into an excited half-smile.
“Dexter! We can’t let that goddamn pagan deity reach Earth!”
The vessel jumped towards Dexter in a silent flash. Dexter dove prone just as the glimmering ship passed over him. He scrambled to his feet, jumped across the spreading crack in the moon’s crust, and snatched the melt gun from the ground near where Michael last stood. Dexter slapped the gun’s control console. It flashed “FULL HEAT” just as he brought the weapon to bear. He squeezed the trigger and watched a glowing yellow heat round chase after the silver and white ship. The vessel disappeared into the black sparkling expanse as the round veered into an infinitely diverging tangent.
“He’s gone.” Dexter’s voice echoed across the shattered moonscape. But his eyes weren’t directed towards the white dot sliding towards earth, but rather an overturned hovercart with fifty spilled bricks — and the dark, empty, lonely death waiting hours and hours above it.
Bradley writes for FanGraphs and The Hardball Times. Follow him on Twitter @BradleyWoodrum.