Han began pre-launch checks, wilfully ignoring his friend. The radio squawked and Ramirez answered before Han could tell him not to.
“Ah Sir, I’m getting a launch warning in tube one. We running a drill I don’t know about.”
Ramirez’s face dropped. Han grabbed his own mike and spoke to the chief mate.
“Negative chief, this is a live fire exercise. Confirm tube one is prepped with a Mark IX and ready to fly.”
To the chief’s credit he remained completely calm. It wasn’t everyday you launched a tactical thermonuclear warhead, even in space.
“The oven is warm and the pie is baking.”
“He doesn’t know what you’re planning,” Ramirez said.
“And neither does Hailey. You should have gone for chow Carlos.”
“Meteor defences will shoot it down before it gets within a thousand metres.”
“The Admiral shut down their power core. No lights, no tether, no defences.”
“The Admiral knows what he’s doing.”
Han hovered over the launch controls. Eight million people versus one warhead.
“The outbreak, it’s bad.”
“We’ve had bad before. The PCR hit up Delta with that bubonic stuff a few years back. We can deal with bad.”
“Not like this.”
“We’re not even trying.”
The warble of a child, hunting for their patriarch. Jay felt his stomach drop. He’d just got JJ to sleep, any noise right now felt like a bomb…
His hands trembled. Dropping to his knees, Jay rubbed away the imminent tears.
Katie appeared in the doorway to the nursery. She clutched a pad to her chest, the soft glow illuminating her face in the dark room.
“Dad,” she said more quietly.
He picked himself up and lead her out of the room. Eight years old and already so much like her mother. She’d either be running a company or commanding a squadron by her 21st birthday he decided.
“Go on then, what’s the first question?” he said as they sat down at the kitchen table.
Katie happily put her pad on the table, tapping through to the list of questions her teacher had asked each student to ask.
“What was the defining moment of your life?”
“The day I married your mother.”
“Daaaad,” Katie whined again.
“But what about the Moon?”
It was an innocent question. Her generation had grown up in the shadow of the incident. There was the old moon and the new moon and to a young mind they were separated by a date. To anyone who had been there fifteen years ago, the eras were separated by the worst atrocity in a generation.
How to tell a child her father was the one responsible?
“Remember when JJ was born, and he caught pneumonia and me and your mother were really worried? Well, on the moon a lot of people got sick, like that. Only we couldn’t help them get better.
“And anyone who was sick could make everyone else really sick. So the Government had to make a decision. Did they try and help these poor people and risk letting more people get sick? Or did they try and stop the disease from spreading?”
Katie scribbled away furiously on the pad, but stopped at the question.
“Why didn’t they try to help, even a little?” she asked.
Innocence. Something he could never feel again.
“It was very bad. When people get sick and they lose hope, well, they don’t act like very nice people any more.”
Katie frowned, trying to grasp the concept. Jay sidled up next to her, nestling her small frame against his own. On the pad, images of the crater of Luna-One were scrolling through next to various notes and bits of research. Fields of rock melted into glass, twisted metal skeletons reaching out to the sky.
He tapped on one particular photo and felt himself fall back in time.
“Time to impact, 45 seconds.”
Ramirez repeated the words like a robot. Han’s finger still held the launch button down, the knuckle white. The missile had vanished into the void, it’s silent ion drive a blue twinkle amongst millions.
“You can still abort.”
“Fuck you Carlos, and your nobility. This is what we signed up for. Because sometimes we have to do the stuff that nobody else can.”
“You’re talking about turning eight million people to atoms! Tony’s got family down there for christsake, your own deckhand. He’s gonna be responsible for killing his own family.”
“They’re already dead. That plague down there, it’s killed three million in as many days. If it hitches a ride back to Earth, everyone is dead.
“It’s for the good of the many.”
“I won’t have any part of it,” Ramirez said, unstrapping from his flight seat.
Han didn’t feel his hand slip into the drop pouch of the helm, didn’t feel his fingers wrap around the cool grip of the pistol. Only Ramirez’s stare as his friend pointed the weapon at him registered.
“Jay,” Ramirez said.
“Sit down. You can’t warn the others.”
Carlos pushed against a console, returning to his seat. He watched the numbers tick past ten.
“I’m sorry,” Han said, letting his hand float back to his lap.
“Not as sorry as I am.”
The bomb penetrated deep into the complex before detonating. The out-rushing air caught fire, burning out into space. Secondary explosions began rushing outwards. Sectors fell like dominos.
The orbital tether was outlined against the orange flames. As the ground port began to ignite, the tether shook. Great tendrils of fire raced up within the superstructure, explosions venting at key junctions, until it snapped in two like a twig, miles of coils falling against the wreckage of the domes.
The missile had targeted the deuterium stores. More and more of the hydrogen held within began to ignite, until soon the initial explosion was dwarfed by the raging fires.
The fire burned so hot, the silicon in the lunar rock turned to liquid, creating lakes of molten glass.
It was a sight neither man would ever forget.
“Did you ever go there? Before?” Katie asked.
Jay felt himself return to the present. The image of the fallen tether, coiled within the glass, returning to the stream.
“No. I never had a chance. Your mother was from there you know? Her parents parents had been some of the first colonists. I always wanted to visit.”
“If you had been there, would you have cared?”
It was an oddly adult question, and not one that appeared on the list of teacher-approved discussion points.
“No,” Jay muttered, honestly.
“You had the power to save them.”
Jay felt his heart skip a beat, the tears rolling down his face as his own daughter stood above him and called him a monster.
Carlos stood beside her, his face angry and sad, as he pointed Han’s own gun at his head.
The tether fell and the world burned and he had killed them all.
He awoke screaming.
Prompt originally posted by anir9492 on reddit and received 1 upvotes.