Excerpt from "Homo Aethereus"

on Thursday, 23 February 2012
Teaser excerpt from the novel I am currently working on:

General Kessler sat at his desk in the small office afforded to him by the Colonial Astral Resource Program. He looked around at the beige walls, and pondered the small space in which he had worked for the past 6 years. General Kessler was 56 years old, and this being the pinnacle of his career, he was confined to a 12 square foot office with no air conditioning for most of his working days. He considered this for a minute, considered that maybe a man of his rank might have done a lot better for himself. He discarded the thought; he was essentially nothing more than an administrator for a cargo company, despite the lofty four star rank, and he still pulled in a six figure salary each year. His left hand instinctively reached down to the top drawer of his desk, hesitating only slightly before opening the drawer. The drawer slid open with a pleasant sloshing clink, and General Kessler took out the bottle of scotch. He decanted a glass and peered at the tiny office window through the honey coloured liquid. He could see the launch tower from here.

General Kessler loved whisky, the oaky aroma, the way it shined in the light. He held the glass under his nose and inhaled deeply as he gently swirled it. He put the glass to his lips and allowed a small amount of whisky to creep up the sides of the glass. Licking his lips, he savoured the slight stinging sharpness, followed by the warm, numbing glow. In one swift movement he downed the rest of the glass and carefully set it back down on the desk. He lit a cigar and allowed the acrid smoke to blossom into his lungs. From a secret compartment in his desk drawer he pulled a small cardboard box with the symbol of a fish embossed on the front and shook out its contents. It contained strips of pills, of which he popped out two and swallowed, not bothering to put the packet away afterwards.

He thought back to why he joined the Program, he had started his career as a commercial pilot flying the lunar tourist runs and when the Program started up, they had needed experienced pilots, people who had clocked up hours in deep space. The pay was fantastic compared to the private sector and Kessler and been an eager young man ready to rise up through the ranks. He was training new recruits after 5 years service, picking them after 10, and now here he was, basically in charge of a whole branch of the Program. He thought maybe he should feel pride, but to him he was only doing his job, a job that someone else would have done if he hadn’t taken it. Perhaps they would have done it better, or at least differently. Kessler was suddenly wrapt by a longing to return to those simple days of commercial flights, of starched nylon uniforms and loose flight attendants, those days of boring, steady predictability, but he shook himself out of his nostalgia quickly. There was no use in thinking like that now, what’s done is done, he told himself.

An explosion was heard in the distance and a flash of light filled the room. Kessler didn’t flinch, but poured himself another glass of whisky, which he drank immediately, followed by another.

General Kessler sat up straight in his chair, straightened out his uniform and seemed to collect himself. He briefly studied the photo of his family on his desk, a resolute look crossing his face, again reached for the desk drawer, where he pulled out his service revolver and shot himself point blank through the temple.

It would be nice to think that he had a last thought of his wife or his children, or perhaps that his life and all its regrets flashed before his eyes, but General Hubert J. Kessler thought no more and lay dead on his office floor.


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