This novel is limited to 100 free copies due to its part in Inkitt’s Novel Contest.
I hear the slogan I spent almost an entire day working on for this event being played out of the PA system all over the launch site and my heart does a couple of leaps for joy as I wash my hands and exit the bathroom.
The slogan in all honesty is so cheesy that you could probably top a pizza with it, but who in the world cares? Certainly not me. My invention is about to save humankind for God’s sakes! I am about to become such a big hero that they just might have to invent a brand new bill just to put my face on; maybe an eight hundred dollar bill, because eight hundred BILLION dollars is exactly what I’m saving the government by launching this probe into space. This probe I designed is going to repair the ozone layer in the atmosphere that mankind carelessly allowed to get so perforated that you would think a cheese-maker from Switzerland designed it.
The boys at the Harlem Reef Research Institute and NASA were so kind to put this event together to commemorate the launch of this space probe, and to thank me of course because let’s be honest, I deserve it.
As I walk down the hallway with my head held high and superbly polished shoes click-clacking on the finely-polished tiles, I suddenly stop and clutch my head as I get one of those odd headaches again. I’ve been having them ever since I woke up this morning but I’m definitely not going to allow something as minute as a headache to ruin my big day.
For some odd reason, my mind stumbles onto matters not pertaining to me as I begin to wonder if Martina and the kids are at the launch pad yet. If it weren’t for my tragically small bladder that caused me to go to the bathroom at this of all times, I would be up there with them as they bask in my awesome glory and prepare to watch me launch the probe into space that will ultimately save this planet.
I hurry up the metallic stairs at the end of the hallway that make an annoying clanking sound as my leather shoes make contact with them and this instigates another headache. I try to put on a brave face this time and ignore it.
At the top of the stairs is the elevator, the final thing standing between me and the applause of my adoring public. I begin to imagine what the sweet sounds of those clapping hands and cheering voices will be like and am only interrupted when I hear someone yelling my name frantically behind me, breaking my trance of total self-indulgence, not that I don’t deserve to indulge in myself every now and then.
“Dr. Blay, Dr. Blay!” I swiftly turn my head around in the direction of the voice that sounded so urgent that it made me a bit concerned and see a figure in a lab coat rushing toward me.
I really hope that this is one of those crazed autograph hunters who somehow manage to sneak past security and harass superstars that I’ve always heard of but unfortunately has never happened to me.
“Yes, how may I help you? Do you want my autograph?” I ask hopefully to the mystery figure that is doubled over and panting profusely at the bottom of the stairs.
“Dr. Blay, so glad I’ve caught you; I’m Dr. Alfred Knoster, head of engineering and physics at NASA,” he says as he extends his hand and I belatedly grab and shake it.
“I have something very important to...”
“Look Dr. Knoster or what ever your name is, I know you think what you want to tell me is very important but honestly I don’t have time to waste. Say whatever you have to say now. As I said I have no second to waste.” He raises his eyebrows in apparent surprise at my bluntness but still continues.
“I know, but what I have to say is of utmost importance, it may possibly even save this planet.” In turn, I also raise my eyebrows in surprise toward him as a response. I take a step down to hear what he is saying so that in the slim chance that it isn’t a baseless point, I might add it to my post-launch speech and make myself seem even more heroic, like that’s even possible. “Yes, so you see, as I said before, I’m a nuclear physicist at NASA and I happened to go over your calculations you made concerning this probe that’s about to launch and I’m afraid you’ve made a fatal error.”
“What do you mean?” I ask as I feel my ego, as large as it is, take a massive hit. “I double, even triple checked those calculations and didn’t find a single mistake, not even one.” I drag my hand away from him when I realise he is still in possession of it and continue my egotistical rant. “Look, I don’t know who you are, or what you think you know but I am Dr. Ignatius Blay, a world-renowned nuclear physicist who doesn’t make petty errors like what you are insinuating, now leave me alone before I call security!”
I turn my nose up at the gentleman who looks absolutely perplexed at my rudeness but I just ignore him and continue walking up the stairs. He looked a little bit older than me due to his greying-blonde hair but still he has no right to insult me like that. I tug at the clump of grey hair at the base of my black hair to compare who has more. Thankfully it seems like he wins.
“Dr. Blay, listen to me,” he calls out from behind me but I refuse to turn but I do pause in my walking. “You forgot to carry a one in your calculations, think about how...” he says something inaudible at the end of it but as I turn around to give him another piece of my mind the man is running away at top speed down the hallway like a madman. It’s obvious he must have been an escaped mental patient or something of the ilk because to insinuate that I made a calculation error is tantamount to mental instability. I just shake my head in pity for him and walk on toward the elevator which is just a few feet away from me.
One minute to launch.
I hear another announcement on the PA system in-between the President’s speech. Thank God because he has been going on and on for almost an hour now and I was beginning to think he would never end but I guess that’s good for me isn’t it?
I thought I told my assistant Janice to wait until I got back from the bathroom to launch the probe and only to go ahead when it looked obvious I’m not coming but it hasn’t been that long, come on. This is so like her to steal my moment of glory, not as if I need it but still.
I hasten my steps and frantically press the green ‘up’ button on the panel beside the elevator and the doors slide open. I step inside it quickly and press the ‘up’ button on the inside. The doors slide close and the elevator begins to ascend. The PA system announces that there is only thirty seconds to launch and my heart skips a beat as the President finishes his speech and starts to call for me. I press the up button a few more times for good measure until I’m satisfied then calm down. The relative silence in the elevator, barring the boring music playing in here, sets me thinking about what that man said.
Okay, the multiplication there was sound...Aha that was a three wasn’t it? Yes, it was, and thirty times fifteen is four hundred and fifty yes. I wrote that, didn’t I? Did I write that in the schematics? Please tell me that I did! Oh my! No I must have, I’m Dr. Blay for crying out loud but wait, in my haste I think I didn’t! I think I wrote 420 instead of 450! That meant that the design for the fuel tank will have left one valve which is supplying fuel to the probe a millimetre too short! Sadly, this is not a small mistake but a very huge one regarding the fate of humanity as we know it because that short valve will cause fuel to leak into the nuclear core that is supposed to power the probe, and once they touch, the dire consequences are too horrifying to even imagine!
The air in the elevator suddenly feels very very thin and breathing gets a bit tough because I’ve realised that the supposedly mentally challenged man was in actuality right! My glasses get so foggy from the nervous sweat on my forehead that I take them off and wipe it on my shirt which is even beginning to get damper and damper by the second.
I have to stop this launch at all costs!
“Please hurry, please hurry!” I beg as I keep pressing the up button frantically in hopes that it will somehow speed up the elevator. A cold sweat breaks out across my forehead as the PA system sounds again, possibly for the last time.
Ten seconds to launch.
After the PA system beams damningly throughout the facility, I am now basically mashing the ‘up’ button but I begin to feel a bit faint as another headache begins to take effect on me.
Countdown to launch, the PA system says damningly. Ten, nine, eight...
The elevator doors slide open just as the PA system starts the countdown and I almost trip as I leap out of it with such ferocity that I tear my black NASA shirt down the side, exposing parts of my tummy but I’m not in the least bit concerned right now since more pressing matters have captured my attention.
I see the launch room just a few meters across the dusty park with my assistant, a few NASA officials and my family in it. There is a very slim but remotely plausible chance that I can still make it to them in time!
I ran as fast as my thirty-two year old legs will carry me but unfortunately for me, and sadly the planet too, that isn’t very fast at all. I can see the cheering crowds lining either side of me but all their noise is blocked out as my main target consumes my focus.
“Stop, stop!” I yell almost as soon as I am within an earshot of the booth but Janice already has her thumb on the large, red, launch button and as a result, she seems not to be able to hear me.
She has a huge photo-ready smile plastered across her face as the paparazzi that are being forcibly pushed back by security capture numerous photos of her about to launch that probe that will kill us all. I told her to go ahead and launch if I hadn’t gotten back yet, but it honestly wasn’t my fault that they ran out of soap in the bathroom at that moment I went there but everything else most certainly is my fault.
Three, two, one, zero, launch commence...
I see her face turn toward me as if in slow motion as the PA system utters those condemning words and I burst my lungs yelling in her direction but the countdown reached zero before she saw me. Her finger already has some pressure on the button so the next thing I feel is the ground rumble as I trip over in my momentum and face plant in the red dust. I look up and see the probe rise majestically a few feet into the air as I always envisioned it and the crowds cheer wildly but midway in the air, it suddenly stops and the cheering stops almost in unison with it as they sense that something has gone wrong. Little do they know that we are all doomed.
The probe comes crashing back down to the earth with considerable speed behind it and before it hits, an explosion of planet-ending, causing of species extinction proportions follows, incinerating anything and everything in its path, and in this case, not some science experiment in which you blow up your room and get grounded for a month, but rather, the entire planet being reduced to rubble in a matter of moments...
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