From Earth To Heaven - Chapter Two

Chapter 2: The Path From Earth

The sun has yet to rise. A middle aged couple is enjoying some time together in bed. At their age simple foreplay has become the usual routine. The signs of old age and old wounds have taken ahold but they chose to work around it instead of giving up. The alarm sounds to start the beginning of the day. Not knowing it was their last one together.

Mika is a quiet stay-at-home mom fighting a bad back and an addiction to Twitter but runs the household like a well-oiled machine. Provided she’s not dragged into the laziness of the rest of her family. Originally from Okinawa but if you call her Japanese she will give you a dirty look. Much like the people from Texas call themselves Texans before calling themselves American.

Melvin is a simple person. To him a quick nap is a huge reward. Stress bounces off of him like water off a ducks back. He is motivated more by the remote control than being the weekend warrior type. Stuck in a dead end job he took online courses to get a better job and life for his family. Eventually he found his calling in life but his family had to give up living in his home town of Wendell, North Carolina. They have been living near Cape Canaveral, Florida for almost eight years now.

Their son Zack is very shy. He is a 19 year old college student who still watches Kamen Rider and other Japanese shows on the internet. Very smart but very lazy in doing his chores unless mom threatens to call dad on him. Still trying to find himself but so far has only discovered that he like girls in bikinis. And living near the beach has turned into a dream come true for him.

As Melvin headed off for work, he grabs a quick feel of his wife. Much to her enjoyed annoyance. Even as she had just turned 50 years old, three years older than he is, she loves knowing that he still finds her sexy. Zack eventually heads off to school. Mika then heads back to bed. With tablet in hand to check her Twitter updates and to get some rest before everyone comes home.

Melvin stops off at a local gas station to pack out his lunchbox for the day. He heads off to one of the launch sites where Rauch Tech, a current startup company plans to send a one way six man crew to Mars that night. Many of these companies have sprung up over the years ending with little to no success. Melvin is one of the engineering staff that has already launched a supply ship a few weeks earlier.

By that afternoon he gets a phone call from his wife. Zack needs a kudzu plant for a science project. One of the old launch sights has some growing there. With permission he grabs an old lab kit and digs up a small kudzu plant plus some dirt to keep it alive. Soon he gets a call to the launch pad to help finish up a repair.

He leaves the plant container outside the craft then crawls in to help finish a repair to the oxygen system. Off in the distance they can hear multiple thunder sounds becoming more and more frequent. The approaching sky is pitch black as alarms sound off for everyone to make for a safe location. Melvin stays behind with a couple of other engineers as they are safer inside the craft.

Mission Control had postponed the launch until after the storm had passed. But due to the amount of lightning strikes there was a concern that at least one of the fueling tanks could be hit. Reports were coming in from the local news stations of multiple fires and damages created by the lightning strikes.

Options included launching the ship now but it would take two more hours to get the crew ready. By then the storm would have passed. Launching the ship now and place it in orbit. Then send the crew up to board it and continue on with the mission. Possible but the other major nations in the world were trying to get to Mars as well. Using their ships to send the astronauts into space would be costly and embarrassing. The more they talked the closer the storm got.

The repairs inside the ship are finally completed. They quickly crawled out of the ship where they are met with a series of lightning strikes. Melvin is thrown back into the ship. As one of the engineers calls for help a lightning bolt strikes a storage tanks creating a chain reaction heading to the shuttle craft.

The engineers get the call to close the doors and make for the emergency escape route. They place the tool boxes and Melvin’s lab kit inside the shuttle and closed the door. They make it to safety as they began hearing the roar of the main engines igniting. They had no idea that Mission Control was going to launch the shuttle. As Mission Control had no idea that Melvin was still inside. The whole tower by now is engulfed in flames and multiple explosions.

Mission Control is quickly informed that Melvin is inside the shuttle. From the internal cameras they could see that he was still unconscious. Then more bad news is reported. The computer link was broken due to the multiple lightning strikes as the shuttle flew through the storm. They could look and monitor the systems but not makes any changes to them.

They soon realize that the shuttle controls were still set to fly to Mars. And the only man onboard might be dead. If not then at least untrained for what lies ahead of him. There was talk of aborting the mission by crash landing the ship but with a severed link to the onboard computer system made this impossible. It became a wait and see game as by now the media was starting to contact them.

Mika and Zack had just finished dinner by flashlights as power in the whole area was out due to the storm. The police arrive and informs them about an accident relating to Melvin. The police carried them to Mission Control as all their questions would be answered. Mika is in tears as Zack keeps her from falling down.

By the time they arrived at the center some good news was coming in. Melvin is showing of movement. The ship was to make four more orbits as it slingshoted itself towards Mars. By then the computer linkup hopefully could be reestablished to keep it in orbit or to crash it. Mika and Zack are updated on everything leading up to Melvin being on the shuttle craft.

As they are being briefed news comes in that Melvin is finally awake. Freaking out would be saying it mildly as Mission Control tries to calm him down. Mika is rushed into the room where she is able to talk with him. In time he finally calms down. He resets the onboard computer systems and is able to restore the link between Mission Control and the shuttle.

Melvin is then given a list of options. Stay in orbit until another shuttle could dock and return home. Continue with the mission to Mars or, as Melvin did not know how to properly pilot the ship, to crash land the ship. Melvin understands how everything on the ship works but not how to properly fly it. Much like the people working at the Boeing Company can build all types of aircraft even though they don’t know how to fly them.

Mika looked as if she was ready to murder the man for suggesting that Melvin kill himself. She was eventually calmed down by Melvin who understood the options before him. Crashing the shuttle into the ocean or waiting for another shuttle to dock with it would bankrupt the billionaire who owns the company. A lot of people would be out of a job. Plus he was tempted by the third option.

Everyone knew that he was one of the original members that worked to build the shuttle in the first place. He knew every switch and knob onboard. The only option left by now was to continue on towards Mars. But he was too afraid to say it. Instead Mika spoke for him. And even then he couldn’t bring himself to say yes until she said it for him.

Melvin was told he would still be paid as he journeyed to Mars. If he makes it there alive and is able to explore the planet his family would become instant millionaires. He wanted to talk with his family privately. They all cried as they knew every option was a death sentence. He was not coming home but at least he had the opportunity to make the record books. Mika, trying to be brave, tells him to find a good place so she can see him through a telescope.

Zack was blaming himself for getting dad to get the plant for him. Melvin corrects him stating that getting the plant or not he would still have ended up where he is now. He asks Zack to look after his mother as he would name a couple of Martian mountains after each of them. With that he prepares to leave orbit.

By now every media outlet is either calling or already parked outside the facility waiting for answers for the early launch. The Flight Director gives a press conference explaining everything that has happened. Mika and Zack do not attend. Instead they are carried back home. A staff member with a laptop goes with them so they could stay in contact with Melvin.

Nearly everyone who lives in the immediate area of Melvin’s house works with NASA in one form or another. The community quickly learns and comes together to offer their support to Mika and Zack. Several wives show up with a few months’ supply of food knowing the media will be camped outside their home for weeks on end. They watch the news with Zack as by now the whole world knows who Melvin is. Mika, still trying to come to terms with everything that has just happened refuses to watch.

Mark Rauch, the billionaire who owns the company calls and informs Mika that he was sending a security detail to watch over Melvin’s home. He talks to Mika and reassures her that Melvin will not be forgotten. The security people will stay there as long as needed and not to worry about anything. Mr. Rauch is not a bad guy but he plans to use Melvin and his family as promotional material to strengthen his companies’ image as nearly a billion dollars will soon be heading towards Mars.

And it’s being piloted by a man who breaks the law without thinking. He reprogramed an old Dish Network satellite receiver to receive every channel even though he doesn’t have an account with them. Every song and movie he has ever watched was downloaded illegally. When his neighbors were about to lose their home, Melvin hacked into the bank and had their house debt removed..

Every one of his speeding ticket has disappeared from the police and insurance company’s computer systems. When a reporter wrote a bad article about Mark Rauch’s plans to go to Mars, Melvin hacked into the reporter’s story. Instead of it reading “Senior Staff Reporter” below the reporters name he changed it to “Self Impregnated Hermaphrodite”. The story was heavily circulated around the world. More people contacted the reported and newspaper about her “medical condition” than about the article she wrote.

When a local news crew broadcasted the launch of the supply ship weeks earlier, he hacked into the station TV truck. Scrolling at the bottom of everyone’s TV screen for the whole world to see was a request for donations of pizzas. Mission Control received over 150 pizzas within three hours.

Rauch and Melvin’s coworkers put up with his irregulars because he can see the solution to any problem. He knew how to increase output of the ion engines. He can tell from looking at computer code where the glitches are located. Even a few scientists have claimed that Melvin can read binary code as easily as one reads a comic book.

Melvin’s suggestions carried more weight that a room full of MIT graduates. And yet a man his age still dressed in blue jeans and t-shirts while listening to JPOP music like Babymetal. Not bad for a guy whose last job was a weekend pull-up merchandiser for a local soda company.

Aboard the shuttle craft Nerio, Melvin is going through a long check list before main ignition. They are bigger and more powerful version of the ion thrusters used by NASA for their long ranged satellites. This ship is the first one of its kind to test them and if all goes well they will cut the flight time to less than 100 days.

Melvin knows how everything on board the shuttle works. What he does not understand is the NASA lingo. For that matter following standard procedures. He seldom reads the instruction manual. Just like taking medicine, he gulps down Nyquil rather than use the measuring cup. Now he and everyone in Mission Control are facing a cultural clash of differences. In less than an hour the main engines need to ignite but a huge language barrier is bringing this voyage to a quick end.

Eventually Mission Control agrees to stop using initials for all the systems on board the shuttle. Melvin agrees to read the on-board manuals on how to properly use the systems. As Melvin sits strapped into his seat, he waits as the countdown is by now at the ten minute mark. If all goes well the Earth will disappear behind him as open space will carry him to his final resting place.

At the nine minute mark he wishes love to his wife and son as people begin to hear music coming from the shuttle; more precise Melvin’s cell phone. The song is called Love Letter by Gackt. They can hear and see him singing along with the song. A couple of Japanese staff members at Ground Control explain the meaning of the song to everyone there.

The media could spin it as a message to the people of Earth but everyone in the room knew it as a final goodbye to his wife Mika. She and Zack are listening by way of the laptop belonging to a Mission Control staffer. She knows the song well as she continues to cry nonstop.

Soon the main engine successfully ignites and the shuttle leaves orbit as Melvin try’s the think of something meaningful to say. The first comment was “I think I’m gonna….’ then proceeds to throw up into an airbag. Composing himself he gives a simple message, “I can go all the way, because we are together. Now and forever.”

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