Willows, Phobos, and Hexes, Oh My...


Matthew was tired.  He had been working overtime the past few weeks assembling circuit boards for LSI Labs and really just needed to get some downtime.  ‘A little bit of vacation wouldn’t hurt,’ he thought tiredly. However, there was a light at the end of the tunnel, a long holiday weekend was coming up and Matthew planned on relaxing the whole time.

Matthew was so wrapped up in his daydreaming, that he didn’t put the soldering gun back on its stand right, so it shifted and nicked his thumb.  The burning sensation caused Matthew to cry out and jump up; knocking the circuit board he was working on to land on the floor. He immediately picked it up, examined the board finding a hairline crack in the upper left-hand corner.  He looked up at the clock, looked at his quota sheet next to his desk.

“Damn,” he muttered, “Having to redo this board means I will be one off of my daily quota.”    He looked around to see no one was watching, and made a quick decision. He stuffed the fist-sized circuit board in its static bag and went on to finish his quota for the day.

Herman ‘Rattler’ Henry looked out of the small window in the cockpit of the Orion craft that had been his and his crewmate’s home for the last nine months.  The craft was small and at times the six of them got on each other’s nerves, but the sight he beheld made it worth it. He turned to his co-pilot, “Ain’t Mars a beauty?”  The co-pilot could only stare in wonderment at the giant red orb that hung in the window before him.

Rattler looked over and then floated back to his seat.  “Okay everyone,” he called out over the voice link, “Let’s strap ourselves in.  Thruster firing for Mars Orbit in five minutes.”

The Co-Pilot went over his readouts.  His hands flowing over the controls with relative ease, despite the excitement and exhilaration he felt.  Then again, he had spent two years practicing for this very moment, so he was confident he could do this in his sleep.  The drill was always the same, fire the retro rockets as they neared the Martian moon of Phobos, flip around it and use the inertia to park the Orion craft in a steady polar orbit above Mars.  A walk in the park.

The Co-Pilot looked over to Rattler.  “All systems are ready for retro firing.”

Rattler looked out ahead at the growing potato shape of Phobos.  “Fire the retro rockets in three, two, one. Fire.”

The Co-Pilot pressed the rocket control.  Deep inside the Orion’s electronics, electrical impulses fired.  Until they reached one circuit board. The crack in it caused a short and the command never reached the rockets.

“No response.” The co-pilot said with trepidation.  Rattler replied calmly, “Try again.”


Rattler could think of nothing to say as the Orion moved closer and closer to Phobos.


Nick just grimaced as Matthew slowly came to.  “I guess factory worker is out?”

Matthew was unable to speak, just merely glanced at Nick; partly from anger, partly from annoyance.  “Not fun,” he managed to croak out.

“Maybe a teacher.” Matthew went on, “or a professor.”

Nick looked on contemplating.  “You sure you are ready for another shot? You don’t look so hot. Maybe you should see a doctor first.”

Matthew shook his head.

“No, let’s get this over with.”

Nick put a hand on Matthew’s head, “Good luck.”

Copyright 2014-2021 Kohl Media Solutions. All Rights Reserved.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

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