A single silver cone of light shone down upon the man. The vast stage around him was empty and dark. He stood, head bowed as if in thought, clutching the microphone to his chest while five thousand silent parishioners waited for him to speak.
“Friends,” he started. “I cannot tell a lie. The days have grown dire. This house, God’s house, our house, is beset upon by the evil and the wicked. Satan’s armies are at the gate, it’s true. And that gate is all that stands between everything you love and eternal damnation!”
The crowd gasped collectively. Some wept and others shook their heads in solemn despair.
“Never has our need been so great. I wish that I could protect you, that I could hide from you the true severity of our peril. Yet I cannot, our doom is nigh. Unless we stand together against this evil, brother to brother, sister to sister, and fight back the darkness!”
Cries of “Amen!” and other utterances of praise percolated through the worshipers.
“There is no way to sugar coat this, so I’ll just come out and say it. Our church is under foreclosure. Our roof, our walls, the very pews of our sanctuary are within the grasp of the vile and despicable tax man! If we cannot sate his demonic appetite with two-million, three-hundred-thousand, nine-hundred, and sixty-six dollars in blood money, God’s house will fall!”
The frenzied congregation began reaching for their purses and wallets as if the might of their credit cards would protect them from the encroaching hoard of demons.
“Yes, friends, that’s it! Money is what we need, cash will be our salvation! Hold your cards up to the light!”
A massive crucifix slowly descended from the ceiling. At the center, a bright red laser reader blinked on and pulsed beneath a digital dollar display. As the faithful raised their cards up over their heads, a beam shot from the scanner and read their chips, causing the display to begin enumerating the donations.
As the laser gained intensity, emitting beams like a manic disco ball, the lights to the auditorium came on with a sudden, and obnoxious glare. The cross went dark and the evangelist’s microphone went dead. At the back of the hall, the doors burst open and a small group of sharply suited men marched down the central aisle, the lead among them carrying a bullhorn.
“Whoa! Whoa! Hold up there Casey Treat!” Ray Chi shouted through the bullhorn.
“What is this? Who are you people?” the evangelist demanded, still talking into his dead mic.
Jeff Dee jogged the short distance to the stage and vaulted up beside the confused pastor. His suit seemed one size too small as his arms and shoulders bulged against the seams of his jacket. He towered menacingly above him, his bald head refracting the bright lights of the church.
“I will not be intimidated!” he said, attempting to push Jeff from the stage.
“Don’t get your loins all girded,” said Jeff. “I’ve seen your healthcare plan, it ain’t that good.”
Jeff scooped up the pastor, holding him in his arms like a new bride and carried him to the stage door. The man flailed wildly against him which only caused Jeff to squeeze tighter.
“Shhh, just let it happen,” he whispered in his ear as he kicked open the stage door and stepped into the alley beyond.
“Set me down!”
Jeff gave a heave ho and tossed the pastor into a cluster of recycling bins, where he splashed down with an explosion of liquor bottles and beer cans. Nodding with satisfaction, he returned to the stage and shut the door behind him.
Ray Chi now stood on the stage, tapping on the pastor’s discarded microphone, “This thing on?”
Off stage, one of Ray and Jeff’s well-dressed companions pushed a fader up on a mixing board and gave him the thumbs up.
“Good morning, Victory Church!” Ray Chi addressed the confused assembly.
Presently Jeff appeared beside him, cheerfully clapping his hands for Ray.
“Don’t be alarmed, you’re all safe. We mean you no harm. In fact, we’ve come to rescue you from the clutches of that charlatan!”
Some in the crowd were making their way toward the exits, pushing through the murmuring crowd.
“That’s ok, folks. If you want to leave, I won’t stop you. However, you will miss the opportunity of a lifetime! Unlike your disgraceful pastor, I haven’t come here to grovel for your pocket change. No! I’ve come to deliver prosperity, wealth, and, more than that, a path to Heaven’s glory!”
The crowd quieted and turned their attention to Ray. He stood silent for a moment, straightening his tie and running his fingers through his spikey wedge of hair.
“My name is Ray Chi, CEO of Space Jesus Ministries. I’ll get right to the point. Why pray to Jesus when you can meet him in the flesh and shake his hand? Crazy, you say? Perhaps. Or, perhaps, we’ve learned a little something about our lord and savior, something we would love to share with you. Sound good?”
The crowd dubiously muttered their affirmations.
“He said, does that sound good?” Jeff shouted into the microphone.
“Yes!” the crowd responded with decidedly increased conviction.
“The first thing you need to know, folks, is that Heaven is real. And I don’t mean in the sense of an afterlife, some reward for a lifetime of blind servitude. No, I mean Heaven is a real place and we want to take you there!”
“Hallelujah!” Jeff threw his hands up.
The congregation cheered wildly.
“Where is it? Well, I’m not gonna’ sugar coat it, it’s a long journey. It won’t be easy and it won’t be cheap, but we will get there! How far? Well, have you heard of the moon Phobos? Larger of Mars’s two moons? Well, that’s where we’re going!”
“How will we get there?” someone shouted from the crowd.
“On a motherfucking spaceship!” Ray answered.
Jeff pulled a small jar from his jacket and shook it at Ray, who reached into his wallet and extracted a hundred-dollar bill, which he inserted in the swear jar.
“I apologize for my language. I just get so excited thinking about meeting our lord and savior that my mouth just runs away with my tongue! But to elaborate on your question, we are building a massive spacecraft, an ark if you will, big enough to carry us all to God’s holy kingdom. We have already bought and refurbished the Chinese moon base and outfitted it as an off-world work colony.”
“Yeah, but how much is it gonna’ cost?” someone in the front row asked.
“It won’t cost you good people a dime,” said Ray.
“Not one penny!” Jeff added.
“You see, we aren’t here to fleece you of your hard-earned money, quite the opposite! We intend to pay you! Your pastor would stand here and whimper and cry about the mean ol’ government taxing churches and stealing from God. Meanwhile, he’s snorting cocaine off some hooker’s ass in his ten-million-dollar mansion that you paid for!”
Jeff held out the jar and Ray inserted another hundred-dollar bill.
“He would tell you that the tax man is the Devil, but that simply isn’t true! As a corporation, Space Jesus Ministries is able to utilize the full power of the IRS and the United States Government. We have subsidies and grants! We’ve got qualified retirement accounts, insurance partnerships, municipal bonds, and real-estate investments! We are publicly traded on the stock market and we’re growing larger every day! We haven’t come for your money. We’ve come to share ours!”
As he spoke, several of the suited associates began walking the aisles with Easter baskets full of hundred-dollar bills which they began tossing into the crowd like confetti.
“Consider this a token of my sincerity! And, if you like what you hear, there is a ten-thousand dollar signing bonus for each of you that joins our team! Not only are we offering salvation, we’re offering you jobs! Come to Moon Base Jesus and work for us! And remember, you don’t pay taxes on the moon!”
The crowd cheered wildly, reaching over each other to grab the falling bills. Others pressed toward the stage shouting questions.
“I know you have questions and we’ll be happy to answer them all. For those of you interested in learning more about our corporate church, Donny will be distributing my business card with a link to our recruitment site.”
Another of their associates came to the front of the stage with a stack of business cards in his hand and began passing them out to the eager congregation. Ray and Jeff smiled and waved as they turned to the stage door and exited into the alley.
As they stepped out, the Pastor was banging on the door trying to get in. Jeff leaned into a punch, driving his fist into the man’s solar plexus, knocking the wind out of him. Taking him by the collar he swung him back across the alley and, again, into the scattered recycling, just as their stretch limo pulled up. Ray opened the door and held it for Jeff, then plopped in beside him.
“What’s next?” asked Ray.
“We have a crew waiting for us at Resurrection Assembly. On the west side.”
The tires of the limo screeched as they careened down the alley knocking over trash bins and leaving a trail of broken bottles and aluminum cans in their wake.
Sunlight streaked through the floor to ceiling windows of the fifty-sixth-floor corporate office of Space Jesus Ministries. CEO Ray Chi occupied the head of the table, a position he preferred for its advantageous connotations in a poker game rather than its naturally implied authority. Jeff Dee claimed two seats for himself, one each for his split persona as both President and Vice President of SJM. He approached his roles with the dichotomy of the comic book character Two-Face, often claiming decisions had been decided by one or the other of the two officers he represented and that they were now beyond his power to change. This both confused and terrified his subordinates. Rounding out the brain trust of the organization was the Chief Financial Officer, a man known only as “G-Money,” Chief Technical Officer, Mathew “Shaggy” Hanson, and the head of human resources, Tre “Goldy” Dietmer.
“It’s your deal, Goldy,” said Ray Chi
“I’m only dealing you one hand, Jeff,” said Goldy shuffling the cards.
“The Vice President disagrees,” he said, sipping straight from his bottle of Pappy Van Winkle.
“Anti-up fuckers, the game is 7-stud, deuces wild.” Goldy tossed his chips in the center of the polished oak table and began dealing the cards.
“Raise,” said Ray, before receiving his first card.
“Suck it, fucker, re-raise,” said Shaggy next to act.
“Fools!” said Jeff, peaking at his first card. “I fold.”
“Call,” said G-Money.
“I call. First one’s free,” said Goldy, dealing the up cards. “King spades, seven dimes, queen of hearts, seven hearts, seven clubs. Sevens cheap!”
“Pass,” said Ray. “Where we at with the quarterly financials, G?”
“Well, we’re nowhere near the end of the quarter, but we’re fucking rich,” said G-Money.
“Check,” said Shaggy, eyeing Ray Chi with suspicion. “We do have some other problems that require attention.”
“Such as?” asked Jeff.
“Such as you fuckers need to slow the fuck down on recruitment. Moon Base Jesus can’t accommodate any more workers!”
“In fact, we don’t need any more workers, like, ever,” added G-money.
“What are you clowns talking about?” asked Ray.
“Look, dick, with all the moon and asteroid mining, we’re sitting on more rare earth metals than we can possibly ever use. We have enough gold stockpiled to drop the price to under a dollar an ounce. Same with silver, platinum, and rhodium. In fact, we have over 10 times what we said we needed to build the Ark already,” said G-Money.
“I check,” said Goldy. “Pots right, coming out.”
“So, you’re telling me we can retire from the Jesus business?” asked Ray.
“King of hearts makes a pair, ace of diamonds, ten of hearts, four of clubs, two of spades, wild card!” Goldy narrated as he dealt.
“100k, pay up fuckers!” said Ray, tossing in his chips.
“Fold,” said Shaggy, mucking his cards.
“Raise, to 500k,” said G-money.
“Call!” said Goldy.
“You ain’t got shit, call!” Ray said and matched the bet.
“You can’t just close shop on a multibillion-dollar corporation,” said G-money.
“Why not?” Ray peaked at his hole cards.
“It just doesn’t work that way,” said Shaggy.
“Also, you’re forgetting about Captain Doug,” said G-Money.
“Coming out,” said Goldy. “Two of clubs, four of diamonds pairs, and jack of hearts.”
“Man, fuck Captain Doug, that dude is a fucking zealot!” said Ray Chi
“Exactly my point,” said G-Money. “You wanna be the one to tell Captain Doug he aint going to Phobos?”
“What’s he gonna do, tell God to smite me? Trip kings says one million dollars, ladies.”
“Too much, you bet too much. 500k, maybe I stick around,” said G-Money mucking his cards.
“Call,” said Goldy.
“Go away Goldy, you aint got nothin!” said Ray Chi.
“Captain Doug built our space program, he got the moon base working, he’s a true believer. He thinks he’s God’s chosen pilot. You try and shut this down, that motherfucker will call a crusade down like some crazy moon pope and smite your ass himself. He’s got the people behind him, he can do it. We’ve gone too far down this road to stop now,” said Shaggy.
“So, we keep going, I rather enjoy being presidents,” said Jeff.
“That’s the problem, going forward means launching the Ark,” said Shaggy.
“So? Send those fuckers to Jesus,” said Jeff.
“Do we even know what’s on Phobos?” asked G-Money.
“Yeah, where did that whole Jesus signal thing come from anyway?” asked Goldy.
“That was all Captain Doug,” said Ray. “Apparently it was a radio signal from Phobos to a radio station in Colorado Springs. The signal has since been interrupted, but there was enough there to convince him it came from Heaven. Deal the cards!”
“Six of diamonds no help, ace of clubs, three kings bets,” said Goldy dealing the cards.
“Another million, three kings good,” said Ray.
“Maybe,” said Goldy, scratching his chin. “I call!”
“Does anybody know what the radio signal said?” asked Shaggy.
“Well, according to Captain Doug, it said a heavy rain is gonna fall,” said Ray.
“So you better build a really fucking big boat,” added Jeff.
“What, like end time kind of stuff?” asked Goldy.
“I don’t know man, deal the cards.”
“King of Diamonds, wild card duce of diamonds! Four kings bet,” said Goldy.
“Two million,” said Ray.
“Hmm, let me think about it,” said Goldy.
“Seriously!? Your jacks are no good, hit the bricks!”
“Where are we with the Ark anyway, G?” asked Jeff.
“Fully financed and material completely sourced. Just got to finish building it. As for that end, it’s actually months ahead of schedule.”
“So, what’s the problem then?” asked Jeff. “Let’s just lean into the project, pack as many of these idiots into the Ark as will fit and launch the motherfuckers into space. Am I right? It’s a one-way trip whether they get to Heaven or not, so fuck it.”
“Goldy!” Ray slapped the table. “Let’s go molasses!”
“I’m thinking!” he said.
“How long can they last out there?” asked Shaggy.
“Captain Doug is a pretty resourceful dude,” said G-Money. “He can harvest ice crystals in space, recycle air, grow food. He even has a Plan B worked out for landing on the Martian surface if all else fails.”
“But he can’t come back, right?”
“Nope, that’s one thing he hasn’t worked out is fuel storage. The Ark can get there, but it ain’t coming back.”
“All right, fucker! Raise, four million!”
“You’re raising me, cocksucker?”
“Well? Actions on you,” Goldy laughed.
“Perfect,” said Jeff. “Then it’s decided.”
“Wait a minute, what’s decided?” asked Ray Chi
“We launch these fuckers into space, shut down the church, and retire trillionaires,” said Jeff.
“Yeah, I like that. All in favor say aye.”
All five board members said, “Aye.”
“Motion passes,” said Ray.
“Ray!” said Goldy.
“I call, can you beat four kings?”
“Five jacks,” he said flipping over a pair of Jacks in the hole.
“Are you fucking kidding me!?”
Goldy raked the pot.
Moon Base Jesus buzzed with excitement. It was the Third Annual Founder’s Day and Captain Doug called an all-hands meeting to make an important announcement. The event coincided with the return of the off-world mining crews and the cancelation of the relief crew launch. School was let out early, and all the mines and refineries were closed for the day. Something big was happening.
The meeting was to be held in Hangar One, the largest of MBJ’s aerospace facilities. This, in itself, was a surprise, as the hanger was nearly always occupied by some Ark component or module. Though, when empty, it was the only venue large enough to accommodate all eleven thousand residents of the moon.
As founders, CEO Ray Chi and President-Vice President Jeff Dee were accustomed to making the annual lunar voyage, though this year’s festivities seemed decidedly off. Typically, they would meet with foremen and community leaders, shake a few hands, and record a short speech to be played for the Moon Base citizens. Never before had such a large and logistically challenging event been organized, let alone in such secrecy that not even Ray or Jeff was consulted before hand.
“What do you think it’s all about?” asked Jeff, raising his arms for the decontamination spray in the shuttle bay’s airlock.
“I dunno, maybe we’re being canonized,” Ray said, checking his bags to confirm that the bottles of Pappy Van Winkle he packed, survived the trip.
“Launched from a canon more likely.”
The door lock hissed open and they stepped from the shuttle bay into the administration wing of the main campus. Gladys, the MBJ HR representative was there to greet them, fixing an adhesive name tag to each of their suit jackets. The sticker prominently displayed the SJM logo of Jesus embracing the moon, with their names and titles printed between his outstretched hands.
“Thanks Gladys,” said Ray. “Any idea what Captain Doug has planned tonight?”
“Well, if you don’t know, then it’s certainly above my pay grade,” she giggled.
“Have you cleared out Conference Room B for us, like I requested,” asked Jeff.
“Of course, sir! Stocked with refreshments, just as you asked.”
“Outstanding,” said Ray, walking down the hall to the conference room.
Inside they found a small crudité, a bucket of ice, and several glasses. Ray produced a bottle of Pappy and poured two healthy glasses of the bourbon and added an oversized ice cube to each. They clinked glasses and drank, toasting to the moon.
Ray clicked on a TV monitor with a remote he found on the table. A stoic image of Captain Doug appeared on the screen with his wild beard, gray hair, and sternly dark eyes. He clicked to the next channel, revealing the same image.
“Distant Phobos. Dark, forbidden, and lifeless. So say the heathens and liars who would call themselves astronomers and scientists. I have stood at the end of world and listened to the stars and the stars have spoken their truth to me. Heaven is there, friends, beyond the veil of inky darkness, waiting for us…”
“Man, turn that shit off,” said Jeff.
Ray kept clicking, but it was running on every channel. He hit the power and the screen went dark.
“You think he finished it? You think that’s what this is all about?” asked Ray.
“I don’t know, maybe? I’m just glad he got the anti-gravity situation handled. I hate drinking bourbon through a straw!”
“What else could it be? I mean, he’s kinda going off the rails here, don’t you think?”
“He was unhinged when we found him! Hell, that’s why we recruited him.”
“True that,” said Ray clinking glasses. “To the moon!”
The Ark was a thing of majesty. On clear night, when the moon was full, it could easily be seen from Earth, striking out toward the stars like a mighty black obelisk. From the perspective of Moon Base Jesus, it was impossible to see in its totality through the myriad of small port windows unless, of course, you were one of the engineers working out on the lunar surface. Even then, it looked more like a misplaced skyscraper than a spacecraft.
The 1.5 million square foot Hangar One ran parallel to the original moon base complex and was connected to it by three large causeways. Additionally, two more causeways connected to housing pods D and E respectively, easily making it the most accessible of all MBJ’s structures. This was by design, as Hangar One also served as an emergency shelter should any of the older facilities become compromised.
Ray and Jeff took the central causeway from the administration wing, accompanied by the moon council, chief engineers, and other church leaders. The mood was jovial and optimistic, with many among the council speculating aloud what everyone was thinking, that the time had come and the Ark was complete.
Once inside the enormous hangar, Ray and Jeff were ushered to the stage with the other VIPs. When all eleven thousand residents had filtered in, there was still room for forty thousand more. The crowd murmured under the sterile floodlights, staring up at the stage with hope and anticipation. After about twenty minutes, Captain Doug appeared at the podium, standing there as if he had been waiting the entire time. The overhead lights dimmed, and the crowd became silent.
Captain Doug leaned on the podium with both hands, the brass buttons of his peacoat gleaming in the single spotlight. His beard was unkept and voluminous, the brim of his captain’s hat pulled down to his bushy brows and severe dark eyes.
“Three years ago, I made a promise to you all, a fantastic promise, almost too absurd to believe. I promised to deliver you to Heaven and today I stand ready to fulfil that promise!”
The crowd roared with cheers and applause.
“Yes, it is true, the Ark is complete-”
Again, the crowd exploded in raucous appreciation.
“Yes, yes, thank you!” he said. “I’ve always told you to be constantly prepared, to be ready at any moment to leave the moon and earth behind, for when the time comes it will be sudden. Well, the time is now and we are leaving for Phobos tomorrow morning!”
A five-minute round of applause ensued that not even Captain Doug could abate. Finally, the crowd calmed enough for him to continue.
“It’s never been easy, you all know. Whether you work construction, mining, or logistics, none of it has been easy. Nor has it been easy for families; children living without the sun, without the wind and rain, never knowing if their parents are coming home. Let’s be honest, many of them didn’t. We’ve lost 127 souls to these brutal depths of our lunar mines or to the perilous dance with distant asteroids. To these families, I dedicate our journey, and we will meet them soon in Heaven!”
The moon people bowed their heads in solemn prayer and shared a moment of silence.
“We have some very special guests with us here today, friends. CEO Ray Chi is here! So is President Jeff Dee! Stand up gentlemen! How about a round of applause!”
“And Vice President,” Jeff muttered.
Again, Hangar One was filled with cheers and applause.
“When Jeff and Ray found me, I was washed up on the shores of despair, like a suicide note in a bottle. My employer, the Chinese government defaulted on their financial obligations and were forced to sell off the moon base. Even before that time, the station was in decline and the rich mineral opportunities here on the moon were completely ignored in favor of pointless military posturing. Jeff and Ray saw the potential of this station and for that I will always be grateful.
“But wealth without purpose is a hollow prize. My heart was not with the project. In fact, I was closer to death than ever. If you can imagine, there I was, in what now is Chapel C, planting explosives against the bulkhead. I was ready to bring the whole place down around me. Then the signal came through.
“It was a repeating radio signal, coming from space and bouncing out across the world from a defunct radio station in Colorado Springs. This radio station had been masking the signal, for how long? I can’t say. It lasted only half a day before the signal was shut down. But by then I had located its source and begun running it through the Chinese decryption software here on the station. What I discovered was unbelievable. I couldn’t decipher it all, but what I did decode was enough. It was a description of Heaven and an invitation to paradise!
“Why would our own government suppress this information, I wondered. Clearly, our leaders are in league with Satan! They care more for wealth and power than spiritual glory. But I saw behind their ruse, and I turned it against them! You see Jeff and Ray here, they may have been Johnny on the Spot with funding to buy this old station, and they may have tolerated my spiritual ambitions, but they are no different than the blind servants of the Devil that run the depraved nations of our world!”
“I don’t like where this is going,” said Jeff.
“Yeah, I’m not feeling his tone,” Ray agreed.
“I used their weaknesses against them. They wanted gold, silver, and platinum; I gave it to them in immeasurably quantities. You gave it to them; your labor sated their lust! But it was not in vain, for while they counted their gold and saturated their souls in sin and debauchery, we built the Ark!”
Captain Doug held his arms up to contain the adulations.
“Now, on the eve of our victory, I have found a use for the explosives I once planned to use on myself!”
Captain Doug presented a small remote control and dramatically pressed a button.
A dull rumble shook the floor and waves of panic swept through the assembly.
“Don’t worry, everything is fine, everyone is safe!” he assured his followers. “That explosion you just felt was the shuttle bay and probably half of the administration wing collapsing. The rest of MBJ and all its facilities are safe and intact. However, there will be no coming or going between the moon and earth, at least not in the foreseeable future. Not without an investment equivalent to a small mountain of gold, at any rate.”
“Fuuuuck!” Ray Chi shouted.
Jeff Dee produced a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle and popped the cork.
“Don’t worry gentlemen, there is plenty of room on the Ark for you. You did, after all, make all of this possible. God is not so cruel to deny you your rewards. Of course, SJM remains fully self-sustaining, should you choose to remain behind. The choice is yours.”
“God. Fucking. Damn it! I’ll fucking kill him!”
“Whoa, slow down,” said Jeff. “You touch him and this crowd will rip us to pieces.”
Ray seized the bottle from Jeff and took a slug.
The people of Moon Base Jesus rushed the stage, cheering and singing, enveloping their leader.
That night, the people packed up their possessions and boarded the Ark. At sunrise, Jeff and Ray sat in the Star Garden outside of Chapel A and watched the Ark ignite its mighty thrusters. As it silently lifted away from the moon, they ate a breakfast of soy bacon and mung beans, somberly drinking the last of the Pappy Van Winkle.
“I cannot believe there is no booze on moon,” Ray sighed.
“Or steak,” said Jeff.
“How are we going to get out of here?”
“Not on a shuttle,” Jeff sighed.
“I can’t believe he blew up all the gold and platinum. What a fucking dick!”
“I’m sure it’s still there, somewhere, scattered all over the fucking surface of the moon!” said Jeff.
Later that afternoon, after the Ark had vanished into the blackness of space, they located a communications station in Housing Pod D and began calling the corporate office. As it happened to be Shaggy’s birthday, they were not surprised when their call went unanswered. No doubt the office was filled with prostitutes and cocaine, and probably would be for the foreseeable future.
“Well, now what?” asked Jeff. “Should we try the coast guard?”
“The Coast Guard!? We’re on the moon, dummy!”
“We could call the Enclave, those fuckers will do anything for money,” said Jeff.
“Yeah, all our money! Besides, they don’t have the kind of infrastructure in place for a moon launch,” said Ray.
“There’s always the U.S. Government. They probably already have some top secret shit capable of a moon landing.”
“Probably,” said Ray, contemplating. “Again, they ain’t leaving until they’ve scooped every gold bar off this fucking rock. We’d be broke.”
“We’ll still have our bank accounts.”
“They would freeze our assets to cover the cost of the extraction, for sure. Also, who knows how many lawsuits we’ll be facing, letting all those people go star blazing off to Heaven.”
“Hmmm,” said Jeff. “I still have that gold dildo. That’s gotta be worth something.”
“Yeah, I had a ten-inch gold dildo cast for Wanda.”
“I’m sorry what!?”
“You know, for when I wasn’t around.”
“You have a ten-inch golden penis? You’re a fucking lunatic! Why didn’t you just melt it down when she left you?”
“I dunno. Felt weird bringing it in. It’s very realistic, lots of veins,”
“It felt weird to melt it down! How about making that shit in the first place, I mean, how does that even happen?”
“Well,” said Jeff. “First, I made a mold of my cock, then I took it in to the jeweler.”
“Stop! You’re fucking killing me! You mean you used your own dick? And its ten inches? You must have really fucked up for that woman to leave you!”
“Anyway, it weighs about twelve pounds. Ought to be worth something.”
“I don’t want to talk about your gold dick anymore.”
“We could call Ed.”
“Ed Ball? Shit. Yeah, I guess we could,” said Ray. “Maybe he can program a bunch of Ruby Dolls to rescue us!”
“He’s gonna lay into us with that ‘I told you so’ shit.”
“Fuck yeah, he is,” said Ray. “Still, worth a shot.”
Ray typed the number into the com.
“Hello?” A distant, staticky voice answered.
“He Ed, it’s Ray. Listen, you’re not going to believe this…”
Phobos flickered on the video monitor. It was a bleak and pathetic thing, resembling a rotting potato more than a celestial body. Compared to the Ark’s mile in length and massive girth, the moon seemed fake, like a poorly conceived movie set. Captain Doug kept his distance from the rock, for fear that the presence of his massive ship might affect the moon’s already decaying orbit.
“Send the signal,” he said, staring deeply into the monitor.
“Yes, sir,” said the communications officer, emitting the recorded “Phobos Signal” to where it had once originated.
The effect was immediate. A shimmering light warped across the monitor and, as it dimmed, a strange alien craft was revealed, hovering about a mile above the moon. The craft was saucer shaped having symmetrical half-spheres on the top and bottom. By all appearances, it resembled a classic flying saucer of ancient Hollywood.
“Is this some kind of joke!?” Captain Doug fumed.
“No, sir. Whatever that is, it’s really there. It must have been cloaked before.”
“Do you detect anything else? Scan every surface of the rock!”
“Sir, there’s a signal coming through. It’s running through the Ruby module.”
“I mean, the A.I. data assistant.”
“Well, put it on the speakers!”
“Why have you come?” the question was voiced by the Ruby’s stock vocal processor, inclusive of its upward inflections that made every statement sound like a sexual inuendo.
“What do you mean? You invited us! Are you Saint Peter?”
There was a moment of silence, then the voice continued.
“No, I am not. I am an explorer from the star you call Sirius B. My ship has become disabled and I am now stranded here. My mission was to make contact with your people and share our technology.”
“Is Heaven on Sirius B?” asked Captain Doug.
“I do not understand the question. I came only as a messenger, to share our knowledge for sustaining your planet’s limited resources.”
“Turn it off!” Captain Doug slammed his fist on the arm of his command chair.
The Ruby unit sounded the trademark tritone, universally understood to mean off.
“We have been deceived. We’ve fallen into the Devil’s clutches!”
“Sir, what should we do?” the first officer asked.
“Load the garbage tubes with everything we have. Trash and bio waste first, then anything that is not critical to Ark operations.”
“Empty fuel cells, exercise equipment, books, toys, furniture, everything that will fit! Do it now!”
The first officer ran from the bridge to execute the captain’s orders.
“Sir, the individual is trying to contact us again,” said the communications officer.
“That’s no individual, it is Satan himself. I am the Archangel Michael, and this is my war.”
“Quiet, please,” Captain Doug bowed his head in prayer.
Fifteen minutes passed and the First Officer returned breathless to the bridge.
“It’s done,” he gasped.
“Helmsman, align our garbage tubes with the Satanic craft and bring us as close as you can!”
“Aye aye, Captain!”
The saucer filled the video monitor as the Ark pivoted and drifted closer. The Ruby unit chimed continuously with an incoming call. Captain Doug sternly shook his head at the Communications Officer, forbidding him to answer.
“We’re in position,” said the Helmsman.
“Fire!” Captain Doug yelled, then crossed himself furiously as he stared into the monitor.
Latrine capsules, empty fuel cells, scrap metal, and all manner of flotsam and jetsam ejected from the trash chute and enveloped the saucer like a cloud. At first the items just impacted the saucer and disintegrated, but as the barrage continued, its hull was breached and it exploded into a rain of silver metal, radiating out at incredible speeds. The Ark shook as it was peppered with the debris.
“Sir,” said the first officer, “I think our hull has been compromised.”
Before Captain Doug could answer, the cold vacuum of space whipped through the Ark like a reaping wind and tore the mighty craft apart, extinguishing the souls of all eleven thousand members of Space Jesus Ministries and thus preserving the mysteries of Heaven.