Launch Day

The stolen, ratty, brown Jeep that had served the friends since teenagehood swerved between blown up cars and debris.  Two friends sat in the back, holding assault rifles, watching their six as the driver friend tried their best to keep the Jeep steady.  The friend in the passenger seat bounced their knee nervously, jumping when a helicopter passed overhead.

“Fuck!  Everyone hold on!”  The driver said, flipping switches and pressing a button, the Jeep picking up speed as they merged onto the empty freeway.  They were exposed now.  The helicopter flew behind them, the two in the back with the guns letting off single shots at the helicopter’s windshield.

“TANK!” The passenger screamed, pointing at the slow-moving vehicle coming toward them.  The driver quickly veered to the left, the shell of the tank grenade flying toward the spot they were in.  The driver moved into the empty lanes of oncoming traffic, their foot almost on the ground as they shoved the gas pedal harder.

Just another few miles, the driver pleaded, going back onto the right side of the freeway.
Another helicopter joined the chase.  The two in the back quickly put their guns down and pulled up the hard-shell roof from the back, bullets ricochetting of it immediately.

“Why is this drive taking so long?”  One of them asked, the scenery looking different all of a sudden.  The once green flatlands had turned into brown piles of bullshit.  An explosion rang behind them; the tank was catching up.  The Jeep was running out of juice and gas.

“No no no no no, please, FUCK, N–” The driver said, before being interrupted by an explosion.  Their destination was coming up.  A tank shell hit a car directly behind them, causing their own Jeep to fly in the air.  They screamed, holding onto whatever they could, watching the world spin around them.

The explosion caused their Jeep to tumble off the freeway.  The Jeep rolled down the grassy hill, stopping 50 feet from the highway ramp on its top.  The grass was tall here, only the tires of the Jeep poking through.  They only had another 1000 feet.

The passenger groaned and gasped, trying to ignore the pain that came from their ribs, their back, their legs.  They slowly crawled out, looking up.  One of the helicopters passed by.

“Fuck you,” the passenger groaned, reaching back into the Jeep and pulling out a small hard case.  They watched their passed out friends, tears in their eyes.

“I… I’ll miss you,” was all they said, before limping off.

By the time they got to the small hatch, the Jeep was surrounded by soldiers.  The passenger heard one of them yelling and screaming, but no bullets rang out.  Not yet anyway.

The ladder climb down the hatch was long and painful, having use of one, probably broken, arm.  When they got to the platform, they quickly turned on the lights, rushing to a crude console.  They looked up through a giant window as power surged throughout where they were.  A test rocket stood before them as the lights turned on.  It was old and forgotten but throughout the 15 years of the passenger and their friends stumbling across the hatch had made the rocket shine.

The passenger’s hands shook with nervousness as they went down the elevator, knuckles white around the handle of the hard case.

“Where’s the fourth one of you fucks?” the soldier demanded, pointing a gun in their faces.  They said nothing, staring straight ahead.  A siren rang off in the distance, that progressively got louder.  It rang throughout the treeline, the soldiers pointing their guns in that direction, one of them running off to get orders.

“They’re gonna do it,” one of the backseat passengers said quietly.  The driver watched the trees, their heart racing.

“Launch is in five minutes,” the computer blared over the speaker system.  The passenger limped toward the launchpad as quickly as they could, putting on their suit.  They closed the door and climbed up to their seat, strapping in as tightly as they could.  It was all so surreal.  Like they were watching themselves flip switches and enter information into the rocket’s computer like a seasoned astronaut.  They continued to watch themselves, letting out a snicker, before snapping back to reality.

They opened the hard case, components staring at them.  They slipped them into ships computer, a siren going off outside the rocket.  Televisions, radios and streaming services everywhere were suddenly interrupted by the passenger’s voice and face.

“Uh.. I’m… Ahem.  My name is Ren Jackson.  I am 35 years old.  Today, I launch myself into space to prove that if we are left alone, Black people are just as technically inclined to get to space just as white people.  On this day 13 years ago, one of my friends was murdered by the United States government because he wasn’t interested in telling them where this ship was.  On this day 10 years ago, his mother gave her life in preserving her son’s memory by assassinating President Roman when he failed to give his loved one’s resources to continue their research.  On this day, I honor him by defying the United States government by fleeing not only this lockdowned city, not the state, not even the country.  I honor my friend, my brother, Terrance Jackson, by fleeing the world.  Because anti-blackness is global.  And I, we, want Black people to know that we can leave this hell that is Earth and I’m so sorry that I can’t save you all at this time.”

An empty patch of land opened up above the rocket.  The friends by the soldiers started picturing the protocols in their heads, trying to figure out what step the passenger was on.

The passenger was still recording live, having set the recording device in a contraption in front of them.

“Launching in 3… 2… 1…”

The passenger took a deep breath and closed their eyes as the rocket took off.  People in the city looked out their windows, stood outside to watch as the rocket lift off from the middle of their lives.  The friends watched as the trees swayed from the blast, feeling a bit of heat coming from the treeline.

The world was watching now as local news stations finally had footage to show.

The passenger was pushed back into their seat, their heart visibly beating in their suit.  The friends watched the cloud of exhaust make its way up and up and up, the soldiers ignoring them as they got up to cheer and dance around.

“THEY DID IT THEY DID IT!”

The passenger slowly opened their eyes as they moved up through the stratosphere.  A red light went off behind them.  They could feel it going off.  They chuckled, which turned into a wild laugh.  As they entered the thermosphere, the rocket shook violently.  The passenger grinned into the camera, tears running down their cheeks.

“We FUCKING DID IIIIIIT!” they screamed before–

The friends screamed in horror as the rocket suddenly exploded.

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