Dr. Jackson’s gaze rested on her calm face. He studied each detail of her flawless beauty, the long purple lashes over her now shut eyes, the rolling line of her tiny nose and the peach-like skin which complemented with perfection her rose-coloured lips.
He reached out to gently stroke over her folded hands.
“My love. Everything’s going to be alright,” he murmured, letting her hands go and turned to the beeping and blinking monitors. He flicked some switches and a deep buzzing noise drowned the higher beeps of the monitors which controlled her vital functions.
It was Sunday afternoon, most of the regular Moonbase personnel gone for exchange. Jackson’s plan had been developed over weeks and now he was close to achieving his aim. His head turned back to the silent body on the stretcher. A shy grin crept over his face as he bent forward and touched her smooth cheek.
“Everything’s well prepared, my love. Soon … soon…”
His voice weakened and his face screwed up in disgust, as the hidden remembrance of Mark Bradley turned back into his mind. A light shudder ran through Jackson’s form and he swallowed. Jackson had felt a strong aversion to the younger man since their first contact. And later on, as he became aware of the liaison between the forceful Interceptor-pilot and Gay Ellis, Dr. Jackson had begun to hate him. Jackson knew deep inside of him, that he had no chance to outrival this handsome young Lieutenant. Where he, Jackson, was full of doubts, misgivings and objections, Bradley appeared trusty, amenable and considerate. So it was no surprise that he had won Gay’s heart in one stroke.
Jackson’s mouth tightened, as he turned to the door of the Moonbase’s medical ward. He looked back at her and then left the room. The door shut and Jackson locked it with his personal security code before he crossed the tiny anteroom. He had to accomplish his plan and there was no time left for sentimentality.
He entered the medical examination compartment. Lt. Carson, the technical officer of Moonbase, was still busy repairing the X-ray apparatus.
“Dr. Jackson, I’m sorry, sir, but this damn… this device resists any attempt at reconditioning. And I have to admit that I’am not a specialist in X-ray technics!”
A nearly unnoticeable expression of triumph flickered through the doctor’s grey eyes. One moment later he replied without any show of emotion:
“Didn’t Lt. Bradley had an exercise in X-ray technics two months ago on Earth? I saw him in our medical centre with a couple of his comrades in Dr. Shroeder’s lecture on New Fluoroscopic Equipment.”
Lt. Carson drew himself out from under the device.
“Yes, Doctor, that’s right, perhaps he will be the right man. Lt. Bradley is on his break until 6 pm, but I’m sure he will help you afterwards.”
“Excellent. How about you stop now and send him here instead?”, Dr. Jackson asked, his Polish-accented voice as calm and slow as ever.
Lt. Carson nodded and left the room. A cunning smile played on Jackson’s lips as he bent down to the X-ray apparatus. His gaze searched for the safety switch. He had listened with care to Shroeder’s lectures on X-rays and he was aware of what would happen if the protective device for the glass tube with the electrode pair was manipulated. Jackson removed the little indicator fuse and hid it in his pocket. Then he started to re-route the safety switch with a resistor. He had barely finished the task when he heard the distinct sound of the penumatic door opening. Someone stepped into the room.
“Oh, yes, here, under the X-ray device, just a moment…,” Dr. Jackson turned, the tool-kit still in his hands. He blushed, caught unawares by the unexpected early visitor.
“Ah, Doctor, you shouldn’t try to repair this on your own, don’t you know?” Bradley smiled and took the tool out of Jackson’s hands. “It’s too dangerous. Let me do it! Lt. Carson already told me that you are having problems with the radiographs.”
Jackson’s breath slowed down and his face turned back into his usual inquiring expression.
“Yes, Lt. Bradley, exactly! This machine is causing problems. Perhaps something with a loose contact?”
Bradley had already taken off his jacket and climbed under the device.
“We’ll see. Doctor, could you perhaps hand me …Ouch!” Bradley winced, as he felt the sudden puncture in his right hand. “What the hell was that?”
He tried to sit up, but the next moment he felt weak, nearly unable to move. The last thing he remembered was a content expression on Jackson’s face, before Bradley fainted.
Jackson looked onto the unconcious man on the floor. The corners of his mouth raised.
‘Farewell Lieutenant, it is a pleasure to get rid of you’, he thought and threw the little syringe into the wastebin.
He turned to Bradley and pulled the heavier man aside. No need to be discovered before the time was up. Then he illuminated the sign “No entrance – medical examination” outside the room and locked the door. Finally he leant over the X-ray machine and switched it on. The lights under the ceiling flickered briefly but a heartbeat later Jackson noticed the humming of the device booting.
He knew, from now there was no way back. Once started, the rigged apparatus would overcharge, explode and contaminate the Moonbase, provided that the explosion did not blast the whole construction into orbit.
The doctor felt no compassion for the rest of the SHADO personnel. He had suffered too long from his hunger for Gay Ellis to stay as merciful as he had always been in his medical profession. He was aware of the other opinions about him. Even General Henderson had once called him ice-cold and calculating, but no one had ever seen his gentle character, hidden so often behind his impassive face.
Only Gay Ellis had always been polite and amiable to him, and over the last two years they both had built a kind of friendship. Gay’s last few visits in his laboratory during her holiday on Earth, their dinners spent together at Jackson’s preferred first-class restaurant and their conversations during their recreations on duty had made him feel safe and secure. But all had changed after Lt. Bradley had stepped into her life and torn her away from him. Bit by bit their contact loosened and to the same degree he had felt his love to her increasing.
A red warning light began to blink on the device and startled him out of his thoughts. Jackson turned it off. According to his calculations there were five final minutes left and he began to smile. No regrets, no return.
He opened the door to the medical room where she waited for him. As he walked to the stretcher he felt her glance following his movements. Incapable of any further reaction she stared into his grey eyes. He returned the look and sat down near her immobile body.
“Gay, my love, I’m sorry that I had to anaesthetize you, but now everything is on its way and no one can stop us anymore. In…. “, he looked at his wristwatch, “ … two minutes it will be all over. You and I will stay together for evermore. Now is the moment where all is said and done, darling. Together… for ever….”
One last gaze into her angelic face. He took her hands, pressed his lips on hers and closed his eyes.
He had waited an eternity for this moment and now he was nearly overwhelmed by the touch of her smooth lips. All his senses, all his tender feelings to her seemed to flow into the gentle contact between their mouths. This was the first time in his life he kissed the woman whom he loved with all his heart. A quiet sob escaped his breast as his emotions overpowered him. Tears appeared under his eyelashes, trickled down his cheeks and dropped onto her face.
When his watch began to countdown the last ten seconds, he took a deep breath and waited for the end, counting soundless down to zero.