Times Past, 1965
by Starsky Hutch 76
Igor Kriss was the Soviet Union’s greatest cosmonaut — that is, until the day he embarrassed the Motherland! But when a KGB spymaster offers him the chance to gain great power and become a hero through a risky experiment, will it be the beginning of a new career or a one-way ticket to the grave?
The dishevelled prisoner was brought forth before the panel sitting behind a long table in the poorly lit room. He sat in a wooden chair put before him, and a guard stood to either side of him. The large man sat straight and proud despite his bedraggled appearance.
“Igor Kriss?” the black-trenchcoated man sitting in the center of the table said, taking a long drag off of his cigarette. He was obviously KGB.
“Yes,” the prisoner replied.
“If it were up to me, you would not be given this opportunity. Fortunately for you, it is not up to me.”
“Yes, Comrade Zastrow,” Igor Kriss said.
“I am not your comrade,” Zastrow said. “I do not call those in the habit of embarrassing the USSR comrade.” He was referring to the incident in which the government, seeking to prove its superiority, told Cosmonaut Igor Kriss to tell the world of how the USSR was the first to reach space. Kriss, being a steadfastly honest man, instead told the world that an American had been there first and had saved his life. The man had been Captain Atom. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Second Man in Space,” Space Adventures #34 (June, 1960).]
“Do you regret your actions?” another man on the panel asked.
“I regret that my actions brought embarrassment to my country,” Kriss said. “I wish to make amends.”
“I suppose that will have to do,” Zastrow said. “Are you aware of the dangers of the experiment?”
“Good. The government is not willing to sacrifice any of its other cosmonauts at this time for this process. But your experience, coupled with your particular situation, makes you right for this job.” He turned to another member of the panel and held out his hand. “His file.”
The file was passed down the line of uniformed men and handed to Zastrow, who stamped it RELEASE and then handed it to one of the two uniformed soldiers standing by Igor Kriss. “Escort Cosmonaut Kriss to his plane.”
Six months later:
Igor Kriss prayed silently as his rocket was fired into space. At the end of the experiment, he would either be a hero or a corpse. No, not even a corpse. He would be nothing if it failed.
“What if this doesn’t work?” someone asked Zastrow.
“Then we find someone else and start over. Igor Kriss was the most expendable for the moment.”
“The rocket has reached position,” one of the technicians said as monitors showed the rocket reaching the same area of space Nathaniel Adam’s had five years earlier.
“Now,” Zastrow said.
“Now,” the technician said into his headset.
Igor Kriss closed his eyes and thought of his family in Moscow. If this failed, he will at least have given them back their honor. He hit the large red button on the console, and the rocket exploded in a fiery atomic blast.
All eyes in the control room watched as the clock crawled by. Do not let this have failed, Zastrow thought. This project was his baby. It would be a terrible blight upon his record if it failed.
Suddenly, there was a flash, and Igor Kriss materialized in the control room, glowing brilliantly. Radiation monitors sounded off as their needles darted wildly and technicians ran forward to get him into a containment suit.
“Welcome back, Comrade Kriss,” Zastrow said with a thin, satisfied smile, “or should I say Redstar?”