From The Moon

Hi! Another Sci-Fi story this week. Unlike others where I don’t specify how far in the future they are, this one you can work out. I don’t explicitly say the year but the decade is sort of provided. And all I’m going to say about this one, which you can probably guess from the title, is that it involves our Moon. I’ll also add that it has something to do with us returning to our Moon too. But that’s it. That’s all you’re getting. So enjoy!

Mission Director Lori Savich, like the rest of those who serve in Mission Control for the Foundation I space mission, is stood gazing in wonder at the display wall which is relaying the camera feeds onboard.

If she could manage to tear her eyes away from the display, Lori would find everyone else has much the same look on their faces as she does. Chiefly that is because today is something that they have all been waiting for their entire lives, a return to the Moon.

It’s been more than sixty years since man last set foot on the surface of the Earth’s only natural satellite. Many thought it would never happen and for a while it looked as though they were right. But none of that matters now because Foundation I, the lunar capsule that was hurled into space from the surface of Earth atop a rocket has just this minute achieved touchdown. It was an uneventful affair, which everyone on both the capsule and in Mission Control were relieved to be able to admit. After all, space is not anything like going down a road or even to the peak of a mountain like Everest. That’s because there remains a breathable atmosphere in both instances. The same cannot be said for space. It is a void and in a void you cannot breathe.

In fact, one false move could’ve rupture the capsule killing everyone inside. But it hasn’t. The capsule is down, static; resting at close enough to the designated landing zone that it’ll make no difference to what will come next. For this is not some simple return to the Moon to retread old ground. No. Instead, this is a return to the Moon to begin the process of establishing a base of operations there. One that will grow and expand over time from the single dome which this three person crew will be erecting, to a platform from which humanity will be capable of using to venture out deeper into the system of which it is a part.

A smile creeps across the blonde Mission Directors’ face as thinks about the future and what it might hold. Her green eyes blink slowly but continue to refuse to turn away from the display as the astronauts chatter and exchange words with Mission Control.

As ever Lori is dressed professionally and appropriately in a trouser suit. It’s her choice of attire and one she finds far more suitable when there is the prospect you might end up crawling into this space or that. Yes, even as Mission Director for a space programme you still have to muck in here and there. Usually, more out of choice than necessity to be quite honest, but as a result of her willingness to get involved Lori has more than earned the admiration of her colleagues.

The tip of her ponytail erupts into a light to and fro sway when she tips her head to better catch whether the sound levels being beamed back to them with the little over a second delay, something that has to be factored in when doing anything over such a distance, are sufficient. Thankfully, they are because one of her team instinctively increases the dial without it being necessary for her to issue such an order. They’re a good team of people she has around her. This never would’ve been possible without each and every one of them.

“Control, Foundation I is ready for disembark.” Commander Ian Wu says while stood inches from the exit hatch beyond which lies the surface of the Moon and the starry canvas of space as a whole.

No one can see the Commander’s face for he has a solar face shield lowered across his visor to protect against what would otherwise be the blinding brilliance of the Sun.

“Foundation I you are clear for disembark.” Is the order which is fired back without Lori’s approval. Principally because she does not need to give her approval as in truth her role is mainly for if things go awry. She hopes they won’t but remains on her toes ready and waiting just in case. If she did not then it could cost lives. Not something the twenty eight year old wants to have on her conscience for she knows these men and women on Foundation I. They’ve worked alongside each other for years preparing for this moment and have grown close as a result.

Should they have? She doesn’t know. Perhaps not, but they have and the Australian born Lori thinks it was inevitable for who do they spend more time with than the people they work alongside? No one. And who understands what they are trying to achieve better than them? Also, no one.

“Copy, Control.” Commander Wu acknowledges before clearing his throat to launch into, “Today is a historic day for mankind. Not because we have come to the Moon, but because this will serve as the first step along the road toward humanity becoming an interplanetary species.”

With that Commander Ian Wu slams his palm into the release lever of the hatch and then hauls it down until there is a hiss. The sound is the atmosphere being vented.

Lori’s eyes drift toward Clarence for a nano second and then back to the display when the bespectacled man shows no signs of concern. Still, the Mission Director gulps and feels a tingle across her back. She resists the urge to roll her shoulders, which she believes will get rid of the sensation, though does not know why she believes such.

It takes almost a full minute for the hatch to finish its open cycle. They never could get it to perform consistently with a greater retraction speed during testing and so this is what they had to settle on. Sure, it isn’t ideal but when it comes to space it’s better to be safe than sorry. Though, they had almost ditched an automatic piston operated door entirely in favour of something more commonly found on subs and ships.

With the hatch open, the atmosphere vented and a view, for the trio of astronauts, ahead, Commander Wu steps forward. Everyone can hear his breathing. The joys of a mic having to be millimetres from his mouth and him not being muted, unlike his colleagues Rachelle Emerson and Dean Ortega. Lori suspects they are stunned and in awe of what lies before them principally because she knows she would be. Yet, it does not escape her that this trio are trained in ways she has never been for she doesn’t hold what she would term, the daredevil spirit. No. Lori is a scientist not an explorer and while she does want to go to space she has no plans to do so until a good chunk of Foundation’s flights are complete.

Left foot setting down on the lunar surface, the fine dust shifts under the weight pressed upon it by Commander Wu. A smile splits across his face, wide. He’d already been smiling but now it’s much wider.

He drinks in the sights and lack of sound around him. Yet, he does not pause. Rather he takes several additional steps so his colleagues Rachelle and Dean too can set foot out here. After all, this isn’t some solo publicity stunt sort of a deal. No, it’s a fully fledged Moon mission. Like those back in the day. Thinking about what was achieved in the middle of the last century feels all the more astonishing to Ian as he surveys his surroundings.

Everyone back in Mission Control is cheering. They’d been waiting with bated breath. Hoping, praying, nothing would go sideways.

The last thing Foundation I needed was a disaster. It had taken too much to scrape the funding together to achieve what they have and any sort of problem could’ve sunk them for good, regardless of multi-billionaire backers or not.

“Control, we are surface side and I hope you’re getting this because it’s beautiful.” Commander Wu advises doing a show pan not only for his own benefit but for the benefit of those in Mission Control watching the feed.

Quite unlike the mid twentieth century Moon missions, these are not being televised. No one cares. Well, that’s not quite true. It’s more the care for space is directed towards those who have dabbled and made it popular, like an item of fashion, rather than it remaining a scientific endeavour to further mankind.

Put simply, none of the network stations gave a damn or wanted to pay for the rights to broadcast this footage, live or not. And with the budget needed for the programme itself there wasn’t enough left, none in fact, to setup live streaming capabilities.

“Congratulations Foundation I, you are the first people on the Moon in over half a century.”

“Copy, Control.” There is a pause. It’s longer than the delay between the Earth and Moon. Following it Commander Wu asks, “Is the PR bull over now?”

Needing to stifle a chuckle, Lori raises her headset to her ear, with the mic roughly positioned above her lips, and advises, “Ian the PR bull is over. Proceed with the mission as planned.”

“Understood Director; and never make me do that again by the way.” Is the reply from Ian who breathes a sigh of relief now that he no longer has to put on some clickbait presentation show piece just in case at some point they decide to use the footage and comms as a means of advertising. After all, Commander Wu is an astronaut, a military man from the air force, not an actor.

“Wooo, I’m glad to no longer have to listen to you do that; I’m a professional and have to have a deep and booming voice, act any longer ‘cause wow you sounded like a douche.” Dean Ortega blurts as soon as he disengages the mute on his suits mic.

Rachelle does the same and first thing you hear from her is laughter. Something she’d been doing throughout Ian’s little act and too short to qualify as a true speech piece.

“Yeah, it doesn’t suit you at all Ian. Just as well this isn’t being broadcast to anyone except Control because I know we wouldn’t have managed to keep it together.”

“Zip it you two, we have a job to do.” Ian forces the voice again which he had been using to sound impressive. They all burst out laughing. Many in Control chuckle too, including Lori.

“Gotta say this place is…” Rachelle begins only to trail off too in awe to relocate the words she’d intended to speak.

“Unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.” Is the conclusion uttered by Dean who finishes his colleagues’ statement. Though, he too is flabbergasted by the view and can scarcely believe that the three of them are really here.

Nothing more is said for a few minutes.

Lori thinks it important to let the astronauts come to grasp with where they are. After all, it isn’t everyday that you leave the planet of your birth and venture somewhere new. One day it might be, and should be, but first Foundation needs to get that dome erected.

Three weeks have been scheduled to achieve said goal, which is why the Foundation I capsule is nothing like those used back in the 1960’s and 70’s.

In fact in contrast to those, Foundation I is seven times the size, boasts ‘rooms’, compartments and, albeit limited, space. That’s not to say it’s going to be a comfy stay for it remains a space capsule and like all of them, regardless of size, it’s cramped, verging on too small for those who will need to call it home for the duration of their stay. And again, unlike those from the mid twentieth century, nothing will be left behind except for what they erect, the dome.

The aim, and hope, is that Foundation will eventually be capable of becoming reusable. This exact one maybe not, but by the time they get to mission six or seven when the Moon base will consist of fifteen connected domes it should be, hopefully.

“Anyone else think this thing is like Lego?” Queries Dean as he gets to work lugging lengths of prefabricated and folded diamond shapes to where the dome will be assembled.

There is no reply.

“OK, just me then.” The most junior of the trio admits feigning hurt due to the lack of response a couple seconds prior to a long burst of static blasting through the speakers in his helmet.

“Ow, what the f…” He managed prior to his voice being drowned out by the interference.

“Control to Foundation I, do you read? We seem to be getting interference.” Says Harley from her console off to Lori’s left.

“Ye… we’r… get… it… too… Contr-” The signal is broken but not so severely that they cannot make out what Ian is saying.

“Any… …ea wh… is …ing on?” Clearly the interference is getting worse but that does not stop those in Control from busily chattering desperately attempting to discern what might be the cause. There are all sorts of suggestions from issues with mics to issues with other pieces of equipment on the capsule to issues on Earth.

Alas, Mission Control’s analysis is cut short when the camera feeds show the ground beginning to shake.

As if on cue, Rachelle roars, “Gro… …haking. H… can gr… be sh…king?”

And she is right the surface of the Moon is shaking. It’s showing seismic activity but that is impossible. The Moon is not capable of suffering seismic events.

Every face turns toward Lori. She feels the eyes burrowing into her, sees them too. But honestly hasn’t got a clue what to do and so blurts the first thing which shoots into her head.

“Get back to Foundation I. Repeat, return to the capsule. Initiate emergency liftoff.”

Whether Foundation I’s team can hear her or not, Lori hasn’t a clue. Just like she does not know as to why she has shouted the order. Maybe it’s because she is panicking or maybe it’s because she hopes by shouting her order the chances of it getting through are increased. She cannot say but is pleased to see the trio hopping, the best way she can describe it, back toward the capsule.

As you might expect, Ian is leading the pack with Rachelle and Dean alongside one another two steps behind, creating a vaguely triangle formation that is growing ever closer to the cap…

The ground under Foundation I explodes into a fountain of white dust, launching the capsule up into the air, breaking it apart in the process. There is no explosion for in space you can get no fires.

The three astronauts come to stop a few hops later and watch in shock as something from underground fills the space where the fountain, and before it the capsule, had been.

Everyone in Mission Control recoils, the astronauts don’t have the benefit of being able to in such low gravity. Rather, they stare at what look vaguely like hornets with limbs composed of white triangles linked together with thin dark woven strands.

“What the fuck?” A number of people in Mission Control mutter barely under their breaths.

If Lori were not as stunned as she is she too would have uttered much the same while stood feeling deeply afraid.

Suddenly Rachelle does an about on the spot revealing that the ‘aliens,’ Lori can think of no better term for them, have surrounded her and her colleagues.

Evidently the sole female astronaut says something, but it is almost entirely lost in the interference. Only the sound of her voice breaking through, not the content.

Snapping out of her daze Lori feels compelled to order, “Run. RUN!”

She doesn’t know where the astronauts are meant to run too, especially since their capsule is floating chunks of debris moving further and further away, but that is what she feels it would be prudent to do. Alas, if they heard her demand they do not manage to react to it prior to the swarm of ‘aliens’ descending upon the terrified astronauts with slashing frenzied limbs.

Screams are all that manage to penetrate the interference, the static, and somehow one of the cameras continues to function. It’s the one on Dean’s suit. The others have been shredded. And so Mission Control has to watch, through a cracked lens, as millions of these things pour out of the surface of the Moon.

Terror is all that those stood in Mission Control feel. Some have their hands over their gaping mouths, others do not. Many gulp; a few shake their heads absentmindedly. No one says a word. No one knows what to say.

Regrettably the ‘aliens’ do not remain gathered like a swarm low above the Moon’s surface. Rather, they quickly climb higher, disappearing from view.

“D-director…” Someone blurts stuttering and afraid a while later.

Without thinking Lori replies, “Yeah…”

Her head turns in the direction of the call some period afterwards, once nearly all of the hornet-like things are out of view. It’s clear who wanted her attention, Kevin, for he is the only one looking her way instead of at the feed on the display wall.

“What is it?” The Director mutters louder than is necessary.

“T-they look to be heading this way.” Comes the admittance from Kevin who is white as a sheet and panting.

Everyone in the room turns to look at Kevin. They can’t believe their ears. Lori isn’t sure she believes what she’s heard either, which is why she blurts, “Are you sure?”

Her voice sounds distant, hollow; similar to if she were in a sound proofed room but also not. She cannot explain it and so waits for the reply. It isn’t verbal, rather it comes in the form of a nod. Everyone turns toward her. It is obvious they expect her to say something, make a demand, issue an order, but her mind offers nothing. She can feel it working but alas it offers her no aid. It’s as if it is spinning without purpose; dazed, empty and confused. She doesn’t blame it for she certainly feels those exact three things which make no reasonable sense.

“Call the President.” There is a pause. “And prepare an evidence kit for his viewing.” Lori can think of no other order to give. And those took a great deal more effort than they should’ve to speak. Though, sound like the right move. Still, her order doesn’t feel right somehow.

Nevertheless the room explodes into a frenzy of activity. The Director herself notices none of it. In fact the next time she pays attention to her surroundings is when someone announces alarmed, “The mass is nineteen miles wide.”

The blonde Australian born woman is about to ask for more details when they are offered to her willingly.

“They’ll enter orbit in nine seconds.”

“How?” Is all the Director of Foundation I can manage.

There is no reply to her query and she is left floundering for a period that feels like hours. The period only comes to an end when she utters, “How long until they’ll arrive?”

It might not be the best way in which she could query what she means but how many ways can her single word query be taken? In her mind in one way, as it is intended; how long until the aliens reach the surface of Earth, ground.

“Tw-twenty nine s-seconds.” Is the fearful reply that comes following a quick triple check that the issuer did not believe could be accurate or true. They still don’t but having felt they could not delay any longer than they had they issued it anyway.

Feeling the floor, metaphorically, collapse beneath her feet; Lori spins round barking, “Call. Where are we on that call?”

“Waiting to be authorised Director.” Is the reply that is fired back.

“Shit!” The blonde woman snaps. She feels angry and frustrated by governmental protocol, procedure and red tape at a time where delay could be the difference between life and death.

Then, without warning, a siren begins to roar and squeal deafening everyone in Mission Control. The siren is a warning meant only for when rockets are set to launch. A get the hell out of the way and into a safe location sort of declaration really.

It shouldn’t be sounding at a time like this unless…

The world around Lori explodes, throwing her and everyone around her off their feet. The Director is sure this is the end, not just of her and her colleagues but of Earth. She braces herself and waits for death.

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