My name is Paul Spiegel, but call me Spudis. Everyone here does.
Well, saying “everyone” is kind of a stretch, since there’s only one other person here, but run with me on this. Actually, no, don’t run, leap with me, because hey, we’re on the freaking moon!
Tycho – that’s my buddy Tyler Powe for you historians who will no doubt be poring over my immortal words for generations to come – thinks it’s dumb of me to sit here and record this, but sometimes it just seemed like his imagination got knocked clean out of him when we crash-landed here. Either that or he thinks I’m shirking.
Maybe he thinks I’m shirking.
This city isn’t working according to its original design, you have to understand. The architects and engineers who dreamed this up had it in their heads to create a whiz-bang sci-fi city with all the robot butlers and automagic everything we lazy apes could ever want at hand, then programmed a rocketful of drones to come up here and have it all built and ready before the first wave of highly trained and motivated settlers arrived. I’m sure it would have been cool.
Insert your own joke about making God laugh here, if you believe in God. Or Murphy’s Law. Or mice and men. Anyway, the construction phase went fine, and everything here really is pretty shiny and nifty, only those settlers never came. The Luna Project got scrapped. Not cost effective. Bigger problems to tackle. Irreligious. Everyone had a reason not to do it.
But so the settlers are both highly trained (the best training MIT’s Open CourseWare and the Edupunks had to offer) and motivated, but so far there’s just me and Tycho, and as for the robots? Well.
It’s a long story, and we’ve set it down elsewhere, but, well, our first scrambled transmission back to Nicola’s gang said it all, really: “We made it, but we had to fry the robots. Sorry!!”
So Tycho and I have been pretty busy, finding ways to get things done without those robots, or any of the computer systems that kept stuff going while Cives Tranquilitatis (we really don’t dig on that name, but it’s everywhere. We usually just call it Tranq) awaited its inhabitants. But really, it’s not turning out to be as hard as Tycho likes to say it is; there are mechanical backups for pretty much everything; the hardware just needed some TLC and re-routed power from the bigass solar array out in the mare. I mean, enough water was cracked out of the rocks to keep 5000 people in drinking water and toilet flushing, plants growing – oh my god plants growing – to provide oxygen and fresh veggies, though some of the veggies look pretty strange… as long as we have that, we have a good chance at making it, or at least holding it together until the next gang comes.
Well, a pretty good chance. Cuz, well, I know I sound pretty sanguine but we did have a bit of an adventure the other day. Could have potentially ruined the Park*, too.
It happened like this. Tycho and I were busy trying to hack through some overgrowth that had closed off a huge swath of the main spiral**. Better Boy tomatoes do very well in one-sixth gee. Very well. Anyway, we were doing our jungle thing, hacking away with machetes, when all of a sudden, Tycho started screaming bloody murder.
It took me a minute or two to get to him – I was pretty tangled up after climbing to try to get to the biggest fruit we’d found yet, bigger than my head, that thing. I’m sure you’re used to those by now, future Lunans, but at the time we just couldn’t get over those – but I finally made it to him and at first, well, at first I thought he’d just had a close encounter with a tomato, if you know what I mean. He had a bright red streak along his temple, and a lot of pulp on his ear.
Except it turned out the pulp was his ear. And it wasn’t tomato juice on his face at all.
He said something sharp and heavy had screamed down from above and ripped his head open. Something hot. Really hot.
I started dabbing at his face with a clean rag but he slapped me away and yelled at me to find what hit him. I’d been getting really good at not arguing over little stuff, so I just clammed up and did.
It wasn’t too hard to find the missile; it was smoking. A rock a little bigger than my fist was lying there red hot on the regolith.
“Holy balls, you got hit by a meteorite!” I remember screaming.
“A meteorite is a rock that falls to Earth, dummy,” he said.
“Yeah, and… Oh!” I said, or something like that. Look, I’m really, really smart, but Tycho was the language nerd of the pair of us.
“OK, a metoroon, then. Holy balls, you got hit by a meteoroon!”
“Well, I don’t know what you’d call it.”
“Neither do I. But that sounds stupid.”
I could have glossed over this stuff, future Lunans, but you deserve to know what we were really like. And by this point, we hadn’t had anyone but each other to talk to for months.
Oh, and we weren’t a couple, okay? Let me just set that straight right there. Heh.
Anyway, so there we were, standing there with our teeth in our mouths, staring at this freaking rock from outer space that had just… come down on us… and we… were under a dome…
We both looked up at the dome high above us and said a very bad word at the same time, because sure enough, one of the big plexiglass panels that kept the air in and the cosmic rays and crap out was pretty well smashed. It wasn’t a huge hole or anything, but the danger was still pretty obvious.
Pruning Tomatosaurus rex was going to have to wait a spell.
Now, Tycho used to kind of make fun of me for my Batman obsession when we were little, but after this he never mocked me again, because one of the first things I ever designed for our DIY colonization mission was, you got it, utility belts***. And yes, they had grappling guns, because, grappling guns.
I was already speeding toward the damaged panel when Tycho pointed out that I didn’t have anything to fix it with. Hey, we’re a team, all right? One’s a thinker and a planner and one is a doer. Otherwise, we’da never made it out here, amIrite?
I figured as long as I was up there, I’d assess the damage. There was a pretty good hole in the glass and, sure enough, air was rushing out at a good clip. There would still be plenty of air under this big ol’ dome for a long time to come, but if we didn’t do something about it, well, I wouldn’t be writing this now, and you wouldn’t be reading it, future Lunans.
Gotta give Tycho credit. He made sure we brought lots and lots and lots of JB Weld. Oh, that stuff is amazing. So while I messed around trying to rewind my grappler (after a really fun trip down. Whee!), he grabbed a piece out of an unassembled greenhouse kit, broke it into a manageable size with a hammer, and threw together an emergency patch kit. We’ve since made up a whole bunch of these and are never without them! Anyway, he bounded over – I gotta tell ya, that never gets old! – with it and this time I let him do the honors. And don’t let him tell you otherwise, if he ever does tell anyone about this, he whooped and hollered just as much as I did on the way up.
So anyway, that’s why the dome above Tomatosaurus rex**** looks like a sloppy kluge job. Maybe someday it’ll get fixed up proper but right now, we’ve got other things to do. Like building dynamos to charge up our stuff, because I’ll be damned if I’m going to spend another six months without being able to get my Rebo and Zooty on.
*Spudis is referring to Tranquility Park in the center of Cives Tranquilitatis, which was housed in its own separate unpressurized dome within the city’s larger dome for many decades to preserve the Eagle, Neil Armstrong’s historic footprint and other historical artifacts, up until just a few months ago, when an incident very like that which Spudis describes in this story finally occurred. – ed.
**The spiral of which Spudis speaks is, of course, Armstrong Circle. – ed.
***The design for these is virtually identical to those all citizens of Tranq wear to this very day – ed.
****The same location as the vertical farm of the same name today, where Armstrong Circle and Cernan Spoke intersect. – ed.
This week's Form and Genre challenge is a 1500 word short story written in the first person. I've had requests for sequels to pretty much all of my entries in this challenge to date, but as my personal favorite of these (for reasons that will become spectacularly clear in time) is "Settler's Woes", so yes, this is a sequel to that wacky little tale.