Everyone entered the Lander stowing their space luggage in cabinets on board, then put on their gloves, helmet and life support packs. Each of the Lander’s six seats faced each other in a circle. Jason noticed the seats were constructed with large indentations, accommodating the small life support units on each of their backs.
Marva secured the strange space suited pet in the seat next to her, as it made objectionable monkey noises to being fastened down by over size belts. Talking out loud to it she said something about flight regulations, as she put on its helmet and gloves.
Monica and Nicky sat down last, strapping themselves in. All of the seats were now occupied, including the one by Junkman’s virtual projection to Jason’s right. Junkman was smiling and wore the most outrageous psychedelic colored spacesuit, his real electronic presence was in the VRcube hanging from Jason’s neck. Marva was seated to Jason’s left.
The Lander spoke to them in an English female voice. Since the Moon was a very international place, Jason was sure that other languages would be translated by everyone’s personal translator to Russian, Chinese, Hindi or whatever language the wearer understood best. “This is the automated flight system. All passengers are now secure.
Decoupling from Space Station Armstrong and beginning descent to Moon surface. Final destination will be Lunar City Spaceport. Arrival time estimated at 14 minutes. Please enjoy the flight and remain securely in your seats until we have landed and you receive further instructions.”
“You’ll be able to get a good view of Lunar City on this approach as we pass directly over it on the way to the spaceport,” said Marva, leaning in closer and touching her helmet to Jason’s.
He thanked her and then decided to ask over the com about the monkey, “I have never seen a pet like yours before?”
“He’s more than a pet; he is an extension of me, a sort of living personal assistant,” Marva answered while checking on Jason’s reaction. Jason looked puzzled, so Marva continued,” His name is Tiki. He is a gene engineered Space Monkey. They are very popular on the Asteroid colonies, since they adapt well to weightlessness and follow orders, sometimes as well as any robot. Tiki is special in that he has a chip in his brain allowing me to communicate with him mentally. If I want, I can see what he sees, and direct some of his actions when he is feeling cooperative. Tiki is a new product of SpaceGene.”
“Why is his hair so many bright colors?” asked Jason. “Oh, space psychology tests show that bright colors and movement helps with depression in confined and long duration space flight, and of course it makes them easily visible too. His personality and mischievousness helps in cheering people up, although at times he can be trying.” Marva said with her beautiful smile.
Everyone could see outside the Lander when the honey combed display panels and view portals embedded in the floor and side walls activated. They mimicked glass, but were actuality connected to external cameras, mounted to the outside double titanium hull of the spacecraft, exposed to the vacuum of space.
Jason was a little nervous, this being his first lunar landing and all; having recently heard about a spectacular lunar crash in the popular media. He also noticed Monica trying to feign calm, with maybe a little too much boredom. He could tell a smiling Nicky with space travel experience was not buying it; the Martian could see right through her play-acting.
Nicky offered his glove covered right hand, open palm and fingers for her to hold. She frowned at him as if he should be the one scarred of flying so high above the Moon’s surface, but quickly accepted the offering anyway.
Such is love, Jason thought shyly, wishing he could try holding the nearby hand of Marva, but they had only just met. Instead he grabbed the floating VRcube, hooked to the outside of his suit. He decided to access the craft’s wireless Internet feed for information on Lander trajectory and landmarks. Keeping his mind busy, he soon became so interested in Moon topography, his worries subsided.
The Lander continued its fast autopilot-controlled descent over the South Pole-Aitken Basin, giving a magnifying view of the rough lunar surface 300 kilometers below. The face of the basin was an ancient giant crater marred and pocked by smaller and more recent craters, 2,500 kilometers in diameter and 13 kilometers deep at its lowest point. The distinction being that it was the largest impact crater in the entire solar system.
“Approaching Shackleton Crater and Lunar City; Spaceport arrival 5 minutes,” announced the Lander.
Still moving fast, the Lander’s final destination was a spaceport just outside of Lunar City on the South Pole of the Moon, sometimes known informally as Ring City because large human habitats were built around the mostly sun lit rim of Shackleton Crater. Of course there were other cities on the moon now, but Lunar City was still the economic mining metropolis of the Moon, the first, largest, and capital city of the politically correct, ‘Sovereign Planet of Luna’.
The large arrays of black and silver solar collection panels could be seen outlining the crater as they approached from the east and flew across the naturally dark mined areas of its interior.
Jason accessed infrastructure information on the city. These arrays provided most of the power for sustaining the cities sub-surface residents, who called themselves Lunarians. The remaining power was used for the agro-facilities, mining operations, spacecraft construction, research labs and finally the luxurious gambling and entertainment establishments located on Malapert Mountain adjacent to the nearby spaceport.
Most structures where situated to be bathed in sunlight of the Lunar Day. A Lunar Day being an Earth month; the time it took Luna to orbit the Earth and make one revolution. From some peaks you could actually see the planet Earth hanging in the dark sky, low over the Moon’s horizon.
Jason was surprised to learn most Lunarian homes were buried under six feet of Lunar Blanket, composed of a moon top soil called Regolith, a fine dust and pulverized rock contained in extra large sandbags, held together with a synthetic glue; providing the needed shielding and insulation from harmful radiation and micro-meteor impacts.
As they flew over the dark center of Shackleton Crater only a few lights could be seen along the many cable escalators which transferred mined comet water ice, methane, and ore metals from the crater floor to manufacturing on the rim. The Lander’s trajectory crossed the city and eventually brought them into view of the spaceport.
“Prepare for craft final deceleration and landing. Arrival at spaceport dock 65A in 2 minutes,” spoke the Lander in a firm business voice.
Everyone except Junkman, pressed down into their seats as retro-rockets began to fire and the Lander orientated for a touchdown on one of the many-sized spaceport landing pads. Surprisingly through this all Tiki the Space Monkey was silent.
“Lander touchdown sequence completed. Welcome to Luna. On behave of Armstrong Corporation we hope you enjoy your stay on the Moon and look forward to seeing you on your return flight. You may remove your restraints now and move about the spacecraft. Please remember to take all your possessions with you. Armstrong Station Corporation and the Lunar City Spaceport take no responsibility for lost or stolen items. We are now awaiting a transport to Lunar City which should arrive shortly.” Spoke the Lander.
The honeycombed floor panels went dark, but side view panels were still functioning and they could see a mobile docking transport move along a roadway between the landing pads of other large and small spacecraft. There was a slight bump and faint grinding sound as the transport mated with the Lander’s airlock mechanism.
“Pressurizing transport airlock,” A moment later an iconic red space vacuum warning indicator above the airlock door changed to green. “Airlock securely pressurized. Please take your possessions with you. Watch your step and proceed through the airlock door into the transport. This concludes all Lander spacecraft announcements. Thank you,” stated the Lander.
“Thank You,” said Monica relieved.
“It was entirely my pleasure,” replied what must have been the Lander’s built in AIP. Tiki squeaked his irritation as they carried their lightweight luggage and bags through to the transport airlock.
After cycling through the airlock into the transport, they heard through their helmets. “This is the Moon Transport Control AI. The cabin is pressurized. You may now remove and stow luggage, helmets, gloves and life support packs in the designated storage lockers. Transport Luna carrier 12, destination Lunar City Bio-habitat Oceana. Current Luna time Tuesday 1:03 am. Estimated arrival is 7 minutes. Please make yourselves comfortable, we will be leaving the spaceport momentarily.” They all took seats, looking out the large window view screens at the spaceport’s parked spacecraft.
There were spacecraft on the launch pads of every size, shape and color. Some were the new large Space BUS Tour craft, which Jason had heard about, carrying more than 300 non-space suited passengers in special reinforced vacuum resistant compartments. It was one of these, which had recently failed, smashing into the moon at a fiercely high speed, rocket engines plowing full on thrust.
The impacting instantly killed all humans on board and pulverizing all machines. Regardless of its reinforced infrastructure it made a new lunar crater measuring over half a kilometer in diameter. Luckily for others not on board, the impact was far enough away from the spaceport and city habitats. They were still periodically showing video clips of screaming passengers, remote camera views and magnified satellite impact imagery from multiple angles. Some suspected it was sabotage because the only surviving AI records showed signs of erasure and program tampering.
Although there appeared to be no supporting evidence discovered during the investigation, with not much of the craft left intact at all, the Earth Space Media (ESM) report was just short of accusing FreeMars rebels of being involved.
The recently elected CEO of the Moon, Roger Ekaun, echoed Lunarian opinion when he said he did not suspect FreeMars and that ESM reporting was again, “Influenced to further Earth’s backward colonial mother-world mentality.”
The ground transport began moving, but it soon became apparent that the vehicle was not limited to the ground alone. It latched itself into a ceiling cable transport system and they were soon off the ground and over the edge of the spaceport plateau, soaring high above spectacular bright lunar valleys and dark rocky crevices on their way to the sub lunar metropolis rim of Shackleton Crater.
In the distance could be seen the solar panels lining the top rim of the crater, beneath those, complex looking manufacturing facilities and blanketed habitat modules with above ground exposed life support units and process tanks outlined by small paved roadways for robotic servicing. In a few places along the sides of the crater you could actually see into lush green buried bio-habitats covered by transparent triple thick glass silica. The special nano-reinforced glass was layered with radiation filter shielding to protect the plants and humans exposed below.
“If you wait and looked closely. . . ”, pointed Marva, “To the right, there, every few minutes you can see objects flying off the Lunar City Catapult up into orbit,” just then they all saw a large white module being launched. It traveled so fast that in a moment it was distant, then completely out of site.
“Wow!” said Monica. “That beats any amusement park ride I have ever gone on.”
“I’ve never been on an amusement park ride, or for that matter to an amusement park,” said Marva quite seriously. “In fact, I’ve never actually been to Earth.” There was a silence from everyone.
Their transport finally arrived and they all debarked with their luggage. Marva showed them through the downward twisting and turning way into their sub-lunar accommodations.
Jason suspected their suite was extremely luxurious by lunar standards, but on Earth a furnished and cramped one-bedroom apartment would have seemed much larger.
The suite had a common alcove dining area with an anchored table and padded seating; small food prep and kitchen area, one multifunction recyclable wash and toilet room, with three small private VR enabled sleeping quarters. The walls of the suite were cream white and covered with sealant spray. Soft full spectrum columns of light fixtures hung from ceiling to the polished lunar gray floor. There was no carpet anywhere; a few wall switches with electrical outlets strategically positioned in the toilet kitchen and sleep areas. Power and control conduits for these ran along the ceiling, as did the air vent tubing. The suite was permanently buried in radiation and micrometeorite shielding, built to last and allow for maintenance and future upgrade.
Besides lighter gravity, some things clearly pointed to the fact they were not inside a Earth abode; the most obvious, an embedded panel display positioned along one wall at the height of a window showing a stunning piped in view of lunar mountain ranges, black sky, and a blue full Earth hanging brightly just above the horizon.
You actually could see spacecraft moving across the view, departing and arriving from the spaceport. Of course any view point on the surface or in space could have been displayed; even an Earthscape or Marscape, but its true purpose was to act as a simulated window above ground, giving the inhabitants a feeling of living on the surface rather than in a buried and windowless Moon cave.
There were other things that revealed its outer space nature, like the airlocks; two in this suite. One with a storage area to hang and recharge the spacesuits, helmets, gloves, and life support packs; it exited out into the common hallway through which they entered. The other opened out into a large pressurized artificial bio-habitat. All of the sub-lunar facilities had carefully placed airlocks to avoid cascade depressurization.
“I’m not supposed to do this, but I’m going to override the airlock controls for now,” Marva said while touching the control pad for the airlock.
The first door slid open, she entered a security code, there was a loud beeping, and flashing red warning light, a synthesized male voice said in a very serious tone. “Privileged security override: Marva Zenon. Please Confirm?” Then the noise and lights stopped and the last door slid open into a beautiful jungle scene, small waterfall and squawking birds.
Marva smiled, and then beckoned them all with her gloveless hand, turned walked through the airlock, and skipped lightly down a stone grass path on the other side.
“I can’t believe it!” Jason said with shocked skepticism. The others were just as amazed and moved cautiously through the airlock, down the path into a clearing near a pool at the base of the waterfall.
Jason noticed there was something unusual about how slow the water fell over the rocks in this lighter gravity. He looked up through the trees to the transparent ceiling high above, the sky was black, but everything was bright as daylight with the sun shining through in a late afternoon position. The jungle was lush green and wet smelling.
“Hologram?” asked Jason, not certain.
“No, this is real. Simulated Earth made from fortified Moon Regolith, water mined from the dark crater. We have modified the basic plant genetics for accelerated growth; accommodating some lunar soil deficiencies, improving their tolerance for low gravity and greatly extended daylight growth cycles.” Marva said.
The habitat was like a large pressurized warehouse, filled with growing vegetation. It contributed to the air purification and food production of the city. “Other apartment airlocks open into four other bio-habitats throughout the city providing various mini-parks of mountain pines, hilly grasslands, and even a desert complete with cacti. This particular bio-habitat is my personal favorite. Because of the small lake, this Bio-dome it is named Oceana. It has the distinction of being the largest artificial body of water of any space habitat. Here on Luna, water and breathable air are more precious commodities than gold,” Marva explained.
Tiki, was still wearing his small spacesuit, screeched his impatience at her. “Go ahead,” she said. The Space Monkey then made a gigantic leaped from her shoulder onto a jungle vine and began climbing it to a tree canopy high above. Gravity here was .17, about one-fifth that of Earth. A tropical parrot flew off, cautiously distancing itself from the Space Monkey.
Marva completed her tour of the bio-habitat and the adjacent agro-fields. She then collected a very reluctant Tiki. Jason thanked her, shaking her hand much longer this time, even to the point of practically holding it. A little flushed; she excused herself until tomorrow’s meeting at SpaceGene, and then reactivated the safety on the airlock as she left.
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