Meanwhile, aboard the MoonShip Waist of Space…
“Everything looks tickety-boo, Tarquin. All the dials and things still look the same.”
“Then what do you suppose that sudden mahoosive flash of light was, Merry?”
“Dashed if I know what to make of it, Tarq. Blinding, wasn’t it. Can’t be normal, surely. Hold on; something to check.”
“Bear with… oh, drat!”
“No reply from the chaps down below on the old wireless thingy.”
Commanders Tarquin Stuart-Lane and Meredith Winstanley, generally regarded as the poshest of those who had purchased commissions in the Royal Space Regiment, had been selected by a ballot of their peers for a special mission to the moon. Their brief was to find out for how long two people could survive on that dead world, in an artificial habitat that they were to construct from materials they had with them. To allow them to take as much food and equipment as possible, with a view to extending their stay, their craft carried only enough fuel for a one-way journey. That, according to the brief, was also necessary because their craft would form an essential part of the habitat they were to construct. When they reached the point in the mission where their return was indicated, the higher-ups said they would send someone to collect them.
“Want me to try calling them, Merry?” Tarquin asked.
“No point, Tarq; they’re probably at lunch. Isn’t it old Ramsbotham’s birthday about now? I expect they’re having drinkies with him. I’ll try again when they get back. What time is it now?”
“Tiffin time, I should think, eh what? Oh cripes! Best check your watch, Merry. The digital one on the dash seems to be running backwards.”
“That’s the ‘time till end of mission’, silly.”
“No. That one’s jolly well full of nines. The label on this one says ‘time into mission’.”
“Cripes indeed, in that case. What does the book say about that, Tarq?”
“I’ll look. You’d best see if anything else looks odd.”
Tarquin pulled the project manual from of its holder under the main control panel, while Meredith busied herself looking at all the dials, indicators and readout panels, none of which showed anything that they had not been showing consistently since before lift-off.
Tarquin called Meredith back to their station at the front of the craft to tell her about an amazing discovery he’d just made.
“Come here, Merry, old thing; I’ve just made an amazing discovery.”
“What’s that, Tarq?”
“Well. You know the first part of the project manual tells us what the mission is all about?”
“Yah. Well, guess what?”
“It’s in Chinese?”
“Okay, Tarq, I give up. What?”
“That’s all there is. Pages one to six are the brief, the rest is blank.”
“What, all of it?”
“Yah, all of it.”
“But it’s, like, hundreds of pages long.”
“And they’re all blank?”
“Except the first six.”
“Where are the instructions for finding the landing site and… well… landing?”
“I give up, Meredith. Where are the instructions for finding the landing site and landing?”
“I DON’T BLOODY KNOW, DO I?” Meredith screamed.
“Sorry, Tarquin,” she said meekly. “I suppose that means we’ll have to…”
“Put a brave face on it and do our best for King and country.”
The nature of their predicament, coupled with Meredith’s most intemperate outburst, proved enough to kill the gentle conversation and congenial atmosphere that had been their constant companion since leaving Earth. Silence prevailed until the waxing gibbous moon filled their only viewport. As usual, it fell to Meredith to restart the flow of words between the pair.
“Does the moon look alright to you, Tarq?”
“Can’t say I’ve ever seen it this close before, Merry. How does Earth look from here?”
“No idea. There’s no back window and no mirrors.”
“There aren’t? How are we supposed to check that it’s clear behind before we start getting ready to land?”
“I doubt there will be anything behind us, Tarq.”
“Say you don’t know!”
“I don’t know.”
“But does the moon look how you expect it to look?”
“I suppose so, apart from those buildings in the flat bit close to where it starts to get dark.”
“Yah. See them? Here, use this.” He handed her the high-powered zooming telescope that neither of them recalled having packed.
“Crikey! I didn’t know you had one this big.”
Tarquin blushed, then realised she was referring to the telescope.
“Good, isn’t it?”
“Magnificent,” she said, “let’s hope it performs as well as it looks.”
Tarquin blushed again. Meredith brought the instrument to her eye, selected the highest power, and studied the landscape below.
“Do you suppose we could land there?” she asked.
“They haven’t said where we should land, so I imagine it’s up to us. Would you like to land there?” he asked, his question laced with flirtatious undertones.
“Seems as good a place as any,” she replied, completely missing the point, “and it looks like there’s a great deal going on there, so we may find some new chums. Make it easier to build our habitat thingy with some extra hands.”
“Good point, Merry. Now, how do we land this thing?”
“I guess you should guide it to the landing site first,” Meredith offered without the slightest hint of sarcasm.
“Why me?” Tarquin asked, “I don’t have a steering wheel or anything.”
“Neither do I,” Meredith said. “Do you suppose this yellow button marked ‘LAND’ does anything?”
“Don’t know, Merry. Haven’t seen that one before.”
“I haven’t been aware of it, but it’s certainly there now. Press it and see what happens.”
“Best strap in first, Merry.”
“Absolumondo,” she said, affixing and adjusting her seat belts.
Tarquin pressed the large yellow button marked ‘LAND’. The craft slowly inverted itself, changing the view from their single viewport from the moon to Earth; a large blue and white marble hanging in the blackness of space.
“Gosh, frightfully pretty, isn’t it?” Meredith exclaimed.
“I’ll say,” Tarquin replied. “Do you think we’ll ever see it again?”
“Yah. I should think so. Every day, when we look up. Same as we saw the moon from there, only bigger.”
“No, silly. I meant, will we ever be there again?”
“Of course we will. They’ll send someone for us when we finish the mission.”
As this conversation proceeded, the craft slowly and gently settled on the lunar surface, a few hundred metres from the buildings that the pair had spotted from afar.
“Tarqui…” For once, Meredith was lost for words.
“Must make a note of this,” Tarquin said, grabbing for the recording device that he was surprised to see on his lap. He started to dictate: “Landing report by Commander Tarquin Stuart-Lane of the MS ‘Waist Of Space’. We have landed on the moon, close to a group of buildings. The form of the buildings is reminiscent of what I imagine the Colosseum in Rome looked like when it was first built, but they must be at least four times the size. Bright-red in colour, they are constructed of a material that could be a form of hard plastic or carbon-fibre. I can see five buildings, although there may well be more.”
“Whom are you addressing, Tarquin?” Meredith asked.
“Recording my report on this thing.” Tarquin said, holding his hand up for her inspection.
“But your hand is empty, Tarq. And that yellow button has gone. And the telescope. And is that our welcoming party?” She pointed toward the five space-suited individuals walking toward them. “They must be more than eight metres tall!”
Tarquin paled visibly. “Might one be permitted an expletive, Merry?”
“I think it would not be inappropriate, Tarquin, given our present circumstances.”
“Excuse my French. Blimey!”
“Steady on, old-” Merry was interrupted by a loud knocking on the side of their craft.
I wrote this in response to Kreative Kue 39, issued on this site earlier today. Feel free to join in; just follow the link.