A Draft of Moonlight

By Greg Camp

Sci-Fi, Thriller

Paperback, eBook

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861
2 mins

Chapter 1

Robert Smith hated space flight. Not the fact of space flight; human beings belonged wherever they could get themselves, and there had been a human presence in space for almost eighty years now. This met with his cool approval. He hated his personal presence in space. He liked to think of himself as a grounded man. Rarely, at any rate, did he give himself over to fancy. Whenever he was asked to describe himself, and this was hardly ever called for, he would say that he told his truths honestly and that he told his lies the same way.
The problem with space flight was that nothing made a greater cause for fanciful wanderings of the mind. Floating in the air of his cabin and staring out a porthole at blackness mitigated only by gleaming points of light was no way to keep a grasp on reality—at least for him it was not. He would have been happy to leave the void to those dreamers who belonged there. Thus it was a nagging irony that he so often found himself clearing the Earth’s atmosphere on yet another voyage through the vacuum.
Despite his wish to the contrary, here he was, nearing the end of a three day’s journey away from his native planet’s soil, looking through a porthole at the Moon’s southern hemisphere passing below him—or above him, since space permitted none of the familiar absolutes—as the cislunar shuttle in which he was a passenger entered orbit. One hundred kilometers away at the center of the Clavius crater lay his destination—the closest base of operation to the water ice hidden in the sunless craters of the pole. On Earth, he would have been less than an hour away, but this was not Earth. Celestial billiards was a much slower game, for all its greater energies. To land directly would have required an inordinate amount of fuel to cancel the momentum created by the long burn that had driven the shuttle away from the planet. Far more efficient it was for the Moon to do the work of catching the shuttle flying close to the lunar surface by reaching out and pulling the craft to itself, aided by the brief firing of the shuttle’s braking rockets.
He smiled at the porthole for a moment, enjoying a criticism of his species that, had he been a fanciful man, he might have seen himself as sharing with the Moon. Humans were lazy. They never put out their own effort if they could get another to do so. Why should their hands harden and crack if some slave’s hands will do the work passably as well? What does it matter if a few weeds and obscure insects must be washed away so dams can generate easy electricity? To be sure, the Moon would be heated by an infinitesimal fraction of a degree, and it would slow in its orbit by a tiny part of a millimeter per century, but what of it? The effect of the shuttle’s maneuver could be repeated without a noticeable change until the human race evolved itself out of its desire to wander or had wandered on to use other worlds. Could be repeated? It would be repeated, for the Moon had no votes and no divisions. Humans were the measure of all things, and he was a human. If it were a false syllogism to conclude that he was the measure of at least such things as concerned him, let the Moon make its appeal to the Philosopher.
In the meanwhile, Smith occupied himself with the straps of his seat. The days of weightlessness were blessedly over. He had just finished fastening each restraint when the shuttle’s pilot announced that the passengers had five minutes to secure themselves before the first firing of the braking rockets. Smith allowed himself a small flush of pride in the fact that he always was buckled into his seat before being told to do so. Some people risked being slammed by the hull under reverse thrust, wanting a few more moments of floating in their separate inertial frames of reference, but he cared for it not at all.
* * *
A half an hour later, the Moon passed by beneath the gaze of the porthole, untroubled by any of the passions of the rainbow—no red shame over its cratered surface, no green envy at those creatures who amuse themselves with willful motion, no yellow fear at the missiles thrown again and again at its own face, no violet rage at the human trespassers.
Smith slept, untroubled, for the moment at least, by anything.


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