Moonrise - Part One
Updated: Apr 20, 2021
The sun glinted off the solar panels of the Russian satellite as it silently orbited Earth’s moon. Doors on the side of its cylindrical main body slid open revealing the satellite’s payload of missiles. Red lights flashed inside the missile bay indicating that the warheads were armed.
Far below on the moon’s surface, the Earth reflected in the mirrors of a skimmer as it carried its two passengers back to base under the black and star-speckled lunar sky. In the six months since they arrived on the moon, Dave and Larry still hadn’t lost the wonder of the breath-taking beauty of the place. At times the mineral survey team had to be reminded that they had actual work to do.
After parking their vehicle in the mining base’s garage, the two-man team entered the airlock. As they waited for the room to fill with air, they felt the gravity slowly get stronger. It was supposed to make it easier to get used to the normal gravity generated by the base’s gravity manipulators, but it always made them a bit queasy. Eventually, they made their way through the grey metal corridors of the base, bustling with the activity of a normal working day. Dave pushed their samples on a hover cart, trying to dodge the other inhabitants as they went about their business.
Only a few stubbed toes later, they arrived at their lab. Larry opened the thick metal door to reveal a large room filled with all the equipment they needed to analyze their rock samples, that is, if they could find it in their mess. There were empty containers piled on the counters, some broken drilling equipment left in a heap in one of the corners and samples strewn throughout the lab. Sometimes brilliance and tidiness aren’t found in the same people.
Their lab was on the edge of the base’s dome and the curved outside wall had two large, and very thick, windows. Outside they could see the lunar surface in all of its desolate gorgeousness. They were able to enjoy such a beautiful view because the base was outfitted with one of Zingel Corp’s new magnetic field generators which shielded them from the harsh radiation of space.
Normally they may have taken a few minutes break after just arriving, but today they got to work right away. They were sick of their boss’ repetitive speeches about how, ‘tanks and guns don’t grow on trees,’ or, ‘this war won’t win itself.’ They took their samples to their respective workstations and, after clearing some space, got to work analyzing them.
A few minutes later, Dave was calibrating his testing equipment to look for iron ore when he heard Larry drop something on the ground. He looked over and saw a look of shock on Larry’s face as he leaned closer to his computer screen. ‘You need to see this, Dave,’ he said, still staring. Dave wondered how a sample of lunar regolith could evoke such a reaction from his co-worker.
‘I’ll never understand how moon dirt can get you so excited, Larry,’ Dave laughed as he walked over to Larry. Larry pointed to a specific line of the information displayed on his screen. Dave looked and saw something that didn’t make sense. The computer was registering organic material in the moon dirt! But Dave was a bit more level-headed than Larry. ‘How many times did you test it?’ he asked, ‘its probably just an error in the equipment.’
‘I tested it three times already,’ Larry responded.
‘Well, there must be some kind of contamination,’ Dave said calmly.
‘Well, let’s look,’ Larry said. Dave and Larry looked over all their equipment and the video recordings of their survey mission. They couldn’t find any evidence of contamination. They’d followed all the protocols to the tee. There was no way anything but pure moon dirt was in any of their sample containers.
Dave rubbed his face with his hand and thought for a minute. ‘Have you looked at it under a microscope yet?’
‘No,’ Larry replied. The two men carefully put some of the sample under a microscope. They stared at the screen in disbelief. Before their very eyes, microbes were moving around in the lunar regolith.
‘That’s impossible,’ Dave said, ‘nothing can survive on the surface of the moon!’
‘I think you’re wrong, Dave,’ Larry said sitting back in his chair, smiling and pointing at the screen, ‘this guy can!’
We need a biologist to confirm this,’ said Dave, still not really believing what he was seeing. ‘There’s probably something we’re missing.’
Larry sighed, the smile fading from his face, ‘You’re right. I’ll ask Sarah to take a look at it for us. It’ll give me a good excuse to stop by her lab.’ He took a sample of the regolith and walked towards the door.
‘Ok but remember the reason you’re there is the moon microbe,’ Dave called after him, ‘I know how you get when you see Dr. Lancaster’s blue eyes!’ Larry dismissed what Dave said with a wave as he walked off into the busy hallway.
A few hours later Dave and Larry were so transfixed by an email from Dr. Lancaster that they didn’t even notice the base’s alarm go off. She’d found that the DNA of the microorganisms didn’t match anything ever discovered before. It was a unique lifeform. Dave was physically shaking with excitement. Larry’s smile was back in full force. ‘Did we just discover extraterrestrial life?’ asked Larry, vocalizing what they were both thinking. Dave was speechless.
The two men finally noticed the alarm when metal shutters automatically covered the exterior windows of the lab. Within seconds the lights flickered and their lab shook with the force of an explosion. The sound of metal hitting metal rang through the air as some of their piles of sample containers fell to the floor.
‘We’re under attack!’ yelled Larry above the alarm which had gotten louder, ‘We need to get to the shelter now!’ He ran to the door which led to the hallway, but Dave didn’t follow him. He was doing something on his computer. ‘Come on, Dave!’ Larry screamed. They could feel the vibrations of the base’s rail guns returning fire.
Larry stood at the door, through the small window he could see red flashing lights connected to the alarm and people running past, trying to get to the emergency shelters. ‘Go! I’m coming!’ Dave yelled as he typed frantically at his computer. Another explosion and the power went out. Everything was dark for a minute until the emergency lights switched on.
As Dave ran to the hallway door, Larry heard knocking on the outside. Someone was trying to get in! Larry tried to open it, but it wouldn’t budge. He looked through the window into the corridor and saw a woman outside, her hair blowing as if in the wind. ‘There must be a breach!’ Dave yelled, now standing beside Larry. They both cried as they helplessly watched the woman suffocate just outside their door.
But their sorrow didn’t last long. The next missile ripped a hole in the dome where the geologists’ lab was. Larry was killed by falling debris, his body impaled by some piece of metal that had held up their ceiling. Dave was sucked out of the hole onto the desolate and airless lunar surface. He admired the beauty of the Earth hanging in the lunar sky as he gasped for air and felt the extreme cold penetrate his body. Within minutes his lifeless corpse landed softly in the lunar regolith.
The doors on the Russian satellite closed silently, hiding away the few missiles left onboard. The camera snapped photos of the pile of twisted metal and frozen bodies that had been the moon base. Then it continued hurtling along its lunar orbit waiting to rain death on its next target.