Chapter One “First Trip to the Moon” of Part One “The Moon” a Very Different Sci-fi “First” Contact Novel in Progress
“Those days were above all the age of the Crater Cap Colonies. No other technology or social scheme had such an influence on the period of the Contact as did the Crater Cap Colony. While it was devised in a Facebook Group in the Twenty-First Century it came into its own just at the middle of the twenty-second century”. Historical Essays Section, Encyclopedia Humanitica.
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The Shuttle from Earth Orbit Station 13B was a bit crowded to say the least. There were both cheap trap tube and foldo seat tickets. Joseph Culkathadreil was not in one of those. He was in the economy seating and had a window seat. His Pilot Guild ID was worth a 40% discount on the shuttle, 25% off of his days fees at the station and would have been worth 17% off of the big ticket which was the EarthupShuttle. However, a friend who ran travel arrangements for the secretive Culkathadreil Consolidated Capital Corporation had pulled some strings to get him a temp job piloting the hop. So he had actually earned enough to pay for the other 75% of his Station fees. In the pilots bar there he had met a man who knew the best ways to get work at the Lunapolis Pilots Clearinghouse. In return for the information he had bought him a few beers. But the old pilot told him not to be too optimistic. He had exhausted his own willingness to use any influence or favors that involved Culkathadreil interests. The company was too secretive to be known to most people and too small to be well known to those with the resources to know most things. The name gave him just a bit of panache and set off his web of small scars, his years spent in hard and unglamorous positions with a bit of class. He also got a small dividend each quarter on a few shares of preferred stock in his designated portion of a protected trust. Togher with his severance packet from his last real job he planned to live on that till he found work.
Beside him was a tall man with the badges and pocket instruments of a Crater Cap Engineer. Joseph asked him how he was and what he was planning to do on the Moon. “If it is not too personal?”
“Not personal at all. We are putting together a team in Lunapolis and then heading off to finish the basic cap on a new colony they are opening in a crater on the far side of the Moon. You planning to fly for someone out of Lunapolis?”
“Yes, but I do not have a regular job yet — no job at all, really.”
“Well don’t forget to call the Wang Crater Cap Corporation once you are registered. We always need a few pilots it seems like.”
“I will do that. I am embarassed to say that I have worked in the space industry in general and colonization in particular a good part of my life and yet I know so little about the caps really. What makes that even more embarassing is that I grew up on an artificial island. And the plans fo those owe alot to some of the people who devloped the caps. ”
“Those wouldn’t be the islands in the Gulf of Mexico would they I thought I heard a little of South Louisiana in your voice. We still buy cap components there you know.”
“You are a pretty good detective. I am indeed from the Culkathadreil Archipelago in the South Louisiana Super Archipelago of artificial islands. My name is Joseph Culkathadreil”.
“Pleased to meet you you can read my name on my badge of course”. There was an awkward sort od gesture here that was niether a bow nor a handshake and yet was more than an inclination of the head, both men stumbled though it in the way that men not used to stumbling socially can when they must — the seats were not spacious for one thing.The engineer continued speaking relatively seemlessly now. “About the caps they are simple enough: First they keep out cosmic and solar radiation but you can put solar panel up on top to gather the power. Second, you start channeling that power into heat and light it starts to warm up or if it is a blazing hot place to cool but iluminate as you block the sun. On the mooon many craters are below 45 degrees Kelvin on the floor — that is super cold. You put a cap on the place and nowadays we send out coldbots to scoop up methane and hydrogen and burn it that adds to the build up from solar powered heaters and lights. Third, in most spots we choose water ice starts to melt and gathers in ponds and streams. You see Pilot Culkathadreil, even though we pump or mine for more later we have water on the Moon and on Mars at that stage. Fourth. we start with all airlocks and pressure suits but we put in a base of miners and start planting domed gardens and keep burning the methane and heating the mines, spoils and floor. Fifth. the miners were masks but atmospheric pressure is fine and the climate is chilly but not brutal on the floor. Sixth, the miners crap and urinate and sometimes die and we recycle all their waste properly into compost or bury them to decay into the soil. Seventh, we can bring in a few real farmers. When this goes on the right way long enough you can get a place like Lunapolis”.
“And what do you do mostly in that process”? Joseph had listened carefully and although he had probably seen much of the process on TV he felt he understood it better than before.”I mean, do you specialize somehow — I see you are high grade CCC engineer”?
“Yes and while I was talking I checked on your name and see Joseph Culkathadreil is in the Inventor’s Guild as well. That’s impressive”!
“Well it is a little bit of income honestly but directly sent to previous commitments. I patented two form of shooter dart and a bullet for shooting through and between spaceships”.
“You are a scary man then. But I hold about ten patents. Two are for quicker heaters one is nuclear and one purely solar. I hold three for first roof projectors which put something upa as a scaffold and shield. I also have patents on inflatable column building components which help to support the early caps. So while I do it all Culkathadreil I spend a lot of time supporting my own stuff nowadays”.
“I am seated next to a legend here in economy. I am surprised but honored”.
“I am not quite a legend. I fly in space a great deal and I am a small man. I find economy comfortable and the difference in cost pays fro my duaghter’s tuition in medical school and my son’s tuition in Nuclear engineering by the end of the year. By the way, I have a tutorial on caps for investors shall I give it to you”?
“Thank you I would love to have it”. The men touched e-tabs and the addresses, nonconfidential biographies and other data were exchanged as well as Joseph receiving the three minute depiction of the first six months of amodern capping project. He scanned a bit of it on the synopsis feature of his miniscreen.”That is pretty amazing Engineer. I have seen films and TV shows made on Lunapolis and it is hard to imagine it starting like that”.
“Films and TV, huh… Pilot Culkathadreil, have you ever been to the Moon before?”
“No, I have flown to space a good bit but this stay on the station was my longest in Space in the Earth Gravity Well. I mean off planet of course.”
“”But you have shuttled from a station to a planetary ship to pilot I am guessing. Otherwise it would not take so long for you to say all of this. You would just say longest time off planet ever.”
“Yep, I made just one trip as a subpilot actually but it was a big trip.”
“Well one thing you should know about the Moon is that most people say the sex is better than anywhere else. One sixth gee is much better than the gees on the Earth or Mars and bodies work much better than in zero gees. Women usually bed a new pilot first-timer pretty quick I hear.”
“Well, that is something to look forward to then. I am gloriously unattached certainly.”
‘Well, they are airing a sneak preview of the new Lu movie right now. I think I will put on my earpieces.”
“I may join you then.”
As though to fulfill the prophecy of their conversation the Lu film was In the Cold and was the story of a Chinese American family who moved to Lunapolis on the Moon from San Francisco on Earth. One of the sons died in the rush of melting ice in a new crater cap colony on the Far Side. Joseph thought it was a pretty good film.
The landing was not at any the colonies but at Grand Central Spaceport. Joseph went thought the AutoDoc scanners and presented his ticket to the luggage claim. He looked a walls of stone carved with maps labeled with features and with metal markers showing human settlements. He saw boards showing arrivals and departures. He walked to the display globe in the huge holoshow cube. The diversity of people and costumes in the great lobby was amazing. He also saw the vast dome above him like a great mosque he thought in which nearby anti-meteor battery towers were the minarets. This dome was red glass, steel webbing and siligel. Two large tunnels went to the blue dome and the white dome and another two tunnels went to two crater cap colonis of very modest sized craters that were part of the complex. However at various view points he could see the large network of train tracks the came to the red dome and then branched out more and more. He could see the surface tubeways that ran from the blue dome to the catapults that launched most of the outgoing shuttles and freight tenders. The white dome connected to a web of surface and emergncy vehicles and the very few roads there were on almost road free Moon. His ticket to Lunapolis said Quadrant E and as he left the lobby and entered the Quadrant E wing he saw the sign over the entry said Quagrant E–Equatorial Region. Then the ticket said Concourse MT and when he reached this it was the Councourse for all colonies in the Mare Tranquilitatis or Sea of Tranquility. Here he got on a moving walkway in the most crowded walkway or route and all wre headed to the Lunapolis Colony. US customs operated a scan gate as everyone entered the Lunapolis lobby and he went through without event. The Lobby had a large ceiling mosaic depicting the founding of the colony and a good diner he had no time for at the moment. In several places the same phrase was written or carved “Lunapolis, Capital City Of USA Lunar Colonies built in the Tauruntius Crater on the Sea of Tranquility”. He heard nobody around him mentioning Tauruntius Crater however, everyone said Lunapolis. He saw that some people had rental cards and people helped them into nice travel suits other had their own rental lockers, suit check desks or their luggage. However he got the silly looking proteinate suits issued by the trainline.They looked like condoms even though they were very tough. The helmets and fingertips stayed open until there was a sudden decreas in air pressure. The suit would seal up and allow one to get from an armored train car that had been breached and into another car that was still sound. He noticed that well over half the passengers had these suits that were included in the price. Nobody was allowed into the train without somekind of pressure suit. He tried to tighten the belt and two straps. Meanwhile he shuffled along with others headed for the Lunapolis Express.
Minutes later he was on the train to Lunapolis. Almost nothing but raw moonscape and train tracks were visible for most of the thirty minute trip. He saw the big cater rim approaching his window as they banked on a turn fo the final approach. Getting out of the Train after it had slowed to a stop on the great white crater cap sheet he saw dozens of huge solar collectors until the train entered the airlocks of the large green pyramid in the center of the cap. He reported to colny customs and checked his luggage into a delivery crate locker so it would follow him to any hotel or apartment he found. Important people and rich people were being met by well dressed footmen from fine hotels. Robots were cleaning floors, serving coffee and helping people with their luggage. Colony craftspeople were selling souvenirs mostly to those who were leaving.
He hustled on to the discount elevator with many others. He watched windows pull out below the bottom layers of the cap. No picture or holoshow aproximated the real experience. On distant crater walls two wispy water falls fell well over a thousand feet each had two great hotels on the wall each at the place the water circulated through the hidden pipes and spilled out of caves and rocky ponds. He saw them from above straigh on and below very quickly. He saw feilds, swamps and forests as well as orchards rushing towards the bottom elvator. For a few moments they reached freefall and were held in place by their straps. Then they began to slow and sink back to the floor. He wore a newcomer’s magnetic shoe tape and made his way from the landing strip to the floor transit hub. He found a bus marked “Navigation Park — Elevator prime”. When he said Lunapolis Pilots Clearinghouse he was given a chit which had the words “Nav.Park stp2 J.Lovell fount/LPC” printed on the unfamiliar gray material.
When Culkathadreil got to the Pilots Clearinghouse he was tired. He was very weary and his mind was focused on whether or not he would get any work at all. He was not looking for any great or unusual to happen. From our point of view writing or reading about his life in an era that we all call the New Dawn we know that Joseph Culkathadreil is one of the most famous names of that era. He did not anticipate that and was closer to hanging on to what hope and dignity he could when everything in him cried out to just crawl away and lick quite few wounds fom a hard life thus far.
He did not notice a rather obvious plastic screen out of place or the top of a toy balloon sticking out above its upper edge. In the past he had noticed far more subtle things when his life depended upon it. He had suffered the fatigue that comes from noticing too many little things when nothing depended upon it. However, on that day he noticed nothing. Not untill the artificial sky of Lunapolis changed from its normal colors as he filled out his name on the registration screen. Birds and animals across the vast canyon floor responded as the sky flashed red, white blue and showed images of night stars and a vast ship. The screen he’d overlooked earlier showed large letters spelling “Joseph Culkathadreil is Our Winner!”Pipes and drums of various kinds sounded through the sound system all around him. About a dozen people in dresses, suits and overalls that he could see all belonged to something called the Colony Contest Committee were swarming around him. Some held balloons, some let balloons go and some held up flashing e-signs.
Another dozen of the same group seemed to be appraoching on glidecycles. He turned to the clerk looking to connect all this noise to the action he had just performed. “You won! Are you excited?”
He looked at the winning smile kindly. She was a cute short girl who he guessed might have been born with dwarfism and sent to grow up on the Moon as a child wherre medicine and low gravity made miracles commonplace for that disease. “I don’t know what I won, but maybe so…”
“I am so happy to be the one on duty, I get to go to the launch party now!”
“Yes, oh how can you not know — you won a duty post on the “Neil Armstrong”‘s Mothball Cruise.”
“Are you serious?”
“Absolutely this is a huge contest.”
Joseph pulled out the Philip Morris Pilot’s Pleasure cigarette that lighted itself automaticaly as it left the pack and gave off no smoke. He drew once on it and breathed out a tiny puff of smoke which was only a warnable matter here but on a planetary ship would draw a real and sizable fine. The lights of the Channel Nine News ‘copter and of two of it flybots were now lighting him up. The lights made it harder to see exactly how the Contest Committee was forming up around him. But he saw the the pretty red haired woman wearing a reporter’ red vest reading “MEDIA” in block lettters. She angled up beside the square jawed man with a neat hair cut who held out an e-tablet as he stood before Joseph but also smiled and cheated his position to be in view of the flybots and thir built-in cameras.
“Captain Third Class Joseph Samuel Culkathadreil, you are the certified winner of the Colonial Commission Contest for a duty post on the Neil Armstrong’s final cruise.”
Joseph was more intensely aware of the sound of the machinery in the flybots as they bobbed around recording everything. He smiled and said, “This is great! I am thrilled.”
He reached out and took the e-tablet. The man smiled as he handed it to him bigger and tootheir than before. ” We at the Contest Committee want to thank Lunapolis, the Colonial Commission and the Armstrong Agency for another great contest with another great result.”
The reporter waved her link glove and said “Pilot Culkathadreil and Chariman Wylies can we get a good handshake for the viewers?”
Both men obliged. Joseph smoking with the cigarette now in the side of his teeth. Almost as soon as the handshake was done the Contest committee retreated from him to a nearby set of cart with champagne and appetizers. He was alone with the lovely reporter. ” Well here we are on May 23, 2264 with someone I believe is an experienced spacer but quite new to Lunapolis. He signs up on a form that says he will take any space piloting job almost and wins the sweetest berth around. How does it feel to have won a ride on the Neil Armstrong and the pay of a Super Cruiser Pilot?”
Joseph looked at the elements of the prize listed on the screen of his e-tablet and he was stunned at the unexpected change in his fortune. “It feels pretty fantastic actually;” is what he said. “I can hardly believe it.”
“Well, that sounds pretty calm and reasonable. Can you tell our audience what is the biggest ship you ever flew before this?”
“I was Junior Captain on the New Orleans ISS72 run for eight years. We carried fitfy people and five tons of cargo before the catapults picked up the traffic. Then on my way up on this trip I was temp co-pilot on CapultCat76 we were 130 people and five tons of supplies. The Cat also pun off two sattelites. Between those trips I did a run on a planetary but I was not a pilot I was onloy a listed sub pilot. ”
“So Having a full online duty post on a mile long supercruiser will be a change I would imagine. Isn’t this a great story. I am sure much of my audience and viewership will agree that you look to youbg to have ever been a hopper skipper before the cats.”
“I can address both of those issues at once. It will be a change even if I had flown the planetary it would have been a change. The one I was on was stasis rig and I look about twelve years younger than I am because of it. I was never any where near Mars where we are going on the Armstrong. We went the slip route to Jupiter, the Mars New Array will be very different indeed.”
“Sounds like an adventure and an adventurer have found eachother then.”
“I am finding the adventure on Lunapolis pretty enjoyable right now.”
The reporter had obviously gotten his implications and inferences. She moved her glove and in between edits gave him a knowing wink. She then gave a bout a minute of closing remoarks while he picked up a couple of champagne flutes. When he turned back towards her the lights were growing dark and the flybots were reattaching to the cases built for them on the quiet electric copter. The pilot waved and smiled noticeably in the reporter’s direction and then veered off to join a flow of air traffic over the park. The amount of lying in these lunar colonies was hard to take in. High air pressure and low gravity made it easy to fly.
Joseph held one of the champagne flutes out to the woman. ” I hear most Lunarians are pretty fond of drink, are you one of them?”
“I have been to Earth twice for high school and once for a world tour. But I hve lived the rest of ,my life on the Moon. Earth is all about gravity drugs, sleeptrainer beds and braces for me. Lunarians drink more because most colonies have a 70% oxygen atmosphere with many times the sea level air pressure on Earth. The low gravity make ishard for blood to fall to your feet, the oxygen makes it hard to get intoxicated. So we have to work to get a buzz here. So thanksfor the champagne.”
“Well, I don’t suppose you’d like to keep drinking and maybe owrk on background for a feature story on me? We could have dinner in my hotel.”
“You move pretty fast.”
“Slow pilots are dead pilots. But look I do not even know your name and I won two weeks at a nice hotel with dinner for two included. I have never been to the Moon before and you are someone I seem to be able to talk with, so how about it.”
“Well, it is not impossible. I do want to do a feature. I also eat. How did you get here?”
“I have luggage in the trains locker at Port Clearnace. But I just came on a bus from Elevator Tower. I also had planned to try to find a distant cousin who had a postal box in the Elevator Tower and a an old physical address in the dock dorms. That pretty much sums up all the connections I have in Lunapolis.”
“Well then at least let me give you a ride to your hotel and then we’ll see. If you can make out that parking lot over there beyond the pond that comes up to the veranda of the Registry Offfice then you know where we are going. I am parked there.”
Joseph took a long stride off the magnetized pavement and thenleaped up about ten feet and got a good view of the parking lot. Then He bent down and removed his newcomer’s shoe nets. There was a depository for them at the registry and he dropped them into it as they walked past. He walked beside his semi-date with a pilot’s skill in adjustment. Nonetheless he was very aware of his clumsiness as he tried to match the long and loping strides used by colonists on the Moon. The path alongside the Registry led among fruit trees first in a statuary park and then continued along the pond with fruit trees on one side and benches facing the pond on the other side. An aplle fell from one of the trees with impossible slowness.
Joseph was amazed to see the speed, grace and dexterity with which the young woman moved from his die to rush airborne to the apple.Her arm and fingers moved like a beautiful fleshly serpent and siezed the apple just as her foot found a small stone in the grass and pushed hard enough to send her up and in a parbola to land beside the spot where his last stride was landing him.
“How about a snack between champagne and dinner?”
The reporter smiled and dropped the apple towards his open palm as she looked at his nodding and smiling face. He used this as a chance to display his own speed and skill. She barely saw his other hand flick his cigarette into a trash bin, reah down and grab his knife from his pocket and open it as his right hand seized and positioned the apple. She did see him split the apple and then skewer half of it and offer it to her while he brought the other half to his mouth with his left hand.
“Bravo, you are an impressive man.” Her voice held bothe teasing laughter and real admiration.
“Then we are mutually impressed. In all thais getting impressed I have never caught your name.”
“Right, you are new here and you were getting the champagne when I did the sign off. My name is Roberta Dupuis and I will definitely follow up my half apple with a real meal with you.”
“I am very pleased.”
“Well, I think you might be.”