General Fiction posted August 2, 2016


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adventure on the lunar-scape

Old Moon-Face

by mfowler


It's so close I can almost touch it.

Imagine that, only a 384,400 km stretch, and I could feel the slap of Pacific blue on my pasty hands. Maybe, just maybe, I could smell the wet salt air and envision cheeky terns doing kamikaze dives into the surf.

From this rock, it all seems so easy, but I know it's going to take a miracle if I'm ever going to get home. The Yanks haven't spent a penny on space travel since Trump banned movement outside US walls back in 2040. The New Zealanders have been to the moon so many times, they now pass it by as if it's a meaningless pebble. And the Albanians know there's no market in moon-ore any more. Till world powers decide it's worth a fresh gander at their little travelling companion, this lost astronaut and his bucket of well-meaning nuts and bolts are stuck here on the lunarscape.

When Dweeble-2 decided this was the place to recover from the meteorite shower, I guess the poor old heap of junk was thinking like the outdated twentty-first century droid he is; he was just hell-bent on saving his human. Little did he know that bringing The Venture down on old moon-face would leave us stranded a space-spit away from home.

Time to stop the daydreaming. Dweebs will probably have a meal ready by now.

The locker room (my pet name for ARC--Aerospace Re-entry Chamber) doors seal behind me with a customary thwiit.  I can smell coq au vin,  Dweeb-style, simmering on the stove. A suggestion of Anx-dove, mint-hinted Saturnine oil, and the unendearing smell of burnt, re-constituted potato peel. I know them well. It's Meal A on Dweeble's menu. We've had it every day since we crash landed. Meal B is just a promise. Something Dweeble-2's been trying out when I'm exploring outside. Same ingredients, different strokes, I guess.

'Bzzzzzzzzzzzz, ##, @@. Welcome, Commander. Dinner is served at your convenience. @@, ##,  Bzzzzzzzzzzzz.' Dweeble rolls around excitedly on those little titanium wheels, his panels scattering light-beams of excitement as he announces his latest repeat.

He barely comes up to my supply belt. Like a giant soda can from the Coke days, he's basically a cylinder with a silly face designed around coloured panels. His X-Factor 2080 robotics and computerised response unit are his personality and his brains. I know he's a bloody machine, but he's my bloody machine and I love him, despite his old fashioned ways.  

'Smells good, Dweeb. How's Meal B progressing?'

'Bzzz ... This is Meal B, Commander. And Meal C will come tomorrow night. @@, ##.'

My disappointment's hard to disguise, so I try to throw him off track. 'I guess there's only so much you can do with Anx-dove and Saturnine oil. What's left in the supplies beyond that?'

When Dweeb's pink rotor panels flash red, I know he's been hiding something. Reading his emotional range is as simple as comparing colour changes. No dame on Earth can match that. '^^^^, ##, @@. Supplies ran out three months ago, Commander. Fuel for heating, atmospheric conversions, food, water ... all exhausted. @@, ##,  Bzzzzzzzzzzzz.'

I feel my fingers tingle and my whole body tighten like a straight jacket. 'DWEEBLE-2, why the bloody hell didn't you inform me!'

Dweeble-2 shakes like a Urangan stripper; his rotor panels flash scarlet and black; and bilious green moisture seeps from the circular cap on top of his frame. 'BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ,#@!%, er-er-er-er-er ...Dweeble ashamed.  Dweeble land us on moon and now Dweeble use up last supplies. bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.'
 
The poor Dweeb looks like a shame-faced schoolboy--robotic kind. I can't stay mad at him, but I'm damned curious. 'So, what have you been keeping us alive on for so long? Nothing's changed since we got here.'

'Bzzzzzzzzzzzz, ##, @@.' He turns upwards, the colour in his panels somewhat muted. 'Ore samples. @@, ##,  Bzzzzzzzzzzzz.'

'You mean that stuff I hauled back from the old Albanian mineshaft? That ore was used for making shatter-proof panels for spacecraft. I just wanted you to test it for helpful properties. You said nothing, so I assumed ...'

The flashing rotor panels ramp up again, but this time I read his mood as excitement. 'BZZZZZZZZZZZZ, ##, @@. Dweeble find organisms in rock seams. Different temperatures make them smell and taste different. Dweeble experiment and make Meal A, B and C. Crushed Alcynium from granules emit power throb. Dweeble connect to The Venture batteries. Light, heat, air. @@, ##,  Bzzzzzzzzzzzz.'

'Holy space junk, Dweeb. You're a genius. You've kept us, ..., me, alive all this time. Anything else?'

Dweeble leans forward on his tiny, mobile, titanium knees. Humble is what I can see. 'zzzzz, ##, @@. Dweeble power communicator with granules. The Venture has been sending SOS signals for three months. @@, ##, zzzzz.'

I'm that excited I can hear seagulls and splashing waves. 'Dweebs, mate. Someone on Earth might be coming right now. Think of it. Back home in no time.'

But, my mood drops away as Dweeble-2 leans further forward. I sense bad news.
'Zzz, ##, @@. Signal only roam 35 000 000 km. Earth too far. @@, ##, zzz.'

My mind unscrambles from its expanding ball of hopeful fluff.

Suddenly, I hear a heavy thumping on the outside entry panel. Dweeble-2 spins, his grey sensors showing silver.
'Help?' My imagination buzzes like a Dweeble-2 brain.  

My droid unlocks the outer seal. We hear the movement of two bodies as they enter the ARC.

Thwiit! A tall man and a small droid turn to face their welcomers. My face heats and I'm caught tongue-tied. It's Rooster Datsun-Cogs, space-bandit, the very same demon pirate Dweebs and I were sent to capture before our crash.

'Commander Turk,' says the one-eyed creep, 'hands in the atmosphere, if you will.' His ray-gun is trained on my gut.

Dweeble-2's colours are changing rapidly. I've no reference point for this emotional flashing. Just like Glenys Trumbone, wife number three; no idea what the mood swings were all about. But, that was then, and this is now, and I'm facing the deadliest killer in the Milky Way.

'How ... how did you find us?'

'Your signal, matey. Telling me there's a stash of valuable ore right here on Earth's moon. I was kinda surprised how public ya made that kind of thing.'

I look at Dweeble-2. He's bowing down again. I get it. Had to make the rescue sound like it's worth someone's while. But, why this space-rat?

'Candace, lock those two in the auto-can.' His little pink droid shakes like Anx-dove wings and she flashes colours exactly as Dweeble had. 'Candace, ya useless can of crap. Do as I order.'

There's something funny going on between the two droids. Communication of some sort. If I didn't know better, I'd say these two had done some dallying back in the day.  

Rooster Datsun-Cogs takes one step towards his recalcitrant droid and lands a size 20 into her underside.  Dweeble-2 flashes like a space-fire engine, bears down on the monster with intent, and fries the son of a bitch with a super-charge from his side weaponry. Candace sprays her master with some kind of goo that holds him like a mummy.

The two droids buzz around each other in a dance of mechanical delight. Lights flashing--mood is romantically electric.

***

As Rooster's ship surges towards the Earth's atmosphere stacked with a load of valuable ore, the droids buzz and bop in the ante-chamber. 'How did you two meet?' I call.

'Bzzzzzzzzzzzz, ##, @@. Candace, Dweeble-2 best friends at droid academy. Lost contact in inter-planetary war of 2086. @@, ##,  Bzzzzzzzzzzzz.'

'Well, Dweebs, I'm glad you've found each other. You've saved your commander, invented new ways to use moon-ore, and put Rooster on ice for the rest of his life. Not bad for three-month's work. Won't be long before we're back in space chasing the bad guys.'

I'm expecting a humble response from my tinman, but the droid is unusually quiet. 'What's up, matey?'

'Bzzzzzzzzzzzz, ##, @@. Not going back. @@, ##,  Bzzzzzzzzzzzz.' Dweeble-2's the most respectful droid I've ever worked with. This show of defiance puzzles me greatly.

'What say?'

'Bzzzzzzzzzzzz, ##, @@. Candace and Dweeble-2 stay on Earth. Run moon-ore company. Contract signed. Deal done. @@, ##,  Bzzzzzzzzzzzz.'

'How the heck ... ?'

'Communicator close enough to Earth. Aero-Space New Zealand offer deal when Dweeble-2 signals. Sorry, Commander. Just business. @@, ##,  Bzzzzzzzzzzzz.'

The Pacific blue appears as we enter the exosphere. I'm bummed off by Dweeble's connivances but seeing home again lifts my spirits. A few months of R & R on the coast and I'll be ready to fly again. A Dweeble-3 with extra personality and entertainment panels may be just the go when I'm back up there.

I'll miss the little tin-can but, at least I know this new wonder of space is in good hands.

'Lock in droids,' I call. 'Earth straight ahead.'

 


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