|Bighead Moon Stories are in the tradition of classic hard science fiction.
|Peter Thorpe's Rocket Paintings - high quality reproductions as well as current originals - are available through the Peter Thorpe page at Novaspace Graphics. Also, Rocket Paintings are on various products at the RocketZoom Zazzle store.
|Upcoming stories: UFOs Over Woodstock, Let Us Be Lettuce, Fan the Ember Moon.
Member International Association of Astronomical Artists
|Bighead City, Lunar North Pole
|Just Add Water
|A Bighead Moon Story
text and illustration copyright © 2002 - 2018 Peter Thorpe
word count: 4110
for review purposes only
|When the explosion woke me, I thought to grab two things before running. First, my com pack, of course, and second, well, in my haste to get out of our cave, the only other thing that I could think of to take, that I could carry, was the little painting that hung over Gin's bed. It's a view of the Appenines looking almost due north from Mt. Bradley. It was painted on Earth over a hundred years ago, when no one had even been to Luna yet, and if Tom is right about it, then it has some sort of value. He and Gin will want it, so I'll keep it for them.
I was the lucky one, sleeping four levels below the surface and at the south end of Dee hall, in a cave with two rooms and only two beds. I was lucky because it was my turn to sleep. Tom and Gin had Farms work, up in the big dome under the stars.
I work the night schedule there, and that's only for a few hours. So I was alone when the blast occurred.
I left without sealing the door and ran north up Dee hall, past the Auditorium, then west on the ramp down to E Plaza where a bottleneck of people were trying to get into lifts or onto ramps that led even deeper. Someone there said that the explosion happened in the Grand Plaza next to the Farms, up on the surface.
I followed the crowd down E and F ramps to G hall, where I ran into Sindara Karmanda (yes, you) who sits here with me now. She had been doing her day shift in E Plaza Park, and was just about ready to leave. She didn't hear anything, but felt the jolt. She was the first person that I found in the crowds that I know well. We have classes together at school. I've always liked Sindara.
We decided to team up and break away from the crowd. So, we cut around Hirosho balcony and went down the ramp to get further west and away from the panic.
Bighead City is supposed to be ready for anything, but it's been over an hour now and the news feeds are still confused and contradictory. Sindara and I have stopped in a garden just off of Jay hall and I've decided to keep this record because, one, I can use it for school, and, two, it's better than worrying. I'll drop in some news feed and do a visual or two. But mainly I want a verbal record. <JonGodwin/17:220.127.116.111>
</feed> ...a complete loss of pressure in the Grand Plaza and the Farms dome, forcing a drop of seals at all accesses to Dee hall and above. All Main Drop accesses are sealed. Pressure steadily dropping in the lower Farms halls as more citizens are evacuated down. List of known Farms dead: ...Thomas Godwin, Virginia Godwin... <LunaID>
Sindara is holding me. Thanks Sind. You liked Gin, right? I guess it will hit me hard later on. I don't know. I was Gin's companion twin. Bought up from Earth when I was five. Paid for and delivered to Luna and I'm not too proud to say it. And unlike others, I'm happy for it, I love it here and I really liked Tom and especially Gin.
I mean, I knew my place. When Gin's mom died, Tom had filled the void by getting a companion twin for Gin. But even though we were born on the same day, and were supposed to be ‘twins’, I always felt that I was the outsider. Born on Earth. Not their fault really. That's just Luna. No, I loved Gin and Tom. She and I were to graduate together at the end of the year.
Maybe the death notice is wrong. Probably not.
Sindara and I have known each other for three years now. She and I were in Mathematics together, and then Planet Studies. Her folks died in the Observatory fire last year, and since then she has lived in the dorm caves, at the college.
We've gotten drunk together a few times, and once, we almost became lovers.
Sind, if we're going to die soon then I think we ought to indulge.
There, that made her smile for a moment. Can I take a visual of that?
"Hey, no, come on. I must look terrible." You look good to me.
We sit on the edge of a soilbox at the corner of Kay hall and Teller's ramp. Some people just told us that further down Kay a Waterhole Restaurant is open and handing out food. I want to go, but Sindara has her head in my lap, her eyes closed, and if my stomach rumbles don't bother her then we can wait a bit. The panic has subsided, anyway, and I need to think.
What has happened? Has Bighead City suffered some kind of surface catastrophe? The spine of the city, the Main Drop, is sealed. The upper ribs that run out from the spine, that is, the top four halls, are locked off. The skull, or Grand Plaza, which peeks above the surface, has been fractured. How critical is the damage?
And if this is a major disaster, like the ES crash years ago, will the cis-lunar companies descend upon us to divide and restructure what remains? Or can our own companies keep it together?
</txt> Bighead City is a privately held free port. In 2061 the city was incorporated as a self governed not for profit entity. It has no army, no flag. No revolutionary action binds it together, no Earth nation taxes its commerce. It is a city of nearly ten thousand people living on top of ice deposits at the Lunar north pole. It has over a hundred registered businesses, thought most people work for one of the five largest companies: The Farms, Bighead City Services, LunaPort, LunaID, and Just Add Water. <EncyclopediaLuna2080/LunaDestination>
It's up to our own companies to provide us with a safe environment. Things might be different if nationalism were allowed. Maybe not better all around, but safer. Or am I wrong about this?
But what did happen? It could be industrial sabotage. Or terrorism. Or, maybe we have just suffered a hit from a sunward approaching asteroid, or, a breach of one of the surface domes due to a spacecraft crash, or, an explosion of the Farms’ nitrogen tanks, or....
Sind is looking up at me. Am I disturbing you?
"No. I like hearing your voice. Let's go get some food."
The Waterhole is filled with a tense quiet. People eat as they watch a live feed from Just Add Water. The Security feed is down, so JAW and LunaID have the only feeds going so far.
I think that Just Add Water deserves its monogram. The ice processing company is like a giant mouth, jaws open, ever thirsty for more market share. Why are we watching a JAW feed? Maybe it has to do with the restaurant's suppliers and their relation to the JAW? I'll say this tho, the food is free and happily handed out. I should be grateful.
</feed> ...will see this through together... The Plaza dome has an opening that appears to be roughly five by ten meters. While large, it is not large enough to account for all of the air loss... seems to have been made by something penetrating inward... company workers in pressure suits will soon access Dee hall through Just Add Water property... we will comply with city security, and... have seen disaster before and will again rise to the need of our coworkers and friends... <Just Add Water>
Sind pulls me back to the bathroom. "Guard for me, OK?" I go in with her and stand outside the stall. For the moment, there is no one else here. What do you think?
"I think we should go deeper, maybe get some more supplies and then sleep. I'm really tired and I want a safe hole to wait it out in. Why don't we go down to N and over to the new digs?" All the way deep? "Yea."
She comes out and puts her hand on my chest. "Jon, you've got to tell me something. We're going to stay together, right?"
Sind, do not worry. I am yours. I take her hand in mine. No, you tell me. You won't leave me?
"I'm sticking with you."
The lights are jittery here on N hall. We had to come down a lift shaft from L. The car was stopped way above us. Its door was jammed open, so we had to climb down. Sind knew where the step edges were on the conduits. I call that specialized knowledge but she says that she used to play around down here when she was a kid. Back then it was all girders and rough rock walls and floors of spun glass panels. Well, now it looks like any other hall, except for the lights flickering. Actually the embankment ones are steady.
</feed> ...nearly three hours since our external lines of communication were cut, three hours since the implosions. We are sealed in, waiting for security to take charge, waiting for word on cis-lunar reaction... <LunaID>
"This is it." What?
"The new digs. We can get stuff at one of the new places." OK.
This place is called the Anything Possible. People are milling about outside. They tell us to go in and get food. Sind holds the back of my pack as I lead her into a noisy, crowded cave.
In here, you can feel the excitement of trouble. People line the bar, drinking as they stare at the big screens on either wall. Nervous laughs come from a table by the kitchen. I guess, being so far from the surface, that it's easier for some to be removed, but I do see one woman sitting in the corner who is crying.
Sind is getting more food packs while I find chairs at the end of the bar. These places taken?
"No. You need a beer? It's free tonight. What's your name?"
Thanks. Name's Jon.
</feed> ...two breaches in the Farms dome more than ten meters wide... smoke and hydroxyl rising through the gaping dome work... <LunaID>
"Are you recording stuff?" Yes, voice, feeds, some visual. I can use it for school.
"Editing as you go, eh? Nice. Can I say something?" We're on. "Good. Welcome to the Anything Possible Bar and Grill, home of the best Irish stew in Luna. I'm the primary cubic owner of N and O halls. My name is Bear." And he looks like one. "Thanks. My partner, Katie, runs this place. We're giving away beer to lunies tonight who are scared and think the world is coming to an end. It isn't."
I point to the woman crying in the corner. Maybe she knows Tom, my stepfather, or my companion twin, Gin. They're among the confirmed dead at the Farms.
"Oh, gosh, I am sorry to hear that. Look, kid, it's hard. Some of my people are gone too, you can be sure. Better get used to it, anyway. ‘The blood of explorers must continually water the tree of settlement,’ you know the saying...but it's not the end. Never is."
Here's Sind. Sind, meet Bear. We get free beer.
"Well hello, Sind. Katie, two Lunabrews, please."
Can you recommend a place to hole up down here? "Aw, you should stay here in the bar. We intend to make it comfortable for as many folk as we can for as long as needed. I've got room for a couple dozen sleep pallets in the back, more here, and we could even put ’em out in the hall...."
Oh, thanks, but we just want a quiet spot to curl up on. "Good for you, kid. I think I know where you're going with this. OK. There is a green down the hall, south, and some nice empty holes further on, near the Main Drop access. You want privacy?" Uh, Sind can you hear? No? Maybe something very private. "OK. One cave has a basement dug. It's gonna be a warehouse, you'll recognize the wide door frames. Check that out."
Sind, here's a beer. You want to put the food in my pack?
"Say, you guys are just hooking up, aren't you?" Ah, yes. "Mmmmm. You gonna record it?" What? "You and her?" Well, yes, of course.
The cave that Bear suggested is perfect. Sind and I have set up camp in the basement among piles of carpet and tiles. There is a bit of light from an opening in the cave's ceiling, but we eat by the light of my com's screen.
</feed> ...ten centimeters, splashing the walls of Dee hall near the Main Drop and getting deeper. Security believes that burst sewage lines may have flooded the drop landing there... I repeat, no water main that is controlled by this company has been breached... <Just Add Water>
Sind has pulled everything out of the pack and is taking inventory. Gym clothes, food packs, tool kit, shoes, antique painting. "What's this?" Old painting we had. Supposed to be real valuable. "Why did you take it?" I don't know. I took it because Tom and Gin loved it, and I was the only one home. They would have wanted me to take it. Guess it's mine now.
"On the back it says ‘Appenines’." That's right. See, it's looking north...that's Archimedes to the west... "And these craters must be Autolycus and Aristillus heading north. "Where's the base at Fresnel Promontory?" It wasn't there yet. The painting is over a hundred years old.
"Well, at least you have this. I wish I had some of my stuff." Yea. The dorm is probably wasted. "I think if the Plaza is ruined, and the Farms dome, then most of the college is too." Look at me, Sindara. Maybe I can keep my cave if I have a roommate...I mean, it's Farms property, but they might let me... "Jon?" It's very small, but... "Jon?" I'm not trying to... "Jon? Can I say something?" OK. "Look. Good luck keeping the cave, right? We both know that. But I accept anyway. I'm with you whatever happens. And if we have to find someplace else, we'll do it. Let's just stick together." I agree. Yes, I definitely agree.
OK, you want me to make a bed with the carpets back here? "Yea. Can I wear your gym shirt? I want to get out of my overalls. We could use ’em as covers." Mine too.
We are watching a most interesting thing on com. LunaID is running a virtual of an asteroid hit on the Grand Plaza. It looks old. One point of view is just above and to the back of the incoming rock. As we come in, we see the ridge that the Plaza and Farms domes sit in, with the overhanging rim above. From this far back, almost nothing of the city shows, except for the port past the high rim, and the domes cut into the ridge below.
The angle of approach is low and almost parallel to the ground. The crater rim opposite the domes is lower, especially at Anderson gap, through which Bighead City gets its peek at Earth. We come in with the asteroid just above the gap. It crosses Bighead Crater, smashes into the Plaza dome and then into the terraces above the Main Drop. Right between Security Main and the Library.
"If this is what actually happened, then it looks like the Library is gone." Yea, the Library. All those old books...
"You like books don't you?" Old fashioned ones? Yea. But I like touchzines too. I'm not that old fashioned.
"Yea? Then why did you look away when I changed?" Ah, Sind, you noticed that, huh? Well, I could see you in the reflection on the com screen. The virtual was dark for a minute there...showing sky. You floated in the stars...
"Jon, that's so sweet! Say, are you cold?" No.
"Me either. I'm taking this shirt off. Can you help?" Sure, just let me turn this off firs...
OK, so I didn't record it. I couldn't... Sind, if we listen to this back I want you to know something. I think you are beautiful. Right now, I'm looking at your face while you sleep...
</feed> ...unusual amount of moisture along with wet floors... water mains and/or storage tanks leaking... lower Farms halls are flooding as hydroponics plants float freely... <LunaID>
Sind, wake up. "Mmm, what?" There's water running into the cave. We've got to move. "What? Where?" It's seeping through the cable holes. "How long was I asleep?" Only an hour or so. Come on. Feed says there's more water in the upper halls. I've just about got everything together. Where's the painting? "Over here?" Yea... Oh no, it got wet! Not too bad, tho. Just a bit on the side... "Here, why don't you wrap it in your gym shirt." OK. Let's get back up to N hall.
We can see water on the floor by the Main Drop access. Sind wants to take a look in there, even though the access is sealed. She seems to know where a service port to it can be opened. I'm following with my tool light.
</feed> ...be careful of sewage contamination... we are assisting security by assigning personnel to the upper sealed halls... problem seems to be the worst in all halls near the Main Drop accesses... <Just Add Water>
Sind is bent over the soilbox and looking at the puddle of water there. What does it smell like? "It doesn't smell like anything. I don't think it's sewage." No, don't touch... "Don't worry. It's OK. Hey, it's really cold." Really?
Sind is down on her knees, opening a low panel door next to the soilbox. There are lots of wires and pipes inside. "Shine it in here, Jon. I want to open the access. It should lead into the Drop." Are you sure? "Just one more screw...there...say, it's really heavy....JON!"
I had to pull her out by her feet and her arm got scratched pretty badly on the side of the door. But if I hadn't done that, she might have drowned. The water is all over the floor here on N and we are headed back up to the restaurant. We see Bear in the hall. Now he is running towards us.
"You kids all right?" "We were just looking in a service alcove..." "Show me where."
</feed> ...should stay well away from Main Drop accesses... sewage continues to leak... <Just Add Water>
I haven't been able to get LunaID feed for a while. It's just JAW and they keep calling it sewage. "I know, kid, and I think I know what their angle is. You got a good pick up on that com, right?" Sure, why? "I might want to record a visual witness if I'm right." OK.
The hall seems to dip down as it gets close to the Drop. We're up to our ankles in icy water. Dirt and debris float in the water, but the level isn't over the edges of the soilboxes, not yet. What's all this stuff?
"Its chunks of ice." What? Is the Drop open to space? The water is freezing? "No. Not quite. Look at that ice. What does it look like to you?" "I see what he means, Jon. It's a mix of rocky dirt and ice." OK, so...
"This is the spot?" Yea. "Lets get this door back in place first." You think this is Jaw's fault? "No, they're just opportunists. Their business is water after all. No, I don't think we have any water or sewage breaks. The Jaw is in a position to misinform us. Where do they get their water?" The ice mines? "Right. And how did that water get there?" You mean... "This door is fine now. Let's get to the Drop access. Watch where you step."
</feed> ...as city service has not been able to contain the sewage breaches, we are using collection equipment... all material collected will be held without claim... it is our duty to help, and we are happy to assist security... <Just Add Water>
"You see that? It's a free lunch for the JAW. Like hell they haven't claimed material. ‘Possession is nine tenths...’ Say, kid, have you got a tool kit in that pack?" Sure, just a sec. "Hey, what's that?" The shirt? "No, a frame...?" An old painting. "Really?" It's worth a lot. It got wet, tho.
"Can I see? Well now, this is interesting. It's definitely an original...an oil painting, I'm sure. Where did you get this?" It was Tom and Gin's.
Bear is looking at the back. "It says: ‘Color Study for The Moon's Appenines Mountains by C. Bonestell’. Oh, wow, this guy was big! That's Chesley Bonestell...you know, right?" I don't know. "Don't they teach you anything in school these days! He worked with Von Braun. Hell, they started NASA together...or something like that. Anyway, what you need, kid, is to use this to your advantage." What? "Gimme a sec and let me see that tool kit. Can you hold a light on this panel?"
I have the tool light trained on the security panel next to the Main Drop access. Sind and Bear are talking about the code that it should respond to, but it doesn't...now Bear is using the clips on the wires...should you do that? "It's OK, Jon, he knows what he's doing."
Bear has spliced two wires and is using the pliers to push them against the power plate...there are sparks...and...
The access door slides open and a whoosh of air rushes into the Drop. My ears feel it. It's OK, tho. Not much pressure difference.
We look up through the catwalks and conduits of the Main Drop to see a most amazing sight. Dirty lumps of icy mush are caught on ledges and overhangs, and they seem to be slowly melting, sending rivulets of syrupy water down towards us. A large mound of slush sits in the base of the Drop.
"I knew it! Tell you what. You two help me move this stuff out of the Drop, right now, fast as we can, and I'll pay you well. But if you do that and put your little painting up as collateral over the cost of keeping this water mass till we can liquidate it, well, I'll cut you in. As hall owner, I'll officially claim the ice. But you two manage it, and I'll set you up with a cave for that...a cave of your own..."
I look at Sind. Her eyes say yes.
"Yea, this is just the ticket for you kids. Get your com ready."
<visualwitness23:18.104.22.1681> "I, Berenson Lee, being primary cubic space owner of N and O halls, hereby record and report the intrusion and damage done to these halls by an act of God in the form of cometary debris, and therefore claim ownership of materials herein involved as compensation for repairs." <end>
Sind is tapping me on the arm. "I knew it, I knew it was a comet. It fits." Bear?
"This is the way I figure it. The comet broke up, say about twenty thousand kilometers out, shortly before hitting. It came in sunward, low over Earth's limb, too fast and too hard to spot, and too small to trip sensors until it was too late. Being small, and mostly ice, the gravitys broke it up, which is why we have at least two major hits. I wonder what the smaller chunks have done. But it seems that the piece that hit the Grand Plaza ended up putting a large mass into the Main Drop's top access. The heat of the impact broke it up further, which is why we have a big chunk down here, and why there's pieces melting all the way up. But the core of it is up there in the mouth of the Main Drop. That might be why we still have some pressure. Or more likely, Just Add Water has sealed it over and is mining it.
"Anyway, my claim for N and O halls is legal. What the JAW doesn't get will eventually melt and run down this way, but they won't miss much. But these chunks at the bottom of the shaft are out of their reach. Ever wanted to be rich, kid?"
I can't believe it.
"Hey. It's business! Let's get to work!"
Peter Thorpe 85 W Walnut Street Suite 302, Asheville, NC 28801