Bighead Moon Stories
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Imperial Earth
Bighead Moon Stories are in the tradition of classic hard science fiction.
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Mars Landing
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.
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UFOs Over Woodstock
Upcoming stories: UFOs Over Woodstock, Let Us Be Lettuce, That That.
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International Association of Astronomical Artists
Member International Association of Astronomical Artists
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Bighead City, Luna
Bighead City, Lunar North Pole
Pave the Universe
A Bighead Moon Story
text and illustration copyright © 2002 - 2017 Peter Thorpe
word count: 3998
uncorrected proof
for review purposes only


I think the first time that I knew just how angry Yancy was with the Lunar Expansionists was the day she hit one in the face with a blue jay egg. We were in the big oak tree in the Grand Plaza, sitting on our favorite limb, watching the gentleman in question as he handed out leaflets to people passing by. As soon as he was hit, the man dropped everything and rushed to a fountain to wash the mess off of his face. When he could see again he started yelling at a group of students gathered on the steps of the fountain, evidently thinking that they were the cause of his trouble. I laughed so hard I almost fell out of the tree. But when I looked at Yancy I could see that she wasn't laughing at all.

"Did you get that egg from the nursery?" I asked.

"It wasn't viable, Amy," she said in a flat tone, and in her eyes I could see a burning fire. It surprised me, but it shouldn't have.

Yancy and I worked in the Farms. That's where I met her. We were about the same age and were both basic skill workers. We were dedicated lovers of animal life and what we lacked in experience we made up for in enthusiasm. Fresh out of college, ready to make a difference, we had chosen the Farms because of the importance of species preservation on the Moon, and because the work was fun and easy.

We were both Moonborn, but Yancy grew up in the Farside Observatory caves, which were a good distance from Bighead City. Both of us went to Gagarin College, out on the edge of the city, yet we had never met. It has been said that in the early days of the city everyone knew everyone else. Not anymore. By the time I was in college, Luna was experiencing a population explosion. That, among other things, was what Yancy wanted to fight against. Too many people, too many tourists, too many new habitats and tunnels and caves. All moving too fast and without a care for the beautiful, pristine Lunar environment, which to some was nothing more than potential real estate.

Yancy was a serious conservationist. On the walls of her cave she had pictures of Earth vistas as well as Lunar surface shots. She belonged to something called the Underfellows. She gave money to the Natural World Group. She participated in surface cleans. A live holo of the surface, just like the ones that some of the restaurants use but smaller, hung over her bed. I bet that looked great in the middle of the night, with all of the other lights out. Not that I ever was in her cave that late. I knew that she liked me, but we never made an issue of it.

The Lunar Expansionists, the group that Yancy considered ‘the enemy’, was essentially a terraforming lobby. You might think that a conservationist like Yancy would like to see green hills and lakes covering the Lunar surface. But a true ‘saver’, as Yancy called herself, wanted things left alone. The Moon was beautiful in its naked splendor. Natural forces, not humans, put the craters there. "Oh, and we aren't a natural force, too?" I'd ask her. "Meteors don't need bowling alleys," she'd say. "Volcanoes don't vacation in luxury hotels."

Some of Yancy's friends were pretty tough. She knew a few girls who worked security, and when they were off duty she would sometimes go bar hopping with them down in the deep halls where it was easy to get into trouble. There was a bar about 20 levels down called The Asylum. It had padded walls, and it was a good place to get into a fight. If someone looked at you the wrong way, you could bounce her off the walls. One morning Yancy came in to the Farms with a nice bruise on her cheek. When I asked her about it she just said, "The Asylum."

Once, when we were looking out at the Domed Stadium through the big windows of the Grand Plaza, she said, "Just imagine how it would look if that useless thing weren't there."

"What's wrong with sports?" I asked, but she only muttered, "Goddamn pavers." As far as I could figure, Yancy considered most all of the human race to be ‘pavers’.

The Farms was situated in a series of caves just below the surface about halfway between the Port and Bighead City. It had been warehouses before the turn of the century, but it was abandoned once the Port started to grow. A wide, rough tunnel connected it to the city right below the Grand Plaza at the B Level Common. It was a rail tunnel, and accommodated cargo and passenger traffic. On the door to the tunnel, someone had painted an old fashioned farmer holding a lamb and standing in a pile of manure. It was enough to keep the curious out.

The rail tunnel was pressurized, and we used to walk it when we went to the Grand Plaza for lunch. You were supposed to ride a car through it, but a few of us walked it and no one seemed to mind. It would take something like five, maybe ten minutes to go from one end to the other. It was eerie to walk the tunnel alone, but if you were with someone it gave you a chance to talk, and walk, in private.

During these walks, Yancy and I would debate political issues. I never really liked politics that much, but Yancy made politics interesting. And she was always much more serious in her views than I. While she complained about the faults of our Lunar political system, I found myself playing devil's advocate a lot just to get her reaction. I guess she knew what I was doing because she never got mad at me, only at the issue. And the topic always ended up on conservation. To be a saver, she would say, is to understand your purpose in life. And that purpose was not to pave the universe.

I finally agreed to go bar hopping with Yancy and her pals one evening. "Put your lipstick on, Amy, I'm taking you out," she had said. Yancy never wore makeup, and often made remarks about mine. I always thought that a girl should look good, and when I'd say that to her, she'd say, "You look good anyway!"

A new bar called The Core was opening way down deep, some 22 levels below the surface. Yancy had invites to the grand opening party, which offered free food and drink. We met up with Yancy's pals at her place, and after a few cocktails we took the drop as deep as it would go, and then walked down the rest of the way. For an opening, the party was relatively tame. But, I was able to get acquainted with Yancy's friends, Jan and Wendi, who were both security. They may have been tough girls, but they were quite friendly.

Two days later Jan's name was in the morning's news. I read the article twice before going to work. Jan had been apprehended while trying to get into LunaBank's main offices late the night before. She was off duty, and claimed to be investigating a break in there that she had witnessed. No one else was found. Also, she had tripped an electronics sensor but nothing was found on her. She was being detained for questioning.

Yancy did not get into work until late that afternoon, and when I asked if she'd heard about Jan, she just smiled, shook her head, and said, "I think LunaBank got lucky...this time."

"What does that mean?" I asked.

"Well, Amy," she said, "There are some things that even the money movers can't stop."

The next time I went out with Yancy was a week later. She brought me to an Underfellows rally that she said I would find ‘interesting’. The Lunar Underfellows is a conservation organization that maintains a limited membership while projecting a large image in the media. Their daring attempts at stopping commercial expansion had been well reported. Earlier that year, several of them had got up to the surface in pressure suits painted red and had chained themselves to a huge chunk of rock that lay on the surface near the Port. The boulder stood in the way of a planned pad facility, and was due to be removed. The Underfellows felt that it should have been left alone. The Chief of the Port had waited until the protesters' life supports had reached a critical low before having security clear them out. It made the news and the boulder's fate had been tied up in the courts ever since.

I was surprised to see Jan at the rally. Yancy and I sat with her and listened to an hour and a half of speeches. Finally the meeting broke and food was served. While eating, I talked with Jan, and again was impressed by her friendly manner.

I asked her about the LunaBank incident, and said it was strange that she had tripped an electronics scanner. "Don't believe what you hear in the news," she said. "I have a pacesetter. My heart has an irregular beat."

The next day at work I asked Yancy how Jan had gotten out of trouble so quickly. "She never was in real trouble," she said. "That's the beauty of security. You're above the law."

Yancy's other buddy, Wendi, was reassigned to Farside Observatory later that year. Tragically, she had only been there for a month before she was killed in a big hydrogen explosion at the Observatory's new depot. Almost nothing of her body was left. I cried when I heard the news. It was terrible, but Yancy acted as if Wendi were still alive. "Aren't you upset by Wendi's death?" I asked her. "She lives on," was all that Yancy had to say.


The Farms was not in the business of experimenting with animals. There were no ‘lab tests’ done on our livestock; they were treated fairly, and had a good life. We farmed sheep and cattle and fish and poultry to perpetuate their existence, and to harvest for food, clothing and organics. The effects of Luna's gravity were more pronounced in the animals than in ourselves, but we created no ‘monsters’.

A particularly disturbing new trend on Luna was ‘shelf meat’, the growing of animal tissue in shelf like containers. A person could cut away however much he wanted to cook, and the tissue would grow back to refill the shelf. Yancy was opposed to the shelves on moralistic grounds, and made no secret of her desire to put Luna's shelf meat company, NuBeef, out of business.

Yancy told me once that if she could, she'd gladly butcher NuBeef's board of directors and start their tissues growing on their own shelves. I think she meant it. Yancy always seemed to be twice as angry with an issue as anyone else I knew. I told her that she should cool her temper, at least at work. "Somebody's got to take a stand against those pavers," she said. "I know," I said, "but do me a favor and don't get yourself fired. You're the best friend that I've got around here." That brought out a rare side of her personality. "Thanks, Amy," she said. "I need to hear that."

Yancy felt loyalty to the Farms, we all did, but every now and then I'd hear her mutter a criticism of one of our biomes, or of a supervisor. We did a lot of cave cleaning together, shoveling you know what. But the menial tasks didn't bother her. Her complaint was with management and management decisions. In particular she thought the company took too much of an ‘artificial’ approach to animal care.

One morning at work we were moving sheep into a new cave. This cave had been equipped with a brand new system of filtering light. It actually used less sunlight cabled from the surface than in our other caves, but was supposedly more beneficial because of artificially produced wavelengths of light that were added in. It was an attempt to give our sheep everything that sheep on Earth had in the way of solar radiation. Yancy thought the idea was lame. "You can't reproduce Mother Nature," she said. "You can only try to mimic her, and good luck trying." She was probably right, but I didn't think the company was being bad. They had the best interest of the sheep in mind after all.

The sheep cave bordered the long rail tunnel that led into the city. It had an old airlock that led to the tunnel, and when lunchtime came around, Yancy suggested we walk through the tunnel to the plaza for our break. The lock was easy enough to open, and soon we found ourselves walking beside the tracks that ran down the tunnel.

We were about half way in when the noise started. It was a loud knocking and rumbling, like a rickety, overloaded cargo car rushing down the tracks. There was a bend in the tunnel only a few dozen meters behind us, so we ran forward, and ducked into a service alcove, one of the many that lined the tunnel. The alcove had a rear cave that contained the usual maintenance stuff. We moved back into it to wait for the car to go by.

Only the noise got louder, and we realized that the sound was something very unusual. Yancy looked scared, which scared me. We started back toward the alcove, but before we could move a meter, a great rush of rock and stone fell in front of us. Yancy turned and pushed me back. I fell to the floor and she dove on top of me, and on top of us both fell rocks and equipment and I really thought that was going to be it. Yancy was trying to push me further back into the cave when something struck me in the head. Despite the dark, I thought I was seeing a bright light, and then I blacked out.


The first thing I saw when I awoke was Yancy, bathed in red light, clawing frantically at the rubble beside us. I must have tried to say something, I don't know, but the next thing I knew, Yancy had me in her arms, saying, "You can do it Amy, come on baby, talk to me…"

The red light came from an emergency wall unit. It was hanging from the cave wall, swinging back and forth. Yancy's shadow swung above her and her face looked terrible. I was finally able to say, "What happened?"

"I don't know, kid," she said. "A quake, a meteor, I'm not sure. We seem to be completely blocked off from the tunnel." She blotted the side of my face with my shirt. I could see wet blood on her hand when she pulled it away. "There was a small cave above us, over the alcove. The floor fell through, blocking us in. I can see part of the cave up there. I don't think it was pressurized. The air feels thin."

I could feel it too. "We're lucky to have the emergency light," she said, "but the com on the panel doesn't respond. There's no way to let anyone know we're here."

"We have to dig out," I said, but when I tried to get up I felt shots of pain in my legs. They wouldn't move.

"Stay put," she said, "you're hurt worse than you realize. I'll do the digging."

She went back to the mound of rocks and rubble, and I watched her make a hole in it big enough to crawl through. It led to the alcove, between the cave and the tunnel. She disappeared into the hole for a moment, then came back into the cave.

"The front of the alcove is filled with fallen rock. There is a pocket in the side of the alcove that is well away from the hole there, and I have an idea. First, I want to move you back as far as possible." She ripped the cover off of her leather pouch, held it in front of my face, and said, "I want you to bite this hard, and hold onto the back of your head. If you scream, do it while still biting down."

She got behind me and put her hands under my armpits. I did scream when she pulled me back, but I kept the piece of leather in my mouth. The pain in my legs almost made be black out again.

She went again through the hole that led to the alcove. I could hear her moving rubble around in there. The red light shone through the hole enough for me to catch a glimpse every now and then. Finally she was back next to me. The look in her eyes was both sad and defiant. "We're not going to make it?" I asked.

"Don't say that! Now I want you to listen to me. I love you very much Amy, even though you never understood me or what I stand for."

I started to protest, but she continued, "I know you are not political. Some people just aren't. Sometimes a pretty face is all you need." She reached out and stroked my hair. Tears were running down her face.

"What are you talking about? Yancy, what are you doing?"

Instead of answering me, she asked, "Do you still keep a lipstick in your pouch?"

"What?"

She unzipped my pouch, felt around, and came up with the lipstick. "I'll need this," she said, and then she kissed me, full on my lips. It was brief. As she pulled away she looked at me, smiled, and held the lipstick against her breast. "You have always been so, so very close to my heart," she said, then she was gone through the hole.

After a few moments, I heard her say something, though I couldn't tell what. "Yancy, come back!" I yelled.

"I love you Amy!" she yelled back, then there was a terrible flash and explosion, followed by a rush of air and dust. I blacked out again. When I awoke, there was a white light shining in through the hole, and the smell of burnt air. I thought I could see a shadow moving. "Yancy," I called out, then everything went black again.


A rescue crew found me, and what was left of Yancy, within hours of the explosion. I had to spend the better part of two solar cycles in a hospital bed. My doctor had not been much help with information at first, but eventually two things had become clear: 1. Yancy and I had been trapped in a cave-in caused by the crash of an unmanned tanker on the surface almost directly over the rail tunnel that we had been walking through, and, 2. To break out of the bubble we were trapped in, Yancy had detonated some kind of explosive device next to the rocks that sat between the alcove and the tunnel. It had blown the rocks out and had ripped her apart.

During the time I spent in the hospital, I had been questioned a number of times by a security officer. He offered no information at all, but did ask me about my political affiliation, my relationship to Yancy and my knowledge of explosives. He also wanted to know if I was aware of anyone calling themselves an ‘underfellow’ or a ‘saver’.

Finally I was told that I had a visitor and that I could see her if I agreed to waive privacy. I was surprised to see that it was Yancy's old friend Jan. I started crying when she came in, but she calmed me down with a hug, and said, "Amy, you look like hell!"

"Oh Jan, why did Yancy do it?" I cried.

"Well, you should know that more than I. She took her life to save yours, didn't she? She had very strong feelings towards you, and knew how important your life was… and is. She believed in you."

I started crying again, and Jan hugged me once more. But this time I could feel that she had slipped something small and flat between my back and the bed.

After she left, I found a moment when no doctors were around to take a look at the item she had left me. It was a small holo printed on a plastic card. I immediately recognized the location as an alcove in the rail tunnel where Yancy and I had walked. It must have been the one we were trapped in. There was a pile of rubble on the ground and dark streaks on the wall just inside of the alcove, and something written there too, in bright red. It was the color of my lipstick. There were just three words: Pave The Universe.


Once my legs had healed, I was allowed to go home to my cave. The Farms had maintained my place while I was away, and a notice to return to work within a week was waiting for me on my com. All of my plants had been cared for, and a new plant sat amongst my old ones. It was an aloe, and although it was healthy, it had been placed in a pot that was far too small for it. It wasn't until the next day that I got around to repotting it, and that is when I found the small plastic package in the dirt at the bottom of the pot. In it was a very small device and a note.

The note read, "Maybe someday you can save someone too."

The device was familiar; it was an electronic implant, the sort that we use in animals at the Farms to monitor them. It had a series of numbers on it, including a com address, all scratched into the plastic.

I keyed the address into my com but got nothing.


Over the last few cycles, since getting out of the hospital, I have often looked at the holo that Jan gave me. I still am not sure what Yancy had meant by writing ‘Pave The Universe’ on the alcove wall, but I have my suspicions. Yancy was a saver, that is for sure, and the writing could have been rhetorical. Or, it might have been a message meant to save me...if only from myself.

I looked up reports about the tanker crash that caused the cave in. It was believed to be an accident. If Yancy had known that it was going to happen, I doubt that she would have led us down that tunnel on that day.

No, she would not have done that to me. And when she found us trapped, she knew that to save me, she had to use a secret of hers, something that I believe she was saving for another time and purpose.

The news reports of what Yancy had done in the alcove claimed that she used a common explosive charge that she had found in the maintenance cave. I'm not so sure of that.

There are people who are willing to die for a cause. Yancy was one of them. I never thought I could be like that. But I am thinking of going down to The Asylum soon to find Jan. I want to ask her a few questions. And if I hear the answers that I think I will hear, then I'm going to ask her what I have to do to get that implant put into my chest…close to my heart.

Peter Thorpe 85 W Walnut Street Suite 302, Asheville, NC 28801
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