Cheap rocket fuel had recently been invented, so space tourism was suddenly affordable. I had a tiny baby, but what the heck. I took her with me.
The moon base was a hemispherical building, just big enough for me to stand up in the very centre. After a few days in there with no other humans, I realized I wasn’t enjoying being cooped up with my three-month-old baby, so we went home.
Several years later, my daughter got curious about space tourism, so we went back. The Space Tourism Company had learned a thing or two, or several. Takeoff and landing were gentle compared to what my daughter had gone through as a little baby, and the rocket engine noise that had frightened her then was barely audible from the passenger compartment of the new shuttle. The moon base was now more like a mansion, with big square windows and real hardwood floors and food always provided just before we needed it. Whether the cooks were humans or robots was unclear.
We stayed a few days, enjoying the novelty of being there, though in retrospect, I don’t know what that novelty was all about. I don’t recall even looking out at the distant Earth, or walking in low gravity, or doing anything else that we couldn’t have done back on Earth. I do recall looking at the floor and wondering aloud whether it was really necessary to bring all that wood so far from Earth. A staff member explained that necessity was irrelevant; transporting wood was easy because rocket fuel was cheap.
We went home. I had another baby. Several more years passed. Somehow I thought I ought to take this kid to visit the moon base, too. It seemed like a fun thing to do together, as a family, before my elder daughter moved out.
The mansion-like moon base hadn’t changed. I knew that a few days was plenty of time to stay inside one building, however comfortable. Occasionally we saw someone walk to or from the moon base in a space suit, but space suits were only for staff. Tourists stayed indoors. This third trip was some combination of fun, relaxing and boring until my younger daughter spotted a moth fluttering around outside the window. Wait --- What? Outside? How was it flying so normally in the thin, practically non-existent, atmophere of the Moon?
A staff member answered, “Oh, that’s a Lunar Moth. You’ll see them around. They seem to have come with us by accident, from Earth. We don’t know how they manage to fly here. Maybe the low gravity makes up for the lack of atmophere, or maybe they’re surfing on the updrafts at the edges of the gravity generators for this building.”
It was quite an ordinary-looking pale brown moth. If I’d seen it outside a lighted window on a summer night at home, I would not have been surprised. I would have reached for my field guide and wished that it would sit still in plain view and that I could remember the differences between a Geometrid and a Noctuid.
As we watched it flying, the moth was suddenly snapped up by a bat. I immediately questioned my senses, and almost wrote off the bat as a hallucination, but then it landed on the overhanging edge of the roof, and hung there looking in at us through the window.
It was clearly outside the building, and it was clearly a bat. Bats are not as mysterious to me as moths are. Bats are mammals. They nurse their babies, like I did. They breathe air, like I do. Bats need air, and they can’t make do with some hypothetical artificial gravity updraft instead. Either we were not on the moon, or the moon had been terraformed so thoroughly that my daughters and I could safely walk around outside. Either way, we’d been fooled by the Space Tourism Company. The space suits must be just for show.
I regretted every dollar and every minute that I had spent on space tourism. I wanted to get home, and I suddenly didn’t trust the Space Tourism Company to take us home in a shuttle, like they had before. The Company was big business, and big business doesn’t take kindly to people who are no longer fooled.
I was sure they would find a way to silence me.
I didn’t wait around to find out what that was. As soon as we could, we slipped out a door. A few hundred paces brought us to the edge of the dome that was simulating the lunar sky. We opened a door, and were momentarily blinded by the sunlight of the Nevada desert. When our eyes adjusted, we could make out the “spaceport,” including what I now recognized as a giant centrifuge that provided the acceleration for “takeoff” and “landing.”
Turning away from all that, we started the long walk home.
I woke up in my bedroom here at the Pond Farm. My little kid had just crawled around to my side of the bed to put her face very close to mine and ask, “Is you ready to wake up now?” I closed my eyes again, and I said, “Give me a minute. I’m busy figuring out how to get home from the moon base.”
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