Dreams of recollection; he was back with Vance and Gerald in the pre-launch briefing. Good old Gerald, why did the sight of him make fill him with sadness…
The Vice President put down his pipe in a shaking hand. “It is mankind’s destiny to reach to the stars, gentlemen; ever since our ancestors first looked up in wonder. So we take our first hesitant steps and find ourselves warned off, in our own backyard? We need to know more of what these beings are; any data will be valuable beyond measure. Much rests on what you can find out; perhaps the future, not just of America, but of the entire human race…”
Commander Dick Gordon woke with a start, his head throbbed from the blow he had recieved but he was unable to rub it encased, as he was in his astronaut suit, a mist formed in the inside of his visor. Then he remembered. The hull breach! Gerald!
All was silent. The Lander was at an angle, his pilot Gerald Carr had been forced to land the Eagle rapidly amid the uneven hills and mounds that marked the southern half of the Copernicus Crater. According to the clock he had been asleep for 40 minutes. Gordon released the straps that held him in his seat and stood. The warning lights were still blinking, despite beginning to coat in ice. He flicked switches and turned off the taps feeding oxygen into the compartment, it was only venting into space and he was being fed air from an umbilicus. He sighed, now to assess the damage that took his colleague’s life.
Gerald Carr sat, his eyes frozen over, dark red ice was around his mouth from when his lungs had violently ruptured. Inside his suit his body had swollen, while his head and face had turned blue as the oxygen had reversed dissolved from his tissues. At least it had been quick, but Gerald’s last look of resigned panic in his last moments would haunt the Commander forever. However long that might be, of course, it all depended on the state of the breach.
Beyond his lifeless comrade he saw where the breach had occurred, from the collection of items that had been thrown towards it as the atmosphere has rushed towards the vacuum. It was a cluster five, small punctures. The blasts that had lit up the darkness as the Eagle had descended must have thrown debris at it, piercing the hull. He’d heard how previous micro punctures had been repaired by duct tape. He found a roll in a storage locker and carefully covered the holes, before spraying a quick curing resin over his repairs. He had to find out if it had worked. He opened the oxygen tap and waited. Gradually on the edge of his hearing the sounds of alarms began to be heard. He heard the hum of the atmosphere filters and knew his repairs were holding. He shut off all the alarms, his eye especially on the atmosphere warning light, it stayed extinguished. Slowly he removed his helmet and breathed deeply. There was a smell of burnt gunpowder in his nostrils, the smell of the moon.
He ran a quick systems check, the ascent motors seemed undamaged, he would be able to escape the moon’s surface and rendezvous with Vance in the orbiting CSM, it would be 20 hours before the Command Module would be in a position to dock with the LSM. He could sit out the next few hours?
As well as the burnt gunpowder aroma he smelt something else, the metallic tang of blood. He picked up Carr’s helmet and fitted it. He slid down the antiglare visor, hiding the man’s ever staring eyes. The man would be alive now if he’d worn the helmet during the descent but then again it was the man’s skill that had controlled the rapid descent, so maybe they would have crashed and they’d both be dead anyway. They’d come under attack by whatever was at the northern end of the crater. He’d seen structures, like buildings, as well the half buried outline of a vast ship. He didn’t want to go out there alone but he would have to check the lander’s leg which felt like it had buckled on landing. He looked at Carr’s body and imagined trying to manoeuvre him, ballooned and stiff with rigamortis, through the hatchway into LSM. Should he take him home if possible? How rapidly would he decompose in this environment, would he infect the air as he rotted, the microbes using up valuable oxygen? He decided to leave him on the lunar surface. He disconnected the umbilicus and attached the life supporting backpack to his suit. Closing his helmet he turned off the oxygen taps and vented the capsule, equalising the pressure with that of outside. With an effort he opened the hatch and hauled Carr from his seat.
Outside the lunar landscape shone bright as the sun bore relentlessly down on the airless world. With the low gravity he was able to remove Carr from the capsule relatively easily. He closed the hatch and looked around.
The Lander was on a southward facing gentle slope on a landscape of hills and odd shaped mounds, as if the ground was folded and wrinkled upon itself. He opened one of the bay service doors on the amber foil coated descent module and brought out the rover. It only weighed 1/6th of its weight on earth. Gordon unfolded the vehicle and secured it with the restraining bolts. He strapped Carr into the passenger seat. From another storage bay he collected a camera, spade and bags. Climbing on board, he drove off, weaving in and out of the valleys between the mounds, working his way north. As he went further the ground grew higher and the valleys gradually disappeared, he steered the rover up a slope and it was then he saw it.
It was vast, at least five times the size of an aircraft carrier; a half buried cylindrical craft. It looked like it had crashed into the crater eons ago; forcing the lunar rock and dust forward to form the wave like ripples and mounds that stretched southward. He switched on the camera and swallowing hard drove the rover down to where a huge gash lay in the side of the craft.
Climbing out of the rover he approached the breach in the hull of the craft. He switched on his helmet mounted lights and entered the ship. He found a corridor and continued deeper into the vessel; unnervingly he saw patches of lunar dust on the floor making odd shaped footprints. He was not the first being to enter this wreck. He switched on his tape recorder so he could describe what he saw.
“This is Commander Richard Gordon; I’m heading southward into the vessel, hopefully I will find some form of bridge or cockpit. The vessel is far larger than any human made space craft and yet… its dimensions suit the average human. I can see handles and grabs which would be useable by human hands. It’s in a state of perfect preservation in this airless and water less environment. I can only guess at the age of this craft, there are symbols like hieroglyphs on the walls. The area ahead is blocked by a tangle of fallen spars, I can proceed no further however this looks like a hatchway.”
Gordon grasped the handle; it fitted a human hand perfectly. He turned it and the door effortlessly swung inward. He checked his oxygen and battery levels, he had approximately 4 hours remaining, ample time to get back to the capsule using the rover. His lights flashed over the chamber which he was in. There was a central dais with a long box like structure upon it. The box had tubes running from either end of it, into the floor and upward to the ceiling.
“I’ve entered a chamber of sorts, I’m going to investigate the dais.”
A sense of dread filled him as he saw the interior of the box. It was a cask with a glass or Perspex cover. Inside he saw the body, the body of a human female. She had an olive skin tone and silver hair in dreadlocks. Her body was in a perfect state of preservation as if she had just fallen asleep. Her hands were joined on her chest holding a crystal.
“Subject is a female, humanoid. I will see if I can open the cask. What the?”
As soon as his hands touched the cask the crystal began to glow. Lights flashed on in the room, he went to turn away but he saw the door shut and he heard a hissing outside his helmet as the vacuum was dispelled from the chamber. He turned back to the cask. In the gentle light the woman was beautiful, as almost divine perfection. He noticed that the Perspex cover had retracted, the crystal was now shining bright. He reached down and delicately took it in his gauntleted hand. It seemed to glow and looked as if images were moving inside it but he couldn’t see close enough through his visor.
There was atmosphere in the room but he had no idea of knowing what its composition was. Swallowing hard his hand reached to his helmet and the locking mechanism of his visor. He clicked it open and closing his eyes gingerly raised it and breathed in. He sighed in relief and opened his eyes.
“Atmosphere in the chamber is now breathable. I will record as much as I can.”
He held the crystal up closer to his eye; it pulsed with a blue tinged light. As he examined it he felt as if he was being drawn into it, as if time stood still. He was floating in space; he saw the blue and green earth spinning below him, a ship similar in size and shape to what he was in gently cruised past him. He was swept along with it, past the moon, past the weirdly green world of Mars with its seas and pyramids and onward to space beyond, to a hundred worlds where men and women lived, an empire amid the stars.
“Is that what once was? What happened to us?”
He looked at his watch, two hours had passed. He needed to get back to the lander. He put the crystal in a bag, lowered his visor and stepped from the dais. He heard the cask shut behind allowing the goddess to sleep once more. He heard a rushing sound and then silence as the air was vented from the room. He grasped the handle of the hatch and hurried along the corridor back to the breach and out into the bright sunlit crater.A sense of panic filled dread gripped him. The rover had gone
To be continued