Nelson awoke with a start. Blinking, he looked around the interior of his lunar homestead. In the dimness, he saw a call light at the entrance to the airlock. He leaped from his bed all the way to the airlock and pressed the answer key. “Yes?”
“Its about time,” said a garbled male voice. “Can I come in?”
Nelson looked at the exterior feed and saw a spacesuit-clad figure at the airlock’s outer door. The man held a patch cord that hooked into the homestead’s intercom. The spacesuit itself showed signs of typical prospector use – dirty up to the knees and elbows.
Behind the figure, he saw an old-style crawler that had seen better days. He recognized it as similar to a broken-down crawler abandoned near Conrad Station. As he fought off the fog of sleep, Nelson realized that he did not recognize the individual. He asked, “Who are you?”
“The name is Morgan,” answered the man’s voice. “Can I come in?”
Nelson hesitated, failing to remember meeting a prospector named Morgan. Over the past three years, he met many prospectors, but Nelson also could not remember anyone mentioning Morgan. Most of the prospectors knew each other, at least by reputation, even though they kept to themselves. It bothered Nelson to not know of Morgan.
The unwritten rules of the prospectors insisted upon not going to someone’s homestead uninvited. Morgan was Nelson’s fourth guest – the first uninvited. Curious, he wanted to know why this strange prospector felt willing to break the rule. “Sure.” Nelson cycled the airlock, allowing the outer door to be opened.
The mystery began to unravel as the inner door of the airlock opened, revealing a space-suited figure. Nelson recognized the suit as an older type. He did not recognize the unknown emblem on the right sleeve above the heavy dust. Morgan carried a dust-covered canvas box, similar to a lunch pail. The golden sun visor covered the faceplate of the helmet.
Nelson saw Morgan putting down the lunchbox and removing his gloves. Morgan’s hands were pale and uncalloused. His fingers ended in neatly trimmed but regolith-discolored nails. The lunar dirt had discolored Nelson’s own nails within days of arriving on the moon, but Morgan’s hands did not show signs of heavy work. Nelson watched as the visitor unlocked the helmet from the suit and lifted it from his head.
Nelson first noticed the inner com helmet surrounding Morgan’s face – not the common headset of prospectors but the old mouse ears with a head cover. Morgan himself had graying eyebrows. The original color might have been brown, but Nelson could not tell.
Deep wrinkles sat at the corners Morgan’s blue eyes. His face was a stubble of gray and brown beard, perhaps a day’s worth of growth. Morgan’s thin lips had no hint of smile, nor did they give a hint of a frown. Pulling off the communications helmet, he revealed a long mane of graying hair. Nelson saw a hint of sparkle in the man’s eyes as he spoke.
“Thanks,” stated Morgan in a gravelly voice, trailing into a question.
“Nelson.” He extended his hand in friendship to Morgan.
“Nelson,” Morgan smiled, returning the handshake. “Can we strike a bargain for a meal and a couple of tanks of oxygen?”
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