Morgan’s Road

Graphic by Shannan Albright

Making a living on the Moon is not for everyone, but Nelson Carmike actually preferred the airless basalt plains over Earth’s windy prairies.

Unfortunately, three years of Moon prospecting left him penniless, and without funds for supplies he was doomed to face a forced flight home. Out of options, Nelson had all but given up until a prospector, presumed dead for twenty years, arrives on his doorstep with a secret.

Can Nelson figure out how the man survived on his own, and learn to do the same before his supplies out?

 

Morgan's Road

By Torn MacAlester

 

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?”

“It’s 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. It resembled a broken-down crawler abandoned near Conrad Station. As he fought off the fog of sleep, Nelson did not recognize the individual. He asked, “Who are you?”

“The name is Morgan,” he answered on the intercom. “Can I come in?”

Nelson hesitated, not remembering a prospector named Morgan. Over the past three years, he met many prospectors. None of them mentioned 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.

Curious, he wanted to know why this strange man felt willing to break the unwritten prospector rule of going to a prospector’s habitat uninvited. “Sure.” Nelson cycled the airlock, allowing the outer door to be opened.

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, like a lunch pail. The golden sun visor covered the faceplate of the helmet.

Morgan put down the lunchbox and removed his gloves. Morgan’s hands were pale and calloused. His fingers ended in neatly trimmed but regolith-discolored gray 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 the visitor unlock the helmet from the suit and lift it from his head.

Nelson first noticed the inner com helmet surrounding Morgan’s face – not the common headset of prospectors but the old-style mouse ears with a head cover. Deep wrinkles sat at the corners of Morgan’s blue eyes. A day’s worth of stubble gray and brown beard covered his face. Morgan’s thin gave 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 slight 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?”

“Sure,” answered Nelson. “What did you have in mind?” Making a deal did not surprise Nelson. Prospectors usually made deals, and they fiercely followed through with them.

“A rousing conversation and a secret is all I have to offer.”

“That seems a little thin,” said Nelson, feeling that the stranger was looking for a handout instead of a deal.

“Son,” smiled Morgan, “once you know the secret, you won’t think so.”

Unsure, he pondered Morgan’s offer. What secret could this old prospector possess? Perhaps he is mad, having some rare form of space dementia. In an instant, Nelson concluded that he would agree to the strange offer for no other reason than curiosity. “All right. You have empty tanks to fill?”

“Yes,” Morgan stated.

“Take what you need. There is a spare tank behind the oxygen cracker. Feel free to take it, too.”

“Thanks, friend.”

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