The Lunadyne Incident: A Short Story by Torn MacAlester

Diamonds: A New Vignette by Torn MacAlester

Nils depart­ed Con­rad Lunar Sta­tion, dri­ving his pres­sur­ized crawler. He imag­ined the sta­tion would become the hub of lunar activ­i­ty asso­ci­at­ed with the Luna­dyne Cor­po­ra­tion. His hab wasn’t far off, allow­ing him to be away from the cen­ter of activ­i­ty and on his own. The whole point of his being here had been to build up the Moon. He knew Luna­dyne was an excel­lent group to be asso­ci­at­ed with, but he didn’t work for the com­pa­ny. He was an independent–one of the first.

The crawler was the cen­ter of his life on the Moon. He knew it was nec­es­sary for trans­porta­tion and work. Nils knew that with­out the crawler, it would lim­it him to Con­rad Sta­tion and the com­pa­ny would either con­script him for work or send him back to Earth. Nei­ther of which appealed to him. He planned to do free­lance activ­i­ties. Before he arrived, Nils knew there would always be some­one on Earth that need­ed a pair of hands on the Moon. The crawler enabled him to trav­el and offer his skills wher­ev­er they were required.

As he drove, he con­sid­ered the list of jobs that had arrived through his bro­ker. Using the bro­ker had been a last-minute con­sid­er­a­tion. He want­ed to han­dle it him­self, but con­nec­tions to enough peo­ple would prove impos­si­ble on the Moon’s sur­face. The bro­ker would send a list, Nils would review it and select a job, nego­ti­ate a price, and pay ten per­cent as a fee. He’d worked through the last list, enabling him to make a down pay­ment on the deliv­ery of supplies.

Scan­ning the list while the crawler auto­mat­i­cal­ly drove the path toward his habi­tat, Nils noticed one that he real­ized he need­ed to avoid tak­ing. Some­one want­ed to hire him to look for dia­monds on the rim of Coper­ni­cus Crater. He knew that was impos­si­ble. The geol­o­gy for the Moon was all wrong to form dia­mond. There wasn’t a suf­fi­cient source of car­bon on the life­less Moon. Know­ing the answer before­hand, he did­n’t want to spend a sig­nif­i­cant amount of mon­ey on con­duct­ing the sur­vey. He called the bro­ker­age firm.

“This is Nils Carmike,” he said once he reached the voice of a human oper­a­tor. “I need to review one of the poten­tial clients that is on my list.”

“Is there a prob­lem with the price of the job, Mis­ter Carmike?” asked the Bro­ker in her smooth voice after the two sec­ond delay to Earth. “We estab­lished the prices based upon the work instruc­tions that you pro­vid­ed to us.”

“Regard­less, the price is out­ra­geous for this job. Obvi­ous­ly, some­one has deceived the indi­vid­ual who made the request at this out­ra­geous price. There are no dia­monds on the Moon, oth­er than the once we brought with us.”

“That’s a shame, Mis­ter Carmike. We have no process­es to deal with this kind of discrepancy.”

“Tell you what,” said Nils. “We need to fix this, or I will end my con­tract with your firm. Because of my rep­u­ta­tion, I can­not exploit some­one’s lack of knowl­edge about the Moon on purpose.”

“Hold on a moment, Mis­ter Carmike. I will arrange for you to dis­cuss this with the client.”



“What is wrong with dia­monds?” asked the man, called Herald.

Nils could tell that he was elder­ly but did not know how old.

“Sir, you don’t know me,” said Nils. “But I’ve been work­ing on the Moon already more than any­one and been study­ing it far longer. Believe me when I say that the Moon doesn’t have diamonds.”

“I’m afraid that my nephew insists that this is correct.”

“If I may, how much did the min­er­al rights to the area cost you?”

“I think it was about three mil­lion,” said Her­ald. “I’ll have to look at my accounts to get the exact amount.”

“Did you get the rights because the sell­er insist­ed there were diamonds?”

“Yeah, I’m no fool. I wouldn’t have got rights with­out a sample.”

“You have raw dia­monds that they claim came from the Moon?” asked Nils.

“Yes. I have them in a bag­gy in the draw­er. One sec­ond, let me get them.”


“Yeah,” said Har­ald. “I have them here.”

“Can you describe them to me?”

“They are lit­tle rocks, most­ly clear.”

“Are there any inclu­sions that are col­ored?” asked Nils.

“I see some col­or. What was that word you said?”

“Inclu­sion. It means that it’s buried inside the crystal.”

“I can’t real­ly tell,” Her­ald said. “Some look on the surface.”

“What col­or are the stones?”

“Most­ly gray, maybe slight­ly green.”

“Her­ald, I can tell you that these rocks might not be dia­monds. I would get them test­ed. The cost of the sur­vey means it will take me a day to com­plete. That cost cov­ers all the expens­es of me being on the Moon for that day.”


“That means that cov­ers the cost of ship­ping all the water I drink, the food I eat, and even the air I breathe. That is a round­about way of say­ing my ser­vices are expen­sive. I’d like you to have your sam­ples checked first. If your sam­ples are legit­i­mate­ly dia­monds and the exam­in­ers will ver­i­fy that they are not from the Earth, then I’ll go out to your site and look for diamonds.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes Harold, I fear that they have duped you and I don’t want to add to your finan­cial bur­den to prove that to you by tak­ing a day at your site and find­ing noth­ing. I would call your local police as well and report the fraud. You can give them my number.”

Nils closed the con­nec­tion after reas­sur­ing the man that the sit­u­a­tion was seri­ous. Even though the mon­ey would have been easy, he knew some­one oth­er than him might take it. He hoped Harold would take his advice and ver­i­fy those diamonds.

Cycle 3: A New Story by Torn MacAlester

From his Texas Office, Nils fell into the rou­tine since they land­ed the remote-con­trol crawler on the lunar sur­face. For about two weeks, he’d work near­ly four­teen-hour days. Then once the sun had set on the land­ing site, he’d spend the next two weeks relax­ing and work­ing only a cou­ple of hours a day. He’d been through two full cycles, await­ing the sun­rise on the third cycle, start­ing in two days when the sun ris­es on the land­ing site.

He grabbed the cof­fee from the con­ve­nience store across the street from the office. Even though he only planned to spend two hours in the office, he felt it would be a long day. He real­ized he need­ed more time to pre­pare the site at Mare Frig­oris for land­ings and start build­ing the road to the North Pole before he could go to the Moon. Based on their timetable after the acci­dent, Orbit­dyne won’t be able to send humans to the Moon until next year at the ear­li­est. Mean­while, Nils pre­pared every­thing with auto­mat­ed rovers and a remote-con­trolled crawler. There was four months.

Once in the office, Nils dialed the ven­dor wait­ing for the tele­con­fer­ence to start between him and the KG vendor.

“Nils,” said Zia Hill, the woman who appeared on the screen. “I hope the Texas sum­mer hasn’t total­ly wiped you out.” Zia was the flight direc­tor for the KG launch ser­vices in Savanah. She was the tech­ni­cal face of the com­pa­ny and pro­vid­ed Nils a pow­er­ful lev­el of con­fi­dence in KG’s abil­i­ties. Zia nev­er sug­ar-coat­ed an issue, but she didn’t dwell on triv­i­al­i­ties that meant noth­ing to the over­all operation.

“Hi Zia,” said Nils. “It cooled off overnight, so it’s been quite pleas­ant this morning.”

“That’s good. Geor­gia sum­mer hasn’t been too bad here either.”

“What’s the status?”

“We’ve got your pay­loads secure. Your part­ner is over­see­ing the final lock­down of the fair­ing. We expect to com­plete the stack tomorrow.”

“How is Milt?” asked Nils, won­der­ing about his busi­ness part­ner, Milt John­son. Milt had been most­ly absent from the office dur­ing the past two months since land­ing on the Moon. He left Nils in charge of the dai­ly oper­a­tions of the Moon land­ings while he dealt with fund­ing and tech­ni­cal issues across the coun­try. “I haven’t spo­ken to him since last week’s telecon.”

“You know Milt—always on the move. We spoke just enough this morn­ing that he could ver­i­fy the crates and the rovers. Then he was off to anoth­er meeting.”

“Did he say where he was going?”

“No,” said Zia. “But I didn’t ask.”

“Okay, that’s fine. I was just won­der­ing. What do you have for me?”

“We’ve com­plet­ed the tra­jec­to­ries. We’ll land sun­rise plus 27 hours at the land­ing site at Frig­oris. The lan­der will need to be unloaded so we can launch it back into lunar orbit in five days.”

“That doesn’t give me much time,” said Nils. “That’s a lot of car­go on this run.”

“We can’t do any­thing about it. The agency has anoth­er pay­load that they want deliv­ered to Shack­le­ton by the sev­en­teenth of the month. They are very insis­tent and spend a lot to make it hap­pen. Offloaded or not, we launch five days after landing.”

“I got it. We’ll get her unloaded.”

“On anoth­er note, I have the pre­lim­i­nary time of land­ing based upon cur­rent esti­mat­ed launch time,” said Zia. “I’ll send that out with the morn­ing report.”

“Are we going to increase the pace of the meet­ings after launch?”

“We can pro­vide you with a twice dai­ly brief­ing, but it will offer lit­tle more than our twice a week briefing.”

“Okay, we’ll for­get that for now,” said Nils, real­iz­ing the extra expense wouldn’t be jus­ti­fied. In fact, delays asso­ci­at­ed with Orbitdyne’s acci­dent had seri­ous­ly com­pro­mised their ven­ture. Since Milt had han­dled most of the fund­ing side, all Nils did was to wor­ry about it and keep oper­a­tions going. But there had been this per­sis­tent nag­ging in his mind that he was over­look­ing something.




Nils drove out of Richard­son and head­ed to his apart­ment in Dal­las. He was plan­ning to take every­thing and put it in stor­age months ago as he felt he’d already head­ed to the Moon. Now, the land­lord sought him to sign anoth­er six-month lease. It was damn incon­ve­nient. He had to han­dle a dozen things, includ­ing get­ting ready for his own voy­age to the Moon. The neces­si­ties of Earth­bound life just nev­er seemed to make sense to him. He planned to leave, so tying him­self finan­cial­ly or oth­er­wise seemed non sequitur.

He con­tin­ued dri­ving, head­ing toward the apart­ment office. And he got caught in anoth­er traf­fic sig­nal. It turned out unfor­tu­nate, but the sig­nals weren’t in sync dur­ing that time of day. In fact, he knew bet­ter than to try going home this time of day. It would take close to an hour to make a twen­ty-minute dri­ve. As he came to the stop, his phone rang. He touched the but­ton on his earpiece.

“Yup,” he said.

“Hi, this is Milt,” said his part­ner. “We’ve got a problem.”

“We always have prob­lems. What kind do we have today?”

“Luna­corp wants to have a look at oper­a­tions. Luna­corp wants to inspect our oper­a­tions because of our delay. I promised their audi­tor a chance to look at operations.”

“When did you make this promise?” asked Nils, fear­ing the answer.

“Day after tomorrow.”

“Shit. That’s absolute­ly the worst day.”

“We can’t do any­thing about it. They think we are not using their invest­ment effec­tive­ly,” said Milt. “You will need to prove it.”




“This is going to be dif­fi­cult,” said Nils. “But you are wel­come to watch.”

“That is what I am here for,” said the auditor.

“The sun came up a few hours ago, and I am wait­ing until the ambi­ent tem­per­a­ture reach­es about freez­ing before I turn the heater on with the solar power.”

“Why wait?”

“I don’t want too large of tem­per­a­ture gra­di­ents across the elec­tron­ics as things warm up,” explained Nils.

“Tem­per­a­ture gra­di­ents? I don’t understand.”

“Large changes in tem­per­a­ture over short dis­tances between com­po­nents. That cre­ates a sit­u­a­tion where it’s pos­si­ble to crack wires or com­po­nents because they expand uneven­ly. If it breaks, its dead until Milt and I get up there to fix it.”

“Assum­ing you can,” said the auditor.

“Yup, assum­ing we can.”

“You seem to have built a lot of your oper­a­tion off of assumptions.”

“Not as many as you would think,” said Nils, real­iz­ing that the audi­tor was pok­ing at their busi­ness plan.

“How so?”

“Well, I build my plans based on set­ting pri­or­i­ties. Those pri­or­i­ties are often to deal with an assump­tion that anoth­er piece of the con­struc­tion depends upon.”

“Like you are work­ing so hard on the solar arrays the past two months?” asked the auditor.

“Exact­ly. With­out pow­er, we are help­less to do much. Part of that pow­er has to keep us alive dur­ing the long lunar nights. The first cycle pre­sent­ed the major chal­lenge of pro­vid­ing enough pow­er to keep the crawler alive through the lunar night. He set up solar pan­els and con­nect­ed them to a bat­tery pack, using as lit­tle pow­er as possible.”

That first two-week lunar night had been frus­trat­ing. Nils couldn’t help the feel­ing of screw­ing up and leav­ing a dead rover on the Moon’s sur­face. The crawler had enough pow­er, even more than he expect­ed, when it came back to life after sun­rise. To dou­ble the usable ener­gy on site, he spent the next lunar day build­ing a sec­ond pow­er station.

“By doing this,” Nils con­tin­ued. “We can bring AR1 and AR2 to Frig­oris tomor­row on the third cycle’s car­go run after we set­tle at base camp for a bit.”

“Oh,” said the audi­tor. “That means you are too busy for this audit.”

“Yup. You could not have arrived at a worse time.”

“I’m sor­ry, but this is essen­tial to Lunacorp.”

“Some­one has said that,” said Nils. “If Luna­corp wants a scape­goat for the delay, it’s Orbit­dyne. Their fly­er has been out of ser­vice because of their acci­dent. What I am doing is keep­ing us on some kind of sched­ule despite the delay in their sys­tem. Go back and tell Luna­corp what­ev­er you want to tell them, but I’m real­ly too busy to feed them a report because they are scared.”

“If that’s the way you feel.”

“Feel­ing has noth­ing to do with it. Those are the facts.”

“Well, I can say one thing,” said the audi­tor. “If you’re the one work­ing on it, it’s like­ly going to suc­ceed. How­ev­er, I can say that you and your part­ner gave Luna­corp a line of shit a half mil­lion kilo­me­ters long. This plan is about a like­ly to suc­ceed as putting a cork in Yellowstone.”

“Get out.”

“Have a good day.”




Nils answered the phone.

“What the hell did you do?” asked Milt.

“What do you mean?”

“You know full well what I mean. That could lead to Luna­corp can­cel­ing the con­tract. We’re build­ing the road for them, remember?”

“No,” said Nils. “We’re build­ing it for our­selves, they are a facilitator.”

“How in the hell can’t you sep­a­rate the two in your head?”

“If they can’t stay the hell out of the way of the work, then they are of no use to us. When that audi­tor start­ed dig­ging yes­ter­day for me to jus­ti­fy what I was doing. He admit­ted I didn’t have time for it, but when he per­sist­ed. I laid it on the line. The facts were that his mere pres­ence was putting the Luna­corp invest­ment at risk.”

“Did you say it in those words?” asked Milt.


“Then you might have as well said nothing.”

“What the hell do you mean?” asked Nils.

“Exact­ly what I’ve been say­ing. You put the whole thing at risk over a few hours of your time.”

“No. They jeop­ar­dized every­thing by tak­ing away my work time. I could have done it in two weeks, but you didn’t both­er con­sult­ing with me.”

“I—,” start­ed Milt.

“The sched­ule is too tight dur­ing the lunar day to allow for that kind of non­sense. You should know bet­ter. It’s what we spent years train­ing for max­i­miz­ing our use of favor­able time.”


“With you not here help­ing me dur­ing the day­time, I’m left with try­ing to work six­teen to twen­ty-hour shifts on my own to keep the activ­i­ty going,” said Nils. “With­out you tak­ing the oth­er shifts, it puts us against the wall.”

“We need to keep the investors happy.”

“Yes, but not at the expense of the work.”

“Okay,” said Milt. “I’ll see what I can do about rescheduling.”

“Do it. Once the sun sets at Frig­oris, I can chat with the audi­tor for two weeks. I bare­ly have enough to do as it is.”

“I’ll take care of it.”

“Now,” said Nils. “About my oth­er concern…”

“You mean I can’t con­tribute because of all the investor meetings?”

“Yup. What are you going to do about it?”

“Noth­ing,” said Milt. “But before you get pissed off, let me explain.”


“I expect that dur­ing the bet­ter part of the next year, we’re going to be on the Moon. The investors and Luna­corp need to get a good sense of me before we put a screen and a quar­ter mil­lion miles between us. They need a sense of trust to keep us mov­ing with­out me being here to hold their hand. Luna­corp is going to be tough enough, but we need to keep our con­struc­tion com­pa­ny investors hap­py. And I’ve got to get into a meet­ing with them in the next five min­utes so we can get this issue to blow over.”

“Okay, we’ll talk more lat­er,” said Nils. Switch­ing off the phone, he won­dered why he still felt that Milt was feed­ing him a line of bull.


Cycle 3 is a short sto­ry based on the char­ac­ters and events of Thun­der Moon Tus­sle by Torn MacAlester.  It occurs right after the events pre­sent­ed in Chap­ter 18.

Thun­der Moon Tus­sle is avail­able on Kin­dle and Paper­back at

Vignette: Another Plot by Torn MacAlester

Short Story: Golf and Outgassing by Torn MacAlester

Short Story: Morgan’s Road by Torn MacAlester

Vignette: Sins of the Son by Torn MacAlester

Drive to Houston: A New Story by Torn MacAlester

Time to go, the alarm indi­cat­ed. Jacob Con­ner dread­ed the announce­ment, regard­ing it as a hor­ri­ble turn of events. It meant he need­ed to get to Hous­ton to sup­port the space sta­tion for NASA. As a lead Astro­naut, it was his job, forc­ing him to make the com­mutes from his home in Dallas.

I hate this dri­ve to Hous­ton, thought Jacob.

The trip from Dal­las to Hous­ton had always been dif­fi­cult, but now, in the falling ash of Yel­low­stone, it neared impos­si­ble. The ash was every­where since the explo­sion. Noth­ing escaped it. Ash wreaked hav­oc on cars, clog­ging up wind­shields, air vents, radi­a­tors and even caus­ing over­heat­ing. Any­one who drove car­ried a broom, brush, or com­pressed air hose to clear the ash from key points in the car–especially the radi­a­tor. Now that the ash was falling, Jacob real­ized he would spend more time clear­ing the ash from his car than dri­ving to Houston.

How­ev­er, he real­ized he had no choice. He need­ed to be at mis­sion con­trol to sup­port aban­don­ing the space sta­tion. NASA was shut­ting down. In fact, every­thing not relat­ed to pro­duc­ing food with­out the ben­e­fit of sun­light was being shut down. The coun­try had under­tak­en a mas­sive effort to move all farm­ing inside. Peo­ple were build­ing ware­hous­es cov­er­ing acres, installing mil­lions of wide spec­trum lights, col­lect­ing tons of coal, oil, and nat­ur­al gas, and con­struct­ing pow­er plants — all to con­vert ener­gy to food. They intend­ed to keep as many peo­ple alive as pos­si­ble. The gov­ern­ment end­ed all activ­i­ties that were not relat­ed to that effort. The gov­ern­ment shut down space sta­tions and mil­i­tary bases to focus on con­vert­ing ener­gy to food for sur­vival. They ignored oth­er issues.

Jacob grabbed his cool­er, filled with indi­vid­u­al­ly wrapped sand­wich­es, ice, and bot­tled water for the trip. He knew the ice would be a mushy mix of vol­canic ash before lunch, but he knew it would keep the water and food cold.



Jacob arrived in build­ing 10 at the space cen­ter with con­tin­ued dark­ness envelop­ing the Hous­ton sky­line. Jacob could only tell it was morn­ing by look­ing at the clock as he arrived at build­ing 10 in the space cen­ter, enveloped by the dark­ness of the Hous­ton sky­line. Upon arriv­ing at the con­fer­ence room, Jacob quick­ly sat down with William Ack­ers, Sarah James, and Kyle Yarrow. Ack­ers had recent­ly tak­en over as the head of the astro­naut office because of sev­er­al depar­tures. As Roskos­mos coor­di­na­tor for the astro­naut office, Jacob had recent­ly become the default ISS coordinator.

“Have they checked in yet?” asked Jacob, glanc­ing at the blank feed on the screen at the end of the table.

“TDRS is switch­ing over at the moment,” answered Sarah. “We should have them back momentarily.”

“Good,” Jacob nod­ded, “Any­thing new?”

“We’ve still been try­ing to fig­ure out the planned descent.” Kyle answered, “The Rus­sians are still talk­ing about keep­ing their half and just boost­ing it to as high of orbit as possible.”

“Can they do that?”

“Assum­ing they can launch the progress.” Kyle stated.

“So that means we’re going to delay departure?”

“Yes,” Kyle answered meekly.

“Pro­gram Direc­tor is going to have a fit with that one,” said William, annoyed with the outcome.

“Can we help it?” Jacob asked, then con­tin­ued to answer his own ques­tion. “We must sup­port our mis­sion part­ners. There is no way to know how soon we will need them. I would rather push back by defer­ring to the engi­neer­ing judg­ment of our mis­sion partners.”

“Jacob,” said William. “You can’t be serious.”

“I am,” Jacob said defi­ant­ly. “With Yel­low­stone explod­ing, we could be extinct. If we sur­vive, we’ll need to move the pro­gram far faster than we have imagined.”

“Not the colony idea again,” said William.

“Isn’t it obvi­ous, William? If we sur­vive, we’ll need that off world pop­u­la­tion as insurance.”

“Jacob is right,” said Sarah. “We’ve been a dan­ger to our­selves for such a long time, we’ve for­got­ten that nature can do it to us too. Yel­low­stone blew up on its own sched­ule. We did­n’t have a dooms­day clock let­ting us know when we were get­ting close.”

“Should­n’t we just try to sur­vive this dis­as­ter before plan­ning for the next?” William countered.

“I think it’s pru­dent to sal­vage at least part of the sta­tion. There is a lot of ben­e­fit for min­i­mal added risk.”

“So what are we talk­ing about?” William asked, after wav­ing a sign of surrender.

“They’re talk­ing about jet­ti­son­ing every­thing except the Zvez­da and Zarya. They would love to hold on to Node 1, but the solar arrays add too much drag.” Kyle said. “They are look­ing at a de-orbit burn for the stack, then jet­ti­son­ing, and then burn­ing to boost the orbit of the two modules.”

“How about our folks?” Jacob asked. “Have they run the num­bers themselves?”

“It looks like it’s bare­ly with­in the safe­ty mar­gin.” Kyle answered. “First, undock Soyuz and de-orbit, then remote­ly fire Progress, detach the car­go block, and final­ly start burn­ing on the Russ­ian section.”

“Mean­while, the rest of the sta­tion burns up.” William stat­ed. He tapped his fin­gers on the table for a moment. “I guess I can con­vince the Pro­gram Direc­tor that this is the way to go.”

“You might point out we would have a des­ti­na­tion for Shut­tle,” Sarah added.

“Good point. We can meet post Colum­bia restric­tions.” Kyle said. “Then fly the shut­tle as soon as we are ready.”

“Yes,” Jacob answered. “We have two major sec­tions we can bring up and take to a des­ti­na­tion once we are oper­a­tional again.”

“You real­ly think that will hap­pen?” asked William.

“I’m mak­ing it my mis­sion to see that it does.”




“Look Jacob,” said Neil, Direc­tor of the ISS pro­gram. “I’ve kept you out of the fir­ing line so far, but the Admin­is­tra­tor was­n’t hap­py about telling the Pres­i­dent that our peo­ple would not be com­ing home yesterday.”

“I hope you told him it was an astro­naut office decision.”

“I did,” Neil shook his head. “He under­stands. But you know the asso­ciate admin­is­tra­tor. She isn’t like­ly to take kind­ly to the astro­nauts not fol­low­ing their office’s recommendations.”

“She can go to hell.”

“Jacob,” Neil warned.

“I’m seri­ous.” Jacob coun­tered. “We have astro­nauts that still want to fly. They want to have a space pro­gram to come back to. It’s not a deci­sion for the bureau­crats. It’s for the pro­gram and the astronauts.”

“There isn’t a pro­gram anymore.”

“I have hard­ware and I have peo­ple. Once we get the dol­lars again, we’ll have a program.”




“Mose,” said Jacob, look­ing at the astro­naut float­ing on the screen.

“Jacob,” answered Moses Crane. “What have you got for me?”

“A bunch of bureau­crats that aren’t com­fort­able with the Russ­ian plan,” Jacob answered. “Though the office and engi­neer­ing seem con­vinced that the plan has merit.”

“I’m sur­prised engi­neer­ing is on board.”

“Oh, they are uncom­fort­able. They dis­like the bureau­crat­ic assump­tion that the Yel­low­stone erup­tion is the end of the world more than anything.”

“Roger that,” Mose nod­ded. “Announce­ment of the end was premature.”

“How about you? Does the plan make sense?”

“It looks good to me,” Mose answered. “I think we’ll need to gut the Zvez­da and Zarya with every­thing we can remove and put into the lab. Lucia thinks we can get most of the non-essen­tial equip­ment moved by the end of the day.”

“I’ll let you go then,” said Jacob. “I buy you a beer once you get back.”

“Buy me several.”




“Dammit,” Jacob said, hear­ing the feed from con­trol room one. He picked up the phone. “Stan?”

“Yes, sir.”

“What’s the word?”

“Accord­ing to the Russ­ian con­trollers in Kaza­khstan, Soyuz was off target.”

“How about the crew?”

“No word.” Stan con­tin­ued, “They have announced that the sta­tion reached a high­er orbit.”

“Good news, but unim­por­tant. We need con­fir­ma­tion on the crew.”





“Jacob,” said William, the new admin­is­tra­tor on the tele­vi­sion screen. “We need you to head the oper­a­tions divi­sion of the new space agency.”

“So, I’m being fired?” Jacob looked sour.

“Pro­mot­ed,” said William.

“Regard­less, I almost lost that crew.”

“Jacob,” William shook his head. “Mose and Lucia knew the risk, and they took it.”

“On my rec­om­men­da­tion. It could have killed them.”

“It took eigh­teen months, Con­ner. Our peo­ple knew what they were doing and sur­vived, even though the retrieval chop­pers crashed into each oth­er, and the region col­lapsed into chaos. But Mose and Lucia fig­ured out how to sur­vive and get home. Though I am sur­prised that they got out of the Soyuz on their own and didn’t break a dozen bones as they crawled out.”

“Sor­ry, I can’t take the job William,” Jacob shook his head. “You can’t have me push­ing my agen­da every time I get a burr up my ass about something.”

“Look, we assumed that Mose and Lucia were dead. We were wrong. Some peo­ple blamed you. They were wrong.”

“Sor­ry,” Jacob said.

“Enough. You don’t need to fall on your sword. I need some­one that fore­saw we would restart the pro­gram in less than two years. Some­one that can rebuild the sta­tion and get us back up there. That per­son is you.”

“But there are bet­ter peo­ple in–”

“Con­ner, I need an astro­naut in charge of oper­a­tions. I need you here in Houston.”

“You know, I hate the dri­ve to Houston.”



Lunadyne Incident: A Short Story by Torn MacAlester

Morgan’s Road: A Short Story by Torn MacAlester