David Shetland rested comfortably in a reclining leather chair as the Starship Envoy coasted down to the lunar surface. A thick plexiglassteel window to his left gave a breathtaking view of the rapidly angling horizon, but David's attention was all on the screen of his PAC. The computer's screen displayed his prepared speech for the opening of Tranquility Base.
He felt another nervous twinge in his gut as the shuttle began to vibrate gently, the reverse thrusters kicking in to slow the descent. He felt the pressure begin to push him forward into his restraints, perfectly complimenting the pressure in his head. Never had he been this nervous and on edge.
"Mr. Vice President, sir?"
David glanced up in the general direction of the voice.
"Oh... hello, Rick."
The pilot smiled. "We'll be landing in under five minutes, sir. I suggest you get prepared to disembark."
David nodded, smiling briefly at Rick before looking back to the PAC screen. 'More useful than a secretary, but not nearly as friendly,' he thought to himself. No matter. Some things needed efficiency, and the space program was one. Funding was increasing, but it wasn't exactly overabundant yet. Perhaps the base would change that.
He glanced over the speech one last time before giving the subvocal command to blank the screen. It was pure political bullshit, but he was a politician.
He closed his eyes, waiting for the gentle bump of touchdown as the reverse thrust increased to its peak, sending a high whine through the ship.
A small hiss and then the sound of the airlock cycling through. He was now officially on lunar soil. So far, so good. All that was left now was hours of droning conversation with underlings, a standard speech, much like the one discarded by Valdez 17 years ago on Mars. 'Just goes to show how bureaucracy never changes,' he thought quietly.
As he stepped through the airlock he waved goodbye to the pilot, who saluted and turned back to the command console.
Turning back around, he found himself face to face with Isao Tagaki, the Chancellor of the Japanese Alliance. They exchanged bows and a handshake before getting to the formalities.
"The Prime Minister asked me to convey his regrets that he could not be present for this momentous occasion," said Tagaki.
David responded in kind. "The President sends his apologies as well. Unforseen circumstances, you know." What they both really meant was that the Prime Minister and President were too important to be risked on a space flight to a relatively unproven moonbase. It was general policy in both governments.Their second in commands, however, were relatively expendable. It wasn't a pleasant feeling. "Shall we get on with this?"
"Yes, yes," Tagaki said, smiling, "They are all awaiting us in the banquet hall." He stepped away and walked toward a wide set of double doors, followed on all sides by his entourage. David followed by himself, wondering where the hell his entourage was.
The door opened onto a wide balcony that rested several feet above the hall floor, which was packed with live reporters and news camera drones, along with the first 'crew' of the base. The fifty or so people who would man the base were divided into groups of military, maintenance, and control. The plan was to have settlers on the moon in under three years, though David wasn't sure how realistic that was.
Tagaki and Shetland bowed again to each other, for ceremony, before turning to the crowd.
"Ladies and gentlemen," David began, "in honor of the people of both Japan and the United States, and indeed, the entire world, I am proud to officially open Tranquility Base. Soon the entire moon will be open to us. It is yours." He stepped back and nodded to Tagaki, who stepped up and delivered his remarks in Japanese. Realtime monitors delivered the presentation to viewers in space and on land. Personal translators would convert the speeches to the desired language. He looked around, suddenly wishing the meeting to be over and to be back on Earth, with his family. He understood the need for the base and its orbiting cousins, the space stations, but he didn't understand the desire to leave Earth. 'Perhaps I'm just old fashioned,' he thought.
Fifteen and a half hours later, as he hugged his wife and son, he glanced up at the stars overhead and wondered if he could live out there.
He was elected President the next year and never left the planet again.
(Excerpted from: Shetland, "My Life In Prose: The Autobiogranovel of David Shetland", 2062)