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