Mission control was silent, the only sound being the low hum of computers. Massive monitors took up the entire wall: one displayed a rectangular, squashed projection of the planet, and another showed what the television stations were showing the public. It was about 30 minutes behind, just in case something needed to be cut out. One screen in the lower right corner was a camera pointed to the sky. The moon.
The black of space, then, white. Only a small sliver of the moon was visible, a crescent thinner than paper. And soon, it would be red. Yellow of a blinking button on the side of the screen.
The enormous room looked like an amphitheater for humming computers, and the scientists & engineers who operated them. For now, only a few remained. Weary and exhausted, those gone took whatever precious time there was to relax. Two of the ones who remained, who both wore white button-up shirts and black dress slacks, read printouts and sipped their cups of coffee.
A third engineee walked in with a coffee in one hand, and a tiny slice of chocolate cake in the other. She was a blue Ixi in a white suit, with long hair, little black horns, and thick rimmed glasses.
Hooooo-wee! Guys, are you coming to the party?
A red Kacheek with black hair spoke, but didn’t look up
from his papers:
Not now. Too early for that.
Come on y’all, they’re about to go behind the moon,
you won’t even have anything to do. And they haven’t said
anything in minutes.
The red Kacheek adjusted his own glasses, then looked up
from his work. His eyes darted around the screens on the far wall.
I suppose. You’re right. Still gonna have to pass on the
invite. I don’t really feel up for it. I can’t relax.
She shrugged and nodded:
That’s fair. I just can’t wait
to see it though.
The eclipse! Oh man, have you seen a lunar eclipse
I uh, sure, yeah.
Not like, in a book, I mean in real life!
Oh, uh… no.
There was a few seconds of silence where all three watched
the screens. The blue Ixi turned to the third neopian, a green
How about you? she asked.
How about what? he said back with a smile, his voice
The moon or the party?
Oh, the party.
Nah, they replied
I’ve uh… I’ve been up for about two
Oh goodness. Uhh, well I guess that just leaves Arastū.
The other two glanced at each other, and then back to her.
She’d scanned the whole room, but hadn’t found him.
Hey… she looked back down at the green Ogrin
heck is Arastū?
I don’t know, he said, in the most facetious
tone professionalism would allow, as he turned to look at the
…where the hell is Arastū?
Do I look like his dad to you?
You’re his manager.
Yeah, well, I don’t control what he does with his
The blue Ixi sipped her coffee and raised her eyebrows, as she realized too late that she’d brought up some sort of office conflict, and regretted it. She turned and looked back to the wall of screens, to the moon. She’d known Arastū.
I didn’t think he’d miss this for the world.
The Kacheek looked towards her.
I thought so too… but, hell, what do I know.
Someone a couple terminals over stood up slow, their chair scraped against the floor, and they started to press on the controls. The Kacheek and the Ixi looked over to him. The room was still and quiet enough that even the slightest movements or sounds were impossible to ignore. He spoke:
Florin 12, Brightvale uh, would you verify that
your radar transponder is off, over?
The question hung in the air. Silence. Four seconds. Five seconds. She felt a bit of a chill, even though the room wasn’t cold. Eight seconds. She swallowed and lowered her coffee, as she stared at the engineer, then at the control panel below him. Twelve seconds. Thirteen seconds.
…Uhh, it’s not, but I’ll get it off.
A faint crackle had broken the intimidating stillness. It
was one of the astronauts. His voice was distorted from the
great distance, but calm.
Rog’, uh, the engineer replied
We were seein’
some- b’lieve it or not, we were seein some funnies on the
uh… lander’s radar, and that was the only theory we had, that uh,
looked like it was a good one.
She exhaled; and hadn't even realized she’d held her
Why was I stressed out so suddenly, over such a simple
She took a closer look at the screens embedded in the
panel. Blobs and geometric patterns outlined themselves in the
Was it broken? And who’s the
she thought to herself.
we they’re talking about?
She saw that the engineer was wearing an earpiece with microphone. She turned her head up towards the large glass panel behind her, in the opposite wall. This room was two stories tall, and where the room ended, there was a sort of observation deck behind a picture window on the second story. It was filled with important computers and more engineers. And someone else.
There was a desert Lutari, in a beige trenchcoat and flat cap, with long blond hair and intense blue eyes. He had a severe expression, and stared at the same radar screen she had looked into earlier.
There was a moment where the button to transmit signal was held down, without a word from Micheal.
She could tell by his voice that he was busy with
something up there, in space, but nothing stressful.
The strange patterns on the radar were most likely nothing.
she reasoned. She looked back over at the Lutari. He was holding
one of those headphone-with-mic-s up to his right ear, instead of
on his head. He sighed.
That guy with the trenchcoat must have been the she thought.
we he was
His eyes darted over to her. Her breath caught in her
throat as his gaze met hers. She forced her eyes away, and stared
at the wall of screens.
He knew. she shuddered,
He knew I was looking at him..
Hey. Are you okay? The red Kacheek had noticed her
Hm? Oh! Uhm. I’m fine. Who’s that…? Who’s that up there? In the
He turned, nonchalant, and looked up.
Oh. That guy. I dunno who
he is. The guys around the office have been calling ‘em
She raised an eyebrow.
It’s short for government man. he clarified,
must work for somebody way higher up in the government. I
think. He’s been talking to a lot of important people, so I
He’s been here even before the launch. Just lookin around all
the time. Maybe he’s an inspector. Did he freak you out?
No… well, yes. But it was more than that. He just distracted
me from the other thing. Did you feel it?
That. As soon as that guy over there got out of his
chair and started talking, I just… she looked over to the
I’m not the superstitious type, ya know, but I just
got a really, really bad feeling. Like something was about to
Yeeeeesh. Don’t say that, you’re gonna freak me
She looked back to the
g-man. His gaze wasn't on
her anymore. She tried to steady her breathing.
He looked right at me. It was too quick to just be a guess.
She tried to put it out of her mind. The camera pointed at
the moon caught her eye. While she was distracted, the moon had
moved, and eclipse was going to start. Just as they were to go
around the moon. It had gone completely dark, but then… it was
beautiful. The moon glowed with the brilliant red of every sunrise
and sunset in the entire world, simultaneously. Then, an even more
saturated red outlined the moon in a thin circle.
Static. Everyone looked back to the console.
The message was garbled by noisy interference. The engineer leaned further forward as he pressed the button to speak.
Mr. O’Cullane what’s happening up there?
The room turned cold. She could feel her knees get weak.
Micheal I cannot understand you, please slow down. Can
you hear me?
…Do you read? Micheal, do you read?
Static. There was a crackle, as the public affairs officer’s scheduled voice fell from the speakers embedded in the ceiling.
This is Florin Control. We’ve had Loss Of Signal, now.
…At the present time, we show… Florin 12 in an orbit… uh with a…
h-high point of about 115 point 9 kilometers, and a low point —or,
uh pericynthion— of 101 point 7 kilometers. The spacecraft is
traveling at a speed of 1,632 meters per second. …We’ll reacquire
the spacecraft… in, uh, a little over 45 minutes… on the uh, 29th
revolution. At 131 hours, 3 minutes, this is Florin Control,