Apr 06, 2021
5 mins read
This is an older short story I've tidied up and added here one that I once considered turning into a novel. I think it works as is though it leaves many questions.
Oh and this is also based on a weird dream.
‘Hello sir, I trust your flight up was pleasant?’ she smiled with a cold military air that betrayed minimal respect for civilians.
His brow creased as they shook hands. ‘Yes thank you, rather uneventful. You must be Commander Simpson?’
‘I confess to not being familiar with your television work. You look nothing like I imagined.’
He grinned. ‘Ah yes, well. Not all quantum physicists wear leather jackets and carry a guitar. I wear a beard because I’m too lazy to shave and not for trendiness.’
‘I’m certainly glad about that, Doctor Byrne.’ She turned and gestured to the cold, oppressing grey tunnel behind her. It was predictably hexagonal, mimicking everything he expected about off-world military installations. ‘I know your time here on The Moon is short, so shall we?’
‘May I ask why I am here? I mean- why me, basically?’ he asked, surprised at her quick pace.
‘We have researchers from the European Union, from the USA, China, Russia, India and Brazil all with their own preferences, tastes, and people they want to get the credit – and it’s military as well as science. That’s a lot of egos to placate. May I be frank?’ she turned to look at him.
‘You are the only name put forward that all of them trusted.’ She opened the door and gestured for him to pass through.
‘Sounds as much the poisoned chalice as an honour, then.’ He chuckled.
She smiled painfully. ‘We’re not sure if you can help us but most agree that you are our first port of call.’
He nodded. ‘I will do my best. I was given no brief though?’
‘And you won’t,’ she replied curtly, ‘at least, not until after you’ve seen it. Then you’ll meet with the top people here and we’ll tell you everything we know.’
She led him to an airlock and not to a conference room as he expected. ‘We’re going outside?’
She immediately began donning a vacuum suit and instructed him to do the same. ‘It really is best that you see it immediately so we can get straight to work. I’ll fill you in on the details as we go.’
What struck him most about the surface of the moon was the lack of atmosphere, the lack of feeling anything resembling weather or elements, wind, rain; there was simply nothing – just dead stillness and cold lifelessness.
The ground beneath his feet felt impossibly dry as they followed a lit path around the side of the building and Doctor Byrne was struck by the glow of the brilliant blue diamond of Earth against the black background.
She must have heard him breathe in sharply. ‘It never stops being that awe inspiring, Doctor.’
They stopped at a square pit roughly ten metres by ten metres. At the near side was a mechanical lift with a pylon rising twenty feet above it. It had no electronics and the lift itself had safety bars around the side.
They stepped onto the lift and the Commander threw the switch that began the slow descent. ‘Computer. Call Lieutenant Commander Sørensen.’ After a few seconds, the line connected. ‘Sørensen. Yes, he’s here. We’re on our way down.’ Then she cut the line.
‘This rock,’ she gestured at the wall, ‘thousands of years old. None of it has been disturbed until now, which makes what we found at the bottom even more shocking.’
‘How far down will we go?’
Engineers had drilled lights into the rock and soil and at regular intervals, but the ambience was inadequate; he could barely see the walls.
‘About a hundred metres. We’ve dated the soil down there to something like three hundred million years old. It’s quite remarkable, really. And it makes what we found down there even more puzzling.’
He pulled his arms in close to his body; the suit worked overtime to keep him warm.
‘Sorry about that,’ she said, noticing his reaction. ‘We’ve a fully heated tent down there. Hot air rises so we can’t really expend the energy to heat the shaft. The suits are inadequate I know, and I’ve requested a few upgrades, whether I’ll ever get them is another matter.’
He peered over the edge and finally saw the roof of the tent the first time. It was lit up from the inside and only a short path linked the lift area to the tent entrance.
A few minutes later the lift came to rest. The resulting clunk seemed all the louder for the surrounding silence.
Lieutenant Commander Sørensen was there to greet them at the bottom. ‘Commander, Doctor.’ he nodded at both in turn. ‘Please follow me.’ Byrne was permitted not time for pleasantries.
The tent was a simple yet sturdy construction of thick rubber or plastic walls. There was no floor and so the dry sandy ashy feeling under foot remained as they stepped inside.
‘That’s it, right there. Go and take a look, Doctor,’ said Simpson.
It was a capsule about two metres in length, lozenge shaped with a glass front at one end. The rest of the pod was made of a milky white metal.
Byrne let his gaze drift along the length of the capsule. There was a company logo that he didn’t recognise but had all the familiar trappings of engineering corporate logos – a planet, a leaf, a vehicle, a half-built bridge.
Above the digital display were the printed words. Time in stasis:
The digital display itself had two rows.
YEARS: 750. MONTHS: 8. WEEKS: 3. DAYS: 1.
The glass section was clear enough for Byrne to see the face of a human woman.
She had blonde hair tied back in a bun and looked about 35 years old. She looked at peace, a small smile on her lips, a tiny scar just under her nose.
The most startling thing wasn’t that a cryotube was 100 metres beneath the surface of Earth’s Moon embedded in rock that was 300 million years old.
It wasn’t that the cryotube was 750 years old, dating it all the way back to a time when the Black Death ravaged Europe.
It was that the woman inside was Commander Simpson.