It was a brisk fall evening in Washington DC. The clouds caught the waning sunlight warmly, a beautiful wash of color fading from purple to orange.
“Nukes! That’s the only answer.” Croaked a withered man in a wheelchair sitting opposite the President of the United States.
“Yes, Steven, I know. There’s no reasoning with aliens.” The President said. The last of which he droned as if he’d heard it hundreds of times before.
Because he had.
Steven typed a command into the keyboard attached to his chair, and a robotic arm reached out, picked up one of his chess pieces, and plunked it down on the board set between them.
“I’m tellin’ ya, Big-O–” He was interrupted by the President’s phone ringing.
“This is POTUS.” The President said, picking up it.
Steven rolled his eyes. The President liked to call himself that.
“Yes, okay, put him through.” The President put the phone down and tapped a button. “Alright Dr. Rigger, you’re on speaker with myself and Dr. Falking.”
“Oh, uh, thanks! My name is Doctor Dirk Rigger. But you can call me Dr. D.R.”
“Yeah, that’s not gonna happen,” Steven Falking said.
“Right, well, I have made a huge discovery Mr. President,” Dirk said.
“It’s aliens, isn’t it?” Falking said, leaning so far forward he nearly toppled out of his chair.
“Oh, stop with the aliens! You think everything is aliens. You thought that meteor that struck Russia was an alien!” POTUS said.
“It could have been…” Falking said, a little hurt.
“I’m sorry, please continue Dr. Rigger,” POTUS said, collecting himself.
“Actually sir, there is an extraterrestrial component to my discovery…” Dirk said.
“Ah ha! I knew it!” Falking squawked.
The President sighed.
“I discovered two human skeletons surrounded by compacted regolith at the bottom of the ocean,” Dirk said, barely containing his excitement. “The fossils were carbon dated to roughly two thousand years ago. Do you know what this means, sir?”
“Uh, regolith… That’s moon rock, right?” The President said.
“I know what it means,” Falking said, his brows furrowed.
POTUS looked over at him and started to get a little nervous. “What does it mean, Steven?”
“It means, Barry… I get to go on a moon mission!” He said gleefully. “And I know just what to wear!” He spun his wheelchair around and popped a wheelie as he sped out of the oval office.
POTUS shook his head. “Moon mission?” He asked.
“Yes, sir. We need to know how humans–possibly thousands of years ago–became buried in moon rock.” Dirk said.
The door crashed down as Falking came back into the room driving what looked like a wheelchair-sized tank. “It’s all-terrain, baby!” He said.
“Uh, yeah. Very nice.”
“That’s not even the best part!” He tapped a few keys, and the wheelchair started changing form. The tank tracks twisted and folded behind him, the armrests popped out, and after the various changes were complete, all that was visible of Steven Falking was his head, poking out of the top of a ten-foot tall robot body.
The President could only stare.
“Alright Steven, you can go.” He said, after the shock wore off.
“I’m no longer Steven Falking.” The robot struck a Peter Pan pose, elbows jutting out. “Call me Falking Prime.”
The President put his head in his hands. “God help us.”
As the space shuttle hurtled towards the Moon, Dirk sat in the co-pilot’s seat and listened in on the President and Steven Falking’s discussion. Not that he wanted to.
“Are you kidding? Jordan was the definition of clutch! That makes him the Greatest Of All Time.” POTUS said over the intercom.
The President wanted to keep the number of those ‘in the know’ as limited as possible. So the shuttle only contained its captain, Dirk, and Falking Prime.
“C’mon, you’re just saying that because he played in Chicago. Bo Jackson was an All-Star in two different professional sports. Do you know how statistically improbable that is? I do!” Falking said.
“Now hang on, that’s not why. Bo played in Chicago too–”
The captain cleared her throat. “Uh, gentlemen, we’re about to leave line-of-sight communications range, you’ll probably want to wrap up your conversation.”
“Oh thank god,” Dirk said where only the captain could hear. “I don’t think I could’ve taken much more of that.”
“I know, right?” The captain said. “I mean, clearly LeBron James is the GOAT.”
Dirk just turned his head and looked into space.
“The surface is nearly blinding here on the light side of the Moon. Regolith dunes sparkling like waves in a sea of glittering diamonds. The dark shadows cast from the harsh light look like chasms into the Moon’s very soul.” The captain was recording her post-landing report.
“Ugh! Can we go now? Or do we have to keep listening to this?” Falking Prime was impatient to get out there. Partially because of the captain’s flair for purple prose, and partially to start looking for answers – or possibly to test out his robotic form, Dirk couldn’t be sure.
The captain had set them down near the border between the light and dark sides of the Moon.
“Alright, it’s safe to disembark. Don’t leave comm range. If you’re not back in an hour–”
“Yes, yes. You’ll fire up the ship and come search for us.” Falking said, ready to leave.
“Hell no. If it takes you longer than that, I’m gonna lock the door a take a nap. Recording these reports really takes it out of me.” She said.
They promptly exited the shuttle.
Falking Prime was walking normally–if that’s the right term–on the surface. He was several meters ahead of Dirk, who hopped along in the Moon’s lower gravity.
Before leaving Earth, Falking Prime decided that the light side of the moon had been well explored, by telescope if nothing else, so they should start their quest on the dark side. Turns out he was right. When he and Dirk reached the crest of the last dune on the light side, they found what they were looking for.
A vast city was spread out across the bottom of a giant crater. With buildings constructed in unusual bulbous shapes, small vehicles of odd design zipping between them.
It was quite the spectacle. It’s also why they didn’t notice the three lithe figures approaching them until it was too late.
“Identify yourselves!” The closest figure shouted, raising something weapon-like. It had a deep voice, and it sounded angry.
Dirk, surprised, turned to look at them. “You know English?”
“Of course. Do you? This is the last time I’ll ask you to identify yourselves!”
“Oh, right. I’m Dr. Dirk Rigger, and this is Dr. Steven Falking.”
“I’m sorry, I mean Falking Prime. You may call me Dr. D.R. if you like.”
“I won’t be doing that, no.” The figure replied. Dirk frowned and muttered to himself. “Dammit! Why won’t anyone call me that?”
“You two are from Earth?” The figure asked them.
“Yes, where are you from?” Falking Prime asked.
Slowly, the figure reached up and slid open his reflective visor so they could see his face; his surprised, distinctly human, face.
“I’m under orders to take you to our chancellor. I can’t answer any of your questions, I’m sorry.” He said.
“Atlantians, eh?” Falking Prime said.
The chancellor, named Worthy Light, explained all about their lunar colony. They were, in fact, humans. They were from the city-state of Atlantis before the great solar flare melted the polar ice-caps and destroyed their city and their landing pad along with it. Stranding them on the moon.
Instead of withering and dying, the lunar folk dug in and carved out a life for themselves here, at the edge of the dark side of the moon. They’ve spent the last several thousand years exploring the solar system, and keeping an eye on their Earth-bound brethren.
“So, technically speaking, that makes you aliens,” Falking said, a glint in his eye.
“Ah, well. In a way, to you, perhaps it does.” Worthy Light answered.
Falking tapped his jaw a couple of times, seemingly lost in thought. “Hmm…”
“If you’ve been isolated up here all this time, how is it we found two human skeletons buried in compacted regolith at the bottom of the Atlantic ocean?” Dirk asked.
“That’s a good question. I’d assume you found one of our royal tombs. From our ancient history, of course, when we were still earth-bound. We used to bury our royalty in ‘moon dust,’ to safeguard them on their trip to the next realm.” Worthy chuckled. “That’s primitive superstition, of course. Before our Great Enlightenment.”
“You were traveling to the Moon that long ago?” Falking asked, his curiosity getting the better of him.
Worthy smiled. “I’m thrilled that you are here. Such a noted scientist—Er, scientists.” He dipped his head toward Dirk. “We will grant you access to our great libraries so you may learn the answer to that and so much more! You will be openly welcomed here, free to join our society and help us explore the macro and micro universes.”
“That sounds… lovely.” Falking Prime said.
“Um. What if we want to go home?” Dirk asked, frowning slightly.
“I thought I was clear. This is your home now.”
“Ah. It’s like that, huh?” Dirk asked.
“Yes. You see, we’ve been keeping a close watch on you, and I’m sorry to say, humanity isn’t ready for reintegration.” Worthy said.
“We wouldn’t want you back anyway, dirty aliens!” Falking muttered the last to himself.
“What was that?” Worthy asked.
“Oh, nothing. I was just wondering if you are even actually human. Genetically speaking, of course.”
“It’s hard to say, isn’t it? I guess we’ll have to run some tests.” Worthy said with a smile that was more than a little creepy.
That was enough for Dirk.
“Alright Prime, let’s blow this joint. You gotta ray-gun or something in that robo-suit?” Dirk asked.
“Afraid not,” Falking said. “But don’t worry about it. We’ll be safe here for now–”
Dirk took off running before Falking even finished his sentence. He wasn’t going to be imprisoned here, he was going home. Falking could stay if he wanted, weirdo.
He only had to make it back to the ridge of that dune… Then he’d be in communication range of the shuttle. Hopefully, that fool captain wasn’t napping.
Dirk actually got out of the capital building and across the street before they converged on him. He was vaporized on the spot. The only thing remaining of Dr. D.R. was dust.
“You killed him!” Falking Prime said. Dirk’s progress had been shown on a display screen behind the chancellor.
“Of course. We know his type. He’d be nothing but trouble. Always trying to escape, or send a message to Earth. Makes me tired just thinking about it.”
“Very… Pragmatic.” Falking said.
“That’s our forte.” The chancellor smiled. “We’ve already ensured your space shuttle had an unfortunate accident as well. So please don’t get any funny ideas about returning to Earth.”
Falking Prime tapped his jaw again, a full mask snapped up and around his head. “You get all that, Big-O?”
“I told you to stop calling me that.” The President said via a speaker in Falking’s newly formed helmet. “But yes, we got it all.”
“So you know what to do, right?” Falking asked.
“Yes.” There was a pause. “The nuke is on its way.”
“It’s the only play. You know what I always say about aliens–”
“Sad though, I would have liked to take a look at those libraries…” Falking Prime sighed. “Oh, did I mention my suit is nuke-proof?”
“No, I just assumed it was. It’s probably atmosphere re-entry capable too.”
“Oh yeah, you know it. No way is a little nuke is gonna keep me from kickin’ your arse at chess!”
The President sighed. “Of course not, that’d be too easy.”