Dr. Dirk Rigger stood on the deck and looked over the railing at the crashing waves below.
Dirk’s lab wasn’t a typical one. It was a series of small buildings built into a cliffside. He was standing on the deck of the outrigger module. It looked rather like a barn hanging over the water. From the bottom of the barn descended a cable with a hook on the end.
“Heave!” The foreman shouted. Several manual laborers were pulling up a large chunk of rock, excavated from the seabed below.
Dirk looked on worriedly, as the men pulled the two and a half meter specimen up and into the building. It took great effort, but the piece of rock was very important and had to be handled with care.
With a yelp, one of the workers slipped on the damp floor, lost his balance, and let go of the cable. The other workers couldn’t compensate and the boulder swung wildly to the side and crashed to the deck, splitting in two.
“Look out!” Dirk yelled, as half of the split rock rolled toward the hole in the deck. It fell right over and landed with a loud splash in the water below.
The workers rushed around the remaining half, steadying it.
Dirk ran over and looked at the newly opened rock. It contained two skeletons. He looked closer, and yes, they were definitely human skeletons. Something was off about them. Their placement, size… He wasn’t quite sure. But something was wrong. He began examining the rock itself…
No. It couldn’t be.
It was a cool fall evening in Washington D.C.. The clouds catching the waning light warmly, a beautiful wash of orange fading to purple.
“Nukes! That’s the only answer, I tell you!” Croaked a withered man in a wheelchair sitting opposite the President.
“Yes, Stephen, I know. ‘There’s no reasoning with aliens.’“ The President said, the last he droned as if he’d heard it hundreds of times before.
Because he had.
Stephen typed a command into the keyboard on his chair and a robotic arm moved a chess piece on the board between him and the President.
“I’m tellin’ ya, Big-O—“ He was interrupted by the President’s phone ringing.
“This is Potus.” The President said.
Stephen rolled his eyes. The President liked to call himself that.
“Yes, OK, put him through.” The President put the phone down and tapped a button. “Alright Dr. Rigger, you’re on speaker with myself and Dr. Hawking.”
“Oh, uh, thanks! You can call me Dr. DR.”
“Yeah, that’s not gonna happen.” Stephen Hawking said.
“Right, well, I have made a huge discovery Mr. President.” Dirk said.
“It’s aliens, isn’t it?!” Hawking 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, clearly exasperated.
“It could have been…” Hawking 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!” Hawking squawked.
The President sighed. “They’ll be no living with him now.” He said under his breath.
“I discovered two human skeletons surrounded in compacted regolith!” Dirk said, barely containing his excitement. “Do you know what this means?!”
“Uh. That’s moon rock, right?” The President said.
“*I *know what it means.” Hawking said, his brows furrowed.
POTUS looked over at him and started to get a little nervous. “What does it mean, Stephen?”
“It means… 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 wheely as he took off out of the oval office.
Potus shook his head.
“Moon mission?” He asked.
“Yes, sir. We need to know how humans — several thousand years ago — became buried in moon rock.” Dirk said.
The door crashed down as Hawking came back into the room driving what looked like a personal-sized wheelchair-tank. “It’s all terrain, baby!” He said.
“Uh, yeah. Very nice, Stephen.”
“That’s not the best part, either!” 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 changes were complete all that was visible of Stephen Hawking was his head, poking out of the top of a ten foot tall robot.
The President could only stare for a few moments.
“Alright, Stephen, you can go.” POTUS said, after the shock wore off.
“I’m no longer Stephen Hawking.” The robot’s head spoke. “Call me Hawking Prime.”
The President put his head in his hands. “God help us.”
As the space shuttle hurtled through local space, on its way to the Moon, Dirk sat in the co-pilot’s seat and listened in on the President and Stephen Hawking’s discussion. Not that he wanted to.
“Are you kidding? Jordan was the definition of clutch! That makes him the best ever.” POTUS said over the intercom.
The President wanted to keep this mission under wraps. To keep the number of those ‘in the know’ as limited as possible. So the shuttle only contained its captain, Dirk, and Hawking Prime.
“Please, you’re just saying that ‘cause 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!” Hawking said.
“Now hang on, that’s not why!||That’s not it!|| Bo played in Chicago too—“
The captain cleared his throat. “Uh, gentlemen, we’re about to leave 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 best ever.”
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 seas of light and glitter. The dark shadows cast from the harsh light look like chasms into the Moon’s very soul.” The captain was recording his post-landing log.
“Ugh! Can we go now? Or do we have to keep listening to this?” Hawking Prime was impatient to get out there. Partially because of the captain’s flair for ||campy reports|| 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 hop in the ship and come search for us.” Hawking said, ready to leave.
“Hell no. If it takes you longer than that I’m gonna lock the door a take a nap. Writing these logs really takes it out of me.” The captain said.
Hawking Prime was walking normally — if that’s the right term — several meters ahead as Dirk hopped along in the Moon’s lower gravity.
On Earth, they decided that the light side of the moon has been well explored, by telescope if nothing else, so they should start looking on the dark side.
Turns out they were right.
The moment they reached the crest of the last tall dune and looked down, they saw it.
A vast, brightly lit city. It was spread out across the bottom of a giant crater. The buildings were built in bizarre bulbous shapes. Small craft of odd design were zipping between them.
Hawking and Dirk stood there in silence, taking in the spectacle. That’s why they didn’t notice the three 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.
Hawking turned to look, surprised. “You know English?”
“Of course, do you? This is the last time I’ll ask you to identify yourselves!”
“I’m Dr. Dirk Rigger and this is Dr. Stephen Hawking.” Dirk said, stepping forward.
Hawking cleared his throat.
“I’m sorry, I mean Hawking Prime. You may call me Dr. DR, 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?” Hawking Prime asked. Slowly, the figure reached up and slid open his reflective visor so they could see his face… His very clearly surprised 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?” Hawking Prime said.
The chancellor, named Worthy Light, had 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 landing pad along with it. Stranding them on the moon.
Instead of wither and die, 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.” Hawking said, a glint in his eye.
“Ah, heh. Yes, to you I suppose it does.” Worthy Light answered.
Hawking 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?“ Dirk asked.
“That’s a good question. I’d assume you found one of our royal tombs. From our ancient history, 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 ancient history, of course. Before our Great Enlightenment.”
“You were traveling to the Moon that long ago?” Hawking 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 verses.”
“That sounds… lovely.” Hawking Prime said.
“Um. What if we want to go home?” Dirk asked. He was sure he wasn’t going to like the answer.
“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.
“No big deal, we wouldn’t want you anyway. You’re probably not even really human now. Dirty aliens!” Hawking said, muttering the last under his breath.
“Perhaps. I guess we’ll have to run some tests, won’t we?” Worthy said with a really creepy smile.
That was enough for Dirk.
“Alright Prime, let’s blow this joint. You gotta ray-gun or something in that robo-suit?” Dirk asked.
“‘Fraid not.” Hawking said. “But don’t worry about it. We’ll be safe here for now—“
Dirk took off running before Hawking was done speaking. Dirk wasn’t going to be imprisoned here, he was going home. Hawking 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. If that fool captain wasn’t napping, of course.
Dirk actually got out of the capital building and across the street before they got him. He was vaporized on the spot. The only thing remaining of Dr. DR was dust.
“You killed him!” Hawking Prime said. Dirk’s progress has been shown on a display 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.” Hawking said.
“That’s our forte.” The chancellor smiled.
Hawking Prime tapped his jaw again. “You get all that, Big-O?”
“I told you to stop calling me that.” The President said. “But yes, we got it all.”
“So you know what to do, right?” Hawking asked. “Yes.” The President paused. “The nuke is on its way.”
“It’s the only way. You know what I say about aliens—“
“Sad though, I would have liked to take a look at those libraries… 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 finishing kickin’ your ass at chess!”
The President sighed. “Of course not, that’d be too easy.”
Published on March 17, 2013