The Last Man on the Moon
Ziggy waited. Earthrise would be in a few minutes. Canaveral X would lift off 15 minutes later. The dust would plume around Ziggy's gravboots after the sonic wave pierced the moon to its heart and rebounded to the base of the pulse rocket. And that would be it. Alone until Canaverals I-IX returned from the other side of the Plutinos. If they ever did.
Canaveral I left in the year 2615 C.E. The year of Syzygy Judit Resnik 's Birth. The year of the Great Trial. II left a year later, the Trial had finished and the sentence was passed down. III had moon-bounced in 2618. The appeal had been denied. Three years passed, IV had begun its journey and the family began to call her Ziggy. When she reached her 12th birthday, she witnessed her first moon-bounce; Canaveral V left. The ships left, at increasing intervals, but still they left. X was about to go and Ziggy was 231 years old.
She figured she might see IV return home. Before her T-limit. People lived until they were 300 as a matter of course - and then they died. The En-gene-eers had announced that it just happened. One day you woke up with no telomeres and later you just perished of cell stagnation. Or you went to the Elysium on your 300th. Where the En-gene-eers used your corpse to look for clues in the case of the disappearing nucleotides. That was on Earth, of course, or so people said. Ziggy had been born on the moon. Unplanned, unexpected and unlawful. The Lunar council had sentenced her; not her father, nor her mother, who had left on Canaverals V and VI respectively.
'You will be fine, Ziggy,' her mother had said, when she'd told her of the sentence on her 6th birthday.
'Will I, Mom? Will I really?' Ziggy's mom had sniffed and given her a rare printed biography of Eugene Cernan.
'You'll be famous too, Sweetie.'
It was time for the moon-bounce. Ziggy listened to the countdown over the light-com. The Ship-Leader's voice sounded metallic inside the helmet. The pulse-wave went down. It felt like a mild electric shock to the soles of the feet. The re-bounce was something else. X would be the last pulse-wave launch. Ziggy had worked on the investigation: the moon's orbit had changed. It was in decay. This was the biggest secret on the moon. The decay was infinitesimal, but it was there. By the time they noticed on Earth - well that wasn't Ziggy's problem. Besides, movement from Earth to Moon had been banned after the lunar flu of two centuries previous. Holidaymakers returning Earthside had died quickly, but not before causing a pandemic. Like the North Americans of the early part of the millennium, the Earthbound just decided it was too dangerous to travel. Canaveral X's ship-leader, Laurie, had come to see her only the day before,
'One of these things will get back.' Laurie looked up at the ship. 'Why do we still make them so pointy?'
'Men still design them.' Ziggy smiled at him. 'Yours won't... get back I mean.' '
Of course not. Maybe III or IV.'
She shrugged. 'I'll be here, wherever here ends up being. At least until T-Limit.'
'Is it true? About I and II?'
Laurie said. 'What difference does it make?'
'Nothing but automated signals for six years from either. Human transmissions stopped within months of each other, but that doesn't mean anything.'
Laurie Vigger scowled. 'It doesn't make a difference. We have to go. '
'But you don't have to come back.' The Ship-Leader turned to go. Ziggy put up her hand, but he didn't notice and just left for the launch site. There was a lot to do.
The re-bounce almost knocked Ziggy over, but she gripped the rail around the viewing site. X was there and then gone, almost too fast to see. Just the after image like the ghost-on-the-blackboard trick she'd been shown as a child. She waved anyway. Then she rubbed the swell of her stomach and thought about her unborn son, the last man on the moon.