The sound was the most unexpected. He tried listening with greater intensity but to no avail. It was as if a huge thick cloth enveloped him and his spacecraft. The fan noise constantly whined away. Someone drifted by and disturbed a cord or wire that scratched lightly upon a surface. Nothing else disturbed the quiet. Even the incessant noise from CapCom had somehow become background; vital chatter that nevertheless was insubstantial and trivial to overlook.
A few years before, Jean had almost erupted with joy upon learning that he’d been selected to be in the first tranche of colonists on the Moon. In what seemed like little more than an instant, he had gone from intrepid neophyte to chastened voyager. Apparently the requirements for being a colonist were vastly different than for being an astronaut. The high flyers of old were all certifiably made of the right stuff; they could fly test planes with one hand tied behind their back, rebuild air decontamination units with a box of spare parts and comfortably travel around the world meeting dignitaries and luminaries. Jean on the other hand had a certain down-home charm that was encouraged instead of ridiculed. Even now, he fondly remembers break time at his old employers, Plumbed-Up. Some keen colleagues would take out manuals and read them front to back so that they were ready for anything. Not him. He comfortably sat back with a coffee reading the sports section and wondering if his next shift would end on time. He was capable and had routinely pulled projects out from disasters. It was either an inherent knack or he was just plain lucky but machines always seemed to do his bidding. Unfortunately, he had much less luck with people especially with the ladies. But he wasn’t concerned, he somehow knew that good things would keep coming; sometimes taking a bit longer than expected but eventually just around some bend or another life would take another pleasant turn. Anyway, he had no incentive to prove himself to anyone. Even applying to be a colonist had been more to appease his friends than for any self glorification. In any case, somehow his name had bubbled to the surface and here he was on his way to the Moon.
Xu watched Jean with a certain degree of boredom and a large amount of scepticism. His background was so different. She wasn’t sure she could live with him for any length of time let alone for months on a bare rock floating in space. Sure she wanted to be a colonist on the Moon. Yes, it was so important that she had given up on her future; there was to be no family for her. Sometimes she wondered if that empty feeling in her stomach was from everything that had been surgically removed rather than from being on a space craft heading away from Earth. But she knew better. She had butterflies every time she began something new. Whether beginning to study a new piano concerto or ascending Mount Fiji, she began with a sensation somewhere between rapturous joy and cautious trepidation. Nevertheless, the sensation brought its own comfort. With it she knew that another major step had begun in her life and would, as always, lead to comfort and reward. She took on the lotus -position, much easier in zero gravity than it had ever been on Earth. Her hands slowly caressed her thighs, inside and out. Her muscles started to unwind. She let her mind slow down, she stopped thinking of Jean, stopped thinking of anything and allowed peace to well up inside of her and spread out, to her fellow travels, to the space craft and onward with no particular destination planned.
Desai had come a long way from the slums of Lesotho. There, food was at a premium, clothes were optional, safety was never assured. He had been careful, some said wise beyond his years but the choices he had made worked out for him. Sure he wasn’t one of the elite; he still tracked every rand, he’d never lost a sock in a dryer nor had he taken to dressing ostentatiously. Actually, he could probably identify every article of clothing in his wardrobe though he didn’t expect to wear any of them every again. Secretly, he was on the way to the Moon to stay. It was an option to everyone but most of the other colonists had a backdoor plan; a place to go to should the Moon not have as pleasant living conditions as expected. He however did not. He had collapsed his frugal possessions into the smallest of containers and placed it into long term storage more as a symbol of where he’d been than to ever use again. He had taken everything else and converted them into electronic assets. His goal was to be a successful inter-world venture capitalist. He knew that once on the Moon, the view out to the lunar surface wouldn’t appease his eyes. But, he saw potential there and he had experience in the world markets on Earth. He envisioned a synergy between the two that would lead to something much greater than the sum of the parts. He glanced at his companions, all like himself relaxed and very comfortable in this new environment. Somehow every time Xu drifted off, he felt an inner peace envelope him, an assurance that the future would be alright. Not long from now they would begin their descent to the lunar base. His anticipation rose even further, much as it had done every day since he learned that he was selected. It was as if embers of a fire in his chest were being stoked ready for his future which he knew was always there waiting for him to pluck.
While the other three went about their routines or simply relaxed as Xu was doing, Valentina remained vigilant. Some said that she was too nervous; never at ease doing nothing. Perhaps they were right. Even when she was still, her mind ticked over as a Porshe waiting at the starting line. Her youth in Leningrad allowed many outlets for her energy. However she learned early that bouncing from one task to another led to nothing but discordant disarray. Fortunately an uncle had introduced her to chess. She learned to sit comfortably for hours just thinking of moves, options, permutations far past the game’s current layout. She hadn’t risen to grand master though she had given a few of them a run for their money she thought with a wry smile. Instead, she had turned inward and outward at the same time. She spent much time thinking of who she was, what purpose her life was to have, how to be a positive part of a community. Concurrently, she had entered into the community as a vibrant, vocal debutante. She learned what to say and when to say it so that she could achieve her objective. She thought of herself as a small part of a much greater whole and she wanted to do her part in making the whole a better place. She started with turning a vacant lot into a park, moved on to replacing her dilapidated lyceum with a modern structure having full modern amenities. Her latest was to develop a plan to return Pripyat to a functioning neighbourhood; maybe not today but eventually. She banked on long-term growth potential and while she knew what she wanted, she also knew that there was less and less for her on Earth. Well, she thought with a smile, there’s only one place to go and that’s up. So she’d joined the lunar base cause a while ago, at the prompting of Desai, and had learned to live and love it. As her involvement grew, she knew that space was the only option for long term survival and she was going to see it being right.
CapCom continued its incessant chatter noting equipment status and milestones attained. The four rode together in comfortable silence. Each had their private selves but also, each accepted the other with compassion and consideration. They were the first; they were going to begin a new chapter in human civilization. It shouldn’t take more than one or two Earth days before the craft landed at the base. That would be the start of their grand adventure and the start of humankind’s next big step and they looked forward to it eagerly.