His last thought before finding himself flying off the ground was “There really shouldn’t be bombs on the moon.”
His next thoughts were a mass of confusion, as he felt and heard the unmistakable splash of a fall into water.
There is no open water anywhere on Luna! What happened? Did that damn bomb blast me all the way back to Earth?
Fortunately, buoyancy brought him back to the surface. But there he lay, stunned by the blast and the mental confusion of finding himself floating, not in the emptiness of space, but in a lake. Looking up at stars he did not recognize.
Something grabbed him by the arm, and he felt himself being towed.
At least someone on my team is here with me…
Water droplets on his visor blurred his vision, but when he felt himself scrape the sandy lake bottom he gave whoever his savior was a thumbs-up and got to his feet.
Everything seemed functional, and his readouts told him his environment was of the appropriate pressure and combination of gasses for him to breathe easily. If anything, it had a bit too much oxygen.
He removed his helmet, then got a good look at his rescuer. The man was young, probably little more than a teenager. His stance said he was ready to defend himself if necessary, but he was not actually afraid. The young man was shirtless, dripping wet in tight trousers that looked like they might be made of real leather. His body was lean and hard, even more so than your average soldier. He didn’t look like he worked out; he looked like he led a hard life.
“Where am I?” he asked. Something told him that stating his name, rank, and serial number would be pointless.
The young man cocked his head sideways, then glanced around. “I haven’t figured that out yet.”
They looked at each other for a long moment.
“I’m Galen.” the young man said, and extended his hand.
“Moose.” His nickname was probably easier for the young man to pronounce than the more formal “Sergeant Ulyssees Umbra.” Galen had an accent he couldn’t quite place. He could understand him well enough, but the words sounded…strange.
“Did you fall from the stars?”
“Did I fall fr….” Moose shook his head, looking up, but finding no moon in sight. The stars were many and bright, far more than could be seen from the light-polluted skies of either Earth or Luna. He looked around him in all directions. It was dark, and all he could make out were trees, the lake, and his rescuer who was warming himself by a small fire. “Nope. I fell from the Moon.”
Galen looked up at the stars, a studious look on his face. “I see no moon tonight.”
Moose sighed, wondering if he was dreaming, floating unconscious through the void of space, his air supply becoming more and more poisoned by carbon dioxide with every breath. If this was a dying dream, it should at least be a beautiful woman rescuing him.
He felt cheated.
A wave of mirth bubbled up from his toes and he laughed out loud. “Galen, I do not know where we are, or what we’re doing here. All I know is, a few minutes ago I was looking for a bomb that some idiot had buried out on the lunar surface, trying to claim that the peak was holy ground and anyone who set foot there would regret the trespass. I must have found the thing, because the next thing I knew, I was flying head over heels away from the surface.”
“What is a bomb?”
“A bomb… you know… explosives.” He could see from Galen’s face that the man did not understand. “It goes boom.”
“It is a weapon?”
“Yeah. A nasty one, meant to hurt anyone who comes near it, whether they are a soldier or a wandering goat.”
“You are a soldier?” Galen looked suddenly cautious.
“Yeah. I’m a Sergeant in the Naval Corps of Orbital Defense.”
Moose shook his head, not in disagreement, but in disbelief. Where was he?
“Are you loyal to Rome?”
“To Rome? I visited Rome when I was stationed in Italy, but… loyal? You mean like Catholic?”
“What is a Catholic?”
They stopped talking. Both men stood their ground, staring in turn at each other, the lake, the stars, and the fire.
There were no answers.
Galen broke the silence. “I was seized by the henchmen of a boy who claimed to be King of the Valemen.”
“Never heard of them.”
“Neither had I. But they put a bag over my head and a rope around my neck. They claimed I was a traitor to the crown, and hung me.”
“They… you’ve got to be kidding….”
“But the rope broke. I ran, and found myself here.”
Moose regarded his new friend for a long moment. “Are you sure the rope broke?”
Galen did not answer. He looked off to the woods, then out across the lake, which was reflecting the starlight.
“I saw a town, that way.” Galen said, gesturing along the shoreline. “Perhaps we can find answers there in the morning.”
Moose sat down carefully, not too close to the fire. They didn’t speak. Moose tried his communicator several times, but the best he could get was some static.
The moon never rose, but their eyes adjusted to the dimming of the fire and the brightness of the stars. There was not one single recognizable constellation in the entire sky.
Galen fidgeted. “Do you get the feeling we’re late for something?”
Moose glanced up sharply. He’d had the exact same feeling, but he couldn’t put a label on the feeling until Galen spoke it out loud.
“Yes.” he answered. “I just have no idea for what.”
What Would Have Been
- Chapter One: Epitaph for a King
- Chapter Two: Nyota
- Deleted Scene from Chapter Three: Flavor
- Chapter Three: Trianon
- Chapter Four: Hamlet
- Chapter Five: The Miller’s House
- Chapter Six: The Bell Tolls for Thee
- Chapter Seven: Galen
- Interview With Ulysees “Moose” Umbra
- Chapter Eight: Moose
- Chapter Nine: Found
- Chapter Ten:
What Would Have Been is a short story (or novella… who knows?) that I am publishing one chapter at a time… as I write it. It’s a fun exercise for me, and hopefully a bit of entertaining reading for you!
This story is dedicated to the Janes. The real ones and the fictional, the ones who survived, and the ones who didn’t. For all of you.
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