APOLLO 17 ONBOARD PHOTO: LUNAR SURFACE.“Fracking Yankees,” Merrick muttered under his breath. Jonsh had seen him mad before, but never like this. He was seething; Jonsh could almost see the smoke coming out of his ears.

“Yankees?” Jonsh asked, picking up the bins Merrik had scattered and placing them back on the desk. It would take him most of the afternoon to re-sort the contents.

“Yankees, Bolsheviks, Jacobins, Roundheads… they think because they’ve got stars on thars that they’re special.”

Jonsh pulled his lab coat closed. His own badge sported a star. The star that showed his support of the administration, the star that granted him access to certain rights and privileges available only to those who declared themselves aligned with certain ideals.

Jonsh had been chastised more than once for forgetting to wear his badge over his lab coat instead of under it, but today he was glad for the mistake. He’d never taken his boss for a Sneetch, but apparently he was. That surprised him, since the old man had been with the company since the early days.

“This may not be the United Fracking States of America, but I’m still an American citizen just like everybody else in the company, and I’ve got rights,” Merrick ranted.

Jonsh buttoned his lab coat up to his neck and started picking up the contents of the bins while Merrick gazed out at the hardscrabble lunar surface, stroking his beard and thinking. Or plotting…

“Well, we’ll just have to do it the hard way. Come on,” Merrick called to Jonsh and headed for the clean room where their surface suits were stored.

Jonsh set down the items he was sorting, and tiptoed into the clean room. Merrick had shed his lab coat, and was pulling on his surface suit. “Fracking corporate groupies, we should herd them all out the nearest airlock…” the old man was muttering.

Jonsh looked at the airlock. He could feel his badge under his lab coat, a tell-tale heart that glowed through the thin white fabric.

“Uh… I forgot something. I’ll be right back.”

Jonsh ran all the way to HR. A nice young woman, seeing his distress, beckoned him into her office. Jonsh glanced at her ID badge, proudly displaying not just one, but two stars.

He had no idea what that meant.

“I need a transfer,” he said, handing her his badge. His mind raced, deliberating how much of the truth he wanted to tell. Only last month, one of Merrick’s friends had received notice that he was being transferred, but after he was gone there was no word from him at all. It was like he ceased to exist.

“M…m…m….my mother needs me closer to home… she’s ill.”

At least that was partially true. His mother certainly did have some health issues, it just wasn’t anything major.

The woman furrowed her brow and cooed “Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that.” She keyed something on her screen, and her eyebrows danced up, and then down again, in a series of emotions he could not interpret. “Mr. Clark, it says here that you haven’t reached your MSF yet…”

Jonsh craned his neck to see her screen. “MSF?”

“Minimum Service Fulfillment. It’s expensive to bring employees to the moon, and the company generously paid all your expenses to bring you here. Of course, you can pay your own way back…”

She opened a window on her screen that showed a monetary figure he’d never be able to save up even if he squirreled away every penny for a year. “Umm… I would still work for the company, Earth-side. Can’t they make an exception for a family emergency? Or just, maybe increase my MSF?”

“Oh, we certainly can increase your MSF if there’s a family emergency.” She handed him a slip of paper with a number on it. “Just fill out form 3728 and file it with my office. We’ll take care of you!”

She was beaming with helpfulness as Jonsh stood and thanked her. As soon as he was out of sight, he dropped his badge in the nearest garbage chute. Next, he went to security, reported his badge lost, and asked for a new one.

Without a star.

This was written for the Write on Edge prompt for Dr. Seuss. I’m glad they opened it up to anything Seussical, because the Sneetches have always been a favorite of my husband. If you haven’t read the story of Sneetches with stars on their bellies, I highly recommend it.

This is about 100 over the word limit of 500. This time, I’m simply crying Mea Culpa and leaving it at that.

I also apologize to those fans who have expressed that they are getting tired of my moon theme. Unfortunately, I am OCD (stress the O, not the C) and my brain is currently stranded on the moon.

Although this is not directly related to any of my other stories, it could fit as a prequel to my other moon stories.