"I have seen the future, and it was dark. But then I took off my shades."
This was a quotation from the famous Martin Fated, in 1999 on the last day of the millennium. Noted for his sense of humour, this quotation was taken as meaning that the future would be good, unless viewed through closed eyes. His prediction was correct and the people of Earth entered a glorious boom period, in which everybody prospered. True to form, Martin's prophecy came true, and the only ones who didn't share in this widespread fortune were the big religions. This is because they decided that the Earth was impure, and that God would not want His disciples to live there. So they collected enough money between them to make use of the newly invented terraforming technology which they used to set up a self-sufficient and -governed base on the moon. They called it the United Religions Nation, or URN. Life was tough, and they just managed to survive for the first few years with help from Earth until the Lunar workshops, hydroponics and other necessities were built in the year 2030 AD or 5 years 'After Lunar.'
Mick was walking calmly along the pavement, trying not to breathe in too much of the awful smog that passed for air next to main roads, like this one. Cars zoomed up and down this road constantly, pumping out more and more petrol fumes. He was glad that the pollution laws passed back in '98 were now fully in effect, and despite smelling just as bad as always, the fumes were now completely clean and no longer polluted the atmosphere. He was approaching a tunnel on his way, and joined the queue that was already building at this time in the morning. The queue rapidly disappeared before him, and he was at the head, even more people joining the long, multicoloured snake that wove down the street. He pushed his card into the slot, and out chunked a package into the receptacle. He grabbed his card and the package and made his way toward the tunnel. Ripping open the plastic covering which he stuck in the garbage dispenser, he uncovered a face-mask. He pulled it across his face as he walked into the entrance of the tunnel, connecting the poppers that held it in place. Nobody was stupid enough to walk through a mile long, smog filled tunnel without a breathing aid. As he inhaled through the fabric mesh that made up the mask, he tasted clean air, and thanked whoever had the brilliant idea of mask dispensers. Walking along, he looked at some of the other people. Some were reading the newspaper as they walked; some were chatting to their friends, voices muffled slightly behind their masks. There must be thousands of people here, Mick thought to himself. After a while, everyone started forming into rudimentary lines in front of twenty openings in the large metal wall in front of them. As Mick walked through, following somebody else who, like him, had only his thoughts to keep him company. He stepped onto the moving walkway, and was pulled steadily along the tunnel, making much better time than if he had taken the car. The light suddenly brightened, and Mick was suddenly outside again. He walked to another mask dispenser, similar to the first, and dropped his mask into the chute which whisked it away, ready for the next customer. A few people had kept their masks, prepared for another tunnel between them and their destination. Mick had only a few hundred metres to go, and he quickly strode his way forward, looking up at the signs, watching for the one which meant he would be on his way up.
The clerk sat patiently, waiting as he always did, for the next customer. The room he was sitting in was dark, but only in comparison to the bright skies outside. The walls were some kind of dark wood, very expensive and quite rare nowadays. Money was evident everywhere in this building, from the black ebony of his desk and chair, to the opulent wealth of the deep, shag-pile carpet and incredibly soft leather armchairs, all designed to make the rich executive feel right at home. As for the clerk, he was happy enough waiting for the next customer.
A man entered, pushing through the swing door. He looked around, getting used to the darkness of the inside. Walking toward the clerk, he started rummaging inside his jacket and removed a piece of paper. "I would like a place on your next flight, please. I have my papers.", he said as he offered them to the clerk. "Name?" intoned the clerk, in his deep baritone voice. "Ah. My name is Mick, Mick Pearl. I should be on the booking list.". The clerk ran his finger down the list, until he stopped, ran his finger across the list, and then punched the resultant number into the computer. "Papers, please." Mick handed them over. The clerk checked the details against the computer's records. "Okay," he said, "that way." Mick followed the pointing finger toward one of the many doorways leading off.
Mick entered the new room, which was bright compared to the reception. Bright white, the place had the feeling of hygiene, like a hospital. This feeling was soon confirmed as a doctor emerged from behind a screen, carrying a clipboard with some pieces of paper that the doctor was currently reading. He looked up. "Mick, isn't it? Yes, of course it is. Welcome to Space Explorers, and I hope you have a happy trip. If you would like to sit down here?" Mick thanked the doctor and sat in the proffered seat. "Now, do you have any illnesses, diseases or other medical problems that might affect your stay with us? No? Good. I would just like to take a blood sample, and you can go on into the waiting lounge." Mick put out his arm, rolled up his sleeve, looked the other way and scrunched up his face, waiting for the sharp prick that accompanied needles.
He walked forward, rubbing his arm where a new plaster now covered the dull pain of his recent experience. This was a big room, with a resemblance to an airport lounge. He walked to the bar and ordered a beer, then sat on the bar stool and waited for the announcement. Next to him was another traveller, sipping a Coke. He smiled, thinking he would rather talk to a stranger than sit alone bored. The man smiled back, and said "Hi. My name's Ben. What's yours?"
"I'm Mick. You on your way up?"
"Yep. It'll be my second time. This time I'm staying though. How about you?"
"Only my first, but I'm intending to stay anyway. I'll just see how it goes."
"Sure. I'm.." The tannoy suddenly came on, interrupting him. "Can all passengers for flight 256 please make their way to the departure lounge and follow the representative."
"That's us. Lets go."
Mick handed over his latest set of papers to the checker and then boarded the shuttle. He could feel a light tenseness in the air, as all the first timers started getting more nervous by the second. Mick felt the same but was determined not to give it away. He sat down in his seat, soon followed by a young couple and someone who looked like a businessman. After ten minutes, everybody was on board, and the captain announced another ten minute wait while some last minute checks were carried out. The young couple were obviously engrossed with each other, and the businessman had a copy of the financial times to read, so Mick tried to find something to do. After a few false starts, he managed to get the freezing cold air blast switched off, and the TV switched on. He flicked through the channels, stopping at the news channel. There were reports of some war, somewhere on the planet, between some nations. Who cared? thought Mick. He flicked it onto the entertainment channel, and got comfortable to watch the latest episode of Red Dwarf. The familiar titles of the show scrolled up, and he relaxed, ready for the flight.
When Mick awoke, he started, wondering where he was. Then, calming down he remembered. He did wonder what had woken him, as it was totally silent, and the people next to him were sitting still, almost rigid. Then a voice from the front shouted "This vessel has now been taken as a message to the capitalist pigs who inhabit the Earth, and deserve to be boiled alive! We are the Fascist Dictator League and you are now our political prisoners. Do not leave your seats, or you will be shot. That is all."
Mick sat rigidly while the man spoke, then turned to the man next to him and asked what had happened while he was asleep. He explained that two of the passengers had hi-jacked the ship, and were holding them to ransom. Mick peeked over the top of the seat and saw one man standing at the front of the ship, the other presumably in the cockpit. He held what looked like an Uzi, although it looked badly made. Mick knew that he had a pistol in his jacket, which was standard issue to marine officers. He could easily blow away the terrorist, but could he do it without arousing the other mans suspicion, and what is more important, could he do it without holing the ship? He made a text-only connection to his home base, making sure the sound was off. He typed a message for them to send the technical specifications of the ship to him, and a map of the ship sprang up onto the screen, along with about ten questions. He ignored the questions, concentrating on the diagrams. The ship's hull was built from a titanium-steel alloy, and should be able to withstand a hit from a bullet, but only if it hit something first. Mick intended to make the terrorist that thing. He cleared the screen, cut the connection and waited a few minutes. He reached into his jacket, into the secret inside pocket he had put in specially, and removed the pistol. He placed it on his lap, and checked the magazine. Full. Very slowly, he replaced the magazine and pulled back the barrel, cocking it. The man next to him saw the gun and gasped, staring at the weapon. Mick quickly hid it underneath him, then whispered "Shut up and look somewhere else, stupid! Do you want him to know I've got a gun?" to him. The man shook his head and stared fixedly up at the ceiling. Mick checked on the terrorist again, making sure he hadn't heard. He was still standing at the door to the cockpit. After one last look, he reached underneath him and retrieved the gun. He checked that a bullet was in the chamber, then positioned himself where he had a good view of the man. He brought up the gun, keeping a steady eye on the terrorist, knowing he only had seconds to do this. As the man turned to face the other direction, Mick quickly brought the gun into position, aimed and pulled smoothly back on the trigger. A split second later, the terrorist's head exploded, splattering brain and skull all over the cabin. Mick stood up and ran to the aisle, hoping he got there before the terrorist reached the cockpit door. He knelt down, steadying his arm on his knee as he had done so many times at academy, telling himself that's all this was, an exercise. The door opened and Mick had almost pulled the trigger before he saw the uniform of a pilot. He eased off the trigger, and waited a moment. 'That was a bit close.' Mick thought. He pointed at the pilot, getting his attention. He then showed three fingers, and then pointed again at the pilot, then the floor. He then raised three fingers again, lowered one, then the next finger, and finally the third finger. As he dropped the third finger, the pilot dropped to the floor, and framed in the doorway was a man in a balaclava. 'That's good enough for me' thought Mick, and swiftly pulled the trigger twice, leaving the terrorist's guts splashed all over the cabin floor. Then the body, minus a hole about a foot in diameter, dropped to the floor. He quickly ran to the pilot, checking he was okay, then ran into the cockpit. The co-pilot was tied to his chair, so Mick cut the ropes, and the co-pilot hurriedly regained control of the ship before it re-entered the atmosphere. He gave a hurried thanks, then got on with his job. Mick went back to the cock-pit and made sure the pilot was comfortable. He was fine, although in a little shock. By the time Mick went back into the cabin everybody was standing up and milling around. As Mick walked through the door, a great cheer went up as the people recognised their saviour, the man who had saved all their lives. He gave a mock bow then returned to his seat, red-faced with embarrassment. After everybody had sat back down and things returned to normal, the man sitting next to Mick put down his paper, then leaned over to Mick. "I couldn't help but notice that bit of action just now. I would like to make you an offer."
"Carry on." Said Mick.
"I work for the lunar government, and I happen to know there is a certain vacancy there. What do you think?"
"Well, I always thought the moon was a religious place and didn't have a government, so what government are you talking about?"
"Government is just a useful word to describe the ruling body there, it's all perfectly above board and okay. So what do you think?"
"Well tell me what kind of work it is, where to contact you and I'll think about it."
"Sure. The job is security chief, which was recently made vacant when something... befell the last one. Here's my card." He handed Mick a business card, then got on with reading his paper.
Some time later, the shuttle docked at the moon-base. Walking down the gangway, Mick noticed a pack of reporters outside the shuttle. This wasn't exactly what he needed right now, so he walked over to a stewardess. "Excuse me," He said, "But I don't really want my photo splashed all over the papers as the man who shot two terrorists, and I was just wondering if I could leave by a different exit?". The stewardess looked up at him, then recognising him, she nodded and told him to follow her. They walked up to the cockpit, where the pilots were leaving by their own personal exit, and so Mick found himself following them wearing a pilot's uniform. Nobody seemed to notice, and when they reached the hangar waiting room, Mick thanked the pilots, took off the uniform, and went on his way.
After retrieving his luggage, Mick decided he was feeling a bit tired after all the excitement, and wandered around the city until he found a hotel. Checking in, he went up to his room and then, after a shower and a meal, went to bed. Next morning, Mick felt much more refreshed, and decided to phone the man he had spoken to on the shuttle. Fishing out the business card from his jacket pocket, he dialled then waited for the phone to be picked up. Checking the card, he found the man's name was Mr. P. York. The phone was picked up after a few rings, and a woman at the other end said "Hello. Lunar government appointments, can I help you please?". Mick replied, saying "Hello, I would like to speak to Mr. York please.". "Just connecting now, sir." was the reply, shortly followed by "Peter York here. Hello?". "Ah hello, I don't know whether you remember, I'm Mick Pearl from the plane yesterday. You gave me your card." "Yes of course. About the job yes? Well, if you'd like to come along to the address on the card sometime, maybe this afternoon, I'm sure we can arrange something." "Ok, I'll be there later today. Good-bye." Shortly after this conversation, Mick was heading towards the government buildings shown on the card. It was a large building, although nothing compared to some of the skyscrapers back on earth. Walking through the doors, Mick was reminded of some of the governmental buildings from his home city. He took in the large doors, the livery of the clerks and other staff, and because of his military training, also the uniformed police near the doorway and spread innocuously around. Glancing around, he found the desk. There were six receptionists working there, with a sign above each. Mick scanned quickly across the signs, and found the one reading 'T - Z'. Walking forwards, Mick joined the queue.
After waiting about 15 minutes, the queue worked its way through, and Mick reached the front. Behind the desk was a smartly dressed young woman.
She said "Hello. How can I help you?"
Mick replied "I was asked to come here by Mr. York."
"Which Mr. York? We have several here sir." said the receptionist.
"Mr. P. York, I have his card here" Mick said, showing her the business card he was given on the plane.
"Right then," she said "If you go to that elevator there and Mr. York is on the twentieth floor, room 1."
"Thank you." Mick replied, and then walked over to the elevator. Entering it, he looked at the controls. He found floor twenty easily enough, it was the top floor. Pressing the button, Mick relaxed and waited for the lift to reach the top. About ten seconds later the doors chunked open, and Mick walked out. Or at least tried to. There was no corridor, simply a door with the number 1 emblazoned on it. He knocked on the door and was soon greeted by a response from within. Mick opened the door and walked through, closing the door behind him. This gave him a chance to look around the room. The entire room was decorated with wood. Wood of all kinds built up the majority of the room, with the occasional bit of plastic or metal where wood was unusable. There were also a large number of plants here, filling up odd little corners in the room, and gave the room a strange, crowded feel. It was quite obvious that Mr. York missed some of the things that Earth had to offer, and so brought some with him. Wood was sure rare here, no trees having had time to grow here enough to be used, and so all the wood here had been flown up at great expense to furnish this room. Turning to the desk (mahogany) near the back of the room, Mick had his first view of real power. For on the front of the desk, sitting neatly between a pot-plant and an old, well-thumbed Bible, was a name-plate. It said "Mr. P. York" in big letters at the top, and underneath, in slightly smaller letters as if to say the job wasn't really as important as him, it said "Director General of the Lunar Colony"
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