Jason Fields sat in the Common Area of Lunar Base Five (LB5) sipping his coffee. He got there early enough to get a table by one of the windows. He liked looking out at the rest of the base and the wild and empty Moonscape beyond. He was pleased that the construction of Dome Three was progressing ahead of schedule, and could remember being one of the young men in a spacesuit building the first habitat for humans on the Moon. 2018 was great time to be alive.
Later, he planned to phone his son’s family back on Earth. His eight-year-old Grandson Billy gave a report in class yesterday about the Moon Base Program using some of Jason’s personal experiences and he was anxious to see how it went.
As one of the original engineers on Lunar Base One back in the 1980s, his contribution earned him permanent residency on the Moon in the colony of his choice. Taking another sip of coffee, he mused how he never thought he’d actually retire up here. He probably wouldn’t have if Cindy were still alive, poor soul, but cancer took her far to early in life.
“Hey, Jase.” He looked up at the man joining him at his table.
“Lou. What’s a big shot like you doing up so early?” Lou Johnson was the administrator of LB5 and twenty years Jason’s junior, the epitome of the next generation Lunar colonist.
The African-American man sat down with his own cup of synthesized coffee and plate of soy-based eggs and bacon. “No rest for the weary. We have some dignitaries from Washington D.C. and Moscow coming in on the morning shuttle and I have to be at the spaceport to greet them. Do the whole guided tour thing. You eaten breakfast yet?”
“Nah. I like to wake up a bit at a time.”
“You never got used to the taste of soy, did you?”
“Are you kidding? I designed the hydroponics bays where we grow most of our food now. Cuts our reliance of Earth and makes food a lot less expensive.”
“I hear that, but you still miss eggs from chickens.”
“Yeah. Guess I’m just an old-fashioned boy.”
“You have heard about the cloning project. Estimates are that in five years, we’ll be hosting our own underground farms. McDonald’s Homestead One is just now finished west of here. They’ll be laying out the fertilized soil over the gravity plating soon and then rigging up the power network for the solar lights.”
“I’m sixty-three years old, Lou. Five years is a long time to wait for a good, old American breakfast. You young guys and gals were practically raised on Soy products.”
Lou looked out in the direction of the spaceship bays. “Oh damn. Here comes the shuttle now.”
“Sure makes an impressive sight. No matter how many times I see it, watching a rocket landing on the Moon still takes my breath away.”
The ship was a large globe with four main engine thrusters slowing the descent. The landing pads were extending while the spaceport bay doors opened to admit the trans-lunar craft.
“Yeah, well I’m late. Here, you can have my breakfast.” Lou slid the plate in front of Jason and then tossed the last of his coffee down his throat. “Gotta run.”
“Good luck with the Bigwigs, Lou.”
“Thanks. I’ll need it.” The big man who had been born in Detroit but grew up on the Moon hurriedly dashed out of the common area heading for the transit car tubes.
Jase looked back out the window again remembering how difficult things had been in the 1960s and early 70s, all those riots, racial tension, the Vietnam War. He grew up in a world that could only dream of peace while conflict and disorder dominated the newspaper headlines and evening TV reports.
Then America won the space race and landed a man on the Moon. He had still been in high school when Neil Armstrong first put his foot down on the Lunar soil and uttered those fateful words, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
After that, everything began to change. The Apollo program’s outstanding success and the discovery of abundant sources of ice water and metals on the Moon paved the way for Congress to pass the Lunar Colonization Act. Funding for the big, double-wheeled space station was also approved and now it was the multi-national orbiting platform for transit to and from the Moon and aptly named “Unity Alpha.”
The Soviet Union fell in the late 1980s followed by Red China and the other Communist nations. The U.S. and European Confederation used the opportunity to assist their failing economies, making trade and peace treaties that allowed all of the former Socialist nations to reap the benefits of capitalism.
The Russians, Chinese, and Koreans each had their own Lunar outposts, most on the near-side of the Moon, but they were at least ten years behind American guts, know-how, and ingenuity.
He looked around. The Common Area was starting to fill up with people having breakfast before reporting to their work shifts. Jase took a deep breath and let out a satisfied sigh. There were men and women from every nation and culture on Earth. The dream of equality and cooperation spearheaded by the Civil Rights movement of the 60s and 70s had become a reality. The Governor of LB5 was an African-American man. The second-in-command was a Chinese-American woman. The people gathering at the tables nearby were the living realization of Martin Luther King Jr’s dream. Everyone celebrated the wonder of their identity and heritage, while quality of character, positive work ethic, and pride of accomplishment had become the standards by which each person lived.
Back on Earth, nuclear fusion had been made practical, which provided both worlds with cheap, inexhaustible power. Finishing his coffee and starting in on Lou’s now lukewarm breakfast, he chuckled remembering how his son’s last email included a photo of his first skycar. It didn’t look like anything what George Jetson had owned in those old cartoons, but now the developed nations could fly to work instead of taking land cars.
Human-shaped service robots were an experiment and being trialed here at LB5. They weren’t anywhere as smart as Isaac Asimov’s fictional creations, but in time and with further innovations in Artificial Intelligence, they’d take the place of people in performing both the most mundane and dangerous tasks.
“Yes, Thank you.”
The machine reached out with the metal fingers of each hand grasping the recyclable plate and cup with mechanical efficiency. "Thank-You-For-Using-Common-Area-Food-Services. Have-A-Nice-Day."
The robot with the designation plate “LB5-CA02” whirred in response, turned, and clattered away.
Space Stations, Moon Bases, Robots, Hydroponics, Fusion Power, Flying Cars, everything he was told the future would bring when he was thirteen years old had actually come true. Well, no one predicted the internet, but that was just about the only surprise, although an extremely important one.
He hoped to live long enough to watch the first NASA astronauts step foot on Mars. Construction on the Ares One in Earth orbit had just been completed and the ten-person international team of space explorers was scheduled to begin their historic journey three years from now.
It was a great time to be alive.
Jason Fields woke up alone in bed and reached to the other side of the mattress with his left hand. For a moment, he expected to feel Cindy’s softness and warmth, but then he remembered she died of cancer last year.
63 years old and he still couldn’t afford to retire. Worse, he’d been laid off his long-term job last year and had to take a position at a small startup making $20,000 a year less. He hoped he’d live long enough to be able to retire on a modest income and enjoy what little was left of his life.
Jase got up and used the bathroom. Still half-an-hour until his alarm was set to go off but he couldn’t go back to sleep now. He turned off the alarm, pulled on his robe, and padded into the kitchen to start the coffee.
Looking out the window into the backyard, he saw it had rained sometime in the night. He gazed up at the dark sky to the west. The full moon was just starting to set across the rooftops of the tract homes in his neighborhood.
The moon. He’d had a dream about the Moon.
Taking a cup of coffee with him, he sat down at his PC in his home office and started surfing the web. The news was all bad. More racial riots in Milwaukee, Chicago, and Detroit. The drought was starting its fifth year in California. Over half of their forests had died and there were still three major unconstrained fires burning across the state.
The U.S. and North Korea were continuing their war of belligerence, each threatening to annihilate the other with their nuclear arsenals while the Iranians were building their own nuclear weapons and missile systems thanks to ransom money paid to them by the previous American administration.
The year’s fifth mass shooting at a school happened last month and was generating massive anti-gun protests. Congress was being severely pressured by powerful political action and special interests groups to repeal the Second Amendment. Feminists organizations were continuing their third straight week of protests in at least ten major American cities demanding free government subsidies for abortion on demand, free birth control, STEM programs for girls in elementary schools, all while wearing their official female genital costumes. Some of the children dressed up like vaginas at these rallies were as young as four and at least half of them were boys. What were their mothers thinking?
What had happened to the world he’d grown up in? Sure, it never was a perfect nation, sometimes far from it, but up to a point it had been starting to get better. Then American politicians kept playing politics rather than reaching for the future, and the news and social media pundits all dived in to force the ideals of East and West Coast elitists on the majority of citizens. Instead of hope, prosperity, and equality, America was a nation radically divided, perhaps more so than at any point in the last two centuries.
Jason figured he’d live ten, twenty, maybe thirty years longer and his heart ached at the thought of witnessing just how much worse the world was going to get. However, he nearly cried for his children and especially his grandchildren who would grow up in a culture that said they were racist, sexist, and obsolete just because of the color of their skin. It was a world where strength, innovation, and courage were being replaced by the “Beta Male,” and the next generation of leaders would be selected for their position in “identity politics” rather than shooting for the best of what we could be as a nation.
It was a terrible time to be alive. How could the country go on without true heroes like the astronauts of his youth and of his dreams?
He looked at the clock again. Better toss down a little yogurt so he’d have something on his stomach when he went to the gym. Today, he’d see if he could beat his own personal best and do a 300 pound deadlift. He was going to be 64 years old this summer but even those the future looked grim, he was nowhere near ready to lie down and play dead.
I wrote this for Tale Weaver – #163 – Aging – 15th March writing challenge hosted at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie. The challenge is to write a poem, short story, or other creative piece on the topic of aging, regardless of how old the author is, focusing on the issues of getting older and what that might mean.
I remember growing up in the 1960s and reading about all of the innovations in the aerospace field. Back then, everything was about rocketry and space, building Space Stations, Moon bases, exploring Mars, the possibilities seemed limitless both in the skies above and back on Earth. In the early 1970s, I really thought we would achieve social peace in our nation, equal opportunity (though not a promised equal outcome) for all people no matter who they were or where they were from. I created the main portion of my tale based on that outlook from the past.
Unfortunately now that the future is here, everything seems so much worse, not so much better. I know there are some who believe that Western Civilization has achieved the best it ever has so far, but for every advancement, there seems to have been an equally dismal failure.
I remember a quote from the 2014 film Captain America: Winter Soldier delivered by Steve Rogers (Chris Evans). I can’t find the exact quote online so I’ll write it down from memory:
“When I went to sleep, we were at war. When I woke up, they said we’d won. They didn’t say what we’d lost.”
In achieving whatever we think we’ve gained in the 21st century so far, it seems like America has left the best part of itself behind to rust in a garbage heap. I don’t see prosperity, equality, innovation, achievement, and leadership the way I imagined it would be by now. The dreams of the 20th century are dead and as I get older, I feel a great sorrow in my heart for the sort of world my children and grandchildren will be forced to inherit.
The world I grew up in was far from perfect but it always had the promise of greatness. Today, greatness is seen as a threat to a specific and dominant social and political agenda, and in order to satisfy that agenda, the dreams of the past have been replaced by mediocrity where even the least of us receives a “participation award” rather than being encouraged to do better next time, to shoot for a higher goal, to become a better person, and to build a better world.
The future isn’t nearly as wonderful as I thought it would be when I was a kid and now approaching my sixty-fourth year, the only thing I can do is to keep on going and try to be the best example of the dream I still cherish in my heart, hoping some tiny part of it will find its way into my grandchildren. If they can’t or won’t revive it, then as I decline, I’ll watch everything I hoped for in the world erode and die with me.
I know what I’m writing is controversial and flies in the face of popular social opinion, but if you stop and think for a moment, everything that used to make the United States exceptional and a place where the ideal (though not necessarily the reality) was for anyone to be able to achieve their goals with a lot of hard work and determination has been obliterated in the name of uniformity and mediocrity. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be outstanding, to become better as a person and as a country. If we kill that dream, we’ve lost our future.