First off, Happy Mother’s Day to all the hardworking mothers (especially my mom)!
It’s been 3 weeks since I last posted, I know. It’s just that I had to study for and take the SAT, get my second dose of the Covid vaccine, do school stuff—typical Junior year activities. Also consider the fact that the 4th part of my short story required the most editing, so I have my excuses.
Anyway, to catch you all up to speed (spoiler alert!), Adrik, his clone, and Jessie’s clone have all just sacrificed themselves to delay the splendid beings so that Jessie can get back to the spaceship safely. The Wary Moon has passed, abandoning its creations to the light, and Jessie now stands under the faintly violet glow of the Moon of Oblivion. She thinks it holds a secret, or at least clone Jessie told her it holds a secret. Read on to find out the truth.
She knew she should be heading back toward the ship, but she cocked her head instead and examined the Moon of Oblivion. Her clone had a hunch about the moon; Jessie needed to figure out what it was.
The Moon of Oblivion doesn’t have any special effect on the planet, unlike its astral counterparts, almost as if it’s an entirely separate entity, Jessie remembered. And Adrik did say that the aliens who sent us the transmission must be pretty technologically advanced. I find it hard to believe that anyone could survive long enough on this moon-ridden deathtrap to make that sort of scientific progress. One option would be to live underground, though that means dealing with the splendid beings, and the other option . . .
Jessie felt cold sweat break out over her forehead. The audacity of her own idea had shocked her and was still shocking her. Careful to walk without sending too many vibrations through the soft ground, she made her way back to the spaceship. The splendid beings were typically attracted by large groups, anyway. Jessie doubted they would sense her unless she were extremely unlucky.
She was not.
She stumbled up the ramp, her boots crashing through the spaceship entrance, and then rode the elevator up to the top level of the ship. She ignored those who asked her where the hell Adrik—how had she never known his name?— had gone. She simply didn’t have the capacity to process his death right now, least of all inform the others. However . . . as Jessie slumped against the elevator’s headrails and tilted her head back for just a moment, she reminded herself to rehearse a speech for him. Something that glorified his sacrifice, no matter how futile it may have been. Also to mention that his death had been quick. People liked that, and Jessie hoped it was true. Regardless, when Jessie was ready to talk about Adrik, she wanted to do it right. Jessie didn’t even care that his death meant she was now the lead scientist. What a twist. What she would have given anything for a moon ago was now overshadowed by a ginormous secret—one that only a telescope could reveal.
The box in her arms pulsed to the beat of her heart. Jessie climbed out onto the top of the spaceship, then set up a portable telescope. The wind pushed her wet uniform against her skin, making her wish she had changed or at least gotten a jacket, but she pushed past the chill and aimed the telescope directly at the Moon of Oblivion.
Jessie laughed. She peered through the telescope and she laughed. The truth was even more absurd than she could have guessed. The aliens weren’t living on the moon; the Moon of Oblivion was their spaceship!
She chortled and gasped, only stopping to take shelter back inside the spaceship once the Deep Moon passed overhead. Its somber blue shadows drowned her mirth a little. Then it was the Grass Moon, and Jessie waited until it was gone as well before she stepped back on top of the spaceship, spreading her arms to keep her balance as the Wary Moon greedily guzzled up all the light and the world disappeared around her.
Jessie held up the box like a toast to the Wary Moon. The living device was invisible, just like the spaceship beneath her, so for a moment, she relished the feeling of seeing and being nothing. Then a glowing hand was on her shoulder, and clone Jessie stepped out from within her to stand by her side, her own glowing box in hand. She gave Jessie’s shoulder a reassuring squeeze to beat back the nervousness they both knew they shared.
“You see what I’m seeing?” clone Jessie said, gesturing to the thin, gear-headed rod extending out of the living box. She raised it even higher and pointed to the gear-shaped hole on the bottom of the box.
Jessie smiled even though she knew her copy couldn’t see her. “I think I do.”
Her clone presented her gleaming box to her, and Jessie placed her own box on top, matching its gear-shaped opening to the shining rod extending out from the middle. Fitting it in perfectly, she slid it down without a sound, making sure nothing caught or broke the delicate piece of biotechnology.
“I guess . . . we did it,” clone Jessie said. “Now wha—”
The newly combined boxes suddenly gushed out purple light, the almost liquid substance spilling over and penetrating the impenetrable nothingness of the Wary Moon. Even the real box was shining as brightly as its counterpart, and Jessie realized she could almost see her hands through the gloom. A flower started to sprout from the top rod of the boxes, its petals forming a curvy windmill that grew with their lively beating, each thump a heartbeat increasingly magnified and boneshaking.
Thump . . . thump . . . thump, thump, thump, thum—
The sound of the beating heart was cut off as the windmill petals of the flower spun into a blur, replacing the thunderous thumping with a whirlwind of blurred noise.
“Don’t lose your footing,” Jessie tried to tell her clone, but her words were sucked away by the wind. She was beginning to get scared. The biotech device showed no sign of stopping, and she felt herself being pulled toward it with no railing or ledge to anchor herself. “I think it’s creating a vacuum. I can’t breat—”
And then it was over. Jessie flew backward from the sudden lack of force, but the top of a spaceship, even a spherical one, still gave her a long way to slide without falling off the side. She managed to catch her fingers on a ledge and stopped herself before she went too far, her clone doing the same. They both winced at the same time; the momentum made their stop as jarring as a dissonant chord.
But maybe it was good they had fallen. A second later, the flower blinked out of existence and was replaced by a levitating sphere of metal. Immediately, the world was once again erased by darkness, but an enlarging opening in the sphere shed a little light on their visitors. Jessie still couldn’t see her surroundings because no light could reach past the opening without being eaten up by the Wary Moon, but there was no doubt about what the aliens looked like.
Slug tail and scarecrow arms. Of course they have to be creepy. The two aliens standing in the opening were much smaller and less bloated than the splendid beings Jessie had encountered, but there was no doubt they were related. She wondered what had turned those relatives into the mindless monsters they were.
“Finally,” one said without moving their mouth-body. Jessie jumped because their voice sounded surprisingly like the electronic voice of google translate, but then she realized the sound was coming from a speaker inside the ship. “We hadn’t had access to wormhole technology since before ‘The Final Migration’ into space.”
Google would love this one, Jessie thought dryly. Their little promotion has made them the voice of an entire alien race.
“Your English is better,” she said hesitantly, unsure of how to respond. She didn’t know if they could understand her, but that didn’t really matter. She was talking to aliens! Freaking aliens! No matter the language barrier, she was going to make sure humanity made enough scientific progress to push through another technological revolution.
The aliens continued to communicate through their speaker, “Your end of the deal is complete.”
“Right,” Jessie said.
“Then here are our answers as promised—starting with our history: Our ancestors sent us off into space as a last ditch attempt to escape the horrors of this planet. The radiation of the Grass Moon had warped those who survived by burrowing underground into what we call “splendid beings,” and our civilization was in ruins. Much was lost, and due to the apocalyptic situation, most of our tech was left on this planet as we used up our fuel to put the Moon of Oblivion into orbit, our brightest minds giving way for our youngsters to survive but sacrificing their own lives in the process . . .”
Without being asked to, clone Jessie slipped a notebook and pencil out of Jessie’s bag and started to take notes with an excited huff. Jessie smiled widely.
I could get used to this, she thought. Right here, right on this planet, surrounded by murderous moons and splendid aliens, I’m going to forge an alliance of science that will blast humanity off into the golden age of space travel and immortality. Ok, maybe not as idealistic as that, but I have to admit . . .
Clone Jessie squealed into her ear, “I am so freaking excited!”