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©01 The Media Desk

Back to the Desk

[See author's and editor's statements below]

(WARNING: This is a MUSICAL!) You have been warned!

      June 3, 2089: Moon Base Hawking. A standard four spoked wheel station with work section domes at the joints and living quarters along the rim and spokes, lying partially below the surface. Outside the circle is the landing platform, vehicle access, emergency facilities, fuel storage and the like. At present a large interplanetary ship is on the platform, a smaller service vehicle sits off to one side. Out away from the base a Lunar Rover bounces along a ridge.

      "We're leaving this hole in the moon. Off we go, into the void, away from here..."
      Several people carrying bags and boxes hop-walked in unison down a gangway onto a long angular spacecraft singing to themselves. They stowed their belongings in rhythm in various compartments and lockers, then strapped into seats. The ones by the windows looked out at a row of windows of the base they were leaving.
      "We're leaving this hole in the moon. You have to stay, we get to go. Away from you, and your hole in the moon."
      The vessel shook to a low rumble of its engines, then the gangway retracted back into the body of the port facility. The ship shifted on the pad, then as the engines came to full life it lifted away from the surface and began a steep ascent into the black lunar sky.

      "There they go."
      "Good riddance."
      The first speaker looked at the second one. "It's getting a little sparse around here, George."
      "You're complaining?" George grumbled. "I'm not." He turned away from the observation window and walked down the arched passage of dingy metal and dirty glass.
      The first speaker just shook his head and watched George bounce-walk.
      George was mumbling a very out of tune song he was evidently making up as he walked along in the half-bounce gate everybody was forced to use here.
      "Leave me alone on the moon. Leave me alone where I am. The Ocean of Storms is just fine for me. Send me all the little green men you can, just don't bring any more Earth men..."
      "Hey, John." Somebody called out from the other end of the passage so he didn't get to hear how the song ended.
      He turned around. "Yeah Dara. I'm coming."
      "Amy." The woman said.
      "Amy." John corrected himself. He gave the departing space ship one last look. It was now just a dot of metal and fire far in the distance, on course away from the blue ball of Earth.
      "Olympus Mons station wants to know if we sent that container of crystals they wanted on that transport."
      "Tell them, 'most of them'."
      Amy made a face. "Mars Central won't like that."
      John laughed, "Tell them Lunar Central doesn't care what Mars doesn't like."
      Amy shrugged. "Your command pin." She turned on her heel and walked away quickly.
      John shook his head at the woman as she walked back toward control. He stepped to a communicator panel near a big yellow slightly rusty door. "Administration access." He said to the thing. He frowned, then pushed a couple of buttons and touched the display screen in a couple of places, "OK, now." He said. "Administration access."
      He waited. And waited. Finally John gave up and turned the panel off. Then he sighed and started to turn away.
      "Administrative access allowed." The panel said in a metallic male voice.
      John turned back to the panel. "Verify occupancy." He said to it.
      "State desired unit." The computer replied.
      "Entire base."
      "Invalid input. State desired unit."
      "Lunar Base Stephen Hawking."
      "Invalid input..."
      John cut it off by smacking the palm of his hand against the panel's touch screen.
      "Current base compliment, twenty two persons of maximum capability of one hundred five." The voice said.
      "Crew replacement ETA."
      "The next shuttle of relief personnel is scheduled to leave Earth, August 18th."
      "Two months." John said blowing a long breath hard through pursed lips. "Oh well."

     Later in the base commander's office John was sitting in his chair watching a very upset young woman bounce back and forth from the windows to the door then back again. She was waving her arms and speaking in almost a singing voice.
      "This is a violation of regulations of the first magnitude. The situation is most grave and serious. I want you to communicate to your superiors the nature of our situation. Tell them everybody has been put at unnecessary risk."
      John shook his head and spoke in normal tones. "There was nothing I could do about it, Heather."
      "The base cannot operate without proper medical personal being assigned to it." She sang, then turned to him, "You should never have let them go."
      "What could I have done. They had orders from Earth."
      She took a deep breath and sang her answer. "I'm just a nurse, I cannot handle a true emergency, if something happens I will not be responsible for it. I cannot exceed my brief and offer medical care beyond my training."
      John tried to seem compassionate and spoke slowly. "I know you'll do your best whatever happens, but there are only twenty people left. What could go wrong?"
      "I hope I never get the opportunity to say..." She sang, then spoke the rest seriously, "I told you so."

      George looked at various displays in the engineering section. He went to a large valve on an equally large pipe and stared at a digital gauge protruding from the housing. Then he grabbed the wheel on the gate valve and started to turn it. It moved a fraction of a turn and stopped with a loud grinding noise.
      "I love my equipment." George sang in his grumbling voice. "It works so well."
      He went to a rack of tools and parts, some of which were obviously home made. He picked up a long section of metal with two large teeth welded to it. A 'cheater' to mechanics of any age. As he pulled it out of the pile on the workbench an avalanche started, but in the low lunar gravity it was a slow motion affair. George jerked on the bar and it came free of the sliding stuff. He ignored the growing pile on the floor and sort of hopped back to the pipe.
      "This place would make a good missile test target. I wonder how it works at all." He put the teeth of the cheater in the wheel of the valve and heaved, it turned. "If it ain't broken, it should be. If it works... it ain't here." He looked at the gauge, then turned the wheel a little more.
      "It's either too hot, or we're freezing. Either the air's bad or there's a monsoon blowing. I'm out of light tubes and the door's stuck to the rover dock. The landing lights won't go off and we're low on environment suits." He looked at the gauge and nodded. "The good stuff is sent to Mars and we end up with..." He pulled the cheater off the valve, the wheel fell off onto the floor with a loud clang, "With junk."

      Amy was alone in the central control room. She typed into one terminal and talked into a headset about something totally different. Then she looked at a display.
      "Mars Challenger on course, increasing speed. Handing off to Earth Control on time." She said in a sing song cadence. "They'll be there before they have time to get to hate each other." She smiled. "Too much."
      An identical looking woman walked into the room. Dara and Amy were identical twins and quite proud of the fact they were the first set of twins of either sex to make it this far in their mutual careers never having been separated. Both carried the rank of Lieutenant and both had the same amount of time in the service, although Dara was quick to point out that she was the senior lieutenant, by three minutes, although Amy was the older twin, by five minutes.
      Amy smiled to her twin as she almost skipped into the room. Dara smiled back.
      "Official briefing for the oncoming shift." They sang together.
      "The Mars ship has been handed off to Earth Control." Amy sang.
      Dara smiled and sang back, "They are running on time, that's unusual in itself."
      "Just after the launch we had another moon quake. No damage reported."
      "That'll keep the xeno-geologists happy."
      "The air supply to Baker section got low but George got it fixed."
      "He's a great mechanic but his attitude..." Dara answered.
      "Stinks." They sang together.
      "At the very least." Dara added.
      "Nurse Winkler is upset."
      "What else is new?"
      "She's the only medical person left on the moon." Amy trilled.
      "We've got our first aid cards."
      "Mine's expired and so is yours."
      "We'll have to get them renewed." They sang together.
      Amy nodded. Dara saluted.
      "Briefing concluded, the shift is changed."
      Amy started out of the room. "Did you make your bed?" She asked Dara.
      "No." Dara sang with a smile.
      Amy shook her head and left.
      The quickest way to tell them apart was to look in their quarters. Dara was a hopeless slob. Amy was immaculate.

      "Oh, I can cook. I can drive the bulk hauler. I can realign the communication antenna. If you need the pad cleared call me. If you need dinner made- Call Me!" A man who was probably the single largest astronaut to ever venture into space was singing as he ran a broom looking thing across the landing pad. "I got the degree in astrometrics, but nobody knows what I'm supposed to do. So I do what I please! I'm the cook! I'm the driver! And I'm the janitor! I'm the only one without an assigned duty station!" Two meters and change tall and nearly one hundred thirty kilos, there was only one space suit that would fit him, and it was an old EVA suit, not made for fumbling around on the moon. He finished his chore and carried his broom to the air lock next to the pad, he had to duck to get inside the passage.
      "I'm a Jack of all trades, and master of none. Except with the ladies, I'm a master of fun!" He sang as he touched the button that closed the door behind him.
      As the chamber pressurized a hand written name could be seen on the chest of his suit, Dr. Zook.

      Commander John walked into his personal quarters. He instantly began shivering and went straight back out into the passage. He peered into the room, there was frost on the only window that looked out at a nearby row of small craters. A breeze straight from Antarctica blew out of the room into the hall.
      John shivered again and walked back to control, swinging his legs while he bounced to warm up.
      At a communication panel he pushed a button. "George!" He said loudly.
      The maintenance man responded at the third call. "Yeah. What?"
      "My quarters are freezing."
      There was silence from the speakers.
      "I said 'my quarters are freezing'."
      "Oh, you mean you want me to do something about it."
      "Yes." John looked helplessly at the woman at the central panel.
      She smiled and laughed silently.
      "I'll look at it." George grumbled and the line went dead.
      "Amy. Remind me to fire him."
      "Dara." She said.
      "Dara." He corrected himself.
      He went to the dispenser and looked at the selections. "We don't have any more strawberry?"
      Dara shook her head. She smiled and sang the answer. "We sent the last in stores to Mars. What we had ran out yesterday. If we like it, it's gone, if it's lousy, its here. You have your choice of grapefruit-kiwi or kelp juice."
      John shuddered at the thought of the kelp juice. It was billed as the healthiest thing on the Space Service's menu. It was also the least popular and worst tasting of all of the offerings. There was one person that liked it, but she admitted her taste buds really didn't work. He put a cup in the dispenser and pushed the button for tea, intending to warm it up in the induction heater.
      Nothing came out of the dispenser.
      He tried the button for plain water. All that came out was a well meaning partial drizzle that put a couple of centimeters of rather cloudy water in the bottom of the cup. He poured it out and resigned himself to the fates. The grapefruit kiwi concoction came out a strange pinkish green. Trying not to smell it, he drank it.
      "Yuck." He said when he was done.
      "It's all we've got and the best we can do. One could get the impression we don't count any more." Dara sang sweetly. "All the best, to Mars."
      "Control. Where's John?" The speakers said in George's voice as she trailed off.
      "Right here."
      "John. I found out what happened."
      "OK. What happened?"
      "That section is supposed to be empty."
      John thought about it for a second. "I think it is, except for me and Richard."
      "Nope. Except for you. Richard moved into Dockview this morning."
      John shrugged. "So I guess I should move too."
      "Yes sir." George said. "You want I should throw some heat in there while you pack?"
      "Maybe a little. It won't take me long." John looked at his empty cup and put it in the rack.
      "It'd save a lot of heat and air if we all moved into the troop dormitory." Dara half sang to him. "We could all be one big happy family."
      John looked at her strangely. "Not with your sister. I don't make my bed either."
      "You could get away with it, you're the C/O." She grinned. "The rest of us could just gang up on her and threaten to lock her in a cargo cube and send her to Mars."
      "I hope you're kidding."
      She grinned and didn't answer either singing or talking.
      John gave up and walked slowly back down the hallway so he didn't bounce as much towing a small baggage cart.

      "Hey Tiny."
      "Hey Dave." The big man said as he walked into the common room.
      Dave was sitting at a table littered with small parts and an assortment of tools.
      "What're you tearing up?"
      "Our shower's timer started working again."
      Tiny Zook got a cup of coffee and sat backwards on a nearby chair. "You mean it broke?"
      Dave stuck a jeweler's loop into his eye and examined the control, then he began singing, "Not at all, I mean it started working again and timing our showers. I don't know about you but I can't get clean in two and a half minutes once a day." He took the loop out and grinned at Tiny. "I don't know anybody here who hasn't cheated some way on their shower. Even the Commander has a bypass on his timer. It violates the rules, but it's what we do."
      Tiny grinned and answered in song. "It's what we do. We do that and more. By the book we're only supposed to go to the bathroom twice a day, but with this food..." He gestured toward the galley.
      "But with this food." Dave echoed.
      "But with this food?" Another crewman sang bouncing into the room.
      "But with this food..." Tiny repeated.
      They all finished it together. "Sometimes. When you've got to go. You really got to go! And you go." They paused. "No matter what's... in... the... book!"

      Nurse Winkler sat in the infirmary looking through the computer files on the people left on the station. She sighed and began singing the things she found that could be trouble without a doctor around.
      "Doctor Tiberius L. Zook has borderline high blood pressure. The xeno-biologist Brown is getting over Pneumonia but she's been taking her meds. Dara had bruised ribs but they're better now. So it doesn't look too bad." She looked up from the monitor. "But I hope nobody gets sick or has an accident because I'm just a nurse."
      She got up from the workstation. "I'm a nurse." She said in a solid speaking voice. Then she started singing again. "I'm a good nurse. I'm a... well... I'm a danged good nurse!" She nodded with authority. "But I'm a nurse. All I am is a nurse. All I've wanted to be is a nurse."
      She picked up a small hand held unit of odd design. She smiled.
      "And if I am IT for two months. Tiny, I mean, Doctor Tiberius LeftOver Zook, will listen to me about his blood pressure." She bounce-stepped toward the door.

      John was glad he still had some of his personal clothes. Like his heavy parka from training in Alaska. He put it on and loaded his stuff at random into a tote box and his duty bag. He heard the fans running in the unit, but if the room was any warmer he couldn't tell.
      By the time he had everything he cared at all about out of the room his feet and hands were numb and his face was burning.
      He glanced through the room and left blowing on his hands. Even the hallway was cold now. John took his stuff back into the control room and looked at the display of available quarters.
      "That's too close to you guys." He grinned at Dara then brought up another room. "That one's noisy." He frowned and punched another button. "Got it. Assign me to D-12."
      Dara punched up the indicated room. "You got it."
      "No comment about it?"
      Dara smiled then sang. "It's supposed to be haunted by the ghost of Captain Wester and some little short woman. If you want to move in there that's fine with me, but when we hear screams at night that aren't yours, we'll simply lock the door."
      John grinned. "I thought it was haunted by the guy that was blown out the windows when they were building this place."
      "Him too." Dara trilled. "There's only been four deaths up here since it all began. Three of them happened in that room. It's been empty more than not for the last twenty years..."
      "Since they found Wester dead in there."
      "The captain died of no known cause, he had been perfectly healthy and had no enemies. They never figured out what killed him." She sang. "I'm just worried you're walking into trouble."
      "It's a great room. Ghost or no." John said, then he grinned. "Besides, I'd outrank the Captain as the C/O." He towed his cart away.
      Dara shook her head and touched several controls. "George, Charlie section is empty, you can shut the heat off over there." She said in singsong fashion.

      "Base, open the door."
      Dara keyed the panel and the indicator turned yellow, then red. "Door's opening Joey."
      Outside Joey drove a Rover toward the station. The hanger door opened slowly, stopped briefly, then opened the rest of the way.
      Inside the hanger he saw one of the equipment guys sitting on a bench waiting on the machine he was driving.
      "He's going to give me heck for driving around." Joey sang as he bounced to a stop in the hanger. "But what's there to do besides check sensors and make sure a space rock hasn't smashed a solar panel?"
      The outer door started to close and the inner vehicle airlock opened. The floor began to move forward. The mechanic got up to meet him inside.
      "I can hear him now, 'You've put an extra three hours on it.' I don't have to listen to this. He's lucky I brought it back at all, I almost missed jumping Aldrin Crack again."
      The airlock began to pressurize.
      "Everybody else is happy just working and playing cards and stargazing. I miss fresh air and the beach and things like that." He got off the Rover, and went to the inner door to wait on the green light. "I can't wait to get out of this hole in the Moon and get back to Earth."
      "Welcome back." The mechanic said with a fake smile. "Everything OK?"
      "Yeah." Joey answered.

      George looked at display after display.
      "I don't like this." He sang dramatically to himself. "Even for this place I don't like this." He touched several other controls. "The heat was on in Charlie section for the Commander to get his stuff."
      He spoke normally for a second, "It was heating like mad, but never even got warm."
      "Something's wrong." He sang slowly.
      George went to his central console, he pushed the buttons to call his mechanic's mate, Debby. "Something's wrong." He said plainly to her.
      In a few minutes Debby came bounding in doing her springy walk.
      They touched several controls and looked at the displays. Then rechecked everything, twice.
      "Something is certainly wrong." She sang to him.
      "I got a real bad feeling about this." George half sang in answer. "Watch Charlie section, I'll go check it out." He picked up an air tank and an insulated helmet with facemask and walked with only a slight bounce toward the door.
      On his way through the station he passed the base's self described chaplain.
      The actual chaplain, Dr. Feeney had been sent to Mars long ago. So they were left with Mike, the youngest of the crew. The only claim he had to the post was that he had never missed a Sunday School class through high school, which wasn't all that long ago. But, he served the needs of the current crew well enough. It was unlikely anybody was going to get married, few of them were even on speaking terms past the requirements of their duty, and if there had to be a funeral, it would be a military affair, so an actual member of the chaplain's corps was, for the moment, unneeded.
      "You got a minute preacher?" George said to Mike.
      "Go get a can of air and a hat and join me at the back door to Charlie."
      Mike didn't hesitate, he ran down the hall, coming off the deck about every third step.
      George continued on his way more slowly.
      Nurse Winkler was just finishing up her lecture to Tiny, errr, Doctor Zook, when George walked through with his gear, followed in short order by Mike carrying similar equipment.
      Heather, Tiny, Dave, and a couple other of the crew followed out of curiosity.

      George stopped at the containment door and opened the control panel, he turned around to sing to the people behind him. "I think there's something wrong with the life support in this section. I'm gonna make sure this works, if something goes wrong, shut it. We'll have these on, we'll be OK until you can get through the air lock to get us out." He gestured with his mask. "Don't be a hero." He said to them.
      Mike seemed unsure about it. "I'm not sure I'd know what to do. Maybe you'd be better off with somebody else if things go badly." He sang.
      Tiny took the tank from Mike. He checked its dial and nodded. "I'll go." He said.
      They stood there and looked at him.
      "Oh." He said, then he cleared his throat and sang it. "I'll go instead of him."
      "Did anybody tell control what's going on?" Heather sang.
      "No time, we'll fill them in as we go." George sang.
      Tiny had the helmet on and was carrying the tank, it wouldn't fit over his shoulders. "Let's go."
      They stepped through the section joint and opened the passage door. The air beyond it was ice cold. George looked at Tiny and nodded. The two men walked on, the door closed behind them.

      "Nurse Winkler to Control."
      Dara pushed a button to answer the singing voice. "Go ahead, Heather." She answered in kind.
      "George and Doctor Zook are checking out something wrong with the environment controls in Charlie section."
      Dara nodded. "It was too cold in there earlier, he must just be making sure it'll stay above freezing."
      "Could be. I'll stay on top of it here."
      "I'll tell the Commander what's going on when he checks in."

      George walked a ways down the hall. He stopped and opened the door to a room. It was below freezing in it.
      Tiny opened a door on the other side, same.
      "Hold it." George said.
      Tiny looked around. "A breeze." He sang softly.
      "The circulation pumps are off in this section."
      "Then..." Tiny sang slowly. "The air's going outside."
      "I hope not." George answered in a low voice. "But we better check."
      They followed the breeze silently. It seemed to quit. They walked on for a few steps, then the air was blowing at them. They turned around and retraced their steps. They opened the doors in the calm area cautiously, then began looked around the passage.
      George noticed it first but didn't say anything.
      Then Tiny came to the same conclusion, he voiced it in plain speech. "The used air return."
      George nodded, but he sang it. "I'm thinking the same thing."
      They walked out of the freezing section with worry on their faces.
      "Well?" Mike asked them.
      "The problem's not in there." Tiny said taking off his mask.
      "That's good." The nurse said relieved.
      Tiny and George looked at each other but didn't say anything to her. They started walking back to the life support control room.

      "You know how to work this?" George sang to Dr. Zook.
      "I worked a few shifts in here when you were on leave. I picked up a few things." Tiny answered in song nodding to Debby.
      "OK, good." He went to the central station. "Let's do a comparison check." He said in his half song.
      Tiny nodded. "Flow check for Control at three quarters an atmosphere an hour. Pressure at about one kilo per Cm. Oxygen versus CO2 sitting normal." He recited as he checked dials and displays and indicators.
      George checked his displays. "Roger across the board."
      "Alpha section normal ranges all gauges all displays." Debby sang.
      "Clean and Green. Check me at the Dock." He sang.
      "Looking good for turnover..." The song stopped.
      "Turnover good got'cha." Then George realized Tiny had stopped singing, he looked up. "What's up?"
      The big man was pushing buttons, Debby was watching closely and pushing a few of her own. "Resetting indicators for pressure at the dock." Dr. Zook said.
      "Likewise for the Science dome." She said as she watched the dials reset. Then she looked at the displays again, then, finally, at her boss.
      "George." Tiny's face spoke volumes.
      "I see it." He adjusted some of his controls. "It's not a sensor malfunction."
      Tiny walked to the central control Debby reset the displays again hoping to make the problem go away.
      George was already working the communicator. "Dara. I need John."

      The Commander was just getting settled in his new room.
      "Yeah, what is it?" He said to the comm panel.
      "John. We've got a problem." George said.
      "I don't like that tone George."
      "You won't like the problem either." Tiny said.
      "Doctor Zook? You're not singing."
      There was silence for a minute. "Can you come down here?"
      "On my way George." The commander said.

      "In the last hour we're lost about thirty cubic meters of air. And it's getting worse." George said in a slow voice.
      "Can we seal off the leak?" John looked at the displays.
      "No. It's in the central recycling unit itself." Debby said.
      "What happened to it?"
      George and Tiny looked at each other. "We don't know."
      "Can it be fixed." He looked from one to the other. "You don't know that either." He said for them.
      "No sir." The three mechanics chorused.
      "Do a walk and see what's happening. Before we run out of air." John said.
      George and Tiny looked at each other again. "Yes sir." One of them said.
      "I'll come with." John nodded. "As long as you don't sing."

      The faces of the others told the story. This was the single most serious problem any of them had faced on the Moon. They could live with lousy food and grapefruit-kiwi punch. Even heat could be improvised. But air. Air was in short supply on the moon. It was all imported from far away.
      John tapped his helmet and nodded.
      Doctor Zook tightened his gloves and gave a thumbs up.
      George was frowning, but he nodded when Dave asked if he was ready to go.
      Dave closed the air lock and depressurized the chamber, the outer door opened and the magnificent desolation of the Moon beckoned to them.
      George stepped out. "This way." He said and turned to the right.
      The heavy machinery of the life support systems was outside the main habitat ring of the base, opposite the landing platform. They bounced along toward the hulking structure.
      "OK guys." One of the twins sang into their ears. "Keep us advised as to what's going on out there."
      "You didn't tell them no singing Commander." Tiny said.
      "You're right. They sound better than either of you two." He chuckled.
      "No argument." George answered.
      "Control, I'll leave my channel open, you'll hear everything that happens. Debby, watch those readouts, if we make things worse, scream."
      "Yes sir." Three female voices sang together.
      They arrived at the equipment barn in just a minute or two of moon walking. George ran his key card through the sensor and then gripped the handle. He kicked the bottom of the door and tugged on the handle. The door opened a centimeter or two. He kicked and tugged again. The door opened.
      "You've got to know the combination." George said.
      They walked into the building. Tiny reached over and pushed several large buttons made for operation with the heavy gloves of a space suit. Like most of the structures of the base, this one had most of its bulk below ground level. The causeway into the building went down in a long broad curve. As the lights came up to full brightness they could see the huge pumps and compressors that operated the station's environmental systems.
      "OK, which one's broken?" John asked them.
      "Probably all of them." Tiny said seriously.
      They walked down the ramp. George went to the large control panel between three of the giant machines. He ran over the controls and shook his head inside his helmet.
      Tiny was examining the individual indicators on the furthest unit. "This one's deader than a dinosaur and is showing signs that it was on fire awhile back." He sang to them, "The only way to fix it would be to give it a nice burial some..."
      John was glaring at him.
      "Oh, sorry. Forgot. As I was saying... Unit four has had it." He looked at the controls on the unit, "But it's isolated from the system."
      John nodded and jerked his thumb at unit one. "This one's in about the same shape but it's still running within normal parameters, I can't tell if it's our leak or not."
      "I found the leak." George said. "It's in the central distribution diffuser."
      "Switch to the backup." Tiny said.
      "This is the backup. The primary unit failed this morning. When the system kicked over to the backup, it started leaking. It's showing a failing primary seal. That's terminal."
      "Do we have a replacement?" John asked.
      "We're supposed to, but guess where it went."
      "I'd rather not." John muttered. "Can we fix the primary before the backup fails completely?"
      George shrugged in his environmental suit. "We'd have to see what's wrong with it, and what we've got available."
      "Let's get the primary out of its housing and find out if it CAN be fixed before we do anything else." Dr. Zook offered.
      They agreed that was the best course of action. They worked together and got the failed distributor out of its housing and onto a tracked moon cart. Then it was simply a matter of dragging back to the base.
      Which was more difficult than they expected even in the one-fifth gravity. They slipped in the loose lunar soil, the cart went out of its way to find rocks just a little too big for it to run over, then George's air timer started beeping.
      "We've got time. Let's keep moving." He said.
      "When you get to the final two minutes, you go inside."
      "I'll be swiping some of Tiny's homemade wine before it gets there." He leaned on the cart's handle to get it over another rock.
      "I thought you gave up making that stuff." John said.
      "Best winery in three hundred thousand kilometers."
      They jerked the cart up the slight incline towards the airlock.
      "The only one as well." Amy sang into their ears.
      Just as George's air timer went to a constant tone they were closing the door to the air lock. Tiny's timer stated beeping, then went to the constant low air tone.
      "That's getting a little too close." Tiny said. He looked at the others, then as the airlock inner door opened he sang, "I adjusted my suit to give me the maximum time outside. But it doesn't give me much warning when the air's about to give out. It may be time to adjust it back the other way some."
      George nodded and sang an answer. "I'll get the others to start bottling air. We may need all we got before its over."
      "OK, OK... We're back inside. You guys diagnose this thing," He patted the distributor on the cart. "And I'll start running an inventory of everything we've got that might be of use." He hung his helmet on the rack. "Without singing a note."
      "Spoiled Sport." The two men sang together. They drug the cart out of the airlock.
      "Lunatics." John said as he bounce-walked toward Control.
      "Exactly." Heather agreed as he went by, she smiled at George and Tiny.
      "I know, I know. If we're mentally detached from reality and on the moon that makes us officially..." George sang.
      "Lunatics." They finished together.

      Mike and Dave and the others began filling every air tank the station owned. Debby babysat the control making ever liter of air they had go as far as possible.
      They had completely shut down the uninhabited and unused sections of the station behind shield doors. Charlie section and the science dome were already showing signs of low pressure and frigid temperatures.
      "Air's just going to bleed back through the system and escape." Mike said.
      Tiny shook his head and sang the answer, "It will a little, but not as fast. What we need to do is to buy time to either get the primary fixed and installed, or..."
      Mike looked at him with wide eyes. "Or?"
      Tiny looked at George. George looked at Mike.
      "Or." George sang slowly, "Enough to last us until..."
      Mike looked at him with wide eyes. "Until?"
      George looked at Tiny. Tiny looked at Mike.
      They both took a deep breath and sang the answer to the young man. "Until they can get relief up to us from Earth."
      Mike went back to filling air tanks. George and Tiny returned to disassembling the broken primary distributor.

      "Is that it?" Dara said to Amy in control.
      She smiled at her sister and sang the answer. "I think so. We've gone over everything in every section of the station. All the parts for the Rovers and the bulk hauler. The entire science lab inventory. And all the crews personal effects." She sat a data board down on the counter.
      "How about the emergency ship?" John said jerking his head at the small spacecraft showing on one viewer.
      "That's our only escape if things get serious." The twins sang together.
      "It'll only hold five people. Maybe seven if we pack them in like sardines." He looked from one to the other of the women. "Who goes and who stays?"
      They didn't hesitate, they smiled and sang, "That's for the Commander of the station to decide. As C/O you hold our lives in your hands. It will be your decision which of us to sentence to certain death on the dark and freezing airless moon as the rest return to Earth in the emergency ship."
      He shook his head. "Pull the manifest for the ship and add it to the list."
      "Aye sir." They sang out.

      Nurse Heather had taken charge of making sure they had all twenty-two people accounted for and in a central location on the station. The Common room was declared the emergency housing unit for the non-essential personnel. Which was basically the remaining scientists and support people.
      The actual station support crew consisted only of seven regular crew members. Everybody else on the station was either part of the scientific community, or some of the more esoteric 'one shifters' that come in with one ship and leave with the next. These included Susan, a poet and painter, Ron, studying the communications network for the company that designed it, Laura, a writer and photographer for a magazine conglomerate, as well as several tourists who paid big money to vacation in the ultimate 'out of the way' locale.
      On the whole, most of them accepted the circumstance as just another part of the adventure.
      "Don't worry ma'am we're not going to panic." Ron sang sitting his stuff on a corner table with a flourish.
      "We'll follow the rules and stay here like you told us to." Laura added gesturing to the room and then the people with sweeps of her arms.
      "If there is anything we can do to help..." Susan followed up in a nice alto putting her arm around the nurse.
      "Just let us know." They all finished in chorus.

      John was shaking his head at the communication panel.
      Even with the best of outdated technology, there was an annoying lag in communications between Earth and the moon station.
      "The soonest you could get a ship to us is three weeks?" John said to the officer on Earth.
      "We're pushing it now. We should have a Challenger to you in a couple of weeks with the parts you need. But as far as a full evacuation." The face of the Mission Officer was grave. "I'm working on it."
      "Just get us the parts and supplies, Jon."
      "I'll rent a skimmer and bring them right over myself."
      John nodded. "I know you guys are doing your best."
      The screen went dark. He waited a second and turned to the twins. "It's up to us."
      Dara smiled, "It always has been." She sang, "And I wouldn't want anybody else doing it."
      Amy added to it, "You and the guys are the best there is. You know more about this station than the people that built it."
      They chorused together. "We know you can do it."
      John remained expressionless and went to check on the progress of the others.
      The door closed behind him.
      "Our wills are up to date aren't they?" Amy sang to Dara.
      She nodded and sang back while pointing to a screen. "I started a letter to mom, wanna see it?"

      "Primary valve system." George sang with his hand over his heart.
      John looked at him with the patience of Job the Patriarch.
      "The entire internal assembly is corroded and cracked. The only way to fix it is to replace it." Tiny sang holding up a handful of damaged parts. "The corrosion is just from years of use without service. The cracks, my bet is that last quake put it in a bind and when it cycled, it broke itself."
      John nodded. "And it could have shook the backup just enough to break the seals."
      "We've lost over a hundred cubic meters of air. We're into the reserves now. We don't have a lot of time." George sang dramatically indicating the screens and dials that were counting down the air that kept them alive.
      "If the air goes, it won't be long before we can't circulate heat. The situation couldn't be much worse." Tiny added dropping to bass.
      "I know all this." John said. "Now, here's what we've got. Let's see if anything is compatible."

      They all gathered in the common room.
      John, George, Dr. Zook, and the twins faced the entire population of the station.
      John laid an envelope on the table. "Earth has left it up to me. Even if they launched today. We'd be out of air before they could get to us." John said. "I will listen to you before I issue my orders. So, George. Go ahead."
      He stood up. "I get to tell you the good news. There is one part on the entire station that is even remotely compatible. We think we can make it work. At least until the relief ship gets here." He sang like he was singing to children. Then he looked over at Tiny. "Doctor Zook."
      "And I get the bad news." He sang lowly. "The station air distributor is an older model of the oxidizer injector on the engines of the emergency ship." He sat there for a second. "But to use it in here, we have to cut all the incoming ducts by about six centimeters."
      The people sat and looked at them.
      George took up the explanation in his best baritone. "If we do that, we can never put it back in the ship because the engines operate at about four times the pressure of the station system. No patch we could make would ever hold."
      John nodded. "If we even try it we're committed. If it doesn't work or won't fit, we're stuck."
      Amy took it up singing sweetly. "So either a few of us go, seven at most. And the rest of us die. Or..."
      Dara continued. "Or we take the leap and see if they can save us all."
      John and the others got up and walked out.
      The door closed behind them.

      "I say we get in the ship and go." George said half seriously.
      John looked at them, "I couldn't live with myself if we did that."
      The twins chimed in. "Us either. It's our duty to stay here no matter what."
      Tiny laughed and sang. "It's part of the adventure risking a slow agonizing death in the void of space on a lifeless chunk of dust and rock."
      George looked at the faces around him. "I hate you." He said sourly, then smiled, "Well. At least I won't die among a bunch of teary-eyed friends."

      Inside the common room thing were still for a few minutes. Then Mike stood up and looked at them.
      "Well? What's it gonna be?" He sang to them.
      Susan raised her hand. "I don't think there is a choice here. Seven live and fourteen die." She sang slowly.
      "There's nothing else we can do really." Debby sang.
      One of the tourists stood up. "I demand to be allowed to leave in emergency rocket." He said.
      Another one stood up at a different table. "I'm going too." She said shrilly.
      "Go." Mike said. "You can fly that thing right?"
      The two tourists looked at each other, the man sat down, the woman wasn't so easily put off. "I didn't come up here to suffocate." She said loudly.
      "You didn't read your contract did you?" Ron sang to her. "The clause about the risk of physical injury or even..."
      "Death." They all sang together.
      "It's in there." Ron continued.
      "We all signed it." Several of the people sang together.
      Mike looked at them. "Well?" He said almost singing.
      Nobody said anything for a minute.
      "We let them try. Right?"
      "Yeah." Laura said. Several of the others echoed it.
      Susan sang in a clear soprano, "We're all in it together. Whatever happens. We'll either live together, or die together. Either way. We'll be together."
      "And we'll live." Ron sang firmly.
      "And. We'll. Live." Debby smiled.
      "I'll tell the commander." Mike said. "And God help us all."

      Mike opened the door to the room. The commander and the others were standing there. He nodded to them.
      John walked back to the front table and picked up the envelope that was still sitting there. He handed it to Dara.
      She opened it and glanced at the paper inside. "Three cans of calamare, dandruff shampoo, a new toothbrush, shoe stri..." She read.
      "Other side."
      Dara handed it to her sister. Amy could read too. "All for one, one for all."

      It was long hot work to get the needed part out of the emergency ship. Even Mike and Dave suited up for a shift leaning into the cramped space turning the spanners and sockets to disconnect it.
      Finally it was free and eased down onto the cart.
      However the celebration parade into the station was short on fanfare.
      George was dead on his feet. Tiny was asleep on the bench where he had been taking off his space suit after his shift. John's eyes were red and he was shaking from a coffee overdose.
      "Huh? What?" Dr. Zook said sitting up as the inner door of the airlock creaked open.
      "We got it." John said as Dave pushed the cart in.
      "I had the strangest dream." Tiny sang through a yawn. "I dreamed I was on a lunar base that was being flooded by chicken soup."
      John shook his head. "Don't say things like that. That's probably next."
      George slapped himself awake and looked at Tiny. "You ready?"
      The big man nodded and kicked off his outside boots. "Ready as I'll get."
      George looked at the others. "You're sure about this. Once I start cutting lines, there's no going back."
      The group was silent for a minute.
      "Do it." John said.
      "Do it." The group sang.
      The two towed the cart toward the shop.
      "What can we do?" Ron shouted after them.
      "Make coffee." George sang back to them, "Very Strong Coffee."
      "And Pray!" Tiny chorused after him.
      "That's your department Mike." Ron said to the chaplain.
      The young man nodded. "It wouldn't hurt for everybody to join in." He sang with a slight smile.
      Laura made a face, but she nodded. "We need all the help we can get right about now."
      The twins were watching a display screen. "EarthCom says they have a Challenger class rocket they can launch in three days. No sooner." They sang together.
      Debby got in on it. "In two hours our air reserves will be depleted. About six hours after that..."
      "We get the idea. Thanks." John said to the silence.

      The common room was quiet. About every twenty minutes somebody took a pitcher of coffee down to the shop. Then carried the update on their progress back to the others.
      In just over an hour George, John, and Dr. Zook reappeared towing the primary distributor housing with it's new insides down the hall toward the airlock.
      "Well?" Susan asked them as they silently got into their suits.
      "It'll either work, or it won't." John said.
      George frowned, "We took our best shot." He sang trying to sound hopeful but not really pulling it off. "It might work. It just might."
      "If it doesn't?" Heather asked in plain speech.
      "Explosive decompression." John said.
      "You all will be dead before we get back in here to see if it's really working." Tiny and George sang slowly together.
      "You still want us to do it?" John asked them.
      "We've got five hours left." Debby sang.
      "What else can we do?" Dara added.
      "There's no choice." Amy continued.
      "Do it. And it'll work." The twenty people in the room sang together.

      Heather looked at the group. "We've got five spare environmental suits. Who wants to suffocate in one of them by themselves instead of in here with us?"

      The three got their suits back on and pulled the cart into the airlock.
      The group in the common room saluted en masse as they passed the windows. The three returned it and towed the cart toward the machinery barn.
      George moved the rocks he could so the others could pull the cart easier.
      They made the trip more quickly than they had before.
      As they opened the door they noticed ice forming on the surfaces in the unheated structure. Condensation from the escaping air.
      There was an audible hiss from the malfunctioning distributor.
      "Let's get to it." Dr. Zook said.
      George bounced to the control panel and shut everything down. While it would save their remaining air, it gave the people inside only a couple of hours before the air in the station would begin to go bad.
      John readied the assembly to receive the new part. Tiny worked on the new distributor connecting the wiring harness and control cables.
      Tiny carried it to the machine.
      They stood and looked at each other for a second.
      "We can do this. And it WILL work." John said.
      George sighed loudly. Dr. Zook nodded.

      It was an intense half-hour of work.
      "Thread tape."
      "Cable connector."
      "That was my glove."
      "Test that fuse."
      "Continuity check."
      "Pressure seal."
      Then it was in.
      "Let's test it." George said looking at the module.
      "No point. It'll either work, or it won't." Dr. Zook said.
      "Agreed. If we test it and it blows out, then what?" John asked him.
      George nodded, then he sang his opinion. "It's our best. If it's not good enough, we gave it all we could give."
      Tiny looked at the commander. "You should turn it on."
      John nodded.
      "You'll either be their salvation, or their executioner." George sang.
      "Thanks a lot." John said. He walked to the main console. "Which buttons."
      "System reset. Primary." George said.
      Dr. Zook added one more thing. "Don't tell them." He jerked his head toward the base.
      John nodded and closed his eyes for a second, then he pushed the buttons.

      The walk back to the air lock was the longest moonwalk in the history of Man in Space.
      Not by meters covered. But by the emotions they went through.
      The system seemed to have been working as designed. But that didn't mean a whole lot. It might have been compressing, pumping, and distributing, nothing at all.
      They entered the airlock and closed the outside door.
      "Now we'll know." Dr. Zook said.
      "If the chamber doesn't repressurize..." John said. He nodded to George.
      George hit the switch. At first nothing happened.
      They looked at each other with dread in their eyes.
      They had forgotten the airlock needs a couple of seconds to begin its cycle.
      A hiss.
      The pressure indicator on the wall began to climb.
      "That's more like it." Tiny sang.
      Then there was a banging on the inner door. The twins peered in at them with smiles on their faces.

      They leaped out of the airlock to the slaps and hugs. And even a few kisses.
      "We've got air!" Heather sang.
      "Fresh Air!" Debby cheered.
      "It's working!" The twins trilled.
      In spite of the fact that over half the station was still sealed off and freezing because they didn't have enough air to go around, they were still alive, and that was something to celebrate.
      The following madness of dance and lilting singing was beyond any hope of being remotely described. In the lunar gravity, their conga line looked like a caterpillar that was having a seizure in slow motion.
      "They did it! We did it! We're still alive in our hole in the moon!" They sang. "We've got air to breathe, we've got heat to feel, we're still alive in our hole on the moon! They did it! We did it! We're alive and dancing... Alive and Dancing! We're alive and Dancing On The Moon!"

      In Control John took a break from the festivities to let Earth know they were still alive.
      "Yeah Jon, bring it on!" He sang into the communicator. That's right, He was singing. "We fixed it and it works! Lunar Base Hawking is still up and running. All we need is some more air and two new distributors and we'll be good as new."
      He took a breath.
      "We're still alive in our hole in the moon! We're alive and dancing... Alive and Dancing! We're alive and Dancing On The Moon!"


[This is based on an original idea used in several other works as one of the worst movies ever made. The current work is meant to fulfill the requirements as the base work and background for those references. Copyright by author.
    E-mail for info: dr_leftover[-at-]themediadesk[-dot-]com ]

{Author's note: While SOME of the names may appear familiar to the author's inner circle. No resemblance or harm to any actual persons living or dead is intended. The usage of the names is merely a convenience.}

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