Apollo 11 National Park is a crown jewel of the California
Parks system. It is one of the few places left in the solar system where people
can visit a site untouched since man's earliest attempts to leave Earth. Nearly
all of the old landing zones explored by humans during mans early space
programs were obliterated by commercial development, collectors and explorers
who came afterward. At the Apollo 11 site however, everything remains as it was
left hundreds of years ago by the two men who originally walked on that spot.
Their footprints are still easily seen in the lunar dust around the fragile and
shiny descent stage upon which they rode to the surface.
stood on the visitors center platform, looking out at the ancient landing
site and the panorama beyond. There were numerous primitive tools and sensors
which had been left behind by the visiting American astronauts. Some items were
so close she could have reached over the rail and grabbed them were it not for
the clear wall in between. She marveled at the delicacy and size of the main
vehicle, built by people long since dead and by a nation long since gone. She
shook her head quietly.
Americans. she thought to herself. It was not very often she heard
that word anymore. Most people never thought about the fact that California
used to belong to a larger country two countries actually with
populations in the hundreds of millions. The mind boggled at the sheer scale of
pre-glacial human activity.
along and taking in the view, she looked up into the blackness of space above
the sharp grey horizon. There were no stars visible, not with the sun shining
brightly. She ran her slender hands along the smooth wooden railing and
pondered last nights dream, but her eyes watered up and she
self-consciously moved away from a nearby cluster of tourists. She sniffed a
couple of times, cleared her throat and resumed a slow walk across the enormous
she was walking through was the fourth building to occupy the old Apollo site,
it was fairly new, very large, modern and quite beautiful. It offered panoramic
vistas in every direction and was connected underground to a nearby observatory
complex. In fact, it was at the observatory that Ortiz had her next
appointment, so she made her way back to the elevators and down to the subway
humanity had gotten much better at tunneling underground since the days
of Apollo. This particular day was busy, school was in session and there were
over a hundred students bustling around the shopping area beneath the
visitors hall. Ortiz enjoyed seeing so many very young people all in one
place, none of them could have been over 25 years old. Babies. she
thought to herself.
minutes later she walked into the Aldrin Lunar Observatory reception area. Its
titanium and beryllium exterior was gracefully sculpted into a steep, open
topped arch beneath which observatory staff worked at their stations and
offices. Even in these times when humans did not really need offices anymore,
they still had them. They needed their own little places to hide. At least on
the moon you could build on the surface and enjoy the view, albeit a very
different view people on Earth would see.
the long way around to the main entry of the observatory research center. The
entry plaza was spacious and modern, flanked by copper-sheathed columns that
caught the filtered sunlight and reflected it onto an atrium that dominated the
core. She immediately caught sight of Doctor Joao Dumont, the space sciences
director. The tall, slender scientist was a naturalized Californian of
Brasilian descent, and not accidentally part Japanese, which he spoke fluently.
He was engrossed in something and only looked up as Ortiz approached.
it is good to see you again. he exclaimed as he strode forward
on his long legs with his hand held up in greeting. I was starting to
think you would never come to visit us, or is it possible you are here to see
someone else?" he asked with a sly look in his eyes.
Joao. said Ortiz purposely looking past him and around the room as if he
were not there. If I thought you were important enough, I would come to
see you more often. she added, accompanied by her trademark smirk. With
that she smiled at him and Joao nodded his head seriously, Oh so
its like that is it? He punched her lightly on the arm and asked;
All right Miss Big, would you like to see the show? She nodded
enthusiastically and so he motioned down the main hall, where they proceeded
past the numerous work centers and offices. And what beautiful, spacious
offices they were. Up here on the moon, people were compensated for the grey
view by having lots of personal space.
At the end
of the hallway they passed through another entry which confirmed their identity
as they entered. This was a secure area and not everyone who worked at the
observatory was allowed there. It was not so much what was inside; rather it
was what people discussed that mattered there was still plenty of
information in the solar system that needed to be kept from prying ears.
Turning left Joao entered a sparsely furnished room surrounded on three sides
by a dark vanishing horizon reflection pool and giant floor to ceiling windows.
Outside was the ongoing panorama of the moons surface, the effect was
He sat down
across from her as they both relaxed into the comfortable dark sofas. He was
the first to speak. How are you? he asked clinically. You
seem rather, sad if I could be so presumptuous. He was more than just an
astronomer, and the observatorys sensors had a few things to tell him
about his visitor. She nodded slowly, thinking for a few seconds. It was
a dream I had last night, about my friend Sarah she died many years ago
and last night, out of nowhere, I dreamt about her.
Anything I can hear? Joaos tone was sympathetic and
and thought for a moment, turned and looked out beyond the pool to the
undulating grey horizon. Without looking back at Joao, she began to speak in an
even tone; In the dream, I was in a small room talking to some people.
Sarah walked past the doorway, you know, as if it were a perfectly normal day
and she was on the way to do some mundane thing in the next room. I called out
to her Hey Sarah. She stopped and turned in the doorway, looking
patiently at me to continue. With an impish, sentimental grin I said,
Its good to see you. in friendly earnestness. It was the only
thing I could think to say. Even within the dream I knew she had been gone a
very long time. She smiled and tottered her head in the friendly, casual way of
someone who knew they would see me again
and then she walked off.
staring down at the shiny, hard floor.
Well. Joao said. Its good to have dreams like that,
its good for you.
was. We were childhood friends you know. I dont mean like teens or
twenties childhood, I mean we knew each other when we were five. For each of
us, the other person had always been around. Anyway, its good to know
that she is still in there. Sonya said, tapping lightly at her temple.
With a crisp clearing of her throat, she looked back at Joao.
So. she paused. Now its your turn Joao, but Ill
apologize that I dont want to hear what you dreamed about last
night before? he asked with a questioning smile.
night before. she affirmed.
we do have a bit of information. he added, watching the surface of the
couch change slightly as he ran his hands over it, he was an eternal
experimenter. Without looking back at her, he opened a data thread and popped
open a large viewer between them. As it floated in the air just beyond reach, a
breathtaking new view appeared. She hissed slightly as her breath drew in.
wow. Joao smiled. The image stream was from the fifth of the Cook
interstellar probes, a series of missions sent many decades previously. Cook 5
had successfully entered orbit last night, at least according to signals it had
sent 43 years ago. It was as live as anyone near Earth would get for now.
important thing that the large visual feed from Cook 5 revealed as it orbited
hundreds of miles above the surface of the planet dozens of light years away
was water, nothing but water actually. That was what they were counting on.
Decades of planning were culminating in just a few days of action. The Cook 5
probe carried several sets of smaller modules that would investigate the
planet's atmosphere, ocean and core. The view panned downward, below Cook Five
was indeed one of the modules that had launched and was already speeding
quickly away from the parent vehicle. As it lost altitude and headed down into
the atmosphere, the front shields began to glow.
over at the doctor with a smile on her face, Spectacular Joao,
congratulations. Her eyes panned across the view in front of her one more
time. Of course this had been done before, but not so often that it was not an
Yes. Joao replied. And thanks to the people who built it
also. They both nodded in quiet reflection of the enormous complexities
of the mission.
continued. The Japanese are far ahead of us, but we are not so backwards
that they show no interest when we visit someplace new. His last words
were accompanied by a caustic smile. He liked the Japanese and he spoke their
language, but he was the competitive type and not always comfortable with them
holding all the cards. He did not mind at all handing this data over to them,
maybe they would not be so insufferable for a while.
smiled, she sympathized. I will tell them about this, but they will not
expect anything yet, they will wait until we have more information. Anyway, I
dont think thats why Mr. Yamazaki is visiting us, this is earlier
than he would normally ask to meet. She looked back up at Dumont with a
tight smile, he knew she was here to meet with the Japanese and not him, and
that it was probably about the war.
Well. he said. I think you are up to it, let me know if your
dreams change. was his last request.
doctor. she replied in mock politeness.
Yamazaki was a Japanese diplomat permanently assigned to Earth. Because of this
he was unusual among Japanese in that he was still physically fit to visit the
surface. A vast majority of Japans citizens living at L5 were adapted to
weightlessness and could no longer visit Earth. Most of the stations out there
that jointly made up Japan did not even employ artificial gravity,
at least not at the levels seen on the home planet. However, the Japanese
government maintained a small population on Earth who could work as liaisons
and diplomats in their original earthbound environment. Nobody was quite sure
where on the planet they stayed, but they had their own typically Japanese ways
of maintaining obligations.
walked in to the restaurant she saw Mister Yamazaki and walked over to him,
bowing low; Yamazaki-san, it is good to see you again, I understand you
requested my company, I am honored by your consideration.
bowed to the same level as Ortiz; Thank you Miss Ortiz, I hope your
health has been excellent. he replied. He briefly paused and looked at
her searchingly. She hoped he did not perceive the same weakness that Joao had
seen. They had an unnerving sense for that sort of thing.
your permission Miss Ortiz, I would like to present a technology packet to
California, in honor of your ancestors who shared all they knew to help Japan
in its time of greatest need. We will long remember their efforts.
thank you, in the name of all the people of California, for the benefit of the
many who still claim descent. This small ceremony used to be conducted
with great fanfare between heads of state. For the last couple of hundred years
it was mostly handled at middle diplomatic levels and typically when there was
something else to discuss. In this case, that something else was probably war.
Yamazaki handed Ortiz the small, delicately folded paper envelope that
represented the technology transfer the actual transfer would take place
on Earth at exactly midnight he invited her to lunch; Please Miss
Ortiz, have a seat and we will relax in trying times.
Yes, Ortiz thought, they have something to say about the
The food was
served as they sat down in the private area of the restaurant. It had an
excellent view of the observatory where Sonya had just been, except this
perspective had a clear view of the giant surface collectors that radiated out
from the observatory core. The restaurant was full of customers, but the
Japanese never seemed to worry about that. They had their own ways of making
sure nobody else was listening, and they always preferred personal
conversations. Whether that was a cultural or technological decision nobody was
sure. Ortiz believed it was both.
The food was
light, mostly raw fish snacks and rice with seaweed, followed by delicately
fried shrimps and vegetables dipped in thin sauces. It was delicious but not
filling; easier to eat whilst hearing bad news.
Japanese government is concerned Miss Ortiz, as Im sure your government
already understands. Ortiz confirmed his statement with a barely
detectable nod. She was alarmed however, she had been hoping the Japanese would
not use such a strong word as concerned, this could be bad.
continued; The Selangor offensive has caused disruption. Commercial
activity is down; key materials production on Mars and numerous asteroids is no
longer shipping on time. Orbital debris above Earth has quadrupled and above
Mars has tripled. There are reports of task forces for both sides still on deep
space trajectories; these reports have all the hallmarks of a protracted
and looked at her with that spooky neutral expression, not quite a smile, not
quite a leer. We trust California not to take sides on this matter, but
we also understand who the current aggressor is.
thats good. thought Ortiz. They understand why we rescued
those two Australians.
is a time when friends need to be able to trust and advise one another, both
our friends and your friends, do you understand Miss Ortiz?
Yes. She replied with another barely detectable nod. This was bad.
The Japanese were going to do something. But there was something else, what was
continued; We understand, and we thank you for your generous
you Miss Ortiz, you are a kind host and I look forward to seeing you again. I
trust that next time we meet, you will have a better opportunity to enjoy the
With that he
almost smiled, stood and bowed. Ortiz stood and bowed in return and watched him
walk out through the restaurant.
around the room, at the many people ironically enjoying their Japanese food.
Her fears were confirmed, what she had hinted at to Williams was true
and more. But what did Yamazaki mean by 'our friends and your friends?
Who were their friends? California? Was there a hint buried in there that it
was okay to improve relations with Australia?
Well, she thought, back to San Diego to see how everyone
parses the conversation. The Japanese always mean more than they say, I just
hope we figure out what exactly they meant before they do whatever it is
Yamazaki just hinted at.
Ortiz felt she could be sure about, Selangor had better duck. But they were not
going to get that little piece of information from California. They were on
their own with this one.
back down at the table and picked up a piece of batter fried shrimp, held it up
for brief scrutiny and then bit it in half. She tossed the remnant back onto
the plate, looked unhappily at the now empty doorway and walked out.
09. Bali Leave