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Lunacy: New Moon


  06:46:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 1120 words  
Categories: Lunacy

Lunacy: New Moon

Paul wandered the halls bleary-eyed. He had two messages waiting for him when he woke up next to Laura. The first read, ?Come after you finish having sex.? The second clarified, ?Not a semen joke.? Paul found Ken in the cafeteria. It had been cleaned up, and put back mostly in pristine condition, save for a few scuffed surfaces. He had several monitors on the wall showing exterior scenes from along the train route. They showed the sun slowly cresting the horizon, cutting a swath of light over the lunar surface. Ken had a bottle and two glasses on the table next to him. The ice in one was pristine and new, and in the other melted from repeated pourings from the bottle. ?It?s a difficult science,? Ken said, upending the bottle over each glass in turn, ?figuring out how long an estranged man and his lady will be in a sex coma after their reunion. Even tougher trying to figure out how deeply into the bag an old boozehound with a now wicked alcohol tolerance has to crawl so that you can catch and then keep up.? ?I thought you were drying up,? Paul said. ?I?m tapering off. And this is an occasion worth drinking to.? ?Our reunion?? ?We?re the fathers of calamity- this disaster?s bastard daddumses. With all of the guilt and self-doubt that come with that.? ?You remember the little speech you gave me when I joined NASA?? Ken grinned. It was a speech he enjoyed, and he enjoyed it especially with Paul- a man he thought was smart enough to know how insane what he wanted from his life was. ?We?re all lunatics, here. I voluntarily shoot my friends ballistically outside orbit. And you idiots volunteer, and even trained like little lab rats, for the fucking privilege. But we back that crazy up with smarts, and balls, so by the time we do catapult your narrow ass out of the atmosphere, you?ll intimately understand as much of the mad science keeping you alive as I can ratchet into your melon, along with all the bad crap that can happen to you, in excruciating detail- and you?ll have the gonadal danglitude to go forward and get the damn job done.? ?Good speech. Better without the slurring. But a good speech.? ?I think I cribbed most of it from Eisenhower. Sprinkled with liberal plagiarism from Mr. Wizard.? ?For what it?s worth,? Paul said, ?I think you made the right call. Not about me, obviously. But not letting more people up here. We would have lost more people- and the incursion force probably would have had casualties, as well. It was the responsible and even right decision; you wouldn?t have saved anybody, and you likely would have killed even more.? ?We trust the hell out of you, Ken, because we?ve seen it time and again. If your astronauts called needing infant kidneys, you wouldn?t dicker around about whether or not we could substitute with something less offensive, or spend weeks playing chess with Congress over appropriations. You?d grab a scalpel and ask only how many, and whether or not size mattered.? ?Already learned that one the hard way- it does.? ?We still trust you. That trust wasn?t about thinking you were never going to fuck up. It wasn?t based around the foolish belief that none of us were putting ourselves in danger. Astronauting is dangerous work- always has been, and always will be. There?s danger inherent in pushing the boundaries of what humanity can do, where we?ve been, or what we can be. That trust was cemented in the belief that you would do everything you can- including some things that would see you in a federal or possibly international prison for the rest of your days- just to secure our way home. And that was a trust you validated, volunteering to shuffle your rapidly wrinkling ass up here with our supplies, knowing you might possibly get eaten in the process.? Ken took a loud sip from his glass, draining it. ?Not a bad pep talk,? he said. ?I?d give it a B, B minus.? ?B minus?? ?Could have made it go down easier by incorporating a stripper.? ?There aren?t any strippers in space.? ?You just haven?t been looking hard enough,? Ken said, with a twinkle in his eye. ?Colleen?? Paul asked. ?All women take off their clothes,? Ken said. ?Some just do it more sexily than others.? He filled Paul?s glass. ?But this isn?t just about purging my demons.? ?I was just planning on blaming the whole thing on you- and then telling you that we weren?t.? ?As defense mechanisms go, not bad. But not sufficient, either. This could be your last chance to go all to pieces, and blame it on the booze,? Ken said, sloshing the last few pours around inside the bottle. Paul raised his glass and drank. ?I do feel bad,? he said. ?I wanted to get into space so badly? it?s easy to look back and say I knew better. Or should have seen this coming. But I know enough of human psychology to doubt that certainty. I don?t know if I did know better, or if I?m just projecting what I know now to better emotionally abuse myself. Despite all that, I?m okay. Not great. And I don?t know if I?ll ever be at peace over it- I don?t know if I should be. People died, and I was at the absolute least a facilitator of that pain.? He sighed, and killed half of what remained in his glass. ?But watching Rica and Skot suffer? it just reminds me that I had so much to lose. Maria, Laura, a kid. If I feel guilty over anything it?s that I suffered so disproportionately little. I?m not saying I wish bad things happened to people I love to assuage my guilt- I just feel guilt that I got off so easy.? ?Did you?? Ken asked. ?Skot and Rica get to move on. Tragedy struck them, but tragedy does that. It?s random, and ephemeral. But guilt is an albatross, always there, heavy with the weight you carry, always reminding you with its fetid stink of your failures.? Paul swallowed. ?Hubris is nasty when it bites you, but when it hurts other people- innocent bystanders? You?re not cold enough for it not to bother you, Paul. But you?re too good a man to let it destroy you. And it will. I?ve seen it do for men whose boots we weren?t fit to lick. I don?t know how you forgive yourself for that kind of fuck-up.? He raised his glass. ?But I?ve found liquor helps.? He clinked his glass to Paul?s. ?And having an ear to bend.?

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