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Smugglers, Thieves and the Dark Side of the Moon

April 4, 2018

Ok folks, here it is. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did writing it.

 

Smugglers, Thieves, and The Dark Side of the Moon
By
Ike Keen

 

The alarm went off four minutes before it should have. I mean, four minutes is four minutes no matter where you are at. Especially on this air less, dust covered planet a few thousand miles from Mother Earth.
I sat up in my sleep pod and rubbed my eyes, glanced at the clock and groaned. Another day at playing lawman. Another day of patrolling the west unit. The one where all the asteroid miners came to be checked out before they and their loads traveled home. Loads of metals no longer found on the mined-out surface of Earth. Minerals that had ran out when the world I had once called home decided to close the mines.
This happened right after a company sent a team to check out the asteroid belt located between Mars and Jupiter looking to see if there was any profit in mining the floating rocks. Twice the mission failed. The first one being the ship that was supposed to take the people to the belt malfunctioned and sent them past the belt and into deep space. Some say it was sabotage. The bible thumpers claimed it was God’s will. What it really was, was a glitch in the software.
The second time it was a micro-meteor shower. The shielding on the ship not heavy enough to stop the tiny rocks from penetrating the metal skin of the ship. Including the fuel tanks. Electric sparks set the fuel off and boom, another mission bit the dust.
Billions of dollars later they tried again, this time with luck and finding a treasure trove of what was needed back home. There were of course other troubles popped up. One being a microbe carried back to Mother Earth.
One that killed thousands before a cure was found. That’s why Delta Base One was built here on the moon. Now all ships coming from the belt dock here first. Medical teams going over the crew and the ship. Most passing muster but a few quarantined until whatever bug they found was eradicated.
Of course, there had to be law on the base so the company hired people to keep the peace. One space marshal and a deputy or two. Mostly just one deputy. Some of the regulars who lived on the base could be sworn in in case of an emergency.
I pushed the button on my console and the pod door hissed open, the air in my quarters a little stale. I stood and walked over to the condenser control panel, checked the gauges and adjusted a couple of controls. I turned and then stopped, Zee Parker, my deputy who shared quarters with me, was in the shower.
Zee is a looker. Average height, she is well endowed and curvy. She’s been here with me for over a year and in that year, we have become close. Closer than the Company would like but what the hell, a man has needs and so does she. She turned and looked at me, grinned and opened the door a little, sticking her head out.
“Morning,” she said in a sultry voice, “looks like someone is happy to see me.”
I smiled back and walked over to her, opened the shower door and stepped in. We’d be late but what the hell, the west unit could wait.
***
I sent Zee to check on the hydroponic farm down on the west end where the alarm had said there was trouble. The man in charge of the farm was Professor Burns. He had left a message that someone was stealing potatoes from the farm a few weeks back.
“It’s probably the bar owners in the Red Light District stealing his spuds again,” I said to Zee as she strapped on her stunner.
“Can’t blame em’,” Zee said walking to the door, “Booze shipments haven’t been coming in regular and old Burns charges a fortune for the spuds when they want to buy some to keep their customers happy.”
“Yeah, just go down and see the prof and take his complaint. Check it out then file a report.” I looked at Zee and she snapped to attention, saluted and left. I chuckled and went back to checking my email. I did send an email to the Company saying we were investigating the stolen spuds and if the prof had contacted them again, to tell him to not charge so much.
Like that is gonna happen. Burns is a tea teetotaler. He told me potatoes were for eating, not for making liquor. The rest of the emails were minor stuff. Rule changes, a note to remind the Red Light District about their annual checkups for the girls and notices of shipments coming in.
I was about to shut down when the comp screen flashed red then switched to a map of the hydroponic farm flashing in red which meant big trouble. I made tracks out the door and down the hall, calling to Zee on the radio and getting nothing but static. Halfway there I tried again, this time Zee’s voice came through the crackle of static.
“Mason, do you read me?”
“Yeah Zee, what the hell’s going on?” I yelled into the mic.
“Breach…. sealed off hydro…. unit…. Burns….”
I picked up the pace. Rounding the corner, I seen Zee at the airlock door. I skidded to a stop and she jerked her head around at me.
“Look,” she whispered and stepped back.
I looked. I saw something in the hydroponics. Something dark ripping Prof Burns apart. I reached for the button to open the door and Zee grabbed my hand.
“The dome, it’s been breached.” She pointed. I looked. A hole was in the dome top which meant no air. Least Burns was dead before the thing started on him.
“So, it came through the dome?” I asked.
“No, it tossed Burn’s assistant through the dome roof. I got here just as it done that. It grabbed Burns before he was sucked out. I hit the emergency shut down before the air was sucked all out of this section.”
“Where did it come from then?”
“Hell if I know…” Zee stopped, then snapped her fingers. “Isn’t there a tunnel entrance on the other side of the farm?”
I nodded. “We’ll have to go around and through the Red Light District to get to the tunnel. Just hope to hell the old door works.”
“Then lead on oh wise one.”
I grunted and took the lead. Back in the day, various tunnels were used to connect the unites together until the corridors were finished. Most of them were sealed off with steel doors. Maintained in case they needed to be used again.
Going through the Red Light District was always an experience. Most of the time we don’t go down there. Only when something bad happens. Looks like bad had come. In between times, Holly and her girls take care of the trouble. As we rounded the corner I slowed. Some of the girls were crowded around the door, the door shut.
“What’s going on?” I said. The girls jumped and one of them gasped.
“God, it was bad, really, really bad!” one of the girls said.
“What was bad?” I growled it and Zee stepped around me.
“Tell me what happened?” Zee’s voice was smooth and quiet. Holly, the one who kept law and order here started to talk.
“I was in the Moon Dog Club. I was makin’ a deal with this miner when one of the miners came slammin’ through the window, part of him anyway. After that it was crazy. People screamin’, body parts all over the place. We got out and closed the door. Other people were trying to get out but we…. we….”
She let out a sob and Zee put her arm around her and led her and the others away from the door. They were at the corner when Med-Assist showed up. They took the girls and Zee came back.
“We go in?” she asked.
“We go in.” I took in a deep breath and pushed the door button. There was a hiss and the door slid open, half of a dead body lying in front of it. I stepped over and Zee followed. The air was filled with the smell of coppery blood. Pieces of bodies were tossed around. The entrance door to the tunnel was open. One man was trying to crawl across the walkway by one arm. I nodded for Zee to check him and she went to him while I covered her.
“Celest,” he gasped out, “check the Celest.”
He groaned. His eyes rolled up in his head as he let out his last breath. Zee was about to stand when I dove toward her. A black shape streaked over us, hit the walkway and disappeared into the tunnel on the other side. I fired my stunner but all it did was hit the wall and crackle.
“What the hell was that?” Zee hissed.
“Whatever it was, we need to lock down this unit also.”
“But what if….”
I shook my head and we made our way back to the door, Zee watching forward; me watching our backs. Once through the door I hit the emergency close, the door closing fast. Something slamming into it as it closed and sealed, denting it but not breaking through.
“That tunnel leads to the farm. We need to close off units six and seven. Activate the general alarm,” I said running toward the control room, “then we check out that ship he told us about.”
Zee was right on my heels. We reached the control room and I noticed a few more red lights on. Emergency lights. All in units six and seven. I hit the emergency lockdown button then went back to the office pulling the key card around my neck loose.
I walked over to a cabinet on the east wall, slipped the key in the lock, then punched in a code. The door opened and I handed Zee one of the Laser rifles along with a laser pistol. She clipped the pistol’s holster clip on her belt and checked the laser rifle.
“Aim carefully, you know what will happen if you breach any of the domes.” I said.
“Whoosh, instant death.” She said this and smiled. I chuckled and we headed toward the docking bay.
***
You probably think her last statement was a little morbid to be laughed at. Not so here. I mean, all it would take is one screw up and we’d all be standing in front of St. Peter and the gates. We may be headed that way now.
The docking bay is located on the backside of Delta, close to the dark side. Close like in ten or fifteen Earth miles away. At the docking bay control room, I checked the air in the bay which said it was fine but we still took oxygen bottles with us. The controls might have malfunctioned giving a wrong reading.
We took the elevator down to the bay floor. When it stopped, I pushed the door open button and looked a Zee.
“Here goes,” I said and let off the button. There was no hiss of air being pulled out of the elevator so I slowly took the mask off. There was air, but it had the smell of scorched metal and flesh. As we stepped out, I let out a low whistle. There had been a battle here. Laser burns scarred the metal of the walls and ships. Someone had used the gun on one of the ships, a frigate which was illegally armed, and had split a passenger ship in two, the back half still smoking where it had exploded.
Lots of bodies lay around, ripped apart like the ones in the R.L. District. As I checked to see if anyone was still alive, I noticed that there was a dark smear on the center of the bay doors leading outside. I motioned to them and Zee nodded. We walked over and what I saw is hard to describe.
Something had tried to slip through the doors before they slammed shut. Well, half of them made it. To describe that half was what is hard. Its skin was black as midnight and scaly. The head was conical shaped with a beak for the mouth. I bet the thing had a dozen eyes sprouting out of its head on middle finger sized stalks and for arms, there were appendages which were hinged like a bug. Where the hands should have been was a mass of tentacles, the suckers on the ends having tiny mouths.
Zee started to kneel and one of the tentacles snapped out missing her by inches. I fired my rifle, the beam lancing across the things flesh and sliced it open. The stench from it was gagging. I motioned for Zee to follow me and we walked back to the elevator. We kept an eye out for maybe a live one hiding out. All we saw were dead, ripped apart bodies and blasted ones like at the dock doors.
We were midway of the bay when a clatter of metal sounded to my right and the thump of a proton gun split the air. I dove to the floor, the blast of the gun smacking one of the ships and melting the metal on it.
Zee lowered her rifle, chuckled then called out. “Harv, it’s us Harv. Zee and Mason.”
I came up on my knees and looked where Zee was watching. Peeking around a stack of metal boxes with a full head of white hair and blue eyes was Harvey Morris, He slowly stood and gave us a sheepish grin.
“Thought they told you to get rid of that ancient pop gun?” I said standing. Harv walked over to us and hefted the proton gun up in the air. They were developed during the boarder wars of 2116. The unit having a brace that fit around the arm, the proton gun itself a heavy piece of metal that was balanced with the other hand by a grip on the bottom. It had a hell of a recoil. A few of the men who handled them suffered from elbow and shoulder trouble.
“Only thing that was available. They confiscate all weapons once the ships are docked.” Harv gave the gun a shake. “I hid this baby a long while back.”
“What the hell happened Harv?” Zee asked.
Harv shook his head and sat down on a metal box, the proton gun resting muzzle down on the floor.
“The bastards came in on the Celest. They flew her in and docked as per regulation. Nothing out of the ordinary until the med crew came out.” Harv paused and sucked in a deep breath and let it out slow. “After a few minutes, the hatch cracked open and one of the med crew walked halfway up the ramp. One of them things reached out and grabbed him, ripped him up and tossed the pieces back out at the crew on the floor. They piled out then. Black as midnight and rippin’ up anyone they could get a hold of.
“Three of them headed toward the elevator while the rest did their damage. Them two at the bay doors, I vaporized their asses off with this baby, literally.” He patted the proton gun. “The three who were at the elevator were having a fit. The control room crew had shut it down and they couldn’t get it to work. After that, they went to the tunnel hatch. Opened it and disappeared down the tunnels.”
“Which is how they got into the hydro farm and the R.L. District.” I looked over at the Celest for a moment, Zee reading what I was going to do. “Keep an eye out. Maybe the captain’s logs can tell us something.”
I made tracks to the hatch of the ship, walked up to the opening and peeked inside. What was left of the crew wouldn’t fill a medium sized crate. I stepped around all the body parts and gore and headed to the cockpit. The captain’s body was still intact, well, the body was, the head had a hole in it and was sunk in.
I pulled him from his seat and sat down, activated the control console and brought up the logs. I brought up the last log, lots of noise and I could hear laser rifles firing. Then the captain was there, a cut on his head and his voice tight.
“Date; 2563. Time; 0500 hours. We came across the dark side of the moon because one of my men said he was getting life form readings from one of the craters. I told him he was nuts then he put it up on the screen. Something was moving down there so we dipped lower and opened the window screens to see.
“That was when the light hit us. Bright white, it blinded us both and our ship hit the ground. Next thing we knew those things were crawling all over the outside of the ship. Pounding on the hull trying to find a way in. Jeff and Sandy took over the helm while my eyes cleared and got us up and going, but not before they found a way inside from the engine compartment.
“We’ve sealed it off but they are strong. The door isn’t going to hold. I’m sending this to Delta Base. Whoever hears it, don’t let the ship in. Don’t let….”
Screams, laser fire, more screams and the captain reaching out to hit the send button. He never made it. A black tentacle hit him on top of the head and started to drill into it. A black head appeared on the screen then it went blank.
“Anything?” a voice said behind me. I jumped and whirled around. Zee held up both hands. “Whoa boss, me friendly.”
“Sorry.” I let the tension drain out a little. “Just that they were coming in from the dark side and they saw those things so they went down to investigate.”
“And got jumped.”
I nodded. “But why? Why jump a ship when they could have just crawled back in their holes and when the crew told what they saw, nobody would have believed them. It’s happened before. Remember when those two scientists went looking around on the dark side and came back claiming there were buildings there?”
“Yeah, they said they had moon fever from being out too long.”
“That wasn’t the term the doctors used,” I said.
“Well, the technical name for it is beyond my pronunciation skills. Means the same though.” Zee made a face and snarled her nose up. “We gotta do something Mason before we’re the only live ones left so far.”
I nodded and exited the ship, the three of us headed toward the elevator and the control room. I sat down at the computer and brought up all the cameras on the base. I knew the hydro farm and the R.L. District were gone so I switched to the last ten units on the base. Units ten through fifteen were a mess. The base military, the people who lived there, had taken a hit. The last five were locked down, the things milling around in the halls as one of them fiddled with the controls to the door. Unit twenty was filled with people.
“We need to get to those people in unit twenty and get them the hell to the docking bay,” Harv said.
“How, the only way in is through where those damned things are,” I said.
“Not the only way.” Harv grinned and motioned for us to follow.
***
We went down to one of the doors that sealed off the unit from the tunnels. Back before the units were built, the first arrivals bored tunnels in the mountain sides, installed airtight doors and set up oxygen machines. Harv flipped open a dusty box and pressed his thumb to the pad there. The door cycled then slid open. Musty air filtered out, dust fell from the door frame and lights every few feet came on.
“This is the first tunnel they bored after they landed. At the end is the living quarters. Unit twenty was built first then the others. They moved the living quarters out there once it was done and sealed the tunnel off with a door. It was to be an escape hatch in case something happened. Only a few men had access to the locks.” Harv looked over his shoulder and grinned.
“And you were one of them.” I answered.
He nodded and hustled on down the tunnel. In a few minutes, we stood in a twelve by twenty room carved out of the rock. Old cots and tables, layered with years of dust stood in the room. Harv walked over to another panel and opened it, pressed his thumb on the pad, leaned in and whispered a word. The door cycled, shivered them opened. A laser lanced through the opening.
“Marshal Mason,” I called out, “hold your fire.”
I peeked around the door jam and a rifle was pointed at my head. When the man saw my face, he let out a breath and the others did also.
“This way,” I said motioning to the people in the room, “we need to get you to the docking bay and on a ship.”
“Bout damned time,” the man with the rifle said. Harv was inside helping the people through, one eye on them, the other on the door out to the corridor.
“Best move faster,” he hissed at me. I glanced over at the door and it was moving.
“Quickly,” I snapped to the rest of the people. They were almost through when the door screeched and slid halfway open.
“Come on Harv,” I yelled. He grinned at me and shoved me out into the tunnel.
“Get em’ to the ship.” Harv said.
I started to reach in and grab him but he pressed his thumb on the pad and the door slid shut. The last sounds I heard was the proton gun firing, and Harv yelling.
***
The ship, a Company passenger ship left the dock in record time. All that was left were me and Zee. While we were getting the ship ready, I was thinking about why those things had attacked the Celest.
We’d been on the moon since 2188. In all that time, these beings had never bothered us, never showed themselves to us. Now, they were hell bent on ridding the planet of us. Why? Maybe the answer was on the ship. I told Zee this and she nodded.
“The captain, you know him?” she asked.
I shook my head.
“Well, while you were briefing that fellow on how the ship worked, I went into the Celest and viewed the log. The guy’s name is Preston Crabs. He a smuggler and thief when he isn’t hauling honest freight. I also found this.” Zee held a book out to me. “Bet this is what they’re after.”
I took the book, opened it and leafed through some of the pages. One caught my eye. It was one page and on it was a picture of a statue. Only this statue was of solid gold. It was an ugly looking thing, the face flat, the eyes big and bug like. A small mouth held needle sharp teeth and carved on the body were tentacles.
“No,” I said showing her the picture, “They were after this.”
Zee grunted and took the book. I checked back in the cargo bay, the metal boxes all ripped apart. I thumped on the walls and listened for a hollow space. There were none.
“Hey boss, we got company!”
I went back forward and looked out the hatch. They were coming toward us, twittering in some unknow language. I stepped back to close the hatch when my foot made a hollow thump on one of the plates in the floor. I pointed at the plates and Zee helped me move them.
Two plates came up and under the floor the statue lay. Zee and I hefted it out of the hole, placed the plates back and moved it toward the hatch.
“Be ready, they might want blood,” I whispered and drew my pistol. The twittering changed sound when they saw the statue. It was like a low hum. As we stood with our back against the other side of the ship, the hum grew louder, tentacles reaching out gently, caressing the statue then gently lifting it.
As soon as it was out, one of the beings came halfway into the hatch, one of his tentacles reaching out and pointing at the book. I stepped forward and held it out to him. The tentacle reached out and gently wrapped around the book and pulled it from my hands. His many eyes looked at me and he bowed slightly, then exited the ship.
Zee and I waited for a few minutes, then stepped over to the hatch button and pushed it. The docking doors opened just as the Celest’s hatch closed, the sound of oxygen escaping not hindering they’re exit. The beings were moving in double file, the statue in the middle of the group, the hum starting again as they exited the hanger and moved toward the dark side.
***
Delta base was closed and destroyed. What happened there was never mentioned to the public. The Company deemed it necessary. If word had gotten out that there were war-like beings on the moon, nobody would want to work or go there. Zee and I were given a long vacation, not permanent, just a good long rest to get the nightmare out of our minds. We couldn’t. I’d wake up nights sweating and seeing those beings coming for me and Zee, tentacles ripping her apart first then starting on me.
Seems the crew of the Celest did more than just get the ship going. When they crashed, they slammed into a building that looked like a mound of dust. While they were fixing the damage, a couple of the crew went exploring. They came across the statue and decided they had hit the mother lode.
What they hit were a pissed of bunch of aliens when they stole their God. This I got from a security chief who had investigated the incident. He told me the videos and tapes of the theft were sealed. So were mine and Zee’s mouths under penalty of death if this ever got out.
Back on earth, I searched for a copy of the book that I had given back to them. I really didn’t figure I’d find one but in a small, dusty, book shop in the old section of the city, I came across one. It had been translated and what I read made me decide that I didn’t want to go back.
Those beings were older than man, older than when the earth was forming new. They had come from the edge of space. Darkness their realm, their God a blasphemous deity who held sway over them. They, like the men who came from the asteroid belt, were miners. The material they mined was gold. Machines processed it from the dust, dirt and rocks of the moon.
I bought the book and then asked the man who sold it to me if there were any others.
“No, that’s the only copy. You have quite a rarity young man. I’d keep it under lock and key if I were you.”
I burned it.
Now I’m marshal on a mining colony on Mars. The only reason I took the job is because Zee is a deputy there and the last marshal went ape shit and killed half a dozen miners. Zee was asked if she wanted the job and she told them hell no, to ask me. They did and I said yes. I always did like waking up to a good hot shower in the morning with someone to scrub my back. Zee’s good at it.
End

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