The day of the mission dawned bright and cold for early October. Lisa had been granted one of her few day shifts to go see Jad perform in the orchestra that night. Jad had other plans. He got up and got ready to go to school. He caught the bus, stopped at his locker and went to home room just like every other school day. After home room he went to the office. His dad signed him out and blamed a dentist visit that they’d forgotten about. Carl drove Jad straight to his own house. Larry was finishing testing and preparing for launch.
Carl handed Jad a bag of takeout and went over configuration changes between The Amalgam and The Sun Skimmer. Jad visited a real restroom for the last time before his trip. Then Carl helped him into his spacesuit.
A car pulled up. A young, blonde woman got out of the car and knocked on the front door.
Larry came running in. “Someone’s here,” he said. His hands shook and his voice almost cracked.
Carl waved him off. “It’s okay,” he said. “It’s the reporter.”
“You called a reporter?” Larry asked. “Are you trying to get us caught? What if Lisa-”
“Settle down, Larry,” Carl said. “We had to have a reporter to make this official. Plus, she’s cute.”
Larry protested, but Carl ignored him.
Carl answered the door and brought Mandy in to meet everyone. Carl started off telling her about the plan and each of their involvement.
Jad, of course, would be taking The Sun Skimmer to the moon, land on it, pick up a moon rock or two and return. Larry would be the orbital support. He would take a mostly repaired Amalgam on daily trips to the outer atmosphere. Otherwise communications would be difficult while Jad was at his farthest from the earth. Carl would be ground support and coördinate efforts from the control room.
Mandy, of course, was welcome to stay the entire four days if she liked. She smiled and said, “I’ll only be able to stay the night. My professors wouldn’t be happy if I skipped class.”
Larry shot a look of disbelief at Carl, but Carl didn’t look up to get it. Mandy asked a number of questions, some of which seemed off-topic to Jad. Larry finally cut her off and suggested they get started with preflight.
Larry guided Jad to the cockpit. He pointed out the little differences between the ships and a few upgrades he’d put in place. “Your Dad’s finishing fueling now. You’ll be packing enough to make it there and back at twelve,” Larry said. “If we run her at fourteen most of the way you’ll have enough to land and get your moon rocks. Let’s start her at thirteen and see how she goes. If she’s humming along we’ll up her to fourteen and get you on the moon.”
“Thanks, Mr. Crisp,” Jad said. “I really appreciate all you’ve taught me.”
“Take care of my ship,” Larry said with a smile.
“Will do,” Jad said.
“To the moon!” Carl yelled from behind them.
Larry patted Jad’s shoulder. He walked past Carl and got into The Amalgam.
“Remember this day. This is the day you became somebody,” Carl said, beaming from ear to ear. “You’re gonna make us all rich. Go get it, Jad!”
Carl walked back to the control room, sat down next to Mandy, and put on his headset. Not a minute passed before he heard sirens in the distance. “Ok, pre-flight’s gonna have to be short. Let’s get these buckets in the air.”
They blew through the preflight checklist as fast as possible.
Someone rapped sharply at the door. “Carl?”
“Who’s that?” Mandy asked.
“Carl, I know he’s in there!” Lisa yelled through the door.
Carl ignored Mandy’s question. “Alright, Jad,” Carl said, “you’re clear for liftoff in… Five.”
“Carl!” Lisa yelled.
“Four,” Carl said.
“We have a warrant!” A male voice called.
“Three,” Carl said.
“We have ignition,” Jad called out.
“Two,” Carl continued.
Boom. Police burst through the door.
“One,” Carl said. “Go, go, go!”
Jad hit the ignition and The Sun Skimmer shot into the air.
Larry looked out the cockpit window and saw police officers swarming the house.
“Hands up! Hands up!” the male voice shouted from behind Carl. Carl raised his hands.
“Larry, he’s clear,” Carl said into the headset. “Go, go, go!”
Against his better judgment, Larry hit the ignition. He charged into the sky on his grey, dented horse.
“Sir, where’s your son, where’s Jad?” The police officer asked Carl.
Carl spun around in his chair. His smile was broader and more disturbing than Lisa had ever seen it. “He just left,” Carl said. “Unless there’s a moon base we don’t know about, I suggest you sit down and wait.”
To Be Continued…