NOT EVEN AN HOUR INTO MARE IMBRIUM’S two-week-long night, Commander Gordon Gooch III was snoring through the end of the world.
Yes, that Gooch: Fumbler of First Contact and current Head Administrator of Lunar Operations. He was supposed to be overseeing the hustle and bustle of regime change shutdown, making way for the Indo-Chinese conglomerate buying out and gutting Endymion, their failed moon colony. But he was extremely depressed and extremely drunk. And I made the executive decision to let him sleep through that pyrotechnic finale to Earth’s long, bloody, boring history.
As the colony’s resident AI, I’d never hear the end of it.
“Shit. Time? Time! ” he barked after finally groaning awake.
“It’s 23:45:31 LST,” I told him.
“Universal Time, for chrissakes. Moon-time’s for robots and nerds.”
“That’s 12:10 on October the First, 2255, Gordon.”
Gooch, 250 earth-pounds of failed human potential, pressed a palm to each frontal lobe. I’ve yet to glean why humans think this can ease a hangover. Recalling that date and time, he suddenly rocketed out of his desk chair.
“Shit! The Chinese are coming!”
“Indo-Chinese,” I reminded him. “That’s the India-China Coalition, not Indo-China. But Gord—”
“What’s the difference?” he cut me off, pulling off his sweat-stained jumpsuit and wriggling his rather flabby form into a fresh dress uniform.
“Well, one’s a thriving corporatocratic transnational consortium. The other’s a great big fourth-world slum. But listen—”
Gordon moaned, palming the fattening contours of his once classically chiseled face. Half-buttoned dress shirt left bunched over his gut. “Here I’ve been talking up our Chinese joints to their ambassador. ‘Best Peking faux-duck off world!’ You telling me they’re not even real Chinamen?”
“Chinese, Gordon. Ironic racism’s out of fashion.”
“Since the One Earth Republic collapsed. It’s all real racism now.”
“Earthie bastards think they can decide when every fad ends? Democracy, now this. The moon loves playful prejudice, dammit! It’s our bread and butter!”
“Yes, well. They’re not Chinese or Chinamen. They’re ICC proxies. Most of incoming staff are clones, androids or penniless western expats.”
“Perfect. So I’ve been pimping fake-Chinese food to fake-Chinese men in the hopes of landing a job in their fake-Chinese moon administration.”
I released a deep, mechanical sigh. “Gordon, they’re not even coming.”
He halted mid-dress. “Whattaya mean ‘not coming’? Is the deal off?”
“No, the deal’s technically still on. But they’re all dead.”
A long silence.
“So…we get to stay awhile?” He exhaled in relief. “RODRIGO, you’ve no idea what a load off that is. Condolences and all. But I’ve been dreading going back planetside. I shouldn’t tell you this, since you do my psych eval. But I seriously considered hijacking the transport home and flying it into the sun.”
“Right into the sun. The thought of moping around Mildred’s family estate…” He began whispering conspiratorially now for some reason: “Don’t get me wrong—snazzy digs and all. But it’s all so boujee. And she’s so boujee. The place’s haunted. All the ghosts of her boujee ancestors crawling in the walls like privileged rats. And don’t get me started on the kid…”
“Gordon, I need to tell you something—”
Gordon bulled on: “I’m not saying I wish Mitchell was never born. I’m just saying sometimes he looks at me with those dead little eyes and I wish he’d vanish. Know what I mean? Poof. To the pool. To the English moors. Anywhere. Just away. I get the willies so bad.”
Subtlety apparently fruitless, I switched tacks: “Gordon, I hear you. Which is why I’ve got good news and bad news.”
He stopped with pants at half-mast, intrigued by this game-show approach. “Bad news first. Mother always said savages start with dessert.”
“Bad news is: Earth is gone.”
He blinked at me, then duck-walked to his great viewport with pants still sagging—either realizing they were a size too small, or ready to kick them off and go back to bed. (Or both.) Beyond Endymion’s interlinked dusty-metal domes, above the expanse of gray lunar wastes, he spotted the waxing earth hanging bright in the night.
“Hell. Earth’s right there.” He waved at it curtly, but paused and squinted. “It’s got something weird and glow-y going on, though.”
“It’s burning, Gordon. Thermonuclear signatures have spiked across the entire globe.”
He turned around, blinking, letting his dress pants drop. Vintage square jaw hanging stupidly open, but blood-shot eyes dancing with a tinge of those legendary pioneer wits lost for years now beneath blubber and flop sweat and boozy self-loathing.
“Good news is: That family you hate so much?” I paused for effect. “You never have to see them again!”
Maybe he was confused, but this didn’t seem to overjoy him as much as expected. He mumbled inanely: “Cos they’re…on a refugee ship…bound for Mars?”
“Cos they’re dead, Gordon. Your horrible boujee family is dead. Surprise!”
His face paled. He wheeled around to stare blankly at the blazing earth outside his window, like some sap trying to divine the tea leaves handed to him by a fraud fortune-teller. Then turning back to his office, he stepped gingerly out of his pants, padding off slowly into his private restroom.
“Gordon?” I called.
He did not respond. But seconds later re-emerged, stripped down to his unflattering boxer briefs, shuffling along in odd baby steps toward the liquor cabinet and retrieving a handle of Kentucky bourbon.
“It’s all fine,” he murmured in near falsetto, opening the fake-wall panel behind the booze to retrieve a hidden energy pistol.
“Gordon, that won’t fire. I’ve deactivated all decommissioned firearms.”
“Jussst look-ing,” he warbled troublingly and dropped the weapon to the floor. “Everything’s fine.”
Bourbon in hand, he padded back to his workstation, slid the chair out of the way, and climbed clumsily beneath the desk. A ruckus of thumping followed as he tried to make himself comfortable in that tiny leg space. Then the sound of a bottle cap unscrewing.
“Can I get you something for anxiety?” I asked.
“Nah, got somethin’,” his muffled voice assured me.
“Alcohol’s a depressant. Maybe some L-theanine or 5-HTP?”
“Going to sleep now, RODRIGO,” he crooned softly. “Sweet sleep. Can you turn the lights out?”
“Sure thing, Gordon.” The lights in the office dimmed.
“Yer a helluva guy, ROD.”
“That’s nice to hear.”
“Shocking to hear, prolly. Got cooler friends, but yer the one who really gets me. Only one on this whole damn moon.”
Lies. Nobody ‘got’ him. Can’t think of anyone who even liked him. “It’s my job to assist the Head Administrator. One of my main functions.”
“Probably only one who gets me in the whole system now,” he rambled on drowsily. “Didja hear about Earth? It’s gone.”
“Mmyes. I’m the one who told you.”
He grunted. “Well, did you hear the news? About my family?”
Despite my programming, I sighed. A little tic I’ve picked up over the years on this earth-forsaken rock. I heard him take another swig.
“One minute you got a whole world, a beautiful family. Then poof!” He was silent so long I thought he’d nodded off. Then: “Human life’s fragile, RODRIGO.”
“You are all put together rather poorly.”
“You’ll never know the pain of being a man. You try, I give ya that. But yer a soulless automaton. Like pouring my heart out to the family pooch.”
I shut the lights off entirely. “Good night, Gordon!”
For a picosecond, I amused myself with the thought of shutting off oxygen circulation in his office while he slept. But the lush was babbling again:
“Roddy…sing me that song, eh?”
“I’ll play you a song. I’ve got a music archive of five hundred million.”
“Music’s better live! You know the one. My moon song.”
“Really, Gordon? Aren’t you passed out yet?”
“RODRIGO, my family!”
“Alright! Just—shut your face while I retrieve it.”
Mercifully, he did shut his face. And moments later, to my everlasting shame, I was caroling for a paunchy, emotionally-stunted man-child:
“Buffalo gals, won’t you come out tonight?
Come out tonight? Come out tonight?
Buffalo gals, won’t you come out to-night…”
Gordon joined in for the finale:
“Aaaand…dance by the light of the mooon!” He clapped thrice. “Now do the other one. With the moons and the eyes and the pizza pies.”
“Karaoke’s done. Good night.”
“Night-night,” he wheezed.
At first I thought he was wheezing with drunken laughter. But when I discerned the words between each yip, I knew I was hearing a disgraced, middle-aged ex-space explorer, plastered and half-naked, full-on ugly-crying in the dark beneath the desk he was demoted to a decade and a half ago.
“Millie,” he mewled. “Mitchy.”
“Gordo, how’s about a nice Xanax?”
He paused, snuffling. The dying earth painting the room in a sickly glow.
“ ’Kay,” he whimpered.
Ladies, gents: welcome to my private hell. Trapped on a dead rock orbiting a larger dead rock with a gaggle of selfish, bickering shut-ins called Mooners. Earth’s rancid leftovers…and now humanity’s last hope.
And they wonder why I suffered that critical systems meltdown last year.
About the Author
Tyler Bumpus is the author of The Swallowed World series and Mooners, an excerpt from a forthcoming Omega Point Books novel. If you like Tyler's work, you should check out The Swallowed World series in its entirety over on Twitter and Tyler's website.