Yes, he’d carried out the CSM’s order to the letter. He’d gone and got up early as hell the next day, full of piss and vinegar and still jumpy with the dawning realization, made concrete by the presence of so highly-ranked a personage as the Sergeant Martian himself, that in fact this was real. He was no longer a recruit, but a trooper, untested by battle, sure, but all things in due time. What mattered was that soon enough he’d be doing his part; and as a primary condition of doing just that it was necessary that he first obtain some way to breathe up there, just like he’d been told. Damn Moon wasn’t like down here on Earth, where a fella could take in a lungful of air come morning and maybe even lay out on the front porch once the sun had crested the roof, letting there be some shade on that old porch-swing. Nope. No such thing on the battlefield that was the Lunar surface; cold as ice in the shadows, hot as hell in the sun–and on account of there being no grass or trees, likewise there weren’t no air to breathe.
The Moonman closes his fist around a protein pill and in one swoop cups the wiggling supplement into his maw. A swallow without a chew, and now we’re in business, baby, yeah.
He rocks his head back and forth, eyes scrunched tight. Piss and vinegar and protein pills. You think of a home-made space-suit, what do you got? Well, to start with you’ve got an aquarium of the five-gallon variety, hexagonal at its base so it balances when it’s on your head, all the innards, which consisted of water filter and aerator and any trace amount of gravel left behind and lodged into a corner, all long ago having been discarded, poured out in a heap in that little strip of grass on the side of the house.
And that gravel suddenly reminding the Moonman of other briefings: the smallest of those little pebbles with their roughened edges having as proximate relative those hulks of metal and ice that guard the transit between Mars and Jupiter, because both of them float, and fish can breathe in space; says the film’s narrator as the picture flickers on the screen: “‘Guard’ here being used advisedly, for to some in our government it would seem that this asteroid belt, far from being a mere inconvenience and aggravating factor when plotting a mission to the outer planets–to say nothing of the exorbitant premiums charged by Earth-side insurance firms–is in fact the result of an intentional policy on the part of those residing in Sol’s outer realm.”
The narrator going on to say that, thanks to the not-inconsiderable risk posed by this veritable wall of floating rock, a barrier measurable in units mortal and monetary both, the domains of Saturn, flanked in his orbit by progenitor and successor alike, were spared the influx of seekers and migrants from parched and packed lands who would otherwise be willing to brave an ocean of space in search of greener pastures. It remained to be seen, of course, whether someone especially enterprising would not devise a work-around, if not a detour then at least a shielded conduit of some sort in which to facilitate the traffic’s flow; and then the pillage of resources for whose sake such a project had been in truth secretly occasioned could commence.
Pebbles, thinks the Moonman. What’s all this talk about pebbles? He shakes his head as though to clear out thoughts borne of another voice. Vaguely he wonders if the aliens’ mind-control rays can’t in fact penetrate down here, under the house; can’t at least whisper to if not influence him completely.
The space-suit helmet: faintly it wafts the smells of soap and fish when it’s on, warmed by his breath and quickly growing moist within. Trying it on for the first time, one verdant summer’s day in his backyard, he saw how a single ray of the sun’s light glowed incandescent, rippling along with him as he moved. On his back an old vacuum cleaner, the straps for which, yellow and frayed though serviceable enough, had been designed for just such a purpose. He’d found it while picking his way one night through the town dump, careful of sharp metal edges picked out by the Moon. Hefting it on after the helmet he’d thought how funny it was to think that the man–probably an illegal immigrant, stealing bread from a true American’s mouth–who once wore this device in the discharge of his duties could never in a million years imagine the noble purpose to which his burden would one day be put. And wasn’t it better that way? That the celestial technology here on Earth, the domestic appliances and under-the-sink chemicals that we all take for granted, should fall, when the time was right and the battle above reached its fever pitch, into the hands of those worthy of bearing the mantle of the vaunted and heroic Lunar Corps?
Should it not be that only the bravest amongst us had the privilege of seeing a thing for its true utility, of converting and then using that thing in refashioned and repurposed form to fight the good fight? What the hell was some Cuban or Mexican going to do with a space-rebreathing-element, anyways, the technology for which was MOON CLASSIFIED? Probably use it to smuggle in drugs, or more illegal immigrants, the Moonman figures, shaking his head under the house at the thought of the crime and social ills attendant on those “refugees.” Give me some good old-fashioned American spirit, he thinks, cupping another protein pill into his mouth, and after we sort out that mess up on the Moon we can come back home and clean up shop…