Somewhere beyond known space, a dark, shiny, eerie-looking sphere began to ripple and seethe. It hadn’t had any reason to move in over 3 centuries, as counted on Earth. Strange and mesmerizing waves moved back and forth, in sync with themselves, yet independent of any observable force, as they swept across the planet’s surface. This moving pattern would prove to be thousands upon thousands of meter-long, maggot-like creatures – if anyone could get close enough to study them. They moved in patterns no other thinking being would likely understand. As the glistening, black creatures flowed to one side of the sphere, they created a sleek, thin shape, like an acres-long needle – as if every one of the creatures was straining to reach a coveted prize. Thousands of others congealed on the opposite side, forming a drive of immense power. The object began to move – slowly at first – but quickly picking up speed. They had started talking again …
“Senator Walden, we’ve achieved nearly 80 percent self-sufficiency. It doesn’t make sense to start trimming funding at this point. We should be completely independent from Earth within a few months, but not if we have to slow our progress.” Security Lead Tommy Jons overheard the exchange as he walked into the command lounge.
Commander Connit was calm and composed. Tall and imposing, she could look cool at the end of everything. But Tommy knew there was coiled steel beneath that flawless surface of peach-smooth skin, pale blond hair in a no-nonsense ponytail, and uniform as crisp as her posture. He’d worked with Commander Connit for the last five years at the Earth Republic’s state-of-the-art Colony Control Moon Base, and for more than seven years before that. The intellectuals of The Final Earth Republic determined decades earlier that strong family units made for more efficient, loyal, and cohesive teams than transferring individuals and small families around like jellyfish on the deadly ocean currents. The pre-fall corporations and military organizations had done this for generations. Was it any wonder crime, poverty and greed had exploded? Extended family units tended to work together for decades, if not permanently whenever possible in every modern society. Tommy and Jone, some sort of distant cousins by marriage as far as he could remember, had worked together since their earliest days in school.
“You’re talking to the high and dry here, commander,” interrupted Sen. Tary Walden, flashing a disarmingly charming smile.
Before he could continue, the commander pushed forward with her arguments, “Good, because we’re not only on schedule, our projections show we’ll reach our goal of full self-reliance within seven months. By the end of the calendar year, we expect to have the first of several new domes in full use.”
The command lounge was designed for maximum comfort for the various personnel scattered throughout the large, airy dome. White and subdued pastel tones dominated the base. Brighter colors and more varied styles from mid-century and earlier cropped up in some of the informal domes, and even the command lounge. Most of the personal suites were decorated in varying styles as taste dictated; non-institutional decorating was actively encouraged but, for now, order dictated a slightly calming institutional feel, appropriate for most of the moon colony’s work environments.
As usual, people worked with their implants, or “imps.” The linked units connected several dozen people in virtual work groups. Enormous amounts of information, tikabytes, or "tiks," as they were called, flowed between every individual’s implants, continuously projecting holographic images and data. There were plenty of solo projects as well. The soft murmur of sub-vocal commands made for a peaceful space. Easy, mid-century symphonic music had been chosen for the current work phase. Most of the personnel, however, chose to listen to their own music feed through their imps, effectively shutting out the random background noises. Technically, since they were sticking with Central Earth Time, it was early afternoon; some workers were already taking advantage of the ubiquitous 90-minute nap phase. Most would stay in the command lounge, possibly working silently with their eyes closed; some would head home to visit family and nap with their spouses; a few might take a walk in one of the park domes.
Tommy quickly made his way to the security lounge, sitting at the low circular couch next to a small and mischievous – but no less imposing – woman. His wife and co-security lead, Emily, who whispered, “Where were you? I was beginning to think I was going to have to cover your whole shift. Why were you ignoring my imp?”
“Sorry, I was just checking one of the new outer dome security systems that was giving a bad reading. I lost track of time,” he offered with a shrug.
She gave him a stony look but chose to ignore his unusual tardiness. Getting up from the lounge, she headed to the dome exit. “I’ll bring you some dinner in a bit,” she said as she walked out. “Sorry,” he repeated sheepishly via imp message. All he got in return was an annoyed-looking holo of her sticking her tongue out at him.
The commander and senator’s continuing conversation with raised voices drew a few stares from nearby personnel, but they eventually turned their attention back to their imp holos. One who had never seen a modern human working with their personal implants might think they had entered some strange mime school. The near dawning of a new century had a few small mercies, along with the almost ubiquitous devastation of the final stages of the disastrous changes brought by the late twentieth century and early twenty-first. The imp’s ability to connect their users with the net – as well as create holographic displays and stimulate certain brain centers to immerse their users in a virtual environment – aided with communication and computing work very effectively. It also made entertainment and gaming programs unimaginably more realistic and exciting. Mime simulations were not among them.
“Commander, you know how I feel about this project,” Sen. Walden continued. “I know what the Moon Colony Project means. If we can start moving the most threatened populations off the planet and integrate them into the growing moon base, it makes the next step out of the system that much closer to fulfillment for thousands of desperate families – whole populations for that matter.” The senator is just as agitated, but slightly less contained. In his 30s, and a bit over a meter and a half in height, with slightly Asian features and dark hair, he wasn’t the most imposing of men, but his attitude proved that politicians still used a bit of stage magic, even in the twilight of the twenty-first century. Pols might be chosen for their sterling honesty, unbreakable honor, and high level of intelligence, but politicians will be the same forever, and drama can be useful at times.
“Exactly,” continued Commander Connit. “You obviously see my point, cutting funding now would set us back months, possibly years, while more land disappears and families struggle to find the most basic facilities.”
At just short of two meters, Commander Jone Connit is relatively tall compared to Sen. Walden, but she would most likely seem imposing at half her height. Her uniform in the style of her native Middle Continent America, or U.S.A., as it once was called, didn’t hurt. It was more severe than most modern uniform styles. She was young for such a position, also in her early 30s. The base was staffed almost exclusively by men and women in their peak childbearing years, so she was by no means the youngest crew member on board. Modern science could help anyone be a parent these days, but youth was considered a better fit for the early stages of such a long-range program. These were the people who could be the first to colonize a new world.
“Commander,” Walden began again, “I understand how crucial the project budget is, but you have to realize that keeping the mission of this base a secret to those with at least Security Level 4 has been an absolute nightmare. The zealots not only disagree with the mission; they detest the very concept of abandoning the Earth. But even while they talk of keeping the masses ignorant and faithful to prepare for “the end times,” it’s a goal they have failed miserably at, thank Muir. Keeping the funding going while families continue to struggle for the most basic housing in Eurasia, Middle and Lower America, and InterAustralia is getting harder to justify. And you know very well what will happen if we have to go public with the real mission of the moon base so early. The cover story of research and mining traffic control is very hard to justify while whole societies disappear.”
Security lead Jons interrupted, with an uncharacteristic outburst. “Commander, we have a Level 1 A-B security warning.”
The red-headed young man’s sudden holographic image, projected from his security lounge across the dome, didn’t startle the ambassador or commander. They had grown up in a world of virtual reality and ever-present holographic displays created by their implants. Even infants and toddlers had self-adhering external “training imps” so they could participate in home and public entertainment, conversations, and family dinners that might include family members in various parts of the world. It wasn’t unusual for one’s college student child, or sibling living on the other side of the planet, to suddenly appear in the kitchen or supermarket. Virtual visitors were indistinguishable from corporal ones unless you tried to touch them. One’s own imp, and most of the imps around them, would integrate the avatar in such a way that it appeared as if the person was real and present. An imp, however, would always make it known that someone was virtual, to avoid embarrassing situations.
“Excuse me, senator,” Commander Connit looked vaguely forward while operating the imp/holo controls that only she could see. She raised her hands to move private holo screens out of her field of vision.
“Good lord. Tommy, can you track the source?” she asked. There was no reason she couldn't have pulled all of the information up on her own imp, but even the youngest child learned quickly that trying to follow or control too many events on your own could be dangerous. She had never felt the need to impress, so she was fine with delegating, especially when the world’s fate might rest in her hands. “The wetter, the better,” as her sarcastic father was fond of saying.
He shook his head and she replied to her own question, “Of course not, we never can. Send this out immediately to all Level 1 A-Bs. Sorry, senator, you need to return to your suite immediately.”
Sen. Walden reacted with a mild expression of shock, blurting out, “Leave? I have a Security Level 1B, commander. I’m supposed to be informed of all base intel as a matter of my function as base liaison.”
Commander Connit replied with a touch of exasperation, “Did you hear me say, ‘Release to Level Ones,’ senator? If you don’t leave, I’ll have security escort you to your rooms.”
“Jonie,” speaking to the commander in more intimate tones, “I’ve known you since we were in nursery together. Don’t make this into an incident, please? I’m not always a senator, you know.”
“Fine,” she replied distractedly, “but stay out of the way, Tary, and don’t call me Jonie,” she added with a smile that faded instantly.
“Commander, look at this,” Tommy said, sending Jone’s imp another holo file.
“Muir save us! Send this info out to all Level Ones, and send a message Level 10 to all personnel. All shields up. Highest priority emergency disaster procedures, if this is correct, we’ll be lucky if the base survives.”
“Floods, Jone! What? How bad is it? You’re really scaring me now,” said the senator, starting to be even more concerned about Jone’s unusually agitated behavior.
“Quite frankly, you should be scared.” Sending a holo file to his imp, she quickly moved to sit in the central command lounge. “You really are going to have to head back to your suite, Tary. Highest level disaster preparations means your suite’s personal shields will be up soon. In a worst-case scenario, the built-in failsafe shields in your suite will most likely protect you for a day or so until somebody can reach us from Earth. That is, if there’s an Earth left to worry.”
Commander Connit continued, “In case you didn’t quite catch the push of the holo, a zealot operative has apparently gotten some antimatter charges out to the mining transport center. If the reports are correct, we’ll be lucky if the base, or quite frankly Earth, survives. If the calculations they sent are correct, the moon could very well be shattered completely if we don’t find a solution fast. I have a feeling that’s their plan. The final act to bring about their anticipated rapture. Fortunately for us we’re farther along than they’ve been led to believe.”
“Surely, you’re exaggerating! Is there any chance the moon could survive what you’re suggesting? The shields are that well advanced already? I didn’t realize that was a priority.”
“Thank Muir it was considered a priority. Tary, please, get going, I don’t want you caught outside of a grav emergency zone.”
Sen. Walden turned to leave, but hesitated, “How did somebody procure antimatter detonators up here? Your security can’t possibly be that lax? No offense, Tommy.”
“It was most likely somebody manufacturing the components with one of the 4s,” Tommy replied before the commander could.
“What? You have unrestricted 4D printers?” the senator asked, shocked.
“Only for somebody with Level 1 security,” Jone replied dryly. “You never know what you might need on a facility such as this, senator. How do you think we managed to achieve 80 percent self-sufficiency so fast?”
“Isn’t there any way we can stop the charges from being detonated?” Tary asked.
Science Lead Bjorn Helnik chimed in. “We don’t have enough time to get somebody to the site to try to disarm unknown detonators. As it is, we’re lucky the shield generators can be adjusted quickly enough to channel the explosions away from most of the base.”
Commander Connit’s husband is a tall, somewhat gangly man in his early 30s, of Norwegian descent. A physicist, mechanical engineer, and microbiologist known for his brilliance, and the bluntness of a stereotypical “absent-minded professor,” he’d entered in a rush seconds before, coming up behind the agitated senator and taking a seat beside his wife. She looked at him with a small frown and a subtle look of irritation.
As Sen. Walden left for the safety of his suite, he overheard Security Lead Jons comment, “Commander, if it was a Level 1 access, we have more than one problem. I believe at the moment there are over 20 Level Ones on base. That’s a pretty bad security issue.”
“Believe me, I’ve thought of that,” she said. “Let’s just work on survival for now. How is lock-down progressing?”
“All imps are reporting expected progress,” Tommy said. “If the info is accurate, we have only minutes until detonation.”
“Well, one thing we can count on,” she said, “is the zealots never bluff.”
Sen. Walden’s suite is larger than the average moon base living quarters – a fact of which he is reminded every time he entered his rooms. The quiet rubbed his nerves raw. He missed the twins, and his wife Julia’s welcoming smile. They had been so lucky in their life, not just in being so happy together, but winning the child lottery, as it was resentfully called, and then to conceive natural twins. His status as a senator and her position as continental American education secretary allowed them the wherewithal to afford little extra indulgences, like a small house near a park instead of one of the multi-family dwellings after which the moon base domes were modeled.
He should’ve been heading back down tomorrow, assuming the budget issues could be worked out. Assuming there was a tomorrow. He pushed that disquieting thought away as a slight blue glow surrounded the small lounge, and he took his seat. He activated his personal holo display to check the base general status, “Huh, the emergency shielding blocks imp transmissions, that’s different,” he thought as he sat tensely for a few minutes trying to calm himself with slow breathing. In a pique of frustration he tried contacting Julia, rightfully assuming that if the shields wouldn’t let him monitor the command lounge, it wasn’t going to let him contact Earth, either.
His frantic musings were interrupted by a bone-shattering jolt. There was no sound, just an immense blow, like a giant palm slamming half the moon’s surface followed by a quake that shook Tary’s spine. Muffled sound followed as the base shuddered in earnest. For a moment, he believed everything around him might churn into dust. His teeth rattled, and the sudden shift in pressure made him feel as if a large wad of cotton was slowly constricting around him. He imagined that the breath was being squeezed out of his lungs and had to force himself to take a deep breath. Despite his initial panic, he realized the emergency gravity generator fields were holding him and everything around him securely in place. Amazingly, random personal items scattered around his suite stayed perfectly in place.
Even with the immense quivering of the surrounding dome, nothing crashed around him. Outside the dome window was another matter. Beyond the opaque blue glow of the base shielding, he could just make out dust, rocks and random debris shooting past at remarkable velocities. Small rocks, showers of dust, and the occasional large boulder would hurl at the dome, remarkably, bouncing off with no visible damage. He realized that the entire moon must have started moving, though he couldn’t feel any acceleration. How much of the base was protected, he wondered?
The zealots were notorious for reliable warnings, but not necessarily timely ones. Most of the command personnel had no time to make it to their suites, though they’d been rigorously trained not to abandon their posts. The command lounge was deathly quiet, tense, no longer the soothing silence of just minutes earlier. No one was strapped in, but the faint glow of the boosted gravity fields assured them that they would be held in place securely. Like Sen. Walden, most base personnel hadn’t even been given a chance to contact family or friends. Certainly not on Earth, but in many cases not even moon-side. More than a few panicked personnel had to be quickly sedated by their imps, or restrained in work lounges throughout the base before the emergency shielding kicked in.
As the explosion hit, it seemed to Tommy, who had stayed in the command lounge with the others, that it must be the end of everything. The commander – telling everyone to “hold on” and “stay calm” – could barely be heard over the old-fashioned back-up speakers used when shields were up. He couldn’t imagine how the base could survive such chaos. It felt like hours of unbelievable sound and fury, worse than any of the virtual adventure rides he enjoyed as a child on Earth. Nevertheless, the shields seemed to hold.
In the command lounge, as the worst of the violence ended, Bjorn said, “Commander, I can’t get any specific readings through the shields, but from the visuals the imps can track, our speed appears phenomenal. G forces must be unbelievable. Anyone who didn’t make it to an emergency grav lounge is unlikely to survive. Anything that wasn’t secured inside the base shields, including a good portion of the lunar landscape, has most likely been left far behind.”
“Lead Walsh, what was the last imp report on personnel locations?” Commander Connit asked with her notorious and deceptive calm.
“Close to 85 percent before the screens were raised,” personnel lead Mattou Walsh replied. “I’m afraid casualties are going to be pretty high.”
“Gs will lower enough once acceleration tapers off that normal gravity generator levels can be maintained,” Bjorn added. “All indications are that the shields are holding, commander.”
“Obviously,” Jone responded sardonically to her sometimes obtuse husband, “we’re still talking.” The comment was softened with an indulgent smile.
Quiet descended for a few moments.
After what felt like hours, but was in fact just minutes, Science Officer Bjorn noted, quietly, “G forces appear to be decreasing steadily, commander, though I have very little data to base that upon. We should be nearing normal base levels soon. … Emergency shields are lowering in the command lounge and surrounding areas. … A few reports of minor damage so far inside the base, but I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t get much worse.”
As the shield strength lowered, sound traveled more freely, and sounds of sobbing and screaming could be heard in outer parts of the command dome. Jone assured herself that her well-chosen, and trained officers would keep the panic to a minimum.
“The final tests were never run on around 20 percent of the shield generators, as I’m sure you’re aware,” Bjorn continued, seemingly oblivious to the sounds of distress around him. Jone knew he wasn’t a heartless man, but sometimes his focus could make him seem callous. “Also, we’re traveling at a pretty impressive speed, away from Earth, which is better than the alternative, I suppose. Thank Muir the targeted area was facing Earth – for us at least. If anyone on Earth is still alive, I doubt they will be for long.”
“Case in point,” thought Jone, followed by, “he’s right, though. Worry about Earth later. We need to stay alive before we can deal with that.”
“Put full visuals up on the main screens, Bjorn. I want to see what we’re heading into on something other than my imp holo. Personnel lead, do you have a count on casualties yet?”
“Only starting to come in, commander,” Walsh offered. “Preliminary reports are a little grim. Not many injuries, most civilian family members were safely in their emergency grav lounges, but we do have a significant number of fatalities among personnel trying to make their way back to their suites. I am starting to get some reports of some panicking, mostly in one or two of the outer residential domes. I’ll have a full report for you in a few minutes, commander. Oh, also, we haven’t received any contact from Earth.”
A large, flat holographically projected screen illuminated in front of the nearest dome wall, showing a star field; in the distance, a small, red, glowing dot emerged. It had been too small to see on personal imp holos.
Science Officer Tommy Jons exclaimed, “Jesus!” His hand quickly flew to cover his mouth in shock. “That’s the experimental transport gate, commander.”
“Yes, I can see that, security. Science lead, report.” Commander Connit raised her eyebrow at the security lead.
Bjorn, looking at his holo, up to the screen, back to his holo, “Uh, well, uh…”
“Well, we’re headed toward the gate, commander. Uh, I’m not sure, uh…”
“Bjorn, hold it together. Collision course?”
“… at the moment toward, commander. Doubtful our current heading will take us through…”
“Well, that’s good; what can we do?”
Bjorn, slowly, “Well, the moon was never expected to be mobile, commander. Give me a moment.”
The red dot doesn’t appear to be growing, but no one in the command lounge doubts it will soon.
“Muir. How fast are we moving? Bjorn?”
“I haven’t had time to calculate our exact speed, commander, but from what my imp is recording, I would guess if we weren’t going to hit the gate, we’d be out of the solar system in a matter of months. I do have a germ of an idea, commander.”
“Good, we can miss it then?”
Bjorn: “Oh, no. No chance of that, but we will fit inside if we can alter our trajectory by a fraction. It was built to be large enough for an entire fleet of colony ships to navigate as one unit to coordinate their jump.”
“Through it? We don’t want to go through it! We have no way of plotting where that thing will take us! The trials haven’t even managed a fully successful transport with the existing algorithms. Not to mention what the speed we’re traveling could mean!”
Jone’s voice was reaching a level that none of the command personnel had heard. She knew she needed to present a cool and commanding demeanor to keep the crew focused. What she didn’t know was how long she could ignore the fact they were hurtling out of the solar system, away from everyone – and everything – they knew.
“Yes, commander, I understand that. But if we don’t go through it, what’s left of this moon definitely won’t survive the impact. Better through it and alive, is my advice.”
“Oh gods …” Everyone around her looked mildly shocked – too scared to react to the unusual, vulgar outbursts. Religion was something personal and rarely mentioned in public, much like bodily functions. “Order evacuations to commence immediately.”
“Jone,” Bjorn said, quietly, “we can’t risk evacuation. At this speed, we’d manage a handful at best. Which families are you planning to split up? We only have five transport shuttles on base. Even if we wanted to send a handful home, I’m not sure they’d make it back at the speed we’re moving. Not to mention the conditions on Earth. We haven’t had a single transmission since the event. There’s a better chance of survival on this hunk of rock than trying to navigate to Earth at the velocities they’d be traveling.”
“Muir! We have to do something!”
“We are, commander, we’re trying to save everyone on this base,” Bjorn said. “That’s the best we can hope for. From what my imp and I have deduced, we have about two and a half hours to figure out how to move this flying rock the direction we need. I suggest we move as fast as possible.”
“Right, just tell the imps what to do and let’s get to it. Muir save us all,” the commander said, regaining her calm assurance.
Sen. Walden quickly strode into the command lounge nearly an hour after his suite’s shields released him; he’d had to walk all the way. The grav tubes were packed with personnel from the outer domes, frantically making their way toward the command center. He had no idea what they thought they would find there. He supposed it just felt safer. Security was calmly sending them back to their assigned domes with orders to shelter in place for the time being. The walk should have taken him slightly more than a quarter-hour, but the milling crowds were sometimes hard to navigate, especially if people realized who he was and questioned what he knew. He had to keep convincing them it was nothing more than they knew.
The command personnel worked frantically with their imps. The red dot still showing on the main screens had become a small glowing silver ring, with an eerie red glow inside. It was like a giant malevolent one-eyed beast, ruthlessly staring them down.
“Commander, is it true? You can’t possibly be thinking of trying to take us through that thing! It’s not even been successfully tested more than a handful of times. If you can call those tests successful.”
“Senator Walden ... Tary ... we don’t really have a choice. We’re either figuring out a way to change our trajectory enough to move through it, or we’re crashing into it. If we hit the magnetic matrix frame, the imps estimate that at least half of the mass of the moon – maybe quite a bit more – will be gone in seconds. That’s not even considering the mass that might make it through. Cutting half of the moon away within seconds would be the end of every living creature on this ad hoc space ship, shields or no.”
“But how exactly do you pilot a moon? As far as I’ve been informed, the moon was never meant to have guidance controls,” he said, echoing Bjorn’s earlier lament.
Science Lead Bjorn appeared between them, projected from a nearby lounge, “Well, it was never meant to survive being blown out of orbit, either, but here we are. The best plan we’ve come up with so far is to duplicate the original explosion – with a bit more of a controlled blast and directed shielding. Unfortunately, we’re running low on time. Luckily, though, we don’t have a guidance system, the mathematics in this situation, though crude, aren’t going to be too difficult to figure. We just need enough strength, and time, to get us as close to the center of the gate as possible. It’s amazing how efficient an antimatter explosion can be for a propulsion system. Quite a bit better than the nuclear pulse propulsion that was planned for the first colony vessels – if it weren’t so horrifically expensive, that is.”
“Also,” Commander Connit added, “since we’ll be working with extremely crude controls, we can’t very accurately plan our angle or speed going into the gate.”
“Why do I get the feeling that’s not good?” the senator asked.
“It means we have no way to control where we go,” Bjorn said, “or how fast we’ll be traveling when we emerge from the gate. All we know for sure is that, at this velocity, it will be somewhere deep into interstellar space. Very deep. Very interstellar.”
“That’s assuming the gate works properly.” Jone added. “As you pointed out, it’s never been tested on anything larger than a small probe, and at very controlled speeds. Most of those ended up much farther outside the solar system than expected.”
“Couldn’t we stop our movement instead of changing the angle?” the senator asked.
“We contemplated that,” Bjorn said, “but the force that would be required to stop our momentum – or move us completely out of the gate’s way – would be too much for our shields to handle. Regardless, we don’t have any shield generators in the area we’d need. This rock was barely held together during the last explosion. Too much force, and the moon would most likely tear apart. As it is, it will be touchy moving us the few degrees we need.”
“How will we get back?”
“We won’t, Tary. I suggest you say goodbye,” Commander Connit said.
“Too whom?” he asked.
Bjorn answered for her, “Anyone you can find who is still in contact with a working network. Though you’d be the first to do so since The Event. We have to blow the antimatter charges within the hour. If we don’t hit the mark, we’re done.”
Only then did the full truth hit him...he was never going to see his wife and children again.
“How well has the modeling gone, Bjorn?” Commander Connit asked, gazing out the window of the personal work lounge, onto a desolate almost unrecognizable moonscape.
“Better than expected. The Science Division and their imps have been working frantically to calculate the amount of charges, and the angles needed to accurately adjust the shields. The fact that we’re alive means it’s doable, of course, so the imps have gone with that. We believe if we can redirect the shield generators at the correct angle, and if we’ve calculated the charges right, the theory seems good that it should nudge us just enough to move us through the gate.
We are running out of time, though. The 4s had no trouble manufacturing the components, and we have enough antimatter mods in the banks to do the job, but it's all taking longer than I would like, and we won’t be left with very many mods for energy production. That’s something else we need to discuss when – if – we get the chance. The antimatter mods used for the original detonation were not taken from our stores, thank Muir, but that just leaves the question, where did they come from?”
Just a handful of years earlier, antimatter energy units were one of those lucky discoveries that leapfrog many technologies ahead, serendipitously making an independent moon base possible. It created a compact, storable and sustainable energy source, but they hadn’t set up a manufacturing system yet on the moon, and most likely never would have. It wasn’t expected that they would have to worry about it. Unfortunately, the process was extremely dangerous, and required resources that were not available in the foreseeable future. If they were lucky, they might come across some of the rarer elements on a passing asteroid wherever they ended up, but since manufacturing was so dangerous, it had always been done on facilities in orbits quite a distance from Earth.
“Even with the advanced 4s we have access to here,” continued Bjorn, “there’s no way somebody created the antimatter mods. The 4s still can’t do that. They can create most simple elements with the newer atom-scaled printing, but not antimatter.”