‘Ahh shit!’ Rick shouted as he bashed his head on the pipe. He crawled backwards out of the shaft and stood to face me. ‘If I can’t find the problem soon, we’re gonna have issues with the heating and cooling system; find me a hammer will you?’ I nodded and rummaged through the tool box. I handed it over to him and he ducked back into the shaft. A second later a loud ringing penetrated my ears. He’d whacked the pipe with the hammer. Typical guy using brute force. I covered my ears in a vain attempt to block the noise.
‘Rick!’ I yelled, ‘hitting the problem is only going to make it worse. Have you tried turning it off and on again?’
Rick stood up and gave me the look. I smiled at him. I thought that he should try smiling once in a while, but I was only his intern, and I knew he had a strong dislike for people like me. He hated training people on the job, probably because we got to know that there really wasn’t much brain power involved. He had just tried to fix a pipe by hitting it with a hammer. Not the smartest decision he’d ever made.
‘So tell me, intern. What happens if the heating system simply doesn’t turn back on?’ I opened my mouth to reply but he carried on, ‘I’ll have to inform the head officials that my dumb intern thought it would be a great idea to switch it off.’
‘But now, because of her, the entire moon colony is going to freeze.’
I stared at him. Yes, what he said was perfectly true but I only meant it as a joke right?
I sighed and walked over to the control box. ‘Lara, what are you doing?’ That question stunned me for a second. He never called me by name.
‘Just looking for… aha!’ I’d found the switches. ‘Look, the temperature control is at thirteen, we just need to push that up and check the fuses.’ He came and peered over my shoulder and grunted in my ear. I was very aware of his breath on my neck. I reached out and flicked the temperature up to nineteen. ‘So simple,’ I said.
Rick moved away from me, ‘I guess you can be useful sometimes. Do you know how to check a fuse?’
‘Duh, you’ve seen me do it’ I replied. But he just stared at me with his dark condescending eyes and shook his head. I shrugged my shoulders in reply, unlocked the control box with my finger print and checked over the fuses. One of them had burnt out.
‘This one needs changing’ I said as I pulled it out. Rick handed me a new fuse from the tool box and watched me put it in place. Changing a fuse wasn’t difficult. It was the tension I felt when I knew he was watching me that made it hard.
‘I’m done; see I know what I’m doing. You should stop doubting me.’
‘Just remember who’s in charge here, don’t get cocky, let’s leave.’
‘Said the most obnoxious person I know,’ I smiled nicely, I knew I was pushing my luck with that comment.
I shrugged again and headed back to the step ladder. He followed quietly behind. He just hated it when I was right. Or when I did something better than him; which happened quite a lot. Sometimes I wondered how he would cope without me.
I grabbed hold of the ladder and hauled myself up. At the top I had to knock against the closed hatch. Security were posted on every door that led to anywhere important. We had to scan our finger prints just to get to the canteen. They always had to know where we were.
The hatch creaked open and florescent lights momentarily blinded me.
‘Everything alright down there?’ John, the security guard on duty asked as he helped me out. Rick followed hot on my heels.
‘It’s fine. Everything’s fixed.’
‘Good to hear, don’t forget to fill out the form as protocal,’ John waved us away. Rick never let me chat with the guards, he placed his hand lightly on my back and steered me down to the door. It felt so warm while it rested there, in the space between my shoulder blades. I felt cold when it withdrew and I crossed my arms to stop myself from shivering.
Rick placed his hand on the sensor pad, it beeped in recognition but the doors stayed closed. They wouldn’t open until everyone who passed through signed out together. I placed my own hand on the pad, still warm from his touch. It beeped and the doors slid open.
‘I wanna go outside,’ I said carelessly.
‘What, so you can float around and do somersaults in the air?’ Rick mocked.
‘Erm no,’ damn I wish I hadn’t said anything, I sounded like an idiot, ‘I just want to know what it’s like to be out there’.
‘Can’t,’ Rick replied, blunt to the point as always.
‘Can, I just need to ask for permission.’
‘You won’t get it.’
‘You know who my parents are right?’
He stopped walking and stared at me.
‘If I were you, I wouldn’t give a damn about the people who sent you up here to do god knows what. Your existence is illegal. You’re here because you were their second child. So blame your parents’ hanky panky business for you not being able to dance around in space.’
That hurt, the truth hurt. My parents still loved me, we talked on video chat all the time.
’What about your parents? Or a sibling? I never hear you talk about any one,’ I asked.
‘I was born on the moon.’
‘Oh, so your family is here?’
‘No, they’re all gone.’
‘Drop the subject, intern.’
I shut my stupid mouth then. There was no use in trying to get information out of him. Stubborn dicks don’t talk about feelings. Even if they do smell like leather and oranges. Sometimes I wanted to rip off his clothes and do bad things to him. But then I remembered that he was a dick to me, like all the time. I was also his student, so it would be inappropriate to just pounce on him. But he was so very pretty with that curly dark hair and stubble. I really needed to stop thinking like that.
I went straight back to my room after that. It was small, walls made of steel like everything was there. A mattress on the floor, because clearly they couldn’t afford to give us a proper bed. Must’ve spent too much money on sending us up there in the first place. We did get a wardrobe and a bedside table though.
Everyone on the moon had some type of purpose. Those with a decent education become doctors and nurses. The physically fit ones were security. Us technical ones (like myself) became mechanics and engineers. Then we had the people who were classed as ‘almost insignificant’, they did the cooking and the cleaning. We still needed bin men on the moon.
Why was I on the moon? Because I was the second child and the new law dictates that each woman may only be permitted one child. And that only a married couple may have a child. I didn’t want to think about what they did to the unborn children of women who’d been careless, perhaps even raped. But that was Earth, over populated with the stench of humanity.
Rick was right. I shouldn’t even exist. My life was taking up supplies on Earth so I had to go to the moon and contribute something worthwhile to prove my significance. I’d always been good at fixing things, that’s why I’d chosen to become a mechanic.
I flopped down onto my mattress and kicked off my shoes. I pulled my tablet out from under my pillow, it was just a frame until it was turned on. I could put my whole arms through the middle of.
‘Tablet on,’ I said to wake it up. The centre soon filled up with the familiar blue glow of the welcome screen.
‘Call mum,’ the screen changed to an image of Earth, it then zoomed into the UK and further onto my house, until at last it found my mum’s tablet. I could tell from the image on screen that she’d left it in the kitchen again. I could just make out the glass fruit bowl and the cat clock on the wall. I hoped she would hear it ringing from wherever she was in the house.
Mum came into view then and smiled when she saw my face. It always made me feel better, talking to home. I’d been living on the moon for most of my life so I couldn’t remember much of my life on Earth, I was too little back then.
‘Hey honey how are you?’ Mum’s sweet voice echoed around my bare room.
‘Oh you know just the usual. Rick being a dick and all that.’
‘Lara! Mind your language.’
‘I’m in space, mum, there’s not a lot you can do about it, and I’m just saying how it is,’ I laughed.
‘You know, I could pull up his files and tell you his life story, could be interesting,’ she giggled at the thought of doing something she shouldn’t.
‘Thanks, but that’s illegal, you can’t conspire against your own government project.’
At that moment the dinner bell sounded. Each sector had to have dinner at a specific time, which was indicated by our buzzers going off in our quarters. Our hallways and rooms would also flash in our sector colours, mine being yellow.
‘I gotta go mum, dinner time, love you.’
That night dinner was a choice of chicken and tomato pasta, or chicken with potato and peas. There was no leeway for vegetarians or vegans, they’re moralistic ideals were fucked on the moon. Our law dictated that everyone have the correct vitamin substances for every meal. We were after all doing our bit for science. The future of the human race partially depended on us adapting an artificial breathable atmosphere on the moon. Also known as the ABMA project. God forbid we didn’t get our daily fix of protein.
I sat alone, most of the people in my sector were either over thirty or pretentious arseholes. Like Rick, who avoided me like the plague when we were off duty. I watched him from the corner of my eye walking over to a table on the far side of the room. Twat, I thought to myself. It’s so true when people say there’s a fine line between hate and really liking someone. I’m refusing to call it love. I’d go with strongly infatuated by him. Yup, that was just pure attraction and nothing else.
It was at that moment that John, the security guard from earlier, sat down next to me.
‘Oh hey,’ I said, ‘you’re not in my sector what’re you doing here?’
‘This is the only break I get today, so I thought I’d grab dinner now. And seeing as I only know two people in this sector, my choices for dinner company are very limited.’ He winked at me.
‘Well Rick isn’t exactly the most social person on the moon.’
‘He isn’t the best looking one either.’
I tensed, ‘That’s so cheesy, please don’t.’ I laughed, hoping that my humour would lighten the mood.
‘I know, just messing with you.’
I relaxed and smiled, had to be polite to the security, they could report me. We still had jails in space. The death penalty was in strong force up there, you’d get floated if you did something too serious, like murder. We needed the extra bed space for people worthwhile to help create the atmosphere. They’d do anything to get rid of the riff raff.
‘Do you know what I love most about this canteen area?’ John asked.
‘The windows, it’s the only place where you can literally look outside and see home.’
He was right. The windows in there went from floor to ceiling and there was a big sky light in the roof. It was beautiful outside. The constant stars meant every night, and day, was a starry one. Earth looked magnificent; I could make out the rain clouds. They gathered in clumps and travelled around inside the atmosphere. I felt like I could just reach out and hold the Earth in my hands. It looked so small from the moon. It was just like a marble really, a green and blue marble. With a couple of white splodges on opposite ends. From that distance I could forget about the issues down there, I could pretend that everything was ok. That it didn’t break me by being up here, alone. For a moment I could just look at how beautiful it was. Pretend that there wasn’t skyscrapers where there used to be fields. I could still remember looking at old photos from hundreds of years ago of fields and forests, country sides. But they were gone now, I’d be lucky if I ever saw a tree. But I wouldn’t be seeing that on the moon.
At that moment it dawned on me that I would probably never go back to Earth, I was imprisoned on the moon. Stuck to the same old walls and routines. Attempting to help benefit our future. And for what? So that our future generations could spoil it again, just like our ancestors did.
‘Yeah, space is beautiful,’ I said after realising I hadn’t spoken for a while.
‘You don’t sound so convincing.’ John nudged me with his elbow.
‘Well I am stuck up here against my will you know. You’re here for your job, one day you’ll get to go back home. I won’t.’
‘Oh come on, Lara, cheer up. You’re here for a good cause you know.’
‘Yeah I know, building a better place for the future of humanity so on so forth blah blah blah.’
‘Hey, I think I chose the wrong person to sit with. I thought Rick was the moody one.’
I looked over to where I knew Rick was sitting. I could just make out his face, dark eyes staring at me from across the room. His plate was empty so I didn’t understand why he was still there. Normally he’d leave as soon as possible. But there he was, watching me. Because I was talking to John? Was he jealous? No don’t be silly. He practically hated me.
I think he must’ve noticed me then, because he quickly got up and left. I wanted to follow him. I felt a little lost watching him walk away.
‘Sorry I have a thing, need to go,’ I said as I got up. I left before I got to hear a reply. The corridors were busy with people from my sector leaving the canteen. I had to push my way past, being tall came in handy sometimes, I spotted Rick just turning a corner. I sprinted to get to him.
‘Hey wait up!’ I called.
‘Oh, you didn’t bring your new friend along?’ he replied as he turned to see me, I caught up and walked by his side, panting out of breath.
‘You know security isn’t allowed to associate themselves with us riff raff.’
‘But we’re important, we fix things, they need us.’
‘You’ve been living here for eight years but you still don’t understand how society works up here. You baffle me sometimes.’
‘But I knew John on Earth, he went to my school, he knows my parents.’
‘Maybe you did, but it’s a different world up here.’
I didn’t know how to reply to that. Why was he so condescending to me all the time? I didn’t get it. I only ever tried to be nice to him but he always found a way to knock me back down. Typical Rick. It would’ve been nice to have at least one friend on the moon.
‘It’s nice just to know one person from home,’ I replied.
‘Here is your home now.’ He stopped outside the door to his room. I hadn’t realised how long we’d been walking for. There was no one else around. I breathed in his scent, why was he allowed a leather coat? I was only allowed to wear the stupid itching grey jumpsuit all the time.
‘Well I’m sorry I disappoint you so much,’ I said, I went to walk away but he grabbed hold of my arm. I looked into his dark brown eyes, just inches from my face.
‘I’m trying to help you. Can’t trust the security guards, you’re my intern so I’m watching your back.’
‘You’ve got a strange way of showing it.’ I tried to pull my arm away but he still gripped me tight.
‘You need to be more careful.’
‘If you want to look out for me try spending time with me, sit with me at dinner or something.’
‘Why not? Just because we work together doesn’t mean we can’t be friends.’
‘It’s not that. Something’s not right here.’
‘No shit Sherlock we’re living on the moon, that’s not right.’
‘Lara, just go back to your room.’ He let go of my arm and I stumbled back a couple of steps.
‘Stop treating me like a kid, Rick.’ I marched off back down the corridor to my own room. He didn’t have a say in who I could speak to. Why would it matter who I was friends with? He had no choice in the matter. He was acting like a child, getting jealous because I was talking to another guy. Jealous of what though?