Truthfully, it started off as a joke. One shared between Gretchen, Annie, TJ, and I around a mess table on the lunar base, drinking in celebration of Gretchen’s daughter’s college graduation. Drinking too heavily, in fact, for our feelings to be only those of celebration. Drinking as a means of pretending we were not all thinking of our own family members, of the milestones they would reach without us, of what we would all miss while floating 382,500 kilometers away.
And so when Gretchen sighed and admitted, “I only wish I could have given her flowers,” well into our designated sleeping break, we may have overcompensated.
“We can get her flowers!” slurred TJ.
“Flowers are pretty,” I added, unhelpfully.
“I got it! I got it!” Annie exclaimed. “The domes look like flowers! Well, like, the center of flowers. Right? The yellow part. Except,” she saddened, shaking her head. “They’re not yellow.”
“We’ll make them yellow!” TJ was an action-oriented optimist when drunk.
“And petals! They’ll need petals too.” This time I hit on something useful.
“Yes, but the petals should be a different color.” Annie suggested.
“What do we have that’s petal-shaped?” Gretchen asked, her interest snagged.
“We can build something petal-shaped!” TJ, of course, bellowed, slamming his fist against the table.
Someone cleared room on the table for a design pad, opened a holographic schematic, and we went to work.
The most enthusiastic of the night before were the first to dismiss the idea the next morning. TJ didn’t even seem to remember, well, anything, and Annie just laughed when the flowers were brought up—laughed and shook her head.
But I couldn’t get the designs out of my mind. I woke up early every workday for the next few months, pulling up the plans to add details and flourishes, even mapping materials and expenses. I couldn’t tell you why the idea drew me so much. I just knew that the flowers acted as protective hedge, for me, a mentally-erected wall that separated us from the environmental degradation and resource extraction, the fires, drought, and drillings that led to a general browning of the Earth. Perhaps I was belatedly rebelling against the culture in which I was raised, where you didn’t “waste” resources on beauty, and especially not to create something entirely for the benefit of others. Something that your own eyes would never see.
I ordered the first supplies surreptitiously, using my weight allowance for personal items on the freight shuttle and paying with my own money. I didn’t need cash up here, anyway. But, of course, you can’t just sneak things past your friends on a moonbase.
“What’s this?” Gretchen raised a bucket…and an eyebrow.
“Oh, it’s for a personal project.” I tried to brush it off.
Which obviously only raised her suspicions. “A personal project that you’ve just forgotten to tell us about over dinner for, oh, at least the last month since you put in the order?”
TJ wandered over to see what was up. “Is that reflective paint?”
Gretchen looked at me, eyes wide, tinged with hope. “Wait. Are you actually doing it?”
I hesitated slightly before nodding. “Yeah, I’m making the flowers. Well, one flower. And it’s shaped pretty weird, since I can’t rebuild Headquarters, and obviously it’ll be too small for the naked eye to see from Earth, but—”
“Oh wow, I totally forgot about that conversation!” TJ exclaimed. “Could I take a look at your plans? I have this feeling that we came up with some pretty cool stuff.”
I pulled out my design pad, and brought up the file.
It sounds silly, recounting it now. How we worried over supply requisition before finally figuring out how to make many of the materials we needed from the moonrock itself and a few easily-shipped chemicals. How we delayed sending progress reports back to Earth until it was too late to counter our design plans. How we delighted in choosing hues that would make for the most gorgeous gradients as the reflective angles shifted throughout the moon’s path across the sky. How we dreamed of friends and family pointing strong telescopes in our direction and gasping.
That some now place us among the great artists of our time seems ludicrous in retrospect: us, self-taught strange mosaicists planting flower-shaped buildings? It defies comprehension. Back then we just thought people wouldn’t even notice, or worse, that they would, and it would get us recalled back to Earth for insubordination. We never expected our flowers to flourish, growing until a strip of radiant color traversed the circumference of the moon!
We just wanted to be connected. For our loved ones to know we cared.
To know ourselves that, even if we never witnessed the results of our efforts, each time our dear ones raised their eyes to the night sky, they would see our love planted in the flowers we grew for them.