The Dark Rind of the Moon by John Taloni – FREE STORY

I spotted the tourists before they even fully entered the bar, as they bounded too high in the Lunar gravity. One bumped his head on the entrance.

Moments later I heard laughter. I pitched an ear towards them. “I can’t believe they actually have a cheese factory here!” said one of the tourists.

“Is it for export?” said the other. “Green cheese!” He slapped the bar while laughing, making his drink rise up out of the glass. He moved to try to catch it back in. “Who’s it for, the Man in the Moon?”

“That’s one of our hydroponics installations,” I said. Both turned to look at me. “Mostly it makes algae for local consumption. But as it turns out, I was once on a moon made of green cheese.”

They both looked at me with a blank stare. “I could tell the story,” I said, “but I’m a little dry.” I shook my glass.

“Oh! Er, of course,” said the first tourist. I suppose I was about to become part of the “local color” story but I was parched, and free drinks were worth the effort. The tourist waved down the bartender and I ordered the same as what I had. But this time a double, of course. I cleared my throat and looked them in the eye.


I was ten minutes out of Lovell base when the micro-meteoroids hit. The pinging on the hull alerted me seconds in advance of the alarm buzzer. Before both sounds fully registered, one of the micro-meteoroids burst through the hull. Another breach soon followed. Air hissed out of the small cabin.

The noise knocked me out of my reverie. This should have been another in a long list of routine flights. I’d barely looked at the cargo list before getting aboard. I was hauling yet another load from the transplanted farmers living a Lunar version of Lovell’s Wisconsin roots.

One shard grazed my leg and ripped my spacesuit. Automatic repair started immediately but the hole was too big. I looked around hurriedly for a place to hide. Nothing. In panic I unbuckled and got under the chair, using one big arm swoop to move my body in the micro-gravity of the ship.

The pings turned into a constant rattle. Then, just as suddenly as they had started, the shower stopped.

I looked around. Several dozen small holes hissed from leaking gas, taking my breathing atmosphere with them. There were many more than I could patch.

That wasn’t necessarily a problem, I could wait out the journey in my spacesuit. Except – ouch! My leg throbbed, informing me that the injury was worse than I had thought. Shreds of the suit flapped in the microgravity as the suit futilely tried to knit back together.

Fine, move to the spare. I pushed off and drifted to the back of the small cabin. There the emergency kit had first aid material, hull patches, oxygen, and a folded emergency suit – with a fresh micro-meteoroid hole through the middle.

First things first. I dressed the leg wound. No way to capture the blood droplets, but as I looked they drifted towards the holes. At least I would die neat.

Traveling on the Moon is most easily done by suborbital flight. Build a mass accelerator with a variable tip. Point the ship in the right direction and throw it at the destination. At the other side, decelerate the same way. All it takes is a little electricity, and solar collectors provide cheap energy during the long Lunar day. It’s fast, cheap, and safe – except when it isn’t. I had no fuel to maneuver. The force of the rock swarm had turned me into a bomb drifting off course.

The cargo ships didn’t really need pilots. We were there just in case of emergency. Regulatory holdovers from the more nervous days of space exploration.

I tapped the radio and called my destination. “Gagarin base, this is cargo ship 519. Mayday. I’ve been struck by a meteoroid storm and am off course. Leaking atmosphere.”

The radio crackled. “Cargo ship 519, we copy.” There was a long pause. “Are you able to patch the holes?”

“Negative,” I responded. “Spacesuits shredded as well.”

“We are calculating your course,” came the voice. “We should be able to reconfigure the landing area to crash land your vessel away from the habitat.”

At least I wouldn’t kill anyone else. “Suggestions? I’ll be out of air soon.”

“Try to trim the patches. Use each one for more than one hole.”

Well, duh. But at least it was a start. A quick look at the emergency kit showed a razor knife. I applied it to a patch – and it turned into a mangled mess. Nope, these were single-apply. I slapped what was left of that patch onto a hole and went for the next one.

I was applying my fourth of six available patches when the radio crackled again. “Gagarin base here. Cargo ship 519, what’s your manifest? We are calculating force to stop the ship and don’t have your launch weight.” Never mind that I’d be dead in ten minutes and they had to get the information now.

“The usual from Lovell base,” I replied. “Dairy products. Primarily cheese.”

Cheese. CHEESE! I yanked open the hatch to the freight area – and quickly closed it again. The freight section had been hit even worse than the cabin. It was in near vacuum.

Accessing that would hurt but not immediately kill me. I breathed in, out, and yanked the door open. Air streamed past me as I dove into the freight section. I cut open a box and dragged out several large wedges of Wisconsin-style cheese. Bang back into the cabin against air pressure. Got a hacking cough from vacuum exposure for my efforts.

I opened the valve of the oxygen bottle from the emergency kit to replace some of the lost air. With hurried movements I cut a big slice of cheese to cover a hole. Pressure sucked the slice against the outer vacuum.

A sparkly feeling passed across my fingers. I was hyperventilating in the partial pressure of pure oxygen. With a deliberate effort I slowed my breathing. Another slice. Then another.


The two tourists looked at me. “Then what happened?”

I tinkled my glass. They hurriedly waved over the bartender for another round. He gave me a wry smile behind them. Happy tourists meant good business.

“Well, gentlemen, in the emergency lighting that yellow cheese appeared green. As I slapped piece after piece of cheese into the holes, the hissing slowed. It never quite went away, but I had enough left to get down. Gagarin Base got a crawler out to where I crash landed and picked me up.”

I took a pull on my drink. “And so, for a moment, the moon had a moon of its own, made of green cheese. And with it, I saved the Man in the Moon – myself.”



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