by Jonathan Brazee
Originally published in Labyrinth Magazine, Spring 1979, pgs. 19-25.
"Well, I've done it," I thought as I took the tube home.
"After all that time I've spent throughout this, my last year at school, sneaking out for appointments and interviews, I'd finally gone and taken that last step. I just wonder how they're going to take it?"
The capsule whispered to a stop and the pneumatic door opened. I almost wished that the tube had taken me to some other sector, but the tube is maddeningly accurate, and I found myself in our all too familiar station, with its inane "Buy Seasonal Commuter Passes, Save Credit!" flashing just above eye level.
I sighed and walked up to the ramp, riding it up to my level. I had to fight for my balance as a small horde of basic school kids swarmed by. Watching them and hearing their shrieks of laughter made me feel much older than my meager years. They made me feel like an adult, at a level far above their childish concerns. I toyed with the thought--me, a full fledged adult. I decided I liked that.
I stepped off the ramp at J-level and turned down McDavit corridor toward our hatch. Hesitating for a second as I reached it, I flipped on the speaker switch.
"Yea, it's Matt." I waited the ten seconds before placing my palms against the lock, opening the portal. Mom was in the living area poring over a report or something. She glanced up as I entered.
"Hello, son, have a good day?," she asked absently, returning to her reading before I could answer. Mom was like that--always putting up the correct front like a mechanized receptionist, never really expecting an answer.
Mom is the chairman of the Secesssion Movement, so she is actually the de facto leader of Luna. She is still a striking woman, and her competent looks framed by her long brown hair probably got her as much support, from most of the men, at least, as her ideological views. And she did have support. She would plead, cajole, bully, or do anything to get someone over to her side, and very few people could stand up to her pressures. Right now, she was just shy of the two-thirds vote needed for secession.
Mom constantly told us that she doesn't bring home her work, but while she rarely had guests over, she almost always would bring home paper work, and she could constantly be found buried underneath it. Most people don't realize just how time consuming politics is. I know I've done my share of typing and running errands for her. Many times I've wondered how she can keep up with it all.
I walked on into the dining area and found Dad setting three places at the table. "Where's Teri?" Actually I was relieved that my younger sister wasn't around. It would make things easier when I told them.
"Oh, she decided to stay overnight with Mage. I trust you had a productive day?" I glanced up quickly but he wasn't looking. There was no way that he could know, but you never could be sure with Dad. He seems to know everything that is going on, and he knows what you are going to do before you do yourself. It was rather convenient that Teri chose tonight not to be at home, but if Dad knew anything, he wasn't showing any indication of it.
Dad sort of kept the family together and running smoothly. With Mom always gone or worrying about a new political crisis or something, we needed a strong central figure to rely on, and Dad was it. He was a farmer by choice. His aptitude quotient is much higher than farming requires, (in fact, he is at the unlimited level), but he enjoys working in the tunnels, reclaiming soil and growing crops. Because of his work, he always had an earthy, wholesome smell, something rare in our antiseptic world. As kids, Teri and I used to go with him to work where we would play in the moist soil. At first, Mom didn't approve, but Dad in his own quiet way, convinced her that it was all right.
"Yea, Dad, I got a lot done." I grabbed a stick of celery and walked over to my cubicle, dialing the aperture open and entering. Sitting on my bed, I started to make a mental inventory of my belongings. I could see I was going to have to get rid of a lot. I had waited until the very last minute to accept, and I hadn't done any sorting yet. As usual, my eyes faltered as they passed over my model rocket collection. Those rockets were my prized possessions. From the intricate Sputnik model to the 1/10,000th scale Gyron class star voyageur, I had over 151 different models. Reaching out, I picked up the Apollo capsule. It was my basic school graduation present. I remember Mom saying that it was too complicated for me, but I proved her wrong. Thirty painstaking hours of work went into that model, but I finished it without getting help from anybody.
I held the capsule at arms length over the lunar surface of my bed. I wondered what it must have been like to be there, with Armstrong, when history was made. I brought the capsule in for a landing, notwithstanding the fact that it was actually the Eagle that landed.
"One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." God I wished that I had said that. I could just imagine me being the first man on the moon. But Neil Armstrong got the glory for that. I'll just have to do something else. The ticket in my pocket was my guarantee that I'd have my chance.
The bell's chime snapped me out of my reverie as Dad's voice told me it was time for dinner. With a sigh, I put down the Apollo and went out to eat.
Dinner was unusually quiet. Mom had brought her papers to the table and I was trying to figure out how to broach the subject. Dad noticed the quiet, too.
"Honey, put down that report and eat your allotment. Whatever you're doing can wait for half an hour."
She looked up at him for a second, then sheepishly closed the report. "You're right, it'll wait. You know that I don't like to bring my work home, but with the Americans and the Russians both agreeing to use force if necessary to keep us a colony, things are getting pretty hectic. We're trying to get the Asian states to support us, but so far it hasn't been working." She picked up her spoon and started to eat.
Dad started to give me odd looks as I toyed with my food throughout the meal. I almost told them once, but I backed off at the last second.
Finally Mom pushed herself back from her plate. "That was delicious, honey, thank you." She started to rise from the table when I interrupted her.
"Mom, Dad, I've got something important to tell you." Mom sat back down, glancing at her report again before looking back at me. I took a deep breath, "I'm joining the Navy."
"There, I've done it," I thought, glad that it was out in the open. Mom's mouth dropped open as the room became deathly silent.
An eternity later, Mom sputtered, "You're ... you're what?"
"I'm joining the Navy. I got an appointment at the Academy, and I'm going to accept it." I realized that I was playing with my food again so I put down my fork and looked up at her. The shock was wearing off and she was getting mad.
"No you're not!" She stood up, glaring down at me.
"Mom, the matter is not in your hands. I'm joining." I stood up to face her.
"No son of mine is going to join the imperialistic forces of Earth. I will not stand for it!"
"Mom," I pleaded, "I'm not joining some sort of decadent system. I'm just joining the Navy."
"After all I've taught you, how can you say that? After all I've worked for, you can't do this."
"Not only can, but have done. Mom, I don't agree with your views and I never have. Earth is the center of our culture while we have nothing. I want to be a part of Earth. I don't want to be independent. What do we have on this rock?"
"You ... why I'll tell you..."
"No Mom," I interrupted. "Save your speeches for someone else--I've heard them all. Go try and get your two-thirds vote. But you can't, can you? There are people in the Russian and Euro protectorates who feel the same as me, right? Or else you would have your precious vote, you would..."
"Shut-up! How can you talk like that in my house? I thought my own family supports me, but I can see that you've decided that you're too good for..."
"Both of you, stop it!" Dad rose up from his seat. I had forgotten that he was even there. "If you two can't discuss this like adults, we just won't say anything at all. I'm surprised at the both of you. Matt, go to your room for now, we'll take this up later."
"But..." Looking at Dad, I thought better of continuing, so I stomped to my cubical, barely waiting until I made it in before dialing the aperture shut. Grabbing my Neptune class rocket as I passed, I lay back on my bed. Holding the model above me, I lay glaring at it. Suddenly I smashed it against the wall, shattering it to pieces.
"I don't believe I did that," I thought, staring stupidly at the broken pieces. I felt like a fool. I just ruined a good model because of her. I lay back down and brooded for half an hour until the bell chimed.
"Matt, it's me," Mom's voice came over the grill.
"Come in." The aperture opened and Mom came in, shoved some clothes off the chair and sat down. She waited a second, then cleared her throat.
"You know son, I've been doing some thinking. What you want to do will hurt me deeply, so deep that it will never be healed. It will probably ruin my chances of getting elected, or hurt the chances of getting elected, or hurt the chances for our cause to succeed. But it is your life. As long as you realized the pain you are going to cause, and if you still want to go, I can't stand in your way." She looked at me expectantly.
I'd seen this act a thousand times before. Mom likes to play the martyr. She acts as if she's letting someone do something, yet she tries and uses his conscience to make him decide to go her way. But this time, it wasn't going to work.
"Thanks, Mom. I knew you'd agree."
A small look of surprise came over her face. "You mean you'd do that to your mother?"
"You said it was OK."
"I know what I said! Listen to me. You think you're so smart. Well I'm just not going to let you go. How about that?"
"Mom, you have to let me. You know the law." I was surprised that our voices were so calm.
"Matt, what I told you about my election just might be true. Imagine the papers, "SON OF SECESSION MOVEMENT BOSS JOINS FOE!!" Think of what that could do to me."
"I'm sorry about that Mom, I really am. But I'm going to live my own life."
"I know how you feel, Matt, but do you have to go against your own mother? Why do you want to go anyway?" She spoke as if she were really puzzled, and I couldn't tell if she were acting or not.
"Mom, I want to go to space. The fleets are on Earth. What do we have here? A couple of garbage scows? In the Navy, I can be trained to handle a real spacecraft. I can go places and see things. Maybe, if I do well enough, I can even get into the Exploratory Corps. Imagine that, being somewhere where no human has ever been before. The only way I can do that, and I do mean the only way, is to become an officer in the Navy." I felt exhilarated just from talking about it.
"So that's it." She picked up the Gyron model, idly turning it over in her hands. "You know something?" Her voice suddenly became silky smooth. "I had been thinking. You know we haven't given you your graduation present yet. I had thought that a trip on one of the luxury liners around the system would be a perfect gift, sort of a last fling before career school, so to say. Only, the Academy starts early, a few days from now doesn't it? And if you're not going to be here, it's obvious that you couldn't go. She looked at me helplessly as if in a dilemma.
I could see that she was not going to give in. She had to win, no matter what, even against her own children. I could see only one way out, so I let out a heavy sigh.
"OK, Mom, I give in. I don't want to but I guess I have to. But that's only if I get that trip, OK?"
She beamed victoriously at me. "Thank you, Matt. I knew you'd understand. I knew you'd help out your mother." She replaced the model, walked over to me and kissed my forehead. "I love you, Matt." She turned around and walked out of the room.
I watched her leave, closed the aperture, and looked at my chronometer. "Let's see. The flight leaves at 1100, and the ticket says be there two hours early. It's now 2100. That gives me eleven hours to get everything done. "
I got my luggage out and started to pack, discarding most of my things as being too bulky. I never knew I had so many possessions. I took the Apollo capsule, though I knew it was wasted weight, and packed it. The rest of my models I sealed in boxes to be stored. Finally, I was down to my two alloted bags, though I don't know how I fit everything in. I opened the aperture and stuck my head out. The place was quiet and dark.
I felt a thrill as I moved carefully around the furniture. At last I was on my way. I felt as if I were eloping and running away to the circus at the same time. I just wished I had a girlfriend that I could exchange a tearful farewell with, like they do in the shows. "Oh well, you can't have everything."
I hesitated when I got to the portal and looked back at my parents' cubicle. I'd write them and explain things to them later, once I was out of my mother's grasp. I knew I was going to miss them, though. I turned around and flipped the switch to "open."
"One small step for man, one giant leap for me," I whispered as I stepped out. The portal hissed to a close behind me.