Hazard To Navigation by Jon Frater

Hazard To Navigation by Jon Frater

“Take a good look, my dear. We won’t get another chance.”

It was almost like a camping trip. They’d left their house an hour ago and driven to this spot off a country road just to watch the big event. No trees. No lights. Just the two of them.

Emma pulled the blankets closer around her to ward off the January chill. The hood of Sam’s pickup did not make the most comfortable platform to watch the night sky, but they’d been blessed with clear weather. No clouds. And, luckily, no wind, either. Just the full moon beaming its face down at them.

“How much longer?” she moaned. “My fingers are turning blue.”

He checked his watch. “Should be soon. Midnight. Assuming they mark time the way we do.”

“Midnight is what the observatory geeks told us. I assume they’d know. It’s their job.”

“Right.” He opened a thermos, poured a few ounces of hot coffee into a plastic cup, offered it to her, then poured another for himself. “Think they’ll still have jobs after tonight?”

She sipped. “Why not? The stars will still be there. And we know a lot more about them now.”

“I guess.” Sam gulped his coffee, wincing at the heat, then settled against the truck’s windshield. “What if there were no moon?” he asked. “What then?”

Emma drew her legs up, sitting cross-legged. “No tides, for one thing. Darker night skies, for another.”

“How about earthquakes? We’d still get those?”

“Sure. The moon doesn’t really influence earthquakes. Too far away” She paused to think. “But, if it suddenly vanished, then you’d get earthquakes. Big ones.”

“What’ll the werewolves do with no moon in the sky?”

She punched him in the arm. “No moon, no werewolves. Duh.”

“Also no lunatics…maybe no lovers.”

She squeezed his hand. “Love finds a way. Trust me on that.”

He peered through the binoculars he’d hastily packed as they left the house and scanned the lunar surface. “Can’t see the crater.”

“Check the north quadrant. Just above the crater Plato.”

Sam followed her instructions. “Nothing. We’d need a proper telescope for it.”

The breeze picked up. She snuggled closer to him as he let the binoculars fall against his chest and put his arm around her, bringing her in. “It’d be weird, not seeing a moon.”

“It would. There’s nothing in the solar system quite like it. We’re not even sure where the damn thing came from. I like to think we wouldn’t miss it.”

“But we would.” Sam nodded. “You miss anything that suddenly isn’t there. Hell, people freak all over when their cell phones run out of juice. Forget PCs, laptops, oh my god, when the electricity or plumbing quits.”

She sighed. “Yeah. There’d be a panic. We’d go crazy for a while. But we’d get used to it.”

He checked his watch again. “Five minutes. I’m really burned that we can’t see the crater from here.”

“Come on. Even if you could, the wreck is long gone. And we had to return it. They were very specific about that.” Pause. “Funny they didn’t believe it’s a natural satellite. They were specific about that, too.”

“Think we should listen on the radio? President should be on by now.”

“You can listen if you want. I don’t care.”

Sam rolled off the hood and turned the key; the engine rumbled to life. He figured Emma would appreciate a warm hood. He turned the radio on and found the station. POTUS was indeed on the air.

“The moon. It’s a hazard to navigation. The biggest hazard to life we’ve ever seen.  You know the dinosaurs? An asteroid got them. A big one. But as big as that was, the moon is a billion times bigger. That’s billion with a b. When the Virani scout ship crashed a month ago, we were shocked and terrified. But then, their diplomats contacted us and said, hey, America, your moon is a hazard to space navigation, I said, fine, let’s do something about it. And they will. Because I made that deal with them. Very nice people, the Virani.”

Sam turned the knob, killing the voice. How does a mile long ship accidentally crash into a two thousand mile wide object? Even at relativistic speeds, any pilot would have to…

Emma pointed upwards. “There!” she squealed. “It’s starting.”

They couldn’t see the Virani ships despite their size. A glint of reflected sunlight was all that Sam found through the binoculars. But the beams they lanced out with were brighter than the sun, lancing out from lunar orbit, searing the surface of the massive satellite to glass, then pulverizing the surface. As they watched, the surface of the moon faded, blurred to a silver-gray cloud.

Emma frowned. “We might get a ring out of this. Depends on how much material is left when they’re done.”

“Well…a ring would be cool! Right?”

She snorted. “It’d be different. But I don’t think it would inspire much romantic poetry.”

They stayed and watched. The cloud grew in size, fuzzing at the edges, like a fantastic faerie ring. But the faeries were working in ships a mile long and from a distant solar system. And despite the president’s broadcast words, there was no deal to be made. The Virani had lost a ship and demanded corrective action. The big men who ran the world took no time to recognize that the visitors could evaporate the surface of the Earth as easily as they were now doing to its only satellite.

A shot rang out. Then, two.  Down the road, headlights appeared in a column.

Emma rolled off the truck’s hood and joined Sam in the cab. “We should go back,” she said. “Glad we stocked the basement when we did.”

He nodded, and started the engine. “Yeah. People are going to go crazy.”

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A gaming industry stalwart dating back to the 1980s, Jon Frater is the co-author of roleplaying game books Robotech: Return of the Masters and Robotech Adventures: Lancer’s Rockers, both for Palladium Books. Jonathan also wrote a column on writing and game design called The Tome in Gateways magazine. He’s currently a librarian at Metropolitan College of New York. Article 9, the first in his ambitious Blockade Trilogy, is Jonathan’s first full-length novel.

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