Second Man

“Might as well.”

Ukko turned.

“If you like. What is it?”

Akka brushed one gloved hand over the engraved panel sending away a gray mist.

“Apollo 11 landing site, 1969.”

He looked down from the perspex platform to the descent stage then up to the ascent stage.

“I don’t like that.”

“Why?”

“Well all this is real, their footprints, where they first stepped out. Doesn’t feel right having a holo on top.”

“Why’s this important again?”

“First men on the moon, start of it all.”

“Oh. Never was one for ancient history.”

~

“Ancient history? Ancient history my ass!”

“C’mon Buzz, it’s been a while.”

“And you’re keeping count Mike?”

“Not like there’s much else to do.”

He walked through the LEM’s legs, tried and failed for the millionth time to smudge out Buzz’s footprints.

“Four hundred thirty six years, fifteen days and eight hours. Ancient history.”

Neil glanced at his Omega.

“Plus or minus ten minutes.”

~

They left their own marks in the dust-coated perspex, smooth soled above rippled.

“Doesn’t get much business.”

“Not that popular Ukko, no hero worship like back when. Everyone thought they were something else, role models, supermen.”

“Seems to me the whole Moon thing’s a dead end. The view is ok but Io, now there’s a view. Or Titan. But this?”

“First steps, that’s all. No real significance or meaning. Just flag waving. No one cares, I doubt if anyone ever really did.”

~

“Just get a load of long hair,” Mike sneered, poking one finger through Akka’s visor, jabbing his forehead “I don’t see your bio in Wikipedia.”

“Well it’s not like anyone did much afterwards. Six Apollos, a dozen Vigorous Dragons seventy years later then on to Mars. Can’t compete with that.”

“But this was first. Hell Buzz, being first matters.”

“You’re telling me.”

~

Akka tapped the plaque.

“Typical late 1960’s neurotic military alpha males. Take this one, Aldrin. Hairy chested fighter jock on the outside, fragile as glass inside.”

“So?”

“He was the second one out and couldn’t handle it, spent his whole life trying to soothe his fractured ego. Always in the shadows, always justifying why, a compete social misfit who could only talk about orbital rendezvous techniques.”

“Poor guy.”

“You kidding me? Never good enough to lead a mission, never man enough to admit it.”

~

“Hear this Mike? Fifty years no one’s been here and now I get Mr. Never-has-been. A few missions over Korea and we’ll see who’s man enough.”

“Don’t let it get to you Buzz, it’s the way things go, always paying out on what they don’t know.”

“I’d like to pop back for one second and straighten him out.”

Neil wrapped one arm around Buzz’s shoulders, led him back to the edge of the perspex.

“Everyone forgets, believes their own lies. If I had my way the ladder would’ve been twice as wide, we’d have gone down together. But you remember what those Grumman designers were like.”

“I know, I know. At least I got here, better than Haise in ’13.”

~

Ukko stood gazing at the horizon.

“Was it worth it?”

Akka looked over Ukko’s shoulder.

“All those billions to satisfy a dead politician’s boast, bring back some rocks? I don’t think so.”

“How long after did we get the Drive?”

“A hundred years. Could’ve saved so much if they’d just waited. But that’s ancient Americans for you.”

“How’s that?”

“Act now, think later, no patience. All ego, showmanship, each one believing they’re the best regardless. A country of narcissistic prima donnas.”

“Surely not all of them. What about their leader?”

“Armstrong? The worst. Aloof, snappy, autocratic, didn’t talk to anyone about anything. Classic superiority complex. But that’s not the worst.”

“What is?”

“He used his position to be first. It should’ve been Aldrin. Egotistical ass.”

~

A single ripple soled boot popped out catching Akka solidly in the back, sending him skidding face first into the regolith.

“That’s one small boot for man, one great pratfall for mankind.”

Neil turned, walked away.

“I’m going over to Descartes, see what Charlie’s up to.”

Mike set off after Neil. Buzz watched Akka shakily pick himself up, then hurried after them.

“Hey Mike, he screwed the pooch again.”

“What?”

“Neil. He left out the ‘a’ again.”

“I did not Buzz, you just heard wrong.”

“You never got it right did you?”

“Well at least they remember what I said, who remembers ‘Get your ass to Mars?’ …”

END

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