TC43

The timeline that Yeshua designated Eta was the one with the fall of the Soviet Union and the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington in 2001, the one where President Nixon was forced to resign his office and Apollo 17 was the final moon shot. After the time track was created at the Watergate complex in June of 1972 Eta was allowed to run for six months before Theta was budded off from it.

That is not to say Timeline Eta ceased to exist when Theta was created. The time track simply bifurcated with the change, which then spread out into the rest of the cosmos as a spherical ripple at the speed of light. Everywhere the edge of that sphere touched, the universe split into two copies. It would be forty thousand years before this alteration or any of the preceding ones reached Barbelo.

At 5:26 PM EST on December 13, 1972, on Timeline Eta, six days after leaving Earth and their third day on the surface of the Moon, Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt made the final moonwalk of Apollo 17.

Gene Cernan had flown to the Moon before, on Apollo 10, with his commander from his Gemini 9 mission, Tom Stafford. On that mission Gene had even flown a lunar module to within nine miles of the Moon’s surface, then returned to orbit, leaving the glory of the first landing to Neil and Buzz on Apollo 11.

He wasn’t exactly tight buds with his partner, Harrison Schmitt, a geologist who had bumped one of Gene’s buddies from Apollo 17 just so the PR fellows at NASA could say they were shifting their focus from military test pilots as astronauts to scientists. But it was true. After Apollo 17 would come Skylab (on Timeline Eta), a joint flight with the Soviet Union, and then the Space Shuttle program after that.

Like the two preceding moonwalks of the mission, this third one was to last for about seven hours. But it was to differ from the first two EVAs in a very important respect, not counting the fact that it was about an hour late getting started.

Robyn had been following live television broadcasts of the mission from only a few miles away in Taurus City and she even followed the proceedings with the portable television in her truck as she drove down the flanks of North Massif to reach the floor of the Taurus-Littrow valley. So many stations on Earth were airing the moonwalk the only trick was to pick one station out with a dish.

The landing site of Apollo 17 was on the southeastern edge of Mare Serenitatis where an asteroid hit the Moon nearly four billion years ago and created a basin a thousand miles across. The rim of Serenitatis was a ring of mountains which collapsed in some places to create long valleys like Taurus-Littrow aligned toward the center of the Mare. The pyroclastic flows that filled the “Sea of Serenity” had been accompanied by lava fountains which covered the whole area with tiny glass beads bearing bright colors such as orange and yellow.

The outer, southeastern end of the valley butted up against a large mountain called the East Massif. In the south, there was a narrow canyon that led to yet another valley. The west side of this canyon was the sheer wall of South Massif.

Crossing north to the other side of East Massif, the advance party of B’nei Elohim (scouting in 1956 with pressure suits purchased on Barbelo) found another canyon leading to still another valley. Beyond this canyon was the Sculptured Hills, and to the west of those hills was North Massif. Between North and South Massif was a narrower exit valley about four miles wide, partially blocked by Family Mountain and a sharp fault ridge about three hundred feet high.

The eastern foot of that sharp ridge formed a gentle ramp that led up around the western slope of North Massif to some rugged back country where it was difficult for landing craft to safely land. This high country on the back side of North Massif was where Lilith chose to build the city of Taurus as a “cut-and-cover” tunnel, with the Golden Gift doing the cutting.

Robyn drove her truck to the astronaut’s current position near a large, dark, shattered boulder wedged in the wall of North Massif where geologist Harrison Schmitt was gathering samples. She was careful not to run over their fragile little electric Rover parked nearby.

That Boeing-built Lunar Rover contained a built-in navigation system that kept track of every turn of the wheels and the total distance traveled. This system used a new four-bit microprocessor, which was essentially a computer on a single chip. As the decade progressed, this invention would undergo further advances and become the heart of the Micro, sparking the Information Revolution.

The boulder being examined by Schmitt, which was in five separate pieces, lay beneath a long furrow of dents showing it’s recent plunge down the face of the mountain. Apollo 15 Command Module pilot Alfred Worden had photographed the area in 1971 from orbit with a large panoramic camera. He captured photographic evidence of what looked suspiciously like tracks of wheeled vehicles and some debris that did not resemble stones at all. But after looking at the photos some analysts suspected the tracks and debris were simply from boulders that had fallen down the face of North Massif in a recent (probably less than 20 million years) moon quake.

The truth was, the staging area for construction of Taurus City was the Taurus-Littrow valley itself, and it was impossible to hide from NASA what twenty years of construction did to the pristine lunar surface.

Robyn pulled her truck to a stop, pumped the interior atmo down to a near vacuum, then popped the door open to wait for the boys to come in. They hadn’t heard her pull up, of course. They were so busy examining the boulder it was thirty-six minutes before they looked up from their task and noticed Robyn parked next to them.

At that very instant, Timeline Theta was created. Both of the astronauts uttered some expletives and the live feed was cut. CBS cut to Walter Cronkite for commentary. The live television blackout would last for about a half-hour. NASA claimed technical difficulties.

Commander Cernan described the situation to NASA. Phone calls were made to the Soviet Union asking them if they were operating in the same area and didn’t tell anybody (the Russians thought the Americans joke was in bad taste. “Is not enough you win Space Race,” they said, “now you rub it on?”).

Cernan and Schmitt, watching their oxygen levels slowly bleed down, reminded Houston they were still waiting for instructions. Houston said the mission commander, Cernan, could approach the truck, and perhaps even enter it, but Schmitt should wait outside and be prepared to hustle back in his Rover to the Lunar Module, which was about four miles away.

So Cernan walked over to the truck, where he performed a complete circuit around it. There was only one space-suited figure seated inside, who was waving at him, and motioning for him to come inside.

So Gene stepped inside, and Robyn motioned for him to have a seat. She closed the door and began to re-pressurize the interior of the truck with pure oxygen at just 3 psi.

When the dials read the appropriate pressure she removed her helmet, and invited Cernan to do the same. The sharp spent-gunpowder smell of the lunar regolith assaulted her nose, but she was used to it. And after two lunar EVAs so was Cernan.

When he removed his own helmet, his first words to her were, “You sound like an American.”

Robyn noted Gene was rather gaunt, and prematurely gray for a man in his thirties. She said, “I was born near Seattle, Commander Cernan. But my daughter Chayn was born right here.”

“Born. On the Moon.”

“On the Moon. But she has Barbuda citizenship in case she ever decides to go Earth-side some day. I’m Kimberly Lokken by the way.”

“Yes, but who are you?”

“One of my titles is Prophet of the Church of End Dome,” she said, bringing out a three-ring binder with many documents and photographs. “I am also the first member of what we call the B’nei Elohim. And I’m the Chief Executive Officer of the Astrodynamics Corporation. The names and faces in this binder will probably mean nothing to you, but they will mean a great deal to certain people in the United States government. I am providing this information package for you to take home and run up your chain of command.”

Cernan accepted the documents, and then searched Robyn’s face. She looked very much like an older version of his own daughter. He really wanted to like her.

“The information I have provided you also describes some of the operations my company is carrying out here on the Moon. I am sure the United States will find grounds to object, but since Astrodyne is incorporated in the new island nation of Barbuda there’s not much the US can do about it. You could try working with us instead of fighting us for a change.”

“You make it sound like this is an old argument,” Cernan said as he flipped through the sheets of paper to scan the information Robyn was asking him to pass along. Old argument indeed, it seemed to go back to the time of World War II. Inside the binder were five glossy color photos of the lunar surface that drew his interest. He pulled them out and asked what they were.

“Images of each one of the previous Apollo landing sites, taken days or weeks after their departure. Note the missing ascent stage in each photo. We thought NASA might want a photographic record.”

Cernan became quiet, and put the photos back on the clipboard on the inside cover the binder. He seemed to be a little sad. “So this meeting, what is it, a fancy sales pitch? I’m just to be your go-between?”

She smiled and nodded. “Basically, it all boils down to this, Commander: Everything the United States has done with its socialized government-financed space program, Astrodyne has already done faster and better with good old-fashioned capitalism. I can imagine this must come as a terrible blow to you, because your entire career has been building up to this moment, but that’s the raw truth, justice, and the American Way, so there you go.”

“How long have you’ve been up here, Kimberly?”

She declined to answer that question, despite her strong wish to do so, because it would lead to questions about how a woman who looked to be only about thirty could be forty-seven years of age. Instead she said, “Let’s just say John Glenn was not the first American to orbit the Earth, despite what you may have heard. Nor was Gagarin the first human to do so.”

“Then how many of you are up here?”

“Oh, not many right now. Only about forty. We’re just getting started. We are willing and eager to work with NASA on a contractual basis going forward. Our contact information is also in that binder.”

Cernan felt embarrassed. All the effort spent by America, all the national treasure, and in the end it all meant exactly nothing. The whole Space Race against Russia was just a fart in a hurricane.

“It’s twelve days before Christmas,” Robyn told him with a sly grin. I’ve got about a hundred and fifty of your Earth pounds of presents for your geologist Mr. Schmitt out there. Rocks from right here at the North Massif, taken from various depths up to six hundred feet below the surface. Sulfur from a channel we call Yellow Rille. Documentation is provided with each sample with location, depth, everything. Hopefully it will compensate for all the precious minutes you’re losing talking to me.”

“I’m sure it will. For what it’s worth, thank you, Miss Lokken.”

“Well, time marches on and your backpack, which you kept running by the way, won’t run forever. So that’s pretty much all I wanted to say to you, Commander Cernan. Thanks for taking this time out of your tait schedule to meet with me. Perhaps we will meet again someday on Earth.”

“I would like that very much,” he said. “In the meantime, I would ask a small favor from you.”

“Just name it, sir.”

“My beautiful ten year old little girl’s name is Tracy,” Cernan told her, holding up again the image of the Apollo 11 site that was taken from very near the Eagle lander to underscore what he was saying in an oblique way. “I wrote her initials with my finger in the ground near the Challenger, but far enough away that the blast of our ascent won’t erase it.”

“I can tell you are a man who loves his daughter very much, Robyn replied. “These pictures were taken to impress your bosses, sir. But I promise no one will ever come near your own landing site across this valley, unless your own people do later. Tracy’s initials won’t last forever, of course, due to micrometeorites, but close enough. A million years at least. That’s much better than anything you could do for her Earthside. Take care and be safe, Commander Cernan.”

When the two men returned to Challenger and removed their helmets, Harrison Schmitt snapped a photo of Cernan for the history books. He looked haggard, exhausted, and just a little haunted. The young lady he met out there on the Taurus-Littrow valley floor with her sheaf of papers and bundle of rocks spelled instant doom for NASA’s manned moon program.

Apollo 18 and 19 were designated to explore the lunar far-side, but Cernan figured they would be canceled soon after he, Schmitt and Ron Evans returned to Earth. The twenty-five billion dollars that had already been spent on the Apollo project now seemed like the biggest waste of money in American history.