TC45

When Robyn looked out along the new Timeline she saw that her idea of applying reverse psychology to the Americans was not enough. Apollo 18 and 19 were still going to be canceled, and the country was still going to turn its back on manned space exploration.

“So what do we do, Lil?” she whined, completely at a loss for ideas.

“I think we can fix it without creating yet another timeline,” Lilith replied after a moment of quiet reflection. “The whole Apollo program was a proxy battle in the Cold War, right?”

“Right, and just after Apollo 8 the Soviets, sore losers that they are, knocked all the chess pieces off the board. They took their ball and went home.”

“Well, then, Robyn, obviously all we need to do now is simply get the Soviets to come back to the game.”

In the days just before Christmas, 1972, President Richard Nixon sent 130 B-52s and hundreds of smaller bombers to lay waste to Hanoi, Haiphong, and the whole vicinity, including airfields, rail yards, and (although perhaps not deliberately) even residential neighborhoods. The North Vietnamese government said the Americans were insane.

There was a thirty-six hour pause in the bombing for Christmas, and then it resumed. Although fifteen bombers had been shot down and nearly a hundred airmen captured or killed, 115 B-52s continued to bomb indiscriminately, around the clock. By New Year’s Day the North Vietnamese couldn’t take the bombing anymore and returned to the negotiating table. A month later a cease-fire was announced, and the war shuddered to a halt.

A few days after the cease-fire in Vietnam, the judge in the case of the Watergate burglars, Maximum John Sirica, handed down ridiculously stiff sentences with the idea of making one of the defendants break and testify against their unknown handlers. Two months later the Quiet Man did break, and wrote a letter to Maximum John that there was political pressure to get the defendants to remain silent and that other men were involved in the operation who were not identified during the trial. This broke the cover-up wide open.

The Attorney General of the United States, the top law enforcement official in the land, had directed the whole operation to break into the headquarters of the opposing political party and bug their offices. Counsel to the White House was enlisted to pay hush money and lawyer’s fees for the defendants after the arrest. The head of the FBI was enlisted to steer the investigation by his subordinates away from the truth, and the President himself, only days after the arrests, claimed the break-in was a CIA operation in the interest of national security. And all of this was eventually dragged out into public view because Nixon had bugged himself. He had secretly recorded every conversation made in the Oval Office since becoming President.

Soon after Vice-President Gerald Ford had been sworn in to replace Richard Nixon after his resignation, fifty-three year old Astronaut John Glenn was asked to return to flight status with NASA after a hiatus of ten years. Although he had been preparing to make a run for the Senate, Glenn instead flew on the Apollo 18 mission in a special non-partisan observer role for the United States government.

President Ford gave Glenn carte blanche authority to make deals with the people already on the Moon who apparently were represented by Kimberly Lokken. This was not public knowledge at the time. Glenn was not assigned a role as Command Module pilot or Lunar Module pilot, but he checked out on both positions.

It was Richard Gordon who actually commanded the mission. He had already attained lunar orbit as the Command Module pilot for Apollo 12 but never walked on the moon. Now he was to land on the surface with Glenn and Fred Haise, who had almost walked on the Moon once before for Apollo 13 but had to turn back around following an explosion. He was played by Bill Paxton in a film of the incident made on Timeline Eta. Vance Brand and William Pogue were space virgins. They stood port and starboard watch aboard the Command Module in lunar orbit for the three weeks the teams were to be separated.

The Soviet Union transmitted to NASA the orbital elements for their Lunniy Orbitalny Korabl which parked over the Moon about a week before Apollo 18 arrived. They said the craft was currently unmanned and didn’t want the risk of a collision, no matter how remote. The part about the LOK being “currently” unmanned was strange, but the Soviets refused to elaborate.

Soon after Glenn, Gordon, and Haise landed, an electric truck identical to the one driven by Robyn and photographed by Harrison Schmitt arrived at the landing site and stopped. After that, the truck driver found the frequency the astronauts were using to talk to Mission Control and suggested, in English but with a Russian accent, that they follow him in their rover. Glenn and Gordon agreed to go, and Haise was left behind to watch the Lunar Module.

The route they took was like a long dirt ramp up the North Massif, but all the up-climbing took a toll on the battery of the Lunar Rover. At about the eight mile mark, Gordon got on the radio and said they’d have to turn around to recharge, or the rover would run out of juice. The Russian voice suggested it wouldn’t be a problem and they should keep going.

After thirteen miles, with many switchbacks, they rounded a hillock and saw something like a wide garage door, which opened at the command of the lead truck. Both vehicles entered, and the garage door shut behind them. It took about an hour to fill the space with oxygen, then two men got out of the truck wearing jumpsuits and boots, nothing more.

“Aleksei Leonov!” Richard Gordon said. “And Oleg Makarov! I recognize both of you from photographs in our briefing. I knew you were out here but I didn’t know you were landing. Where’s your LK?”

“No LK, Commander,” Leonov said. “Astrodyne. We hitch ride down here.”

There were brief introductions all the way around, then Makarov attached a power cable to the truck. He brought another power cable over to the Lunar Rover, and offered to plug it in, but first he had to convince Gordon it was safe. What sold Gordon was how the cable fitting was exactly tailored to fit the rover. Someone up here had done their research.

The next space after the garage was literally a locker room, with large lockers for the NASA crew to stow their pressure suits and keep the keys on their person. Makarov said, “This key for peace of mind, no?”

And the space after that opened on a balcony looking down upon the vast green interior of Taurus City, lit by clever sun reflectors in the ceiling.

“Damn that air smells good,” said Senator Glenn, taking a big breath.

“It better smell good,” Leonov said. “We pay for each lungful. They say, go fetch Americans, reduce line item on expense account.”

“They call this cut-and-cover tunnel,” Makarov, “but is big one.”

Glenn and Gordon got their first view of Taurus City from the south end, very high up near the ceiling. “One hundred sixty four meters wide, one hundred sixty four meters tall, nine hundred eighty four meters long,” Leonov recited from memory.

“Does it have an an ecological balance?” Glenn asked.

“Not yet,” Leonov said. “You can see how small trees are. But, I think, in time, yes. “

Gordon looked at all the apartment balconies running along all the walls all the way to the other end, almost a full kilometer away. “Is it dangerous here?” he asked.

“There’s no weather on moon,” Makarov said, “only moonquakes and meteors. Moonquakes are very small, you never feel one. Meteors bigger problem, but still small problem. Sometimes we patch ceiling.”

“I’m impressed,” Glenn said. “It’s a compact and carefully designed space habitat that somehow doesn’t look compact and carefully designed.”

“How do we get down there?” Gordon asked.

“That’s fun part,” Makarov said, and began to strap some wings on himself. Leonov strapped wings on as well, and showed Glenn and Gordon how to do it correctly.

Glenn looked at the folds of fabric he was encased in. “No time for flying lessons?”

“Wing it!” Makarov said. And he kicked free of the ledge. When he jumped, the excess folds of his fabric wings inflated and Makarov found himself gliding slowly down under the one-sixth Lunar gravity. It looked like so much fun Gordon immediately followed him, followed by Leonov.

Like a baby thrown into a swimming pool Glenn was instantly required to adapt to the changing circumstances of his flight as soon as he left the ledge.

Makarov, with the ease of slightly long experience, flew circles above and around the Americans to stay close enough to speak as they tried to learn the ropes. They flew right over the business district where the glass and steel Church of End Dome tabernacle, still under construction, shared a courtyard and fountain with an office building, also under construction. Of course both these structures ran for many levels underground.

Makarov began to give them a guided tour. “There’s two-seater electric vehicle available from motor pool beneath future shopping mall. Ramp from motor pool leads to Taurus Highway, three miles of concrete run from one end of tunnel to other.”

They all flew down a bit for a closer look at downtown.

“Astrodyne will not be run from there,” Leonov said, referring to an infant skyscraper. “Is just Potemkin village for bigwigs, so they think Robyn gives good meeting.”

On the other side of the highway a hotel and a bank were under construction. “You see Obion street and City Administration complex where Astrodyne handles day to day operation.”

They continued to glide along, and drop very slowly. Makarov pointed out the lunar branch of Canterwood Academy, right next to a one acre site with a grade school for the children of the B’nei Elohim. “Sometimes there you see girls kicking balls in effigy, and not just futbols.”

“How charming!” said Glenn.

The highway then curved gently through Cedar Heights, a forty-home development of big ranch houses for some of the middle-level B’nei Elohim members, and these homes, by contrast, were complete. The highway bent there to travel directly east to the other wall of Taurus City’s canyon. “Only eighteen second drive,” said Leonov. “On foot, cross from one wall to other in two minute walk.”

Bike paths led down and around Mineral Canyon which was a thousand foot long stretch of whitewater in a deep chasm. There were eleven mansions there for the top B’nei Elohim members like Hunky, Dory, and Jill. And there was also a bridge where the Americans could see a big pretty two hundred foot artificial waterfall plunging into a grass bowl at the head of the river.

They were getting close to the ground now, and Robyn’s estate loomed ahead on a little hill. On the other side of the mansion Glenn and Gordon could see the road did an “S” curve past two sections of nine acre Lake Taurus and an apartment complex where the bike trail ended. The last two parts was the farm sector and the forest sector. The farm was thirteen acres of fruits and veggies plus a ten acre apple orchard with room for about three hundred head of cattle among the trees.

The forest sector beyond that was centered around Green Hill. That was the highest point on the tunnel’s floor.

Makarov and Leonov landed first in Robyn’s backyard to show the Americans how it was done. Gordon followed them, and he found she could deflate or inflate the wings at will to control her descent perfectly. He came to a gentle stop on his feet right next to the cosmonauts and the Russians beamed.

John Glenn was too happy to let the flight end just yet. He was overcome with the same feeling one gets on terminal cruise, when a plane’s engines were throttled back near the end of a flight. There was a qualitative change in the background noise of his mind, an attitude shift.

Robyn’s estate danced under his feet. Descending into the compound Glenn tried to finesse his landing with small forced deflations of his wings…too much. Too fast. The three men watched him come down like a bat shot out of the sky. There was the swimming pool, screw it…