Gary Poland Jr., first child born on the Moon and already in the history books. His dad nicknamed him Micro-Gee.
Raising a child on the Moon brought new challenges. Micro-Gee walked, ran and climbed early. Armstrong base lacked day care facilities.
Sometimes parenting in an extreme environment means making some creative decisions.
For readers who enjoy a light science fiction father-son story.
On Earth Gary Poland Junior would have weighed six pounds eleven ounces but on the Moon he weighed in less than a pound. He pinked up right away as the multi-armed Obgyn-bot cleaned and measured him. Then two long white arms lowered the baby down into Gary Poland’s waiting hands. The baby hardly weighed his hands down. He worried about dropping him.
“Your son’s Apgar scores are very positive,” the Obgyn-bot said.
Gary Poland Senior looked into that wrinkled face and smiled. “I’m going to call you Micro-Gee.”
Micro-Gee looked up at Gary’s ruddy face and screamed out his first cry.
Gary beamed. “Boy has a good set of lungs!”
On the bed Gary’s wife Claire managed a weak smile. “Our oxy bill is going to go up.”
“It’ll be worth it,” Gary promised. He gently laid Micro-Gee on her breast. “You’ll see.”
What Armstrong lacked in space it also lacked in character or comfort. Being a family of three allocated Gary, Claire and Micro-Gee a dome-shaped chamber eighteen feet in diameter. Two hundred and sixty-four square feet of lunar concrete floors, with matching walls and ceiling. Still, Gary thought it was much better than their previous habitat which had just been a partitioned section of a lava tube containing a bed that rotated into a desk surface during the day and a small wash basin. This space actually felt like it could become a home.
Gary and Claire stood in the center of the dome―Claire cradling Micro-Gee in her arms―and marveled at the sense of space. Claire laughed. “This is really going to cut into our budget.”
Gary beamed. “We’ve moved up in the world. You’ll see.” He bent and looked down at Micro-Gee’s sleeping face. “And we owe it all to him. I wouldn’t have applied for my promotion if you hadn’t gotten pregnant.”
“I thought they were going to ship us back Earthside.”
“More expensive than letting us stay here. They’ve got too much invested in us for that.”
“But what about my job? It’s not like there’s a daycare around here.”
Gary slipped an arm around Claire’s waist. “We’ve got all this space now! I’m sure we can set up a corner for you to work in. Plus, when he gets older, it’ll be easier. There’s probably going to be other kids. Maybe we can work out something with other parents. The colony is going to grow. Micro-Gee is just the first.”
“Maybe,” Claire said dubiously. “There isn’t really a corner in here. It’s round.”
Gary laughed. “It’ll be fine.”
Gary heard screaming before he even reached the hatch. He picked up his pace. He took a deep breath and palmed the hatch plate to open the door. The sound that came out cut right through his skull. He winced, put on a smile and stepped through before the door closed. Their chamber smelled faintly of pee these days. Claire sat on a red and black blanket on the floor with Micro-Gee trying to twist out from under her hands. His tiny face scrunched up and another ear-splitting scream came out of his tiny mouth. Claire looked up at Gary. Her blond hair hung limp around her colorless face. Even her blue eyes looked paler than usual. The only color in her face came from the dark circles under her eyes.
“Can you help me with this?” Claire glanced down at the diaper.
Gary set his bag down beside the hatch. “Of course.”
He joined her on the carpet. “Should I change or hold him?”
“Just change him. I’ve already got him. He shouldn’t be moving around this early!”
“That’s on Earth. We’re going to be redefining the developmental milestones for here. He never had any problem lifting his head. He’s probably going to be up running around earlier than a child on Earth just because it’s easier here.”
“But he’s rolling himself around the room! I tried using the pillows to fence him in but then I’m afraid he’s going to roll onto one and suffocate himself.”
“We’ll just have to keep an eye on him.” Gary bent down, grinning at his son. “Isn’t that right Micro-Gee?”
By six months of age Micro-Gee could run, jump and climb. Abilities that on Earth would have taken him twice as long to develop came to him easily in the lower gravity on the Moon. It also meant greater challenges for Gary and Claire.
“I have to go to this meeting,” Claire said one Tuesday morning. “It’s the L-5 conference. We’ve been planning it for the past eight months!”
“I realize that.” Gary kept an eye on Micro-Gee’s progress climbing up the netting attached to the walls of their room. A room that felt much smaller these days. The netting helped as it gave Micro-Gee far more room to explore. But he still couldn’t get over the image of his son hanging from the netting overhead. “It isn’t my fault that the last solar flare knocked out three of the telescopes in the array. We need those telescopes online before daylight comes or it’ll delay dozens of research projects.”
“Du du!” Micro-Gee shouted.
Both parents looked up with alarm. Micro-Gee hung overhead.
“Du du. Du du. Du du.”
“You shouldn’t have let him watch that movie. A baby his age!”
Gary shrugged guiltily. “I didn’t think he’d actually pay attention.”
Screeching, Micro-Gee released his grip on the overhead netting and plunged towards his father. Gary caught the boy neatly which caused Micro-Gee to erupt in laughter. A second later he squirmed and grunted to get down. No doubt to climb up and do it again.
“I’m going,” Claire said. “I’m sorry about the telescopes but I have to go.”
She picked up her bag and looked at Micro-Gee climbing up the netting again. “You guys have fun.”
Then Claire was gone leaving Micro-Gee with Gary who looked up at his son climbing upside down now on the netting. He didn’t have any problem wrapping his fat little toes around the netting to help hold on either.
“Be careful,” Gary said. “You don’t want to fall.”
Micro-Gee giggled and let go. Gary lunged to catch him but couldn’t get there in time. Micro-Gee landed on his padded bottom and immediately bounced up on his feet and ran unsteadily back towards the wall.
Gary caught his balance and straightened up. “What am I going to do about the telescopes?”
First he tried calling the Dean of his department. The message indicated that the Dean had gone off to the L-5 conference, the same one that Claire was attending. Peter couldn’t because he was still on medical leave. Manami couldn’t get away from her work analyzing and processing the batches of data gathered for distribution Earthside. It really looked like he was the only one that was trained to do the repairs necessary and if he didn’t it would cost the entire colonial operation.
“I’m not going to catch you,” Gary warned. He looked up at his son. “I’m trying to call someone.”
“Du du. Du du!” Micro-Gee let go of the netting.
Despite what he had said Gary dropped the phone and caught his son. Micro-Gee cracked up at that and wanted down again. Gary scooped up the phone before Micro-Gee could grab it.
“What am I going to do with you?” Gary asked.
The rescue ball was a sphere big enough for an adult if they stayed in a seated position. Flexible, durable with projected holographic displays and a built-in air recycling system and equipped with a powerful transmitter, the rescue ball was designed to be used in pressurization loss emergencies when there wasn’t time to put on a spacesuit. A person simply pushed head first into the ball which automatically sealed itself.
Micro-Gee loved the rescue ball. Gary felt pretty bad about putting his son in the ball until he saw how much fun Micro-Gee had rolling the ball around the telescope installation. Gary kept a small video feed running in the lower left quadrant of his helmet tuned to the feed from inside the ball. From the inside the ball looked almost transparent with a geodesic lattice and a few heads-up displays monitoring status. Micro-Gee rolled around the Lunar regolith in the spotlights from the rover. Gary kept talking to him so Micro-Gee wouldn’t get scared while he worked on the telescope.
“Hey, buddy. I just need to pull this fried board and swap in the new one. Won’t take a minute. Don’t go anywhere.”
Since Micro-Gee mostly seemed to be rolling the rescue ball in circles that didn’t seem to be a problem. Gary studied the access hatch. No removable screws here that could be lost. Just big easily gripped red knobs that disengaged to provide access to the panel. He spun the first two and glanced down at Micro-Gee. His son sat in the center of the ball clapping his hands. Something he did when he was pleased with what he had done.
“That’s right, very good baby.” He spun the remaining two knobs. The panel came free and swung open.
Inside a green flip release allowed access to the primary circuit board. Micro-Gee cracked up laughing. Gary glanced up. The ball rolled past the telescope, bounced over a small rock and Micro-Gee cracked up again. The sound of his laughter brought a smile to Gary’s lips. He pulled the circuit board and slipped it into the slot in the replacement case. Then he took the new board out and slid it into place. Micro-Gee laughed again. Higher pitched.
Gary glanced at the display. Micro-Gee looked happy and all the readings showed green. Gary shoved the latch into place to secure the board and took out his diagnostic tablet.
Gary glanced at the screen. Micro-Gee tottered in the ball. He spread his arms.
The tablet interfaced with the telescope. Gary triggered the diagnostic routines to check the circuit board.
“Du du. Du du!” Micro-Gee laughed and on the display seemed to pitch forward.
Gary jerked his head up looking for the ball but he didn’t see it anywhere. On the screen Micro-Gee lay against the side of the ball laughing. What was he doing? Gary accessed the rescue ball systems and expanded the sensor data. He switched to an external view.
Nothing but black outside the ball.
“Micro-Gee!” Gary left the telescope and bounded over towards where he’d last seen the ball. He still couldn’t see it anywhere but out of the range of the headlights the surface was dimly lit. He triggered the tracking systems. The ball’s position showed up but what it showed made no sense. According to the readout the ball should be within two meters but he didn’t see anything. All sharp-edged shadows and small rocks. Tracks from previous visits crisscrossing the area. Nothing that looked like the rescue ball and he should be able to see the exterior lights.
Micro-Gee stopped laughing. On the screens Gary could see him standing up, pushing against the ball but it didn’t seem to be going anywhere.
“Hang on, buddy. I’ll be right there.”
He walked forward carefully, afraid of what he would find but he thought he already knew. Sure enough, as he closed on the position indicated he saw what at first looked like another shadow on the other side of a boulder but the shadow was round and too large to come from the boulder. Micro-Gee had found a hole and must have rolled right into it.
A hole meant a lava tube, which meant that this area could be unstable. The last thing he needed was to fall into a tube himself and get hurt. He checked the rescue ball systems. Everything green. Micro-Gee had given up trying to move the ball and sat in the center of the ball picking at his toes.
“That’s it,” Gary encouraged him. “Play with your little piggies. I’ve got to get a few things from the rover.”
Gary bounce-walked back over to the rover and grabbed a long probe from the tool rack at the back. At the front he opened the releases on the winch and pulled out the cable. He clipped it to his suit. Then he turned around and headed back to Micro-Gee.
Micro-Gee was beginning to get frustrated. He stood up again and beat his fat fists against the side of the rescue ball but whatever it’d fallen into it was wedged.
“It’s okay, Micro-Gee. Dada’s going to get you out of there.” Gary reached the edge of the hole without breaking through the ceiling. He activated his wrist-lights and pointed them down the shaft. It curved down and about three meters down he could see the rescue ball. Dirt covered the top, blocking out the exterior lights. That must have come from the sides when Micro-Gee broke through. The trouble was that the shaft didn’t look very wide. Gary couldn’t be sure that he could fit down there and he needed to get down in order to attach the winch cable. His other option was to go back to the rover again and send a distress signal. But a rescue could take time. The rescue ball was designed to keep an adult alive for several hours and should be able to last even longer with Micro-Gee.
Micro-Gee started crying. He beat his fists against the sides.
He couldn’t make his son wait. Not without at least trying first. If he could get him out easily then it’d be done. “And we won’t tell Mama, right Micro-Gee? Hang on, buddy. I’m going to come down there and get you out.”
Gary held onto the probe in case he needed it to dislodge any debris and sat down on the edge of the hole. Narrow, but he might make it. And if he didn’t the winch could pull him out. This was exactly the sort of thing that they were trained not to do. He felt sick. On the screens Micro-Gee screamed some more and pounded on the side of the ball. And fell forward.
Shit, he must have dislodged the ball. Micro-Gee laughed and crawled forward. The tracker showed the ball moving away.
Gary slid into the hole. He just fit. His suit scraped on the sides. He kept telling himself that it was reinforced. It wouldn’t tear easily. In moments it widened out and he reached the spot where Micro-Gee had been stuck but no longer. Debris had caught the ball but now it had moved away. Gary was able to bend over and crawled after the ball. A short distance later he could stand up.
He was in a big lava tube. Easily the same size as the colony tube but it ended a short distance ahead in a flat wall. Someone had to know this was here, didn’t they? He saw the rescue ball about a meter away rolling towards the wall. Gary bounced after it and caught up. He put a hand out and stopped Micro-Gee. He sent a visual image into the ball.
“Hey there buddy, just Dada. How about we go back to the rover, okay?”
Micro-Gee tried to grab him but his arms passed through the image. He blinked in confusion.
“Don’t worry about it.” Gary grabbed the recessed handles and picked up the ball. As he turned with it his light flashed across the wall. It gave back a metallic gleam.
What? Gary walked closer and set Micro-Gee’s ball down. Micro-Gee laughed and rolled towards the wall. Gary stayed beside his son and widened his wrist light. The wall was metal. And down towards the right side where rubble piled up alongside the wall he saw a hexagonal opening. And lying in front of the opening a splayed form in a dusty red suit. Except that the shape was all wrong. Micro-Gee rolled right towards the body.
A body? Gary stopped the ball. He activated all of his cameras and turned the light onto the body. It was a body. His throat felt dry. A body in a space suit but the legs were long and bent oddly. Same with the arms. The helmet was a wide, flattened oval shape at one end but the light didn’t reveal what was inside. Whatever it was the suit didn’t look human.
“Micro-Gee, what did you find?” Gary wondered.
Micro-Gee became an instant celebrity. The baby that fell down a hole and discovered an ancient spacecraft. Teams of researchers descended on the Moon to study the craft and its occupants. Whether Gary was a fit parent or not also became a frequent discussion. Gary defended his actions, arguing that nothing he’d done jeopardized Micro-Gee’s safety. It just went to show that life on the Moon was going to be like life anywhere, with its own hazards and you just dealt with it the best you could.
Micro-Gee’s only words on the subject? “Du du!”
This story is the 53rd weekly short story release, written in July 2010. Eventually I’ll do a new standalone e-book and print release when I am satisfied that I can create the cover art that I want for the stories. In the meantime I’m enjoying these weekly releases. Stories will remain until I get up the new e-book and print versions and at that point I’ll take the story down.
If you’re interested in longer works, feel free to check out my novels through the links in the sidebar or on the Books page. Check back next Monday for another story. Next up is my story What Dragged in the Cat?.