OOC - The Man on the Moon

August 1, 1973

"The battery is running low. I think I'll investigate on foot. I just want to see what that is," Steve Everett said, springing out of his seat aboard the Lunar Roving Vehicle.

The transistorised earphone in his pressure helmet crackled with static, and the voice of Mission Control spoke across the incredible 238,855 mile gulf that lay between Earth and the moon's surface.

"See what what is? Say again, Commander?"

"Roger, Houston," Steve answered. "I say again. I see something shiny. I don't know what it is, so I'm gonna go check it out."

"Roger. Something shiny. We copy that, over."

Steve smiled and his heavily-insulated space boots sank into the fine, powdery dust that billowed out from beneath his strides as he abandoned the four-wheeled, electric-powered Moon Buggy and set off towards what had seized his curiosity. Along the desolate rock and dust-strewn landscape stretching out all around him, he had spotted a sparkle of sunlight glinting off a metallic looking object—something, that if it was truly a piece of processed metal, had no business being there at all.

His handsome and inquisitive face furrowed beneath the UV-protective visor of his helmet. The object appeared at least from a distance to be man made, but just how could that be? No other astronauts had come anywhere close to this location on the northern part of the moon's near side, so he knew for an absolute certainty that it wasn't one of Buzz Aldrin's golf clubs or some other odd junk left behind by a previous Apollo mission.

Perhaps, Steve thought, it was the remains of a Soviet moon probe. That was entirely possible. He smiled as he envisioned retrieving the lost, forsaken wreckage and bringing it back home to earth, upon which the American government could make a big show out of returning the reassembled probe to the Ruskies, who thus far had not come close at all yet to landing any men on the moon themselves. Oh boy, he mused. What a great PR coup for the good ol' US of A that would be!

With an eager, boyish grin, Steve flexed the muscles of his long, strong legs, and began bounding across the unearthly grey terrain. His bulky, six-foot tall form moved easily in the moon's feeble gravitational pull, letting him travel for over thirty feet with but a single leap. Half way to the mysterious object, he paused amid a cloud of grey dust kicked up in his wake, and took a drink of cool water from the canteen tube inside his helmet. Despite the exceedingly light micro-gravity environment, he was already working up a sweat.

That was somewhat understandable. The extravehicular pressure suit he wore weighed a good hundred and eighty pounds; consisting of no less than five layers of aluminized Myler, four layers of Dacron, two layers of Kapton, and two layers of Teflon, it was altogether quite uncomfortable to say the least, though not nearly so uncomfortable as it would for him to go without it.

A lot of people believed the moon was about as cold as the vacuum of space. Far from it. The moon was actually incredibly hot in the daytime, more than 200 degrees Fahrenheit in fact. Just how long his suit's experimental water-based coolant system could keep him safe from that unbearable level of heat had yet to be determined by the NASA boffins, though they were fairly sure it would hold up for the duration of his seventy-two hour survey mission—barring an unforeseen malfunction, of course.

Steve had resigned himself to whatever might happen to him one of these days in the course of his chosen profession. The perils of it had been hammered home to him six years earlier when a cabin fire broke out during a launch rehearsal for Apollo 1 and killed the three-man crew right on the launchpad. He'd been in the viewing room at Cape Canaveral that day along with several other astronaut trainees, and he would never forget the horror that went through them all at the price that sometimes had to be paid in the name of love of country, and for the sake of human progress.

Steve continued on with his bounding lunar trek, and a few minutes later finally reached the glittering anomaly. His mouth fell open and he blinked several times, not really sure just what he was looking at. What he had mistaken for jagged pieces of metal standing on end in the lunar soil, which he reckoned might be a crashed probe or an antennae array, proved up close to instead be some sort of bizarre optical illusion.

It was a shimmering wave of ghostly light that rippled in front of him like a curtain in the wind, and in which he could strangely but clearly make out the image of alien stars, planets, and a hodgepodge of celestial bodies that appeared in a hazy dark blue sky over a vast and forested vista of greenery. He gasped as he took it all in, his eyes wide with wonder, bewilderment, and utter disbelief. Was it some kind of cosmic mirage? An hallucination induced by the lunar radiation? He somehow didn't think so. To emphasize the reality of what he was seeing, there was something from the other side, faint traces of the life-sustaining atmosphere that was noticeably escaping out in trickling streams of vapour.

"Either I'm dreaming," Steve whispered under his breath, "or this is an Einstein-Rosen bridge..."

"Say again, Commander?" Mission Control spoke in his ear, having heard his hushed utterance back on Earth.

Steve shook his head in astonishment, and cautiously stepped a bit closer. As he did so, a long foot path became visible, lying directly in front of him through the anomaly and curving off into the lush alien environment, as if beckoning for him to tread it. He smiled adventurously and, very slowly, extended a heavily-padded gloved hand. There was a strange sensation as it slid through, and he discerned the physical shift in gravity, the pressure of the atmosphere beyond. Yes, this clearly seemed to be what it looked like.

He was a mechanical engineer by trade, not a theoretical physicist, but he was familiar with most the concepts: in nerd terms, what lay before him was a transcendental bijection of the spacetime continuum. Was it a natural phenomena, or had it been artificially constructed by a highly advanced extraterrestrial intelligence? Could little green men want to make contact with mankind now that humans were taking their first steps into space?

"Commander? Come in. We're not reading you."

Steve was just too overwhelmed to speak. He did not know how to begin to tell Houston what he was looking at. A path through a forest? They'd think he'd gone around the bend. Maybe he had. For a few minutes he could only stand there gawping in amazement, until finally a decision crystallized in his blue eyes.

The voice of Mission Control had become urgently concerned. "Commander! Do you copy? Please respond. Over."

"Roger, Houston. I copy. Standby," Steve told them, and then with an incredulous, exhilarated laugh he stepped forward through the tear in space...

...and appeared somewhere else!

"Wh-where?" he stammered, his eyes goggling at the alien sky above his head.

Greetings, Commander Everett. Welcome to the Crossroads.

"The Crossroads?" Steve responded, looking all around for the source of the voice. Was it his imagination or was it speaking directly into his mind? "Well, uh, on behalf of the citizens of the United States of America, and all the people of Earth, I thank you for your welcome."

I am sure you have many questions. If you would care to ask them to me in person, please walk under the arch you see before you and follow the path, which shall lead you to me.

"Sure, okay." He nodded dumbly and began walking, still fully suited in his bulky white astronaut outfit. Noting that the gravity was earth-like, he gazed in awe at the surreal beauty of all the bizarre and wonderful scenery. He wondered if the atmosphere might be breathable or whether it would kill him. "So, uh, you call this place the Crossroads? And who are you now?"

I am usually referred to as the Being.

"The Being?" Steve stopped short, stupefied for a moment. "The Being? The Supreme Being?"

No, I am not your deity, Commander Everett. I cannot claim creatorship of the multiverse, but I am its caretaker at present.

"Caretaker of the Multiverse? Multiverse? Hang on. Are you saying there are really multiple universes, and you take care of them?"

There are an infinite number. You left your universe and entered into mine. And yes, I try.

"Well I'll be!" Steve exclaimed. "So the Many Worlds interpretation is right!"

That theory is a crude approximation of the nature of existence, but overall correct. Your human language lacks the proper words to fully and accurately describe the true fabric of reality, but your species may in time grow wise if it manages not to destroy itself.

"Yeah," Steve said, a bit gloomily at that. "And these days all it would take to destroy us is the push of a button."

There are those that believe humanity destroys all it touches. This is partly what I wished to speak to you about. There are great empires, some originating on alternate Earths in the multiverse, which have discovered the means to travel between universes, and they are ruthlessly using that power to expand their empires across a multitude of universes. In the process, they are destroying innumerable lives and throwing off the very balance of the multiverse. Even the Arbiters of old are unable to stop them, and worse, they are choosing to sponsor these vile empires for personal gain. Someone needs to stand up to these empires and stop them, and I have chosen you for that task. You have bravely placed your life at risk for your countrymen and your entire species. Can you do no less for the sentient inhabitants of the multiverse, all the people that live, have ever and shall ever live in every single corner of creation?

"Well, when you put it like that, I guess not," Steve answered earnestly. "Listen. I took an oath to defend the constitution of the United States, but I'm getting that this is a whole lot bigger. So you can sign me up. I'll help anyway that you think I can." He keyed the PTT switch on his suit's radio. "Houston, Houston, do you read? I don't suppose you're getting all of this?"

They cannot hear you here, Commander.

"Yeah, I figured. I was just checking," Steve said smiling under his fish bowl visor, as he continued trudging up the winding path.

(To be Continued in OngoingWorlds' hottest new game, Engines of Chaos. Check it out, yo!)

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