Written by DTYarbrough

Copyright 2010 All rights reserved

Written by D.T.Yarbrough "But I need you to come with me, Rita," said Jack. "It's only for two weeks, three at the most." "The last two week trip lasted a month, and we drove clear across the country before it was done," Rita said. "We only have to drive to Houston, I promise," Jack pleaded. "Just to Houston. You promise. Well okay, if it's that important," Rita said. The next morning they were on the road. "What's this all about Jack? I can't believe I didn't ask when you were begging me to come along," Rita said. "It's a ghost problem, as usual, but I believe there was foul play," Jack said. "It may take two of us to watch each other's back." "Wake me when you need me to drive," said Rita. "I didn't get much sleep last night. I had a lot of things to finish so that I could leave today." Jack should have told her, but what if she had refused to go. This would be a lonely trip without her. She'll understand. She'd do the same thing for one of her ghosts. It was almost noon and Jack was getting sleepy now. He needed some coffee and wouldn't turn down a meal. He saw a sign advertising a truck stop a few miles ahead. "Wake up, Rita," Jack said. "I'm going to stop in a few minutes at this truck stop up ahead. Are you getting hungry yet?" "I could use a cup of coffee and a light meal. How long were you driving?" Rita asked. "A little over six hours. We're over halfway there," Jack said. "I told you I would drive some. You should have waken me," Rita said. "I must have been sleepier than I thought." "I'll go fill up the car if you'll get the check," Jack said as he drank his last sip of coffee. "We've got to drive clear across Houston in rush hour traffic before we get a motel." In a few minutes Jack had nodded off. "We're almost into Houston ... Jack ...wake up," Rita said. "Already. I guess I was pretty sleepy too. Now I'll be up all night," Jack said. "Just stay on this highway all the way through town. I'll drive if you want be to." "No. I'm fine for a little longer. I'll let you know," Rita said, 1

"I was thinking. It's silly to pay for two rooms when we could get a king-sized bed," Jack said sheepishly. "Since when are you concerned with saving money. You've got more money that the Vatican," Rita replied. "Well, I thought it sounded like a good idea at the time," Jack said. "Actually, you're right. We're friends and I know I can trust you. Can I trust you, Jack?" Rita asked. "Sure, Rita. You can trust me," Jack replied. "Wake up, Jack. It's morning. What are you doing on the sofa?" Rita asked. "The mattress was a little on the firm side. I was more comfortable on the sofa," Jack replied. "Did you get enough rest?" "Slept like a baby," Rita replied. "If you don't mind, I'll take a shower first." "Need me to wash your back. That's what I'm here for," Jack said. "You said watch each other's back, Jack," Rita replied. "I could do that too," Jack replied. "Now Jack, after last night, we both know you're harmless," Rita said as she let her gown drop to the floor before entering the bathroom. "Damn," Jack thought. "Women." Jack walked over to the bathroom door and gave the knob a twist. "Damn," he said. "Locked." As Jack turned into the entrance of the Johnson Space Center he could see the look on Rita's face though he tried desperately to avoid her glance. "Jack Weston and Rita Richards to see the commanding officer," Jack told the guard. "Go right in. He's expecting you. Follow the green signs," said the guard. Jack followed the green signs to the base headquarters. Rita followed closely behind as Jack walked up to the receptionist's desk. "Go right in. He's expecting you," the officer said. "You must be Jack, General Dwight D. Wilcox here, and what can I do for you?" the general asked. "I understand you are the commanding officer in charge of Space Stations 1 and 2 as well as the Luna 1 moon base," said Jack. " I have a question for you and I need an honest answer. You know who sent me here and that gives me top secret clearance." 2

"Just how do you know the President?" the general asked. "You might say I was very close to his dear deceased mother," Jack said. The President hadn't sent Jack here, he had simply gotten Jack in the door as a favor. He had no idea what Jack was up to. "Okay, what's your question?" the general said. "I was watching a program on TV the other night and it said that there had not been a single fatality on either space station or on Luna 1. Has there been any disappearances that have not been accounted for?" Jack asked. "Why yes, a couple of them. But that was never released to the public," said the general. "We'll need two top clearance passes on the next shuttle to Space Station 1," Jack demanded. "The president wants us to investigate." "Space Station 1, I'm going to kill you, Jack," Rita said as they entered the car. "So we only have to drive to Houston. That's not funny Jack." Jack followed the direction on the card the officer had handed him until he reached the launching pad. They were already loading passengers and cargo. Jack opened the trunk and asked one of the soldiers to take care of getting their luggage aboard. He and Rita got in line behind the others. "Now Rita, this is perfectly safe. I've read all about it. Why, on their maiden voyage last week the trip was quite uneventful. This new technology is much safer than flying." "I still can't believe you've talked me into going to the space station," Rita replied. Jack and Rita entered the shuttle and followed the others down a long hallway to a large room. Everyone were finding seats and fastening their seatbelts. The seats were securely fastened to the floor of the room. The shuttle itself was a large cube. Cargo was stored in areas between the passenger section and the outer walls. It served as protection from cosmic rays. Two cables, passing through the shuttle, stretched from Earth to Space Station 1 in geosynchronous orbit 1000 miles above. These cables supplied power to the space station and the shuttle would tap some of this power to run its magnetrons and power the life support. "Are you doing research on SS1?" asked a stranger in the next seat. "Just passing through," Jack replied. "Passing through? To where Jack ... passing through to where!" Rita exclaimed. "Didn't I tell you? We're going to Luna 1 Colony on the moon," Jack said. 3

"The moon, have you completely lost your mind? You said we would be back in 2-3 weeks," Rita screamed. "We should be. It only take a couple of hours to get to SS1. A short flight to SS2 and 1 1/2 days on the lunar shuttle," Jack said. "I thought you hated flying," Rita remarked. "I hate flights over 10 minutes. This one won't last that long. You see ... SS2 is in a moving orbit that always keeps it between the earth and moon. That way cables could be run from it to the surface of the moon, just like the cables from Earth and SS1. Once a day SS1 and SS2 pass within a few miles of each other. The flight from SS1 to SS2 is very short at that time of day," Jack said. "Fasten your seat belts. We are preparing for take off," said the pretty flight attendant on the large viewing screen. In a few minutes the screen was showing the Earth becoming smaller and smaller. "Feel free to roam about the cabin. You will be notified if you need to return to your seats. We accelerate at a constant rate of 1g. The gravity you feel is equivalent to earth's gravity. In about 30 minutes you will be asked to return to your seats. There will be a brief period of weightlessness in which you will transfer to the seats attached to what is now the ceiling. Maintain a tight grip on the ropes while making this transition and have your paper bag handy. Throwing up in zero gravity is not a pleasant sight. We will then begin deceleration at a slower rate which will duplicate the space station's gravity. Be sure to walk around at that time to become accustomed." A while later, during the weightless period, a person near Rita missed their paper bag and the odor was pungent. "Jack, you're so lucky they didn't allow me to bring a weapon on board," said Rita. In a few minutes the room smelled like honeysuckles and the attendants had used hand held vacuums to remove all the droplets that were floating around. A while later they were all filing out of the shuttle and onto the space station. Jack and Rita had about three hours before their flight to SS2. They decided to look around. There were booths everywhere selling everything from souvenirs to tooth-brushes. Jack and Rita walked over to one of the viewing windows where they could see Earth. What an amazing sight! "I should have brought my camera," Rita said. "Wait here while I go buy one." Rita hurried off as Jack continued to look at the Earth, trying to make out the different continents. Rita returned in a couple of minutes and began snapping pictures. After boarding their flight, Rita turned to Jack and asked, "How did you know about the disappearances, Jack?" "I was watching live documentary on Luna 1 and I saw a ghost standing near one of the speakers. When they mentioned that there had been no fatalities, I had a feeling that something was definitely wrong," Jack said. As they entered SS2 they saw that it was almost a duplicate of SS1. They decided to get something to eat before they boarded the lunar shuttle. Surprisingly, the food wasn't much more expensive than airport food back on 4

earth. With the multi-daily shuttles the cost to transport items was rapidly dropping. The food wasn't all that good, but it was filling and they didn't know what would be available on the shuttle. In a few hours they were aboard the shuttle and headed for the moon. Just before takeoff the large video screen activated. The same pretty flight attendant reminded them to fasten their seatbelts. "After takeoff, you may move around freely. Through the doors directly in front of you, you will find the buffet, to your left is the casino and to your right are the movie theatres. To your rear are the sleeping compartments. Your passes indicate your room numbers. We will arrive on the moon in exactly 35 hours and 25 minutes. The rooms are limited and only have one small bed. You will have to share with one other passenger, but you should be able to alternate your sleeping times. Have a pleasant trip." "What do you want to do first?" Jack asked. "Well, I'm not sleepy or hungry so it's either a movie or the casino. Let's see what movies are playing," said Rita. After a couple of movies, Jack and Rita stuffed themselves at the buffet and decided to try the casino. "Don't try any of your slight of hand here," Rita said. "I'd hate for you to get thrown off and have to walk home." "I think I'll stay clear of the poker tables. The slots will keep me busy for a while," Jack said. "I'm not much of a gambler, mind if I tag along," Rita said. "Be my guest," said Jack. "I'll turn you in to one before the night's over." After several hours Rita asked, "Do you play gin rummy?" "I love gin rummy. 10 cents a point?" said Jack. "You're on," said Rita as they headed for their room. They played for hours until the buffet began to take affect and neither of them could hardly keep their eyes open. Jack looked at his watch. Only eight hours until we land. So much for alternating our sleep times. Time flies when you're having fun. Rita turned down the lights and they got ready for bed. She couldn't blame Jack, this was as much her fault as his. "Jack, you're on my side. Move over," Rita said. "Don't I even get a good night kiss?" Jack asked. "After what you've done, dragging me off to the moon without even telling me," Rita said. "Actually though, I've been wondering about something for quite a while and this is as good a time as any to find out." "And what would that be?" asked Jack. 5

"Do you remember the only time we kissed. I was channeling the ghost of your dead wife. Those feeling I felt, were they all her feelings or were some of them mine," Rita replied. "Well, there's only one way to find out," Jack said as he reached over and kissed her. "Well, did you get your answer?" "Let's try that again," Rita said. "You can never be too sure." The next morning they headed for the luna shuttle. The message above the door said that the shuttle would leave in six hours. "Jack, what's going on?" Rita asked. Jack looked at his watch and replied, "I forgot to reset my watch. We're in a different time zone now." "Jack, I really am going to kill you one of these days," Rita said. "How about some more gin rummy. Give me a chance to get even," Jack said. "Well, okay, but I was hoping for a little more competition," Rita said. Six hours later they departed the shuttle and entered Luna 1. Jack had seen docu-mentaries of the early years of Luna 1. Life had been tough for the early pioneers. Things had changed a lot, but Jack had seen recent documentaries and wasn't sur-prised. Rita, on the other hand, was pleasantly surprised at the comfort level so far from Earth. If not for the dome, you would think you were in one of the cities on earth about thirty years ago. "Let's get checked into our hotel so we don't have to drag our bags around," said Jack. As they headed up to the rooms Rita said, "Jack, you actually got us separate rooms. You really didn't have last night planned." "You could check out of your room tomorrow if you miss me too much," Jack said. "Think of the money we could save." "I'll give that all the consideration it deserves," Rita said. "Where do we begin our investigation?" "I have a copy of the documentary I was watching when I saw the ghost. I want you to see what we are looking for," said Jack. "I know what a ghost looks like, how many could there be?" Rita replied. "No, silly, I want you to see what kind of uniform he was wearing," said Jack. "That might tell us where he worked on the base. Ghosts don't usually go far from where they hung around when they were alive." "Good thinking, Jack. So we look for someone in that type of uniform and find out where they work," Rita said. "What time is it here?" 6

"7:15 P.M.," Jack said, "and I did reset my watch. How about we meet for dinner in a couple of hours." "Sounds good to me. I'm going to soak in a nice hot bath," Rita said. The following morning they were both up early. After breakfast they began their tour of the city, looking for anyone wearing one of those uniforms and keeping the other eye open for ghosts. During lunch Jack remembered something. "The ghost appeared in the documentary when they were filming the shipping facilities," Jack said. "Then he either worked in the shipping facility or close by," Rita responded. "Exactly, now you're getting the hang of this," Jack said. "The shipping facilities should be near where we exited the shuttle. Lets's go take a look around." An hour later they were back at the shuttle port. There were a couple of guys wearing the uniforms they were looking for. They were unloading cargo. Jack watched as one of them on a forklift drove into a nearby warehouse. "Let's take a look in there," Jack said. Jack waited till the forklift driver came back out and was well on his way back to the shuttle port. "Let's go. We're not going to wait for an invitation," Jack said. The warehouse seemed empty. There were what looked like offices deeper in. "Let's check those out," said Jack. As Jack and Rita approached the offices, Jack saw a light on in one of them. He could see two men talking and he could see the ghost standing near the two men. "We'll have to wait till we can get him alone," said Jack. They waited for what seemed like hours until the two men left. The ghost followed them. Jack and Rita hid behind a crate as the two men passed. Jack signaled to the ghost who was walking a few yards behind. The ghost walked over to where Jack and Rita were hiding. "We're here to help you," said Jack. "Where is it safe to talk?" They followed the ghost into one of the offices with no windows open to the outside. The ghost pointed to the light switch. Jack turned on the light. Jack saw a computer keyboard and explained to the ghost how they would communicate. As Jack asked questions, the ghost would spell out words by pointing at letters on the keyboard. Rita wrote it all down. The ghost had worked in the shipping department. It was his job to inspect the cargo to prevent smuggling. He had suspected that gems were being somehow smuggled with shipments of radioactive material. When he asked for higher power x-ray equipment that could penetrate the lead containers, he was murdered. "Who knew about the requests?" Jack asked. "The same person that murdered me, Carlo Santini, the president of New World Shipping," the ghost said. 7

"Can you prove that?" Jack asked. "Well, not so it would hold up in a court of law, but I know he's behind this. I never quite figured out exactly how they did it. I weighed the shipments before they left and they were weighed again when they were emptied earthside. Not even a gram was ever missing," the ghost said. "They were sealed before they left and the seals were unbroken when they arrived on earth. It's a real mystery." "Can you show me one of the containers?" Jack asked. "Sure. There are some closeby," the ghost said. "Follow me." Jack examined the container for a few minutes while Rita and the ghost stood by. "I believe I know what's going on here," Jack said. "When is the next shipment due to leave for Earth?" "There are shipments on every shuttle that leaves here. This is our major export," the ghost said. "If we get him convicted will that finish your business so that you can move on," Jack asked the ghost. "I believe so. I can't think of any other reason to hang around here," said the ghost. "Okay, then you'd better pack your bags," Jack said. "Rita, let's get back to the hotel and make some arrangements. Looks like we'll be heading home tomorrow." "What can I do? You haven't needed my help yet," Rita said. "Earth has no extradition laws with the moon. That's why many of the workers moved here. We've got to get Carlo to come back to Earth with us so he can be arrested. He has no criminal record so he won't be afraid to return, but we'll still need a good reason to convince him. That's where you come in. Think of something," Jack said. "But what are they going to arrest him for. We can't prove the murder," Rita said. "Just leave that to me. I'll put him so far under, they'll have to pipe in sunlight," said Jack. Jack made a few calls to Earth and notified the hotel they would be checking out tomorrow. Now it was up to Rita to convince Carlo to come back with them. The next day as Jack waited at the depot he saw Rita approaching with a short man in a black suit. "Jack, I'd like you to meet Carlo. He's the one I told you about, the one that the President is honoring in day after tomorrow's televised ceremony," Rita said. "Honored to meet you, Sir," Jack said as he shook his hand. "We'd better get 8

on board. Can I help you with your luggage, Carlo?" "As they exited the shuttle on Earth, the General was waiting for them. "Arrest this man. You'll find he is in violation of laws governing the transportation of radioactive materials. You'll find cargo containers that have had the lead walls hollowed out and used to ship precious gems. This reduces the effective shielding below the requirements of the law. Set up some of your men to capture his accomplishes when they try to recover the gems. I'm sure some of them will be willing to sing to avoid life in a lunar prison. He is also suspected of murder, but that may be hard to prove unless someone is willing to talk." "Can you stick around a while? I have a lot of questions," said the general. "I'd love to but I promised to have this little girl home by midnight," Jack replied.


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