Friday, November 28, 2014

Kim Possible -- Forgotten Seeds, Chapter 3: Moon Walk

[Parts One and Two]

Surge had no idea why some were making such a big deal about a two mile walk. She just wanted to be home and as far as she was concerned she could fly two miles if that was all it took. Even so, she'd studied Socrates in high school. She knew the importance of knowing that you don't know. She knew nothing about moon walks, so if people who knew more than she did were acting like the walk would be a big deal, she'd assume it would be a big deal.

She'd also stay silent about her lack of knowledge. There was no need to broadcast her ignorance.

It was when Blok, the one who had adapted the best to lunar gravity, fell right in front of her almost immediately, that she began to understand how long of a way two miles could be.

* * *

Blok stifled the urge to swear and watched the moon's surface come up and hit him.

He'd taken into account the gravity, he'd adjusted to the need to push off the ground less hard, he'd reconciled the bizarre feeling of needing to fight inertia just as much to move things that now only weighed an eighth as much as he was used to. He simply hadn't been ready for the dust.

Moon dust, he discovered, really was dust. Not sand, certainly not soil, not like anything he'd walked on before. Fine powder created by the pulverizing impacts that had scarred the moons surface.

He couldn't count on it to support the forces he was exerting on it just by walking lightly. It just... slipped out from under him.

* * *

Hawk saw Blok go down and tried to remember his own advice: Don't walk; hop.

He managed to not fall and moved in the direction Kim was leading them.

* * *

Shego smirked as Drakken and Amy joined Blok in the dust. It took a lot of effort, using muscles and training usually reserved for her acrobatic fights, but she managed to stay upright herself. As soon as she was clear of the facility she took a look around.

And promptly gasped.

* * *

Henry was taking in the moonscape with awe. He barely noticed his three fallen comrades, and he certainly didn't notice Shego's gasp.

He'd dreamed of going to the moon. He'd always known it was impossible. Sure, if he worked hard, discovered hidden talents, and got very, very lucky he might have become an astronaut, but he didn't care about space. He was interested in setting foot on an alien planet. He followed the Mars probes with interest; he watched every documentary on the moon missions he could get his hands on. He'd heard of the view, the sense of wonder it caused, he knew the phrase “Magnificient Desolation” he'd looked at more pictures than most people ever would and poured over each as if it were the most important document in the world. It was all nothing compared to seeing it with his own eyes.

* * *

Kim only paid attention to the three who fell enough to make sure that they weren't hurt and that they didn't damage their now-ancient suits. She was sure they'd all fall many times before they reached the base. She barely made note of the fact that someone gasped.

She was mostly trying not to think. She was trying to learn the necessary motions to move efficiently on the moon and then, she hoped, she could repeat them mindlessly, mechanically, until she arrived at the base. She worried that if she thought too much she might stop thinking she could do anything and start being overcome with doubt.

She was only broken out of her own thoughts when Shego said, “Kim,” in a voice that, she thought, was a bit shaky.

“Shego,” Kim said, “We need to conserve our air.”

“Ok, fine,” Shego said, not conserving air. “But, fearless leader, you wanna tell me what's wrong with that picture?”

Kim tried to stop, but just ended up falling forward. When she finally managed to get control of herself again she was covered in regolith and annoyed. She stood up and carefully turned toward Shego.

In addition to Amy, Blok, and Drakken, Henry and Surge now also showed signs of having fallen, though all were back on their feet. Shego was pointing, with her entire arm, to something in the sky.

Kim wasn't sure what could be worth looking at. With no atmosphere there was no weather, there was also no color. The sky was simply black. Lunar day wasn't darker than an earth day, if anything it was brighter, and so any starlight was impossible to discern. Their eyes simply weren't adjusted to pick up light so dim.

The sky should have been completely black, save for the sun, which Shego was not pointing toward.

When Kim did follow Shego's outstretched arm she realized that there was one celestial body in the sky she had completely forgotten to account for: Earth.

“Oh my God,” Kim said when she found her voice.

* * *

Hawk stared at the earth in the black sky. He couldn't make out any recognizable landmass. He wasn't even sure which end was north. But he did know that it was supposed to be a blue and green marble in the sky, not a mostly white one.

“It was not like that when I left it,” he said.

* * *

Henry looked at the object in the sky for a long time. The white from the poles stretched what seemed to be impossibly far. He guessed that only about a third of the earth remained uncovered.

After he heard Hawk speak he said, “It wasn't like that when any of us left it,” without really realizing he was speaking out loud.

As other members of the group turned to him, he added, “I was the last one taken,” in a small voice. Then he asked, “Right?”

No one answered.

* * *

Horatio finally bothered to pay attention to the topic of chatter, which he considered inherently wasteful as they had no idea how long the air in their 500 year old tanks would last and even less of an idea of how long it would take them to traverse the necessary distance given their—in his opinion, pathetic—progress so far, when he realized that it had stopped the eight other survivors from making any progress at all.

He stopped, which involved taking a tumble because he wasn't used to moving on the bare lunar surface any more than the rest of them, looked at the others, listened to their pointless prattle, and said, “Given the extinction of humanity, the current ice age hardly concerns us.” He didn't even take notice as all attention abruptly turned his way. “There's more than enough space for us to live in the equatorial temperate zone.”

He returned to hopping toward the unseen moon base that he hoped would be their salvation.

* * *

Surge was the first to respond. It was a broken voice: a whimper that had wanted to be a shout. “Extinct?”

* * *

Kim didn't fully process what Horatio had said until Surge repeated the main point: extinct. Kim didn't mean to shout. She didn't mean to sound hostile and antagonistic. She didn't even mean to speak. It just came out, “How could you possibly know that?”

Horatio's annoyed response of, “Weren't you the one who said we needed to conserve air?” did nothing to calm her down.

Her response was lost in a chorus of other voices.

* * *

Horatio was getting pissed off. Someone protested, “I was captured after you,” Drakken and Shego were discussing the carrying capacity of Earth in its present state. Amy and Surge were busy convincing each other that an ice age, however severe, couldn't possibly wipe out humanity. The others were a cacophony.

When he couldn't take it any more he shouted, “AIR!”

That silenced the noise for a bit.

“We're using equipment that is five centuries old, we don't even know if it's reading right. We have no idea when it might fail now that it's finally being put to use. None of us are exactly good at moon walking—hell, look at how little progress we've made so far,” he pointed back to the prison which loomed disturbingly close. “Our best hope of survival is to shut up and keep on moving so we get to safety before anything has a chance to go wrong; you lot seem intent on standing still and bickering.”

He made a point of putting more effort into hopping away.

* * *

When Kim spoke it took everything she had to speak in a calm measured tone, but she did manage it. “How can you know the fate of humanity?” she asked.

“I'll tell you when we're somewhere with a better atmosphere,” Horatio said, not pausing in his hopping toward the unseen base.

“Why not tell us now?” Shego asked. The tone of her voice made Kim crack a smile despite herself.

* * *

Horatio sighed. He stopped which once again was inelegant and left him tumbling across the lunar surface. When he was still and standing he carefully pointed himself to the rest of the group and said, “Because I want to live.”

He couldn't see their faces, he wasn't sure what they were thinking, but he had a feeling that that wouldn't satisfy them and he knew he couldn't survive alone. “Until I'm sure it won't get me killed, I'm not giving needless exposition.”

That didn't satisfy the crowd either. Surge asked, “Is the human race really extinct?”

There was fear in her voice. That probably wasn't good. Horatio decided to try to offer some kind of hope. “Well,” he said, “there's us now.”

That failed to accomplish anything. There was more prattle.

Why couldn't they understand? Their suits had never been designed to last this long. For all they knew their air tanks were leaking. Outside of those suits was death incarnate in the form of concentrated nothing. They were standing at the edge of a precipice, a misstep could mean that they'd all die, and they were getting worked up over people who were already dead and long since buried—time and natural processes had seen to that.

Worse than all of that was the fact that he couldn't see where this was headed. He never liked relying on looking ahead, it felt strange and wrong, but at least it was there for him. But right now the situation was all wrong, and the time horizon too far. He had as little of an idea of what was coming as a mundane. It was … disturbing.

Since he was standing still he decided to try again. Still nothing of value. Well, almost nothing.
He interrupted the prattle by saying, “Kim-car inbound in two minutes.”

* * *

Shego was the one who finally put an end to discussion, “Tight-lipped grumpy-pants is right. We need to keep going regardless of what may, or may not, be going on on earth.”

Shego started hopping toward the base, or at least in what she thought was in the right direction. Kim soon followed, and pretty soon they were all going.

* * *

Surge resumed the trek with the rest, but she obviously hadn't been silenced. “You can't just say something like, 'Humanity is gone,' and expect people not to react, you know,” she said to Horatio.
Horatio said nothing but thought that not only could he do it, he did do it. It wasn't his fault the others overreacted to the news.

“Now that we're moving, like you wanted,” Surge continued, “could you at least tell us how you know? Or how you think you--”

Horatio looked ahead again and said, “Kim-car in thirty seconds.”

Before more words were spoken, the car was visible on the horizon and, just as he had predicted, it arrived at their location thirty seconds from when he spoke.

* * *

“It's Jade! She made it,” Kim all but shouted as the small purple coupe landed on the lunar surface beside her. Fine regolith was kicked up by the landing, and the way it failed to form into clouds again hammered home the fact that outside of her ancient space suit was vacuum. Kim had seen the car land too many times to count, on all manner of surface, and it never looked quite like that.

“How is this even possible?” Surge asked.

“Check the name,” Kim told her with a smugness she hadn't felt in quite some time. “Jade, do you hear me?” Kim asked the car.

“... have your frequency now, Kimberly,” the AI's almost-human sounding voice came over Kim's radio. “Where have you been? My internal chronometer--”

“Should say that it's the two thousand five hundred twenty ninth year Anno Domini, or thereabouts,” Horatio cut in, sounding somewhat bored. Kim decided she wasn't even going to try to understand him.

“Did you detect any life—any human life on your way here?” Kim asked.

“Waste of air,” Horatio said.

“I was in Japan,” Jade said. “There was nothing in my immediate vicinity, but I didn't scan beyond that. I came straight to you.”

“You did the right thing,” Kim told Jade. She knew that the AI attempted to learn from mistakes, and she didn't want it learning that unrelated fact finding was more important than coming when called, especially given that the type of call she used was one that she generally reserved for emergencies.

“So, what now?” Shego asked. “Miracle car, or no, we're still on the moon, princess. I don't think that thing can carry all of us.”

“No,” Kim said. “But it can get me to the base faster than walking. You guys keep headed in the right direction.” She looked into the car, used an electronic map on the dash to orient herself, then pointed to show which direction that was. She felt pretty good about the fact that it was almost exactly the direction they had been going. Even without the correction they'd have made it to their destination.
“I'll go see if I can find anything that can be used to carry all of you over,” she said as she got into the car.

“What if you run into trouble,” Drakken asked. “Shouldn't you have some backup?”

Drakken being concerned for her well being was almost too surreal for Kim to take, but she managed to answer levelly, “I'll be fine. Jade is more than a match for anything we might meet.”

“You hope,” Shego said. “Just don't pause to sight-see.”

Kim smiled, closed the door without comment, and the car rose and flew away.

* * *

Surge watched as the seemingly impossible car disappeared over the horizon and a sinking feeling overtook her. “She won't leave us … will she?”

Drakken laughed. It was the first time Surge had heard anyone laugh since she woke up. Then Drakken explained, “There is one thing you can count on, and that is: Kim Possible will always do what's right.”

“Isn't she the one that froze us?” Surge asked, not bothering to hide the bitterness in her voice.

* * *

Horatio didn't even bother to look ahead. “She'll be back,” he said. His concern was no less die than Surge's had been, and he voiced it, after a fashion, “If we conserve our air we might even live to see it.”

Everyone fell mercifully silent as they resumed their trek.

* * *

Surge grew to hate the silence. She was full of questions and getting no answers. With nothing but the sound of other people breathing she was forced to concentrate on hopping toward their destination. All eight of them fell. A lot. Horatio's reminder that the suits they were doing the falling in were five hundred years old did nothing for her peace of mind.

Finally she asked, “If there's no one else left then what's the point?”

Shego said, “The point is to live.” After a pause she added, “Besides, he still hasn't said what he's basing his outlandish claim on. So ignore him.”

Surge couldn't ignore him. For whatever reason, she believed Horatio. “If humanity ends with us, what does it matter if we die here or on earth?”

“It matters to me,” Shego said, “whether I die today or decades from now.”

“I understand,” Surge said, “It's just--”

“There's us now,” Horatio said. “Humanity doesn't have to end.”

“I hope you're not talking about some kind of breeding program,” Shego said angrily.

Horatio stopped. Surge was getting used to Horatio's inability to stop with anything resembling grace, so it didn't surprise her when he ended up tumbling forward. What did surprise her was that he didn't seem to be making any effort to halt the tumbling. When it ended on its own he got up slowly and faced Shego. Surge couldn't see his face and the space suit made it difficult to read body language, but the impression she was getting was utter, horrified, shock. So much so it overcame the inexpressiveness of the space suit.

Hawk asked, “You ok?” but other than that everyone was silent.

Finally Surge asked, “Well what did you mean?” No response. “How are the nine of us supposed to revive humanity?”

When he responded his voice was quiet, “The technology exists to repopulate the species without anyone needing to get pregnant if they don't want to.” He paused a beat. “Without anyone needing to get pregnant at all.” There was a larger pause. “If we ever reached the point where we forced people to,” he sputtered, “to... to … you know, in order to save the species then it would be better if we let humanity die.”

There was another silence.

“The idea that we'd do otherwise is horrific,” Horatio added. Then he resumed his hopping.

* * *

Blok wanted to break the uneasy silence that followed, but he wasn't sure how. Finally he said, “It wouldn't work anyway, nine people isn't enough genetic variation to perpetuate a species.”

“Actually,” Horatio said, for the first time sounding like he was actually interested in talking, “The Laysan duck hit a low point of an effective population of 7 and it was on the way back when I was taken.”

Blok was pleased when this started a conversation about genetics that lacked doom, gloom, and horror.



  1. Very interesting!

    The biggest concern I would have with repopulating from a tiny gene pool is that the result would be like the (African?) cheetah - so genetically uniform that literally any cheetah is a viable skin donor to any other cheetah. But that's not such a horrible fate as complete extinction, of course.

  2. Once you got a base population able to support itself you could work on training genetic engineers to create greater genetic diversity.

    Inbreeding can, if done carefully, result in decently healthy animals (lab mice for instance), but only if you very carefully remove all the recessive lethal/dangerous genes.