Two hundred years after a massive event annihilated all life on Earth, the last of humanity survives on a moon colony called Lunar One. Young Amia undergoes the year-long Stage to live among the different societies, or pagodas, of Lunar One before selecting the one she will join. For Amia, life is simple, her society flawless.
During the Stage, Amia's idyllic world begins to unravel as she learns the shocking truths behind life on Lunar One, a sinister web of danger, betrayal, and mystery that makes the most difficult decision of her life impossible.
With enemies lurking around every corner and uncertain who to trust, how much is Amia willing to risk in order to bring down an obsolete and unjust system?
Lunar One – refuge for the common person and your last hope! The rich and entitled began their exodus from Sol 3 a century ago, fleeing our dying home. Their flight has become our reality – only the elite have the means to escape and, therefore, only the elite merit life. But, no more! A group of us combined our resources to leave the orbiting cities and Martian settlements to establish the first colony on Sol 3a. Instead of a refuge for the privileged, Lunar One‡ is reserved for humanity’s best and brightest. Now at over 4,000 colonists, space won’t last long. Apply‡ now and see if you have what it takes to become a citizen of Lunar One, haven of the preeminent scholars, artists, and scientists that humanity has to offer.
‡Lunar One Colony Specifics: Subsurface quadrant design with above ground environmental domes. State of the art systems with advanced gravcoils to simulate Sol 3 normal gravity. Each quadrant is called a pagoda, a one kilometer round tower that extends ten stories below the lunar surface. The first two stories are merged into a single floor where the pagoda’s town is located, replete with recreational, educational, and medical facilities. Level 3 is the pagoda administration level, followed by four residential levels. Each level contains approximately 3,300 units capable of housing nearly 6,300 colonists for a maximum pagoda population of 25,000. The remaining two levels are reserved for miscellaneous pagoda functions and storage. Level ten is the primary engineering and maintenance level for the pagoda. Each pagoda is linked to a central tower called the Keystone‡, accessible through Border Stations at levels 2 (town) and 10 (engineering). Above the lunar surface, the pagodas are capped with environmental domes. This dome is a nature preserve, each with a unique environment of ancient Earth. This dome sets the theme for the pagoda’s town and design features. The domes are accessible by maglifts from the towns and a service conduit from the lunar excursion bays. Service conduits also connect the pagodas to the Keystone at Levels 1, 6, and 9.
‡Keystone Specifics: Central pagoda of the Lunar One colony, 1.5 kilometers in diameter. Above ground is the colony’s control station, which sits atop lunar excursion bays. Selene, the central city of Lunar One is on the merged Levels 1/2. The hydroponic and aeroponic farms that feed the colony are on levels 3-5. Water Reclamation and Processing is on level 6. Textile processing and printing facilities are on levels 7 and 8, Ore Processing on level 9, and Engineering on level 10.
‡Apply to be a colonist on Lunar One! Estimates for the remaining habitability of Sol 3 range from 50 to 250 years. Time has run out. We are seeking people from all walks of life and all occupations, selecting the smartest and most gifted to join us for a fresh start at life far away from the wastelands of Sol 3. Swipe ‡here‡ to begin the application process. Lykke til!
“Asimov, come in! What’s going on? Report!” screamed Sumners at the holocomm that had just gone blank. The comm officer sat at his monitoring station in a state of utter dismay.
Sumners was just speaking with the SS Asimov, a science vessel on its way to deliver colonists before shooting off to Europa Base to study the ocean life there. They had just cleared Potter Station, a relay point between Sol 3, formally called Earth in the old parlance, and Sol 3a, the closest (and only) satellite in the orbit of Sol 3, before chaos erupted.
It was a routine “Hey, just letting you know we’re on our way and set to arrive on schedule” type of message, but then alarms began blaring on the vessel. At one moment, Sumners was seated next to the Asimov’s comm officer as if he were actually on the ship, his mind in direct neuralcomm with the vessel. Alarms blared before a blinding flash deactivated the neuralcomm. Sumners blinked his eyes, and the command center of Lunar One, where he worked and lived, focused before him.
A moment later, alarms similar to what he heard on the Asimov began to blare in the control center. His holocomm flashed to life to replace the lost neuralcomm link, controls and displays floating above his work console. Garbled images and sounds appeared on the comm channel with the Asimov, horrendous images of melting and vaporizing flesh mixed with gut-wrenching screams that haunted Sumners until the day he died. Then it was gone. Nothing.
Shouts from his fellow officers broke through the shroud of his shock. Something about intense radiation, systems overloading all over the colony, major but no critical damage.
Sumners ran his systems checks. Uplinks were offline, so he had to go about it manually, swiping and grabbing at the controls dangling before him. Long-range communications were permanently disabled, limiting communication to Sol 3a. In reality, Lunar One did not have long-range comm on its own; there was a communications station orbiting Sol 3 that relayed all messages between Sol 3 and its colonies on Sol 3a, Sol 4, and research outposts of the outer system. Rather, there used to be a manned communications station. Now his sensors showed nothing where a minute prior there had been a blinking dot denoting its precise location. In fact, all the blinking dots were gone, even Potter Station that orbited midpoint between Sol 3 and Sol 3a.
While Martian colonies had been established for well over a century, with two large cities containing over a million people spread across the landscape of Sol 4, colonization of the much closer Sol 3a was relatively new. Before Lunar One, there were only scattered research outposts with a little over a thousand people total. There was also a maximum-security prison, Penal One, with 1,500 criminals sentenced to life without chance of parole, plus about 300 guards and staff. The worst criminals of Sol 3 were contained there, the intelligent yet sadistic kind, with an unquenchable lust for power and lack of human empathy. Dozens of colonies orbiting Sol 3 also existed.
The colonists of Lunar One represented the first generation of humanity’s efforts to bring another dead world to life, necessary since they had all but killed the one planet that they did have, one that was perfect for human life. Now, however, Sol 3 was a toxic, overpopulated wasteland. Only the rich or fortunate were able to move to the colonies, while the rest of humanity slowly rotted away in the hellish cesspool that their forefathers carelessly created. Those at Lunar One represented the best humanity had to offer, an effort to expand humankind into the cosmos, providing homes to the best and brightest of Sol 3 rather than the richest.
“All Terran satellites and orbiting colonies are gone, sir. Some kind of directed energy force.” reported a young, thin man in an unexpectedly deep voice from his sensor monitoring chair.
“Sir…uhm… this…uh…,” a trembling officer in another sensor chair was trying to speak. He was new to Lunar One, arriving just a few days prior. “I’m detecting intense radiation coming from Sol 3 with temperatures exceeding… exceeding 1,700 degrees Celsius. The oceans have been completely vaporized and the planet irreversibly devastated,” said the officer, his voice now cold and dispassionate. His previously visible jitters were now replaced with the automatic response of a skilled officer doing his duty, his training counteracting his apprehension.
“Am I hearing this right? Are you telling me that something, some kind of intense energy beam came out of nowhere, perfectly aimed at Sol 3 to the precision of being able to miss us, and destroyed almost every human in existence?” This coming from a tall fit woman, frightfully calm and collected in view of what seemed to be happening.
Commander Bhola continued, “Begin organizing repair teams. Assess structural integrity and check for casualties. Alert all colonists to receive a report within the hour, but I do not want a single word of this leaving this room until we know for certain what just happened! Now, let’s begin a categorical sensor sweep of the entire Sol 3 system.”
Immediately, work began. Within the hour, they had made a full assessment. Readings were confirmed; every single living entity on Sol 3 and in near-Terran orbit were dead. Billions of humans extinguished in a violent flash. Their dying planet was now officially dead and void of all life, likely forever. The few thousand left on Sol 3a were quite possibly all that remained of human race. There were more questions than answers as to what actually happened, if the Martian colonies and outer stations were still there, and if whatever happened could wipe out Lunar One next.
For now, they could only focus on situational assessments and repairs. Lunar One was technically finished, but well under populated. Only two pagodas were even functional and populated at the time. A third pagoda was operational but unpopulated, and the fourth was only partly operational. The domes were complete, which meant that their ecosystem was self-sustaining. These domes were used to assist in environmental regulation and provide recreation for the colonists: A mountainous, coniferous rain forest reminiscent of the former Pacific Northwest region of North America with a large lake in one quadrant; a tropical beach with a salt water lagoon and waves surrounded by pristine beaches and palm trees wavering in a warm “ocean” breeze; hilly deciduous woodlands dotted with meadows, bubbling creeks, and a small pond; and a Sonoran desert landscape, alive with saguaro and desert wildflowers, prone to the occasional “monsoon”. While mimicking natural landscapes full of plant life, they were devoid of any animal life.
Over the next few days, damage was repaired and life returned to “normal” on Lunar One. Depression and grief were palpable, but otherwise operations continued smoothly. The smaller lunar colonies, being less self-sufficient than Lunar One, were stripped and those people joined the colony. The prisoners of Penal One were also incorporated into colony life, but not without significant effort. After a year of bloody conflict, the Pagoda Proclamation was adopted. For over 200 years it has provided the principles of life on Lunar One, the sole outpost containing the last remnants of human civilization.
On Lunar One, choice came only by completing the Stage.
Amia didn’t want choice; she wanted Trent. But, Amia had a curiosity that even her love for Trent was unable to counteract.
Only the Stage could satiate such a yearning.
After the Uprising in year 2 PE (Post-Event), the four disputing parties agreed to a truce that permitted each to establish their own society within the four pagodas of the colony: Norge, Yorkwall, Unity, and Giza. Internal political structure and policies were left to the individual pagodas to implement; however, they all agreed to abide by a common set of laws, the Pagoda Protocols that were outlined in the Pagoda Proclamation. Most notably, all eighteen-year-old members of the four pagodas are subject to participation in the annual Stage1,2… - from Official History of Lunar One.
1. Stage(s) – from archaic Modern French meaning “internship”; both singular and plural forms are pronounced the same with a short “a” sound /a/ as in garAGE rather than the long “a” sound /e/ found in the English pronunciation of this word.
2. After the Pagoda Protests of 22 PE, the Pagoda Protocols concerning the Stage were amended. No longer would the Stage be required, but optional. Participation in the Stage is now a requirement to partake in the pagoda Selection Ceremony, with two years of Pagoda or Colony Service subsequently required.
Amia sat on the recently cropped lawn and leaned back into Trent’s arms. A simulated sun shone forth from a synthetic, yet pristine blue sky, warming her face while a light breeze perfumed with a vibrant bouquet of spring flowers brushed through her hair. Trent’s best friend, Ven sat next to them with perfect posture and an unexpressive face, watching the musicians skitter about the large gazebo that sat at the base of the small hill upon which they sat. His composure was that of a statue, forever patient for the concert to begin. Over his shoulder, Amia saw Embran running toward them, late as usual. With nothing more than a flashing smile, she plopped herself next to Ven, the yin to his yang.
“And I thought I was late! Where’s Mr. Fredriksen?” Embran said in between huffs while she ran her hands over her hair to ensure it hadn’t been ruffled in her jot. The orchestra was now seated and ready to play, but without the conductor. Fredriksen wasn’t big on formality, often joking with audience members while his musicians prepared.
“No idea, but it doesn’t appear to be cancelled,” responded Amia. While she spoke, Ms. Jennsdat strode onto the stage and the audience began clapping.
“Guess he’s sick. Looks like old Jennsdat will be conducting tonight. I thought she’d have Retired by now,” said Trent. Amia and Embran both shrugged, but Ven’s expression remained frozen.
It wasn’t uncommon for Ven to suppress emotions, but he was unusually distant. Amia scowled at him over his disdain for their last outing together before the Stage. “Ven, what gives? You haven’t said a word and have barely even acknowledged anyone all afternoon. You’re trudging along like some sort of automaton or something.”
“It’s nothing. I’m just…” Ven hesitated before continuing, then his shoulders relaxed and he turned to face Amia with pressed lips. “I’m not doing the Stage,” he finished.
Amia knew there was more to it than that. He avoided looking directly at Trent, his eyes averting downward anytime Trent tried to get Ven to look at him. It was odd behavior for two people who were usually inseparable, even Amia had to vie against Ven for Trent’s attention at times.
“You’re not doing the Stage?” asked Embran, her normally energetic voice was switched down half an octave and she placed a perfectly manicured hand onto his knee. The four of them had planned on telling their parents that evening about their intent to intern.
“I’ve given it a lot of thought,” said Ven, “but I don’t feel like spending two years working in excrement processing like I’ve been doing all year just so I can do the Stage. I have no intention of transferring to another pagoda, so why bother?” He was referring to the Pagoda Service all Norgens were required to do during their final year of schooling, a hint of what it will cost them to register for the Stage.
Jennsdat started speaking. She routinely gave educational background information about the various pieces before every concert she conducts. Amia sighed. Fredriksen would have just jumped in with some exciting, lively piece to set the mood of the audience. Now everyone fought off yawns or faded out on their uplinks. However, it did provide them the opportunity to further discuss Ven’s decision.
Embran chimed in, “Why bother? You’re treated like royalty for an entire year! Then, you can get the hell out of this boring place. I think it’s worth having to do two years of mandatory colony service afterwards.” She certainly didn’t have the soft-spoken demeanor of a typical Norgen. Their pagoda shunned lying, but Embran had the unique knack of speaking exactly what was on her mind in an unfiltered, raw way that irritated most Norgens. She was also unapologetically egotistical, a trait especially shirked by equality-driven Norgens. “It’d be stupid not to do the Stage. You have no idea what life is like in the other pagodas beyond what we’re taught in school, which isn’t much.”
“Well, I guess I’m just stupid then!” Ven spat back at her.
“That’s enough,” ordered Trent. “Ven’s made his decision, and all we can do is support him. Besides, both Amia and I are definitely coming back to Norgen after, and you’ll probably end up back here too, Embran. Hell, Ven will be finished with university studies or have a solid three years at his job by the time we will have finished our Service after the Stage. Most people think that’s worth more than having the chance to intern. Plus, he doesn’t have to go through the hassle of telling his parents tonight.”
Ven’s body tensed up again as Trent was speaking. After Trent was done, Ven rose and turned to face the park’s exit. With his back to them, “You should probably talk about that. I’m not in the mood to be here.” Each word was spoken slowly and deliberately with a coldness that chilled Amia to her bones.
Amia, Trent, and Embran watched Ven march away like a Gizan escort.
After a solid minute, Trent cleared his throat, “Well, that was some goodbye for not seeing your friends for an entire year.”
“Ven was never the sentimental type,” replied Amia as she wiggled herself from Trent’s embrace so she could face him and Embran easier.
“It seemed to be something more than that,” said Embran.
“I thought it was just me, but he did seem extremely perturbed about something,” replied Amia.
“He did have a good point though. He won’t have to tell his parents. We do,” said Trent in a deliberate effort to change the topic of the conversation.
“I already did,” proclaimed Embran with a huge, obnoxious smile.
“Of course you did,” said Amia. “You probably told them the very second you registered last week!” Both Amia and Embran chuckled.
“Yeah, well Amia and I have been putting it off. No need for that kind of tension for an entire week. One night of it will be bad enough,” said Trent.
“My dad won’t care much, at least I don’t think he will,” said Amia in response. “He was a Unity transfer, after all. But, my mom… Now, she is going to be livid. She’s never been a fan of the Stage. I think she sees it as a kind of betrayal to your pagoda if you do it. I don’t know. Plus, she’s going to be furious I didn’t tell them sooner.” Amia massaged her belly, “Great, now my stomach hurts.”
“My parents are going to spend the evening screaming every obscenity in the book at me. It’s going to be a long night.” Trent sighed and then looked at Amia, “Plus, I’m going to miss spending every day with my lunar princess.” He leaned over and gave Amia a peck, his free hand cradling the back of her neck.
Amia’s cheeks responded with a rose flush. Without question, not seeing Trent was going to be the most difficult aspect of the Stage. The warmth in her chest dulled as her heart began to drop, a flood of despair filling the void left behind as tears threatened to break through the dam of stoicism she had built.
Embran noticed Amia beginning to crack and spoke up to rescue her, being overly dramatic to help lighten the mood. “My parents would have been more surprised if I hadn’t registered to intern. They were a little upset, but they’ve known for years that I intended to do the Stage.”
“Saying Stage was practically akin to blasphemy in my house,” responded Amia through a sniffle. “I just wish this damn concert would start already so I can forget about tonight’s dinner for an hour.”
As if on cue, the audience awoke from their slumber with lackadaisical applause as Jennsdat finished her lecture. The concertmaster sitting in the first chair wasted no time and brought his army to attention in preparation for the first stroke of the conductor’s baton.
Music began to flow forth, bright notes aflutter as they echoed throughout the entire town. The three friends drew their attention toward the orchestra and fell silent. At this time tomorrow, they would each be in a new pagoda with a group of strangers, their fellow Interns throughout the Stage.
Unity, Yorkwall, or Giza? Amia couldn’t help but wonder where she would rest her head tomorrow night. She also couldn’t help but wonder if she would even get any rest this evening, her last night at home. Anticipation for her Stage, yet dread in having to speak with her parents. What a strange, and horrible, combination of feelings. Try as she might, she couldn’t let her mind let go of these thoughts and enjoy the concert or the feel of Trent’s arm holding her to him. She hadn’t even realized that he had slipped his arm around her again until that very moment.
Amia poked at her roasted beet salad, avoiding eye contact with her parents. Even though her stomach grumbled, appetite escaped her. They have to know, she thought as she rubbed her neck. Her mother had chosen a sunny woods scene for the living unit’s holodecor; it was as if their dinner were in the middle of a meadow on a late spring afternoon. The chirping of unseen birds and the rumble of a distant thunderstorm replaced conversation.
Their silence was broken by her dad, “Amia, you’ve barely touched your meal. What’s going on in that head of yours?” Griggor’s eyes narrowed to slits and he tapped his temple with his index finger.
“Nothing, dad.” Her sweating palms made it difficult to keep the heavy silverware from slipping. Without another thought to detract her further, she blurted out without looking up from her plate, “I registered for the Stage last week.”
Her mother glowered at Amia, then she turned to Griggor. In a flat tone, “I told you she’d register.”
Her father lowered his head and shook it twice, “I wish you would have told us sooner.”
“Why? So you could talk me out of it?” Amia snapped.
“No, so we could convince you that it’s a bad idea,” he replied. His stone-cold eyes were piercing through Amia like a plasma drill through mineral ore. A vein was bulging in his neck and his face was red and flustered.
“Bad idea? How can it be a bad idea? You did the Stage! You’re from Unity. How can you be so hippocritical?” Amia’s eyes were beginning to tear up. “I thought you of all people would understand.”
“Amia, I’ve been out there. I’ve been to the different pagodas. There are none better than Norgen. I don’t want you wasting two years of your life in Waste Recycling or Food Harvesting afterwards just so you can skip around from pagoda to pagoda for a year.”
“I just want to see what it’s like to live a different life, to be someone else for a while. Neither Trent nor I have any intention of transferring.”
“Trent’s interning as well? I should have figured he was the one influencing you to do this,” accused her father.
Amia’s mom rubbed her forehead, observing the heated exchange between father and daddy’s girl. “Griggor, that’s not fair. You know her better than that; she would have chosen the Stage regardless of Trent.” Turning her attention towards her daughter, “Amia,” she began in a soft voice, “your father and I anticipated that you would register to intern, but have you seriously thought this all the way through?”
Amia had no idea was her mother was referring to. Why were her parents making such a big deal out of something as innocuous as the Stage? “Of course I have. It’s just the Stage. It’s not like I signed up for a mining excursion halfway across Sol 3a. I’m just going to intern and spread my wings a little.”
“But Amia,” said Griggor, “the cost of spreading your wings is quite steep. You’ve spent the past year doing Colony Service part-time. You hate it. Imagine doing that for two years straight after the Stage, full-time at that.”
“I know all of that. No one wants to work for Colony Services, but it’s only two years. Afterward, I’ll go to the university and begin my pharmeobotany studies. My Stage Deferment has already been processed.”
“If you started your program instead of doing the Stage, you’d be finished by the time you left the Service,” her mother said with a strained grin. Before Amia could even respond, her shoulders dropped and she looked past Amia at the wooded hologram behind her, “But you’ve already considered that, haven’t you?”
Amia nodded her response, even though the question was rhetorical.
“Of course she’s considered that as well as every other aspect of this forsaken idea!” screamed Amia’s father at her mother. He slammed his chair back and stood abruptly. He glared at his daughter, “Amia, don’t do it.” He turned and walked down a trail in the grass that led to the far wall where the door to the bedroom would appear and open when he approached.
Amia was confused as to why her father was so vehemently against the Stage. She expected her mother to, but she thought she’d at least have an ally in her father.
When Griggor was out of earshot in the bedroom, Lora recollected herself and sat opposite her daughter, staring at her with crossed arms.
Amia looked blankly at her mother, fighting the urge to cry. She could have handled anger from her mother, but not her father. “Why is dad so angry at me? He did the Stage. You never did, but you seem more disappointed than angry.”
“I’m not angry. I’m worried. You’re going to be living in different pagodas for the better part of a year. I wish you would have told us the second you registered so we would have had time to discuss and plan this out more.”
“Plan this out more? Mom, it’s just the Stage! I really don’t understand what you’re so worried about.”
Amia’s mother sighed and looked up at the ceiling. She sat in silence for a while. The birds had become silent and the fading blue projection of a sky was beginning to turn gray, clouds from the storm rolling in. While the holodecor was extremely lifelike, they were fortunate that it did not produce actual rain or other weather. You could sit in comfort on a snowy mountain slope or breathe effortlessly under the oceans of Titan. Any image you wanted could be programmed and projected. The thunder was getting louder and the sky darker.
“Control interface, stop holodecor,” Lora said. The landscape shimmered before being replaced with a sparsely filled gray room. “Amia, the Stage, Lunar One, everything and everyone you know. Trust none of it. Trust no one. Be careful. Keep your head low and don’t veer off track. Follow any rules you’re given. Things may not be what they appear to be and you need to be always on guard. Understand me?”
Amia nodded, even though she really had no idea what her mother was alluding to. Instead of asking for clarification, she changed the direction of the conversation. “Why did dad leave Unity?”
Lora cracked a half-smile, conscientious of exactly what her daughter was doing. Amia never liked conflict. “You’ll like Unity I think. Your dad loved Unity, and like you, he had no intention of transferring. But, he and I met when he was interning in Norgen, and he couldn’t resist my undeniable charm.” Lora winked at Amia and they both giggled.
“Is that why he’s so upset? He thinks I’m going to transfer?”
“More or less. He doesn’t want to lose his daughter and only be able to visit you once a year.”
Amia bit her lower lip, uncertain if she should ask the next question, “Why aren’t you mad? You’ve never been a fan of the Stage before. I thought you’d be furious.”
“Honey,” Lora exhaled a deep breath before continuing, “I’m not angry. I’m upset that I won’t see you for a year, and worried about what could happen.”
“You have nothing to worry about, mom,” said Amia, “I love Trent and nothing will prevent me from choosing Norgen.”
“I’m not worried about what pagoda you may chose. I’m worried about you and your vexing curiosity. Don’t stray from the path of the Stage, Amia. Once you’re outside of Norgen, you’ll be subject to the laws of the different pagodas.”
“I’ll be an intern, mom. We’re VIPs. They wouldn’t dare touch an intern from a different pagoda,” Amia proclaimed.
“Just be careful. While rare, some interns never return from the Stage.”
“Those are just stupid stories to scare kids from interning and to keep interns in line.”
“You’re an adult now, Amia. You’re responsible for your own actions and their consequences. You’re quick to react and I’m just saying that you need to stop and take a minute to think before doing something that could get you into trouble. Be careful, and be sensible.”
With that, Lora rose and followed the path Griggor had taken to the bedroom. Halfway there, she called over her shoulder, “Take care of the dishes; your father and I will see you in the morning.” By the time she had finished, she was through the bedroom door that had automatically opened upon her arrival and closed behind her just as she completed the word “morning”.
Amia sat there staring at the far blank wall that had replaced the image of a forest moments earlier. Her mind was racing and she wished Trent were there to talk to. She thought she’d have an ally in her father and a pissed off mother. Instead, she had a pissed off dad and a worried mom.
Her mother’s sinister warnings repeated in her mind as she cleared the table. Why was she being so ominous about something as routine as the Stage?
Thank you for reading and I hope you find Lunar One intriguing. Pick up your copy today on Amazon. Be well!
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