Welcome to Planet Moon (excerpt)

Chapter Eleven

Wallace waited patiently for Mark to return with the rope. He leaned against the wall and looked around at the green valley of the building, examining from a distance the towering trees as well as the vines which crept upon the ground. There appeared to be no insects present, nor were there any other forms of life other than the cool green plants and the humans who had entered the large garden. It was rather quiet, and the air moved gently in an artificial breeze caused by forced circulation from fans within the ventilation shafts.

A knock came from within the airlock, and Wallace saw the helmet of Mark’s suit peering through the window at him. He leaned over and began the pressurization sequence, and Mark passed back into the atmosphere of the colossal greenhouse, carrying a rather long length of rope with the magnetic grapple on one end.

The rope and grapple were uninteresting compared to what Mark had found outside down on the ground. He handed the rope to Wallace and removed his helmet.

“What took you so long?” Wallace asked. Mark had been outside for nearly an hour.

“I saw something down on the ground, so I took a look,” reaching into his pocket, he produced the small object that had began to thaw, “and found this.”

“It looks like it’s just a grape,” Wallace said. “What’s so special about it?”

“I found it outside near an airlock. Does anyone use the airlocks? Does anyone else even have suits which allow them to go outside safely?”

“Come to think of it, no.”

“So how did the grape get there?”

“Something must have dropped it. It might have been dropped before the apocalypse,” Wallace added.

“And still be in such good condition? Exposure to the sun would have bleached the color away. No, I saw something moving down there,” Mark said slowly. “Something rather strange is going on in Planet Moon.”

After a moment of thinking, Mark asked “Can the roaches survive in a vacuum?”

“Probably, for a little bit anyway. Their shells are rather resistant to pressure change, but a roach could not have been outside.”

“Why not?”

“Because they lack the proper appendages to operate an airlock since they don’t have hands..”

“What if they used something other than an airlock to go out?”

“There is nothing else to use. A small hole would produce a noticeable wind as the air inside would be quickly sucked out and into the vacuum on the moon. A hole the size for a roach would lose enough air to be a problem very quickly, and one that would have been detected long ago.”

“Then what left this grape outside? More importantly, why did it have a grape outside?”