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TRANSGLOBAL COMMENTARY. 9:03 A.M.


"Actually, the end of the Moon, if that's what we're really about to see, would be a very good thing. People need to be reminded periodically that a living world is a changing one. And we resist change with all the ferocity we can muster.

"This instinct, this love for the status quo, this conviction that the world is a stable and reliable place to live, is an idea left over from an era when people lived exactly as their grandparents had. When change was always bad news: that the Nile had overflowed its banks again, that the barbarians had arrived, that the plague was in town. We are wired to maintain the status quo.

"This need to conserve the present is a survival instinct that now works to our detriment. We see it in our failure to pursue nanotech research, in our fear of biotechnological enhancement techniques, in the resistance to the Mars mission. We see it in our daily lives in our inability to use the technologies that lie at our fingertips. Do you know how to program your VR player? A recent USA Today poll showed that sixty-five percent of those surveyed did not believe that life had improved since the end of the twentieth century.

"If the Moon truly disappears from our skies tonight, it will serve to remind us that nothing is forever, that the world keeps changing, and that we'd better learn to change with it. This is Judy Gunworthy with the Transglobal News Service, at the Johnson Space Center." Moonbase, Grissom Country. 10:47 A.M.

Charlie shook hands with each of his agents, thanked them for efforts in his behalf, and tried to reassure them he would be all right. He explained that he'd notified their superiors that they'd left under protest, that he'd ordered them out, and that under the circumstances they had no choice but to obey. "I've recommended in-grade increases for all of you."

They smiled. Isabel momentarily lost her professional demeanor and embraced him. "I wish you'd change your mind," she said.

After they left, Rick came by and tried so hard to talk him out of staying that he lost track of time and had to dash out to catch his own flight.

Then Charlie was alone. Pacifica, California. 8:35 A.M. Pacific Daylight Time (11:35 A.M. EDT).

Jerry Kapchik watched the images of crowded expressways on his TV. Fortunately, the scenes were all east of San Francisco. Route 1, which he could see from his front porch, was quiet. After the first wave of nervous reaction, few of his neighbors had left town. It might have been they were more worried about looters than moonrock. There'd already been reports of break-ins in San Mateo and Palo Alto.

He could see Marisa setting up the water sprinkler out back. She'd be leaving in about forty-five minutes, taking the kids to the park. She was not happy that Jerry had volunteered to go into work, but she understood that such things were not entirely within his control.

The big news this morning was that the vice president was staying behind at Moonbase. Jerry had watched a brief interview in which Haskell said he hadn't given up hope that they'd all get out. Hadn't given up hope. How could we allow a vice president to get put in that kind of position? It didn't make sense, and Jerry wondered if the government was even more incompetent than it looked.

There were other stories. Terrorists had seized an embassy in Djakarta and were demanding the release of several hundred criminals from Indian prisons. Red Cross workers had been murdered in the Transvaal. There'd been a shoot-out in the Japanese Diet. In a group action, several thousand families were suing the Los Angeles school system for failing to educate their kids. Everything seemed normal enough.

Jimmy came down the stairs. Seven years old, bright-eyed, big smile. He had his mother's blond hair. "Dad? Are we going to watch the comet tonight?"

The kids had stayed up late last evening, and they'd stood out near the garage with neighbors. The comet was out over the ocean. It was big, several times bigger than the Moon, and misty, like a big blob of fog caught in moonlight. It looked out of place, and Jerry'd had a sense that it belonged in another sky.

"Sure," he said. "If you want."

"Dad, I was wondering if we could do something."

"Like what?"

He hesitated. "Could we get a telescope? Like the Ryan's have?"

Actually, Jerry had been thinking about investing in one. He saw a chance to interest his kids in astronomy, and he'd been looking at an inexpensive telescope in the downtown Wal-Mart yesterday. "Sure," he said. "I think we can manage that."

Then there was Marisa. She'd been in a strange mood, saying she felt fine but refusing to meet his eyes.

Jerry, fortunately, was hard-headed, down-to-earth, eminently practical. Whatever might be happening a quarter-million miles away, the real world would continue to be caught up in tax law and mortgage payments and Little League games.



TRANSGLOBAL NEWS REPORT. 6:14 A.M. | The Moonfall | NATION BRACES FOR MOONWRECK