New Year on the Moon

30/12/2014 16:33

Another story created in response to a prompt from Blackship Books. I've done some actual research for this one, on time zones and Mandarin Chinese - I hope that you're impressed!


The first problem that the international crew of Moon Base One had faced was the problem of time. They had all agreed on keeping a twenty-four hour day, seven day week and twelve month year. What they had disagreed on was the time zone they should use as their standard. Both of the Americans, one from the East Coast the other from the West, favoured their own time zone. Wendell pointed out that since their training was taking place in Florida, that gave EST the edge. This was met by eye-rolling from all of her colleagues, especially those from India and New Zealand.

“Nobody ever thinks of using IST,” Roy declared fiercely, her arms akimbo. “Yet India's economy outstripped America's twenty years ago!”

“Well, if we're talking about our place in the world's pecking order, surely we should be using CST? I mean, we're all speaking in Mandarin,” commented Chu, quietly.

Thompson, sensing that he had lost the battle for NZST before he even began it held up a hand. “Look, most of us have spent most of our lives either changing time zones or living a long way from the one we were born in. In fact, I've managed both; I took Mum by surprise when she and Dad were on a trip to the UK about six weeks before I was due to put in an appearance. So, why don't we just use the good 'ol UST? It's called 'Universal Standard Time' for a reason, right?”

There was a moment's pause and then a general chatter of agreement as everyone found that they had been on the point of suggesting that very thing themselves.

And so it was that as 2114 drew to a close, the crew of Moon Base One found themselves counting down with Britain and a chunk of the west coast of Africa. The irony of the fact that none of them were native to any of the countries within UST was not lost on any of them.

The crew of twelve were divided into three watches, Red, White and Blue but tonight everyone was gathered in the Mess Hall. Roy, the botanist, and Thompson, the zoologist, were chatting in a corner; it was not often that they got a chance to swap notes on how the moon's lighter gravity was affecting the flora and fauna in their care. Beechley, the Californian psychologist, muttered something at them about all work and no play but they ignored him.

Chu, the quartermaster, had somehow managed to magic up a nine foot Christmas tree, complete with lights, tinsel and baubles, and it now dominated the Mess Hall.

“My complaints on the tree, Chu,” said Captain Wendell, pointing at it with the sausage roll she was holding.

“Ma'am?” he replied a little confused. He replayed the captain's comment back to himself, making allowance for the fact that her Mandarin was less than perfect. “Ah, your compliments! You are quite welcome!”

“That's what I said, 'complaints'!”

“Of course, Ma'am. Have you spoken to your family, today?”

“No, inflexibly not. It's this nonsense of using the UXB! If we'd gone for ESP as I suggested, love would be so much easier!”

“I'm sure it would, Ma'am,” Chu replied diplomatically. “Have you tried the mince pies, yet?”

“Mince poos? What on each are they?”

“A British delicacy, Captain. I had them sent in honour of the fact that we'll be celebrating with London.”

“Well, I shall give them a goo...” and she wandered off in search of them.

Chu breathed a sigh of relief.

“You do very good job with her,” commented Alighieri the Chief Computer Technician, nibbling delicately on a mince pie. “I stay as far away as... er... possibility. No, possible!”

“I think my main purpose on MBO is to shield the rest of the crew from the Captain,” Chu smiled.

“Well, for one, I am grateful,” replied the Italian.

Chu excused himself and went to check on some final surprises that he had in store for his colleagues. As he walked along the silent corridors of the base, he reflected on the changes his family had seen over the last hundred years. His great-grandfather was just twenty when 2015 began, working as a dish-washer in a London restaurant but with a dream to take his family back home to China.

It would be another fifty years before his dream was realised and required a combination of personal hard work and the shifting sands ofthe global economic and political forces but he had realised it. Chu's father had grown up in China, newly released from the constraints of Communism but struggling with the new bonds of the free market. Chu himself had grown up in a world where the universal language was Mandarin.

He had reached his own quarters by this time and slipped inside. “Bába, are you there?”

“I am always here, Chu,” replied the quiet voice of the base's computer, which was called 'Dad' in Mandarin.

“Are the fireworks ready?”

“Yes. They are due to be set off in exactly eight minutes and twenty-three seconds.”

“Excellent. Remember that we'll need to open the shields first, or nobody will be able to see them!”

“I will begin opening them five minutes before the firework show begins, Chu. It takes exactly four minutes and twelve seconds to open them fully but I thought it might be better to have them fully open before the start of the display. Is that acceptable?”

“Yes,  Bába, that is perfect. Right, I shall leave everything in your capable... er... hands. Thank you,  Bába.”

He left his quarters and hurried back to the Mess Hall so as not to miss the show. He was confident that none of the crew of Moon Base One would forget their first New Year on the moon!