Occasionally I dream in story form, however briefly. This one stirred out of my subconscious a couple nights ago.
It took Greg Ferrante less than an hour on the surface before he started mansplaining to the first woman on the Moon: “Really, Maureen: this is a golden opportunity to humanity to perfect its progress in philosophy.”
Maureen Reilly rolled her eyes loudly enough to be heard back in Houston. “Really?” she replied, her tone level and uninflected. She focused on unpacking and deploying the hardware from the lander.
Ferrante, pleased that he was being answered, increased his volume and speed. “Yeah! From Aristotle down to Nozick—the whole of humanity has the opportunity to perfect itself—without reference to history, without the expectations from others weighing upon us. It’s a perfect example of Rawls’ Veil of Ignorance.”
“Uh huh.” Reilly wondered if NASA would let her turn off her comms, then rolled her eyes again and sighed. Ferrante had been like this from the time she’d met him in the astronaut class, and had yet to successfully from deter him from expounding on his favorite topic. And, lacking the appropriate tactful getaway, Ferrante had continued to engage her in numerous one-sided conversations about which she had zero interest. Her planned sarcastic response was interrupted by Vasiliy Gorolev, who bounded by jauntily on one-sixth-gravity strides. He spoke on the common channel.
“Zdravstvuyte, Commander Reilly! Do you require rescuing from the professor? Consider this.” With that, he dropped a piece of paper onto the lunar dust nearby and bounded off, a mischievous glint in his eye. The paper dropped straight down through the vacuum to the regolith.
Ferrante glared at Gorolev, then down at the paper he’d dropped off. The red, white, and blue logo was unmistakable, even at a distance: it was NASA stationery, something that Gorolev should not have had on his person. Unless…
“What the…what’s he’s doing with NASA stationery? Maybe we should check our other supplies and see if anything else is missing.” Ferrante’s tone had shifted from lecturing to alarmed, and Reilly couldn’t decide which she liked less. The tension was different, however, and close to amusing. Lieutenant Plato, to the rescue!
She chuckled. “You think this is funny? What if Gorolev grabbed something we really need? There are legal implications here!”
“Was there anything on the paper?”
“Did you read whatever he wrote?”
“Well, no, but…”
“So maybe, before you decide this rises to the level of a tort in space law, you might just calm down and read what’s on the paper.”
“Yeah, but he…”
Reilly stopped lifting an experiment, took an impatient breath, and turned toward Ferrante. “Oblige me, Greg.”
Ferrante huffed and shuffled toward the illicitly procured piece of paper. What was he expecting? Reilly wondered.A declaration of war? He looked at the note, then bunny-hopped to Reilly, handing the paper to her.
Apologies for the paper. It was all I could find out here. Dinner at 1900? Bring the professor if you like.
Reilly laughed. “See? Nothing to worry about.”
Ferrante returned to his duties, grumbling under his breath.
The two Americans went back to work, the only sound on the channel being their mutual breathing, until Reilly spoke up again. “You know, Greg, it’s a nice idea that we’d be able to perfect ourselves out here, but we’re not capable of it. For one thing, we do carry our history with us. And for another thing, we’re the same ornery creatures we are back on Earth. Philosophy isn’t a cure for human nature.”
“You picked a hell of a time to engage in the topic.” Reilly heard the wounded pride in the tone and realized that she’d have to do some Commander-to-Crew intervention when they got back into the lander. For the moment, all she could offer was a bit of advice:
“Philosopher, heal thyself.”