In the Bowery, on the way to permanent Happy Hour at the Blow Hole. Next to the bar, an alley, where young touts offered drugs or sex opportunities. A sallow.-faced teen emerged from the shadows. "Want to buy a trip to the moon? He had a ticket for a seat on Space Zepp. At steep discount. It would be Musk's third try. Space X and Space Y had come apart on launch, sending two boatloads of passengers skyward, but not to the moon. The terms. One large down in dollars. Fifteen grand euros upon arrival at the airport. A good price. I swiped my phone.
At Kennedy at the Space Gate some Musk thugs gave me the fisheye. But when I swiped my phone, the gate opened into a waiting room already filled with passengers. I knew a few. Easy Kinda I knew from the Zambezi Falls kayak challenge. She looked good, considering what had happened. Demon Ruff was an old acquaintance. He’d' been on the parachute jump into the Maui Malaigna volcano, and on the helicopter-assisted Arctic dogsled safari. The other twenty or so passengers I didn't know but they looked the type.
The pilot had been in the Musk space academy from the beginning. He looked shaky. But he was just along for the ride. Everything was automated. We loaded and the launch went smoothly. On X and Y there had been an overpressure on combustion, 0-rings had failed causing rapid decompression and an explosion. All good this time. The ticket included meals, two orbits of the moon, a descent to the surface on the Lander, and a ride on an all-terrain vehicle already in place. Either because of space sickness caused by zero gravity, or because of something wrong with the tubes of food paste, most of the passengers soon became violently ill. Also diarrhea. The valve system for the heads was complicated and nobody could figure out the instructions. Consequently air pressure on the vault caused the contents to blow out of a sink in the galley. The compartment was filled with a fine floating mist of vomit and feces, making it difficult to see out of the ports, despite our rubbing the panes as hard as we could.
We drew cards to see who could go on the first trip to the surface, since the Lander only had room for six. Easy Kinda won a slot, and smirked at she climbed into the Lander. On the surface she and some young dude were the first to transfer through an airlock into the ATV. That vehicle's program apparently had become corrupted and wasn't responding. The pilot tried the override, but once started the ATV wouldn't turn around or stop. The Lander had been programmed to return to the ship after two hours because of limited oxygen supply. The pilot, who had started yelling, said he couldn't wait and returned the Lander to the ship. At last look the ATV was headed straight for Mons Galileo.
Another glitch: The airlock seal malfunctioned and the Lander passengers couldn't get back aboard, although they were now hooked up for supplemental oxygen. The pilot decided to abort the mission and return to Earth. Mr. Dekes and few others complained but we were unable to see out the ports anyway. During our orbit around the Dark Side we couldn’t see the surface because of the sticky paste on the ports. We did hear some Pink Floyd, and Mr. Dekes' phone had the video shot by Amstrong on Apollo Seven.
On the return. The airlock seal on the Lander was leaking and we lost communication with the four passengers inside, one of them being Demon Ruff. As we entered Earth's atmosphere the ship's heat tiles started to peel away. The temperature inside the compartment rose to 50 degrees Celsius, and the pilot began to have periodic fits of uncontrolable shrieking. We were supposed to land at MuskPort at Kennedy but with the heat shield peeling off the pilot overrode the program so that he could rotate the capsule and brake the descent. This, for some reason, caused the rocket to begin tumbling while he dialed in a splash down in the Aral Sea. We hit hard, and the half a dozen passengers knocked unconscious weren't able to exit. By this time the pilot was shrieking continuously. He blew both hatches, one of which was underwater, and the ship began to settle. I was third in line after the pilot and was halfway out the hatch when Dekes, who was behind me, tried to crowd through. He had my leg wedged. The water was freezing and steam was rising from the superheated capsule and I could hear a commotion below as the remaining passengers tried to pull Dekes out of the hatch. The ship settled, flooding the compartment. Only my head and shoulders were above the water. Apparently we had landed on some kind of ice floe and the ship was sitting in a big puddle. The pilot had managed to get off an SOS and in a few hours a Russian icebreaker, the Prince Tolkien, picked up the survivors. The sailors treated us for hypothermia and frostbite. A helicopter aboard airlifted us to Murmansk Station where we were quarantined for a month because of the pandemic Celestial virus. An abundance of caution, since it wasn't likely we had caught anything on the moon.
Back in New York I spent a few weeks at Bellevue, where a surgeon amputated the toes on my right foot. One of my visitors was Harry the Cattle, who had been along on the dive for the Roman amphorae alongside an ancient shipwreck off Cyprus. Harry said ht was putting together some tickets for a tour of the Congolese slave castle ruins at Tameka. Usually the ruins, a UN Heritage Site, were off limits to tourists but a runaway outbreak of Ebola had cleared the army from all their posts and checkpoints. Harry said he knew people that could get us past the Islamic insurgents and the Children of God. I swiped my phone.