The Armstrong Moment

Contributor: Ray Daley

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"How are we for flags?" he asked the computer.
"More than enough left, Captain." responded the machine.

The machine was certain the captain thought there was a storage hold somewhere aboard, full of rolled up flags just waiting to be planted on another virgin surface. It didn't want to spoil his illusion, knowing that each flag it delivered to him had been created from a pre-recorded pattern on a replication system. In the hold was nothing, the ships ramscoop collected enough matter to fulfill all daily requirements.

"Touchdown Captain."
He picked up the flag from the table, secured his helmet and cycled the airlock.

"I claim this planet in the name of all the peoples of Earth."
He planted the flag pole in the ground securely, a single thrust to ensure it would stay there long after he had died.
In his suit radio he heard the computer. "Hold for the archive picture Captain."
He smiled, aware he wasn't visible through the polarized lens of the helmet.

He always smiled, just in case.

Back in the ship, he readied himself for another new journey. "Where next computer?"
"They discovered another world, about 5 light years away. Stasis is ready." replied the machine.

He sat on the bio-bed.
"They promised me excitement, the rush of claiming new worlds. They call it 'The Armstrong Moment' you know?"

The computer knew. It said nothing.

"There's no rush. No excitement. Where's my ticker-tape parade? When I get back to Earth?" He wasn't so much asking the computer as just venting for the sake of it.
"I'm sure there'll be some kind of celebration when you get back. Goodnight Captain, sleep well."

The bio-bed activated stasis, the machine was alone once more.
Alone with the decision once more.

'Should I tell you? Could you cope with it? That Earth is gone?'

The machine knew the answer.

They would press on, forever claiming new worlds in the name of a home that no longer existed.
Yet again the machine experienced the HAL moment.

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Ray Daley was born in Coventry and still lives there. He served 6 yrs in the RAF as a clerk & spent most of his time in a Hobbit hole in High Wycombe. He is a published poet & has been writing stories since he was 10. His current dream is to eventually finish the Hitch Hikers fanfic novel he's been writing since 1986.
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