Chapter 21

Since the dawn of humanity, humans have always had a fascination with space. There was a boundless space beyond the blue sky, and since humans could not easily reach this place, it might be the reason why they yearned for it even more.

A very small number of humans were able to leave the birthplace of mankind. In some ways, these people might be the chosen ones. They were able to escape the atmosphere and gravity of Earth. They were able to look down on the blue Earth from space.

In truth, there was a small part of Sungyoon that was looking forward to this. He had traveled to foreign countries quite often, but this was the first time going into space for him.

As the spacecraft’s engine fired up, he felt his body lighten. For a moment, his body became tense. Then he heard an ungodly loud sound coming from outside and felt a pressure on his body. It felt exactly as it sounded. It felt like being shot straight into the sky. He worried about what would happen if they fell from the sky.

However, his worries lasted only an hour or two.

Currently, Sungyoon was bored.

‘It is the same feeling I felt when I traveled to the US for business.’

At the time, he had to sit in the plane for over a dozen hours to reach the US. In the beginning, he had felt excited. He was going to the land of the free, and his heart continued to beat in excitement. However, his feel-good feeling started to fade away as he continued to sit inside the plane. 

Sungyoon turned his head to the side, and he saw Jimin with her eyes closed. Since they were within the spaceship, she had taken her helmet off. He could see her long eyelashes. By the sound of her rhythmic breathing, she was asleep. It was quite the feat to be able to fall asleep right now.

He looked away in order to take in his surroundings. He thought the interior of the spacecraft would look special, but it was far from that. It was just a bit larger than a plane’s first-class cabin seen in movies. If there had been a stewardess here, he might have mistaken it for a plane ride.

There weren’t that many people on board. It wasn’t big, but the empty seats were quite noticeable.

Everyone was quiet. It seemed everyone was bored like Sungyoon, and most of them had their eyes closed.

‘Is everyone here a Connector like me?’

By the look of it, the number of young people on board was quite high. No, they only looked young. He was past his middle age, yet he had regained his youthful appearance from his 20s. This could be true for most of the people on board.

However, he did see some people that looked older. It seemed that like Jimin, they had business to attend to on the Moon.

‘Since it is called the Lunar city, there must be a lot of merchants up there.’

He rested his chin on his hand, and he turned towards the opposite direction of Jimin.

He looked towards the wall of the spacecraft, and he could see outside through the window. He decided to kill several hours of boredom by looking outside.

He saw a sea of stars on the other side of the window. He wasn’t talking in metaphors. It looked as if someone had embedded countless diamonds on a black velvet sheet. It was almost as if he could reach out and catch those stars with his hands. He hadn’t been able to see the stars thanks to pollution and artificial light on the surface of Earth. The stars were no longer shy, and they showed their magnificent light in front of him.

For the first time in his life, Sungyoon forgot about everything. He even forgot about his age. He placed his head on the window and mindlessly watched the scenery.

However, this only lasted an hour or two. Much of those earlier feelings had faded away. He wanted to get to his destination as soon as possible. He wanted to move his body.

“Are you bored?”

He heard a cold yet beautiful voice, and Sungyoon turned his head. Jimin had opened her eyes, and she was looking at him.

“When did you wake up?”

“Just right now.”

She did a small stretch. Normally, it would have been a picturesque sight, but she was wearing a bulky spacesuit. It looked a bit comical.

“We have time. Do you have any questions?”

She wasn’t the type of person to strike up a conversation with others, yet she had talked to him first. It seemed she was bored too.

“The spacecraft is quite plain. It is quite different from the spacecraft seen in the movies.”

“The spacecraft seen in the movies are usually the earlier models. Basically, it was built with the intent to explore space. At the time, it took astronomical amounts of money to send a spacecraft into space. It is different now. The traffic between Earth and the Moon has increased, and a lot of supply is needed to maintain a city on the Moon. That is why convenience became a priority to a certain degree.”

“Has the cost gone down a little bit?”

“Yes. We are using Moonstones as fuel. The outer hull of the spacecraft is coated with something called ‘Lunar Steel’. It uses the excess energy of the moonstones when it is purified. If humanity used only the resources available on Earth, it would have taken them at least 50 years of progress to be able to provide the Lunar City with necessities to maintain its current state.”

Jimin tapped her fingers on the armrest.

“This spacecraft was used to haul goods up to the Moon. Passengers may occasionally ride along on those runs.”

He wondered why this spacecraft had been larger in size than he had expected. He thought it was to fit in more high-tech equipment. In reality, most of this space was used to store cargo.

“Most countries have these kinds of spacecraft now. Of course, our country was late in starting our exploration of the Moon and its labyrinths, so we overcompensated. The labyrinths and the moonstones present a mouth-watering prospect to governments. If we didn’t possess a special material called Lunar Steel, our country wouldn’t have been able to travel to the Moon on a spacecraft. We wouldn’t even have the means to send a rocket to the Moon.”

When he heard Jimin’s words, he had a thought.

‘If I remember correctly, we didn’t have the technology to reach space. That is why we were ripped off by a lot from other countries.’

Basically, Korean Connectors had to give up a percentage of their moonstones as recompense if they wanted a round trip flight from Earth to the Moon. This meant a good portion of Korea’s Moonstones had to be given to the other countries.

Of course, Korea persisted in developing technology that would allow them to reach the Moon with their own spacecraft. Now they were the ones that benefited from ferrying foreign Connectors, who couldn’t reach the Moon by themselves.

He started consolidating his own knowledge with the information that had been given to him by Jimin. When he was about done, Jimin asked a question.

“Did you have a good talk with your daughter before coming here?”

His thoughts, which he had organized, became alert in an instant. His face hardened unconsciously.

“…I’m sorry. It seems I asked something I shouldn’t have asked.”

Jimin quickly gave an apology, but Sungyoon didn’t answer her. No, he couldn’t even hear Jimin at that moment. He could see his daughter crying as he went out the front door. The housekeeper, who had been introduced through Jimin, had tried to soothe her. However, how could a stranger soothe the sadness brought on by her father’s departure?

He had wanted to go back immediately to hug his daughter, but Sungyoon had forced himself to walk out. He didn’t look like a father leaving for work. He ran out of there like a criminal running away from a crime scene.

Sungyoon once again looked out the window. He tried to erase the image of his daughter crying from his mind by looking at the sea of stars.

However, it was impossible. Each of the countless stars looked like Shinhae’s tears. In the end, Sungyoon closed his eyes.

Jimin kept her mouth closed. A long silence lasted between the two.

Several hours passed, and an announcement came out of the speaker.

“It seems we are almost there.”

Sungyoon opened his eyes when he heard Jimin’s voice. His eyes took in a sight that he hadn’t seen before.

“The Moon…”

He caught sight of the gray and desolate celestial body. It didn’t have an atmosphere, so the meteors had bombarded the surface. This was why there were craters on the surface. The Moon had no weather, so the craters maintained their original shape.

There wasn’t a single blade of grass or a bug on the surface. It was the land of the dead, yet there was an anomaly that could be seen. Immediately, he was able to tell that it was an artificial structure. The shape reminded him of a dome. However, the size of this dome couldn’t be compared to a normal domed stadium. The dome was literally covering an entire city. There were small lights blinking on the wall of the dome. As the spacecraft descended, the dome became larger.

“That is…….”

“Yes, it is the Lunar city.”

Sungyoon whispered to himself, yet Jimin had answered him.

“Lunar city Armstrong. It’s the only place outside of Earth where humanity resides. It is also an important stronghold where humans can extract moonstones. Of course, it is named after the first person to land on the Moon.”

“It really is surprising to see it for myself.”

He was seeing it from up high, so he could tell how big it was. If he wasn’t up high, he probably wouldn’t have been able to accurately discern the massive size of the city.

Information regarding the Lunar city had been released to the public to a certain extent. He had seen several photos of it. However, it was also true that information beyond that hadn’t been released.

Jimin slowly started to give an explanation about Armstrong city.

“The United States was in a space race against the Soviet Union. The United States were the first to reach the Moon, and they found the first labyrinth. It was a surprising discovery. Since the US didn’t want the Soviet Union to steal their ‘great discovery', they planned on building a base on the Moon. However, it was impossible to build one with the technology of that era. They were only capable of sending people to the Moon. This was why their plans of building a base were delayed. The Soviet Union wanted to beat the US in the race, but the US didn’t think the Soviet Union could build a base on the Moon. However, the Soviet Union had built the first artificial satellite in the Sputnik 1. They were the first to send a biological spacecraft into orbit. Again, the first spacecraft to carry a human was the Vostok 1. The United States were taken unawares when the Soviet Union was able to build a base on the Moon. It was a small one, but they pulled it off.”

It shocked the entire world. The United States had been able to send a person to the Moon, so they thought that they had gained the upper hand in space. Such preconceived notion was squashed.

“At the time, the Soviet Union had made use of Connectors like you, Mr. Sungyoon. This was the time when the Connectors were starting to appear on Earth.”

Jimin’s beautiful eyes gazed at Sungyoon.

“These humans didn't need to breathe, and they needed to eat a minimal amount of food. Moreover, the output of energy from the Connector’s heart grew as they approached the Moon. The energy created a coating above their skin. It blocked all space radiation and solar wind particles. Basically, Connectors were the ideal workers for space. That is why Mr. Sungyoon didn’t need to wear a spacesuit.”

Sungyoon made a fist. He was wondering why he felt stronger as he got closer to the Moon.

“Of course, the US didn’t take this lying down. They gathered all the Connectors, whom they had been researching. They used their own Connectors to build a base on the Moon. They named this base after Armstrong. It was a prideful name. They were the first ones to land on the Moon, so they used that name.”

Jimin took a sip of water.

“This started the race for exploring the Moon. In the process, they found labyrinths, moonstones, Devices, and Gems. When the moonstones were found, it accelerated the Moon exploration process. Of course, the US and the Soviet Union increased their investment into exploring the labyrinths. Then other countries started to jump in the race to explore the labyrinths. It was to be expected. The exploration of the Moon wasn’t merely about national pride. Profits could be made. This was around when our country jumped in to make their space programs in earnest.”

Jimin looked out the window, and she looked at Armstrong city, which was quickly taking more of her field of view.

“However, the race ended in an unexpected manner. The Soviet Union fell, and the Communist bloc crumbled. The US came out as the clear winner. Alongside their allies, the US started expanding the Armstrong base. It was done so they would have an easier time excavating the moonstones. It didn’t take too long for the Armstrong base to outgrow its name. It became too big, so the US went big. It was no longer called a base. They labeled it humanity’s first lunar city.”

This was how the Lunar city Armstrong was born. Sungyoon listened to her story with interest. When he glanced around, he realized several passengers were listening in on Jimin’s story.

“Are you curious about anything else?”

“No, I’m not. It was quite educational.”

“I’m glad you found it useful.”

After speaking those words, Jimin leaned back into her chair. Sungyoon looked out the window again to look at the Lunar city.

‘It is called Armstrong.’

Was it because Jimin had given an explanation? He looked at the large gray dome around the city with new eyes.

Previous Chapter Next Chapter