Saturday, July 9, 2011


As the only new co-op without an engineering background, Thad was assigned to life sciences and the astromaterials lab. Brian Helms, a co-op on his second tour, explained they'd be mostly getting lunar rock and meteorite samples ready for transportation. Then he took off his gloves and headed towards the door. "We'll have time to talk about this later. You're going to the pool party, right?"

He had their full attention now. Thad looked at the excited faces. "Tell you what I'm going to do," he said quietly, so they had to lean in to hear. "I'm going to get next to the Space Shuttle Simulator."

As they got out of the pool, Brian Helms moved close to him: "Don't do anything stupid, man. You don't need to impress anyone."

Thad almost turned around and ran, but the camera could see, as he did. Before he could move, repeated the woman 's voice from the TV screen.

"Can I help you?"

Thad had to improvise. "Yes, I 'm here for the shuttle simulator."

A buzz and the door sprang open. He found himself in a busy corridor. There were people in white coats, but Thad 's eye on the shuttle astronauts with concentrated patches on their shoulders.

A few people were holding clipboards. He waited until one moved past, then fell into step and smiled, forcing the nervousness out of his voice. "Can you point me towards the Shuttle Simulator?"

"Sure, I 'm headed this way."

A second later, Thad was slammed hard into his seat. The view became one of pure motion, streaks of light like laser beams flashing before his eyes. The noise of the engines was like thunder. Thad realised he was shouting with excitement. Maybe the pilot noticed, maybe he couldn't hear over the din – Thad didn't care. In his mind, he was sitting in the cockpit of a rocket ship, hurtling toward Mars.

Gibson returned and handed Sonya a small glass vial. "This is a calcareous meteorite. It's the lowest density meteor we've ever found. They usually break up when they come into the atmosphere, but this little piece survived the journey."

Using a ridiculous fake identity created by Gordon, Thad followed up with an advertisement to a Belgian mineral club's online newsletter:

Thad hunched over his laptop, staring at the email from the Belgian rock collector. He hadn't really thought about price because he hadn't any idea how one would actually pull off the heist. He tried to figure out how much imaginary cash he'd demand for his imaginary moon rock. He needed to come up with a number that was both achievable and high enough to make it worth his while.

"Make it worth it!" He repeated in disbelief at his own thoughts. Breaking into a NASA building, stole the most valuable thing on Earth and endanger his chances of ever an astronaut - Thad shook his head. That was only one way of looking at the mental game. NASA had described the rock as waste. Thad could use the money to do a better scientist. And when he became an astronaut, he could one day help NASA in its quest to Mars, which meant getting to a certain extent, this theft would be a good thing for the institution. He was still thinking about the robbery in those terms, because these terms more palatable than it was heroic and noble.

Thad was now on his third tour, worked as an assistant at the dive deep diving pool. Contain 6m gallons of water, it was the largest indoor pool of water on Earth, the leading astronaut training environment. Deep below the surface was a complete mock-up of the International Space Station, the shuttle's payload bay, and even the Hubble telescope.

He was also in love. He 'd met Rebecca on a cliff jumping expedition, where they' d walked past him, the first jump. Staring at the vortex of granite dust, where they had just left, Thad knew something important had taken place. Without another word to the college kids behind him, he had thrown himself into the abyss after it.

Thad had always loved Sonya, but it has never been so all-embracing, have been tricky thing. Maybe it was time to Rebecca about the mental game that he \ tell 'd played, because he came close to setting up a meeting with the Belgian' s American sister-in-law, Lynn Briley, who will do that was too much for him: $ 100,000 for a moon rock.

Even as he was telling Rebecca, he was thinking it through, not just how impossible the actual heist would be, but asking himself why he didn't just erase all the emails, lose the contact info. And yet… "I mean, $100,000. But the money's only part of it."

He was expected Rebecca to interrupt to tell him he shouldn 't do it, he' d risk it all, what he would get in huge trouble, that it was a really bad idea. But she said nothing, let him finish the thought, that since the moment was building he saw 'd for the first time on them.

Friday morning, 7am. Thad was moving through Building 31. He stopped at a closed door with an electronic cypher lock, checked no one was nearby, then took out a compact and applied powder to the keypad with a small brush. Leaning close, he blew off the excess, then stepped back to survey his work. Satisfied, he calmly continued down the hallway, humming the theme from Mission: Impossible. Earlier, it had been the music from James Bond as he mixed fluorite, gypsum and talcum. Even the name he had given this portion of the preparation – Phase One – made Thad feel like he was part of an adventure he'd one day tell his grandchildren about.

Thad reached out and put his hand on hers. "Holy shit, we're really going to do this, aren't we?"

"OK," he said, shocking himself. A second later, they were inside.

He crossed to where the tackle box was sitting and reached for the bag from Apollo 11. With one hand he lifted the mattress and placed the bag underneath. If Rebecca noticed the fist-sized lump, she didn't say anything. For the briefest of seconds, he saw himself, hovering over her, fantasy and reality superimposed. Exactly 33 years earlier to the day, Neil Armstrong had taken the first step – but right then, right now, Thad Roberts was the first man to have sex on the moon.

It was the kind of restaurant in every city in America, the perfect setting public could go for a deal. Thad was pleased to see the restaurant was full. A good five minutes passed while he waited to be seated. He began to feel rather nervous. Then he saw her, dark-haired, respectable-looking. She shook his hand, a waiter took their order, then they went right to business. Thad told her that the samples were again at the Sheraton, then blurted, "I 'm telling you, this is the most exciting event in my entire life has been \."

He knew he was talking too much, but he couldn 't otherwise. The woman seemed amused. Thad asked about Kurt, her husband, she said he was nearby waiting for their call.

"Will you talk with your husband before you meet the other?" He asked. She nodded.

Thad wanted to answer when he saw Gordon and Rebecca. Gordon was speaking very loudly, Heineken's order about the noise. Thad turned back to the woman. "That 's good. I' ll wait here."

A few minutes later, Thad saw a tall, thin man wearing a blazer at the table and tie. Kurt Emmermann certainly looked European. And he has a briefcase in his left hand.


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