I never know which is worse during Full Earth: being alone or being with
people. Either way is hazardous. When I first came to the Moon I thought
all the "Full Earth" stuff was bullshit, but now I know better.
So when Judy Hralt called me and invited me out on the day of Full Earth, I hesitated. After a moment she said, "You remember me, right? Judy? We met at the eclipse party? You said you'd probably be free during Full Earth and would guide me."
Judy of the amethyst eyes. Of course I remembered her. We'd watched the
dark globe of Earth pass in front of the Sun and gain a shimmering red
nimbus all around. She'd seemed so naïve. "A few months ago I didn't even
know the Moon was a PLACE where you could go!" she'd gushed. "It's so cool
to be here."
That was two weeks ago, and now it was Full Earth.
"Yes, Judy, of course I remember. You're going to take the Test, aren't you?"
"Yeah. When you said we should get together for Full Earth, I thought you
were being romantic," Judy said. She quavered. "Now I feel really lucky to
be able to have your experience to rely on."
"Experience doesn't do you any good," I said. "It's nothing you can study
for. The Test measures your biological ability to withstand gravity
fluctuations. Might as well study in order to change your blood type."
"Well anyway I thought we could meet at the Moon Dawg at the spaceport an
hour or so before Full starts, unless you have some other place in mind?
The Moon Dawg has a Test booth."
"Moon Dawg it is." I hung up and got back to work.
Back on Earth, the courts and crazyhouses get clogged during the full
Moon. Grunion writhe ashore to mate and wolves howl when the Moon is at the
top of the sky at midnight.
The mass of the Earth is 80 times greater than the mass of the Moon, so
the tidal effects of the Earth on the Moon are 80 times greater, too. All
the vagaries of human behavior were 80 times more likely to happen on the
Moon during full Earth; a smart Lunie keeps a wary eye on his neighbors
A couple of hours later it was the end of my work day. They don't have a
Tested Full-proof technician for the top job at the garbage dump, so that
shift is down-time. I began shutting down the giant roaring cauldron of
activity around the Big Burner. Covers slid across the tops of the tanks of
materials arranged all around the central laser.
Fresh stuff is always coming into the dump, too. I threw more switches and
stopped the inflow of effluents from the city. Recovering light elements
was the most important thing for the humans on the Moon because there are
so few light elements. But everything was shut down for Full.
I finished shutting down the garbage dump and stepped out the door into
the connecting tunnel to Mud Street.
Mud Street isn't very muddy any more. It started as a rich vein of ice
that led down a thousand feet under the lunar surface near the south pole.
The ice was quickly quarried, leaving a tunnel a hundred feet in diameter
that meandered four miles in a twisting and turning wormtrack path.
The last drop of water was salvaged long ago and the ice miners moved to
other veins. The street is all grass and trees and the air there is
wonderful. The ceiling is grow lights.
I got on the slidewalk leading to the commercial district. There were many other people afoot, but there was little talk among us; each was huddled against Full.
The Americans, of course, were first on the Moon. They acted like
Americans always do when away from home: they took a lot of pictures,
wandered aimlessly for a while, picked up a few souvenirs and left a big
It was the Chinese who went to the Moon next. Their inscrutable science
had found a quiet and clean method of utilizing fusion power, and the Moon
held something very valuable to them: nothing. They saw how Western
civilization was drowning in its own by-products and figured the best way
to avoid industrial pollutants was to dump the pollutants onto the surface
of the Moon. This necessitated building factories on the Moon.
They never actually got that far, though. Their series of manned missions
set up a fusion plant, constructed living quarters for 30 people, and
started mining operations. Durlng the third month of their occupancy, they
suddenly ceased all communications. The next ship discovered the bodies,
all killed by explosive decompression.
The puzzling part was that it was not an accident. Records and transcripts
showed that the officer of the watch had bypassed all fail-safes and
deliberately opened all airlocks at 2 a.m. (local time). All mission
members were killed in their sleep. The watch officer made no preparations
for himself and died with the rest.
That was the first example of what they now call Full Earth
Psychosis, but it sure wasn't the last. Nobody's sure what causes
it -- maybe it's a reverberation of the same primitive sense that enables an
oyster in a bucket in a basement in Cleveland to open its shell at the
right time for the tides, if there were an ocean in Cleveland.
Today the moon is the site of most heavy manufacturing for Earth. Whatever
isn't done in orbit. Railguns supply raw materials for factories in orbit
around Earth. On the side facing Earth we have the immense flat arrays of
casting wells for video screens -- slabs of silicon with a fury of buckytubes.
On Farside is the vast growing array of radio and optical telescopes the
robots are building.
I arrived at the spaceport and stepped off the slidewalk at the Moon Dawg.
Judy was sitting at a table -- with another man. Their skin had the plumpness
of muscles tugging six times harder than necessary against gravity. It
takes a month or two for the muscles to learn where they were. "Hi, Judy,"
I said. "Welcome to your first Full Earth."
They looked at each other. They weren't smiling. The man had a large ring
of sweat under each arm. Judy blurted, "Has it started yet?"
"Sure it's started." I extended my hand to the man as I sat down. "Hi, I'm
"Leo Hastings," he said without looking me in the eye. At least he shook
"Leo's a pilot for a railgun catcher ship," Judy said. They were both as
nervous as hell; well, who wouldn't be? Their smiles were forced and larger
than life and they gripped their glasses tightly.
After a few sips Judy began tugging at her short blond hair. "Is Full
really so bad?" she asked. She grimaced, as if regretting her choice of
words. "I mean, they never mentioned it back at prospector's school, except
to laugh at. And my mother was here for a vacation once and she said she
didn't know what all the fuss was about."
"She probably got here a week or so before Full," I said. "It takes your
body a while to get into the rhythm of the place."
"Everybody I've asked about it just sort of laughs and says, 'Oh, you'll
find out.'" said Leo Hastings. "And they wouldn't even let me try the
exams until Full. So all I've been doing for the last two weeks is worrying
how Full will affect me. I think all this "Full Earth" crap is superstitious
bullshit. Next you'll be telling me to watch out for werewolves." He
sniffed and took a large sip of his drink, inadvertantly sloshing his
I smiled at his gee accident and handed him a napkin. "I think those old
legends are true parables," I said. "Some people are more susceptible to
whatever forces cause Full mania. When a man with a three-day beard and
dried blood on his face and blackened eyes accosts you and demands your
money -- when he turns out to be one of your friends, you're shocked by your
lack of recognition. He wasn't himself that day... but when it starts to
happen every Full, you've got a werewolf."
"Somebody told me it was like a full-moon New Year's Eve the day after a
war ended," Judy said. She fingered her hair abstractly and looked down
into her drink. I noticed a large vein pulsing in her neck. "Doing it once
a month might be too often."
"Did you meet back on Earth, or here?" I asked.
"Oh, at Canaveral," said Leo. "They were filling the cans alphabetically,
and we were in half a six-pack. Three days!"
"Three days of zero gravity," Judy said. "I was sick all the way."
"Attention," a mechanical voice said from the bar's speaker systems. "The
eclipse will begin in one minute." Our table was a meter in diameter of
wall screen doing its best to imitate formica (and doing a pretty decent
job, except for the give-away texture), but with the announcement it
suddenly became a view screen looking down on a basketball-sized Earth
surrounded by intense points of light. Mars flared bright near the edge of
the screen. North America was in view. We moved our glasses and wiped the
table to get a better view of Earth and watched it as the penumbra appeared and then the umbra expanded into a dime-sized black dot moving across the continent.
Tourists always marvel at the number of video screens we have on the Moon.
All the vacuum casting is done on the Moon now, so we save the shipping
costs. You can display just about anything from an old movie to a
convincing wall with fireplace. If you can afford the Combux, you can punch
into the Library of Congress (at a Combuck a minute) and get lifelike 3-D.
In fact, a lot of surfaces on the moon turn out to be video screens. We
use them to bring scenery inside our rooms.
The eclipse lasted twelve minutes and then it was over. We were at the peak of Full.
"Isn't it odd that there was a Lunar eclipse two weeks ago, and now a
Solar eclipse?" Leo asked.
"No, it happens all the time," I said. "The eclipses often come in pairs.
It's just that on Earth you're isolated from most of the Solar eclipses,
and from the Moon you can see every one of them."
"So we're at peak of Full now, and so we can take your goddamn Test,
right?" Leo said.
"You can take the Test at any time four hours either side of Full," I
said. "Only about 15% of people can pass the Test."
"I can pass any test you've got," Leo said.
"I used to think the same thing myself," I said. I couldn't believe I'd
failed the Test the first few times. It's always very abstract and
multi-dimensional -- an audio circuit wouldn't be enough to reproduce the
Test, although it's necessary. But it's not sufficient. Nor is video. So
it's kind of impossible to explain what the Test is to a new fish, and they
always claim (after they fail) that the system isn't fair at all, since
they didn't get a chance to study the test beforehand. But that's part of
the point of the test.
The reason the test is so hard to define is that it is very nearly a
living creature itself.
It was born back in the early days of Moon industry when NASA was trying
to figure out why so many accidents happened at Full Earth. They didn't
connect the accidents with Full Earth right away, but the computers shoved
it right in their faces. Personnel in charge of critical services must be
stable; since no Earthside tests could determine this stability, the Test
was begun. It wasn't infallible. A feedback system was introduced. The
complexity of the test grew and grew -- it changed from a simple
paper-and-pencil test into the multi-media, multi-dimensional whirl of
events it is today. It is a uniquely individual test each time for every
person taking it.
Terrans expect the test to be merely a formality -- the problems of Full are
rarely talked about on Earth and even less often believed. Since there is
no known way of preparing for the Test, the various schools on Earth that
specialize in Moon training mostly ignore it. An 85% failure rate is not
something to advertise. And you cannot get a critical job with NASA on the
Moon unless you can pass the Test.
It doesn't matter that I can tune a laser more accurately than any
computer ever could -- I have unusually accurate color vision -- nor that I've
never injured anyone nor destroyed equipment nor done anything at Full
except go quietly and privately nuts. Rules are rules.
"You mean you can't pass this Test?" Leo said.
I took a big gulp of my drink. "That's right," I said.
Judy looked puzzled. "What do you do here, then?"
"I studied isotope separation back at MIT," I said. True.
"Boy, that was too much for me," she said. "Too much math. And lasers
scare me. Digging rocks seems a lot easier to me."
"Wandering around on the surface in a pressure suit scares me," I said.
"So you can't pass the test, but you're still here, you're working on the
Moon," Leo said. "What's the big deal?"
"So far nobody in my job category can pass the Test, and so my job shuts
down during Full. As soon as somebody comes along who can do it, I'll be
out of work. I'm just a temporary expediency until the robots can either
fully mechanize the job or find another human with suffcient color vision
sensitivity, the willingness to come to the Moon, and the ability to pass
"I just wish it would be over," said Judy suddenly. "I mean, I never even
heard of this Full crap, and it doesn't make any sense to me, and I don't
see why we have to wait and wait to see if we can be hired, and why can't
we take those goddamned tests right now instead of waiting all night?"
Leo looked alarmed. "Are you okay, Judy?" he asked, reaching over and
taking her hand. She put her face down on the table and began weeping. Leo
looked at me and said, "I've never seen her do anything like this -- she was
the coolest one of us all on the trip here, even when we lost pressure."
This Leo Hastings guy was starting to get to me. He was only 22, but he
thought he knew it all. He looked even more scared to me than Judy, but one
thing I've found out over the years is that being frightened of Full is
probably the sanest reaction there is. But he looked unstable to me:
close-cropped sandy hair, skinny, eyes darting around all the time -- he
never looked you in the eye -- and I know his palms would always be sweaty if
you shook hands with him.
Not that I wanted to get rid of Judy, though, and I was afraid she and Leo
were an inseparable unit. Maybe later on in the Full, though...
Leo Hastings, I could tell, was the sort who expected the answers in
any tests to be previously established. If he failed he would be a
But that didn't mean he would fail. There was no known way to test for
stability at Full except experiencing Full. It bothered the bureaucrats of
NASA even more than it bothered me, of course. So despite any prejudice I
might have, Leo was as good a candidate for Lunie as anybody.
"Look, it's the middle of Full, are you going to take your Test?" I said
"Yeah, let's get this over with," he said. He stood up and went to the
The Test booths scattered throughout Luna City look much like telephone
booths of the previous century, except that they are opaque. There is a
seat extruded from the wall and a control panel. All six interior surfaces
are video screens.
Leo wiped sweat from his forehead, wiped his hands on his pants, and sat
down. He punched LEO HASTINGS 374-46-8891; the screen in front of him
glowed with the word READY. Leo punched in the code for the Test.
Instantly he seemed to be in outer space. He still sat, still felt the
control panel, but he saw stars all around. The Earth and Moon were in
front of him; he turned around and saw an L-5 factory a few dozen
kilometers away. When he turned back the view of Earth/Moon was framed by a
porthole and a glowing instrument panel. The stars faded and he now seemed
to be inside a spaceship of some sort. A neutral voice said, "Repeating:
Luna Control to Retrieval Craft Gamma, report, please."
Belatedly Leo realized that he was supposedly in Retrieval Craft Gamma.
He cautiously inspected the controls until he found the proper switches.
"Uh, retrieval craft to Luna Control," he said.
There was a slight lag -- speed-of-light, Leo guessed -- and then Luna Control
said, "L-5 Injection Module K-574 enters your induction field at 21:33:58.
Mass: 52,954 kg." Various screens around Leo began to light up with other
information -- vector, density, etc, and finally the destination of the
module: the huge mirror near the L-5 factory where the ore would be melted
Leo was familiar with the procedures, he had trained for it. All the
controls seemed self explanatory and he had no trouble catching the module
with the ship's magnetic field. He began calculating the orbit needed to send
the module through the focal point of the solar mirror, humming as he
He became totally absorbed in what he was doing, and even
forgot (subtle drugs infused into the booth cause Leo to forget where
he is) that he was actually on the Moon taking a test. Finally he launched the
module, then sat back with satisfaction. But instantly a frantic voice
yelled "Gamma, Gamma, K-574 is on collision course with the factory! What
the fuck do you think you're doing?"
Leo stared with dismay at his readouts. He visualized the 50 tons of the
module colliding with the factory, punching its way through deck after
deck, molten iron combining furiously with the escaping oxygen...
He quickly checked his instruments. The module was already far out of
reach of his magnetic field: he would have to pursue. He entered the data
and ignited his jets. As he accellerated toward the module a figure leaped
up at him from the readout board and his body suddenly trembled as most of
the glands in his body began gushing -- the only possible rendezvous orbit
took his retrieval craft through the focal point of the big mirror 4
seconds after contact. He'd have time to re-direct the module, but not to
save himself. He re-entered the data and queried about different
accelerations, but 4 seconds was his optimax. He checked on increasing his
magnetic fields he would have to extend the field x kilometers, which would
take... more energy than his ship could generate, unless he overloaded the
Which would blow up the ship.
He couldn't save the factory and survive.
He began to whimper as he frantically entered query after query. But no
series of events could save both both himself and the factory. There were,
he knew, abqut 200 people in the factory at any given time. He screamed and
maintained the scream as he programmed the ship to save the factory.
Judy and I heard Leo's scream from the booth and stopped kissing. He
staggered out with a glassy look on his face. "How did it go?" Judy said.
"I saved the factory," he said, and downed his drink and signaled the
robot for another. "Fuck. Fuck."
"What was it like?" Judy said. But Leo said nothing, he just drank and
hunched his shoulders together and put his head down.
"The Test is a bitch," I said. "It measures proper or improper action at
cusp during the Full Earth. The tidal forces affect your thinking, but that
doesn't matter; what matters is what you DO."
Judy appeared shaken. Leo had been so confident. But she said, "Well, I
guess I might as well try, too."
The serving robot came up to me with another drink. "There is a message
for Alain," it said. "You are requested to report to the garbage dump to
clean the main degaussing unit because of high demand expected as soon as
Full is over."
Judy looked stricken. "You're going to stay here, aren't you? Please stay."
Ordinarily I would have jumped at the chance to do anything at the dump
during Full, but I waved the robot aside. Degaussing is grunt work, anyway.
There was plenty of time.
I took another big sip of my Full Earth Special as Judy entered the Test booth.
JUDY HRALT. 962-57-6788
Judy punched the Test code. The screen ln front of her flashed a thousand
colors, then displayed ONE MOMENT PLEASE. "Oh, fine," she said to herself.
She located a tangle in her hair and worked on it with her fingers while
she waited. Every moment or two she heaved a sigh. She watched and waited
with troubled indifference.
The screen suddenly printed out: MS. HRALT. A PRIORITY ONE MESSAGE IS
BEING SENT TO YOU. DO YOU WISH TO ACKNOWLEDGE AT THIS TIME?
Priority One! Judy had never had a Priority One message before. She
swiftly accepted the call. The screen flashed and blurred and then
coalesced into the head and shoulders of an Oldie woman, an Oldie who had
obviously spent plenty on geriatrics and cosmetic surgery. Her hair was
stylishly worn and her clothing was subtlely expensive.
Judy closed her eyes for a moment and felt her ears getting warm.
"Mother," she said, "I can't talk to you now. I'm in the middle of a very
Impassive till now, the image suddenly became animated and interrupted
Judy. "Oh, there you are now. I've been having such trouble finding you,
honey, I wish you'd at least leave a message for me, if you can't return my
calls. I had to use a Priority One to find you... What do you mean you
can't talk to me? Do you know what a Priority One costs? Well? Why don't
you answer me?"
Judy clenched her teeth. Her mother never would understand the 3-second
speed-of-light lag between Glendale and Moonport. She thought it was some
sort of legislation, like the Eastern Time Zone or Daylight Savings. "Look,
Mom," Judy said, "I'm sorry to be rude, but I can't talk to you right now."
She broke the connection firmly and felt a warm/cold surge of adrenalin
flow through her body. I finally told her, she thought. She again punched
the Test code.
The screen lit up with QUESTION ONE, which then faded and dissolved into a
scene of a person ln a pressure suit on the Lunar surface. Words began to
flow across the bottom half of the screen and a pleasant voice read the
same words to her. PROBLEM INVOLVES CORRECT USE OF DRILLING TOOLS. THIS
MARK II CORE SAMPLER CAN BE USED....
Judy watched and answered the questions as they came. She felt relaxed
about the test -- the questions were all the stuff the school had prepared
her well for -- but at the same time tense about her mother. The Test paused
and, as she had been fearful of, the screen reported another Priority One
call. She tried to ignore lt. But a Priority One was expensive -- it could
track down and signal virtually any phone or screen in the entire
Earth/Luna communications system. It was almost cheaper to travel than to
use a Priority One.
As the test continued the notice appeared again and again. Judy grew
nervous and split a quarter of the screen away for incoming signals so as
not to interrupt the test. Minutes went by and the message remained on
screen... Judy's mother was building up an incredible bill.
Judy found herself answering the questions with only half her mind -- they
were actually simple, though, freshman-year stuff. She decided she could
answer and talk to Mom, too. She instructed the screen to continue the test
but accept the call, too, on the screen.
She was quite frosty. "Well. You've finally found time to talk to me, I hope?"
Judy kept answering questions but said, "Mom, I'm right in the middle of a
very important test. Please tell me what you want and let me get back to
"Oh, those tests aren't so important -- you kids today put so much
importance on them, but they don't really mean anything. I know -- I was in
school too, you know. And please don't call me 'Mom' -- especially on an
interplanetary circuit!" She giggled. She had obviously been into the
ethanol, or the cannibanol, or whatever was stylish that week.
"Sorry, Heather," Judy said automatically. QUESTION 14 WHICH CHANNEL ON
THIS TRANSPONDER LOCATES THE....
"Your father wants to know if you'll be at Aunt Jean's birthday party next
month. We need to know today so we can reserve the rooms. I told him just
to go ahead and make a reservation for you, but he insisted I call and
Judy was incredulous. She punched a hasty answer to #15 and said,
"Heather, you know I just spent a half a million to get to the Moon. Use
"Now, I know you're going to worry about money." Judy was startled: there
wasn't time yet for her words to get to Earth. Well, her mother did know
her pretty well, she thought grudgingly.
16. ANALYZE THIS CORE SAMPLE. TAKEN AT COORDINATES....
Heather looked smug. "Yes, dear I know. But you didn't know that the liver
she had put in last year just isn't working right and they can't find
another... she has a very rare type, you know... and it's affecting
everything else. Thls is probably her last birthday. She's never been to
Australia, you know, so we're taking her to Perth for a surprise. It's the
tourist season there, drat the luck, so we have to make reservations early.
Can we count on you?"
Judy felt frustration building up. "I can't discuss it now. No, I won't be there."
19. WHEN BRINGING SAMPLES INTO PRESSURIZED AREAS WHICH PROCEDURE.....
"I'm surprised at you, Judy. I know you never liked Aunt Jean very much,
but she's not going to be around much longer. You can be so selfish
Judy grew icy calm, Her words were carefully selected, crystal-edged. "You
obviously haven't considered how selfish your interfering with my test is."
She broke the connection, snapping switches a little harder than necessary.
25. WHAT SPECIAL PRECAUTIONS ARE NECESSARY WHEN PRESSURIZING THE FOLLOWING
MODELS OF EMERGENCY SHELTER...
She mechanically answered the rest of the questions while keeping an eye on
the screen; she was sure her mother would call back. Well, no she wouldn't, but
if she did, what was she going to say?
50. THANK YOU. TEST COMPLETE.
Judy came out of the Test booth and sat down and started crying. "That
fucking bitch," she said.
I stood up and embraced her. "It's okay," I said. She shoved me away and
grabbed her drink. "That FUCKING bitch. If she's screwed things up for me
Leo was starting to come out of his stupor. "So when do we find out if we
passed?" he said.
"Not until Full is over," I said. "Another three or four hours."
"Well I think I did pretty damned good," Leo said.
"Me too," said Judy.
"How about you, mister Moon expert?" Leo said to me. "Are you man enough
to take the test?"
"Yes," said Judy. "Alain is strong. Aren't you?"
I looked into her amethyst eyes. The robot server tugged at my elbow
again. "Alain, the degaussing unit needs to be cleaned."
"Oh, that can wait. Sure, I'll take the Test," I said. I swaggered into
the booth and sat down. Maybe this would be the time that I passed.
The door closed and I punched my code into the screen, and it read: TEST
The door opened and I stepped back out into the Moon Dawg bar. But
there were no Judy and Leo, there never had been, and I'd failed again.
º º º
Colin Campbell has been writing for and publishing independent magazines in Santa Barbara for over a decade and has been a freelance copywriter in California for twenty years. Before that Mr. Campbell was a senior copywriter at BBDO in Detroit writing radio, TV and print for Dodge cars and trucks.