They were safely in orbit. The United States had no way to send people up after them; weapon that could touch them, and even if they did, it was a safe bet that the Nebraska State Police didn’t have access to it.
“So what did we lose in those cargo silos?” Lee asked. Steve handed him the manifest.
“Eh, that’s not too bad. Nothing crippling in there,” he said absently.
“We’re going to lose the other one, too,” Steve said.
“What? Why?” Lee asked.
“We’re badly off balances. It’s frankly amazing we made it to orbit. Fuel isn’t really a problem, but gimbaling the engine that far isn’t safe. This is only a prototype, after all.”
“Ok, well, so we loose the camper. That’s still not too bad. Nothing essential in there. We can still continue on to our objective.”
“Wait, what? What objective? I thought your point was just to go into space?” Susan asked.
“Nah, we’re going to the moon,” Steve said, “Well, we were going to the moon. Lee gets the final say on that.”
“I’m thinking. That couldn’t have been a simple kidnapping thing back there. There had to be two hundred cops, copters, someone hit us with a rocket!”
“That’s ridiculous!” Susan said, “You’re just being paranoid.”
“Someone. Hit. Us. With. A. Rocket.” Lee repeated, emphasizing every word.
“I see your point,” she admitted.
“It has to be the Feds,” Lee said.
“Has to be,” Steve agreed.
“Why?” Susan asked.
“We talked about it back at the restaurant - the US is out of the Space Race, at least until the Shuttles go into service, if they ever do. We might be out of it forever. The government has shut down any private industry attempts to get into spaceflight as an industry, they’ve even flexed their muscle to shut down foreign companies that have tried to do it.”
Grapeape woke up, but no one noticed. He pretended to still be asleep.
“Why?” Susan asked.
“I don’t know,” Lee admitted, “Fear of upsetting the status quo? Let the lid off the pot, and it’ll boil over, the government would never be able to control it all, rein people back in.”
“That’s libertarian crap,” Susan said. No one else said anything for a bit.
“We could give ourselves up to the Soviets, ask for sanctuary,” Steve said. “We could easily make it to Salyut 6, explain the situation, land at Baikonour. With our house gone, and my notes lost, I’m the only one who knows the secret of the drive system. I’m sure they’d give their eye teeth for that. I’m just putting it out there.”
“You can’t be serious,” Susan said, “Lee, he can’t be serious.”
Lee looked pensive, “Well, it would unquestionably save our lives, and it might have the long-term benefit of forcing the US to expand into space, which was our goal anyway…”
“You can’t do that!” Grapeape spluttered, startling them all. He looked really angry, really driven, really unlike the fat teenager they’d first met only a few hours before.
“I agree,” Lee said, “But it’s important to know whether the devil is even open to making deals before you rule that option out.”
“So what was the original plan, anyway?” Susan asked.
“We go the moon, set up a big transmitter, and have you broadcast the story back to earth on live TV. Then we maybe make out some. It was kind of a first-date thing. Phil wasn’t really your boyfriend, was he?”
“You mean you picked me just because you want to get in the sack with me?” She was suddenly indignant.
“I think that’s oversimplifying things quite a bit, but, back at Red Lobster I said you were pretty.”
“You went to all this trouble to get a date?”
“I wanted to impress you,” Lee said, sheepishly.
“I am pretty impressed,” she admitted very quietly.
“We should go back to earth, turn ourselves in to the authorities. They probably think we’re Iranian terrorists or something. If we explain…” Grapeape said.
“Someone. Hit. Us. With. A. Rocket.” Lee reiterated.
“Because they thought we were terrorists! If we go back down…”
Lee regarded him silently.
“Not an option,” he said, “It’s either the Rooskies or the moon. No third option. Steve, can we get any kind of proof that we were on the moon? Something to convince the media before the Feds can get a hold of us?”
“Yeah, sure: Moonrocks by the bucketful!”
“Nah,” Susan said, “They’ll just claim you stole them from a museum.”
“We’ve got a Betamax portable video camera system in my cabin.” Steve ventured.
“Do we? Really? Why?” Lee asked.
“Never you mind, lad,” Steve said. Everyone winced at that.
“Do you have any