"All systems Go? You ready to broadcast?"
"Yeah, I think we're good. Lemme run the checks, diagnostics..."
"All greened up, let's do this."
On Earth, an announcer finished a dry joke and began introducing the next bit.
"We've got something special for you guys tonight, a celebrity that's garnered success akin to the famed Evel Knievel! Remarkably, this daredevil continues to rocket forward without a single crash. Whoa ho, someone knock on wood for me!
But seriously folks, Mr. Gregory Alfred Baker, a plain-spoken man with beginnings in Motocross Races and Movie Stunts is the man of the hour. Raised in Phoenix, Arizona, he grew up in a family of four incredible people. Both parents are successful artists and his sister is a popular actress. Now, at the age of 32, the man will be attempting the longest jump in history..."
During this last statement, the view pans and zooms on a display before merging seamlessly into a stylized representation of a trajectory shot, "From the Moon, Home! To the Green Fields of Earth!"
The crowd goes wild, cheering, because now the intro graphics fade and show that still youthful face of Greg Baker, suited up and smiling, "Hey kids, kiss your ma' for me." His voice is clear, a bit deep, "And hey world, ol' Earth, how's it going? Just thought I'd give a wave before my little trip. I figure you'll be seeing enough of me over this week, so I'll keep it short so you don't get sick of my face."
Greg winks, "Anyway, folks, don't try this at home, or any of that nonsense; though I'd be surprised at how ya' got the moon into your backyard if you did manage. A big thanks goes out to all the friendly helpers from NASA and the Taikonauts. The stay at Moonbase Orchard was great, don't go batty up here. See everyone when I get to the ISS." He smiles, genuinely happy and carefree, and the feed cuts to a long-distance shot of the moon. It zooms, closer and closer, then settles with its focus on the launch track.
It could still be called a motorcycle. It was precisely balanced, ran on two wheels, and had a finely crafted, heavily tuned engine. Other than that, it was kind of hard to determine what was going on with this machine. There was no open cockpit, and the wheels were train-like and track-based. Antenna clusters stuck out from the front and back with camera ports and sensory arrays that would make an MIT student blush. It was bulky, big, and looked like it should fit three or four people. It fit one.
Gregory was a very cramped, immobile, and restless one. He could move his hands and upper arms a bit, but everything else was strapped or wedged in. Across his home world, viewers glanced at screens or stared outright at the gloved hands flipping switches. His ride jerked forward with the acceleration of God's hot rod, electric engines in each wheel yowling like banshees. Beneath the "bike", a monorail dipped to the horizon. Earth would be coming into view soon.
The g-forces were maddening but the aging stuntman smiled into his mouthpiece, "Alright kiddies, time to teach myself rocket science. Here's that giant leap ol' Armstrong was talking about." Ahead, the end of his "roadway" zoomed closer. The rail ended in a slight ramping curve. Earth was a brilliant blue in the starry sky. Greg felt his body pressed into itself for a brief moment of nausea... And then he'd broken free and was sailing into the void.
Video feed cut back to the announcer's slick smile, "And he's off, folks! What you're witnessing is history in the making, a rocketless jump from one world to another, a leap of faith and science! Space junkies will know that Mr. Baker only needed 2.3 kilometers per hour to escape the Moon's gentle touch, but technicians worked out a perfect balance of speed and space so that Baker will reach his destination without too much of a wait and with a safety-net of food and air to spare. Over the next seven days we will check back in on Gregory Baker, interviewing his family and listening in as he speaks live to citizens of the globe. Until then, blue skies to you, Flying Ghost."
The silence that followed was absolute. Even the flight over hadn't been so quiet, so empty. On a ship there were vibrations and hums, little noises that kept you alive. The air vents might rattle and small beeps gave status updates. In the SpaceChopper, a name granted by net voting, there was nothing.
Most viewers would tune in for two parts of the extended fall. They'd watch his departure from the moon and the riveting finale as Earth's atmosphere gave him fiery wings. People wanted to see things happen, not a floating speck. For, that was what Greg had become. On the Moon he was one of hundreds, but he was human and had enough gravity holding him down to affect the world. On Earth he was one of billions, a fly amongst the masses of flies. But there, too, gravity allowed him to use his strength to accomplish and achieve.
In space he was nothing but a speck. He had become helplessness, floating, falling toward the planet above. The chopper had no engines. It had no brakes. It was just a touch above being a coffin with cameras and radio-equipment.
Only the science nerds would watch the whole stunt. They'd pour over live broadcasts with eager fingertips reporting anomalies and insights. They'd notice his blood pressure falling or his temperature rising. Someone would write about the folly of his team's calculations. Someone else would post evidence that it was genius and perfection.
Truly, the stunt was one of science and technology. There would be fire and there would be noise, but those were the icing on the cake. They made it look pretty, but the real substance was inside.
Years of work had gone into this "jump." Architects and engineers worked tirelessly to calculate and plan. If the moon's ramp had been even a millimeter off there'd be miles of change. Greg might end up landing in the middle of Kansas. If the bike wasn't built with just the right amount of shielding he might end up burning alive upon reentry.
He still might, at that. The thought made him laugh.
Mission command came on over the radio, "Flying Ghost, Orchard. All systems reading nominal. What is your status, over?"
A fingertip waggled and he heard the chirp of his mic, "Orchard, Flying Ghost. Status is gravy green, thank you. Just having a chuckle at expense of my thoughts. Over."
Command buzzed back, "Flying Ghost, Orchard, read you lima charlie. We urge a reminder to vocalize said thoughts if worthy of the record. Out."
Greg smirked, craning his head back. The Earth was a bright beacon of life hung in emptiness. The stars, in all their brilliance, were dim nothings in comparison. He spoke, not to the mic but to the records. Everything he said and did was being videoed and streamed and shared, "They have to warn you before you do this kind of thing. It's litigation nonsense, like signing off against injuries when you go bungee jumping."
Below him was the moon, unseen on the other side of the SpaceChopper's body of titanium and steel. A ship had launched at the same time as Greg, he knew, and it was coming into view. It was a drone, a small cube of computers and fuel. It had a couple of cameras, and he wiggled his hand in a wave upon noticing its presence. The cube-drone would be his only companion, weaving back and forth for different shots.
"Anyway," he continued, only barely remembering to continue his thoughts vocally, "They warn you about stuff. You might lose oxygen and choke. You might get too cold and freeze. There is risk of death and grievous injury. It's amazing how paperwork can make anything banal and boring."
"So, that stuff's pretty normal for me. I've done a lot of jumps, a lot of stunts. Grievous injury is what I'm supposed to challenge. Otherwise, nobody would watch us extreme-sports types, right? We end up on those end-of-year compilations of cool things because, for at least a moment, we let people feel like they could do it too."
The cube-drone shifted, started backing off, creating distance. Greg continued, "But, this time, the warnings were crazy. They were the stuff of science fiction and childhood ignorance. Do you know, Earth, that if my speed had been a kilometer too fast I might've spun into a death spiral? It's true. It's one of those clauses I had to initial by."
His thoughts kept winding down that path but the showman in his mind replaced the voice, "But let's not be morbid, no. Let me tell you what, though. This is beautiful. Space is beautiful. Honestly though?" Greg stared, neck arching back yet again, straining. The Earth was huge before him. Yet, it was so small and fragile and the entirety of that massive entity was also just a speck. "Let me tell you, buddy. All this everything is nothing compared to home."