I'm outside in the night air, and I'm staring up at the cold silver orb hanging in the sky, staring blankly with a news clipping hanging from my fingers. The breeze blows coldly, and I'm back again-

It was cold in that room, it hadn't been used in a long time; groups this large didn't usually gather in the Astronaut Training Core- there weren't a lot of astronauts, period. And the budget wasn't large, so heating was shut off to all unused rooms, and so this one was cold. But we were astronauts, we were used to it, and things much worse, and we stared stolidly down at the man on the creaking wooden stage, the hundred or so of us not even rubbing our hands together, not crossing our arms to ward off the cold. We were astronauts and we were strong.

The man was walking around, pulling cords into and out of things as we coldly watched as he brought up a holodisplay of the Moon, beautiful Luna.

That was every astronaut's dream, to go to the moon, it was; to finally kick back the gravity of Earth and pull close the precious funding that might let us go- go, just go, pull away, reach up.

The man began to speak, addressing us loudly, confidently. We looked back at him, gazing eagerly at the display of the moon, looking from it to him to it.

And he spoke to us. He told us of the moon, the final funding that would allow us to go there, establish a semi permanent colony there, that would bring us closer to everybody's dream of the stars. He told us of the test that we would have to take that would let us go to the Moon, that only twenty would be selected, and we gazed at him, and we drank in every word that we told us, and we wanted to go, more than anything, even to live.

Die to go to the moon? I'm sure all of it thought that it was a bargain, because the moon was heaven, nirvana, paradise, and for us, it was the greatest reward.

We filed out of there, smiling, laughing; some of the newer astronauts cried. No Earthbound soul can understand what it is like to soar among the stars and then be dragged down again by such Earthly things as money; all we wanted was a chance to go there again, to bathe in the glow of ten thousand million stars, to see ourselves apart from Earth, and we had just been given that chance.

It wasn't only the new 'stronauts that had cried. I think I did too.

All we had to do was to take that test. That was all. So what if we passed that test; at least the ones who didn't pass but took it knew that they had done all that they could have done when the disaster struck.

My god, I didn't even try to go there again, to shimmer in the light of a million million atomic fireballs, and I don't know why. Selfishness. I wanted the next mission, the better one that would be sure to come about. Cowardice. Rockets are big things to be strapped onto for a ride out of the atmosphere. Fear. Pride. Terror. Stupidity. Anger. Take your pick, I don't know.

I was a botanist, I was, I grew plants to eat and to give oxygen in the deep dark blue (it's not black, it's more of a shimmering blue, it really is) of space. I was the best; I would have passed; I would have, I know. And I didn't even try. I failed.

And so I watched, and stood on the ground as the twenty flew up to the moon. I watched. And I listened at Headquarters when the emergency reports came in, saying that oxygen, food, was running out. I felt the bitter pit of terror drop into my stomach, and I tasted the salt tears that ran down my face when the twenty died because of my inactivity.

Because I didn't have the bravery to step off this Earth and fly to the Moon.

So now the Astronauts are gone. We are closed up. The news clipping confirms this. Our failure at the Luna Colony let the blade drop, and so we are gone.

Only it was my failure that killed the twenty, that killed the Astronauts. And so I drop to my knees and cry in front of the unforgiving Moon.