"Mr. President? Five minutes to landing, sir."
Shetland glanced up and nodded absently to the flight attendant. The flight from Earth had been pleasantly smooth since takeoff from Manhattan two hours before. He was lost in his own thoughts, preparing himself for the imminent speech.
The attendant walked quickly up the aisle to the cockpit and went inside, shutting the door behind him.
Shetland adjusted himself in his seat and fastened the safety belt for landing. Glancing around the cabin and seeing his staff doing the same thing, he turned up the volume on his disc player and relaxed to the music as he awaited the soft gravitational change of landing.
Almost immediately there came a tapping on his shoulder.
He sighed inwardly and turned the volume back down.
"Yes?" He glanced up. "Oh. What is it, Eric?" His chief aide stood just to his side, looking down at him.
"I just wanted to make sure that you're ready, sir." He immediately blinked and said, "I mean... I wanted to know if you needed anything before we land. There won't be time to prepare anything once we've landed."
Shetland grinned. "It's okay, Eric. I'm all set. You can stop worrying."
The aide nodded and turned to leave.
"Oh, Eric." He turned back. "Yes, sir?" "Call me Cam. We've known each other long enough that I don't need to be 'Sir' to you."
He gave the smallest hint of a smile and said, "Thanks... Cam. See you after we land."
The freshly built Luna Station was quite the modern facility, but it decidedly lacked the charisma of the old Tranquility Base, thought the president as he was escorted through a throng of spectators and media towards the convention hall.
His father had made this same journey, he knew. He had walked the same halls, albeit in a completely different building. His father never would have made it to the moon had he been president at the time. Safety factors kept heads of state from vitsiting the moon, but in the years since that trip safety had been improved to the point where accidents were about as common as polio.
As the procession neared the hall, he could hear the reverberation of thousands of voices echoing out through the grand entrance.
He glanced to his right and asked, "How many people are here, Eric?"
"Station security has the figure of 7134, si... Cam." He glanced at his palmtop display. "Not counting your entourage."
Shetland nodded. "And how many are press?"
"Christ. I guess my delivery had better be spot on." He grinned. "You write a good one this time?"
Eric's face registered shock.
"Just kidding. I wrote it myself this time." He waved the speech in Eric's general direction. "Tell me what you think."
The aide read quickly, finishing it in under a minute. Shetland hoped to get a good 9 minutes out of it.
"It's very good, sir. It does sound vaguely familliar, though. Kennedy?"
The president nodded. "If you're going to steal, steal from the best. That's what I always say."
"Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the United Nations of Earth, I am most pleased to welcome you to what is perhaps the greatest achievement of mankind. I know that I, myself, am in awe of the work done here over the past eighty three years."
He surveyed the crowd. Nothing unexpected, they were probably thinking. Standard stuff, right? He had an impulse to throw in, 'Even more amazingly, it's done in time and on budget', but restrained himself.
"The terraforming of any planet is a daunting task, but the taming of this one, a ball of rock completely devoid of atmosphere, was just about the tallest order anyone could be given. And our men and women pulled through. In a few months, millions of people will be able to leave earth and settle here, begin new lives, and create new legends."
As he progressed through the speech, he gained momentum. The crowd responded, cheering and clapping at every possible break. He improvised and moved things around, running on instinct and feeling more in touch with the public than he had at any other point in his political career.
As the speech drew to a close he said, "A great leader once said, 'Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.' I implore you to continue to follow his timeless advice throughout the world. In doing so, we, the human race, will go places never imagined. The future is yours."
The room burst into thuderous applause. Newsbots rotated in place, panning their lenses over the crowd and sending realtime images back home. In his heart, Shetland knew that this moment would mark him forever.
He was right.
(Excerpted from: Reynolds, "The Making of a Man: The Life Story of Cameron Shetland", 2199)
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