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So he hired VPs to manage most of his companies and relocated to Artemis. And just like that, Lene Landvik could walk again.

“Bye, Jazz!” she said on her way out.

“Bye, kiddo.”

Trond swirled his drink. “Have a seat.”

The dining table was huge, so I picked a chair a couple of spaces away from Trond. “What’s in the glass?”

“Scotch. Want some?”

“Maybe a taste,” I said.

He slid the glass across to me. I took a sip.

“Ohhh yeahhh…” I said. “That’s better.”

“Didn’t know you were a scotch gal,” he said.

“Not normally. But I had an awful approximation of it earlier today, so I needed a reminder of what it’s supposed to be like.” I offered the tumbler back.

“Keep it.” He went to the liquor credenza, poured a second glass, and returned to his seat.

“So why was the administrator here?” I asked.

He put his feet up on the table and leaned back in his chair. “I’m hoping to buy Sanchez Aluminum and I wanted her blessing. She’s fine with it.”

“Why would you want an aluminum company?”

“Because I like building businesses.” He preened theatrically. “It’s my thing.”

“But aluminum? I mean…isn’t that sort of blah? I get the impression it’s struggling as an industry.”

“It is,” said Trond. “Not like the old days, when aluminum was king—each bubble required forty thousand tons of aluminum to build. But now the population has plateaued and we’re not making new bubbles anymore. Frankly, they would have gone out of business long ago if it weren’t for their aluminum monopropellant fuel production. And even that barely turns a profit.”

“Seems like you missed the gravy train. Why get in now?”

“I think I can make it hugely profitable again.”


“None of your business.”

I held up my hands. “Sheesh. Touchy. Fine, you want to make aluminum. Why not start your own company?”

He snorted. “If only it were that easy. It’s impossible to compete with Sanchez. Literally impossible. What do you know about aluminum production?”

“Pretty much nothing,” I said. I settled back in my chair. Trond seemed chatty tonight. Best to let him get it out of his system. And hey, as long as he talked I got good booze.

“First, they collect anorthite ore. That’s easy. All they have to do is pick up the right rocks. They have automated harvesters running day and night. Then they smelt the ore with a chemical and electrolysis process that takes a shitload of electricity. And I do mean a shitload. Sanchez Aluminum uses eighty percent of the city reactors’ output.”

“Eighty percent?” I’d never thought about it before, but two 27-megawatt nuclear reactors was a bit much for a city of two thousand people.

“Yeah, but the interesting part is how they pay for it.”

He pulled a rock from his pocket. Wasn’t much to look at—just a gray, jagged lump like all the other lunar rocks I’d ever seen. He tossed it toward me. “Here. Have some anorthite.”

“Yay, a rock.” I plucked it out of the air as it approached. “Thanks.”

“It’s made of aluminum, oxygen, silicon, and calcium. Smelting separates it into those base elements. They sell the aluminum—that’s the whole point. And they sell the silicon to glassmakers and the calcium to electricians for next to nothing—mainly to get rid of it. But there is one by-product that’s incredibly useful: oxygen.”

“Yeah, and that’s what we breathe. I know.”

“Yeah, but did you know Sanchez gets free power in exchange for that oxygen?”

He had me there. “Really?”

“Yup. It’s a contract that goes back to the early days of Artemis. Sanchez makes our air, so Artemis gives Sanchez as much power as they want—completely free of charge.”

“They don’t have to pay an electric bill? Ever?”

“As long as they keep making oxygen for the city, that’s right. And power is the most expensive part of smelting. There’s just no way I can compete. It’s not fair.”

“Oh, poor billionaire,” I said. “Maybe you should have some moors installed so you can pine on them.”

“Yeah, yeah, rich people are evil blah, blah, blah.”

I emptied my glass. “Thanks for the scotch. Why am I here?”

He cocked his head and looked at me. Was he carefully choosing his words? Trond never did that.

“I hear you failed your EVA exam.”

I groaned. “Does everyone in town know about that? Do you all meet up and talk about me when I’m not around or something?”

“It’s a small town, Jazz. I keep my ear to the ground.”

I slid my glass over to him. “If we’re going to talk about my failures, I’ll want another scotch.”

He passed me his full glass. “I want to hire you. And I want to pay you a lot.”

I perked up. “Well, okay then. Why didn’t you open with that? What do you need smuggled in? Something big?”

He leaned forward. “It’s not smuggling. It’s an entirely different enterprise. I don’t know if it’s even in your comfort zone. You’ve always been honest—at least with me. Do I have your word that this will stay between us? Even if you turn down the job?”

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