Page 16

Have you ever considered moving to Earth? I’m sure you could become a scientist or an engineer and make a lot of money. You’re a citizen of Saudi Arabia, right? They have lots of big corporations there. Lots of jobs for smart people.


Nah. I don’t want to live on Earth. I’m a moon gal. Besides, it would be a huge medical hassle. I’ve been here more than half my life, so my body is used to ?th of your gravity. Before I could go to Earth I’d have to do a bunch of exercise and take special pills to stimulate muscle and bone growth. Then I’d have to spend hours every day in a centrifuge…bleh. No thanks.

Talk to Charisse you chickenshit.

I slinked along a huge corridor on Aldrin Down 7. I didn’t really have to sneak around—at this ungodly hour, no one was in sight.

Five a.m. was a largely theoretical concept to me. I knew it existed, but I rarely observed it. Nor did I want to. But this morning was different. Trond insisted on secrecy, so we had to meet before normal working hours.

Barn doors towered every twenty meters. The lots here were few and large, a testament to how much money these businesses had handy. Trond’s company workshop was labeled only with a sign reading LD7-4030—LANDVIK INDUSTRIES.

I knocked on the door. A second later, it slid partially open. Trond poked his head out and looked both ways down the hall.

“Were you followed?”

“Of course,” I said. “And I led them straight to you. Turns out I’m not very bright.”



“Come in.” He gestured me forward.

I slipped in and he immediately closed the door. I didn’t know if he thought this was stealthy or what. But hey, he was paying me a million slugs. We could play 007 if he wanted.

The workshop was effectively a garage. A huge garage. Seriously, I’d kill to have that space. I’d make a little house in one corner and then, I don’t know, install fake grass in the rest of it? Four identical harvesters, each in its own bay, filled the room.

I walked over to the nearest harvester and looked up at it. “Wow.”

“Yeah,” Trond said. “You don’t realize how big they are until you see one up close.”

“How did you get them into town without anyone knowing?”

“It wasn’t easy,” Trond said. “I had them shipped here in pieces. Only my most trusted people even know about it. I pieced together a staff of seven mechanics who know how to keep their mouths shut.”

I scanned the cavernous workshop. “Anyone else here?”

“Of course not. I don’t want anyone knowing I hired you.”

“I’m hurt.”

The harvester stood four meters tall, five meters wide, and ten meters long. Reflective material coated the hull to minimize solar heating. Each of the beast’s six wheels was a meter and a half across. The bulk of the machine was a huge, empty basin. Powerful hydraulics on the front and a hinge on the rear provided the basin’s dumping mechanism.

The front of the harvester had a scoop with associated articulation. There was no passenger compartment, of course. Harvesters were automated—though they could be remote-controlled when necessary. A sealed metal box rested where you might expect a cockpit. It bore the Toyota logo, along with the word “Tsukuruma” in a stylish font.

Roll-around toolboxes and maintenance equipment surrounded the harvester wherever the workers had left off at the end of their shift.

“Okay,” I said, taking in the scene. “This is going to be a challenge.”

“What’s the problem?” Trond walked over to one of the wheels and leaned against it. “It’s just a robot—it doesn’t have any defenses. Its only AI is for pathing. I’m sure you and a big tank of acetylene could figure something out.”

“This thing is a tank, Trond. It’s not going to be easy to kill.” I walked partially around the harvester and got a closer look at the undercarriage. “And it’s got cameras everywhere.”

“Of course it does,” said Trond. “It needs them to navigate.”

“It sends video back to its controllers,” I said. “Once it goes offline, the controllers will roll back to footage to see what happened. They’ll see me.”

“So cover up any identifying marks on your EVA suit,” Trond said. “No problem.”

“Oh there’s a problem. They’ll call the EVA masters to ask what the hell’s going on, and then the EVA masters will come out to get me. They won’t know who I am, but they can drag my ass back inside and have a Scooby-Doo moment when they pull my helmet off.”

He walked around to my side of the harvester. “I see your point.”

I ran my hands through my hair. I hadn’t showered that morning. I felt like I was a wad of grease that had been dipped in a vat of dirtier grease. “I need to come up with something that has a delayed effect. So it’ll happen after I get back inside.”

“And don’t forget, you’ve got to total the things. If there’s anything left to fix, Sanchez’s repair crews will have them up and running in days.”

“Yeah, I know.” I pinched my chin. “Where’s the battery?”

“In the forward compartment. The box with the Toyota logo on it.”

Tip: You can use left and right keyboard keys to browse between pages.