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Ethical metalworkers like Zsóka regularly inspect their work. But how do you look at the outside of the hull without being a trained, licensed EVA master? With a hull-inspection bot. “HIB” for short.

They’re really just R/C cars with claws instead of wheels. The outer hulls of Artemis are covered in handles to ensure access for maintenance. HIBs use those handles to get wherever they want. Seems inefficient, eh? Well, it’s the only way to climb up the side of a bubble. The aluminum isn’t magnetic, suction cups and propellers don’t work in a vacuum, and a rocket engine would be stupidly expensive.

“Why you want HIB?” she asked.

I’d worked out a lie in advance. “The Shepard relief valve is leaking. Dad was the one who installed it. He wants me to check the weld site.”

Keeping Artemis at constant pressure is tricky. If people use more power than usual, the city becomes slightly over-pressurized. Why? The power becomes heat, which increases the air temperature, and that makes the pressure go up. Normally, Life Support pulls air out of the system to compensate. But what if that doesn’t work?

So as a fail-safe, the city has relief valves in every bubble. If the pressure gets too high, they’ll open and let air out until it’s back to normal.

“Your father never makes bad weld. Must be other problem.”

“I know that and you know that, but we have to rule it out.”

She thought it over. “How long you need?”

“Just a couple of days.”

“One thousand slugs?”

I pulled out my Gizmo. “Yeah. And I’ll pay in advance.”

“You wait.” She slid the door closed.

After a minute, Zsóka opened the door again and handed me a case. I checked inside to make sure everything was there.

The mechanical bug was thirty centimeters long. Its four movement claws were folded into their stow position and the tool arm formed a “7” shape along the top of the robot. That arm had a high-definition camera on the end and basic clamping and grabbing actuators. Perfect for poking at things and recording the results—exactly what you need when remotely inspecting a hull. And also what I needed for my nefarious plan.

She handed me the remote—a sleek little device with knobs and joysticks surrounding a video screen.

“You know how to use?”

“I read the manual online.”

She frowned. “You break, you pay for fix.”

“This is just between you and me, right?” I hovered my finger over my Gizmo screen. “The Welding Guild’s always looking for excuses to shit-talk Dad—I don’t want to give them ammo.”

“Ammar is good man. Good welder. I will not tell.”

“So we have a deal?”

She pulled out her Gizmo. “Yes.”

I fired off the funds transfer and she accepted.

“You bring back. Two days.” She returned to her shop and closed the door.

Yeah, she was grumpy and thought I was a bimbo. But you know what? I wish everyone was like her. No chitchat, no bullshit, no pretense of friendship. Just goods and services exchanged for money. The perfect business partner.

I did a little shopping in Bean Bubble. It was more expensive than I like, but I needed specialty clothing. Artemis has a small Muslim population (including my dad), so there are a few stores that cater to them. I found a long tan dress with simple colors and a stylish embroidered pattern. It was suitable for even the most conservative Muslim gal. I also bought a dark-green niqab. I considered brown or black, but the dark green counterpointed the tan dress for an earthy ensemble. Just ’cause I was planning a heist, that didn’t mean I couldn’t look good doing it.

Okay, you can stop pretending you know what a niqab is. It’s a traditional Islamic headwear that covers the lower face. Combined with a hijab (head cloth) to cover my hair, only my eyes were visible. Great way to wear a mask without arousing suspicion.

Next, I had to get a new Gizmo. I couldn’t use my own—that would leave a digital trail of all the illegal shit I was about to do. I could just see Rudy reviewing my Gizmo’s logs and building a case. No thanks. Life’s a pain in the ass when you have a cop constantly on your ass. I needed a false identity.

Lucky for me it’s easy to set up a false identity here. Mainly because nobody cares who you are. Things here are set up to prevent identity theft, not aliases. If you tried to steal a real person’s identity you’d fail miserably. As soon as your victim found out they’d report it and Rudy would use your Gizmo to track you down. Where would you run? Outside? Hope you can hold your breath.

I went online and converted a few hundred slugs into euros. Then I used those euros to buy slugs from KSC under the name Nuha Nejem. It only took ten minutes of internet activity. It would have been even faster if I were on Earth, but we have that four-second ping time from here.

I stopped at home and dropped off my Gizmo. Time to become Nuha Nejem.

I went to the Artemis Hyatt, a small hotel on Bean Up 6 with little flair but reasonable prices. They saw a lot of business from ordinary people taking a once-in-a-lifetime vacation. I’d only been there once before, on a date with a tourist. The room was pleasant enough, but I’m not the best judge. I only got a good look at the ceiling.

The whole hotel was one long hallway. The “front desk” was a closet-size kiosk with a single employee. I didn’t recognize him, which was good. It meant he wouldn’t recognize me.

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