“I greet,” I said with a thick Arabic accent. Between that and my traditional clothes, everything about me screamed tourist.
“Welcome to the Artemis Hyatt!” he said.
He was used to broken-English conversations. “Gizmo? You need a Gizmo?”
“Gizmo.” I nodded. “Needing.”
I could see his thought process. He could try to figure out which reservation I was under, but as a Saudi woman, it would be under my husband’s name. That would take a lot of pantomime and miscommunication to work out. Easier just to set up the Gizmo for me. It’s not like it cost the hotel anything.
“Name?” he said.
I didn’t want to be too eager. I looked at him with confusion.
He patted himself on the chest. “Norton. Norton Spinelli.” Then he pointed to me. “Name?”
“Ah,” I said. I patted my own chest. “Nuha Nejem.”
He typed away on his computer. Yes, there was an account for Nuha Nejem, and no one had linked a Gizmo to it. It all made sense. He pulled a weathered Gizmo from under the counter. It was an older model with the words PROPERTY OF ARTEMIS HYATT stenciled on the back. With a few keystrokes, he got everything set up. Then he handed me the Gizmo and said, “Welcome to Artemis!”
“I thank,” I said with a smile. “I thank many. Moon is much excitement!”
I had a fake identity. Time for Phase Two.
I brought up the map app on my new Gizmo and pretended to navigate with it. Obviously, I didn’t need a map to get around Artemis, but it was all part of my tourist act. I wandered inefficiently across town to the Port of Entry. I carried a big purse, of course. What tourist woman would be without one?
Now for the tricky part.
Everyone knew me at the port. I was there every day and my sparkling personality was hard to forget. That’s not ideal when you’re trying to sneak around. But today I wasn’t Jazz Bashara. I was Nuha Nejem, Saudi tourist.
I headed to the waiting area next to the train airlock and joined a crowd of tourists. All the seats were taken and dozens more people stood around. Several families had obnoxious kids bouncing off the walls. In this case, “bouncing off the walls” is not just a figure of speech. The overstimulated kids were literally bouncing off the walls. Lunar gravity is the worst thing to ever happen to parents.
“This is so cool!” said a dumb blonde to her trust-fund boyfriend. “We’re about to take the moonorail!”
Ugh. Only tourists called it that. It’s not even a monorail! It runs on parallel tracks, just like trains on Earth.
By the way, we also hate it when people call us “Loonies” or when they call Artemis the “City in Space.” We’re not in space—we’re on the moon. I mean, technically we’re “in space” but so is London.
The train finally arrived. I pretended to be enthralled by its approach like everyone else. It was just a single car, not the long-ass trains Earthers are used to. It slowed to a crawl next to the docking port and inched forward until it connected. After a click and a kachunk, the round entry hatch opened up to reveal the conductor.
Shit! It was Raj! He wasn’t supposed to be there! He must have switched shifts with someone.
Raj and I grew up together. We went to the same schools. We were teenagers together. We weren’t close friends or anything, but we saw each other every day for most of our lives. My dress and hijab might not be enough of a disguise.
He stepped through the aperture and adjusted his uniform—a silly, nineteenth-century-style, navy-blue outfit with brass buttons and a conductor’s cap. Giddy folks returning from the Apollo 11 site exited the train. Many of them carried souvenirs from the Visitor Center: lunar modules carved from local rocks, Apollo 11 mission patches, and so on.
Once everyone de-trained, Raj called out in a clear, loud voice, “This is the 2:34 p.m. traaaain to Apollo Eleeeeeven! All aboooooard!” He held out a vintage-looking brass ticket shredder. Of course, there were no paper tickets to shred. It was just decoration surrounding a payment pad.
I closed the niqab a little tighter and walked with a hunch. Maybe if I changed my body language I wouldn’t be as recognizable. Passengers filed past Raj, waved their Gizmos over the shredder, and walked through an antechamber into the train.
He made sure there was only one person in the antechamber at a time. He was sneaky about it, mostly by standing in people’s way. It was easier than explaining, “If there’s a pressure failure, the antechamber door will close. The city will be safe but you’ll die.”
When my turn came, I looked down to avoid eye contact. My Gizmo beeped and popped up a text blurb:
CITY OF ARTEMIS: 75? TRAIN FARE.
Raj didn’t notice me. I breathed a sigh of relief and stepped into the train.
The seats had all been taken and I was ready to stand for the whole trip, but a tall black guy saw me and stood up. He said something in French and pointed to his seat. A true gentleman! I bowed to him and sat down. I rested my purse in my lap.
Once the last passenger boarded, Raj followed and sealed both antechamber doors along the way. He walked to the front of the train and spoke over the intercom. “Welcome to the Lunar Express! This is the 2:34 p.m. service to the Apollo 11 Visitor Center. Our scheduled arrival time is 3:17 p.m. Please keep your hands and feet inside the vehicle at all times!”