Page 26

Behind the crowd, Bob Lewis and two other EVA masters stood next to a doorway labeled EVA PREPARATION AREA.

Gunter gestured to the trio. “We offer curated EVAs to those who are interested. It’s an amazing experience and allows you to look at the site from angles the Viewing Hall can’t provide.”

Usually, Dale would be there among his peers, but today was a Saturday. He was devoutly Jewish and off at Artemis’s only synagogue, Congregation Beth Chalutzim.

A small crowd gathered around the EVA masters while the remaining (poorer) people stayed at the windows. I shuffled along with the EVA gang, trying to stay toward the middle. I didn’t want to get too close to Bob.

The masters divided us into three groups of eight. I ended up with Bob. Goddammit.

Each master took their group aside and explained the basics of how things were going to work. I stood in the back of my group and averted my eyes.

“Okay, listen up,” Bob said. “I will be in a full EVA suit while you will be in what we call ‘hamster balls.’ You are not allowed to bring anything sharp with you, because you would puncture your ball and die. There will be no horseplay. You will walk, not run. You will not bounce around or ram each other.” He shot a withering glare to a couple of teens in the group.

“There is a one-meter-high fence around the landing site to protect it from you. The fence delineates the ten-meter boundary beyond which no one may pass. Do not attempt to get past the fence. If you do, I will terminate the EVA and you will be deported to Earth.”

He paused a moment to let that sink in. “While outside, you will follow my instructions immediately and without question. You will stay within sight of me at all times. You may explore in any direction you choose, but if I radio that you are too far away for my comfort, you will return to me. Are there any questions?”

One small Asian man raised his hand. “Um, yes, the docent mentioned there’s radiation out there? How dangerous is it?”

Bob answered the question with practiced ease. “The EVA will last approximately two hours. In that time, you will receive less than one hundred microsieverts of radiation—about the same dosage you get from a set of dental X-rays.”

“Then why is the Visitor Center shielded?” asked Nervous Guy.

“All structures on the moon, including the Visitor Center, are shielded for the benefit of the people who live and work here. It’s fine to be exposed once in a while but not all the time.”

“And what about you? You go outside all the time, right?”

Bob nodded. “I do. But each EVA master only does two tours per week, to keep their exposure to a minimum. Anything else?”

Nervous Guy looked down. If he had any further questions, he was too intimidated to ask.

Bob held out his payment panel. “The price for this EVA is one thousand, five hundred slugs each.”

The tourists ran their Gizmos over it one at a time. I wedged myself in the middle of the pack and paid along with them. I frowned at my Gizmo as it reported my dwindling account balance. This get-rich-quick scheme was costing me a lot of money!

Bob led us to the antechamber. As the most senior EVA master present, he got to take his group out first.

Deflated hamster balls hung on racks throughout the room. Next to each one was a hard-shelled backpack. The far wall had a large hatch and associated control panel. Beyond it was an airlock large enough to fit an entire tour group.

Bob pulled one of the backpacks off the wall. “This is a scurry pack. You’ll have it on your back during the EVA. This is your life support system. It adds oxygen and removes carbon dioxide as needed. It keeps the air at the correct pressure and temperature.”

He turned the scurry pack sideways to reveal a headset Velcroed to the side. “You’ll have this headset on during the EVA. It’s an open channel. All nine of us will be on it. Also, your scurry pack will report any problems to me if they arise.”

Nervous Guy raised his hand. “How do we operate it?”

“You don’t,” said Bob. “It’s completely automated. Don’t screw with it.”

I listened with fake fascination. Of course I knew all about scurry packs. Hell, as part of my training, I’d been given several deliberately broken packs and told to identify the problems. I got every one of them right too.

Bob pointed to a line of lockers. “Put your personal items and anything else you don’t want to carry in those lockers there. Keep your Gizmos with you.”

The excitement level jumped a notch. The tourists were all smiles and giddy conversation. I went to the locker nearest me and waved my Gizmo. It clicked open. Now it was initialized to my Gizmo, so only I’d be able to open it again later. Elegant design—even Nervous Guy was able to work it out without extra questions.

I put my purse in the locker, then cast my eyes askance to see if anyone was watching me. No one was.

I pulled the HIB out of my purse and set it on the floor next to the locker bank. I couldn’t get it completely out of sight, but at least it was partially occluded. I slipped the remote control into a holster I had strapped to my inner thigh.

From there, we all donned scurry packs under Bob’s watchful eye. Then, one by one, he sealed us each into our hamster balls. There were some stumbles and falls along the way, but most people adapted to the balls well. It’s not that hard.

Bob pulled his own EVA suit out of a locker and put it on in three minutes. Damn, he was fast. The fastest I ever got into mine was nine.

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