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We all lined up behind him, some more gracefully than others. He waved his Gizmo over the airlock controls and the inner hatch popped open. He ushered us into the airlock.

I got in first and rolled to the corner. I faced the wall, pulled the remote out from under my dress, and activated the HIB. It came to life in the prep room and fired up its camera. I could now see everything from the HIB’s vantage point as well as my own.

Bob was paying attention to the tourists, which meant he was facing away from the HIB. The tourists had their eyes locked on the outer door—the last barrier between them and an exciting experience on the moon. Also, hamster balls are pretty dark when you’re inside. They’re made to shield the occupant from harsh sunlight.

So this was my chance. I had the HIB scamper forward on its adorable little claws. It darted into the airlock beside the second-to-last tourist’s hamster ball. Then it hid in the corner.

Bob sealed the inner door and got to work on the outer door cranks. Nothing fancy for outer airlock doors—just manual valves. Why not a sleek computer system? Because valves don’t crash or reboot. This is not something we take chances with.

The air hissed out of the room and our hamster balls became more rigid. Bob continually checked his readouts to make sure all eight of us had solid seals. Once the airlock was in vacuum, he addressed us over the radio.

“All right. Opening the outer door now. The tour area’s been cleared of any sharp rocks. But if you see something that could possibly puncture your ball, don’t mess with it. Just tell me.”

He opened the outer door, and the gray, lifeless landscape lay beyond.

The tourists oohed and aahed. Then they all tried to talk at the same time on the open channel.

“Keep chatter to a minimum,” Bob said. “If you want to talk to a specific person, call them with your Gizmo. The shared channel is for tour-related instructions and questions.”

He stepped outside and gestured for us to follow.

I rolled out onto the moon with everyone else. The scratchy lunar regolith crunched under my ball. The flexible polymer skin blocked most of the incoming sunlight. But that meant it all became heat. The inner layers of polymer were good insulators, but not perfect. Within seconds of stepping into the sunlight, I could feel the warmth in my air.

The scurry pack fired up one of its fans, sucked in the warm air, and blew it out cold.

Just like harvesters, hamster balls have to deal with the pain in the ass that is heat rejection. But you can’t encase a person in wax. So what did the scurry pack do with all that heat? Dump it into a big block of ice.

Yup. Good old frozen water. A couple of liters of it. Water is one of the best heat absorbers in all of chemistry. And melting the ice takes even more energy. That was really the limiter to how long a hamster ball excursion could be: how long that block of ice would last. It worked out to be two hours.

Bob closed the outer door once we were all through and led us toward the landing site. I’d left my little HIB buddy (I decided his name was Hibby) in the airlock on purpose.

It was a short walk around the arc of the Visitor Center.

I joined everyone else right up against the fence. Remember when I told Jin Chu the view was just as good from the Visitor Center? I lied. It’s way cooler from outside. You really feel like you’re there. Well, I mean, you are there. But you know what I mean.

I took a moment to admire Neil and Buzz’s old stomping grounds. It really was a sight. That was my history right there.

Then it was back to work.

The tourists fanned out to examine the site from different angles. Some of them waved to the Visitor Center windows, though we couldn’t see in. From our side the windows were mirrors. It’s a hell of a lot lighter outside than in.

I faced away from Bob as if I were admiring the lunar desolation. I pulled out the remote and fired up the HIB again. You might be wondering how a simple remote-control unit could send radio waves capable of penetrating an Artemis hull. It’s hard to broadcast through two six-centimeter aluminum sheets and a meter of ground-up rock.

Pretty simple, actually. Like everything else in town, it sent data through the wireless communications network. The city had receivers and repeaters atop every bubble, even the Visitor Center. Wouldn’t want to leave the EVA masters mute, right? There’s no more powerful tool for safety than communication. So Hibby’s controller could talk to him without any problems.

The airlock was in vacuum—the default state of all airlocks. Right now, the next tour group was getting prepped by their EVA master. I had a short window of opportunity.

I had Hibby crawl to the outer door. The screen highlighted areas that he could grab to climb. Fantastic AI assist. All I had to do was tell him where to go and he worked out the rest.

He grabbed pipes, valve handles, and other protuberances to climb up the door. I had him anchor himself against a reenforcement rib and grab the hatch handle.

He needed two claws to get enough force to turn the handle, but it worked. After three full handle revolutions, the door was ajar. I had him drop to the ground. He automatically spun as he fell and landed on his claws. Man, he was fun to play with! I made a mental note to buy one after I was rich.

Like a cat sneaking into a room, Hibby nudged the airlock door open and slipped through. Then he closed the door behind him.

I looked over my shoulder to make sure no one was watching. Most tourists were up against the fence and Bob just scanned the scene. No one was breaking rules or in danger, so he was content.

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