Page 3

Ground level is where all the tunnels connecting to other bubbles come in. Naturally, all the shops, boutiques, and other tourist traps want to be there to take advantage of the foot traffic. In Conrad, that mostly meant restaurants selling Gunk to tourists who can’t afford real food.

A small crowd funneled into the Aldrin Connector. It’s the only way to get from Conrad to Aldrin (other than going the long way around through Armstrong), so it’s a major thoroughfare. I passed by the huge circular plug door on my way in. If the tunnel breached, the escaping air from Conrad would force that door closed. Everyone in Conrad would be saved. If you were in the tunnel at the time…well, it sucks to be you.

“Well, if it isn’t Jazz Bashara!” said a nearby asshole. He acted like we were friends. We weren’t friends.

“Dale,” I said. I kept walking.

He hurried to catch up. “Must be a cargo ship coming in. Nothing else gets your lazy ass in uniform.”

“Hey, remember that time I gave a shit about what you have to say? Oh wait, my mistake. That never happened.”

“I hear you failed the EVA exam today.” He tsked in mock disappointment. “Tough break. I passed on my first try, but we can’t all be me, can we?”

“Fuck off.”

“Yeah, I got to tell you, tourists pay good money to go outside. Hell, I’m headed to the Visitor Center right now to give some tours. I’ll be raking it in.”

“Make sure to hop on the really sharp rocks while you’re out there.”

“Nah,” he said. “People who passed the exam know better than to do that.”

“It was just a lark,” I said nonchalantly. “It’s not like EVA work is a real job.”

“Yeah, you’re right. Someday I hope to be a delivery girl like you.”

“Porter,” I grumbled. “The term is ‘porter.’?”

He smirked in a very punchable way. Thankfully we’d made it to Aldrin Bubble. I shouldered past him and out of the connector. Aldrin’s plug door stood vigil, just as Conrad’s did. I hurried ahead and took a sharp right just to get out of Dale’s line of sight.

Aldrin is the opposite of Conrad in every respect. Conrad’s full of plumbers, glass blowers, metalworkers, welding shops, repair shops…the list goes on. But Aldrin is truly a resort. It has hotels, casinos, whorehouses, theaters, and even an honest-to-God park with real grass. Wealthy tourists from all over Earth come for two-week stays.

I passed through the Arcade. It wasn’t the fastest route to where I was going, but I liked the view.

New York has Fifth Avenue, London has Bond Street, and Artemis has the Arcade. The stores don’t bother to list prices. If you have to ask, you can’t afford it. The Ritz-Carlton Artemis occupies an entire block and extends five floors up and another five down. A single night there costs 12,000 slugs—more than I make in a month as a porter (though I have other sources of income).

Despite the costs of a lunar vacation, demand always exceeds supply. Middle-class Earthers can afford it as a once-in-a-lifetime experience with suitable financing. They stay at crappier hotels in crappier bubbles like Conrad. But wealthy folks make annual trips and stay in nice hotels. And my, oh my, do they shop.

More than anywhere else, Aldrin is where money enters Artemis.

There was nothing in the shopping district I could afford. But someday, I’d have enough to belong there. That was my plan, anyway. I took one more long look, then turned away and headed to the Port of Entry.

Aldrin is the closest bubble to the landing zone. Wouldn’t want rich people dirtying themselves by traveling through impoverished areas, right? Bring them straight into the pretty part.

I strolled through the large archway into the port. The massive airlock complex is the second-largest chamber in the city. (Only Aldrin Park is larger.) The room buzzed with activity. I slid my way between workers who efficiently glided to and fro. In town, you have to walk slowly or you’ll knock over tourists. But the port is for professionals only. We all know the Artemis Longstep and can get a good head of steam going.

At the north side of the port, a few commuters waited near the train airlock. Most were headed to the city reactors and Sanchez Aluminum’s smelter, a kilometer south of town. The smelter uses insane amounts of heat and extremely nasty chemicals, so everyone agrees it should be far away. As for the reactors…well…they’re nuclear reactors. We like those far away too.

Dale slithered over to the train platform. He’d be going to the Apollo 11 Visitor Center. Tourists love it. The half-hour train ride provides stunning views of the moon’s terrain, and the Visitor Center is a great place to look at the landing site without ever leaving pressure. And for those who do want to venture outside to get a better view, Dale and other EVA masters are ready to give them a tour.

Just in front of the train airlock there was a huge Kenyan flag. Beneath it were the words “You are now boarding Kenya Offshore Platform Artemis. This platform is the property of the Kenya Space Corporation. International maritime laws apply.”

I stared daggers at Dale. He didn’t notice. Damn, I wasted a perfectly good bitchy glare.

I checked the landing zone schedule on my Gizmo. No meatship today (that’s what we call passenger ships). They only come about once a week. The next one wouldn’t be for three days. Thank God. There’s nothing more annoying than trust-fund boys looking for “moon poon.”

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