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I used duct tape to cover all identifying marks on my EVA gear. Serial numbers, license number, the big patch reading J. BASHARA on the front…that sort of thing. Then I brought Hibby back online. He perked right up.

Under my instruction, Hibby crawled down the arc of Conrad’s hull to the airlock. He turned the crank to open the outer door. Then he dropped to the ground, nosed his way in, and shut the door behind him. He turned the crank again, sealing the door, then came over to the inner door.

I watched my little buddy through the round porthole window as he grabbed the manual valves to let air from Artemis into the airlock. A quick hiss, then the airlock had equalized with the city. Hibby turned the inner door’s crank and opened it up.

I stepped into the airlock and patted him on the head. “Good boy.” I powered him down and stowed him in a locker in the antechamber, along with his remote.

Well. There it was. An airlock all ready for use and the control panel was none the wiser. I flipped off the control panel just to assert dominance. It didn’t seem impressed.

I suited up. I timed myself, of course. It’s an EVA master thing. I took eleven minutes. Damn. How did Bob do it in three? The guy was a freakin’ prodigy.

I fired up the suit’s systems. Everything came online just as it should. I ran a pressure test. As instructed, the suit over-pressurized a little and monitored its status. This was the best way to check for leaks. No problems.

I stepped into the airlock, sealed the inner door, and started the cycle. Once it was done, I opened the outer door.

Good morning, Moon!

It’s not dangerous to do a solo EVA, in and of itself. EVA masters do it all the time. But I was doing an EVA in secret. No one even knew I’d be out there. If I had a problem, no one would think to look for me. There’d just be a very attractive dead body out on the surface for however long it took someone to notice.

I made sure my microphone was off, but left the receiver on to the public EVA channel. If someone else ventured outside I’d damn well want to know about it.

My two oxygen tanks had sixteen hours of oxygen total. And I’d brought six more tanks with eight hours each. Way more than I’d need (I hoped), but I was playing it safe.

Well…I can’t quite say “playing it safe” when I’m on an EVA and planning to fire up a welding torch on a moving rock harvester. But you know what I mean.

My CO2-removal system reported green status, which was good, because I don’t like dying. In the old days, astronauts needed expendable filters to collect CO2. Modern suits sort the CO2 molecules out through some complicated use of membranes and the vacuum outside. I don’t know the details, but it works as long as the suit has power.

I checked my suit readouts again and made sure all the values were in the safe range. Never count on your suit’s alarms to warn you. They’re well designed, but they’re the last resort. Safety begins with the operator.

I took a deep breath, hoisted the duffel over one shoulder, and got to walking.

First I had to walk all the way around the city. Conrad’s airlock faced north, and Sanchez Aluminum’s smelter was south. That took me a good twenty minutes.

Then it took me two hours to get to the smelter-reactor complex a kilometer away. It was disconcerting to see Artemis recede into the distance. Hey, look, it’s the only place for humans to survive on this whole rock. Wave goodbye!

I finally made it to the base of what we call the Berm.

When they designed Artemis, someone said, “What if there’s an explosion at the reactor? It’s, like, a thousand meters from town? That’d be bad, right?” A bunch of nerds furrowed their brows and pondered this. Then one of them said, “Well…we could put a bunch of dirt in the way?” They gave him a promotion and a parade.

I embellished the details there, but you get my point. The Berm protects the city from the reactors in the event of an explosion. Though the hulls would probably do that just fine. It’s all about redundant safety. Interestingly, we don’t need protection from radiation. If the reactors ever melt down it won’t matter. The city is shielded all to hell.

I sat down and rested at the base of the Berm. I’d had a long walk and needed a rest.

I turned my head inside the helmet, bit a nipple (try not to get excited), and sucked some water out. The suit’s temperature systems also chilled the water. Hey, I spent a lot of money on that suit. It was quality gear when it wasn’t malfunctioning and ruining my guild exam.

I gave a mighty grunt and started climbing. Five meters at a 45-degree angle. It might not seem like much, especially in lunar gravity. But when you’re wearing a hundred kilograms of EVA suit and hauling another fifty of equipment, believe me, it’s work.

I wheezed, gasped, and swore my way up the Berm. I think I invented some new profanities, I’m not sure. Is “fusumitch” a word? I finally made it to the top and surveyed the lands beyond.

The reactors lived in irregular-shaped buildings. Dozens of pipes led away to hundreds of shiny thermal panels lying on the ground.

Reactors on Earth dump heat into lakes or rivers. We’re a bit dry here on the moon, so we dump our heat via infrared light emitted into space. It’s century-old technology, but we haven’t come up with anything better.

The smelting facility sat two hundred meters from the reactors. It was a mini bubble thirty meters across, with a hopper on one side. The hopper ground rocks into a coarse grit and put it in sealed cylindrical containers. The containers were sealed into pipes, which forced them into the facility with air pressure. Like an old-school pneumatic tube system from the 1950s. If you’re going to have a bunch of air pumps and vacuum-management systems in your facility anyway, you may as well take advantage of them.

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