Page 34

The scoop crunched forward, grabbed a few hundred rocks, and dropped them in the basin. It reached down for another bite. Okay, I had time to climb aboard.

I hopped on the nearby wheel and hoisted myself onto the frame. I reached the breaker box and opened the little door. Inside, it was just like Trond’s harvester’s breaker box, with the same four lines connecting to it. Not a surprise—they were the same model. Still, I unclenched a little upon seeing it.

Harvesters have breakers all over to stave off electrical problems, but the last line of defense is the main breaker. All power runs through it. It’s the “fuse” that protects the battery.

I pulled a homemade contraption from my duffel. It consisted of two jumper-cable clamps on thick-gauge wire, which led to a high-voltage relay switch. The relay was wired into the buzzer on a battery-powered alarm clock. Simple as that. The relay would trip when the clock’s alarm went off. Not exactly rocket science, and it sure as hell wasn’t pretty, but it would work.

I connected the positive and negative poles of the main power line with my contraption. Nothing happened, of course. The relay was open. But once the alarm went off (set for midnight that evening), the relay would close and the battery would short out. And the short would bypass the breaker box entirely, so the normal fail-safes wouldn’t work.

When you short out a 2.4 megawatt-hour battery, it gets very, very hot. Like, extremely hot. And it’d be sitting in a sealed reservoir full of wax and compressed oxygen. And the reservoir was an airtight compartment. Let me give you the math on that:

Wax + oxygen + heat = fire.

Fire + confined volume = bomb.

(Bomb + harvester) ? 4 = 1,000,000? for Jazz.

And it would happen long after I had safely returned to town. They could look as closely as they wanted at the video footage, they wouldn’t know who I was. And I had another trick up my sleeve….

I checked my arm readouts. I had to hope Svoboda’s device worked as advertised. He’d never failed me before, at least.

Back in my coffin, the device Svoboda had made for me would be powering up. I affectionately named it the “alibi-o-mat.” I’d slotted my Gizmo into it before I’d gone on this little adventure.

The alibi-o-mat poked at my Gizmo screen with little probes that had the same capacitance as a human finger.

It typed in my passcode and started surfing the internet. It brought up my favorite Saudi gossip websites, some funny videos, and a few internet forums. It even fired off some emails I’d composed in advance.

Not the perfect alibi, but it was pretty good. If anyone asked where I was, I’d say I was at home surfing the internet. Hardly an uncommon thing to do. And the data logs from my Gizmo and the city’s network would back that up.

I checked the time. The whole procedure—from attaching the hammock to installing my harvester-killing-device—had taken forty-one minutes. This was doable! I’d make it back in plenty of time! One harvester down, three to go.

I crawled back under the now-doomed harvester, collected my gear, and crawled back out. All the while I was careful not to get crushed by the giant wheels. Even in lunar gravity the harvester was heavy enough to squish me like a grape.

I assumed the next harvester would be a hundred meters away or so on some other edge of the collection zone. But instead, it was three meters from my face. What the hell was it doing there?!

It didn’t dig. It didn’t load. It just “looked” at me, its high-resolution cameras re-focused slightly as I stood up. It could only mean one thing: Someone at Sanchez Aluminum had taken manual control of this harvester.

They’d spotted me.

Dear Jazz,

I’m very worried about you. I haven’t heard from you in over a month. You haven’t answered any of my emails. I found your father’s email address through his welding business website and contacted him. He doesn’t know where you are and he’s very worried too.

Artemis’s public contact directory has 7 people named Sean. I contacted all of them and none are the Sean who knows you. I guess your Sean didn’t want his information public? Anyway, that was a dead end too.

Dear Kelvin,

Sorry you got worried. I wish you hadn’t contacted Dad.

Things have not gone well lately. Last month Sean got a visit from an angry mob. About fifteen guys. They beat the shit out of him. He wouldn’t talk about it afterward, but I knew what it was about. It’s a thing people do here. It’s called a “morals brigade.”

Some things really piss people off. Enough that they’ll form up and punish you, even though you didn’t break any laws. Sean is a horny guy—I knew that. And I knew he had other girls.

But I didn’t know he was screwing a fourteen-year-old.

We’ve got people from all over Earth here. Different cultures have very different sexual morals, so Artemis doesn’t have age-of-consent rules at all. As long as it’s not forced, it’s not rape. And the girl was consenting.

But we’re not savages here. You might not get deported to Earth, but you’ll definitely get your ass kicked. I assume some of those guys were the girl’s relatives. I don’t know.

I’m an idiot, Kelvin. A complete idiot. How could I not see what Sean was? I’m only seventeen and he was hot for me from day one. Turns out I’m on the older end of his preference range.

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