It worked. I don’t know what route the posse took, but they never got eyes on me.
I finally reached the base of the Moltke Foothills. The Sea of Tranquility stretched all the way to the horizon. Artemis shined in the extreme distance, probably a good two kilometers away. I suppressed the queasy feelings that came with realizing how isolated I was. No time for that shit right now.
I needed a new strategy. I couldn’t hopscotch my way any farther. A vast field of gray powder separated me from home. Not only would I leave a trail, I’d be visible for kilometers around.
Time for a rest. For the moment, at least, I wasn’t out in the open. I found a suitable boulder and sat in the shade. I turned off all my LEDs, even the ones in the helmet, and covered my arm readouts with tape.
Shadows on the moon are stark and black. No air means no light diffusion. But I wasn’t in total darkness. Sunlight reflected off nearby rocks, dirt, hills, and so on, and some of that snuck around to hit me. Still, I was functionally invisible compared to the shine of the landscape.
I turned my head to the water nipple and slurped down a good half liter. EVAs are a sweaty business.
Good thing I’d taken a break. Five minutes into my rest I spotted the posse driving back to town. They were a fair distance away from me—on the straight-line course to the city.
The rover, designed for four passengers, had seven EVA masters piled on it. It looked like a clown car speeding across the flatlands. Judging by the rooster tail of dust it kicked up, they were moving as fast as they could. At that speed on the bumpy terrain they’d have no chance of spotting me. What the hell were they thinking?
“Aww, fuck,” I said.
They didn’t need to find me. They just needed to beat me back to town. Then they could guard every airlock. Eventually I’d run out of air and have to surrender.
“Shit! Damn! Crap! Ass! Son of a bitch!” It’s important to vary your profanities. If you use the same one too often it loses strength. I fumed in my suit for a minute more, then calmed down and got to scheming.
Okay, this sucked but it came with advantages. They would beat me to town. Fine. But that meant they wouldn’t be patrolling for me in Tranquility. I’d been stressing out about how to sneak across the flatlands but now that wasn’t a problem.
I stood up, turned my LEDs back on, and pulled the tape off my arm readouts.
There’d be an EVA master on the lookout at every airlock. And they wouldn’t just be hanging around inside. They’d be outside, where they could see me coming and sound the alarm.
I had a plan, but first I had to get next to the city itself. That was step one.
Conrad’s airlock faced north, the Tranquility Bay Company’s freight airlock in Bean faced northwest, the Port of Entry in Aldrin faced east, and the ISRO’s airlock in Armstrong faced southeast. So the biggest “blind spot” in their coverage would be the southwest.
I bounced along the gray nothingness for an hour, taking a wide, circular course so as to approach from the right direction. I kept my eyes out for trouble as the domes of home grew on the horizon. The last hundred meters were pure stress. Once I entered the shadow of Shepard Bubble I felt a lot safer. I’d be hard to spot in the darkness.
Finally, I leaned against Shepard’s hull and breathed a sigh of relief.
Okay. I’d made it to town. Now the trick was getting in.
I couldn’t walk the perimeter of town to get where I needed to be. I’d be spotted for sure. Time to make like Hibby and use those maintenance handholds.
The handles had been designed with EVA suits in mind—the perfect width for grabbing with giant gloves. It only took me ten minutes to climb the arc of the sphere. I hunkered down once I got to the peak. Not because I was worried about EVA masters—they’d all be too close to other bubbles to get eyes on me. No, my problem was basic geography. Shepard and Aldrin are separated only by Armstrong, and Armstrong is only half their height. So right that moment, anyone in Aldrin Park would be able to see me.
It was still pretty early in the morning, so hopefully there wouldn’t be too many park visitors. Plus, anyone who did see me would probably assume I was a maintenance worker doing her job. Still…I was perpetrating a caper and preferred not to be noticed.
I climbed down the other side of Shepard and onto the connector tunnel between it and Armstrong. It wasn’t exactly gymnastics. The tunnel is three meters wide.
Once I made it to Armstrong Bubble, I climbed over it too. Thanks to Armstrong’s smaller size, it went considerably faster than my Shepard climb. Then I catwalked across the Armstrong–Aldrin Connector.
Aldrin was more of a challenge. I climbed up part of the way, but couldn’t go to the peak. Well, I could, but I shouldn’t. It’s one thing to wander around on a bubble hull, but if I climbed on the glass of Aldrin Park right in front of people’s faces, it would raise a few eyebrows. “Mommy, why is Spider-Man on the moon?”—no thanks.
Instead, I stopped climbing halfway up—just below the glass panels—and moved sideways, shimmying from handle to handle and working my way around the bubble. Soon, the Port of Entry came into view. Closest to me was the rail antechamber where train cars docked with the port. No train there at the moment, though. Next to that was the huge circular door to the freight airlock.
Bob Lewis stepped out of the train alcove.
“Oh shit!” I said. I’d been so careful coming around the arc of Aldrin! I’d moved slowly to make sure I’d see any EVA master before he could see me. But I didn’t know Bob was inside the damn alcove. That’s cheating, Bob!