I headed to the south side, where the freight airlock stood ready. It could fit ten thousand cubic meters of cargo through in a single cycle, but bringing it in was a slow process. The pod had arrived hours earlier. EVA masters had brought the entire pod into the airlock and gave it the high-pressure air cleanse.
We do everything we can to keep lunar dust from entering the city. Hell, I hadn’t even skipped the cleanse after my faulty valve adventure earlier that day. Why go through all that hassle? Because lunar dust is extremely bad to breathe. It’s made of teeny, tiny rocks, and there’s been no weather to smooth them out. Each mote is a spiky, barbed nightmare just waiting to tear up your lungs. You’re better off smoking a pack of asbestos cigarettes than breathing that shit.
By the time I got to the freight airlock, the giant inner door stood open and the pod was being unloaded. I slid up to Nakoshi, the head longshoreman. He sat at his inspection table and examined the contents of a shipping box. Satisfied that it contained no contraband, he closed the box and stamped it with the Artemis symbol—a capital A with the right side styled to look like a bow and arrow.
“Good morning, Mr. Nakoshi,” I said cheerfully. He and Dad had been buddies since I was a little girl. He was family to me, like a beloved uncle.
“Get in line with the other porters, you little shit.”
Okay, maybe more like a distant cousin.
“Come on, Mr. N,” I wheedled. “I’ve been waiting on this shipment for weeks. We talked about this.”
“Did you transfer payment?”
“Did you stamp the package?”
He maintained eye contact and reached under the table. He pulled out a still-sealed box and slid it toward me.
“I don’t see a stamp,” I said. “Do we have to do things this way every damn time? We used to be so close. What happened?”
“You grew up and became an underhanded pain in the ass.” He set his Gizmo on top of the box. “And you had so much potential. You pissed it away. Three thousand slugs.”
“You mean twenty-five hundred, right? Like we agreed?”
He shook his head. “Three thousand. Rudy’s been sniffing around. More risk means more pay.”
“That seems more like a Nakoshi problem than a Jazz problem,” I said. “We agreed to twenty-five hundred.”
“Hmm,” he said. “Maybe I should give it a detailed inspection then. See if there’s anything in here that shouldn’t be….”
I pursed my lips. This wasn’t the time to make a stand. I brought up my Gizmo’s banking software and initiated the transfer. The Gizmos did whatever magic shit computers do to identify each other and verify.
Nakoshi picked up his Gizmo, checked the confirmation page, and nodded with approval. He stamped the box. “What’s in there, anyway?”
“Porn, mostly. Starring your mom.”
He snorted and continued with his inspections.
And that’s how to smuggle contraband into Artemis. Pretty simple, really. All it takes is a corrupt official you’ve known since you were six years old. Getting the contraband to Artemis…well, that’s another story. More on that later.
I could have picked up a bunch more packages to deliver around, but this one was special. I walked over to my cart and hopped in the driver’s side. I didn’t strictly need a cart—Artemis wasn’t set up for vehicles—but it got me around faster, and I could deliver more stuff that way. Since I’m paid per delivery it was worth the investment. My cart is a pain in the ass to control, but it’s good at carrying heavy things. So I decided it was male. I named him Trigger.
I paid a monthly fee to store Trigger at the port. Where else would I keep him? I have less space at home than a typical Earth prisoner.
I powered Trigger up—there’s no key or anything. Just a button. Why would anyone steal a cart? What would you do with it? Sell it? You’d never get away with it. Artemis is a small town. No one steals shit. Well, okay, there’s some shoplifting. But no one takes carts.
I motored out of the port.
I wound Trigger through the opulent passageways of Shepard Bubble. It was a far cry from my sleazy neighborhood. The hallways of Shepard feature wood paneling and tasteful, noise-absorption carpeting. Chandeliers hang every twenty meters to provide light. Those, at least, aren’t stupidly expensive. We’ve got plenty of silicon on the moon, so glass is locally made. But still, talk about ostentatious.
If you think vacationing on the moon is expensive, you don’t want to know what it costs to live in Shepard Bubble. Aldrin is all overpriced resorts and hotels, but Shepard is where wealthy Artemisians live.
I was headed to the estate of one of the richest richfucks in town: Trond Landvik. He’d made a fortune in the Norwegian telecom industry. His home occupied a big chunk of Shepard’s ground floor—stupidly huge, considering it was just him, his daughter, and a live-in maid. But hey, it was his money. If he wanted to have a big house on the moon, who was I to judge? I just brought him illegal shit as requested.
I parked Trigger next to the estate entrance (one of the entrances, anyway) and rang the buzzer. The door slid open to reveal a bulky Russian woman. Irina had been with the Landviks since the dawn of time.
She stared at me wordlessly. I stared back.
“Delivery,” I finally said. Irina and I had interacted a zillion times in the past, but she made me state my business every time I came to the door.