I tossed and turned as much as I could in the cramped confines. No position was comfortable. I wanted to pass out and punch someone at the same time. I couldn’t think straight. I had to get out of there.
I kicked open the panel. Who gives a fuck if someone sees me? I didn’t.
“Where now?” I mumbled to myself.
I felt a wet droplet hit my arm. I looked to the ceiling. The frigid air of Bean Down 27 often made condensation points. Water’s surface tension versus lunar gravity meant a bunch of it had to build up before it started dripping. But I didn’t see anything above me.
Then I touched my face with my hand. “Oh, goddammit.”
The source of the water was me. I was crying.
I needed a place to sleep. Really sleep. If I’d been thinking clearly I would have gotten a hotel. Ngugi wouldn’t help O Palácio find me again.
Right that moment, I didn’t trust anything electronic. I considered going to the imam’s house, where Dad was. The imam would take me in, and at some feral level I wanted my daddy.
I shook my head and admonished myself. Under no circumstances would I tangle Dad up in all this shit.
Fifteen minutes later, I slogged down a corridor to my destination. I rang the door buzzer. It was past three in the morning, but I was past politeness.
After a minute, Svoboda opened the door. He wore full-body pajamas, because apparently he had just traveled to the moon from 1954. He looked at me through bleary eyes. “Jazz?”
“I need—” My throat closed. I almost fell prey to hysterical crying. Get your shit together! “I need to sleep. Svoboda, oh God I need to sleep.”
He opened the door farther. “Come in, come in.”
I trudged past him. “I’m. I need. I’m so tired, Svoboda. I’m just so tired.”
“Yeah, yeah, it’s okay.” He rubbed his eyes. “Take the bed. I’ll set up some blankets on the floor for myself.”
“No, no.” My eyes had already closed of their own accord. “Floor’s fine for me.”
My knees buckled and I collapsed. The moon is a nice place to pass out. You hit the ground very gently.
I felt Svoboda’s arms pick me up. Then I felt the bed, still warm from his body. Blankets covered me and I nuzzled into the cocoon of safety. I fell asleep instantly.
I awoke to that few seconds of pleasant amnesia everyone gets in the morning. Unfortunately, it didn’t last long.
I remembered the previous night’s antics and winced. God. It’s one thing to be a pathetic weakling, but it’s another to do it in front of someone.
I stretched out in Svoboda’s bed and yawned. It wasn’t the first time I’d awakened in some guy’s place worn out and full of regret. But I’ll tell you what, it was the best night’s sleep I’d had in a long time.
Svoboda was nowhere to be seen. A pillow and blanket on the floor showed he was quite the gentleman. It was his bed—I should have been the one on the floor. Or we could have shared.
My boots stood neatly together next to the nightstand. Apparently he’d taken them off while I slept. Other than that, I was fully clothed. Not the best way to sleep, but better than having someone undress my unconscious body in the night.
I pulled my Gizmo from my pocket to check the time.
“Holy shit!” It was well into the afternoon. I’d slept for fourteen hours.
The nightstand next to me had three Gunk bars in a neat stack with a note on top: Jazz—Breakfast for you. There’s juice in the fridge.—Svoboda.
I noshed on a Gunk bar and opened his mini-fridge. I had no idea what the juice was, but I went ahead and drank it. Turns out it was reconstituted carrot-apple juice. It tasted like shit. Who the hell puts those things together? Ukrainians, apparently.
I pondered ways to pay him back. A really nice meal? A cool piece of lab equipment? Have sex with him? Just kidding on that last one, of course. I snickered at the thought. Then I stopped snickering but hung on to the thought.
Whoa. I needed to finish waking up.
I took a nice long shower and reminded myself what I was really working toward: a shower of my own. It’s damned pleasant to walk three meters and be in a private shower. Damned pleasant.
I didn’t want to wear my grungy, slept-in clothes so I raided Svoboda’s closet. I found a suitable T-shirt and threw it on over my underwear (sadly, Svoboda had no women’s undergarments in his closet. I would have had some questions for him if he had). The shirt hung on me like a short dress—Svoboda’s considerably taller than I am.
Okay. I was rested, clean, and had a clear head. Time to settle down and do some serious thinking. How would I get out of this? I sat at the desk and plugged in my Gizmo. The desk’s built-in monitor rose from its cubby and showed my desktop icons. I cracked my knuckles and extended the keyboard tray.
Over the next few hours, I sipped carrot-apple juice (it grows on you) and researched Sanchez Aluminum. Their operations, leadership, revenue estimates, you name it. Since they were a private company (owned by “Santiago Holdings, Inc.” which I assumed was Brazilian for “O Palácio”), there wasn’t much publicly available information.
I looked up Loretta Sanchez and found a paper she’d written about her refinements to high-temperature smelting. I had to take a break to learn some basic chemistry, but I found all that online pretty easily. Once I understood it, I had to admit: She really was a genius. She’d revolutionized the whole system and made it practical for use on the moon.