Lene checked her wristwatch. “Ten thirteen a.m….and there’s currently a half-Earth, by the way. It’s waxing.”
“Good to know,” I said.
Finally, the door opened and the last guest stepped in. He scanned the bar until his eyes landed on me.
I slid my beer glass away. I never drank in front of him.
“Hi, Mr. Bashara,” said Lene.
Dad walked over to her and took her hand. “Miss Landvik. I was so sorry to hear about your father. I wept when I heard.”
“Thanks,” she said. “It’s been hard. But I’m getting better.”
Bob stood. “Ammar. Good to see you.”
“And you. How’s that rover hatch holding up?”
“Perfectly. Hasn’t leaked at all.”
“Glad to hear it.”
Billy threw a towel over his shoulder. “Good morning, Ammar. Fancy some juice? I’ve got a few powder flavors back here. Grape is the most popular.”
“Do you have cranberry?” Dad asked.
“I do indeed!” Billy pulled out a pint glass and reconstituted some cranberry juice.
Dale raised his glass. “Mr. Bashara.”
Dad gave him a cold stare. “Dale.”
“I forget,” said Dale, “do you hate me because I’m gay or because I’m Jewish?”
“I hate you because you broke my daughter’s heart.”
“Fair.” Dale polished off his beer.
Dad sat next to me.
“So a Muslim walks into a bar…” I said.
He didn’t laugh. “I’m here because you said you needed me. If you’re just having a drinking party I’d rather go back to the imam’s.”
“Mr. Bashara?” Svoboda popped his head between us. “Hi, we haven’t met. I’m Martin Svoboda. I’m a friend of Jazz’s.”
Dad shook his hand. “One of those ‘friends with benefits’?”
“Ugh.” I rolled my eyes. “I don’t do that, Dad. This may shock you, but I haven’t had sex with anyone in this whole room.”
“Well, it’s a small room.”
“Burn!” Svoboda said. “Anyway, I just wanted to say you did a great job raising Jazz.”
“You think so?” Dad said.
“All right,” I said. “Let’s get started.”
I walked toward the white screen. Svoboda got it to work, of course. He always got shit to work.
I took a breath. “A lot’s been going on and some of you have questions. Like Bob, who wants to know who did an unlicensed EVA to blow shit up. And Dad, who wants to know why I’ve made him hide out at the imam’s house for the last week. Settle in, I’m going to tell you everything I know….”
So I told them the whole sordid tale. All about the Queensland Glass fire, how Trond hired me, how the job went wrong, and how it connected to the murders. That led to O Palácio, Lefty, and Jin Chu. I told them about Sanchez Aluminum’s oxygen contract and Trond’s plan to take it over. I turned the floor over to Svoboda to explain ZAFO and how it worked. Then I finished up by telling the sea of shocked faces that dozens of mobsters were on their way to Artemis.
When I stopped talking, a general silence fell across the room.
Dale spoke first. “I think we can all agree this is pretty fucked up. But a couple dozen mobsters can’t just take over Artemis. I mean, we’ve had bar fights bigger than that.”
“This isn’t a gangster movie,” I said. “They’re not going to waltz in and start bashing skulls. They’ll just guard Sanchez Aluminum to make sure they keep the oxygen-for-power contract. We have a short window of opportunity before they get here.”
“I assume whatever you’ve concocted will be illegal,” Dad said.
He stood from his stool. “Then I won’t participate.”
“Dad, this is my only chance to stay alive.”
“Nonsense. We can go back to Earth. My brother in Tabuk could take us in—”
“No, Dad.” I shook my head. “No running away. Saudi Arabia’s your old neighborhood but it’s not mine. There’s nothing for me there but gravity sickness. Artemis is my home. I’m not leaving and I’m sure as hell not letting mobsters take over.”
He sat back down. He gave me a mean look, but didn’t leave. That was something, at least.
“Tell them about the plan!” Svoboda said. “I have all the visual aids ready!”
“All right, all right. Bring up the schematics.”
He tapped his Gizmo a few times and the projector showed architectural plans. The text in the title box read SANCHEZ ALUMINUM SMELTER BUBBLE—METALLURGICAL ANALYSIS.
I pointed to the screen. “The smelter bubble is much smaller than a municipal bubble. It’s only thirty meters across. But it still has the same double-hull construction as any other bubble. Wherever there are humans, KSC requires double hulls.”
I walked in front of the screen and pointed to features as I spoke. “Over here is the control room. It’s got a big window overlooking the facility, so I’ll have to be sneaky.”
“Is the control room its own air compartment?” Dad asked.