So we actually have more oxygen than we know what to do with. Life Support regulates the flow, makes sure the incoming supply from the Sanchez pipeline is safe, and separates out the CO2 from used air. They also manage temperature, pressure, and all that other fun stuff. They sell the CO2 to Gunk farms, who use it to grow the algae poor people eat. It’s always about economics, am I right?
“Hello, Bashara,” came a familiar voice from behind.
I put on my fakest smile and turned around. “Rudy! They didn’t tell me the pickup was from you. If I’d known, I wouldn’t have come!”
Okay, I won’t lie. Rudy DuBois is a seriously good-looking man. He’s two meters tall and blond as a Hitler wet dream. He quit the Royal Canadian Mounted Police ten years ago to become Artemis’s head of security, but he still wears the uniform every day. And it looks good on him. Really good. I don’t like the guy, but…you know…if I could do it with no consequences…
He’s what passes for law in town. Okay, sure, every society needs laws and someone to enforce them. But Rudy tends to go the extra mile.
“Don’t worry,” he said, pulling out his Gizmo. “I don’t have enough evidence to prove you’re smuggling. Yet.”
“Smuggling? Me? Golly gee, Mr. Do-Right, you sure get some strange notions.”
What a pain in my ass. He’d been gunning for me ever since an incident when I was seventeen. Fortunately, he can’t just deport people. Only the administrator of Artemis has that authority. And she won’t do it unless Rudy provides something compelling. So we do have some checks and balances. Just not many.
I looked around. “So where’s the package?”
He waved his Gizmo over the reader and the fireproof door slid open. Rudy’s Gizmo was like a magic wand. It could open literally any door in Artemis. “Follow me.”
Rudy and I entered the industrial facility. Technicians operated equipment while engineers monitored the huge status board along one wall.
With the exception of me and Rudy, everyone in the room was Vietnamese. That’s kind of how things shake out in Artemis. A few people who know one another emigrate, they set up a service of some kind, then they hire their friends. And of course, they hire people they know. Tale as old as time, really.
The workers ignored us as we wound between machinery and a maze of high-pressure pipes. Mr. ?oàn watched from his chair in the center of the status wall. He made eye contact with Rudy and nodded slowly.
Rudy stopped just behind a man cleaning an air tank. He tapped the man on his shoulder. “Pham Binh?”
Binh turned around and grunted. His weathered face wore a permanent scowl.
“Mr. Binh. Your wife, Tam, was at Doc Roussel’s this morning.”
“Yeah,” he said. “She’s clumsy.”
Rudy turned his Gizmo around. The screen showed a woman with bruises on her face. “According to the doc, she has a black eye, a hematoma on her check, two bruised ribs, and a concussion.”
Rudy handed me the Gizmo and punched Binh squarely in the face.
In my delinquent youth I’d had a few run-ins with Rudy. I can tell you he’s a strong son of a bitch. He never punched me or anything. But one time he restrained me with one hand while typing on his Gizmo with the other. I was trying really hard to get away too. His grip was like an iron vise. I still think about that sometimes late at night.
Binh crumpled to the ground. He tried to get to his hands and knees but couldn’t. When you can’t get off the ground in the moon’s gravity, you are seriously out of it.
Rudy knelt down and pulled Binh’s head off the ground by the hair. “Let’s see…yes that cheek is swelling up nicely. Now for the black eye…” He rabbit-punched the barely conscious man in the eye then let his head fall to the ground.
Binh, now in a fetal position, moaned, “Stop…”
Rudy stood and took his Gizmo back from me. He held it so we could both see. “Two bruised ribs, right? The fourth and fifth on the left side?”
“Looks like it,” I agreed.
He kicked the prone man in the side. Binh tried to cry out but had no breath to scream with.
“I’ll just assume he has a concussion from one of those head punches,” Rudy said. “Wouldn’t want to take things too far.”
The other techs had stopped to watch the spectacle. Several of them were smiling. ?oàn, still in his chair, had the slightest hint of approval on his face.
“This is how it’s going to go, Binh,” Rudy said. “Whatever happens to her happens to you from now on. Got that?”
Binh wheezed on the floor.
“Got that?!” Rudy asked, louder this time.
Binh nodded fervently.
“Good.” He smiled. He turned to me. “There’s your package, Jazz. Approximately one hundred kilograms to be delivered to Doc Roussel. Charge it to the Security Services account.”
“Got it,” I said.
That’s how justice works around here. We don’t have jails or fines. If you commit a serious crime, we exile you to Earth. For everything else, there’s Rudy.
After that “special delivery” I did a few more mundane pickups and drop-offs. Mostly items from the port to home addresses. But I did nab a contract to move a bunch of boxes from a residence back to the port. I love helping people move. They usually tip well. That day’s move was pretty modest—a young couple relocating back to Earth.