Page 9

The woman was pregnant. You can’t gestate a baby in lunar gravity—it leads to birth defects. And you can’t raise a baby here, anyway. It’s terrible for bone and muscle development. When I moved here I was six years old—that was the minimum age for residency back then. Since then they’ve bumped it up to twelve. Should I be worried?

I was just moving on to the next pickup when my Gizmo screeched at me. Not the ring of a phone call, not the bleep of a message, but the scream of an alarm. I fumbled it out of my pocket.


“Shit,” I said.

I threw Trigger into reverse and backed up until I found a patch of hallway wide enough for a U-turn. Now facing the right way, I sped to the ramps.

“Jazz Bashara responding,” I said to my Gizmo. “Current location Conrad Up Four.”

The central safety computer noted my report and popped up a map of Conrad. I was one of many dots on that map, all converging on CU12-3270.

Artemis doesn’t have a fire department. We have volunteers. But smoke and fire are so deadly here the volunteers have to know how to breathe with air tanks. So all EVA masters and EVA trainees are automatically volunteers. Yes, there’s an irony there.

The fire was on Conrad Up 12—eight floors above me.

I screeched along the ramps up and up to CU12, then sped along the corridors toward the third ring. From there, I had to find the lot that was approximately 270 degrees from true north. It didn’t take long—a crowd of EVA masters had already converged.

A red light flashed over the thick door to the address. The sign above read QUEENSLAND GLASS FACTORY.

Bob was on-scene. As the ranking guild member present, the fire was his responsibility. He gave me a quick nod to acknowledge my presence.

“Okay, listen up!” he said. “We’ve had a full-fledged fire inside the glass factory, which has burned off all the available oxygen in the room. There are fourteen people inside—all of them made it to the air shelter in time. There are no injuries, and the shelter is working properly.”

He stood in front of the door. “We can’t just wait for the room to cool like we normally would. This factory creates glass by reacting silicon with oxygen, so they have large tanks of compressed oxygen in there. If those tanks burst, the room will contain the explosion, but the people inside will have no chance. And if we let fresh oxygen in the whole thing will blow.”

He shooed us away from the doorway to make an empty area. “We need a tent right here, sealed to the wall around the doorway. We need an inflatable accordion tunnel inside the tent. And we need four rescue workers.”

The fire brigade, well trained, got on it immediately. They built a cube skeleton out of hollow pipes. Then they taped plastic to the wall around the fireproof door, draped it over the skeleton, and taped the edges together. They left the rear flap open.

They hoisted an accordion tunnel into the tent. This was no small task—unlike the makeshift tent, inflatable tunnels were made to hold pressure. They’re thick and heavy, designed to rescue people from air shelters when there’s a complete vacuum outside. A bit of an overkill in this scenario, but it’s the equipment we had.

The tent wasn’t very large, and the tunnel occupied most of the space inside. So Bob pointed to the four smallest responders. “Sarah, Jazz, Arun, and Marcy. Get in.”

The four of us stepped forward. The others put air tanks on our backs, breather masks on our faces, and goggles over our eyes. One by one we tested our gear and gave a thumbs-up.

We crowded into the tent. It was a tight fit. Bob stood a metal cylinder just inside. “The air shelter is along the west wall. A total of fourteen people inside.”

“Copy. Fourteen,” said Sarah. A fully licensed EVA master with the most tenure out of the four of us, she was the insertion team’s leader. The other fire brigade volunteers taped the tent flap closed, except for one corner, which they left slightly open.

Sarah cranked the valve on the cylinder and it sprayed a fog of carbon dioxide into the tent. It’s a sloppy process, displacing oxygen, but we didn’t need to expel every last atom. We just needed to get the percentage as low as possible. After a minute, she cranked the valve shut again and the people outside sealed that last corner of the tent.

She felt the door. “Hot,” she said. We were about to open a door into a room just waiting to blow up. We weren’t going to add oxygen, but it was still unnerving.

She keyed the fire unlock code into the door panel. Yes, a code. Once a fireproof room’s alarms go off, the doors and vents seal immediately. The people inside can’t get out—they have to get into an air shelter or die. Seem harsh? Well, it’s not. A fire spreading in town would be far worse than a few people dying in a sealed room. Artemis does not fuck around with fire safety.

At Sarah’s command, the door clicked open and heat from inside filled our tent. I immediately broke into a sweat.

“Jesus,” said Arun.

The factory was thick with smoke. Some corners glowed red with heat. If there’d been any oxygen to spare, they would’ve certainly been aflame. Along the far wall, I could just make out the shape of the industrial air shelter.

Sarah wasted no time. “Jazz, you’re with me up front. Arun and Marcy, stay here and hold the back of the inflatable.”

Tip: You can use left and right keyboard keys to browse between pages.