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Artemis, Page 2

Andy Weir

  I checked the landing zone schedule on my Gizmo. No meatship today (that’s what we call passenger ships). They only come about once a week. The next one wouldn’t be for three days. Thank God. There’s nothing more annoying than trust-fund boys looking for “moon poon.”

  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.

  She snorted, turned, and walked inside. That was my invitation to enter.

  I made snide faces at her back while she led me through the mansion’s foyer. She pointed down the hall and walked in the opposite direction without saying a word.

  “Always a pleasure, Irina!” I called after her.

  Through the archway, I found Trond reclining on a sofa, wearing sweats and a bathrobe. He chatted with an Asian man I’d never seen before.

  “Anyway, the moneymaking potential is”—he saw me enter and flashed a wide smile—“Jazz! Always good to see you!”

  Trond’s guest had an open box next to him. He smiled politely and fumbled it closed. Of course, that just made me curious when I normally wouldn’t have given a shit.

  “Good to see you too,” I said. I dropped the contraband on the couch.

  Trond gestured to the guest. “This is Jin Chu from Hong Kong. Jin, this is Jazz Bashara. She’s a local gal. Grew up right here on the moon.”

  Jin bowed his head quickly, then spoke with an American accent. “Nice to meet you, Jazz.” It caught me off guard and I guess it showed.

  Trond laughed. “Yeah, Jin here is a product of high-class American private schools. Hong Kong, man. It’s a magical place.”

  “But not as magical as Artemis!” Jin beamed. “This is my first visit to the moon. I’m like a kid in a candy store! I’ve always been a fan of science fiction. I grew up watching Star Trek. Now I get to live it!”

  “Star Trek?” Trond said. “Seriously? That’s like a hundred years old.”

  “Quality is quality,” Jin said. “Age is irrelevant. No one bitches about Shakespeare fans.”

  “Fair point. But there aren’t any hot alien babes to seduce here. You can’t quite be Captain Kirk.”

  “Actually”—Jin Chu held up a finger—“Kirk only had sex with three alien women in the entire classic series. And that number assumes he slept with Elaan of Troyius, which was implied but never made clear. So it might just be two.”

  Trond bowed in supplication. “I will no longer challenge you on anything Star Trek–related. Are you going to the Apollo 11 site while you’re here?”

  “Absolutely,” Jin said. “I hear there are EVA tours. Should I do one, you think?”

  I piped in. “Nah. There’s an exclusion perimeter
around the whole site. The Viewing Hall in the Visitor Center gets you just as close.”

  “Oh, I see. Guess there’s no point, then.”

  Suck it, Dale.

  “Anyone want tea or coffee?” Trond offered.

  “Yeah, please,” Jin said. “Dark coffee if you have it.”

  I slumped into a nearby chair. “Black tea for me.”

  Trond vaulted over the back of the couch (not as exciting as it sounds—remember the gravity here). He slid to the credenza and picked up a wicker basket. “I just got some high-end Turkish coffee. You’ll love it.” He craned his neck toward me. “Jazz, you might like it too.”

  “Coffee’s just a bad kind of tea,” I said. “Black tea is the only hot drink worth having.”

  “You Saudis do love your black tea,” Trond said.

  Yes, technically I’m a citizen of Saudi Arabia. But I haven’t been there since I was six. I picked up a few attitudes and beliefs from Dad, but I wouldn’t fit in anywhere on Earth nowadays. I’m an Artemisian.

  Trond got to work on our drinks. “Talk amongst yourselves, it’ll be a minute.” Why not have Irina do it? I don’t know. I don’t know what the hell she was for, honestly.

  Jin rested his arm on the Mystery Box. “I hear Artemis is a popular romantic destination. Are there a lot of newlyweds here?”

  “Not really,” I said. “They can’t afford it. But we do get older couples trying to spice things up in the bedroom.”

  He looked confused.

  “Gravity,” I said. “Sex is totally different in one-sixth G. It’s great for couples who’ve been married a long time. They get to rediscover sex together—it’s like new.”

  “I never thought of that,” Jin said.

  “Lots of prostitutes in Aldrin if you want to find out more.”

  “Oh! Uh, no. Not my thing at all.” He hadn’t expected a woman to recommend hookers. Earthers tend to be uptight on that topic, and I’ve never understood why. It’s a service performed for a payment. What’s the big deal?

  I shrugged. “If you change your mind, they run about two thousand slugs.”

  “I won’t.” He laughed nervously and changed the subject. “So…why is Artemisian money called slugs?”

  I put my feet up on the coffee table. “It’s short for soft-landed grams. S-L-G. Slug. One slug gets one gram of cargo delivered from Earth to Artemis, courtesy of KSC.”

  “It’s technically not a currency,” Trond said from the credenza. “We’re not a country; we can’t have a currency. Slugs are pre-purchased service credit from KSC. You pay dollars, euros, yen, whatever, and in exchange you get a mass allowance for shipment to Artemis. You don’t have to use it all at once, so they keep track of your balance.”

  He carried the tray over to the coffee table. “It ended up being a handy unit for trade. So KSC is functioning as a bank. You’d never get away with that on Earth, but this isn’t Earth.”

  Jin reached forward to get his coffee. As he did, I got a look at the box. It was white with stark black text that read ZAFO SAMPLE—AUTHORIZED USE ONLY.

  “So this couch I’m on is an Earth import, right?” Jin said. “How much did it cost to bring here?”

  “That one weighs forty-three kilograms,” Trond said. “So it cost forty-three thousand slugs to have it shipped.”

  “What does a typical person make?” asked Jin. “If you don’t mind me asking, that is.”

  I grabbed my tea and let the cup’s warmth seep into my hands. “I make twelve thousand a month as a porter. It’s a low-paying job.”

  Jin sipped his coffee and made a face. I’ve seen it before. Earthers hate our coffee. Physics dictates that it tastes like shit.

  Earth’s air is 20 percent oxygen. The rest is stuff human bodies don’t need like nitrogen and argon. So Artemis’s air is pure oxygen at 20 percent Earth’s air pressure. That gives us the right amount of oxygen while minimizing pressure on the hulls. It’s not a new concept—it goes back to the Apollo days. Thing is, the lower the pressure, the lower the boiling point of water. Water boils at 61 degrees Celsius here, so that’s as hot as tea or coffee can be. Apparently it’s disgustingly cold to people who aren’t used to it.

  Jin discreetly put the cup back on the table. He wouldn’t be picking it up again.

  “What brings you to Artemis?” I asked.

  He drummed his fingers on the ZAFO box. “We’ve been working on a business deal for months. We’re finally closing the deal, so I wanted to meet Mr. Landvik in person.”

  Trond settled into his couch and picked up the box of contraband. “I told you, call me Trond.”

  “Trond it is,” Jin said.

  Trond tore the wrapping off the package and pulled out a dark wooden box. He held it up to the light and looked at it from several angles. I’m not much for aesthetics, but even I could tell it was a thing of beauty. Intricate etchings covered every surface and it had a tasteful label written in Spanish.

  “What have we here?” Jin asked.

  Trond flashed a shit-eating grin and opened the box. Twenty-four cigars, each in its own paper holder, rested inside. “Dominican cigars. People think Cubans are the best, but they’re wrong. It’s all about the Dominicans.”

  I smuggled a box of those things in for him every month. Got to love regular customers.

  He pointed to the door. “Jazz, would you mind closing that?”

  I headed to the doorway. A starkly functional hatch hid behind the finely appointed wall panels. I slid it closed and spun the handle shut. Hatches are pretty common in upscale homes. If the bubble loses pressure, you can seal your house and not die. Some people are paranoid enough to seal their bedrooms at night just in case. Waste of money if you ask me. There’s never been a pressure loss in Artemis’s history.

  “I have a special air-filtration system in here,” Trond said. “The smoke never gets out of this room.”

  He unwrapped a cigar, bit the end off, and spit it into an ashtray. Then he put the cigar in his mouth and lit it with a gold lighter. He puffed several times and sighed. “Good stuff…good stuff.”

  He held the box out toward Jin, who politely waved it away. Then he offered it to me.

  “Sure.” I grabbed one and slipped it into my breast pocket. “I’ll smoke it after lunch.”

  That was a lie. But why would I turn down something like that? I could probably get a hundred slugs for it.

  Jin furrowed his brow. “I’m sorry, but…cigars are contraband?”

  “Ridiculous, really,” said Trond. “I have a sealed room! My smoke doesn’t bother anyone! It’s injustice, I tell you!”

  “Oh, you’re so full of shit.” I turned to Jin. “It’s fire. A fire in Artemis would be a nightmare. It’s not like we can go outside. Flammable materials are illegal unless there’s a really good reason for them. The last thing we want is a bunch of idiots wandering around with lighters.”

  “Well…I guess there’s that.” Trond fiddled with his lighter. I’d smuggled it in for him years ago. Every few months it needed new butane. More money for me.

  I took another swig of warm tea and pulled out my Gizmo. “Trond?”

  “Right, of course.” He pulled out his own Gizmo and held it next to mine. “Still four thousand slugs?”

  “Mm-hmm. But fair warning: I have to bump it to forty-five hundred next time. Things got more expensive for me recently.”

  “Not a problem,” he said. He typed while I waited. After a moment, my screen popped up the transfer verification. I accepted and the transaction was complete.

  “All good,” I said. I turned to Jin. “Nice to meet you, Mr. Jin. Have fun while you’re here.”

  “Thanks, I will!”

  “Have a good one, Jazz.” Trond smiled.

  I left the two men behind to do whatever they were up to. I didn’t know what it was, but it sure as hell wasn’t aboveboard. Trond did all sorts of shady shit—that was why I liked him. If he’d brought a guy all the way to the moon, there was somethin
g way more interesting going on than “a business deal.”

  I rounded the corner and left through the foyer. Irina gave me a nasty look as I departed. I wrinkled my nose at her. She closed the door behind me without saying goodbye.

  I was just about to hop into Trigger when my Gizmo beeped. A porter job had just popped up. I had seniority and proximity, so the system offered it to me first.


  Wow. Four hundred fifty-two whole slugs. Roughly a tenth of what I’d just made from a box of cigars.

  I accepted. I had to make money somehow.

  Dear Kelvin Otieno,

  Hi. My name’s Jasmine Bashara. People call me Jazz. I’m nine years old. I live in Artemis.

  Ms. Teller’s my teacher. She’s a good teacher even though she took away my Gizmo when I played with it during class. She gave us homework to send email to kids at the KSC complex in Kenya. She assigned me your address. Do you speak English? I can speak Arabic too. What do you speak in Kenya?

  I like American TV shows and my favorite food is ginger ice cream. But usually I eat Gunk. I want to get a dog but we can’t afford one. I hear poor people can have dogs on Earth. Is it true? Do you have a dog? If you have a dog please tell me about your dog.

  Does Kenya have a king?

  My dad’s a welder. What does your dad do?

  Dear Jazz Bashara,

  Hello. I am Kelvin and I am also nine. I live with my mom and dad. I have three sisters. They’re jerks and the two older ones beat me up. But I’m getting bigger and someday I’ll beat them up. I’m just kidding, boys should never hit girls.

  Kenyans speak English and Swahili. We do not have a king. We have a president and a National Assembly and a Senate. Grown-ups vote for them and they make the laws.

  My family doesn’t have a dog but we have two cats. One of them just comes around to eat, but the other one is very nice and sleeps on the couch all the time.

  My dad is a security officer for KSC. He works at Gate 14 and he makes sure only people who are allowed to go in can go in. We live in assigned housing in the complex and my school is in the complex too. Everyone who works for KSC gets free school for their kids. KSC is very generous and we are all grateful.