Authors: Andy Weir
Aldrin is the opposite of Conrad in every respect. Conrad's full of plumbers, glass blowers, metalworkers, welding shops, repair shopsâ¦the list goes on. But Aldrin is truly a resort. It has hotels, casinos, whorehouses, theaters, and even an honest-to-God park with real grass. Wealthy tourists from all over Earth come for two-week stays.
I passed through the Arcade. It wasn't the fastest route to where I was going, but I liked the view.
New York has Fifth Avenue, London has Bond Street, and Artemis has the Arcade. The stores don't bother to list prices. If you have to ask, you can't afford it. The Ritz-Carlton Artemis occupies an entire block and extends five floors up and another five down. A single night there costs 12,000 slugsâmore than I make in a month as a porter (though I have other sources of income).
Despite the costs of a lunar vacation, demand always exceeds supply. Middle-class Earthers can afford it as a once-in-a-lifetime experience with suitable financing. They stay at crappier hotels in crappier bubbles like Conrad. But wealthy folks make annual trips and stay in nice hotels. And my, oh my, do they shop.
More than anywhere else, Aldrin is where money enters Artemis.
There was nothing in the shopping district I could afford. But someday, I'd have enough to belong there. That was my plan, anyway. I took one more long look, then turned away and headed to the Port of Entry.
Aldrin is the closest bubble to the landing zone. Wouldn't want rich people dirtying themselves by traveling through impoverished areas, right? Bring them straight into the pretty part.
I strolled through the large archway into the port. The massive airlock complex is the second-largest chamber in the city. (Only Aldrin Park is larger.) The room buzzed with activity. I slid my way between workers who efficiently glided to and fro. In town, you have to walk slowly or you'll knock over tourists. But the port is for professionals only. We all know the Artemis Longstep and can get a good head of steam going.
At the north side of the port, a few commuters waited near the train airlock. Most were headed to the city reactors and Sanchez Aluminum's smelter, a kilometer south of town. The smelter uses insane amounts of heat and extremely nasty chemicals, so everyone agrees it should be far away. As for the reactorsâ¦wellâ¦they're nuclear reactors. We like those far away too.
Dale slithered over to the train platform. He'd be going to the ApolloÂ 11 Visitor Center. Tourists love it. The half-hour train ride provides stunning views of the moon's terrain, and the Visitor Center is a great place to look at the landing site without ever leaving pressure. And for those who do want to venture outside to get a better view, Dale and other EVA masters are ready to give them a tour.
Just in front of the train airlock there was a huge Kenyan flag. Beneath it were the words “You are now boarding Kenya Offshore Platform Artemis. This platform is the property of the Kenya Space Corporation. International maritime laws apply.”
I stared daggers at Dale. He didn't notice. Damn, I wasted a perfectly good bitchy glare.
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
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 symbolâa capital
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 beâ¦.”
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.
the contraband to Artemisâ¦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 cartâArtemis wasn't set up for vehiclesâbut 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 upâthere'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. TheÂ 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
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 floorâstupidly 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”âhe saw me enter and flashed a wide smileâ“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
. Now I get to live it!”
?” 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
be Captain Kirk.”
“Actually”âJin Chu held up a fingerâ“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
ârelated. Are you going to the ApolloÂ 11 site while you're here?”
,” 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 soundsâremember 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.
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 togetherâit'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. “Soâ¦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.”