Read Artemis Online

Authors: Andy Weir

Artemis (21 page)

CLOSED FOR PRIVATE EVENT
read the sign.

“You didn't have to do that, Billy,” I said.

“Nonsense, luv,” he said. “You said you needed a meeting space, so this is it.”

I closed the door to Hartnell's behind me and sat at my usual spot. “But you're losing revenue.”

He laughed. “Believe me, luv, I've made far more from you than I'll lose by being closed for an hour in the morning.”

“Well, thanks.” I tapped the counter. “As long as I'm here…”

He poured me a pint and slid it over.

“Heya,” said Dale from the doorway. “You wanted to see me?”

“Yeah,” I said. I took a swig of my beer. “But I don't want to tell the same story over and over. So have a seat until everyone gets here.”

“Seriously?” he groused. “I've got better shit to do than—”

“Beer's on me.”

“A pint of your finest, Billy!” He hopped onto his seat.

“Reconstituted garbage it is,” said Billy.

Lene Landvik hobbled in on her crutches. Yes, she was sixteen and Hartnell's was a bar, but there's no drinking age in Artemis. It's another one of those vague rules that's enforced with punching. If Billy sold teenagers the occasional beer it was no big deal. But if he strayed too far down the age bracket he'd get a visit from angry parents.

She sat at a nearby table and leaned her crutches against a chair.

“How are you doing, kiddo?” I asked.

“Better,” she said. “Not cheerful or anything. But better.”

“Step by step.” I raised my glass to her. “Keep at it.”

“Thanks,” she said. “I don't know how to bring this up but—did Dad pay you? Or did he…not get a chance?”

Oh man, come on. I'd planned to approach Lene about it eventually, but not until she'd had time to mourn. “Well…no. He didn't. But don't worry about it.”

“How much did he owe you?”

“Lene, let's talk about this later—”

“How much?”

Well, shit. I guess the conversation was going to happen right then. “A million slugs.”

“Holy shit!” said Dale. “A million slugs?!”

I ignored him. “But I don't have any way to prove it, you've got no reason to take my word.”

“Your word's good enough,” she said. “Dad always said you were the most honest businessman he'd ever worked with. I'll transfer the money today.”

“No,” I said. “I didn't deliver. The job was to stop Sanchez's oxygen production. If you want, you can pay me after I do that. But you know this isn't about money now, right?”

“I know. But a deal's a deal.”

“Billy!” said Dale. “All my drinks are on Jazz from now on! She's a millionaire!”

“Right now I'm a thousandaire at best,” I said. “Buy your own drinks.”

Dale and I had another couple of beers and Lene fiddled with her Gizmo. It would be a long time before her life had normalcy, but at least for the moment she got to be a teenage girl glued to her phone.

Bob Lewis showed up at exactly ten a.m.

“Bob,” I said.

“Jazz,” he said.

“Beer?”

“No.”

He sat across from Lene at her table and said nothing further. Marines know how to wait.

Svoboda came in next, carrying a box of electronics. He waved and started setting up. The damn fool had brought a digital projector and roll-up screen. He connected his Gizmo and, as usual with technology, it didn't work. Unfazed, he twiddled settings. Happy as a pig in shit.

One person had yet to arrive. I stared at the door, getting more and more nervous as the minutes ticked by. “What time is it?” I asked the room in general.

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.”

“I'm not—”

“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.

“Very.”

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.

“No, it shares air with the rest of the facility. They have to access the main floor so often they didn't want an air-seal door in their way—that's my assumption, anyway. They have an air shelter in the control room if anything goes wrong. And if the train is docked they can just go in there too.”

“Okay,” Dad said.

I continued. “The grinders are outside and the grit comes in through this compression airlock. Then it moves downstairs to the lower level. The sorter centrifuge separates the anorthite out from the other minerals. Then it's sintered into anodes. From there it goes back upstairs into the smelter.”

I tapped a large rectangle in the middle of the schematics. “This is where the magic happens. The smelter reduces anorthite into its base elements by using an assload of electricity.”

“FFC Cambridge Process,” said Svoboda. “It's awesome! The anode is dipped in a calcium chloride salt bath, then electrolysis literally
yanks
atoms out! Oh, and the carbon cathodes get eroded so they have to constantly re-sinter them from the carbon they recover off the CO
2
by-product. They use some of the resulting powdered aluminum to make rocket fuel, but the rest—”

“Calm yourself,” I said. “Anyway, I'm going to break in there and make the smelter smelt itself to death.”

“You can't spell ‘smelt' without ‘melt'!” Svoboda added.

“How will you do it?” Dale asked.

“I'll crank up power to the heater,” I said. “The bath is normally nine hundred degrees Celsius, but if I can get it to fourteen hundred, the steel containment vessel will melt. Then the superheated salt bath will escape and destroy everything in the bubble.”

Dad scowled. “What good will this petty vandalism do?”

“First off, Dad, it's not petty vandalism. It's
extreme
vandalism. Second off: With their smelter destroyed, Sanchez won't be able to make oxygen, and the contract with the city will be up for grabs. That's where Lene comes in.”

Lene fidgeted as everyone turned toward her. “Uh, yeah. Dad had—er…I have enough oxygen to last Artemis a year. I'll offer to take over the contract as soon as Sanchez is in breach.”

“And Ngugi will rubber-stamp it,” I said. “She wants O Palácio out of Artemis as much as we do.”

Bob snorted. “Why should I get involved in this?”

“Dammit, Bob,” I said. “I don't want to spend time on the ‘will you or won't you help me' part. If you don't understand why we have to do this, go stand in the corner until you do.”

“You're such an asshole,” said Bob.

“Hey!” Dad shot Bob a look that made the burly marine draw back.

“He's right, Dad. I am an asshole. But Artemis needs an asshole right now and I got drafted.”

I walked to the middle of the room. “This moment—this moment right now—is where we decide what kind of city Artemis is going to be. We can either act now, or let our home degenerate into syndicate rule for generations. This isn't some theoretical scenario. They burned down a business. They murdered two people. There's a
huge
amount of money in play—they're not going to stop.

“This isn't a new thing. New York, Chicago, Tokyo, Moscow, Rome, Mexico City—they all went through
hell
to control their mob infestations. And those are the success stories. Big chunks of South America are
still
under cartel control. Let's not do that. Let's take care of the cancer before it can spread.”

I looked each person in the eyes. “I'm not asking you to do this for me. I'm asking you to do it for Artemis. We can't let O Palácio take over. This is our one chance. They're bringing an
army
to town. Once those enforcers are here, we'll
never
be able to shut down Sanchez's oxygen flow. It'll be guarded better than Fort Knox.”

I paused briefly just in case anyone wanted to argue that point. No one did. “Look, we've got a lot of planning to do so let's cut the bullshit. Bob: You're a marine. You spent half your life protecting the United States. Now Artemis is your home and it's in danger. Will you protect it?”

Other books

Loved - A Novel by Kimberly Novosel
To Distraction by Stephanie Laurens
Sealed with a Lie by Kat Carlton
Calling It by Jen Doyle
JoAnn Wendt by Beyond the Dawn
Baby Love by Joyce Maynard
Stroke Of Fear by Kar, Alla