Read Artemis Online

Authors: Andy Weir

Artemis (6 page)

Also, I smelled bullshit in the air. Trond had been squirrely and evasive about his reasons for getting into aluminum. But it was
my
ass on the line if something went wrong, not his. And if I got caught I'd get exiled to Earth. I probably couldn't
stand up
on Earth, let alone live there. I'd been in lunar gravity since I was six.

No. I was a smuggler, not a saboteur. And something smelled off about the whole thing.

“I'm sorry, but this isn't my thing,” I said. “You'll have to find someone else.”

“I'll give you a million slugs.”

“Deal.”

Yo, Kelvin,

What's new? Haven't heard from you in a few days. Did you get into the chess club?

What kind of junior high chess club has entrance requirements, anyway? Are they so impacted with applicants they have to turn some away? What, like they don't have enough chess boards? Only so many tables? Limited number of pocket-protectors?

My school is trying to put me in the gifted classes. Again. Dad totally wants me to go, but why should I? I'm probably just going to be a welder. I don't need differential calculus to stick pieces of metal together. Sigh…

Hey, so what happened with Charisse? Did you ask her out? Or talk to her? Or indicate in any way that you exist? Or are you sticking with your brilliant plan to avoid her at all costs?

Jazz,

Sorry, I've been busy with extracurricular stuff lately. Yes, I got into the chess club. I played several games to establish my skill level and they rated me at 1124. That's not very good, but I'm studying and practicing to become better. I play against my computer every day and now I'll get to play against people too.

Why don't you join the gifted classes? Academic achievement is a great way to honor your parents. You should consider it. I'm sure your father would be very proud. My parents would love it if I could get into the advanced classes. But math is hard. I keep my grades up, but it's hard.

I have resolve, though. I want to make rockets, and you can't do that without math.

No, I haven't talked to Charisse. I'm sure she wouldn't be interested in a boy like me. Girls like boys who are big and strong and who beat up other boys. I'm none of those things. If I talked to her, I would just get humiliated.

Kelvin,

Dude.

I don't know where you're getting info about girls but you're WRONG. Girls like boys who are nice and make us laugh. We DON'T like boys who get in fights and we don't like boys who are stupid. Trust me on this. I'm a girl.

Dad has me helping out around the shop. I can solo the simpler jobs. He pays me, which is nice. But he stopped my allowance now that I have an income. So now I'm working for a little bit more than I was getting for free. Not sure I'm on board with that plan but whatever.

Dad's having problems with the Welders' Guild. Around here, you can either be freelance or part of the guild. And the guild doesn't like freelancers. Dad doesn't have a problem with guilds as a rule, but he says the Welders' Guild is “mobbed up.” I guess they're pretty much owned by Saudi organized crime. Why Saudi? I don't know. Almost all the welders here are Saudis. We're just the people who ended up controlling the welding industry.

Anyway, the guild forces people to join with bullshit tactics. Not like in movies where they threaten you or anything. Just rumormongering. Floating stories that you're dishonest and you do shitty work. Stuff like that. But Dad spent his whole life building a reputation. The fake rumors just bounce off. None of his customers believe them.

Go Dad!

Jazz,

That's too bad about the Welders' Guild. There are no unions or guilds at KSC. It's a special administrative zone and the normal laws that help unions don't apply. KSC has a lot of power in the Kenyan government. There are many special laws for them. But KSC is a boon to all of us and they deserve special treatment. Without them we would be poor like other African countries.

Have you ever considered moving to Earth? I'm sure you could become a scientist or an engineer and make a lot of money. You're a citizen of Saudi Arabia, right? They have lots of big corporations there. Lots of jobs for smart people.

Kelvin,

Nah. I don't want to live on Earth. I'm a moon gal. Besides, it would be a huge medical hassle. I've been here more than half my life, so my body is used to ⅙th of your gravity. Before I could go to Earth I'd have to do a bunch of exercise and take special pills to stimulate muscle and bone growth. Then I'd have to spend hours every day in a centrifuge…bleh. No thanks.

Talk to Charisse you chickenshit.

I slinked along a huge corridor on Aldrin Down 7. I didn't really have to sneak around—at this ungodly hour, no one was in sight.

Five a.m. was a largely theoretical concept to me. I knew it existed, but I rarely observed it. Nor did I want to. But this morning was different. Trond insisted on secrecy, so we had to meet before normal working hours.

Barn doors towered every twenty meters. The lots here were few and large, a testament to how much money these businesses had handy. Trond's company workshop was labeled only with a sign reading
LD
7-4030
—LANDVIK INDUSTRIES.

I knocked on the door. A second later, it slid partially open. Trond poked his head out and looked both ways down the hall.

“Were you followed?”

“Of course,” I said. “And I led them straight to you. Turns out I'm not very bright.”

“Smartass.”

“Dumbass.”

“Come in.” He gestured me forward.

I slipped in and he immediately closed the door. I didn't know if he thought this was stealthy or what. But hey, he was paying me a million slugs. We could play 007 if he wanted.

The workshop was effectively a garage. A
huge
garage. Seriously, I'd kill to have that space. I'd make a little house in one corner and then, I don't know, install fake grass in the rest of it? Four identical harvesters, each in its own bay, filled the room.

I walked over to the nearest harvester and looked up at it. “Wow.”

“Yeah,” Trond said. “You don't realize how big they are until you see one up close.”

“How did you get them into town without anyone knowing?”

“It wasn't easy,” Trond said. “I had them shipped here in pieces. Only my most trusted people even know about it. I pieced together a staff of seven mechanics who know how to keep their mouths shut.”

I scanned the cavernous workshop. “Anyone else here?”

“Of course not. I don't want anyone knowing I hired you.”

“I'm hurt.”

The harvester stood four meters tall, five meters wide, and ten meters long. Reflective material coated the hull to minimize solar heating. Each of the beast's six wheels was a meter and a half across. The bulk of the machine was a huge, empty basin. Powerful hydraulics on the front and a hinge on the rear provided the basin's dumping mechanism.

The front of the harvester had a scoop with associated articulation. There was no passenger compartment, of course. Harvesters were automated—though they could be remote-controlled when necessary. A sealed metal box rested where you might expect a cockpit. It bore the Toyota logo, along with the word “Tsukuruma” in a stylish font.

Roll-around toolboxes and maintenance equipment surrounded the harvester wherever the workers had left off at the end of their shift.

“Okay,” I said, taking in the scene. “This is going to be a challenge.”

“What's the problem?” Trond walked over to one of the wheels and leaned against it. “It's just a robot—it doesn't have any defenses. Its only AI is for pathing. I'm sure you and a big tank of acetylene could figure something out.”

“This thing is a
tank
, Trond. It's not going to be easy to kill.” I walked partially around the harvester and got a closer look at the undercarriage. “And it's got cameras everywhere.”

“Of course it does,” said Trond. “It needs them to navigate.”

“It sends video back to its controllers,” I said. “Once it goes offline, the controllers will roll back to footage to see what happened. They'll see me.”

“So cover up any identifying marks on your EVA suit,” Trond said. “No problem.”

“Oh there's a problem. They'll call the EVA masters to ask what the hell's going on, and then the EVA masters will come out to get me. They won't know who I am, but they can drag my ass back inside and have a
Scooby-Doo
moment when they pull my helmet off.”

He walked around to my side of the harvester. “I see your point.”

I ran my hands through my hair. I hadn't showered that morning. I felt like I was a wad of grease that had been dipped in a vat of dirtier grease. “I need to come up with something that has a delayed effect. So it'll happen
after
I get back inside.”

“And don't forget, you've got to total the things. If there's anything left to fix, Sanchez's repair crews will have them up and running in days.”

“Yeah, I know.” I pinched my chin. “Where's the battery?”

“In the forward compartment. The box with the Toyota logo on it.”

I found a primary breaker box near the forward compartment. Inside were the main breakers to protect the electronics from power surges or shorts. Worth noting.

I leaned up against a nearby tool cabinet. “When they're full, they take their stuff to the smelter?”

“Yeah.” He picked up a wrench and threw it into the air. It lofted toward the ceiling.

“Then they…what? Dump their load and go back to Moltke?”

“After they recharge.”

I ran my hand along the sleek, reflective metal of the basin. “How big's the battery?”

“Two point four megawatt hours.”

“Wow!” I turned to him. “I could arc-weld with that kind of juice.”

He shrugged. “Hauling a hundred tons of rock takes energy.”

I climbed under the harvester. “How does it deal with heat rejection? Wax state-change material?”

“No idea.”

When you're in a vacuum, getting rid of heat is a problem. There's no air to carry it away. And when you have electric power, every Joule of energy ultimately becomes heat. It might be from electrical resistance, friction in moving parts, or chemical reactions in the battery that release the energy in the first place. But ultimately it all ends up as heat.

Artemis has a complex coolant system that conveys the heat to thermal panels near the reactor complex. They sit in the shade and slowly radiate the energy away as infrared light. But the harvesters had to be self-contained.

After some searching, I found what I was looking for. The heat-rejection system valve. I recognized the type immediately—Dad and I had attached many of these in the past while repairing rovers.

“Yeah. It's wax,” I said.

I saw Trond's feet approach. “What's that mean?” he asked.

“The battery and motor housings are encased in a solid wax reservoir. Melting the wax takes a lot of energy, so that's where the heat goes. The wax lines are surrounded by coolant pipes. When the harvester comes home to recharge, they pump cold water into those pipes to re-chill the wax, then pull the newly heated water back out. Then they cool the water off at their leisure while the harvester gets back to work.”

“So can you make the harvesters overheat?” he asked. “Is that your plan?”

“It's not that simple. There are safeties to prevent overheating. The harvesters would just shut down until they cooled off. Sanchez's engineers would fix the problem right away. I have a different idea.”

I wriggled out from under the harvester, stood, and stretched my back. Then I climbed the side and dropped into the basin. My voice echoed as I spoke. “Can any of its cameras see in here?”

“Why?” he asked. “Oh! You're going to ride a harvester to the Moltke Foothills!”

“Trond, can the cameras see in here?”

“No. Their purpose is navigation. They point outward. Hey, how will you get out of the city? You don't have airlock privileges.”

“Don't worry about it.” I climbed out of the basin and dropped four meters to the ground. I pulled a chair toward me, spun it around, and straddled it. I rested my chin on my palm and got lost in thought.

Trond sidled over. “So?”

“Thinking,” I said.

“Do women know how sexy they look when they sit like that?”

“Of course.”

“I
knew
it!”

“Trying to concentrate.”

“Sorry.”

I peered at the harvester for several minutes. Trond wandered aimlessly around the bay and fiddled with tools. He was an entrepreneurial genius, but he had the patience of a ten-year-old.

“Okay,” I finally said. “I have a plan.”

“Yeah?” Trond dropped a socket driver and scurried over. “Do tell.”

I shook my head. “Don't worry about the details.”

“I like details.”

“A lady's got to have her secrets.” I stood up. “But I'll completely destroy their harvesters.”

“That sounds great!”

“All right,” I said. “I'm going home. I need a shower.”

“Yeah,” said Trond. “You really do.”

—

Once I got back to my coffin, I threw off my clothes faster than a drunk prom date. On with a bathrobe and off to the showers. I even paid the extra 200
ğ
for a soak in a tub. Felt good.

I spent the day doing deliveries as usual. I didn't want some perceptive asshole to notice a break in my routine immediately before a huge crime got committed. Just a normal day. No need to look at me whistling innocently. I worked until about four p.m.

I went home, lay down (it's not like I could stand up), and did some research. I envy one thing about Earthers—they get much faster internet. We have a local network in Artemis that's handy for slug transactions and email, but when it comes to web searches, all those servers are back on Earth. And that means an absolute minimum of four seconds' wait for every request. The speed of light just isn't as fast as I'd like.

I drank so much tea I had to jog to the communal bathroom every twenty minutes. After hours of work, I came to a conclusion: I really wanted my own bathroom.

But by the end of it I had a plan. And like all good plans, it required a crazy Ukrainian guy.

—

I pulled Trigger up to the ESA Research Center and parked in the narrow hallway.

Space agencies around the world were the first to rent property in Artemis. In the old days, Armstrong Ground was the best real estate in town. Since then, four more bubbles sprang up, and the space agencies remained. Their once cutting-edge design was now two decades out of date.

I hopped off Trigger and went into the labs. The first room, a tiny reception area, was a throwback to the days when real estate was much more limited. Four hallways led off at odd angles. Some of the doors couldn't be opened if others were open. The ergonomic abortion was the result of seventeen governments designing a laboratory by committee. I went through the center door, down the hallway almost to the end, and into the microelectronics lab.

Martin Svoboda hunched over a microscope and reached absently for his coffee. His hand passed three beakers of deadly acid before he grabbed the mug and took a sip. I swear that idiot's going to kill himself someday.

He'd been assigned to Artemis by ESA four years ago to study microelectronic manufacturing methods. Apparently, the moon has some unique advantages in that area. The ESA lab is a highly coveted posting, so he must've been good at his job.

“Svoboda,” I said.

Nothing. He hadn't noticed me come in and didn't hear me speak. He's like that.

I smacked him on the back of the head and he jerked away from the microscope. He smiled like a child seeing a beloved aunt. “Oh! Hi, Jazz! What's up?”

I sat on a lab stool opposite him. “I need some mad science from you.”

“Cool!” He spun his stool to face me. “What can I do?”

“I need electronics.” I pulled schematics out of my pocket and handed them over. “This. Or something like it.”

“Paper?” He held the schematics like they were a urine sample. “You wrote them on paper?”

“I don't know how to use drafting apps,” I said. “Just—what do you think?”

He unfolded the paper and frowned at my scribblings. Svoboda was the best electrical engineer in town. Something like this shouldn't be a challenge for him.

He turned the sketch sideways. “Did you draw this with your left hand or something?”

“I'm not an artist, okay?”

He pinched his chin. “Art quality aside, this is an elegant design. Did you copy it from somewhere?”

“No, why? Is something wrong?”

He raised his brow. “It's just…it's really well done.”

“Thanks?”

“I never knew you were so talented.”

I shrugged. “I found electronics tutorials online and worked from there.”

“You taught yourself?” He looked back to the schematic. “How long did it take?”

“Most of the afternoon.”

“You learned all this
today
?! You'd make a great scientist—”

“Stop.” I held up my hand. “I don't want to hear it. Can you make it or not?”

“Sure, sure,” he said. “When do you need it?”

“The sooner the better.”

He tossed the schematics on the lab table. “I can have it for you tomorrow.”

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