Authors: Andy Weir
“What's the illegal part?” he asked.
I gave him a hurt look. “Why would you assume there'sâ”
“What's the illegal part?” he repeated.
“Her apartment's in Armstrong up against the inner hull. I have to weld the shelter directly to it. The city requires all sorts of extra inspections if you weld to the inner hull and she can't afford them.”
“Hmf,” he said. “Pointless bureaucracy. Even the most rank amateur couldn't damage a six-centimeter plate of aluminum.”
“I know, right?!” I said.
He folded his arms and frowned. “Darned city getting in the way of businessâ¦”
“All right. Take what you want. But you have to reimburse me for the acetylene and neon.”
“Right, of course,” I said.
“You all right? You look kind of pale.”
I was about ready to puke. Lying to Dad transported me back to my teen years. And let me tell you: there's no one I hate more than teenage Jazz Bashara. That stupid bitch made every bad decision a stupid bitch could make. She's responsible for where I am today.
“I'm fine. Just a little tired.”
I got a big poster of the
for my birthday. What a magnificent ship! It's the largest spaceliner ever built! It can hold up to two hundred passengers! I'm learning all about it. I'm a little obsessed, but who cares? It's fun.
The ship is a marvel! It has full centripetal gravity, with a radius large enough that no one will get dizzy. It even helps people adjust to lunar gravity! They gradually slow the rotation over the seven-day trip to the moon. So when people first board, the passenger decks are at 1 g, and by the time they reach the moon, they're at â thÂ g. They do the reverse on the way back to get folks accustomed to 1Â g again. How cool is that?
I still don't understand the “Uphoff-Crouch Cycler Orbit,” though. I get that it's a ballistic orbit that goes back and forth between the Earth and the moon, but it's really weird. It's likeâ¦start at Earth, then it's at the moon seven days later, then it flings up way out of the Earthâmoon plane and comes back to the moon fourteen days laterâ¦somewhere in there it just sits in an elliptical orbit around Earth for a couple of weeksâ¦I don't get it. And I won't try. Point is, it's an awesome ship.
Someday, when I'm a rich rocket designer, I'm going to visit Artemis. We can have tea.
Hey, when you and your dad moved to Artemis, did you go there on the
hadn't been built yet when we moved here. We came over on the
, the only spaceliner that existed at the time. It was ten years ago (I was only six), so I don't remember all the details. But I remember we didn't have artificial gravity. It was zero-G everywhere. I had a shitload of fun bouncing around!
You got me curious about the orbit stuff, so I looked it up. It seems pretty straightforward. The ship goes through a cycle with each step taking seven days: Earth
(deep space out of Earthâmoon plane)
(deep space in the Earthâmoon plane)
Earth. And it repeats that over and over. If the moon stood still they could just go back and forth, but it's moving around Earth once per month, which complicates the hell out of the cycler.
I looked up the math behind how orbits work and then checked their numbers against those equations. It was pretty simple, you can do it in your head.
can do it in your head. I would give anything to be as smart as you. But I'm not. That's okay. I work hard instead, and you're lazy as hell.
How dare you call me lazy! I'd come up with a scathing retort but, meh, I'm just not motivated.
Hey, I need advice. Edgar and I are going on our fourth date. We've been making out a lot (just kissing, nothing else). I want to escalate, but I don't want to move too fastâI'm not ready to get naked yet. Any recommendations?
Seriously? That simple?
The next morning, I woke up naked in a plush, comfortable bed.
No, there wasn't anyone with me. Get your mind out of the gutter. I just wanted to get a taste of what life would be like once I got that million slugs.
I stretched out my arms and arched my back. What a fantastic night's sleep!
Unlike my shitty coffin, this room had excellent noise insulation. No neighbors waking me up with screaming arguments or loud sex. No booming hallway conversations bleeding in. No drunk idiots stumbling into walls.
And the bed! I could lie across it width-wise and still fit! Plus the sheets and blankets were softer than velvet. The bedding felt better against my skin than my own pajamas.
The room cost 2,000
a night. When I got my payday from Trond, I'd get a bed like this in my beautiful noise-proof apartment.
I checked my Gizmo. Eleven in the morning?! Wow, I really slept!
I slid out of the warm sheets and walked over to the bathroomâthe
bathroom. No robe, no dudes checking me out in the hall, just me and my bladder headed to take care of business in peace.
I went through my morning ritual, including an extra-long shower. Private showerâanother thing for my list of future amenities. Water's expensive in Artemis, but it's not like we throw it away. It's a closed system, so what you really pay for is water purification. The hotel room had a graywater-reuse shower. The first twenty liters were fresh water (that lasted about three minutes). After that, it reheated your used water and gave it back to you. You could be in there as long as you wanted and you'd only use twenty liters. Important note: Do not pee in a graywater-reuse shower.
I threw on an insanely comfortable terrycloth robe and wrapped my hair in a towel-turban.
Time to work on the next step of my evil plan. This time I didn't need to do any research. I just needed to brainstorm. I lay back on the Bed Jazz Never Wanted to Leave and let my mind wander.
The problem: How would I get out of the city?
Airlocks won't obey commands from nonâEVA Guild members. There's a good reason for that. The last thing you want is some untrained dipshit playing around with airlock controls. A misused airlock is a fast and efficient way to kill everyone in a bubble.
So, to use an airlock control panel, you have to wave your Gizmo over it. It verifies that you're part of the guild. It's a simple idiot-proofing scheme that's very effective. But no idiot-proofing can overcome a
idiot. There's a flaw in the system.
For safety reasons, airlocks don't have security on their
doors. If you're in a leaky EVA suit and scrambling to safety, the last thing you want to see is “
” I just needed someone to operate the controls from the outside. Someoneâ¦or something.
I left the hotel room because the front desk called to say I had to check out or they'd charge me for another night. Then I drove Trigger to Armstrong DownÂ 4. Or, as the locals called it, Little Hungary. The Hungarians owned all the metalworking shops. Just like the Vietnamese owned Life Support and Saudis owned welding.
I pulled up next to the workshop of Dad's colleague ZsÃ³ka StrÃ³bl, who was apparently named during a severe vowel famine. She was a pressure-vessel specialist. When Dad got a contract to install an air shelter, he usually bought one from ZsÃ³ka. She made high-quality product and Dad's all about quality.
I parked Trigger and rapped on the door. ZsÃ³ka slid it open a crack, peeked out with one eye, and spoke with a thick accent. “You want what?”
I pointed to myself. “It's me, Mrs. StrÃ³bl. Jazz Bashara.”
“You are daughter of Ammar Bashara,” she said. “He good man. You were nice little girl. Now you are bad.”
“Okayâ¦look, I want to talk to you about somethingâ”
“You are unmarried and have sex with many men.”
“Yes, I'm quite the harlot.”
Her son, Isvan, had banged more dudes than I ever had. I resisted the urge to tell her. “I just need to borrow something for a couple of days. I'm willing to pay you a thousand slugs for it.”
She opened the door a little wider. “Borrow what?”
ZsÃ³ka had been around for the construction of both Bean and Shepard Bubbles. Bubble construction is a hell of a job (pays well too).
She and dozens of other metalworkers had made the slightly curved triangles that stacked on a frame to form the hull. The EVA masters assembled the pieces and added enough rivets to make a shitty, leaky pressure seal. Then Life Support kept the bubble fed with enough air to counteract the leaks while welders made the real seals from inside. Dad made good money off those jobs, I remember.
Ethical metalworkers like ZsÃ³ka regularly inspect their work. But how do you look at the outside of the hull without being a trained, licensed EVA master? With a hull-inspection bot. “HIB” for short.
They're really just R/C cars with claws instead of wheels. The outer hulls of Artemis are covered in handles to ensure access for maintenance. HIBs use those handles to get wherever they want. Seems inefficient, eh? Well, it's the only way to climb up the side of a bubble. The aluminum isn't magnetic, suction cups and propellers don't work in a vacuum, and a rocket engine would be stupidly expensive.
“Why you want HIB?” she asked.
I'd worked out a lie in advance. “The Shepard relief valve is leaking. Dad was the one who installed it. He wants me to check the weld site.”
Keeping Artemis at constant pressure is tricky. If people use more power than usual, the city becomes slightly over-pressurized. Why? The power becomes heat, which increases the air temperature, and that makes the pressure go up. Normally, Life Support pulls air out of the system to compensate. But what if that doesn't work?
So as a fail-safe, the city has relief valves in every bubble. If the pressure gets too high, they'll open and let air out until it's back to normal.
“Your father never makes bad weld. Must be other problem.”
“I know that and you know that, but we have to rule it out.”
She thought it over. “How long you need?”
“Just a couple of days.”
“One thousand slugs?”
I pulled out my Gizmo. “Yeah. And I'll pay in advance.”
“You wait.” She slid the door closed.
After a minute, ZsÃ³ka opened the door again and handed me a case. I checked inside to make sure everything was there.
The mechanical bug was thirty centimeters long. Its four movement claws were folded into their stow position and the tool arm formed a “7” shape along the top of the robot. That arm had a high-definition camera on the end and basic clamping and grabbing actuators. Perfect for poking at things and recording the resultsâexactly what you need when remotely inspecting a hull. And also what I needed for my nefarious plan.
She handed me the remoteâa sleek little device with knobs and joysticks surrounding a video screen.
“You know how to use?”
“I read the manual online.”
She frowned. “You break, you pay for fix.”
“This is just between you and me, right?” I hovered my finger over my Gizmo screen. “The Welding Guild's always looking for excuses to shit-talk DadâI don't want to give them ammo.”
“Ammar is good man. Good welder. I will not tell.”
“So we have a deal?”
She pulled out her Gizmo. “Yes.”
I fired off the funds transfer and she accepted.
“You bring back. Two days.” She returned to her shop and closed the door.
Yeah, she was grumpy and thought I was a bimbo. But you know what? I wish everyone was like her. No chitchat, no bullshit, no pretense of friendship. Just goods and services exchanged for money. The perfect business partner.
I did a little shopping in Bean Bubble. It was more expensive than I like, but I needed specialty clothing. Artemis has a small Muslim population (including my dad), so there are a few stores that cater to them. I found a long tan dress with simple colors and a stylish embroidered pattern. It was suitable for even the most conservative Muslim gal. I also bought a dark-green niqab. I considered brown or black, but the dark green counterpointed the tan dress for an earthy ensemble. Just 'cause I was planning a heist, that didn't mean I couldn't look good doing it.
Okay, you can stop pretending you know what a niqab is. It's a traditional Islamic headwear that covers the lower face. Combined with a hijab (head cloth) to cover my hair, only my eyes were visible. Great way to wear a mask without arousing suspicion.
Next, I had to get a new Gizmo. I couldn't use my ownâthat would leave a digital trail of all the illegal shit I was about to do. I could just see Rudy reviewing my Gizmo's logs and building a case. No thanks. Life's a pain in the ass when you have a cop constantly on your ass. I needed a false identity.
Lucky for me it's easy to set up a false identity here. Mainly because nobody cares who you are. Things here are set up to prevent identity theft, not aliases. If you tried to steal a
person's identity you'd fail miserably. As soon as your victim found out they'd report it and Rudy would use your Gizmo to track you down. Where would you run? Outside? Hope you can hold your breath.
I went online and converted a few hundred slugs into euros. Then I used those euros to buy slugs from KSC under the name Nuha Nejem. It only took ten minutes of internet activity. It would have been even faster if I were on Earth, but we have that four-second ping time from here.
I stopped at home and dropped off my Gizmo. Time to become Nuha Nejem.
I went to the Artemis Hyatt, a small hotel on Bean Up 6 with little flair but reasonable prices. They saw a lot of business from ordinary people taking a once-in-a-lifetime vacation. I'd only been there once before, on a date with a tourist. The room was pleasant enough, but I'm not the best judge. I only got a good look at the ceiling.
The whole hotel was one long hallway. The “front desk” was a closet-size kiosk with a single employee. I didn't recognize him, which was good. It meant he wouldn't recognize me.
“I greet,” I said with a thick Arabic accent. Between that and my traditional clothes, everything about me screamed tourist.
“Welcome to the Artemis Hyatt!” he said.
He was used to broken-English conversations. “Gizmo? You need a Gizmo?”
“Gizmo.” I nodded. “Needing.”
I could see his thought process. He could try to figure out which reservation I was under, but as a Saudi woman, it would be under my husband's name. That would take a lot of pantomime and miscommunication to work out. Easier just to set up the Gizmo for me. It's not like it cost the hotel anything.
“Name?” he said.
I didn't want to be too eager. I looked at him with confusion.
He patted himself on the chest. “Norton. Norton Spinelli.” Then he pointed to me. “Name?”
“Ah,” I said. I patted my own chest. “Nuha Nejem.”
He typed away on his computer. Yes, there was an account for Nuha Nejem, and no one had linked a Gizmo to it. It all made sense. He pulled a weathered Gizmo from under the counter. It was an older model with the words
PROPERTY OF ARTEMIS HYATT
stenciled on the back. With a few keystrokes, he got everything set up. Then he handed me the Gizmo and said, “Welcome to Artemis!”
“I thank,” I said with a smile. “I thank many. Moon is much excitement!”
I had a fake identity. Time for Phase Two.
I brought up the map app on my new Gizmo and pretended to navigate with it. Obviously, I didn't need a map to get around Artemis, but it was all part of my tourist act. I wandered inefficiently across town to the Port of Entry. I carried a big purse, of course. What tourist woman would be without one?
Now for the tricky part.
Everyone knew me at the port. I was there every day and my sparkling personality was hard to forget. That's not ideal when you're trying to sneak around. But today I wasn't Jazz Bashara. I was Nuha Nejem, Saudi tourist.
I headed to the waiting area next to the train airlock and joined a crowd of tourists. All the seats were taken and dozens more people stood around. Several families had obnoxious kids bouncing off the walls. In this case, “bouncing off the walls” is not just a figure of speech. The overstimulated kids were
bouncing off the walls. Lunar gravity is the worst thing to ever happen to parents.
“This is so cool!” said a dumb blonde to her trust-fund boyfriend. “We're about to take the moonorail!”
Ugh. Only tourists called it that. It's not even a monorail! It runs on parallel tracks, just like trains on Earth.
By the way, we also hate it when people call us “Loonies” or when they call Artemis the “City in Space.” We're not in spaceâwe're on the moon. I mean, technically we're “in space” but so is London.