Lunadyne Incident

The Lunadyne Incident and Other Stories

The Luna­dyne Inci­dent by Torn MacAlester, a near future sci­ence fic­tion short sto­ry that is part of a col­lec­tion,  is now avail­able at


Free Excerpt from The Lunadyne Incident

Y+28, Day 1:

“You, in the jail,” the voice said over the inter­com. Sher­iff Del Ander­son stood and switched on the voice chan­nel. Del watched the warped video of the shady fig­ure in the hall­way out­side the Sher­if­f’s office.

The facial recog­ni­tion soft­ware failed to place the indi­vid­ual. Either the man wasn’t in the sys­tem, or he had a vid-scram­bler on his body some­where. See­ing the wrist­watch, he sur­mised the loca­tion of the scrambler.

He doesn’t want to be rec­og­nized, Del thought. No mat­ter, I can track him down and get his land­ing info. Track­ing the man back, he found a Coal Co crawler as the deliv­ery of the man to Con­rad Sta­tion, with the use­less name John Smith. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, Coal Co didn’t fall under his juris­dic­tion. Luna­dyne han­dled Con­rad Sta­tion, and Ander­son worked for Luna­dyne. There were plen­ty of min­ers that fit in the cat­e­go­ry, non-Luna­dyne employ­ees. This could be one of them, how­ev­er. He seemed too clean, lack­ing the black­ened nails that almost every­one who had been on the Moon for over a month had.

“What do you want?” He answered, watch­ing the man.

“Can you let me in?” Asked Smith, but it seemed more like a statement.

“Keep your hands where I can see them and step to the door,” Ander­son said, not trust­ing him for a second.

“Like this?” The man had moved to the door with his hands up and press­ing on the door.

“That’s it.” The Sher­iff opened the door, pulled the man through and pushed him against the wall. He frisked him quickly.

“Hay man, I ain’t pack­ing if that’s what you are thinking.”

“Pro­ce­dure,” Del said, lying, since he had no pro­ce­dures. Sat­is­fied the man wasn’t car­ry­ing, he moved back over to the desk and sat down.

“Can I put my hands down now?”

“Yes. Take a seat.” Ander­son leaned back a bit, eye­ing the man. Obvi­ous­ly, anoth­er mer­ce­nary, he could see the tat­toos that were com­mon with many mer­ce­nar­ies that fought in cen­tral Asia. “Now, one more time from the top–what do you want?”

“I need you to let Smit­ter out of the tank.”

“On what authority?”

“Lis­ten Sher­iff, we’re both con­trac­tors. You work for Luna­dyne. I work for Coal Co. We are both in secu­ri­ty. You know the deal.” The man said, nev­er mak­ing eye contact.

“Your guy, uh, Smit­ter, got drunk and tried to open a hatch direct­ly to the sur­face. I’m fine with him killing him­self but tak­ing every­one else it the hab with him is outrageous.”


“Yes, both of us are part of secu­ri­ty,” Del Inter­rupt­ed. “I can’t make an excep­tion for Smit­ter. I’m try­ing to ride herd over a hun­dred min­ers from Coal Co to pre­vent them from split­ting each other’s skulls on every off shift. Smit­ter broke the rules. He stays in the tank until I say he can go.”

“Not what I was hop­ing to hear.”

“Can I get your name?”

“It’s Smith, but my name is not impor­tant,” he said. “Now, my boss’s name, you’ll need to know that.”

“So? What is it?”

“Lina Cranston. But now you need to wor­ry about what she has to say about Smitter.”

“I see,” Sher­iff Ander­son said as the man got up and walked out of the office, leav­ing Del to his own thoughts.

Damn, not Nin­ja Cranston. I thought she was in prison.




“Doc?” Asked Del as he entered the clin­ic, not see­ing her in the entry area.

“One minute,” he heard Doc Keller from the next room.

She entered the room fol­lowed by a man that Del rec­og­nized as Jim Ross, also known as Cooter.

“Hi Del, what brings you here?” Doc asked. “Anoth­er hangnail?”

“Hey Doc. Hey Cooter.”

“Hey Sher­iff,” said Coot­er. “It’s been a while.”

“It has. Did you put back those items that I told you?” asked the Sher­riff, remem­ber­ing the Lunokhod rover he’d removed from its lunar his­tor­i­cal site. Del sim­ply asked Coot­er to put it back. If no one found it where it shouldn’t be, there would be no rea­son to think he messed with it.

“Uh huh, I did,” said Coot­er. “Are you sure the Rus­sians want­ed it put back?”

“It doesn’t mat­ter,” said Del. “Even if it’s from the last cen­tu­ry, it still belongs to them.”

“Sher­riff,” Doc Keller inter­rupt­ed. “I’m sure that you didn’t come down here to ask Coot­er about his alien con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries. You have a rea­son, or are you look­ing to just shoot the shit?”

“We’ve got a prob­lem,” said the Sheriff.

“Is Trish okay?” Doc asked. “There shouldn’t be any­thing seri­ous hap­pen­ing at this stage in her pregnancy.”

“No, she’s fine. I meant we as in the Con­rad Sta­tion we.”

“What’s going on?” asked Cooter.

“We’ve got a prob­lem,” said Del.

“What with the min­ers?” asked Doc. “I’ve heard the rumors of a strike.”

“Yeah, I noticed a lot more min­ers at Alex’s last night. They were in such a foul mood, even one of Nils’s wild sto­ries couldn’t cheer them up.”

“Sort of,” said Sher­iff Ander­son. “I think Coal Co has hired some mer­ce­nar­ies to break the strike before it happens.”

“Del,” said Doc. “You have that look like you’re hold­ing some­thing back–out with it.”

“Sor­ry,” said the sher­iff. “Nin­ja Cranston is sup­posed to be lead­ing the mercs.”

“Oh no,” said Cooter.

“I’m sor­ry,” said Doc. “Who is this Ninja–”

“Nin­ja Cranston,” Coot­er said. “She’s one of the worst.”

“Worst what?” asked Doc.

“You name it,” Coot­er said. “They sup­pos­ed­ly arrest­ed and dumped her into the brig after a hor­rif­ic war crime in Cen­tral Asia. I thought they threw away the key.”

“They prob­a­bly did,” agreed the sher­iff. “After the west coast seced­ed, the fed­er­al pen was emp­tied, and they released the pris­on­ers into Neva­da. I was with the Marshall’s office. It was pure chaos. We had over five hun­dred Mar­shalls in Vegas alone, scour­ing the city for those pris­on­ers. Most of them were some of the rough­est kinds of nasty. I even­tu­al­ly quit and took this job. Trish said it would be much bet­ter than the crap I dealt with as a Marshall.”

“Shit,” said Cooter.

“Yeah,” con­tin­ued Del. “Cranston was nev­er on the watch list. I fig­ured Paci­fi­ca had the good sense to keep her in her cage. Hear­ing she is out makes this sit­u­a­tion a hell of a lot more dangerous.”

“Damn,” said Doc. “And I thought we were through with all the bull­shit up here.”

“Not by a long shot,” said Del. “Coal Co has dou­bled down on this.”

“What does all this mean?” asked Coot­er. “What do we need to do?”

“It prob­a­bly means we need an ace in the hole,” said the sheriff.

“What kind of ace?” asked Doc.

“First off, we need to get all the civil­ians out of here,” said Del. “I think the sta­tion is about to get boiling.”

“So, we’re tak­ing them to Gor­danville?” asked Doc.

“That’s about the only choice,” said Cooter.

“I agree,” Del said. “Call whomev­er you need to.”

“I’ll get the prospec­tors,” sug­gest­ed Cooter.

“That’s who I had in mind,” said Del. “Carmike, John­son, Var­gas, and the others.”

“What about Alex?” asked Doc. “If we take him out of here, the bar will close, and we’ll have a real mess on our hands.”

“I’ll have to talk with him,” agreed the sher­iff. “I may have to dep­u­tize him or something.”

“Don’t tell me. You just dep­u­tized us!” said Doc.

“If you need it offi­cial,” answered Del.

“Fig­ures,” said Doc. “This crap is get­ting bet­ter and better.”





Del walked into Alex’s bar. The minors used Alex’s for the strike against Coal Co.

“We ain’t leav­ing Sher­iff,” said Joe Dubcek, the lead strik­er. “So don’t ask.”

“We’ll talk about it lat­er,” said Del as he leaned over the bar.

“Haya Sher­iff,” said Alex. “Can I get you a whiskey?”

“You know I nev­er touch the stuff,” said Del. “Not since Trish is expect­ing, anyway.”

“What can I do for you, then?”

“Can we talk?”

“Sure,” said Alex. “I’m assum­ing you want it to be some­where oth­er than the bar. Is the store­room sufficient?”


“Fol­low me.” They went to the upper deck of the hab hous­ing the bar and into a room on the sun­lit side. As soon as Del had shut the door, Alex asked, “Okay, what do you have?”

“I’d like you to evac­u­ate to Gordanville—”

“What else?” Alex held up his hand. “Par­don me for ask­ing. I’m used to some­one hav­ing more than a few things they want when they ask for something.”

“Well, you’re right. I also need to be made the bar­tender so we can keep this place open.”


“Huh, which part?”

“Both parts,” said Alex. “In fact, I should have said, ‘hell no!’”

“Alex, there are mer­ce­nar­ies here to act as strikebreakers.”

“So, you expect them to come to the bar?”

“I’m bet­ting that they are. It’s the only place that the break­ers can cap­ture the leaders.”

“Del, I won’t leave the bar. You know how much we’ve been through over the years. It’s my part of it.”

“Yeah, I know. But you could lose all of it.”

“All or part, it’s all I have.”

“Well,” said Del. “I can at least cov­er your finan­cial loss­es by dep­u­tiz­ing you.”

“Oh gee! A lot of good that will do me when I’m dead.”

“It’s all I got, except for my per­son­al guar­an­tee that I’ll do my best to keep you alive.”

“Well, if that’s all you got,” said Alex. “I’m still in. You’ll need more help than you can get.”

“Thanks,” said Del. “Hope­ful­ly, we can defuse this before any­one gets hurt.”

“How are you going to do that?”

“Talk with the strik­ers and make a deal.”

“That sounds more like wish­ful think­ing,” said Alex.

“It is. That’s why I need a few aces up my sleeve.”




“I told you twen­ty min­utes ago we ain’t leav­ing,” said Joe Dubcek. “There isn’t any­thing you can say to make me change my mind.”

“How about I get your con­tract demands?” Del pushed, “Would that do it?”

“No way. Coal Co won’t do it.”

“Look, I’ve got every rea­son to believe that they are going to try break­ing the strike.”

“No way, that’s sup­posed to be illegal.”

“Who’s stop­ping them?” asked Del.

“You are.”

“Not like­ly.”

“That’s your job.”

“Job or not, they’ve got a group of trained mer­ce­nar­ies com­ing. I’m just one man. Your safest bet would be to dis­perse to the Gor­donville settlement.”

“We can’t leave,” said Joe. “We’d be giv­ing into Coal Co. They are plan­ning to send their pro­pos­al with­in a cou­ple of days. Unless they met all our demands, we reject, and the strike is on.”

“You’ve formed a Union then.”

“If that is what you want to call it. We’ve all agreed with our orig­i­nal con­tract pro­pos­al. We have the right to bar­gain, so I yeah. They’ll have to explain why they failed to nego­ti­ate. Mer­ce­nar­ies or no, we ain’t leaving.”

“Let me see if I can get your demands met,” said Del.

“That would be a mir­a­cle if you do. Coal Co is all kinds of nasty.”