Thunder Moon Tussle, A Near Future Science Fiction Novel

Near Future Science Fiction Novel — Thunder Moon Tussle

Thun­der Moon Tus­sle is a near future sci­ence fic­tion nov­el by Torn MacAlester.

 

Nils is a prospec­tor, some­times smug­gler, who seems to always get into alter­ca­tions with the local deputy sher­iff (Moon Deputy) Genevieve (Gen) Miller.

 

 

Coming Soon

Torn MacAlester’s Fabulae Lunae

The Lunadyne Incident  and Other Stories

 

 

Available Now

 

Fabulae Lunae 1

Thunder Moon Tussle

A Science Fiction Vignette: Decisions by Torn MacAlester

A  Near Future Sci­ence Fic­tion Vignette: Deci­sions by Torn MacAlester

 

Nils & Katie Carmike strug­gle with the moment he decides that his cho­sen pro­fes­sion is lead­ing no where. Check out this near future sci­ence fic­tion vignette. Deci­sions is part of a greater sto­ry arc that plays out in var­i­ous sto­ries includ­ing Thun­der Moon Tus­sle and The Luna­dyne Inci­dent and Oth­er Sto­ries. I hope you enjoy this near future sci­ence fic­tion vignette: Deci­sions by Torn MacAlester

 

Coming Soon

Torn MacAlester’s Fabulae Lunae

The Lunadyne Incident  and Other Stories

 

 

Available Now

 

Fabulae Lunae 1

Thunder Moon Tussle

Near Future Science Fiction Moon Deputy

Who is the Sci­ence Fic­tion Moon Deputy?

Read Thun­der Moon Tus­sle and find out.

Avail­able on Ama­zon Kin­dle and where books are sold.

 

 

Chapter 4

Y+33

 

Nils drove toward his home habitat.

Hab 18?” Miller asked again, though Nils avoid­ed the sub­ject for the past half hour.

“Miller, how about I give you a big­ger cut with my job–”

“I’d always take a big­ger cut,” she grinned.

“–in exchange for you not going with me?”

“Out of the ques­tion,” Deputy Miller snapped back quick­ly. “I’ve got to look out for my investment.”

“What invest­ment?” Nils grumbled.

“The val­ue of my ten per­cent of the thir­ty-thou­sand, plus expens­es.” Miller stat­ed, then her voice soft­ened. “Plus, I think it will be a per­fect way to ask you for my favor.”

“What is it about, Miller?” Nils asked, his own voice soft­en­ing. “Can’t you give me a hint?”

“No,” she almost whis­pered. “Not yet.”

They sat silent­ly as the crawler nav­i­gat­ed the tracks, head­ing toward his habitat.

“We’re about three hours away from my hab,” Nils said, break­ing the awk­ward silence.

“Any sur­pris­es?” Deputy Miller asked.

“Like what?”

“Like let­ting me in on Hab 18?

“What will you give me for it?” Nils sparred, hop­ing to agi­tate her.

“Fine, keep your secret!” Miller snapped. She fur­rowed her brows.

“We’ll get to it,” Nils answered. He recon­sid­ered. Agi­tat­ing her seemed stu­pid. “I’ve got an idea.”

“What?” Miller asked.

“Let’s call a truce.” Nils suggested.

“What do you pro­pose?” Miller’s voice soft­ened again.

“We’ll set the dis­cus­sion about Hab 18 aside for a while. I’ll stop ask­ing you about the favor.”

“Fair enough,” she said.

“Thanks,” Nils smiled and checked the auto-dri­ve, ensur­ing that they were still on course.

“What should we talk about instead?”

“How about the Urubuan Marshal’s vis­it?” Nils asked, won­der­ing what they had been look­ing for.

“Most­ly infor­mal,” Deputy Miller answered. “They seemed con­cerned about how we orga­nized the Department.”

“How so? I mean, you han­dle things fair­ly well. We have no crime at Conrad.”

“Ha. Com­ing from one of its most upstand­ing citizens.”

“Yup, I’m plan­ning to run for Sta­tion Council.”

They both laughed at the joke.

“How so?” he said, ask­ing again.

“They want­ed to know how our juris­dic­tion fit with­in Amer­i­can law enforce­ment. It sur­prised him that we don’t.”

“Real­ly?”

“You’re sur­prised?” She asked, Nils noticed her face betrayed astonishment.

“Well—I mean, yeah,” Nils fum­bled. “I didn’t real­ize that you don’t have connections.”

“It’s sim­ple,” Miller answered. “The depart­ment is part of Luna­dyne secu­ri­ty. If we have an actu­al crime to report, we need to con­tact the what­ev­er agency we care to. It’s usu­al­ly the U. S. Marshal’s office since it’s easier.”

“You’re not a cop?” Nils challenged.

“So, if you assume that,” Miller growled. “I’ll put you in a body cast for sure.”

“No,” Nils steered away from the chal­lenge. “I meant that I don’t under­stand how Luna­dyne secu­ri­ty fits.”

“Hon­est­ly, that is what the Mar­shal was asking.”

“What did you explain that made sense to him?”

“I can arrest who­ev­er they need arrest­ed,” she answered. “If a major crime occurs, I need to report it to what­ev­er author­i­ty is con­ve­nient. I can arrest any­one and hold them until the Earth side author­i­ty picks them up. Also, I can act to pro­tect the com­pa­ny assets from destruction.”

“What does that mean?”

“Exact­ly what I said. If some ass­hole were attempt­ing to break open a door direct­ly to vac­u­um, I would stop him. I’d take him down if needed.”

Nils thought as he mon­i­tored the progress of the auto-drive.

Why is she being so open about it? She got pissed at me and kept it up for going on three years now. What has changed? She is almost being nice.

She knew about the smug­gling. He had told her in so many words. Obvi­ous­ly, she could have arrest­ed him fre­quent­ly, but she did not.

“Miller?”

“Yeah, prospec­tor?”

“What’s with the arrange­ment?” Nils asked.

“You mean the ten per­cent?” She grinned.

“Yup, that and the oth­er fees,” he said, won­der­ing about the cat-and-mouse game they played. She would find him about once a month and force him to pay some fee to have her look the oth­er way.

“So, you’re want­i­ng to rene­go­ti­ate our deal?”

“No.”

“Let me remind you, Nils,” She smiled. “Our arrange­ment is that you need to pay a ten per­cent fee for you to con­tin­ue doing busi­ness at the bar.”

“–payable before I leave the sta­tion. We’ve been through that.”

“Then what do you want?”

“For­get it,” he said. Nils declined to dig any fur­ther. Pay­ing Miller had become a cost of doing busi­ness, and he lacked the mon­ey to pay more. But it had nev­er gone beyond the occa­sion­al has­sle. Miller had nev­er asked him to dri­ve any­where. She had nev­er insert­ed her­self into any of his oth­er business.

Why now? He won­dered. What had changed?

Upon their arrival at the habi­tat, Nils need­ed to dri­ve from the back of the crawler, peer­ing out the rear air­lock. As he moved to the rear to dri­ve, he felt Miller fol­low him. She seemed close as he steered the crawler to dock with his hab. As the air­locks con­nect­ed in a hard dock, he hit the brakes, caus­ing Miller to bump into him from behind.

“Excuse me,” she said after the col­li­sion. He won­dered if he felt one of her shoul­ders or if her breast had bounced off his back. The lat­ter cre­at­ed an image that took a few moments to shake.

He glanced at her, “No prob­lem.” Smil­ing, he thought past the moment, and cursed him­self for let­ting her dis­rupt him so much. Miller’s inten­tions, as three years of expe­ri­ence had shown, remained mys­te­ri­ous. Before she could break his con­cen­tra­tion again, he turned and worked the door.

“So, this is your hab?” She said as he opened the airlock.

“Yup,” he answered. “Any­thing ille­gal found will be acci­den­tal. I believe that every­thing is legal here.”

“Nils,” her voice took on a sooth­ing tenor. “Relax. If I want­ed to bust you, I would have showed up last week when you had your last ship­ment here.”

“Miller, I–”

How did she know? And why did she seem to let me off the hook?

“Nils, I’m jok­ing. What part of relax didn’t you understand?”

“I–”

“I’m not here to bust you,” she glared. “Remem­ber, I need a favor. That is why you brought me here. Besides, I doubt I have juris­dic­tion here.”

“Huh?” Not under­stand­ing her state­ment about jurisdiction.

“Favor, remem­ber?”

“Oh, yes.” Nils set­tled him­self, feel­ing his guts shoved one direc­tion as his mind went anoth­er. “What is the favor?”

“All in time,” Miller looked at him. “Are we going to stand in the air­lock, or are you going to show me your place?”

“Oh,” Nils willed him­self to open the air­lock door and enter the habi­tat. “It’s small, but it’s home.”

“Very nice,” he saw her smile as they made eye con­tact when she entered the habitat.

“I hope it isn’t too much of a mess. I keep bro­ken equip­ment because I can use some parts for raw mate­ri­als.” He got into the habit of sort­ing them in the habi­tat before plac­ing them in the equip­ment lock­ers. He focused on those things impos­si­ble to build using a three-dimen­sion­al print­er. Some met­als and some fibers had remained out of reach of the tech­nol­o­gy. As a result, any­thing with a non-print­able part got his attention.

“It’s fine,” Miller smiled.

“The kitchen is over here,” he said as he walked across the com­pact habi­tat. “Water is here. Cof­fee is here—meals in the freezer—microwave.” He point­ed to the items as he named them, then stepped around the freez­er and point­ed. “I have a bed­room and bath back here. You’re more than wel­come to the show­er and any­thing you need.”

“A show­er sounds good.” Miller stepped toward the doorway.

“There is not much pri­va­cy.” He shrugged, try­ing to get the image of her in the show­er out of his head. “I’ve got some stuff to work on in the crawler.”

“Nils,” she said, plac­ing a hand on his sleeve, “It’s okay.”

“Thanks,” is all he could think to say. He turned toward the crawler.

He took his time, need­ing to be away from her. Regard­less of how he felt about her being in his busi­ness from time to time, he still found her way too attrac­tive to be in close con­fines with her for too long. Though he trust­ed him­self, he won­dered how long he could main­tain his restraint. Espe­cial­ly when he thought of her naked in his show­er. All he felt like he need­ed was a nod of approval and he would be upon her in an instant.

As he reor­ga­nized the crawler, he real­ized that his mind had been on her the entire time. He need­ed to spend some time on plan­ning the trip to Hab 18. It would be dif­fi­cult regard­less. With Deputy Miller along for the ride, dif­fi­cult could trans­late into impossible.

He need­ed a hop­per, a rock­et attach­ment, to car­ry the crawler from Con­rad sta­tion to Mare Frig­oris. From there, they would dri­ve up to Hab 18 along the road. Once col­lect­ing the pad, they would dri­ve back to the land­ing and take the hop­per back to Con­rad Sta­tion. It seemed easy, though there were a thou­sand things that could go wrong.

One thing remained sim­ple. Nils need­ed to con­vince Miller to aban­don her insis­tence upon going with him. The jour­ney was far too dangerous.

He entered the habi­tat after unload­ing the crawler. As he turned, he could see her in the kitchen, look­ing through his cab­i­nets. Wear­ing noth­ing but a long tee shirt that revealed her cheeks, she reached into an upper cabinet.

He smiled to him­self, mov­ing toward the kitchen. Glanc­ing over her shoul­der, she gave a slight smile. “Where the hell do you keep the coffee?”

“Sec­ond draw­er from the top,” he answered, “next to the cups and spoons.” He admired her as she opened the draw­er and pre­pared the beverage.

She smiled, retriev­ing the cups. “I thought we should talk.”

“Yeah,” Nils answered as he watched her. She heat­ed the water and made the coffee.

“So,” she said, “the naked truth.”

“The near­ly naked truth,” he observed.

“Oh–” Miller smiled, tug­ging at the tee shirt.

“What’s this about?” Nils tensed, real­iz­ing that she had been manip­u­lat­ing him again.

“Look,” she sat down at the table, set­ting the cups down for them. “I’m try­ing to make a peace offer­ing Nils.”

“Yup,” he answered, sit­ting down across from her. “And then you will demand your cut and insist that it’s the only way you don’t turn me over to either the Amer­i­can or Urubuan Mar­shals. I’ve heard all this before, Deputy.”

“How much was my cut?”

“Ten per­cent.”

“So,” she leaned for­ward, tak­ing a sip of cof­fee. “I take ten percent.”

“Yeah.”

“Ten per­cent, but you spec­i­fy the value?”

“Uh, yup.”

“Then you could have been lying to me about the val­ue.” She lift­ed her cof­fee and took a sip, an almost smug look on her face.

“What?”

“Not that you did,” she observed. “You are very hon­est. I’d know if you lied.”

“I did not.”

“You should have,” she stat­ed. Nils not­ed the slight smile and the beam­ing eyes. “But I know you didn’t.”

“Miller, I don’t under­stand what you–”

“Lis­ten, Nils,” she inter­rupt­ed, “I got mad at you that night. In fact, I’m still pissed about it.” He knew the night she was speak­ing about, the night they met. He forced it out of his mind, as he reliv­ed every moment of hell since.

“Miller,” he start­ed again. “I don’t want to relive that night. I should have kept my mouth shut.”

Why the hell did she want to bring that up?

“You’re miss­ing the point,” she said.

“No. I’m not. We crashed and burned that night, and I should not have tried to con­duct busi­ness at the same time.”

“You’re still miss­ing the point.”

“I don’t care about that now. I need you to recon­sid­er going with me.”

“You mean now?” she asked.

“Yup.”

“I don’t think so,” she frowned.

“It’s dan­ger­ous.”

“I know,” she answered, still hid­ing some­thing. “But I need to be there with you.”

“Come on,” Nils said, frus­trat­ed. “You can stay at Con­rad. It will just take me a cou­ple weeks.”

“I can’t.”

“You mean you won’t.” He pressed.

“I need to be with you.” She stat­ed. “Let’s con­sid­er it part of the favor you owe me.”

“About that,” Nils con­sid­ered, know­ing she was hid­ing far more than a sim­ple favor. “What is this all about?”

“I’ll get to it.”

“I don’t have time–”

“Nils, please.” She spoke, eyes open as though she were mak­ing a plea. “We’ll get to that lat­er. First, I would like to ask you–”

“Ask me what?”

“How are we get­ting to Hab 18?”

“We’ll need a hop­per.” Nils answered before he real­ized she had said we.

“Hop­per?”

“It’s a small rock­et.” Nils smiled. “It’s enough of an engine to lift the crawler to the trail-head and back.” A hop­per pow­er­ful rock­et burned enough for a sub-orbital hop, pro­vid­ing trans­port to anoth­er loca­tion on the lunar sur­face with the crawler. It was a means of hop­ping from one loca­tion on the Moon to anoth­er. For point-to-point trav­el, a hop­per was a main­stay of lunar trans­porta­tion, like sub-orbital rock­et jumps had replaced air­planes for transcon­ti­nen­tal flights after Yellowstone.

“Not all the way there?”

“Not real­ly,” Nils shook his head. “This trip is dan­ger­ous enough. Land­ing near 18 would be tough.”

“Tough?”

“I’m not that good of a pilot,” Nils answered. “The ter­rain is rougher when we get clos­er to the pole. The autopi­lot might require an over­ride. I can­not take that risk.”

Available Now

 

Fabulae Lunae 1

Thunder Moon Tussle

 

Coming Soon

Torn MacAlester’s Fabulae Lunae

The Lunadyne Incident  and Other Stories

 

 

The Lunadyne Incident and Other Stories

 

Coming Soon

Torn MacAlester’s Fabulae Lunae

The Lunadyne Incident  and Other Stories

 

 

Available Now

 

Fabulae Lunae 1

Thunder Moon Tussle

Science Fiction Moon Deputy

Who is the Sci­ence Fic­tion Moon Deputy?

Read Thun­der Moon Tus­sle and find out.

Avail­able on Ama­zon Kin­dle and where books are sold.

 

 

Thunder Moon Tussle, Chapter 3

Y+33

Nils drove toward his home habitat.

Hab 18?” Miller asked again, though Nils avoid­ed the sub­ject for the past half hour.

“Miller, how about I give you a big­ger cut with my job–”

“I’d always take a big­ger cut,” she grinned.

“–in exchange for you not going with me?”

“Out of the ques­tion,” Deputy Miller snapped back quick­ly. “I’ve got to look out for my investment.”

“What invest­ment?” Nils grumbled.

“The val­ue of my ten per­cent of the thir­ty-thou­sand, plus expens­es.” Miller stat­ed, then her voice soft­ened. “Plus, I think it will be a per­fect way to ask you for my favor.”

“What is it about, Miller?” Nils asked, his own voice soft­en­ing. “Can’t you give me a hint?”

“No,” she almost whis­pered. “Not yet.”

They sat silent­ly as the crawler nav­i­gat­ed the tracks, head­ing toward his habitat.

“We’re about three hours away from my hab,” Nils said, break­ing the awk­ward silence.

“Any sur­pris­es?” Deputy Miller asked.

“Like what?”

“Like let­ting me in on Hab 18?

“What will you give me for it?” Nils sparred, hop­ing to agi­tate her.

“Fine, keep your secret!” Miller snapped. She fur­rowed her brows.

“We’ll get to it,” Nils answered. He recon­sid­ered. Agi­tat­ing her seemed stu­pid. “I’ve got an idea.”

“What?” Miller asked.

“Let’s call a truce.” Nils suggested.

“What do you pro­pose?” Miller’s voice soft­ened again.

“We’ll set the dis­cus­sion about Hab 18 aside for a while. I’ll stop ask­ing you about the favor.”

“Fair enough,” she said.

“Thanks,” Nils smiled and checked the auto-dri­ve, ensur­ing that they were still on course.

“What should we talk about instead?”

“How about the Urubuan Marshal’s vis­it?” Nils asked, won­der­ing what they had been look­ing for.

“Most­ly infor­mal,” Deputy Miller answered. “They seemed con­cerned about how we orga­nized the Department.”

“How so? I mean, you han­dle things fair­ly well. We have no crime at Conrad.”

“Ha. Com­ing from one of its most upstand­ing citizens.”

“Yup, I’m plan­ning to run for Sta­tion Council.”

They both laughed at the joke.

“How so?” he said, ask­ing again.

“They want­ed to know how our juris­dic­tion fit with­in Amer­i­can law enforce­ment. It sur­prised him that we don’t.”

“Real­ly?”

“You’re sur­prised?” She asked, Nils noticed her face betrayed astonishment.

“Well—I mean, yeah,” Nils fum­bled. “I didn’t real­ize that you don’t have connections.”

“It’s sim­ple,” Miller answered. “The depart­ment is part of Luna­dyne secu­ri­ty. If we have an actu­al crime to report, we need to con­tact the what­ev­er agency we care to. It’s usu­al­ly the U. S. Marshal’s office since it’s easier.”

“You’re not a cop?” Nils challenged.

“So, if you assume that,” Miller growled. “I’ll put you in a body cast for sure.”

“No,” Nils steered away from the chal­lenge. “I meant that I don’t under­stand how Luna­dyne secu­ri­ty fits.”

“Hon­est­ly, that is what the Mar­shal was asking.”

“What did you explain that made sense to him?”

“I can arrest who­ev­er they need arrest­ed,” she answered. “If a major crime occurs, I need to report it to what­ev­er author­i­ty is con­ve­nient. I can arrest any­one and hold them until the Earth side author­i­ty picks them up. Also, I can act to pro­tect the com­pa­ny assets from destruction.”

“What does that mean?”

“Exact­ly what I said. If some ass­hole were attempt­ing to break open a door direct­ly to vac­u­um, I would stop him. I’d take him down if needed.”

Nils thought as he mon­i­tored the progress of the auto-drive.

Why is she being so open about it? She got pissed at me and kept it up for going on three years now. What has changed? She is almost being nice.

She knew about the smug­gling. He had told her in so many words. Obvi­ous­ly, she could have arrest­ed him fre­quent­ly, but she did not.

“Miller?”

“Yeah, prospec­tor?”

“What’s with the arrange­ment?” Nils asked.

“You mean the ten per­cent?” She grinned.

“Yup, that and the oth­er fees,” he said, won­der­ing about the cat-and-mouse game they played. She would find him about once a month and force him to pay some fee to have her look the oth­er way.

“So, you’re want­i­ng to rene­go­ti­ate our deal?”

“No.”

“Let me remind you, Nils,” She smiled. “Our arrange­ment is that you need to pay a ten per­cent fee for you to con­tin­ue doing busi­ness at the bar.”

“–payable before I leave the sta­tion. We’ve been through that.”

“Then what do you want?”

“For­get it,” he said. Nils declined to dig any fur­ther. Pay­ing Miller had become a cost of doing busi­ness, and he lacked the mon­ey to pay more. But it had nev­er gone beyond the occa­sion­al has­sle. Miller had nev­er asked him to dri­ve any­where. She had nev­er insert­ed her­self into any of his oth­er business.

Why now? He won­dered. What had changed?

Available Now

 

Fabulae Lunae 1

Thunder Moon Tussle

A Science Fiction Vignette from Torn’s Timeline of Events: Commander

A science fiction vignette by Torn Macalester:

This is a sci­ence fic­tion vignette deal­ing with Nils Carmike’s dis­cus­sion with his Commander.

 

 

 

Available Now

 

Fabulae Lunae 1

Thunder Moon Tussle

Thunder Moon Tussle: a Near Future Science Fiction Novel by Torn MacAlester

A Near Future Science Fiction Novel

A Near Future Sci­ence Fic­tion Nov­el by Torn MacAlester

Fabulae Lunae 1

Thunder Moon Tussle

 

Nils Carmike’s dream was to live on the Moon. He seized the chance to become a smug­gler on the Moon, leav­ing behind his astro­naut career, ex-wife, and post-Yel­low­stone dis­as­ter Earth. Life was going great until the seduc­tive and demand­ing Moon Deputy Miller arrived. She was hot today, cold tomor­row, and every day on Nils’s back. Out­ma­neu­vered and in over his head, Nils grants her a favor that leads to dan­ger. Can they work togeth­er and focus on the only thing that mat­ters? Or will they for­get Rule #1?

Diamonds: A New Vignette by Torn MacAlester

Nils depart­ed Con­rad Lunar Sta­tion, dri­ving his pres­sur­ized crawler. He imag­ined the sta­tion would become the hub of lunar activ­i­ty asso­ci­at­ed with the Luna­dyne Cor­po­ra­tion. His hab wasn’t far off, allow­ing him to be away from the cen­ter of activ­i­ty and on his own. The whole point of his being here had been to build up the Moon. He knew Luna­dyne was an excel­lent group to be asso­ci­at­ed with, but he didn’t work for the com­pa­ny. He was an independent–one of the first.

The crawler was the cen­ter of his life on the Moon. He knew it was nec­es­sary for trans­porta­tion and work. Nils knew that with­out the crawler, it would lim­it him to Con­rad Sta­tion and the com­pa­ny would either con­script him for work or send him back to Earth. Nei­ther of which appealed to him. He planned to do free­lance activ­i­ties. Before he arrived, Nils knew there would always be some­one on Earth that need­ed a pair of hands on the Moon. The crawler enabled him to trav­el and offer his skills wher­ev­er they were required.

As he drove, he con­sid­ered the list of jobs that had arrived through his bro­ker. Using the bro­ker had been a last-minute con­sid­er­a­tion. He want­ed to han­dle it him­self, but con­nec­tions to enough peo­ple would prove impos­si­ble on the Moon’s sur­face. The bro­ker would send a list, Nils would review it and select a job, nego­ti­ate a price, and pay ten per­cent as a fee. He’d worked through the last list, enabling him to make a down pay­ment on the deliv­ery of supplies.

Scan­ning the list while the crawler auto­mat­i­cal­ly drove the path toward his habi­tat, Nils noticed one that he real­ized he need­ed to avoid tak­ing. Some­one want­ed to hire him to look for dia­monds on the rim of Coper­ni­cus Crater. He knew that was impos­si­ble. The geol­o­gy for the Moon was all wrong to form dia­mond. There wasn’t a suf­fi­cient source of car­bon on the life­less Moon. Know­ing the answer before­hand, he did­n’t want to spend a sig­nif­i­cant amount of mon­ey on con­duct­ing the sur­vey. He called the bro­ker­age firm.

“This is Nils Carmike,” he said once he reached the voice of a human oper­a­tor. “I need to review one of the poten­tial clients that is on my list.”

“Is there a prob­lem with the price of the job, Mis­ter Carmike?” asked the Bro­ker in her smooth voice after the two sec­ond delay to Earth. “We estab­lished the prices based upon the work instruc­tions that you pro­vid­ed to us.”

“Regard­less, the price is out­ra­geous for this job. Obvi­ous­ly, some­one has deceived the indi­vid­ual who made the request at this out­ra­geous price. There are no dia­monds on the Moon, oth­er than the once we brought with us.”

“That’s a shame, Mis­ter Carmike. We have no process­es to deal with this kind of discrepancy.”

“Tell you what,” said Nils. “We need to fix this, or I will end my con­tract with your firm. Because of my rep­u­ta­tion, I can­not exploit some­one’s lack of knowl­edge about the Moon on purpose.”

“Hold on a moment, Mis­ter Carmike. I will arrange for you to dis­cuss this with the client.”

 

*****

“What is wrong with dia­monds?” asked the man, called Herald.

Nils could tell that he was elder­ly but did not know how old.

“Sir, you don’t know me,” said Nils. “But I’ve been work­ing on the Moon already more than any­one and been study­ing it far longer. Believe me when I say that the Moon doesn’t have diamonds.”

“I’m afraid that my nephew insists that this is correct.”

“If I may, how much did the min­er­al rights to the area cost you?”

“I think it was about three mil­lion,” said Her­ald. “I’ll have to look at my accounts to get the exact amount.”

“Did you get the rights because the sell­er insist­ed there were diamonds?”

“Yeah, I’m no fool. I wouldn’t have got rights with­out a sample.”

“You have raw dia­monds that they claim came from the Moon?” asked Nils.

“Yes. I have them in a bag­gy in the draw­er. One sec­ond, let me get them.”

“Okay,”

“Yeah,” said Har­ald. “I have them here.”

“Can you describe them to me?”

“They are lit­tle rocks, most­ly clear.”

“Are there any inclu­sions that are col­ored?” asked Nils.

“I see some col­or. What was that word you said?”

“Inclu­sion. It means that it’s buried inside the crystal.”

“I can’t real­ly tell,” Her­ald said. “Some look on the surface.”

“What col­or are the stones?”

“Most­ly gray, maybe slight­ly green.”

“Her­ald, I can tell you that these rocks might not be dia­monds. I would get them test­ed. The cost of the sur­vey means it will take me a day to com­plete. That cost cov­ers all the expens­es of me being on the Moon for that day.”

“Okay.”

“That means that cov­ers the cost of ship­ping all the water I drink, the food I eat, and even the air I breathe. That is a round­about way of say­ing my ser­vices are expen­sive. I’d like you to have your sam­ples checked first. If your sam­ples are legit­i­mate­ly dia­monds and the exam­in­ers will ver­i­fy that they are not from the Earth, then I’ll go out to your site and look for diamonds.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes Harold, I fear that they have duped you and I don’t want to add to your finan­cial bur­den to prove that to you by tak­ing a day at your site and find­ing noth­ing. I would call your local police as well and report the fraud. You can give them my number.”

Nils closed the con­nec­tion after reas­sur­ing the man that the sit­u­a­tion was seri­ous. Even though the mon­ey would have been easy, he knew some­one oth­er than him might take it. He hoped Harold would take his advice and ver­i­fy those diamonds.

Cycle 3: A New Story by Torn MacAlester

From his Texas Office, Nils fell into the rou­tine since they land­ed the remote-con­trol crawler on the lunar sur­face. For about two weeks, he’d work near­ly four­teen-hour days. Then once the sun had set on the land­ing site, he’d spend the next two weeks relax­ing and work­ing only a cou­ple of hours a day. He’d been through two full cycles, await­ing the sun­rise on the third cycle, start­ing in two days when the sun ris­es on the land­ing site.

He grabbed the cof­fee from the con­ve­nience store across the street from the office. Even though he only planned to spend two hours in the office, he felt it would be a long day. He real­ized he need­ed more time to pre­pare the site at Mare Frig­oris for land­ings and start build­ing the road to the North Pole before he could go to the Moon. Based on their timetable after the acci­dent, Orbit­dyne won’t be able to send humans to the Moon until next year at the ear­li­est. Mean­while, Nils pre­pared every­thing with auto­mat­ed rovers and a remote-con­trolled crawler. There was four months.

Once in the office, Nils dialed the ven­dor wait­ing for the tele­con­fer­ence to start between him and the KG vendor.

“Nils,” said Zia Hill, the woman who appeared on the screen. “I hope the Texas sum­mer hasn’t total­ly wiped you out.” Zia was the flight direc­tor for the KG launch ser­vices in Savanah. She was the tech­ni­cal face of the com­pa­ny and pro­vid­ed Nils a pow­er­ful lev­el of con­fi­dence in KG’s abil­i­ties. Zia nev­er sug­ar-coat­ed an issue, but she didn’t dwell on triv­i­al­i­ties that meant noth­ing to the over­all operation.

“Hi Zia,” said Nils. “It cooled off overnight, so it’s been quite pleas­ant this morning.”

“That’s good. Geor­gia sum­mer hasn’t been too bad here either.”

“What’s the status?”

“We’ve got your pay­loads secure. Your part­ner is over­see­ing the final lock­down of the fair­ing. We expect to com­plete the stack tomorrow.”

“How is Milt?” asked Nils, won­der­ing about his busi­ness part­ner, Milt John­son. Milt had been most­ly absent from the office dur­ing the past two months since land­ing on the Moon. He left Nils in charge of the dai­ly oper­a­tions of the Moon land­ings while he dealt with fund­ing and tech­ni­cal issues across the coun­try. “I haven’t spo­ken to him since last week’s telecon.”

“You know Milt—always on the move. We spoke just enough this morn­ing that he could ver­i­fy the crates and the rovers. Then he was off to anoth­er meeting.”

“Did he say where he was going?”

“No,” said Zia. “But I didn’t ask.”

“Okay, that’s fine. I was just won­der­ing. What do you have for me?”

“We’ve com­plet­ed the tra­jec­to­ries. We’ll land sun­rise plus 27 hours at the land­ing site at Frig­oris. The lan­der will need to be unloaded so we can launch it back into lunar orbit in five days.”

“That doesn’t give me much time,” said Nils. “That’s a lot of car­go on this run.”

“We can’t do any­thing about it. The agency has anoth­er pay­load that they want deliv­ered to Shack­le­ton by the sev­en­teenth of the month. They are very insis­tent and spend a lot to make it hap­pen. Offloaded or not, we launch five days after landing.”

“I got it. We’ll get her unloaded.”

“On anoth­er note, I have the pre­lim­i­nary time of land­ing based upon cur­rent esti­mat­ed launch time,” said Zia. “I’ll send that out with the morn­ing report.”

“Are we going to increase the pace of the meet­ings after launch?”

“We can pro­vide you with a twice dai­ly brief­ing, but it will offer lit­tle more than our twice a week briefing.”

“Okay, we’ll for­get that for now,” said Nils, real­iz­ing the extra expense wouldn’t be jus­ti­fied. In fact, delays asso­ci­at­ed with Orbitdyne’s acci­dent had seri­ous­ly com­pro­mised their ven­ture. Since Milt had han­dled most of the fund­ing side, all Nils did was to wor­ry about it and keep oper­a­tions going. But there had been this per­sis­tent nag­ging in his mind that he was over­look­ing something.

 

*****

 

Nils drove out of Richard­son and head­ed to his apart­ment in Dal­las. He was plan­ning to take every­thing and put it in stor­age months ago as he felt he’d already head­ed to the Moon. Now, the land­lord sought him to sign anoth­er six-month lease. It was damn incon­ve­nient. He had to han­dle a dozen things, includ­ing get­ting ready for his own voy­age to the Moon. The neces­si­ties of Earth­bound life just nev­er seemed to make sense to him. He planned to leave, so tying him­self finan­cial­ly or oth­er­wise seemed non sequitur.

He con­tin­ued dri­ving, head­ing toward the apart­ment office. And he got caught in anoth­er traf­fic sig­nal. It turned out unfor­tu­nate, but the sig­nals weren’t in sync dur­ing that time of day. In fact, he knew bet­ter than to try going home this time of day. It would take close to an hour to make a twen­ty-minute dri­ve. As he came to the stop, his phone rang. He touched the but­ton on his earpiece.

“Yup,” he said.

“Hi, this is Milt,” said his part­ner. “We’ve got a problem.”

“We always have prob­lems. What kind do we have today?”

“Luna­corp wants to have a look at oper­a­tions. Luna­corp wants to inspect our oper­a­tions because of our delay. I promised their audi­tor a chance to look at operations.”

“When did you make this promise?” asked Nils, fear­ing the answer.

“Day after tomorrow.”

“Shit. That’s absolute­ly the worst day.”

“We can’t do any­thing about it. They think we are not using their invest­ment effec­tive­ly,” said Milt. “You will need to prove it.”

 

*****

 

“This is going to be dif­fi­cult,” said Nils. “But you are wel­come to watch.”

“That is what I am here for,” said the auditor.

“The sun came up a few hours ago, and I am wait­ing until the ambi­ent tem­per­a­ture reach­es about freez­ing before I turn the heater on with the solar power.”

“Why wait?”

“I don’t want too large of tem­per­a­ture gra­di­ents across the elec­tron­ics as things warm up,” explained Nils.

“Tem­per­a­ture gra­di­ents? I don’t understand.”

“Large changes in tem­per­a­ture over short dis­tances between com­po­nents. That cre­ates a sit­u­a­tion where it’s pos­si­ble to crack wires or com­po­nents because they expand uneven­ly. If it breaks, its dead until Milt and I get up there to fix it.”

“Assum­ing you can,” said the auditor.

“Yup, assum­ing we can.”

“You seem to have built a lot of your oper­a­tion off of assumptions.”

“Not as many as you would think,” said Nils, real­iz­ing that the audi­tor was pok­ing at their busi­ness plan.

“How so?”

“Well, I build my plans based on set­ting pri­or­i­ties. Those pri­or­i­ties are often to deal with an assump­tion that anoth­er piece of the con­struc­tion depends upon.”

“Like you are work­ing so hard on the solar arrays the past two months?” asked the auditor.

“Exact­ly. With­out pow­er, we are help­less to do much. Part of that pow­er has to keep us alive dur­ing the long lunar nights. The first cycle pre­sent­ed the major chal­lenge of pro­vid­ing enough pow­er to keep the crawler alive through the lunar night. He set up solar pan­els and con­nect­ed them to a bat­tery pack, using as lit­tle pow­er as possible.”

That first two-week lunar night had been frus­trat­ing. Nils couldn’t help the feel­ing of screw­ing up and leav­ing a dead rover on the Moon’s sur­face. The crawler had enough pow­er, even more than he expect­ed, when it came back to life after sun­rise. To dou­ble the usable ener­gy on site, he spent the next lunar day build­ing a sec­ond pow­er station.

“By doing this,” Nils con­tin­ued. “We can bring AR1 and AR2 to Frig­oris tomor­row on the third cycle’s car­go run after we set­tle at base camp for a bit.”

“Oh,” said the audi­tor. “That means you are too busy for this audit.”

“Yup. You could not have arrived at a worse time.”

“I’m sor­ry, but this is essen­tial to Lunacorp.”

“Some­one has said that,” said Nils. “If Luna­corp wants a scape­goat for the delay, it’s Orbit­dyne. Their fly­er has been out of ser­vice because of their acci­dent. What I am doing is keep­ing us on some kind of sched­ule despite the delay in their sys­tem. Go back and tell Luna­corp what­ev­er you want to tell them, but I’m real­ly too busy to feed them a report because they are scared.”

“If that’s the way you feel.”

“Feel­ing has noth­ing to do with it. Those are the facts.”

“Well, I can say one thing,” said the audi­tor. “If you’re the one work­ing on it, it’s like­ly going to suc­ceed. How­ev­er, I can say that you and your part­ner gave Luna­corp a line of shit a half mil­lion kilo­me­ters long. This plan is about a like­ly to suc­ceed as putting a cork in Yellowstone.”

“Get out.”

“Have a good day.”

 

*****

 

Nils answered the phone.

“What the hell did you do?” asked Milt.

“What do you mean?”

“You know full well what I mean. That could lead to Luna­corp can­cel­ing the con­tract. We’re build­ing the road for them, remember?”

“No,” said Nils. “We’re build­ing it for our­selves, they are a facilitator.”

“How in the hell can’t you sep­a­rate the two in your head?”

“If they can’t stay the hell out of the way of the work, then they are of no use to us. When that audi­tor start­ed dig­ging yes­ter­day for me to jus­ti­fy what I was doing. He admit­ted I didn’t have time for it, but when he per­sist­ed. I laid it on the line. The facts were that his mere pres­ence was putting the Luna­corp invest­ment at risk.”

“Did you say it in those words?” asked Milt.

“No.”

“Then you might have as well said nothing.”

“What the hell do you mean?” asked Nils.

“Exact­ly what I’ve been say­ing. You put the whole thing at risk over a few hours of your time.”

“No. They jeop­ar­dized every­thing by tak­ing away my work time. I could have done it in two weeks, but you didn’t both­er con­sult­ing with me.”

“I—,” start­ed Milt.

“The sched­ule is too tight dur­ing the lunar day to allow for that kind of non­sense. You should know bet­ter. It’s what we spent years train­ing for max­i­miz­ing our use of favor­able time.”

“But—”

“With you not here help­ing me dur­ing the day­time, I’m left with try­ing to work six­teen to twen­ty-hour shifts on my own to keep the activ­i­ty going,” said Nils. “With­out you tak­ing the oth­er shifts, it puts us against the wall.”

“We need to keep the investors happy.”

“Yes, but not at the expense of the work.”

“Okay,” said Milt. “I’ll see what I can do about rescheduling.”

“Do it. Once the sun sets at Frig­oris, I can chat with the audi­tor for two weeks. I bare­ly have enough to do as it is.”

“I’ll take care of it.”

“Now,” said Nils. “About my oth­er concern…”

“You mean I can’t con­tribute because of all the investor meetings?”

“Yup. What are you going to do about it?”

“Noth­ing,” said Milt. “But before you get pissed off, let me explain.”

“Sure.”

“I expect that dur­ing the bet­ter part of the next year, we’re going to be on the Moon. The investors and Luna­corp need to get a good sense of me before we put a screen and a quar­ter mil­lion miles between us. They need a sense of trust to keep us mov­ing with­out me being here to hold their hand. Luna­corp is going to be tough enough, but we need to keep our con­struc­tion com­pa­ny investors hap­py. And I’ve got to get into a meet­ing with them in the next five min­utes so we can get this issue to blow over.”

“Okay, we’ll talk more lat­er,” said Nils. Switch­ing off the phone, he won­dered why he still felt that Milt was feed­ing him a line of bull.

 

Cycle 3 is a short sto­ry based on the char­ac­ters and events of Thun­der Moon Tus­sle by Torn MacAlester.  It occurs right after the events pre­sent­ed in Chap­ter 18.

Thun­der Moon Tus­sle is avail­able on Kin­dle and Paper­back at  amazon.com

Vignette: Directors and Malcontents by Torn MacAlester