|T O P I C R E V I E W
||Posted - 06/15/2007 : 10:47:36
EVOLUTION'S CHILD by CHARLES LEE LESHER
"This is the time when humans have begun to sail the sea of
space." -- Carl Sagan (1934-1996)
Part One: Aldrin Station
Trans World Flight L95 is tracked continuously from the moment it separates.
Orbital and ground based sensors scan the craft many times as it crosses the void
between Heaven and Earth, probing for the slightest abnormality. Six hours into the
flight, Lazarus sleeps through a brief freefall as the thrusters shut down and the
shuttle flips 180 degrees before starting them back up, decelerating at standard one-sixth G
the rest of the way to lunar orbit. Luna Central oversees the shuttle's orbital insertion,
the undocking from the Translunar Transfer Vehicle and the subsequent deorbit of the
Lunar Lander, with minimal input from the onboard flight attendants.
Lindsey gently shakes him, "Lazarus, wake up. We are preparing to land."
Lazarus claws his way to consciousness, feeling comfortable in the laidbackoverstuffed
recliner. He yawns and stretches, "Thanks. I must have fallen asleep
"You did--almost twelve hours ago. I've never seen someone sleep so hard!"
The descent to the surface is quiet and smooth right up to the point the AI cranks
up the Lander's main thrusters twenty minutes out of Aldrin Station. The sound
increases to a deep resonant throbbing vibration that runs up Lazarus's spine like an
electric current. The flight trajectory is designed never to exceed three Gs but it seems
like more, much more, to Lazarus, pushing his stomach down around his ankles. He
grips his armrests and gazes out the window willing his body to relax as the stark
lunar landscape whirls by at an alarming rate.
Micro-satellites continuously track the descent, never breaking contact, repeatedly
illuminating the shuttle with long range MRI. Satellite and ground based sensors pick
up the return signal, forwarding it to powerful computers for analysis.
Luna Central flight controllers and the defensive cannon emplacements strung out
along the top of Rim Mountain monitor the shuttle when it appears from over the
horizon, its thrusters flaring with energy as it decelerates on final approach. Its path
into Alphonsus crater is from the north, right over the small town of Summerhaven.
Powerful scanners sweep the craft time after time, collecting a mountain of data,
among which is detailed information on the shuttle's structure, her passengers, and
her cargo. The scans are quickly and carefully compared to the thousands of other
shuttle flights stored in the database, all the while the cannons keep their crosshairs on
the spacecraft. No anomalies are found and the shuttle is allowed to continue. Duty
officers in three different command centers relax, letting their systems fall back to
standard recon mode, looking for meteorites or terrorists threatening the Alphonsus
Lazarus can see surface installations inside the crater as the shuttle slows. The
vibration reaches a crescendo as the AI brings the ship to a stop, hovering a hundred
feet above the ground before slowly settling down towards Luna.
With an imperceptible bump, the shuttle comes to rest on the spaceport pad and
the thrusters fall silent. The sudden quiet sends a shiver through Lazarus and his
stomach does a little flip but settles back nicely. Slowly he releases his grip on the
armrests and relaxes, not realizing until that moment how tense he had become the
last few minutes. He feels lightheaded and dizzy, a common reaction to the wild
gravity swings he just experienced. It passes quickly.
It does nothing to stem his euphoria. He made it! He's on the moon!
Lazarus retrieves his small bag from under the seat and looks at Lindsey in
triumph. "I can't believe I'm really here!" He can hardly hold still, his hands fidgeting
and restless. He is ready to explode. "I can't believe I got away."
Lindsey smiles at his enthusiasm, "But you did and you are." For her, it felt good
to be home but she cannot imagine what it must be like for Lazarus. She recalls her
own first arrival years before and finds the memory faded and distant. She promises
herself that she will find the vid and refresh her memories. After all, it was a big day
for her as well.
Most of the shuttle's passengers are out of their seats and heading towards the
exit. Both flight attendants wait next to the airlock door, anticipating the arrival of the
ground transports. Lazarus and Lindsey are content to remain in their seat talking
Izzy and Mary had talked extensively during the flight, laughter frequently
punctuating their conversation and now the two are old friends. Izzy stands, collecting
their baggage and other items. Before leaving Izzy turns to Lazarus and Lindsey,
"You younguns" have a great life and don't accept any wooden nickels!"
"Peace and happiness for you as well," Lindsey responds looking puzzled. It's
obvious she doesn't have a clue what a wooden nickel is or why they shouldn't accept
Mary laughs loudly and waves as the two join the other passengers waiting in the
aisle for the ground transport to arrive.
Lazarus's expression transforms from excitement to apprehension as if a switch
had been thrown. "Are you sure you can't tell me who's meeting us?" he asks for the
third time, running his hand over his head.
"I told you, I don't know who Abby is sending. But you can be sure it will be
someone you can trust." Taking pity on this earthman so far from anything familiar,
she continues, "Relax," she pats his arm reassuringly, "as long as you"re truthful, you
will be treated with respect."
"Well, I've got to admit. This is a better plan than the one I was going to use,"
"Of course it is," she replies squeezing his arm for emphasis. "Things are different
on Luna. Don't be judgmental when something you don't understand hits you upside
the head. Keep in mind that the Lunarians have been living here for over sixty-five
years," Lindsey says, repeating some of her advice.
His eyes glow with excitement and he smiles nervously, "Yes, I remember."
Lindsey likes this part of Lazarus very much. The headfirst way he handles his
fear, the blind courage to make this attempt to help people he never met.
"Lindsey, whatever happens I want you to know how much I appreciate
everything you"ve done." He smiles from ear to ear, thinking again about the hours
they had spent together in freefall. "I will never be able to repay you for the generous
way you have helped me. I'm forever in your debt."
Lindsey returns his smile, "There you go again, with that debt crap. Get it through
your head. You don't owe me anything." She had enjoyed his company and once she
had gotten the whole story out of him, found out about the information he was
carrying, it was her duty to make sure the right people heard him. She leans over and
kisses Lazarus, communicating her feelings much more effectively than mere words.
They linger over the kiss, only breaking when a sharp bump and the clatter of
metal ringing against metal announces the arrival of ground transport. The light over
the airlock changes from red to green signaling a good seal has been made and
breathable air awaits them on the other side.
The male flight attendant un-dogs the inner airlock door and swings it open.
Stepping into the chamber and out of sight, he unlatches the outer door, opening it
with a clank. An attractive young woman accompanies him back into the shuttle,
"Welcome to Aldrin Station. Please proceed to the back of the transport. I can only
take about half of you. There's another transport right behind me that will take the
rest." She moves gracefully aside smiling and welcoming each passenger to Aldrin
Station as they move past.
Lazarus starts to rise but Lindsey reaches out and restrains him. "Let's wait for the
next one. It shouldn't be long."
Lazarus relaxes back in his seat, content to spend even a few more moments with
Lindsey. 'sure. I'm in no hurry," a lie instantly recognized by Lindsey.
"What did I tell you about lying?" she looks at him expectantly.
"Are you serious?"
"Yes, absolutely I'm serious. Little lies grow into bigger ones" If someone asks
you how you are feeling, tell the truth. If you tell someone to have a nice day, mean it.
Otherwise, keep your mouth shut. The small lies will contaminate you just as quickly
as larger ones," Lindsey says.
Lazarus nods, "I shall make every attempt to tell the truth, no matter how painful."
They watch as the transport quickly fills and the shuttle's airlock doors close once
again. Lazarus can partially see the now filled vehicle from his window. Four giant
balloon tires support a scissor mechanism that brings its passenger cabin to the level
of the shuttle's main airlock. As he watches, it moves away from the ship, lowering
the cabin as it goes. Then it turns and is gone. Behind it, a second transport takes its
place, raising its cabin and inching forward. With another sharp bump and the ringing
of metal, the magnetic grapplers lock onto the shuttle's outer airlock.
Lindsey rises and leads Lazarus to the exit, nodding pleasantly to the flight
attendant as she passes. She picks an empty pair of seats near the back leaving the
window for Lazarus.
Scanners sweep across the passengers and their baggage. As before, nothing
unusual shows up and clearance is issued to proceed to the terminal at Aldrin Station.
The surface transport moves quickly over the compacted regolith roadway. There
isn't much to see out of the small window but Lazarus has his nose pressed close
nonetheless. Rim Mountain dominates the horizon. Above it, bright pinpoints of stars
are set in the blackness of airless space. He can see part of Earth directly upward but
not well enough to recognize a landmass. Looking forward from his window, Lazarus
studies the spaceports main airlock as the transport approaches. Like a monstrous
storm drain, it protrudes out onto the craters floor from the side of the mountain. The
outer door is just large enough to accommodate the transport. Smoothly the vehicle
slows to a stop just inside. He can see the sides of the airlock just inches from his
window. A moment later the door behind them closes and an atmosphere explosively
fills the small volume around the transport. The passengers hear the inside airlock
door open with a clank. The transport accelerates out of the chamber and starts down
a long tunnel. Everything out his window becomes an indiscriminate blur giving him
a distinctive feeling of speed.
"How far do we go in this tunnel?" Lazarus asks.
"It's about a half mile, I would guess," Lindsey responds.
He shakes his head. "That puts, what, a mile of rock over our heads?"
'something like that, but never forget this is Luna. Everything, including the
mountains, weighs only twenty percent of what they would in Arizona," she adds with a
"Why doesn't that comfort me?" Lazarus states dryly "Twenty percent of big is
still big," he points out, returning her smile.
The passengers are not even aware of the transport going through a whole series
of airlock doors, each opening just long enough to let the moving vehicle pass before
rapidly closing behind it. The system never has more than one door open at any given
time. The last opens out onto the expansive main floor of the Stephen Hawking
Interplanetary Spaceport. It slows smoothly to a stop alongside several other
The attendant waits until a green light comes on over the airlock door before
opening it, "Please follow the yellow markings on the floor to customs. Thank you for
flying Trans World Spaceline."
The passengers exit down a ramp to the floor of the terminal. Lindsey links her
arm with Lazarus as they descend. Initially, his feet slip, as though he were on ice, his
weight insufficient to give him his usual traction on the polished stone floor. Lindsey
shows him the Luna shuffle, pushing off with both feet at once, hopping instead of
walking. Letting her lead, Lazarus learns a small amount of grace by the time they
cover the fifty yards to customs, relieved when he finds a workable rhythm. He recalls
the ancient black and white films of the first men to walk on the moon, Neil
Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. They may have invented the Luna shuffle but Lunarians
Even though Hawking Spaceport services forty-one pads, it's not particularly
crowded this morning. The domestic flights have short lines, but very few travelers
are in the interplanetary area, coming or going. Flights to Shennong and Kyoto
announce imminent departures. Children chase one another in the waiting area and
Tempel can see a group of young Lunarians having a beer in an adjacent lounge,
killing time before their flight.
Well-armed police officers are stationed at good defensive points around the
periphery overlooking the main airlocks. More are standing close by customs as
passenger bioID's are checked one last time.
Tempel crosses the terminal and stops where he can see the transport loading area
and waits. He is wearing the black and tan of the LCPD, a single gold bar in his lapel
designating his rank of lieutenant. The bill of his hat is pulled down shadowing his
visor, a police issue silver and black Razor that molds to the contour of his face. All
of the people around him are wearing visors of one form or another. It is common on
Luna to see ordinary folks going about their everyday tasks wearing the devices.
Those that do not wear them have them nearby, in a bag, belt clip, breast pocket or
worn around the neck like a piece of jewelry. Tempel is never seen in public without
his on and he is not alone in this practice.
A few minutes later the incoming lock cycles open and the first of two transports
enters and parks. Tempel watches as small groups of recent arrivals emerge and
follow the marked path towards customs.
"Which one?" Tempel asks Magi even as a second vehicle enters and parks beside
"He is not among the passengers on the first transport," Magi responds as the
ramp slides into place for the second vehicle. As the passengers start to emerge she
says, "That is him, coming down the ramp beside Lindsey." Lindsey is locked arm in
arm with the shortimer, making sure the man does not fall. Magi puts a virtual flood
light on him while placing the others around him into near darkness.
Tempel maintains his distance while watching the pair closely, granting them a
moment more of privacy. The man is wearing a hideous blue, gold, and green tourist
shirt, dark blue trousers, a brand new visor, and a small bag slung over his shoulder.
His gait is clumsy, what one would expect for someone right off the boat. His shoes
slip on the polished stone floor of the terminal.
The man appears to be about thirty-five with a typical high-gravity build, chunky
by Luna standards and not especially tall, light brown almost blond hair cropped short
making it nearly invisible in the magnification he's using. The shortimer's most
striking feature is his deep blue eyes, which shift about uneasily. Several times, he
nervously runs his hand over his head. His gaze repeatedly returns to the armed police
officers stationed in the terminal.
"Lindsey has sponsored him and helped set up the meeting with Abby," Magi
responds. 'she has submitted a record of their conversation onboard the shuttle. I
have prepared a summary. Would you care to experience it?" Magi asks.
"Aye, thank you MagI' Tempel responds.
The conversation, recorded by Lindsey's visor, replays through his at sixty times
normal speed, giving him complete understanding of an hours worth of dialogue in a
minute. It is from her perspective, as though he is sitting in her place beside the
shortimer listening to him ramble on about religion and some other nonsense
concerning the Brotherhood and nuclear weapons. The fact that Lazarus works in the
Federation's Department of Homeland Security raises red flags. He trusts the Feds
about as far as he can throw Luna.
Lazarus and Lindsey are slower than most other passengers moving through the
arrival area. It is easy to spot the rookies, they move tentatively, like they are learning
to walk all over again, and Lazarus is no exception. He looks around as he struggles
with this crazy way of walking, noting the armed guards, uncomfortable in this
strange place, yet excited and yearning to see everything. The terminal does not seem
that different from other airports he has been in, an open space stretching several
hundred yards on its long side and less than half that in width, counters and offices
arranged throughout in an open design, people moving about at a leisurely pace. Its
calm compared with Athens and Athena's Marketplace. The thing that is strangest to
him is the ceiling, it is sky blue and glows like a mid-summer Arizona afternoon. Its
shape eludes him and he can almost imagine he is standing beneath a cloudless desert
Falling in line, they wait, watching as, one by one, the passengers in front of them
go through customs. Lindsey precedes Lazarus passing her left hand over the glowing
amber reader. Following her, Lazarus repeats the procedure. He is now officially on
Lindsey gracefully reclaims his arm keeping him steady as they move forward. He
glances nervously at a nearby police officer, his visor letting him see the young
woman's face, shadowed by the bill of her hat pulled down low. She does not look
old enough to be packing a pistol.
"Greetings, Tempel," Lindsey says as they emerge from customs, nodding
pleasantly to the strikingly handsome young man waiting for them. Taller than
Lazarus, he is lean and muscular, and wearing the same uniform as the officers
stationed around the terminal.
"Greetings, Lindsey," he tips his head in response.
Turning she says, "Lazarus Sheffield, let me introduce you to Senior Lieutenant Tempel Dugan."
Lazarus starts to extend his hand, quickly recovers and nods his head in a clumsy
imitation of the Lunarian custom, "Very pleased to meet you Lieutenant. Please, call
The man is several inches taller than Lazarus but probably weighs less, despite his
broad shoulders. His close-cropped hair or no hair at all appears to be the dominant
Lunarian style for both men and women. Tempel's movements are fluid and powerful
which Lazarus attributes to being born into this environment.
Tempel returns the gesture, "Greetings Lazarus. How was your trip?" he asks.
Lazarus frowns, thinking this is a very youthful escort, suddenly worried that no
one will take him seriously, but at least he is a Dugan. Pushing down his fears, he tells
himself to take this one-step at a time. "Pleasant but I'm famished. I haven't eaten a
decent meal since Phoenix!" he said.
Lindsey laughs and adds, 'spaceline and food should never appear in the same
paragraph, let alone right next to each other."
The three of them turn and start across the terminal with Lindsey maintaining her
hold on Lazarus, helping him learn to cope in the light gravity.
Ignoring her humor Tempel asks, "What would you like to eat? We have a couple
hours to kill before your scheduled meeting with grandma Abby. My orders were to
take you out for lunch."
Lazarus can sense that this isn't exactly what the young man wants to be doing,
feeling better knowing Abby had sent her grandson to meet him.
"Yes"Well"" Lazarus's train of thought stumbles as any man's will when a
particularly sensuous woman is walking directly towards him. Tempel glances
sideways at Lazarus, knowing what is going on and curious as to how this earthman
will handle it. Lindsey grins, not threatened in the least, watching the show with
Her beauty renders him speechless. With skin the color of honey, her high
cheekbones, arching brows, and full lips are exquisitely proportioned around piercing
blue eyes. Shaped in the perfect hourglass, she is wearing a pair of black skin-tight
stretch LevI's and a white low-cut pullover that draws attention to her unrestrained
tits. They sway hypnotically and nipples, hardened by rubbing against the fabric, dare
him not to stare. There is fluidity in her movements due to living in low gravity.
Nearly half a head taller than Lazarus, her blond hair is cut even shorter than his. A
holster rides low on her wide hips, the butt of a weapon clearly visible. As a lawman,
Lazarus has learned to both rely on and be skeptical of first impressions, but the effect
this woman has on him is immediate and overwhelming. He is instantly aroused,
causing his face to turn beet red with embarrassment.
The four meet and stop, still in the common area of the terminal, forcing the
sparse traffic to move around them like a cluster of boulders in a streambed, "Lazarus
Sheffield this is Sergeant Samantha Odegaard," Tempel introduces, mildly amused by
the earthman's struggle to maintain his composure.
"Greetings Mr. Sheffield, it's truly a privilege to meet you," Sam says and smiles.
Then much to everyone's amazement, she offers her hand.
Delighted and instantly at ease, Lazarus gives her a broad smile and accepts, "I
assure you, the pleasure is mine" Sergeant!" he responds. Her hand is warm.
Samantha laughs before releasing him, sending little jolts of electricity through
Lazarus. She has grown accustomed to eliciting this reaction from shortimers, but this
is her first Federation runner. "Please, call me Sam," turning to Lindsey, "Greetings
Lindsey. I hear you won't be going back."
Nodding and still grinning, Lindsey responds enthusiastically, "Aye, the next time
I feel Earth's gravity will be too soon!"
"Are you going to join us for lunch?" Sam asks her.
"No, I have some things I need to take care of. I will leave you to get acquainted
with Lazarus. He has led a very interesting life."
"Wonderful! I can't wait to hear all about it!" Sam turns back to Tempel and asks,
"Have you decided on where we are to eat?"
Tempel shakes his head, "Not really," he responds.
"What's your favorite restaurant, Lindsey?" Lazarus asks, wanting very much for
her to stay with them, hoping to tempt her with food.
"Depends on what you want to eat. Breakfast is excellent at Milligan's Caf".
Lunch" either Mighty Macs or Lucifer's Diner. Savannah's serves a mean fauxsteak
but if you want a view nothing beats The Surface Cafe," Lindsey responds. She loves
Lunarian food and has long since tried all the best places in Aldrin Station.
"Which one is closer?" Lazarus asks hoping to lure Lindsey to stay by making it a
"Hungry, are we?" Sam laughs, a sultry feminine sound that caresses his ears.
"Lucifer's Diner is closest, right next door. We can be there in minutes. Mighty Macs
isn't much further and it's in Brooklyn Mall. What do you want to eat, burgers at
Macs or a chili at Lucifer's."
"Take him to Macs and show him the North Courtyard and the mall. He"ll love
it!" Lindsey says to Sam.
"A burger sounds good!" Lazarus says looking intently at Lindsey, willing her to
stay. "Are you sure you can't join us?"
"I'm sorry Lazarus"" her eyes look past him and her voice trails off. Surprise
followed by annoyance flashes across her face.
Lazarus turns to see a tall dark-haired young man approaching, his smile wide and
welcoming and aimed at Lindsey.
"Lindsey darling, I wanted to be waiting when you got off the transport but was
held up. Please forgive me!" He brushes past Lazarus to embrace her, his lips
targeting her mouth.
Lindsey halfheartedly returns the embrace, turning her cheek to his lips,
"Greetings Dwayne. You shouldn't have bothered."
Dwayne simply chuckles and says, "How quickly we forget." Turning to Tempel
and Sam he says, "I told Abby that I would be more than happy to meet Lindsey and
our guest but she insisted that you do it."
Tempel looks at Dwayne and says, "I can't imagine why."
Dwayne chuckles again, the sound grating on everyone's nerves. He turns to
Lazarus, "You must be the shortimer everyone is talking about."
Lazarus is miffed but unruffled. "Lazarus Sheffield" and you are?"
Again the man laughs, "Dwayne Taylor, grandson of Councilman Zachary
Taylor," he says as though it should mean something.
"I have no idea who that is," Lazarus responds. In those few seconds, Lazarus
learns as much as he wants about Dwayne Taylor, grandson of Councilman Zachary
Taylor. This yahoo's attempted familiarity with Lindsey troubles him deeply.
Remembering Lindsey's warning that things are done differently on Luna, he
ruthlessly suppresses these unfamiliar emotions until he has time to think. Regardless
of the reasons, Dwayne rubs Lazarus the wrong way.
"Zachary Taylor was the first Lunarian." Dwayne stares at Lazarus for a moment.
"You have much to learn."
"As do we all," Lindsey says sharply, looking intently at Dwayne. "DT, I have
personal business and Lazarus is having lunch with Tempel and Sam. So if you will
Her dismissal finally cut through his facade of friendliness and his expression
hardens. "As you wish" I have a few things to discuss with you," he returns her
stare. "Call me at your convenience." Without looking or acknowledging anyone else,
he turns on his heels and departs the same way he came.
"Well that was" unpleasant," Sam says looking at Lindsey.
"Don't look at me that way. He has a charming side," Lindsey responds. "Or at
least he did."
"So does a crocodile if you can avoid his teeth," Tempel chuckles softly shaking
his head, "I still can't figure what you saw in him, Lindsey."
Ignoring Tempel, Lindsey steps close to Lazarus and says quietly, "Don't sweat it.
Tempel and Sam will take good care of you and I will see you later," she looks in his
eyes and gives him another short but firm kiss that lingers long after their lips
separate. Her actions speak louder than words exactly how she feels and for whom.
Lindsey nods to everyone and moves away leaving Lazarus to stare after her,
suddenly feeling very alone. Taking a deep breath he turns and smiles, 'she's quite
Tempel looks slightly disgusted but Sam chuckles and says, "Yes, Lindsey is
special. How did you happen to meet?"
Looking up at the beautiful Lunarian, Lazarus thinks back, finding it strange that
it seems so long ago, yet it was only yesterday. 'she had the seat next to mine on the
Stratoliner coming out of Athens."
Sam smiles, "Love at first sight! How romantic!" Before Tempel has time to inject
a cynical remark she continues, "Well, come on. Let's go get some food in you," she
says taking Lazarus by the arm much as Lindsey had done, but Sam is the better part
of a half foot taller than Lazarus making him tilt his head back just to look her in the
eyes. He did not mind a bit.
Tempel, Sam, and Lazarus exit the terminal using Steinway Avenue. Shops and
offices line both sides of the wide corridor and the group stays in the middle moving
with the sparse traffic. Lazarus is getting better at the lunar shuffle but every once in a
while his muscles try to do it the way they have been trained from birth and he
stumbles or slips.
Each time Sam grips him tightly preventing him from falling. When she sees his
frustration she says, "Don't worry. You"ll get the hang of it."
"He won't as long as you"re holding him up," Tempel says.
"Is this your first time off-planet?" Sam inquires, ignoring Tempel.
"Yes, unless you count Luna Central," Lazarus replies.
Tempel turns to look at the earthman, "What do you know about Luna Central?"
"I watched it on webcast. It's about the only source of information Federation
citizens can get regarding the Republic of Luna," Lazarus responds.
"Are you talking about net vids? Entertainment?" Tempel shakes his head in
disbelief, "You need to get that right out of your brain. No vid produced for mass
entertainment on Earth can come close to the real thing, especially a Federation vid
"You are undoubtedly correct Lieutenant, but it's all I had," Lazarus says with a
shrug. Sam smiles and squeezes him a little tighter.
Tempel looks at him in disgust. Using an entertainment vid for education is
beyond his comprehension.
Emerging from the mouth of Steinway Avenue, Lazarus finds himself in a
horseshoe shaped alcove containing a beautiful courtyard, a magnificent colonial style
fountain at its center. The fountain uses a French pineapple motif but is designed for
low gravity and is much taller than its Earthly cousins. Its descending bowls are
farther apart giving the water time to attain speed before splashing into the next lower
pool. It flows with a strange slow motion, as though it was filled with molasses
instead of water, something only a shortimer would notice. Yet, its sound is
comforting to him in ways he cannot explain.
Along the three sides of the courtyard are various shops and eateries, some
standing independent of the alcove's stone wall while others are partially or fully built
into it. To his left is a small storefront dedicated to selling visors and other network
devices, its wide front windows advertising the latest features. Beyond is the wood
and stone fa"ade of an Italian-style sidewalk caf", its patio filled with tables and
chairs. To his immediate right is a vacsuit retail outlet, beyond that a micro brewery, a
bakery, and some kind of general merchandise outlet. Music, laughter, and flashing
lights spill from a kid's gaming area across the courtyard.
Against the far wall is the brightly lit windows of a familiar type of eating
establishment, a flame-dancing devil on its roof, pointing his three pronged pitchfork
towards the name of the joint, Lucifer's Diner, Fine Dining with a Flare! Lazarus is
taken aback when Lucifer turns and looks directly at him, the eyes flaring as though
possessed by his namesake. Lazarus grins at his automatic reaction to the symbol,
immediately appreciating the irony of its existence in this place.
Here and there situated between the shops he can see more corridors similar to the
one just traveled, leading to places he cannot imagine but eager to explore. Lazarus
breathes in humid air, fragrant from an abundance of neatly manicured flower gardens
scattered all across the courtyard. Beyond the shops and courtyard is an expanse of
grass. Upon it a group of young people play a game, jumping high into the air and
throwing a small ball to a teammate or at a net located twenty feet up at each end.
Their calls echo across the distance as they soar high, testing themselves against their
Lazarus grins with excitement. He could never have imagined a place so beautiful
and full of life. He looks beyond the courtyard, beyond the game, beyond the alcove,
and sees what appears to be a forest. Craning his neck to catch a glimpse of what lies
ahead, he stumbles as Sam changes course to take him there. They weave in and out
among the people, most of whom pay them little attention.
"Is this Brooklyn Mall?" Lazarus asks as they make way for a fast moving covey
of laughing and squealing children, none more than five or six years of age.
"This is the North Courtyard. It's just a small part of Brooklyn Mall," Sam says.
Giving the ball players plenty of space, she guides him out of the courtyard and to the
edge of the terrace, presenting him with the most amazing vista Lazarus has ever
Brooklyn Mall is a massive vaulted cathedral sheltering a manmade paradise.
Before him lies acre upon acre of mid-latitude hardwood forest, manicured and
maintained in perfect condition. It extends farther than he can see. From his elevated
vantage point, Lazarus looks down upon a picturesque valley of gently rolling hills
without any flat and level ground in sight. It's relatively narrow where he is, widening
considerably as it falls away from him and curving to the right concealing what lies
Here too, the upper surface of the habitat glows in perfect imitation of a blue sky
on a summer afternoon, adding greatly to his perception of openness. The luminosity fades
as it extends down the walls, disappearing entirely about fifty feet up. From
there down, the walls look like a cliff face. It's as if he were on Earth standing on a
hill looking down at the bottom of a canyon containing a well kept park, not a
subterranean city on the moon.
Massive trees dot the landscape, their leaves shimmering and rustling in the
breeze while birds flitter about their great limbs. Not far below and to his left he can
see a small pond under two particularly large trees, their uppermost branches
towering over Lazarus. A noisy stream runs out of the pond and down the slope away
from them, its path marked by boulders and thickets of flowering shrubs, bushes, and
Small birds and squirrels chatter and cavort in the treetops and across the perfectly
manicured lawn. Light filters gently through the forest canopy giving the grassy
parkland a lazy afternoon cast. A rain shower had just finished and the humid air
smells fresh with just a hint of fragrance. Lazarus tries unsuccessfully to catch a
glimpse of the far wall, prevented by architecture intentionally designed to provide
mystery to the vista, places where his eyes cannot go, tweaking his imagination like a
maestro directing an orchestra.
To his right more shops and restaurants extend the terrace another hundred yards
along the wall, their roofs covered in lush grass and flower gardens. Here and there
between the shops, ramps slope upward providing easy access to these upper areas.
As with all Lunarian architecture, there is not a straight-line or sharp corner in sight.
Everything is curves, one element flowing smoothly to the next, carved from a single
block of stone.
Turning back to the forest, Lazarus lets his gaze linger. He can see paths winding
away from the terrace down into the valley, leading to an assortment of benches and
tables overlooking other gardens most with their own water feature. One area is
swampy and choked with cattails. Another has a pond with a single massive jet of
water dancing a hundred feet high. Further away through a gap in the trees and well
down into the valley, Lazarus spots a gazebo silhouetted on the crest of a hill. The
beauty is breathtaking.
"Tempel, why don't you go ahead and get the burgers while Lazarus does a little
sightseeing?" Sam waits patently for Lazarus to get his fill of the view.
"Aye," the young Lunarian responds.
"Totally awesome!" Lazarus declares, touching his cheek, "I can feel the sun on
my face" How's that possible?"
Sam is amused by the reaction of the earthman to her city, "The lighting matches
solar radiation minus the more deadly frequencies" Where are you from, Lazarus?"
she probes gently.
"Valley of the Sun"just outside Phoenix, Arizona. Typical high desert, scorpions,
sunshine and blue skies," Lazarus answers never taking his eyes off this amazing
underground world. It's more spectacular than he had imagined. Reality always is.
'scorpions! There is a region along Central Commonway between Hermosa and
Crossroads our biodiversity engineers has designated high desert. After you have
settled in, perhaps you would allow me to take you there. I would be very interested
in your opinion," Sam says.
"I look forward to it!" Lazarus says, "And to exploring Aldrin Station. I want to
"Then you shall," Sam replies.
Lazarus glances back at the North Courtyard. He had taken Rachel to visit Mesa
Verde during a summer vacation, one day spent on something requiring a lifetime to understand.
The Native Americans who made those cliff houses would feel right at
Sam guides him down the terrace past several shops towards a small food court.
Burnished stone tables occupy the edge of the terrace close to the grass and well
under the shade of an enormous tree. The tables service Mighty Mac's Burger Barn
along with Little Italy Pizzeria, Starman Coffee Plantation and several more
businesses that are out of sight due to the strange curvilinear design inside the mall.
"Is this one ok?" Sam asks.
As way of answering, Lazarus pulls out and holds one of the metal-framed chairs.
Sam, amused by the earthman's quaint manners, smiles and sits down. No one had
ever done that for her and she finds she rather likes it.
"Lunarians use stone like we use wood and metal on Earth," Lazarus observes,
running his hand over the glassy smooth surface of the tabletop as he takes the seat
next to her.
"The quarrying process polishes and seals the surface. The beauty inside the stone
can be stunning," Sam slides her finger along a scarlet slash of color running the
length of the tabletop. "This is a metal-bearing ore and the color depends on the
metal. Needless to say, it makes beautiful furniture and habitats excavated from it are
highly prized," Sam's voice captivates Lazarus. "My family works high energy
excavators and makes furniture on the side."
"How do you make a chair out of stone?" Lazarus asks.
"The same way you make a chair out of wood, very carefully," Sam responds
smiling. "But we make tables, benches, and countertops, mostly."
'so you must know a lot about excavating?" Lazarus asks.
"Not as much as Tempel. If you have technical questions, he's your guy," Sam
"I'm fascinated with Lunarian habitats. Nothing like them has ever been created in
the long history of man!" Lazarus says, excitement making his eyes sparkle.
"You"re not going to call us cavemen or Neanderthals?" she asks.
"No! Definitely not!" he says. He looks up just as Tempel sets a tray heaped with
food down in front of him.
Tempel raises an eyebrow, "I wouldn't say man has a long history, at least not in
any true sense of geological time. All two hundred thousand years is nothing but an
instant in the 4.5 billion years of Earth history." He sets down in front of Sam and
Lazarus plates heaped with fries and a burger.
"There's much I don't understand, especially concerning Earth history and
evolution. It wasn't taught in school while I was growing up and books about it are
banned," Lazarus says before taking a big bite of burger. His face lights up with
enjoyment as he starts to chew.
Sam frowns and wipes her mouth with a napkin. "Citizens allow this?" she asks
Lazarus swallows and nods. "They vote on which books to ban, as well as the
punishment for those caught reading banned books."
"I find that hard to believe. The government must rig it! Why would anyone
choose ignorance over knowledge?" Sam is not equipped by her society to understand
this concept. To her, raised from infancy to respect and understand the guiding
principles behind science and humanity's quest to understand the cosmos, it is
inconceivable for someone to turn away from any idea. Ideas are to be examined
closely and only set aside if they are found lacking merit. Under no circumstance
should any idea be suppressed simply because it fails to fit into their previously
accepted version of reality.
Lazarus talks around a bite, "No one chooses ignorance. Federation citizens are
just people given very little choice in what beliefs are acceptable. Once a person buys
into the whole religion thing, it leaves no room for anything that contradicts it. They
are right and everybody else wrong."
"You say they. Are you not among these citizens? Don't you profess the same
beliefs?" Tempel asks.
Lazarus looks steadily at him for a long moment, swallows and reminds himself
he must drop his deception and be totally honest, finding it hard to set aside
something that's been such a major part of his life. He licks dry lips before answering,
"No" I don't... I searched for it as a kid but all I found were broken shards of clay
where there should have been diamonds."
"That's" sad," Sam says softly.
Tempel looks at her with exasperation before turning back to Lazarus, "What's
that supposed to mean?"
"It means that even as a child I questioned the logic of an omnipotent God
creating a defective Adam and Eve, and then blaming them, and the rest of mankind,
for his own mistake. Or how a Christian can reconcile turning the other cheek and an
eye for an eye?"
"Humph" Tempel huffs, clearly not impressed.
"Which books are banned?" Sam asks between mouthfuls of burger and fries.
Lazarus chews and thinks for a moment, "It would be easier to tell you which
books are allowed. The banned list is enormous. I think the authorities can find
something wrong with any book if they look hard enough and usually someone
"What punishment is given for reading them?" Sam asks. Over the last three
decades, there has been a dearth of Federation citizens immigrating and her exposure
to these strange ideas limited to intellectual discussions with her peers.
"Depends on what book and who catches you. Best case is a fine but worst case is
a nice long vacation at a reeducation facility."
"That doesn't sound so bad," Sam says innocently.
Lazarus stares at her for a moment, "I would withhold judgment if I were you.
I've spent a significant amount of time inside them and it isn't pretty." Lazarus turns
away, ashamed in that instant of the number of reeducations he had personally
participated. Speaking as if every word is pulled from his lips, "As a Senior Analyst
in DHS, I interrogated suspects" Sometimes that included physical torture,
sometimes drugs" Specialists would come in and do" other things" When they
were done, the suspect would be taken to one last room. A few hours later, when they
come out" they"re another person" they"ve been reeducated."
Sam puts her burger down and doesn't touch it again. The horrified look on her
face is almost comical to Lazarus. He begins to understand in that instant how naive
the Lunarians are to what's happening on Earth.
Tempel glances up to see if Lazarus was stretching the truth and goes back to
eating, filing the information away. He finds it hard to generate any sympathy for
Federation citizens. They made their bed and now must sleep in it.
"What happened to them inside the room?" Sam asks.
Lazarus shakes his head, "I didn't need to know."
After a moment, "Why would you be a part of that?" Sam asks.
"It seemed like the right thing to do in the beginning, but it changed. At first, the
suspects were limited to terrorists or violent criminals, but in recent years, I participated
in more and more cases involving citizens whose crimes were more
political in nature. Many of them were only guilty of not reporting for duty after being
drafted. They just didn't want to do their six years. Others simply questioned the
government or the religious patriotism promoted by the government, too loudly" I
grew to hate my job."
His voice trails off and Lazarus continues to eat in silence, no longer tasting the
meal, thinking about reeducation, thinking about his brother. He blames himself for
what happened so long ago. If he had it to do over again, he would be more careful in
the way he handled Elijah and he would not select DHS as a career" but he cannot
go back. Realizing he has finished the burger, he looks up into Sam's startling green
"Why didn't you quit?" she asks.
"No one quits DHS"" he returns her stare levelly.
"You did," Tempel says.
"That's right, I did," Lazarus says. He sighs and lays his napkin on his plate,
"Very tasty. I now understand why Lindsey likes Mac's."
Sam nods and continues to stare at him.
Tempel pushes his tray back, 'stop at the Plantation for coffee?" It is one of his
favorite places and he figures he should be able to enjoy himself while listening to
this earthman's hard luck story.
Nodding in agreement, Sam asks Lazarus, "Are you a tea or coffee drinker?"
"I enjoy both, but a cup of tea does sound nice." he replies, feeling his soul lay
bare. Never has he spoken so openly about his job, not even with Rachel.
"I hope you saved some room, Lazarus. They have a pastry you must try," Sam
wipes her mouth with a napkin. Looking sideways at the earthman she asks, "Lazarus
is an unusual name. Where does it come from?"
"My dad told me I was named after the hero in a science fiction novel written in
the mid twentieth century, but I have my doubts. Lazarus is the name of two people in
the Bible, the man Jesus raised from the dead and a character in one of his parables.
Since they named my brothers Saul and Elijah, and my sister Mary, it stands to reason
that Lazarus was chosen because it's a biblical name." Lazarus responds.
"Whatever the reason, it's charming!" she says.
Listening to the two of them talk, Tempel lets his eyes drift over each person
within sight. The tables service a number of eateries and concession stands at this end
of the mall. The merchants appear to be doing a slow but steady business.
A middle-aged couple is sitting at a nearby table eating and talking quietly. Three
boys are placing an order at the Pizzeria. A man sits alone on the far side eating and
surfing the net. Others are passing along the sidewalk or one of the many paths into
the arboretum. It isn't crowded but it also isn't empty. Life fills every nook and
"What's an agent for Homeland Security doing here?" Sam asks.
Lazarus hesitates and Tempel turns to stare at him, linking with his visor, reading
heart rate, perspiration, and all the other polygraphic indicators, looking for the
slightest appearance of deception.
"I'm not an agent, only an analyst, and I'm immigrating"" Lazarus pauses and
sighs deeply, running his hand over his head, "I'm running away from a situation that
has become intolerable for me. I no longer believe in my government, my job, or my
life" The NAF has information indicating the Republic of Luna is in grave danger.
Since sending troops or an envoy is out of the question, I'm the next best thing,"
Lazarus says seriously.
"Whose idea was that?" Tempel asks.
"Mine," Lazarus responds. "You see, I believe you are about to receive the next
big hit from our mutual friends, the Islamic Brotherhood." Lazarus hesitates again,
"Can I assume this lunch is being recorded?"
Tempel and Sam look at each other silently saying, what, are you kidding? Sam
smiles hesitantly at Lazarus, "Of course. All business is a matter of public record.
That's the Law."
Tempel continues to watch Lazarus for signs of nervousness or deceit. "Why do
you think we need help? The Republic can take care of itself."
Despite the amazing architecture they are sitting in, life is harsh on the moon and
always has been. A Lunarian grows up fast in humanity's high frontier or does not
grow up at all. In the beginning before deep rock excavations were possible, the
young suffered the highest mortality rate of any group. Living in a vacuum is a very
unforgiving environment to raise kids. Accidents happened all too frequently. The
group that now holds that distinction cannot be classified by age, gender, or
occupation. Their deaths are the result of sectarian violence. Outside of their holdings,
Lunarians are tolerated as a necessary evil by most earthmen, as pure evil by some.
Rumors of bounties and contract killings abound, gunfights have become
commonplace and people simply disappear.
Born into this situation, the Dugan children began handling weapons as soon as
they could hold one steady. Tempel was nine when he recorded his first perfect score
in the family's gun range. By the time he was eleven, he could outdraw his brothers,
sisters, and cousins, all except Ben.
Patrick Dugan taught his children that carrying a gun is a responsibility, not a toy
or an adventure, and if he ever caught any of them playing loose with it, he"d take off
their backside with his belt. None of his kids ever lost any hide. Duce drilled into
them early and often that gunplay was a last resort, used only after exhausting every
other avenue. Taking the law into their own hands is something done cautiously, but
when necessary, done with cold precision and skill. Tempel often wonders what Duce
would make of the current state of affairs on Luna. He has no doubt that if his father
were alive he would approve of his being a SWAT lieutenant in the police
department, a leader of warriors.
"I'm sure you can take care of yourself, but there will be serious consequences if
even the tiniest mistake is made," Lazarus says to Tempel. "You see" I have reason
to believe the Brotherhood is going to detonate a thermonuclear device somewhere on
A cold silence falls over the table. Tempel's lip curls into a silent snarl and his
eyes harden. Samantha sits and stares numbly at Lazarus, trying in vain to put this
information in perspective, failing again to comprehend how any human could do
such a horrible thing.
"I don't understand why they want to hurt us. What have we done to them to make
them hate us so much?" Sam whispers, breaking the silence. Even with the level of
violence escalating, a lifelong commitment to reason makes it difficult for her to
believe such a horrendous event could occur.
Lazarus frowns, "You won't find any logic to the madness. Religious
fundamentalism, whether it's Islamic or Christian or Jewish, displays amazing tunnel
vision. A few misguided individuals convince others that it's the will of God and
everyone falls into lockstep. Like a bunch of lemmings."
Sam looks blankly at him, "What's a lemming?"
"Huh? Oh, it's an extinct rodent that lived in the Arctic tundra. They would periodically
follow one another over the edge of a cliff or into the ocean committing
mass suicide, one of nature's more straightforward ways of keeping their population
in check." Lazarus looks thoughtfully at her, "If war is nature's way of thinning out
Homo sapiens, then religion is its grand enabler."
"You speak of nature like it's a person. Don't put human qualities on something
that's simply a chain of events, a series of processes. Isn't that what religions do with
God, make him up in the image of humanity?" Tempel asks.
Lazarus looks at him and nods, "True, very true. But they claim it's the other way
around. Man is supposed to be created in the image of God."
"I fail to see the difference," Tempel says.
"You still haven't explained why they want to kill us," Sam insists.
"According to Islam's leading clerics and imams, Lunarians are genetic
monstrosities, an aberration in the eyes of Allah. This places you at the top of the list
of nonbelievers to be dealt with," Lazarus says to Sam, a slight frown creases his
brow. "The Holy Qur""n tells them it's their duty to either convert nonbelievers to
Islam or destroy them."
Sam looks at him like he has grown horns, "But the citizens don't take them
seriously" Do they?"
Lazarus bows his head and fiddles with his napkin, "I quote from the Holy Qur""n
47:4. When you meet in battle those who disbelieve strike off their heads after you
have bound them fast in fetters. All Lunarians are soiled by genetic science, which
means conversion is impossible in this life. They believe that for God to pass
judgment on you, they must kill you. It's their way of calling court in session. And if
they should be killed while doing the work of Allah, they are promised paradise in
heaven for all eternity" Mohammed's version of paradise reflects his 6th century bias
and includes plenty of wine, food, and sex with beautiful little girls and boys. 78:31
As for those who guarded against evil there awaits them a triumph, orchards and
vineyards; and blooming young maidens" 76:19 Sons of perpetual bloom shall go
round waiting upon the believers" Blooming young maidens refers to little virgin
girls and sons of perpetual bloom are little virgin boys. I'm sure I don't need to
explain why virgins are included in paradise. The Hadith expands the promise to
include a sex market where the virgins are on display for the believer to choose
"Regardless of why they want us dead, nothing comes or goes in Aldrin without
passing through heavy security. A cockroach couldn't get by! Let alone a nuke!"
Tempel says. Like the rest of humanity, he believes the sensors and scanners that
monitor the movement of goods and people guard against this possibility.
"Aren't the reports of bombs getting through accurate?" Lazarus asks hoping this
was a fabrication or exaggeration of the government controlled mass media. It would
not be the first time.
Tempel stares at the earthman for a moment, "Citizens must be helping them." he
"I don't know much about Lunarians but I do know the Brotherhood. I have no
doubt they are in the final stages of something major. I just don't know what or
when," Lazarus says with a frown.
"Do you have any supportive evidence or must we simply take your word for it?"
Tempel asks harshly.
"I couldn't bring anything with me for obvious reasons but some of the evidence
can be regenerated." Lazarus leans his forearms onto the stone tabletop and looks
intently across at Tempel. "I will help your network people as much as I can."
"Point us in the right direction, so to speak," Tempel says, suspicious of anything
Lazarus may direct them to. Even if he is sincere, Tempel is skeptical this shortimer
can teach Katee and Lucas anything about hacking the World Wide Web!
"I'm not a politician, Tempel. What I know is that over the last three months
Homeland Security acquired overwhelming evidence of something big coming down,
encrypted emails, network conversations, and security tapes on more than a few
suspects. But the biggest single issue is the four thousand or so Brotherhood soldiers
that are not where we expect them to be any more!"
Frowning but with all his attention now focused on Lazarus, "What do you mean,
they"re not where you expect them to be," Tempel asks gruffly.
"My department kept track of all known and suspected fundamentalists. These are
the guys who do the dirty work, blow up schools, terrorize resorts, or assassinate the
local news anchor, the real cream of the crop!" Lazarus says. "Well" three months
ago these scumbags started dropping off the radar, disappearing without a trace. The
Brotherhood's Defense Minister, Hasin bin Aunker and Major General Abdel Salam
Arif are missing too. Do you know who they are?" Lazarus asks.
Sam face turns ashen and she glances at Tempel whose expression remains stiff
and unchanging. "We"ve heard of them," she acknowledges.
"Don't expect any help from the Federation. They will not honor the Treaty of
Independence. The most you can expect is neutrality. They will stay out of it!"
"That's all we ask! If the Brotherhood wants more martyrs, then we will
accommodate them!" Tempel snarls.
Sam can sense Tempel's outburst disturbs Lazarus. She decides to change the
subject. "As I understand it, you requested a meeting with Abby? Why Abby?" Sam
asks raising her eyebrows.
"Lindsey helped me, but Abigail Dugan is famous even in Arizona." Lazarus
looks down at his hands, 'she has a reputation for fairness." He looks puzzled, "It's
not like you have a central government. I can't ask to speak with the President! You
don't have one!"
"The will of the people is the only government we need," Tempel says.
"But a government provides for the common defense and the Republic doesn't
even have a military," Lazarus states in amazement.
"A standing militia of any kind is prohibited under the Treaty. But every ablebodied
citizen serves part-time on a police reserve unit," Sam says.
"Then who decides what needs to be done and enforces the decisions?" Lazarus
Sam sighs, "We all do. The freeholds conform to the majority rulings voluntarily.
To defy the Council guarantees sanctions by the rest of Luna. If it's one thing we
have a good grip on, it's that nobody survives on Luna without a lot of help. Isolation
"No man is an island," Lazarus says. He loves the fact he can now say these things
in normal conversation without fear.
"Exactly as Mr. Dunn intended"" Sam says. "A half-century ago, the men and
women living on Luna figured out the only real security they could expect was from
their own hand. Every aspect of their existence had to be brought under tight control,
right down to the air they breathe. The system that evolved from this basic survival
need is the freehold, whose primary purpose is the economic security and physical
safety of its citizens. We are the first true democracy. Leaders are voted on, projects
are voted on, everyone has a say in everything, if they choose to. You will find Lunarian
politics are big time entertainment but believe me, it's a responsibility that
every citizen takes seriously, even the kids. We belong to LCPD, 22nd Metro Division.
Every borough in the city has its own PD. They in turn fall under the jurisdiction of
Aldrin Station's Security Chief."
"What about the non-Lunarian settlements?" Lazarus asks.
Sam shakes her head, "Non-Lunarian politics are complicated. Four different
countries have military bases on Luna and over one hundred and fifty corporations
maintain private security forces. The Lunarian Law of Full Disclosure applies only
within our holdings. The habitats in Little America, and the facilities of other nations,
claim privacy and are not part of Luna's network. We have very little control over
what they do." When Lazarus looks slightly lost she continues, "Little America is an
enclave east of Hells Kitchen on the outer edge of the city, home for 95% of the
shortimers within Aldrin Station. They don't like our visors so there are many places
we are not allowed to go. We don't know what goes on in there."
'so a large crate could be delivered, let's say, to a facility somewhere far away
from here, brought in overland and would not pass through a Lunarian inspection
point?" Lazarus asks.
"There are many landing sites. Freighters are designed to take cargo where it's
needed," Tempel says. "But nothing as big as a nuke could get past the orbital
scanners, even out in the boonies," he says with complete conviction.
"And every crate is scanned?" Lazarus asks.
Sam nods, "Yes, many times." Frowning thoughtfully, "I still can't understand
why they want to nuke us. It makes no sense!"
"For the same reasons they bomb us now!" Tempel says angrily, concluding this
entire discussion is a colossal waste of time, "Come on. Let's go. We still have time
for coffee at the Plantation."
Tempel leads the way setting a fast pace, cutting straight down the central grassy
meadow beneath the massive trees. His path soon has them moving along the edge of
a babbling brook. Lazarus admires the towering trees with their limbs stretching
towards the sky blue ceiling far above. Flowers, shrubs, and fruit trees thrive in well
maintained plots scattered throughout the valley. Birds and squirrels cavort in the
treetops and the buzz of a honeybee attracts his attention.
"The trees here are magnificent!" Lazarus says with an awed shake of his head.
"We have taken great care in selecting the very best genetic strains and they grow
very fast in Luna's gravity," Sam responds holding him tightly, continuing to help
him learn to moonwalk.
"What kind are they?" Lazarus asks, gazing at the incredible panorama around
him. This is the vision that defines the Lunarian way of life, not the tunnels or
corridors, but the beauty that confronts him here.
"These are Ash trees native to Europe," Sam says. "According to Norse legend,
Igdrasil is the Ash Tree of Existence with its roots in hell and limbs spreading across
the universe. At its foot is the Kingdom of Death where the Three Fates sit, the Past,
the Present, and the Future. Seasonal changes represent various events, things
suffered, things done, catastrophes, stretching through all lands and times. As the
story goes, an eagle rests on the highest branch of Igdrasil to observe all that passes in
the world, whilst a squirrel constantly runs up and down its trunk to report those
things the eagle may not have seen. Serpents twine round its limbs and from its roots
flow two streams, the knowledge of things past and the knowledge of things to come.
According to legend, man himself was formed from the wood of this sacred Ash tree."
"That makes as much sense as the biblical version of creation," Lazarus says.
Sam notes his sincerity, nods and says, "They are equally absurd."
The valley widens considerably as they move downhill and around the curve.
Seen in the gaps between trees, a tall cliff face starts to come into view ahead of them.
It isn't coated with the luminous blue sky but is bare stone, craggy and irregular with
horizontal striations sculpted into its face, the floor slopping up sharply at its feet.
Predominantly Sedona red, it is mottled with browns, pinks, and many other earth
tones. A few more steps and Lazarus realizes it's not simply a cliff, but a massive
column that extends to the ceiling far above. To him, it looks like an enormous butte
at home in Monument Valley, Arizona, only bigger.
As they continue downhill still following the small stream, the canyon flattens
into a broad plain with the column at its center. The trees here are further apart with
knee-high prairie grass instead of the manicured Bluegrass found in the upper reaches
of North Canyon. Around the base of the column, before the floor slopes up to meet
the vertical face, are more shops and a picnic area with a decent sized swimming lake.
People are everywhere, but it's far from being crowded. Lazarus estimates only a
couple hundred are within his sight. If this were in the Federation, that number would
be in the tens of thousands. To him this place is nearly empty.
Lazarus pulls Sam to a standstill, gazing in rapt wonder at the cathedral-like
expanse. Tempel continues a few paces more before stopping and turning back. From
the rock face high above, a waterfall begins its descent towards a small pond which,
in turn, spills down the sloped surface in a white water cataract to the much larger
body of water. The fall creates a fog that partially shrouds the foot of the column and
half the lake. Even from this distance, he hears splashing and peals of laughter.
Between him and the lake, several dogs sprint across the open meadow in great
bounds, disappearing into the tall grass only to reappear as they leap again. A moment
later they flush out several large animals. Lazarus can hardly believe his eyes as a
group of deer break cover and move rapidly away, powerful legs sending them
soaring high and far, white tails flashing in the ceaseless light of Luna.
"What is this place?" Lazarus asks his voice barely a whisper.
"Central Commons," Sam says.
"How big is it?" he asks staring at the top of the column, finding it difficult to
judge its scale.
"At its peak, the mall is 600 meters high and Central Commons alone contains just
over two square kilometers." Tempel answers.
"I'm sorry, but can you put that in English units?" Lazarus asks.
Temple glances at him. "Just under 2000 feet and about 500 acres," he says.
Looking up in awe, Lazarus says, "2000 feet! No wonder I feel small. Are all
habitats like this?" he asks.
Sam shakes her head, shedding the feeling of dread that had descended over her
during the previous conversation. "This is a mall. It's about nature and
"Malls are designed to give us a little more headroom. Grandma Abby says they
remind us we come from a planet," Tempel adds.
A screech overhead draws his attention, "Is that a hawk?" Lazarus asks.
Sam glances up, "Peregrine Falcon."
"There are predators here?" Lazarus asks.
'some. Don't worry, there isn't any big enough for you to worry about," she says.
Shaking his head in disbelief, he says, "Luna is full of surprises. Why's the mall
shaped this way? Can I assume the giant butte in the center is holding up the roof?"
"It's structural if that's what you mean. All habitat geometry must withstand the
enormous pressure from the mountain above. They are, in reality, bubbles of air in a
vast sea of stone," Tempel says.
Sam feigns surprise. "Very poetic," she says.
"Thank you," Tempel responds. "Four of our largest excavators worked on this for
six months just to rough it in."
"It's quite remarkable," Lazarus says. To his left and right are two more wide
valleys similar to the one they are standing in, their walls sculptured to look like the
steep sides of canyons, an illusion not lost on Lazarus. He cannot see very far down
either because both curve, but one appears to go uphill and the other downhill.
"I must keep reminding myself that all of this is man-made. In fact, the very air
we are breathing is manufactured and the soil artificial. The plants, the insects, and
the animals, are selected. How do you manage all of this?"
Sam chuckles and pulls Lazarus to get him to move as they talk. "Let's get under
cover before it rains." She leads him across the broad expanse of grass towards a
covered picnic table not far from the base of the column.
Looking up, Lazarus is hit by a wave of dizziness and quickly drops his gaze. He
steps under the canopy just as a warm rain begins to fall.
Running his hand over his head, Lazarus gathers himself. "Everything is so clean,
no smog, no pollution of any kind," Lazarus says. He remains standing gazing back
up the valley they had just come from, its distance hazed by the rain shower. The air
is fresh and sweet to his flared nostrils, full of the smell of damp foliage. A rainbow
graces the distance.
"What do you know about the habs?" Sam asks.
"Well, I know they"re in the form of a disk standing on edge," he says. "Why not
use a sphere? It's been known for millennia that the most efficient use of space is a
"The rock pressure would crush a sphere. It simply couldn't hold up. The basic
habitat design is actually two disks intersecting along their centerline, creating an X.
The cross-section of each disk is elliptical, not rectangular. Even here in the mall you
can see the inward curve in the vertical walls," Tempel explains, pointing and
gesturing for emphasis. "It's the same design the ancient Egyptians used when they
built chambers under their pyramids."
"I don't understand," Lazarus says.
"The deepest chambers and passageways used a step or terraced design to
withstand the tremendous overhead compressive loads. Each successive block layer
hung over the space a few inches until the two sides finally joined high overhead, in
effect, creating an arched ceiling. We use the same shape only ours is smooth, not
"That's amazing! How do you decide where the habitats should go? How big they
can be?" Lazarus asks.
"The size, orientation and distribution of all excavations are obviously interrelated
and must be carefully controlled," Tempel lectures him. "Any miscalculation weakens
the city and could cause a collapse."
"I seem to remember that's happened before," Lazarus says, raising his eyebrows
emphasizing the question in the statement.
"Sure it has!" is Sam's quick response. "We study all the major and minor
incidents in school. The Hampton Bay collapse was the largest; it killed over a
Buy Evolutution's Child at our Bookstore: http://astore.amazon.com/speculative0d-20/102-0337331-0456927?%5Fencoding=UTF8&node=37
|2 L A T E S T R E P L I E S (Newest First)
||Posted - 06/26/2007 : 13:06:36
I see 40 plus readers have looked at Evolution's Child. What do you think?
Charles Lee Lesher
||Posted - 06/15/2007 : 11:12:31
EVOLUTION'S CHILD by CHARLES LEE LESHER
"This is the time when humans have begun to sail the sea of
space." -- Carl Sagan (1934-1996)
Part Two: Aldrin Station
"You needn't worry, earthman," Tempel says. "There hasn't been a collapse in
over forty years. Hampton forced a major re-write of the design simulation. Every
known factor has been incorporated into the sim. Not only is the outer envelope
designed to maximize support, but the inner structure as well. The floors, ceilings,
walls and ramps inside the habitats are designed to distribute the outer load. It's a lot
"Is there a master plan for the entire city?" Lazarus asks.
"Of course there is, DREMS incorporates the shape of habitats, transportation
and utility corridors, even plumbing tubes. The mountain itself undergoes extensive
SQUID evaluation looking for fractures or fault lines" Sensing his ignorance, "SQ-
U-I-D stands for Superconducting Quantum Interference Device. It maps extremely
small variations in the mountains magnetic field to identify cracks and stress risers
within the rock, before they becomes cracks" The point is all of these influences are
factored into any proposed new excavation no matter how small," Tempel says.
"Dreams?" Lazarus asks.
"D-R-E-M-S stands for Deep Rock Excavation and Maintenance Simulation," he
"Can you show me or is it classified?" Lazarus asks.
"Classified? DREMS is on the public net. Everybody has access to it." Temple
glances at Sam and shakes his head before linking with Lazarus. In a rapid series of
subtle hand movements, he brings up a three-dimensional image floating in the air
The mall fades to background as Lazarus stares in total fascination at the slowly
turning multicolored model. In exquisitely fine detail, it shows the twenty-mile
section of Rim Mountain that contains the city. Most of the habitats, and their
interconnecting commonways, lie within a central band at roughly the same elevation
as the surface outside the crater. The clustered habitats of all eleven boroughs are
color-coded and identified with tiny letters only clearly readable when he looks right
at them. If he lingers for a moment on a specific hab, detailed information concerning
ownership and usage displays itself.
A half mile below the boroughs, at the elevation of the crater floor, is another
band containing far fewer habitats but with a complex network of large and small
tunnels. The habitats on this lower level are smaller and much further apart.
A third level of habitats is grouped in small clusters above each borough. Within
each group are one or more large habitats. He stares at one of these. The information
appearing before him identifies it is a reservoir.
Tunnels connect the three levels, some large and well defined within the image,
others are wispy threads almost invisible.
Tempel speeds up the image's rotation. The quality of the graphics astounds
Lazarus. As a Senior Analyst, he had access to the best simulations the Federation had
to offer but this is better than anything he has ever seen or imagined possible.
"The upper level is our water reservoirs and some agricultural habitats. The
central level is where we live and the lower level is waste recovery and bulk
transportation. Currently, there are 1173 habitats, over 70 miles of commonways and
300 miles of primary and secondary service tunnels below the city. The sewer system
alone has a thousand miles of ancillary tunnels, some big enough to walk in but most
are the size of your fist. The excavators are constantly burrowing more. This is only a
small fraction of the sim data. Here is where we are," Tempel says. A bright pinprick
appears within the central level.
Tempel circles a group of habitats, his finger leaving behind a glowing trail that slowly
fades away, "This is Dakota warren."
Lazarus is puzzled, "Please, define a warren for me."
"A warren is a group of habitats daisy-chained together that share the mechanicals
needed to keep us eating and breathing. Usually they have a short interconnect
corridor between the individual habitats but sometimes they are butted up rim to rim.
A big warren, like Dakota, has habitats spread out vertically and horizontally."
Reaching out, Tempel pulls the image, magnifying it to take a closer look at
It is as if he is no longer in the mall but instead high above it soaring down
through the rock of the mountain, falling towards the habitat, its detail rapidly
drawing closer. Lazarus reaches out and grasps Sam's arm staggering slightly.
"Take it easy Tempel. He isn't accustomed to using our net!" Sam scolds putting
her arm around Lazarus to steady him.
Tempel replies with a dry chuckle but slows down and brings them to a stop
hovering over Brooklyn Mall's Central Commons. Below them are three individuals
standing next to a covered park bench. The rain soaked grass catches the light,
reflecting back at them like diamonds sprinkled across the lawn.
Lazarus suppresses his fear of heights by repeatedly telling himself this is not real,
that he isn't actually hovering in midair a hundred feet up looking down at these
people. He suddenly realizes who the three people are. He hesitantly waves his arm
out in front like a blind man looking for obstacles, the action eerily reflected below.
He resists the urge to look up.
Sam recognizes his discomfort,"We are accessing the mall's public sensors and
seamlessly integrating real-time video with DREMS."
"If this is a dream, then please don't wake me," Lazarus says glad she is there to
Lazarus had grown up around computers and electronics, yet he realized long ago
that one of the sacrifices his country made, as they clung ever tighter to Christian
religious beliefs, was that of change. He knows that no new technology has developed
within the Federation for over fifty years. What little there was came from foreign
countries and imported at great expense. Some call this lack of innovation stability,
but Lazarus knows it for what it is; stagnation.
Of all the classified reports he had read over the years, not one mentioned this
advanced state of technology. The Lunarian computer system had to be crunching
data at a tremendous rate to provide them with such high quality video, better than
anything he had seen or heard about anywhere on Earth let alone in the NAF. He
concludes once again that this is something the Federation must have purposefully
kept from him and the other Senior Analysts. He files the omission away with all the
Even as Lazarus mulls this over, Tempel takes them back the way they had come,
arriving over the food court, looking down at the people eating. Three adolescent
boys are sitting at the same table they had so recently vacated, eating pizza. Tempel
moves in close bringing Lazarus and Sam with him. It seems as if they are standing
right next to the table, listening to their horseplay, seeing every expression as clearly
as if they were actually present. The boys are wearing visors and one of them turns,
looking right at Tempel.
"Something wrong?" he asks.
Tempel shakes his head and says, "Nope. We just want to wish you boys a nice
lunch." He nods to them and departs.
Back across the mall they soar, this time staying beneath the massive limbs,
weaving around the tree trunks. Lazarus is starting to really enjoy the ride by the time
they reach their destination, back at the flesh and blood versions of themselves
standing patiently beside the picnic bench.
Tempel brings Lazarus to a standstill inches from himself. It's like looking into a
mirror. Lazarus can see every pore, every hair, every twitch of his mouth, more
clearly then if he were in his kitchen back in Arizona staring into the ancient mirror
behind the sink getting ready for work. He can't resist reaching out, watching his
hand disappear into the chest of the image in front of him. He hears Sam's musical
laugh, pulling him back to something real.
'scanners throughout the city are available to anybody at any time but the malls
are covered in great detail. This is where we come to play," Tempel says.
With a grand wave of his arm Tempel sweeps their images away, scattering the
millions of tiny pixels like dust in the wind until nothing remains.
Lazarus looks around slightly dazed and confused. He sees a man and a woman a
short distance away, standing and watching them. Sam is holding on to his arm,
looking intently down at him.
"Are you alright?" she asks, concern showing on her face.
Lazarus nods and gives her a big smile, "Who are those people?"
"They are Lunarians monitoring our conversation," she replies. When Lazarus
looks even more confused, Sam adds, "What you see is the result of morphing fortyseven
men and women into a single couple."
"I don't understand," he says.
Sam responds by walking over to the woman. She nods a greeting and asks,
"Constance, do you mind?"
The image nods.
"I would like you to meet Mr. Lazarus Sheffield," Sam says.
The face and countenance of the figure before them changes smoothly into the
features of a heavyset woman with shoulder length brown hair and a hawkish nose.
"Greetings" Constance Cassidy," she says tipping her head politely.
"Lazarus Sheffield, pleased to make your acquaintance," Lazarus responds
hesitantly and nods in return.
"Constance works with Tempel and if I don't miss my guess, you are keeping tabs
on him, isn't that right?" Sam asks, the grin on her face reflects the mischief she's
Constance stares back at her, "Actually I find this earthman fascinating. All this
talk of nukes and terrorists is exciting." Looking at Lazarus, "Now, why don't you get
on with it?" With a nod, she melts back into the composite, removing herself from the
Lazarus abruptly reaches up and removes his visor. Sam and Tempel exchange
glances, keeping theirs on. "If you don't mind, I would like to see Aldrin Station with
my own eyes." The composite image of the watchers unnerves him and he feels better
simply ignoring the fact they are being so closely watched by so many.
"It's your choice," Tempel says then leads them away from the picnic area.
Lazarus looks at Sam and asks, "Doesn't it bother you to know you are being
watched all the time?" Her visor makes it hard for him to hold a conversation.
"First, it's not all the time. We have had privacy up until now, haven't we?
Second, why should I mind? I never even think about it." Sam says.
"So,when is it not ok to spy on someone?" Lazarus asks.
"It's simple, earthman. Never link with someone in their home without their permission
and never stalk them when they"re in public. If you follow those two rules
you"ll be fine. Don't, and you"ll have trouble." Tempel says.
Lazarus looks at him with a rather puzzled expression, "I have a lot to learn."
Tempel glances back. This earthman may actually know how ignorant he is, a
point in his favor.
Lazarus asks. "There is something that is really bugging me. What happens if we
suddenly lose integrity in this habitat? All the air leaks out catastrophically?" Lazarus
"Unless you can breathe vacuum, you die!" Tempel says over his shoulder. He
points to a nearby airlock leading into a merchant's backroom. "The locks you see
throughout the city are set up to minimize air loss. They are programmed to
automatically close when they sense a pressure drop. Once shut, the pressure must
equalize for a main lock to freely reopen. Don't get caught on the wrong side of the
lock!" Tempel says.
"How do you know which is the right side?" Lazarus asks.
"The emergency lights above the airlock will come on. If they are red, get on the
other side before the lock closes. If they are green, just sit tight," Sam informs him.
'sounds simple enough, but what if both sides are red?" Lazarus asks.
"Kiss your ass goodbye!" Tempel says then points again to the merchant's airlock.
"There are many rooms with airtight doors. Find one and get inside. If the door is
shut, override it but get inside quick."
"Don't worry. We haven't had a major incident in years," Sam says, grinning.
They move around the pond, across an expanse of grass and continue downhill.
"This is the East wing of Brooklyn Mall," Sam says.
Lazarus is really starting to enjoy the walk. It requires a completely different
rhythm to stroll in one sixth of your birth planet's gravity but Lazarus is getting
better. Tempel leads them off the path and across beautifully maintained grass to the
Plantation, a quant French-style sidewalk caf" on the terrace abutting the mall's East
entrance. There isn't an alcove here, just a small grouping of shops looking out upon
Weaving around tables, the three pick a spot close to a lush garden with a
miniature waterfall splashing into a small pool surrounded with ferns. The air has a
damp, humid smell. Tall broadleaved plants shade the caf". The house lights are low
and a thick Asian carpet softens the mall sounds. To Lazarus, it seems like he has
entered yet another little world.
A tall lanky lad with broad shoulders comes over to take their order. He
immediately notices that Lazarus is not wearing his visor.
"Mocha Sanani," Tempel says.
"Ambrosia with honey," she looks at Lazarus and adds, "Double that and add a
couple of Blackberry Rolls."
"Ambrosia?" Lazarus asks.
"It is a white tea from south China that we have grown on Luna for over fifty
years. It's very good with honey and blackberries," Sam says.
'sounds wonderful," Lazarus says. Rachel had liked tea. He leans back in the
comfortable chair and relaxes. The chair is warm and soft, and the sound of the water
soothing. A yawn escapes before he can stop it.
"When are you due?" Tempel asks Lazarus.
"Due what?" Lazarus asks.
"Sleep... When was the last time you slept?" Tempel asks.
"I had a long nap on the shuttle. I"ll be fine." Lazarus says.
Sam laughs and says, "Jelag!"
Tempel nods knowingly, "It will take a while for your system to adjust to the lack
of night and day."
"I don't understand why Lunarians don't use Universal Shiptime," Lazarus states,
"Why not dim the lights half the day like spacecraft?"
"Only civilian spacecraft do that, mostly because it offers them a measure of
control over their passengers. Military ships use the same twenty-four hour schedule
that we do," Tempel says pointing up at the clock above the pastry counter visible
through the open door of the caf". "The twenty-four hours is divided up into the three
shifts you see, red for first, green for second, and blue for third, each eight hours long.
Some people still use morning, noon and night but it doesn't mean much. A long time
ago they tried dimming the lights during one shift but it turned out to be a colossal
waste of effort. There is not one single reason why one shift should be singled out for
sleeping and not another. We leave it up to the individual to pick when they should be
sleeping!" Tempel explains.
"The words tomorrow or today or yesterday don't have much meaning here, do
they?" Lazarus says.
'sure they do. A day is still twenty-four hours, just like it is on Earth. We just
don't have a nice neat twelve hour light and dark cycle here. Even if you"re on the
surface, a lunar cycle is fourteen days freezing darkness and fourteen days of blazing
sunlight. It's simpler to have all of Luna work off the same time," Tempel says
sipping his coffee.
"I think you like explaining things to Lazarus," Sam says grinning at Tempel.
Tempel blows her a kiss. Turning back to Lazarus, "Most people adjust their sleep
cycle to fit with the people they work with. I only need about four hours sleep in
"That might take some getting used to," Lazarus says shaking his head. "I
personally need at least six hours or I"m not worth much the next day." He nods his
thanks to the waiter as the young man deposits a steaming mug next to the prettiest
pastry he had ever seen, a perfect spiral of dark purple set in piecrust.
Tempel grunts wondering if any earthman is worth his O2 regardless of how much
sleep they get, "The meeting with Abby won't take long. After that you can get some
Sam peels a chunk from the side of her pastry and pops it into her mouth with
pleasure.Lazarus nods and takes another sip. Sitting the cup down, "I can't tell you how
much I am looking forward to meeting your grandmother. You may not realize how
famous she is on Earth. In some circles she is spoken of with Einstein, Darwin and
Hawking! Her white paper on biotronic DNA manipulations is the definitive work on
the subject," Lazarus says, his voice betraying his excitement.
"I thought the Federation didn't allow any science in school, especially genetics?"
Lazarus sits quietly for a moment before answering, "Who said I learned about her
"Humph" did you learn about her on bathroom walls? Or maybe you hacked into
our websites?" Tempel did not believe for an instant that it was possible to get past
Magi but there is much that is freely shared with anyone who asks.
"In a way" Your websites are monitored closely and when something new
posted, it was my job to read its content. Right before I blocked everyone else from
it," Lazarus says.
Tempel looks intently at him. Without his visor on, Tempel does not have access
to Lazarus's polygraphic indicators, but he can still approximate heart rate, blood
pressure, and sweat. He is sure Lazarus is being truthful but deeply bothered by his
admission, more than the crime seems to warrant.
Sam looks concerned but before she can say anything, Lazarus raises his hands in
mock surrender, "I was young and idealistic and convinced myself I was working on
the side of good," Lazarus says. He drops his eyes and rubs his hand across his head.
"It's not something I"m proud of but Lindsey stressed honesty above all else. I will
not hide or avoid the things I have done."
"Good advice," Tempel says.
"We are not here to judge you, Lazarus," Sam says.
"You seem to be doing that yourself," Tempel says.
Lazarus sighs and runs his hand over his head again, "You have learned much
about me and my family. Please, tell me about yours."
Tempel is a product of an open society where the flow of information defines
freedom. Being branded a liar is one of the worst things that can happen to somebody,
their opinions, and they themselves, are rendered irrelevant. It never occurs to him to
lie or avoid the truth. "My family is typical," Sam grunts but keeps quiet. "Grandma
Abby met and married Patrick Ryan Dugan just after Aldrin Station was founded
back in 2024. I never met my grandpa. He was buried under a thousand feet of rock
nineteen years before I was born but all of us have heard the stories of how PR and
Abby met, married, and changed the world."
"I, for one, believe your grandparents did change the world," Lazarus says. He
shakes his head and continues, "It must have been tough in the beginning. They had
to invent or re-invent equipment and ways of doing things as they went along.
Nobody had ever lived in a vacuum before."
"Except in the space stations, the little ones when they were figuring out how to
do it. But you"re right, living on the moon was something completely new. Aldrin
Station started out as a group of inflatable shelters exposed on the surface, the
facilities were limited, construction techniques primitive and practically everything
had to come up from Earth. But sometimes I think the stories are exaggerated."
"I wouldn't bet on it," Lazarus exclaims. "From the engineers I"ve met, I can
attest to their arrogance. The good ones possess the hubris to believe their designs
must be the best, simply because it is theirs. I"m sure that most, if not all, the
equipment the colonists brought with them must have needed massive redesign when
confronted with the reality of living on the moon."
Tempel nods, "You have a point. PR came to Luna as a mining engineer. After
screwing around with excavations back then, he came up with the first high-energy
disrupter feedback circuit. His basic design has been refined but hasn't changed much
since then. It's the single invention making deep-rock Luna habitats possible. Before
grandpa, excavations were done using explosives and impact tools with men and
machines manually clearing the debris. I can't imagine that!" Shaking his head, "All
grandpa did was take advantage of the technology around him. He was highly
motivated at the time by the overwhelming need to get everyone underground. It's
dangerous to be on the surface too long. Eventually your luck runs out" It was later
that Smith and Wesson turned equipment designed for deep rock excavations into a
weapon." He pats his holstered disrupter.
"How does disrupters relate to deep rock excavations?" Lazarus asks.
Tempel frowns and looks at him for a moment wondering if Lazarus was pulling
his leg. "Both weapons and excavators are coherent high-energy electromagnetic generators.
When the beam strikes surface atoms, it ruptures the bonds holding them
together and releases even more energy. This starts a chain reaction that spreads to
adjacent atoms. A properly calibrated excavator can maintain this as long as the cloud
of displaced atoms is removed. The process attains its highest efficiency in complete
vacuum when the resulting plasma gas, called blowoff, is dispersed away from the
cutting area. Therefore, vent tubes are the first things cut when excavating a new hab
or tunnel," Tempel explains.
"If the sun is angled just right, a person out on the surface can see a haze along the
crest of Rim Mountain above a major excavation. They may even see a rainbow. The
mountain contributes just enough extra gravity to slow down dispersion of the
blowoff gases rising from the surface vents," Sam says.
Lazarus nods, "I"ve heard government environmentalists and church leaders
comment about the pollution the Lunarians are creating. Moon pollution! Do you buy
"It might become a problem," Tempel admits, "but nobody knows. We don't like
venting the blowoff into Luna vacuum any more than they do but right now it isn't
feasible to do anything else. There isn't any doubt that the amount of matter found in
a square meter of vacuum above the surface of Luna is increasing, and no one can
predict with any certainty what it means."
Tempel pauses taking a sip of his coffee, watching Lazarus enjoy a piece of
pastry. "In a perfect vacuum there aren't any bits of matter floating around. Luna is
exhausting thousands of tons of atomized material at each excavation site. Multiply
that by hundreds of sites and you end up with some very large numbers. Some are
advocating condensing useful elements out of this witches brew, but the cost is too
high for what you get. It's simpler and more profitable to mine ore for what we need."
"I look forward to hearing about the details but right now I"m more interested in
learning about your grandmother and the rest of your family." Lazarus shifts the
subject back to the person he believes has the most say in his future.
Sam grins into her tea.
"Actually, she's my great grandmother. She was born in 1999 in Kansas City. One
of the youngest to graduate with two PhD's from one of your old American schools,
MIT I believe it was called. In 2024 she volunteered for the US Space Command and
was the doctor on the mission that founded Aldrin Station. As one of the original
settlers, she helped set up the city's first hospital and the first biotronic research
program. She's still involved in biotronics and is an active professor at the University
of Luna. Her lectures are always attended by thousands, sometimes millions."
"That's amazing, still teaching at ninety-three!" Lazarus says. "What about your
father and mother? Brothers and sisters?"
"My dad, Patrick Ryan Dugan, was Abby's youngest child. Everyone called him
Duce. He married my mom, Elizabeth Anne Turner, a few months before my oldest
brother Ben was born in 2060. Liz then had Stone in "62, Patrick Ryan III or Tray in
"64, Maggie in "65, Krystin in 67, Skylor in "70 and Alex in "71. I was last, born
"Impressive. In the Federation, families must pay for the privilege to have more
than one child," Lazarus says. "The government calls them fines but the result is only
the rich have large families. I can't wait to meet your parents."
"You have been extended Dugan hospitality, so you will undoubtedly meet Liz
but Duce disappeared surveying the Central Highlands in "86," Tempel says staring
straight ahead taking another sip of coffee.
That puts Tempel at fourteen or fifteen years old when his dad did not come home.
Lazarus does not push, knowing what it is like to grow up without a father.
It has not taken long for him to tire of looking at their visors instead of their eyes.
He slips his back on while Tempel talks, noticing for the first time that his
surroundings sharpen and colors appear more vibrant with the device. Staring at the
little waterfall, he clearly hears every splash, but the sound reverts to background
noise when he looks away. Turning his head, Lazarus stares at the waiter inside the
caf", suddenly being able to observe his interaction with another customer as if he
were standing next to them. The man turns and looks at Lazarus who hastily breaks
eye contact and concentrates on Tempel. He is not sure what just happened.
"Liz's family, the Turners, belong to Humboldt freehold over in Mission. When
she married Duce she kept her maiden name and honored her new husband by
accepting his as well, Elizabeth Anne Turner Dugan. This seems to be catching on
with my generation. It makes for interesting names among our womenfolk."
"Just the women? I thought Lunarians were all about equality?" Lazarus says.
"That's what I"ve advocated all along, the men should change their name too."
"How many kids did PR and Abby have?" Lazarus asks.
"In all, he and Abby have four kids, nineteen grandkids, fifty-seven great
grandkids, and four great-great grandkids, so far."
Lazarus leans back in his chair and says, "It sounds like I"m going to have a heck
of a time keeping it all straight. What about you, Sam, what's your family like?"
She smiles, "Not nearly as interesting as Tempel's, I"m afraid!" Turning to
Tempel, she says, "We need to be going."
Tempel nods, gulping the last of his coffee.
They walk a short distance and approach Brooklyn Mall's East entrance. Unlike
the North entrance, there are not any shops or courtyard here, just the massive airlock
doors thrown wide open.
Lazarus stops and turns to take one more look at the mall. It is so beautiful it does
not seem real. They have moved downhill since they entered from the North
Courtyard so he is looking uphill. In reverse symmetry with the North section, the
East widens and curves away from him, preventing him from seeing Central
Commons. Tree leaves glisten with raindrops as their great limbs sway in the breeze.
People walk the paths under the massive trees enjoying the day. Laughter floats
across the distance. Being here makes Lazarus feel good.
Tempel waits impatiently but Sam motions for him to relax. She smiles at Lazarus
when he turns to follow them out of the mall. They move down a wide straight
corridor for several hundred yards, and emerge into another massive space.
At first, Lazarus thinks they have entered another mall. Overhead is the same sky
blue and giant trees dominate the landscape, but this space is different, a ribbon cut
into the stone where the mall was a bubble. A forest extends as far as he can see in
both directions, foliage gently swaying in the breeze.
They emerge upon a broad ledge at least twenty feet up. To his left and right,
ramps lead down to the grassy floor below. Directly in front of him is a rail-lined
overpass extending straight and flat to a matching entrance on the far side. Scattered
along its length are ramps leading downward. Carved into the stone during the initial
excavation, some of its surfaces polished while others are rough.
Instead of going down, Tempel leads them well out onto the bridge and stops at
the rail. The floor recedes as they move away from the wall towards the center of the
span, so they are high above it when they finally stop. This gives Lazarus a marvelous
view but causes his stomach to twist. He keeps back from the rail and gathers himself.
The trees towering over the bridge are not Ash like those in Brooklyn Mall. Below
them, like sidewalks or some other strange pathway, two strips of some dark material
pass beneath the bridge, curve around the massive tree trunks, and disappear into the
distance. Through the trees, several hundred yards away, Lazarus can glimpse another
stone overpass composed of a series of arches that remind him of a Roman aqueduct.
Staring at it for a moment, his visor zooms in until Lazarus can see people on the
Grass carpets the ground. Small manicured gardens of flowering plants and shrubs
add color to the scene. Perhaps a hundred feet distant is a stand of cherry trees in full
bloom. Stone retaining walls and numerous other landscaping details create a parklike
"Is this a commonway?" Lazarus asks.
"Aye, this is Asimov Commonway. It extends about two miles in that direction
and less than a half mile in the other." Sam says.
"This isn't the only commonway is it?" Lazarus says.
"Asimov is only a small loop that services the west end of Lincoln County. Our
meeting with Abby is about twenty minutes away. We will take the slidewalk to
Central then to Sherwood." Sam says. Sensing the wonder in his gaze, "The trees here
are Sycamore, Elm, Yew, some Chestnut and a variety of fruit trees."
"Do they have a Norse legend attached to them?" Lazarus asks.
Sam smiles and tilts her head, "Maybe" but if they do, I don't know about it.
Many species of birds, insects, and small mammals make their home here. We can
use them to make up our own legend."
"Count me in. I"ve always wanted to start my own religion""
Movement attracts his eye and he looks up. Soaring silently far above the treetops
at high speed is what appears to be a long sleek train. When he continues to stare, the
parallel lines of its rails come into focus stretching out of sight in both directions. He
realizes that instead of riding on the rails, this train suspends from them. Such
technology! Lazarus flushes, suddenly feeling like a Neanderthal trying to make sense
of a Stratoliner.
The train is gone an instant later leaving Lazarus to wonder if he imagined it. No,
it never made a sound but the rails are still there if he looks hard enough.
He drops his gaze back down to earth, "It seems like a lot of resources have gone
into making and keeping things pretty. Who pays for all the extras?" Lazarus asks.
"What extras?" Sam asks, puzzled.
"Well" moving people from point A to point B doesn't require forests," he says
nodding at the nearest tree, "or cherry trees," shifting his gaze to the colorful pink
flowers in the distance. The longer he looks the more distinct the tiny flowers
become. He even begins to hear the bees buzz among the branches and catch a whiff
of cherry blossoms.
Tempel frowns, "Are you saying you prefer staring at a blank wall whizzing by, or
the person's head in font of you, like we see on vids of people riding the New York
subway? The increase in size doesn't add much to the cost of excavation and Magi
takes care of maintenance."
"Why wouldn't you want beauty into your home? Who wants to live in a
dungeon?" Sam asks genuinely perplexed. "Luna didn't come with trees and green
grass. We make every cubic foot of dirt including the bacteria and nurture every tree,
shrub and blade of grass or they won't exist at all."
"There are mechanical scrubbers to clean our air but nothing beats trees for doing
the job right," Tempel says. "Biodiversity is very important."
"I think I just redefined what I consider extras," Lazarus says with a weak grin.
His gaze carries down the commonway, taking in the vibrant expanse. A few
pedestrians move on and off the slidewalk or simply zip along its surface, quickly
disappearing around the nearest bend or behind some particularly dense foliage. He
"You have created something unique and special here. You should be very
proud," Lazarus says softly. He looks down, watching as several people pass under
the overpass. They are standing on a small disk, which moves along the path. "You
don't expect me to travel on this carnival ride do you?"
"Carnival ride? I"m not sure what a carnival ride is but slidewalk's are how we get
around. It won't hurt you. If you can stand, then you can use a slidewalk," she points
down to a collection of small octagonal disks, each about twenty-four inches across,
strewn along the edge of the slidewalk below them. It reminds Lazarus of a
disorganized little parking lot off the main highway. "Those are drifters. Just step on
one and Magi will activate the maglev technology built into the slidewalk directly
beneath it raising the drifter about an inch. To move forward, shift your center of
mass forward, same with left and right. To move faster, shift more of your balance in
the direction you want to go." When he still looks dubious she adds, "Just move your
weight closer to the edge."
"How do you stop?" Lazarus asks. It is one thing to know how to get it going, but
as far as he is concerned, it is much more important to know how to stop.
"Simply center your mass," Sam responds.
"Magi will not let you get hurt," remarks Tempel.
Lazarus does not know who Magi is but that's not important right now. He looks
down at the drifters scattered about where others have left them, "What about rules of
Sam grins, "Good questions. Traffic obeys the right hand rule. East bound traffic
uses the south slidewalk and conversely, west bound uses the north slidewalk." She
points to the two wide roadbeds. "Magi will not allow you to travel the wrong way on
a slidewalk or run into someone else."
"How do you move larger goods around?" Lazarus asks.
"There's a network of tunnels below the city for truck convoys. The commonways
are for people," Sam explains.
As they stand on the overpass, several citizens have linked a number of drifters
together and are sharing conversation as they travel. Not far behind them come six
children, each perhaps eight or nine years old, weaving in and out among themselves
and laughing. Lazarus hears someone from the group say, "You kids mind your
manners!" as they pass beneath. The children laugh and speed away.
"Where you"re from doesn't have slidewalks?" Sam asks, seeing how Lazarus is
absorbing everything, like a dry sponge plunged in water.
"Nothing like this!" Lazarus exclaims. "Some of the larger airports and spaceports
have moving walkways but not slidewalks." Lazarus shakes his head. "The
Federation can't seem to get past the automobile. Everyone still has to have one or
two, even after the cost of hydrogen has gone through the roof."
"What did you expect after burning all the fossil fuel?" Tempel growls revealing
strong feelings on the subject. "Do you realize over eighty-four million barrels of
crude oil and nine million barrels of natural gas were pumped out of the ground daily?
365 days a year? For almost a hundred years? It was all burned! What could they have
been thinking? It wasn't the future, that's for certain! What a bloody waste!"
"I personally have never even been inside a petroleum powered vehicle," Lazarus responds
defensively, "Besides, it wasn't a total waste. It allowed us to build the
infrastructure we needed to get to space."
"I"ve heard the justifications, I just don't buy them!" Tempel shot back, "It could
have and should have happened much sooner. Too many people were making too
much money to stop the burning! Luna doesn't have any naturally occurring
hydrocarbons so alternatives come to us at great cost. Robotic freighters from distant
Titan come in at regular intervals but are not nearly enough to fill the demand. What I
find particularly loathsome is you build shrines to the idiots who profited from the
biggest rape of resources in the history of mankind!"
"Politicians build shrines to each other. I didn't have anything to do with it,"
"Of course you didn't," Sam says. "But it was your government."
"And what about the climate change it caused?" Tempel continues, "Earth's
intense weather can be directly tied to the release of greenhouse gases. It has resulted
in famine, drought, and the rise of sea levels have created 2 billion refugees. If orbital
powersats weren't supplying energy to freshen sea water, civilization would have
collapsed long ago." He shakes his head, "Your Presidents must have had their head
up their collective asses not to do something about global warming when they had the
"Most of that happened before I was even born," Lazarus says.
"That's a copout which does nothing to solve the problem." Tempel retorts.
"What would you have me do?" Lazarus asks. "I can't fight the Federation."
"Here's an idea, why don't you run away and leave it for someone else to fix!"
After a moments silence, Tempel nudges Sam, "Come on, let's go! We don't want to
be late!" He leads the way down the nearest southbound ramp letting his anger boil
away. It's unreasonable to blame this one earthman for the sins of a planet but some
things are better felt instead of analyzed.
"Don't let Tempel's passion harm you. He realizes it's not your fault anymore
than it's his," Sam says taking Lazarus by the arm and following.
Reaching the bottom of the ramp, Tempel steps on a drifter with no hesitation and
slides out about ten feet and circles back, waiting while Sam and the earthman
descend the ramp and join him. He is still angry but now is not the time or place for
"Magi, pull together a double for us, will you?" Sam says, sensing the distress rise
in Lazarus as they approach the edge of the slidewalk.
Two of the eight-sided plates rise off the surface and assemble into a single
platform, the common edge almost disappearing. It slides over silently and stops right
in front of Sam.
Sam steps confidently onto the arrangement with practiced ease. "Come on
Lazarus, you ride with me," she commands.
Lazarus hesitantly follows, expecting the assembly to wobble as he puts his
weight on it but finding it rock solid. Sam slides her arm inside of his, steadying him
until he can get his sense of balance on the now moving platform.
"The first time might be a little tricky," she says squeezing his arm in a motherly
fashion. "Let Magi control the drifter, you just let her know where you want to go."
Lazarus glances over at Tempel, wondering just how much animosity he will
encounter within the Republic. Humanity continues to do many despicable things,
preemptive wars, political assassinations, and torture, all in the name of national
security or ideology, and he's right, the global environment is in shambles. The
melting of the polar ice caps and the subsequent rise in the ocean levels, the terrible
increase in storm intensity and massive shifts in climate, have led to widespread
starvation and food wars. How can he possibly defend such atrocities?
Sam eases them out onto the slidewalk with Tempel bringing up the rear, picking
up speed until they are moving along at a leisurely five mph, about the speed of a
brisk walk. As Lazarus gains confidence, Sam increases their speed. Magi smoothes
out and prevents jerkiness when an arm swings or a head turns. It isn't long before
Lazarus relaxes and really begins to enjoy the ride, his second in the last half hour.
"This is exhilarating!" Lazarus exclaims. "How fast can we go?"
Sam chuckles, "On a good day with no other traffic around you can achieve about
"If you want to go somewhere fast, take a maglev train. They top out above a
hundred." Tempel adds from just behind Lazarus, a spot where he can catch the
earthman if he falls. He may not like it, but Lindsey gave the earthman hospitality and
he will not be the one to dishonor her word.
"I can't wait to ride in one!" Lazarus responds.
As they move along the commonway, Lazarus lets his eye wander among the
trees, glad to have the steadying influence of Sam's arm in his. The designers and
architects of Aldrin Station knew the value of keeping mystery in the vistas presented
to the inhabitants. Moving down the slidewalk, they pass through a variety of
environments, each unique. Some are lit up in bright afternoon sunlight, others in the
overcast of an impending storm. Some are crowded with hardwood trees while
orchards dominate others. Many have roses and other flowering plants set in
manicured gardens. Green grass carpets most of the commonway, highlighted with
colorful shrubs and plants. A few are polished stone cathedrals devoid of plants and
animals, glorious in their simplicity. One section contains strange twisted stonework
that surrounds the passing traveler like something out of Dante's Hell.
More than once Lazarus observes squirrels running across the grass or playing in
the branches of a magnificent tree. Sparrows, parrots, thrushes and many other
species flicker about adding a spectacular flash of color, movement, and sound to the
environment. Hummingbirds are especially plentiful and beehives are evident in
"This is quite beautiful," Lazarus says softly. "I have never seen so many roses!"
Sam nods, remembering something Abby once said, "We should always take the
time to stop and smell the roses."
"Very good advice," Lazarus responds.
Sam has spent her entire twenty years in and around Aldrin Station and New
London. She yearns to see more, to give herself something to compare with. She
glances at Lazarus with just a touch of envy. At least he had the courage to leave
Earth and everything familiar. Did she?
Sam maneuvers out of the main flow of the commonway, bringing them to a
standstill. The drifters settle to the floor. Lazarus does well enough for his first time
with just a little wobble.
"Well done!" Sam rewards him with a smile.
Tempel grunts. After all, Magi deserved praise if anyone did. She had done all the
skilled work. This bozo had simply managed not to fall off.
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