فصل 11کتاب: آرتمیس / فصل 11
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“A gun?!” I said. “How did a gun get into the city?! I never smuggle weapons!” “I’ve always appreciated that,” she said. “You don’t have to keep your hands up. You do, however, have to drop that knife.” I did as I was instructed. The knife floated down to the floor. She kept the gun pointed at me. “May I ask, how did you come to suspect me?” “Process of elimination,” I said. “Rudy proved he wasn’t selling me out. You’re the only other person with access to my Gizmo location info.” “Reasonable,” she said. “But I’m not as sinister as you think.” “Uh-huh.” I gave her a dubious look. “But you know all about ZAFO, right?” “Yes.” “And you’re going to make a shitload of money off of it?” She scowled. “Do you really think so little of me? I won’t make a single slug.” “But…then…why…?” She settled back into her chair and relaxed her grip on the gun. “You were right about the gravity. ZAFO is a crystalline quartzlike structure that only forms at 0.216 g’s. It’s impossible to make on Earth, but they can make it here with a centrifuge. You’re such an intelligent girl, Jasmine. If only you’d apply yourself.” “If this is turning into a You have so much potential’ lecture, just shoot me instead, okay?” She smiled. She could be grandmotherly even while holding a gun. Like she’d give me a butterscotch candy before putting a hole in my head. “Do you know how Artemis makes its money?” “Tourism.”
“No.” I blinked. “What?” “We don’t make enough from tourism. It’s a large part of our economy, yes, but not enough.” “But the economy works,” I said. “Tourists buy stuff from local companies, companies pay employees, employees buy food and pay rent, and so on. And we’re still here, so it must be working, right? What am I missing?” “Immigration,” she said. “When people move to Artemis, they bring their life savings with them. Then they spend it here. As long as our population kept growing that was fine, but now we’ve plateaued.” She angled the gun away from me. She still had a good grip on it, but at least she wouldn’t kill me by mistake if she sneezed. “The whole system has become an unintentional Ponzi scheme. And we’re just cresting the top of the curve now.” For the first time, my attention was torn away from the gun. “Is…are we…is this whole city going bankrupt?” “Yes, if we don’t take action,” she said. “But ZAFO is our savior. The telecom industry will want to upgrade, and ZAFO can only be cheaply made here. There’ll be a huge production boom. Factories will open, people will move here for jobs, and everyone will prosper.” She looked up wistfully. “We’ll finally have an export economy.” “Glass,” I said. “This has always been about glass, right?” “Yes, dear,” Ngugi said. “ZAFO is an amazing material, but like all fiber optics, it’s mostly glass. And glass is just silicon and oxygen, both of which are created by aluminum smelting.” She ran her hand along the sheet aluminum desk. “Interesting how economics works, isn’t it? Within a year, aluminum will be a by-product of the silicon industry. And that aluminum will be handy too. We’ll have a lot of construction to handle the growth we’re about to have.” “Wow,” I said. “You really are all about economics.” “It’s what I do, dear. And in the end, it’s the only thing that matters. People’s happiness, health, safety, and security all rely on it.” “Damn, you’re good at this. You created an economy for Kenya and now you’re doing it for us. You’re a true hero. I should really be more grateful–oh that’s right you fucking sold me out!” “Oh, please. I knew you weren’t stupid enough to turn on your Gizmo without
taking precautions.” “But you did tell O Palلcio where my Gizmo was?” “Indirectly.” She set the gun down on the table. Too far away for me to lunge at. She’d grown up in a war zone–I wasn’t about to test her reflexes. “A few days ago, IT reported a hack attempt against the Gizmo network. Someone on Earth was trying to get your location info. I had IT deliberately disable security and let the hacker in. Actually, it was more complicated than that–they downgraded one of their network drivers to one with a known security flaw so the hacker had to work for it a little. I don’t know the details–I’m not a tech person. Anyway, the end result is the hacker installed a program that would report your location if you turned on your Gizmo.” “Why the hell did you do that?!” “To draw out the murderer.” She pointed to me. “As soon as you turned on your Gizmo, I alerted Rudy to your presence. I assumed O Palلcio would tell their man Alvarez as well. I hoped Rudy would catch him.” I frowned at her. “Rudy didn’t seem to know anything about it.” She sighed. “Rudy and I have a…complex relationship. He doesn’t approve of syndicates or indirect measures like I had taken. He’d like to be rid of me, and in all honesty, the feeling is mutual. If I’d warned him the killer was coming, he would’ve asked how I knew. Then he’d look into how the information got out, and that would cause trouble for me.” “You put Rudy on a collision course with a murderer and didn’t warn him.” She cocked her head. “Don’t look at me that way. It makes me sad. Rudy is an extremely skilled police officer who knew he was entering a potentially dangerous situation. And he almost caught Alvarez right then. My conscience is clear. If I had it to do over, I’d do the same thing. Big picture, Jasmine.” I folded my arms. “You were at Trond’s a few nights ago. Have you been in on this from the beginning?” “I’m not in’ on anything,” she said. “He told me about ZAFO and his plans to get into the silicon business. He wanted to talk about Sanchez’s oxygen contract. He had reason to believe they were going to be in breach soon and wanted to make sure I knew he had oxygen if that happened.” “That didn’t make you suspicious?” “Of course it did. But the city’s future was at stake. A criminal syndicate was about to control the most important resource on the moon. Trond offered me a
solution: He’d take over the contract, but with six-month renewals. If he artificially inflated prices or tried to control too much of the ZAFO industry, he’d lose the contract. He’d rely on me to keep renewing and I’d rely on him to feed the ZAFO boom with silicon. There’d be a balance.” “So what went wrong?” She pursed her lips. “Jin Chu. He came to town with a plan to make as much money as possible, and by God he succeeded. He’d told Trond about ZAFO months earlier, but Trond wanted a sample to have his people examine–proof that ZAFO really existed and wasn’t just some fairy tale.” “So Jin Chu showed him the ZAFO and Trond paid him,” I said. “And then Jin Chu turned right around and sold the information to O Palلcio.” “That’s the thing about secrets. You can sell them over and over again.” “Slimy little bastard.” She sighed. “Just imagine what a revelation that was for O Palلcio. All of a sudden, their insignificant money-laundering company was poised to corner an emerging billion-dollar industry. From that point on, they were all-in. But Artemis is very far away from Brazil and they only had one enforcer on-site, thank God.” “So what happens now?” “Right now, I’m sure O Palلcio is buying as many tickets to the moon as they can get. Within a month, Artemis will be swarming with their people. They’ll own silicon production and that damned oxygen-for-power contract will ensure no one can compete. And they already started their next phase: taking over the glassmanufacturing industry.” She gave me a knowing look. “Oh fuck,” I said. “The Queensland Glass Factory fire.” Ngugi nodded. “The fire was almost certainly set by Alvarez. Busy little fellow, wasn’t he? Once O Palلcio sets up their own glass factory, they’ll have both production and supply line locked down. And of course, they’ll kill anyone who tries to get in their way. That’s the breed of capitalism’ we can expect from now on.” “You’re the administrator. Do something about it!” She looked to the ceiling. “Between their financial base and physical enforcers, they’ll own the city. Think Chicago in the 1920s, but a hundred times worse. I’ll be powerless.” “It would be nice if you actually helped in some way.” “I have been helping,” she said. “Rudy had you pegged as the saboteur right
away. He showed me the video footage of that ridiculous disguise you wore to the Visitor Center.” I hung my head. “He wanted to arrest you right then. I told him I wasn’t convinced and needed more evidence. I knew that would buy you some time.” “Okay, so why did you become my guardian angel?” “Because you’re a lightning rod. I knew O Palلcio would have at least one enforcer in town. You drew him into the open. Now he’s caught. Thank you.” “I was bait?” “Of course. And you’re still bait. That’s why I intervened yesterday and got Rudy to release you. I don’t know what O Palلcio will do next, but whatever it is, they’ll do it to you.” “You…” I said. “You’re a real bitch, you know that?” She nodded. “When I have to be. Building a civilization is ugly, Jasmine. But the alternative is no civilization at all.” I glared at her with pure contempt. She wasn’t impressed. “So what the hell am I supposed to do now?” “No idea.” She gestured to the door. “But you better get started.” – I crawled back into my hiding place and sealed the panel behind me. I curled up into a ball in the dark. I was so goddamn tired I should have fallen asleep right then, but I couldn’t. It all caught up with me. Constant danger, poverty, anger, and worst of all, sheer, unmitigated fatigue. I’d gone beyond sleepy into what my father used to call “overtired.” He usually used that term while chucking my cranky, eight-year-old ass into my bunk for a forced nap. I tossed and turned as much as I could in the cramped confines. No position was comfortable. I wanted to pass out and punch someone at the same time. I couldn’t think straight. I had to get out of there. I kicked open the panel. Who gives a fuck if someone sees me? I didn’t. “Where now?” I mumbled to myself. I felt a wet droplet hit my arm. I looked to the ceiling. The frigid air of Bean Down 27 often made condensation points. Water’s surface tension versus lunar
gravity meant a bunch of it had to build up before it started dripping. But I didn’t see anything above me. Then I touched my face with my hand. “Oh, goddammit.” The source of the water was me. I was crying. I needed a place to sleep. Really sleep. If I’d been thinking clearly I would have gotten a hotel. Ngugi wouldn’t help O Palلcio find me again. Right that moment, I didn’t trust anything electronic. I considered going to the imam’s house, where Dad was. The imam would take me in, and at some feral level I wanted my daddy. I shook my head and admonished myself. Under no circumstances would I tangle Dad up in all this shit. Fifteen minutes later, I slogged down a corridor to my destination. I rang the door buzzer. It was past three in the morning, but I was past politeness. After a minute, Svoboda opened the door. He wore full-body pajamas, because apparently he had just traveled to the moon from 1954. He looked at me through bleary eyes. “Jazz?” “I need–” My throat closed. I almost fell prey to hysterical crying. Get your shit together! “I need to sleep. Svoboda, oh God I need to sleep.” He opened the door farther. “Come in, come in.” I trudged past him. “I’m. I need. I’m so tired, Svoboda. I’m just so tired.” “Yeah, yeah, it’s okay.” He rubbed his eyes. “Take the bed. I’ll set up some blankets on the floor for myself.” “No, no.” My eyes had already closed of their own accord. “Floor’s fine for me.” My knees buckled and I collapsed. The moon is a nice place to pass out. You hit the ground very gently. I felt Svoboda’s arms pick me up. Then I felt the bed, still warm from his body. Blankets covered me and I nuzzled into the cocoon of safety. I fell asleep instantly. – I awoke to that few seconds of pleasant amnesia everyone gets in the morning. Unfortunately, it didn’t last long. I remembered the previous night’s antics and winced. God. It’s one thing to be a pathetic weakling, but it’s another to do it in front of someone.
I stretched out in Svoboda’s bed and yawned. It wasn’t the first time I’d awakened in some guy’s place worn out and full of regret. But I’ll tell you what, it was the best night’s sleep I’d had in a long time. Svoboda was nowhere to be seen. A pillow and blanket on the floor showed he was quite the gentleman. It was his bed–I should have been the one on the floor. Or we could have shared. My boots stood neatly together next to the nightstand. Apparently he’d taken them off while I slept. Other than that, I was fully clothed. Not the best way to sleep, but better than having someone undress my unconscious body in the night. I pulled my Gizmo from my pocket to check the time. “Holy shit!” It was well into the afternoon. I’d slept for fourteen hours. The nightstand next to me had three Gunk bars in a neat stack with a note on top: Jazz–Breakfast for you. There’s juice in the fridge.–Svoboda. I noshed on a Gunk bar and opened his mini-fridge. I had no idea what the juice was, but I went ahead and drank it. Turns out it was reconstituted carrot-apple juice. It tasted like shit. Who the hell puts those things together? Ukrainians, apparently. I pondered ways to pay him back. A really nice meal? A cool piece of lab equipment? Have sex with him? Just kidding on that last one, of course. I snickered at the thought. Then I stopped snickering but hung on to the thought. Whoa. I needed to finish waking up. I took a nice long shower and reminded myself what I was really working toward: a shower of my own. It’s damned pleasant to walk three meters and be in a private shower. Damned pleasant. I didn’t want to wear my grungy, slept-in clothes so I raided Svoboda’s closet. I found a suitable T-shirt and threw it on over my underwear (sadly, Svoboda had no women’s undergarments in his closet. I would have had some questions for him if he had). The shirt hung on me like a short dress–Svoboda’s considerably taller than I am. Okay. I was rested, clean, and had a clear head. Time to settle down and do some serious thinking. How would I get out of this? I sat at the desk and plugged in my Gizmo. The desk’s built-in monitor rose from its cubby and showed my desktop icons. I cracked my knuckles and extended the keyboard tray. Over the next few hours, I sipped carrot-apple juice (it grows on you) and researched Sanchez Aluminum. Their operations, leadership, revenue estimates,
you name it. Since they were a private company (owned by “Santiago Holdings, Inc.” which I assumed was Brazilian for “O Palلcio”), there wasn’t much publicly available information. I looked up Loretta Sanchez and found a paper she’d written about her refinements to high-temperature smelting. I had to take a break to learn some basic chemistry, but I found all that online pretty easily. Once I understood it, I had to admit: She really was a genius. She’d revolutionized the whole system and made it practical for use on the moon. I’d still beat her ass if I met her. Don’t get me wrong. I must have been at it for a couple of hours because Svoboda finally came home from work. “Oh, hey,” he said. “How are you feeling–uh…uh…” I tore my attention away from the monitor to see what had caused his mental reboot. He was just kind of staring at me. I looked down. I was still wearing just the shirt I’d liberated from his closet. I was pretty sexy, I have to admit. “Hope you don’t mind.” I gestured to the shirt. “N-no,” he said. “No problem. It looks good. I mean, it hangs well. I mean, how your chest makes it, um…” I watched him flounder for a second. “When all this is over, if I’m still alive, I’m going to give you woman lessons.” “Whu–huh?” “You just…you really need to learn about women and how to interact with them, all right?” “Oh,” he said. “That could be really helpful, yeah.” He took off his lab coat and hung it on the wall. Why did he wear his lab coat home instead of leaving it at the lab? Because men like fashion accessories too. They just don’t admit it. “Looks like you slept well,” he said. “What are you up to now?” “Looking into Sanchez Aluminum,” I said. “I have to figure out a way to shut them down. That’s my only hope of survival at this point.” He sat on the bed behind me. “Are you sure you want to screw with them?” “What are they going to do? Kill me harder? They’re already after me.” He looked at the screen. “Ooh. Is that their smelting process?” “Yeah. It’s called the FFC Cambridge Process.”
He perked up. “Oh, that sounds cool!” Of course it did. Svoboda’s just that kind of guy. He leaned in to get a better look at the screen. It showed the chemistry at each step of the smelting process. “I’ve heard of the process but I never learned the details.” “They’re guarding the harvester now,” I said. “So I’ll have to go after the smelter itself.” “You got a plan?” he asked. “Yeah. The start of one,” I said. “But it means I have to do something I hate.” “Oh?” “I have to get help.” He held out his arms. “Well, you got me. Whatever you need.” “Thanks, buddy, I’ll take you up on that.” “Don’t call me buddy,” he grumbled. I hesitated. “Okay, I…won’t call you buddy. Why not?” “Man lessons,” he said. “Someday I’ll give you man lessons.”
I rang the doorbell for the fourth time. She was in there; she just didn’t want to answer. The main entrance to the Landvik Estate stood littered with flowers from wellwishers and mourners. Most of the flowers were synthetic, but a few wilting bouquets revealed how truly wealthy some of Trond’s friends were. I never thought I’d miss the sight of Irina’s scowling face, but a sadness overwhelmed me when I realized she wouldn’t be the one opening the door. Then again, maybe no one would answer at all. I rapped the door with my knuckles. “Lene! It’s Jazz! I know this isn’t a great time, but we need to talk.” I waited a bit longer. I was about to give up when the door clicked open. That was as much invitation as I was going to get. I stepped over the consolation bouquets and through the door. The once brightly lit foyer stood dark. Only the dim light from the sitting room filtered in to give any illumination at all. Someone had drawn a dozen or more circles on one wall–where the blood
spatter used to be. The actual blood was gone, presumably cleaned by a professional service after Rudy and Doc Roussel were done with the scene. I followed the light into the sitting room. It too had changed for the worse. All the furniture was shoved against walls. The large Persian rug that once adorned the floor was nowhere to be seen. Some things just can’t be cleaned. Lene sat on a couch in the corner, mostly in the dark. As a wealthy teen girl she usually put hours into her appearance. Today she wore sweats and a T-shirt. She had no makeup on and dried tears streaked her face. Her hair was in a loose ponytail, the universal sign of not giving a fuck. Her crutches lay askew on the floor. She held a wristwatch in her hands and stared at it with a blank expression. “Hey…” I said in that lame tone people use when talking to the bereaved. “How you holding up?” “It’s a Patek Philippe,” she said quietly. “Best watch manufacturers on Earth. Self-winding, chronograph, time zone, you name it. Nothing but the best for Dad.” I sat on the couch next to her. “He had it modified by top watchmakers in Geneva,” she continued. “They had to make a replacement self-winding weight out of tungsten so it would have enough force to work in lunar gravity.” She leaned over to me and showed me the watch’s face. “And he had them change the moon-phase indicator to an Earth-phase indicator. It was tricky too, because Earth’s phases go in the reverse order. They even modified the time zone dial to say Artemis’ instead of Nairobi.’” She clasped the band around her thin wrist. “It’s way too big for me. I’ll never be able to wear it.” She angled her arm downward. The watch slid off and fell to the couch. She sniffled. I picked it up. I didn’t know anything about watches, but it sure looked nice. Diamonds denoted each hour on the face except the 12. That had an emerald. “Rudy has the guy who did it,” I said. “I heard.” “He’ll rot in a Norwegian jail for life. Or be executed in Russia.” “Won’t bring Dad or Irina back,” she said. I put my hand on her shoulder. “I’m sorry for your loss.”
She nodded. I sighed, just to fill the awkward silence. “Look, Lene, I don’t know how much Trond told you about his business dealings…” “He was a crook,” she said. “I know. I don’t care. He was my dad.” “The people who killed him own Sanchez Aluminum.” “O Palلcio,” she said. “Rudy told me. I never even heard of them before yesterday.” She put her face in her hands. I expected a crying jag–she was entitled to one. But it didn’t come. Instead, she turned to me and wiped her eyes. “Did you trash Sanchez’s harvesters? Did Dad put you up to it?” “Yes.” “Why?” she asked. “He wanted to take over the aluminum industry–well, the silicon industry, actually. Interrupting Sanchez’s production would let him get a city contract he needed to make that happen.” Lene stared ahead blankly, then slowly nodded. “Sounds like him. Always working an angle.” “Look, I have an idea,” I said. “But I need your help.” “You need a crippled orphan?” “A crippled orphan billionaire, yeah.” I pulled my legs up onto the couch so I could face her girl-to-girl. “I’m going to follow through with Trond’s plan. I’m going to stop Sanchez’s oxygen production. I need you to be ready to take over the contract. Once you do, O Palلcio will be willing to sell you Sanchez Aluminum.” “Why would they sell to me?” “Because if they don’t, you’ll make your own company, undercut their prices with your free power, and bankrupt them. They’re mobsters, but they’re also businessmen. You’ll be offering them a big payoff to walk away when their alternative is watching the company collapse. They’ll take the deal. You own all of Trond’s holdings, right?” “Not yet,” she said. “It’s billions of euros, dollars, yen, and every other currency under the sun. Plus entire companies, stock portfolios…God knows what else. I’m on a trust until I’m eighteen. The probate’s going to take months, maybe years.” “Not for his Artemisian slugs,” I said. “Our lack of regulation works in your favor. His accounts became yours the instant Doc Roussel declared him dead. And
I hear he converted a fuckton of money into slugs to prep for the Sanchez purchase. You have the money to make this happen.” She stared into the distance. “Lene?” “It’s not the money,” she said. “It’s me. I can’t do this. I’m not Dad. He was a master of this stuff. I don’t know what the hell I’m doing.” I turned the watch over in my hands. The platinum back had Norwegian text engraved on it. I held it in front of her. “Huh…what’s that say?” She glanced over. “Himmelen er ikke grensen. It means The sky is not the limit.’” “He was a confident man,” I said. “Got him killed.” I reached into my pocket and pulled out my Swiss Army knife. With the help of its tweezers, I detached the set pins from the metal watchband. I removed three links and put the pins back in. I took Lene’s hand and slid the watch onto her wrist. She gave me a confused look but offered no resistance. I snapped the clasp shut. “There. Now it fits.” She shook her arm and the watch remained in place. “It’s heavy.” “You’ll get used to it.” She looked at the watch face for a long time. She wiped a mote of dust from the glass. “I guess I’ll have to.” “So…?” I prompted. “Okay, I’ll do it.” She stared straight ahead. “Take the fuckers down.” I’d never noticed before, but she had her father’s eyes.
Dear Kelvin, Thanks for helping me earlier. I was in deep shit. Now I’m in slightly shallower shit. Basically, I’m at war with a company called Sanchez Aluminum. I’ll give you the full story later. For now, I need another favor. Sanchez Aluminum’s smelting facility is in a mini-bubble near the reactors. The reactor/smelter complex is a kilometer from town. I did some research and found a twenty-year-old article about the “negotiations” between Sanchez and KSC. KSC got really hands-on in the smelter’s design process and Sanchez didn’t like it. They almost went to litigation in Kenyan court. Sanchez’s argument was “It’s our smelter. We don’t need approval from anyone. Fuck off.” KSC’s counter was “It’s 200 meters from our reactors. We need to know it won’t blow up. Give us approval rights or we won’t rent you the space, you little shits.” Ultimately KSC won because they own the mini-bubble. They never sell property–they’re all about rent. Anyway, the upshot is KSC must have detailed schematics of the Sanchez smelter somewhere. Like…super detailed with every potential failure case analyzed and covered. I need you to get ahold of those documents. I know you work in a totally different part of KSC, but you still have access most people don’t. Feel free to spread some money around in the process. I’ll pay you back. Dear Jazz, The plans are enclosed. They were surprisingly easy to get. No part of them was considered a company secret or industrial process. Sanchez kept the exact chemistry in the smelter to themselves, but everything else was right there in the architectural plans. I have a drinking buddy in the metallurgy lab in Building 27. They’d been consulted as part of the safety overview. He pulled the plans up on his boss’s computer (which has no password protection). All I had to do was buy him a beer. So the cost was two beers (had to have one myself, of course). Call it 50 slugs. Dear Kelvin Thanks, buddy. Make it 75 slugs and have another beer on me.
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