فصل 17

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فصل 17

توضیح مختصر

  • زمان مطالعه 33 دقیقه
  • سطح خیلی سخت

دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

این فصل را می‌توانید به بهترین شکل و با امکانات عالی در اپلیکیشن «زیبوک» بخوانید

دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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متن انگلیسی فصل

17

I awoke to darkness. Wait a minute. I awoke? “How am I not dead?” I tried to say. “Huu m uh nn’ d’d?” I actually said. “Daughter?!” It was Dad’s voice. “Can you hear me?” “Mmf.” He took my hand. It didn’t feel right, though. The sensation was dulled. “C…can not…see…” “You have bandages over your eyes.” I tried to hold his hand, but it hurt. “No. Don’t use your hands,” he said. “They’re also injured.” “She shouldn’t be awake,” said a woman’s voice. It was Doc Roussel. “Jazz? Can you hear me?” “How bad is it?” I asked her. “You’re speaking Arabic,” she said. “I can’t understand you.” “She asked how bad it is,” Dad said. “It’s going to be a painful recovery, but you’ll survive.” “N…not me…the city. How bad is it?” I felt a pinprick on my arm. “What are you doing?” Dad asked. “She shouldn’t be awake,” Roussel said. And then I wasn’t.

– I drifted in and out of consciousness for a full day. I remember snippets here and there. Reflex tests, someone changing my bandages, injections, and so on. But I was only semi-alert until they stopped groping me, then I’d return to the void. “Jazz?” “Huh?” “Jazz, are you awake?” It was Doc Roussel. “…yes?” “I’m going to take the bandages off your eyes.” “Okay.” I felt her hands on my head. The padding on my face unwrapped and I could finally see. I winced at the light. As my eyes adjusted, I saw more of the room. I was in a small hospital-like room. I say “hospital-like” because Artemis doesn’t have a hospital. Just Doc Roussel’s sick bay. This was a room in the back somewhere. My hands were still bandaged. They felt awful. They hurt, but not too bad. The doc, a sixtysomething woman with gray hair, shined a flashlight in each of my eyes. Then she held up three fingers. “How many fingers?” “Is the city okay?” She wiggled her hand. “One thing at a time. How many fingers.” “Three?” “Okay. What do you remember?” I looked down at my body. Everything seemed to be there. I wore a hospital smock and I’d been tucked into the bed. My hands were still bandaged. “I remember popping a hamster ball. I expected to die.” “By all rights, you should have,” she said. “But Dale Shapiro and Loretta Sanchez saved you. From what I hear, he threw your body over the Armstrong­ Shepard Connector. Sanchez was on the other side. She dragged you into a rover and pressurized it. You were in vacuum for a total of three minutes.” I looked at my gauze mittens. “And that didn’t kill me?” “The human body can survive a few minutes of vacuum. Artemis’s air pressure is low enough that you didn’t get decompression sickness. The main threat is oxygen starvation–same as drowning. They saved you just in time. Another

minute and you’d be dead.” She put her fingers on my throat and watched a clock on the wall. “You have second-degree burns on your hands and the back of your neck. I’m assuming they directly contacted the lunar surface. And you have a pretty bad sunburn on your face. We’ll have to check you for skin cancer once a month for a while, but you’ll be all right.” “What about the city?” I asked. “You should talk to Rudy about that. He’s right outside–I’ll get him.” I grabbed her sleeve. “But–” “Jazz, I’m your doctor, so I’ll take good care of you. But we’re not friends. Let go of me.” I released her. She opened the door and stepped out. I caught a glimpse of Svoboda in the room beyond. He craned his neck to look in. Then Rudy’s impressive build blocked the view. “Hello, Jazz,” Rudy said. “How do you feel?” “Did anyone die?” He closed the door behind him. “No. No one died.” I gasped in relief and my head fell to the pillow. Only then did I realize how clenched up I’d been. “Thank fucking God.” “You’re still in enormous trouble.” “I figured.” “If this had happened anywhere else, there would have been deaths.” He clasped his arms behind him. “As it is, everything worked in our favor. We don’t have cars, so no one was operating vehicles at the time. Thanks to our low gravity, no one got hurt falling to the ground. A few scrapes and bruises is all.” “No harm, no foul.” He shot me a glare. “Three people went into cardiac arrest from chloroform poisoning. All three were elderly with preexisting lung conditions.” “But they’re okay now, right?” “Yes, but only through luck. Once people woke up they checked on their neighbors. If it weren’t for our tight-knit community, that wouldn’t have happened. Plus, it’s easy to carry an unconscious person in our gravity. And no part of town is far away from Dr. Roussel.” He cocked his head toward the doorway. “She’s not thrilled with you, by the way.”

“I noticed.” “She takes public health seriously.” “Yeah.” He stood quietly for a moment. “Care to tell me who was in on this with you?” “Nope.” “I know Dale Shapiro was involved.” “Don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said. “Dale just happened to be out on a drive at the time.” “In Bob Lewis’s rover?” “They’re buddies. They lend each other stuff.” “With Loretta Sanchez?” “Maybe they’re dating,” I said. “Shapiro’s gay.” “Maybe he’s not very good at it.” “I see,” Rudy said. “Can you explain why Lene Landvik transferred a million slugs to your account this morning?” Good to know! But I kept a poker face. “Small business loan. She’s investing in my EVA tour company.” “You failed the EVA exam.” “Long-term investment.” “That’s definitely a lie.” “Whatever. I’m tired.” “I’ll let you rest.” He walked back to the door. “The administrator wants to see you as soon as you’re up and about. You might want to pack some light clothes– it’s summer in Saudi Arabia right now.” Svoboda slipped in through the door as Rudy left. “Hey, Jazz!” Svoboda pulled up a chair and sat beside the bed. “Doc says you’re doing great!” “Hey, Svobo. Sorry about the chloroform.” “Eh, no big.” He shrugged. “I’m guessing the rest of town isn’t as forgiving?” “People don’t seem that mad. Well, some are. But most aren’t.” “Seriously?” I said. “I knocked the whole town out.”

He wiggled his hand. “That wasn’t just you. There were a lot of engineering failures. Like: Why aren’t there detectors in the air pipeline for complex toxins? Why did Sanchez store methane, oxygen, and chlorine in a room with an oven? Why doesn’t Life Support have its own separate air partition to make sure they’ll stay awake if the rest of the city has a problem? Why is Life Support centralized instead of having a separate zone for each bubble? These are the questions people are asking.” He put his hand on my arm. “I’m just glad you’re okay.” I put my hand on his. The effect was kind of lost with all the bandaging. “Anyway,” he said. “The whole thing gave me a chance to bond with your dad.” “Really?” “Yeah!” he said. “After we woke up we formed a two-man team to check on my neighbors. It was cool. He bought me a beer afterward.” I widened my eyes. “Dad…bought a beer?” “For me, yeah. He drank juice. We spent an hour talking about metallurgy! Awesome guy.” I tried to imagine Dad and Svoboda hanging out. I failed. “Awesome guy,” Svoboda repeated, a little quieter this time. His smile faded. “Svobo?” I said. He looked down. “Are you…leaving, Jazz? Are they going to deport you? I’d hate that.” I put my mittened hand on his shoulder. “It’ll be all right. I’m not going anywhere.” “You sure?” “Yeah, I have a plan.” “A plan?” He looked concerned. “Your plans are…uh…should I hide somewhere?” I laughed. “Not this time.” “Okay…” He was clearly not convinced. “But how are you going to get out of this one? Like…you knocked out the whole town.” I smiled at him. “Don’t worry. I got this.” “Okay, good.” He leaned down and kissed my cheek, almost as an afterthought. I had no idea what possessed him to do that–honestly I didn’t think he had it in him. His bravery didn’t last long, though. Once he realized what he’d done, his face

became a mask of terror. “Oh shit! I’m sorry! I wasn’t thinking–” I laughed. The look in the poor guy’s eyes…I couldn’t help it. “Relax, Svobo. It’s just a peck on the cheek. It’s nothing to get worked up about.” “R-Right. Yeah.” I put my hand on the nape of his neck, pulled his head to mine, and kissed him full on the lips. A good, long kiss with no ambiguity. When we disengaged, he looked hopelessly confused. “Now, that,” I said. “That you can get worked up about.” – I waited in a blank, gray hallway next to a door labeled CD2-5186. Conrad Down 2 was a little classier than the usual Conrad Down fare, but not much. Strictly bluecollar, but without that smell of desperation the lower levels had. I opened and closed my hands a few times. The bandages were off, but both hands were littered with red blisters. I looked like a leper. Or a hooker who gave handjobs exclusively to lepers. Dad rounded the corner, following his Gizmo’s directions. He finally noticed me. “Ah. There you are.” “Thanks for meeting me, Dad,” I said. He took my right hand and inspected it. He winced at the damage. “How are you feeling? Does it hurt? If it hurts, you should go to Dr. Roussel.” “It’s okay. Looks worse than it feels.” There I was, lying to Dad again. “So I’m here.” He pointed to the door. “CD2-5186. What is it?” I waved my Gizmo across the panel and opened the door. “Come in.” The large, mostly bare workshop had stark metal walls. Our footsteps echoed as we walked. A worktable stood in the center covered with industrial equipment. Farther back, gas cylinders mounted along the wall fed pipes leading throughout the room. A standard air shelter stood in the corner. “One hundred forty-one square meters,” I said. “Used to be a bakery. Fully fireproof and certified by the city for high-temperature use. Self-contained airfiltration system, and the air shelter seats four people.” I walked over to the tanks. “I just had these installed. Central acetylene, oxygen, and neon lines accessible from anywhere in the shop. Full tanks, of course.” I pointed to the worktable. “Five torch heads, twenty meters of feeder line, and

four sparkers. Also, three full sets of protective gear, five masks, and three filtershade kits.” “Jasmine,” Dad said. “I–” “Under the table: twenty-three aluminum stock rods, five steel rods, and one copper rod. I don’t know why you had that copper rod back then, but you had one, so there it is. Rent’s pre-paid for a year, and the door panel’s already keyed to accept your Gizmo.” I shrugged and let my arms fall to my sides. “So, yeah. Everything I destroyed back on that day.” “It was your idiot boyfriend who destroyed it.” “I’m responsible,” I said. “Yes, you are.” He ran his hand along the worktable. “This must have been very expensive.” “It was 416,922 slugs.” He frowned. “Jasmine…you bought this with money that–” “Dad…please, just…” I slumped down and sat on the floor. “I know you don’t like where the money came from. But…” Dad clasped his hands behind his back. “My father–your grandfather–had severe depression. He committed suicide when I was eight.” I nodded. A dark corner of our family history. Dad rarely discussed it. “Even when he was alive, he wasn’t really alive.’ I didn’t grow up with a father. I don’t even know what it is. So I’ve tried my best–” “Dad, you’re not a bad father. I’m just a shitty daughter–” “Let me finish.” He got to his knees then sat on his heels. He’d prayed in that position five times a day for sixty years–he knew how to make it comfortable. “I’ve been winging it, you know. As a father. I had nothing to work from. No blueprint. And I chose a hard life for us. An immigrant’s life in a frontier town.” “No complaints here,” I said. “I’d rather be a hardworking pauper in Artemis than a rich woman on Earth. This is my home–” He held up his hand to silence me. “I tried to prepare you for the world. I never went easy on you, because the world certainly wouldn’t go easy on you, and I wanted you to be prepared. We’ve fought at times, of course–find me a parent and child who haven’t. And there are certainly aspects of your life I wish were different. But in the grand scheme of things, you became a strong, self-reliant

woman and I’m proud of you. And, through extension, proud of myself for raising you.” My lip quivered a bit. “I’ve lived my life by the teachings of Muhammad,” he said. “I try to be honest and true in all my decisions. But, like any man, I am flawed. I sin. If your peace of mind comes at the price of a small tarnish on my soul, then so be it. I can only hope I’ve built up enough good grace with Allah that he will forgive me.” He took both my hands. “Jasmine. I accept your recompense, even though I know the source is dishonest. And I forgive you.” I gave him a firm handshake and we called it a day. Not really. I collapsed into his arms and cried like a child. I don’t want to talk about it. – Time to face the music. I waited outside Ngugi’s door. The next few minutes would determine whether I got to stay or had to leave. Lene Landvik hobbled out on her crutches. “Oh! Hi, Jazz. I transferred the money to your account a few days ago.” “I saw that. Thanks.” “O Palلcio sold me Sanchez Aluminum this morning. It’ll take weeks to work out the paperwork, but we agreed on a price and we’re good to go. Loretta’s already designing the next smelter. She has some improvements in mind. The new one will prioritize silicon extraction and–” “You’re keeping Loretta Sanchez?!” “Ah,” she said. “Yeah.” “Are you fucking crazy?!” “I just paid half a billion slugs for a smelting company that can’t smelt. I need somebody to rebuild it. Who better than Sanchez?” “But she’s the enemy!” “Anyone who makes you money is a friend,” Lene said. “I learned that from Dad. Besides, she helped save your life like four days ago. Maybe you guys are even now?” I folded my arms. “This is going to bite you in the ass, Lene. She can’t be trusted.”

“Oh, I don’t trust her. I just need her. Big difference.” She cocked her head at the doorway. “Ngugi says KSC’s eager to get oxygen production back online. The city won’t be too strict with safety regulations. Weird, huh? You’d think they’d get more picky, not less.” “Sanchez in charge…” I sighed. “This isn’t what I had in mind when I came up with the plan.” “Well, neither was knocking out the whole city. Plans change.” She checked her watch. “I have to get to a conference call. Good luck in there. Let me know if I can help.” She hobbled away. I watched her go for a moment. She seemed taller than before. Probably a trick of the light. I took a deep breath and walked into Ngugi’s office. Ngugi sat behind her desk. She glared at me over her glasses. “Have a seat.” I closed the door and sat in the chair opposite her. “I think you know what I have to do, Jasmine. And it isn’t easy for me.” She slid a piece of paper across the desk. I recognized the form–I’d seen it a few days earlier in Rudy’s office. It was a formal deportation order. “Yeah, I know what you have to do,” I said. “You have to thank me.” “You must be joking.” “Thanks, Jazz,” I said. “Thanks for keeping O Palلcio from taking over. Thanks for eliminating an outdated contract that would have stood in the way of a massive economic boom. Thanks for sacrificing yourself to save Artemis. Here’s a trophy.” “Jasmine, you’re going back to Saudi Arabia.” She tapped the deportation order. “We won’t press charges, and we’ll cover your living expenses until you adjust to Earth gravity. But that’s the best I can do.” “After everything I just did for you? You’ll just chuck me out with yesterday’s trash?” “It’s not something I want to do, Jasmine. I have to do it. We need to present ourselves as a community that lives under the rule of law. It’s more important now than ever before, because the ZAFO industry is coming. If people think their investments can be blown up without the perpetrator facing justice they won’t invest here at all.” “They don’t have a choice,” I said. “We’re the only city on the moon.” “We’re not irreplaceable. We’re just convenient,” she said. “If ZAFO companies don’t think they can trust us, they’ll make their own lunar city. One that protects its

businesses. I’m grateful for what you’ve done, but I have to sacrifice you for the good of the city.” I pulled out a paper of my own and slid it to her. “What’s this?” she asked. “My confession,” I said. “Notice I left out any mention of you, the Landviks, or anyone else. It’s just me. I signed it at the bottom.” She gave me a puzzled look. “You’re helping me deport you?” “No. I’m giving you a Deport Jazz for Free’ card. You’re going to put that in a drawer somewhere and keep it for emergencies.” “But I’m deporting you right now.” “No, you’re not.” I leaned back in the chair and crossed my legs. “Why not?” “Everyone seems to forget this, but I’m a smuggler. Not a saboteur, not an action hero, not a city planner. A smuggler. I worked hard to set up my operation and it runs smoothly. In the beginning I had competition. But not anymore. I drove them out of business by having lower prices, better service, and a reputation for keeping my word.” She narrowed her eyes. “You must be going somewhere with this, but I don’t see where.” “Have you ever seen guns in Artemis? Other than the one you have in your desk, I mean?” She shook her head. “No.” “How about hard drugs? Heroin? Opium? That sort of thing?” “Not at any scale,” she said. “Sometimes Rudy catches a tourist with a personal stash but it’s rare.” “Ever wonder why that shit doesn’t get into town?” I pointed to my chest. “Because I don’t let it. No drugs, no guns. And I have a bunch of other rules too. I keep flammables to a minimum. And no live plants. Last thing we need is some weird mold infestation.” “Yes, you’re very ethical, but–” “What happens when I’m gone?” I asked. “Do you think smuggling will just stop? No. There’ll be a short power vacuum then someone else will take over. No idea who. But will they be as civic-minded as me? Probably not.” She raised an eyebrow.

I pressed on. “This city’s about to have a ZAFO boom. There’s going to be jobs galore, construction, and an influx of workers. There’ll be new customers for every business in town. New companies will open to keep up with the demand. The population will spike. You’ve already got estimates, right?” She peered at me for a moment. “I think we’ll have ten thousand people within the year.” “There ya go,” I said. “More people means more demand for contraband. Thousands of people who might want drugs. Shitloads of money flying around, which means more crime. Those criminals will want guns. They’ll try to sneak them in through whatever smuggling system and black market is in place. What kind of city do you want Artemis to be?” She pinched her chin. “That’s…a very good point.” “All right. So, you have my confession. That’ll keep me from getting out of line. Checks and balances and all that.” She thought about this for an uncomfortably long time. Without breaking eye contact, she pulled the deportation order off her desk and put it in a drawer. I sighed in relief. “We still have the problem of punishment, though…” She leaned forward to her antiquated keyboard computer and began typing. She ran her finger along the screen. “According to this, your account balance is 585,966 slugs.” “Yeah…why?” “I thought Lene paid you a million.” “How did you kno–never mind. I paid off a debt recently. Why is this relevant?” “I think some restitution is in order. A fine, if you will.” “What?!” I sat bolt-upright. “Artemis doesn’t have fines!” “Call it a voluntary contribution to the city’s funds.’” “There’s nothing voluntary’ about it!” “Sure there is.” She settled back into her chair. “You can keep all your money and get deported instead.” Ugh. Well, this was a win for me. I could always make more money, but I couldn’t get un-deported. And she had a point. If she didn’t punish me, any asshole could do what I did and expect to get away with it. I’d have to take a slap on the wrist. “Okay. How much?”

“Five hundred fifty thousand slugs should cover it.” I gasped. “Are you fucking kidding me?!” She smirked. “It’s like you said. I need you to control smuggling. If you have a bunch of money, you might retire. And then where would I be? It’s best to keep you hungry.” Logically I came out way ahead. I’d cleared my conscience. But still, the prospect of my account balance going from six digits to five physically hurt. “Oh!” She smiled with a realization. “And thanks for volunteering yourself as Artemis’s unpaid, unofficial, import regulatory body. Of course, I’ll hold you responsible for any dangerous contraband in town, regardless of how it got here. So, if some other smuggler crops up and lets guns or drugs in, you can expect a chat with me.” I stared blankly. She stared back. “I’ll expect that slug transfer by the end of the day,” she said. My bluster was completely gone. I stood from the chair and walked over to the door. When I reached for the door handle, I paused. “What’s the endgame here?” I asked. “Once the ZAFO companies start up, what happens then?” “The next big step is taxes.” “Taxes?” I snorted. “People come here because they don’t want to pay taxes.” “They already pay taxes–as rent to KSC. We need to change over to a property-ownership and tax model so the city’s wealth is directly tied to the economy. But that’s not for a while.” She took off her glasses. “It’s all part of the life-cycle of an economy. First it’s lawless capitalism until that starts to impede growth. Next comes regulation, law enforcement, and taxes. After that: public benefits and entitlements. Then, finally, overexpenditure and collapse.” “Wait. Collapse?” “Yes, collapse. An economy is a living thing. It’s born full of vitality and dies once it’s rigid and worn out. Then, through necessity, people break into smaller economic groups and the cycle begins anew, but with more economies. Baby economies, like Artemis is right now.” “Huh,” I said. “And if you want to make babies, somebody’s got to get fucked.” She laughed. “You and I will get along just fine, Jasmine.”

I left without further comment. I didn’t want to spend any more time inside the mind of an economist. It was dark and disturbing.

I needed a beer. I wasn’t the most popular gal around town. I got some dirty looks in the hallways. But I also spotted a few thumbs-ups from my supporters. I hoped the excitement would fade in time. I don’t want fame. I want people not to notice me at all. I walked into Hartnell’s, not sure what to expect. The regular crowd were in their usual seats–even Dale. “Hey, it’s Jazz!” Billy called out. Suddenly, everyone “passed out.” Each patron tried to outdo the others with ridiculous displays of being unconscious. Some lolled their tongues, others snored with a comedic whistle on the exhale, and a few lay spread-eagle on the floor. “Har-har,” I said, “very funny.” With my acknowledgment, the prank was over. They resumed their normal quiet drinking with a few subdued giggles. “Heya,” said Dale. “Since you forgave me, I figure I can just show up anytime and hang out with you.” “I only forgave you because I thought I was going to die,” I said. “But yeah. No take-backs.” Billy put a fresh, frosty beer in front of me. “The customers took a vote and decided this round’s on you. You know, to make up for almost killing everyone.” “Oh, is that so?” I scanned the bar. “Can’t be helped, I guess. Put ‘em all on my tab.” Billy poured himself a half pint and raised it in the air. “To Jazz, for saving the city!” “To Jazz!” the patrons called out, and raised their glasses. They were happy to toast me if I bought the beer. I guess that was a start. “How are the hands?” Dale asked. “They’re burned, blistered, and hurt like hell.” I took a sip. “Thanks for saving my life, by the way.” “No problem. You might want to thank Sanchez too.”

“Nah.” He shrugged and took another sip. “Tyler was really worried about you.” “Mm.” “He’d like to see you sometime. The three of us could grab lunch, maybe? On me, of course.” I bit back the obnoxious comment that swelled up. It was going to be a doozy too. Instead, I heard myself say, “Yeah, okay.” He clearly didn’t expect that answer. “Really? Because–wait, really?” “Yeah.” I looked at him and nodded. “Yeah. We can do that.” “Wow,” he said. “G-Great! Hey, you want to bring that Svoboda guy?” “Svobo? Why would I bring him?” “You two are an item, right? He’s clearly crazy about you, and you seemed a little–” “No! I mean…it’s not like that.” “Oh. You’re just friends, then?” “Uh…” Dale smirked. “I see.” We drank quietly for a moment. Then he said, “You’re totally going to bang that guy.” “Oh, shut up!” “A thousand slugs says you two get freaky within a month.” I glared at him. He glared back. “Well?” he said. I finished off my pint. “No bet.” “Ha!”

Dear Kelvin, Sorry for the slow response. I’m sure you’ve read all about the chloroform leak in the news. People around here call it “The Nap.” There were no deaths or serious injuries, but I’m shooting you an email just to confirm I’m okay. I did spend three minutes sizzling on the lunar surface without a spacesuit. That kind of sucked (no vacuum pun intended). Also, everyone knows I was responsible for the Nap. Which leads me to my next problem: I’m broke. Again. Long story short, the city took most of my money to bitch-slap me for my indiscretions. Unfortunately, I hadn’t transferred your share of our profits this month, so I’m going to have to owe you. I’ll pay you off the moment I can, you have my word. I have some legwork for you: There’s a guy named “Jin Chu” (might be an alias) headed back to Earth right now. He claimed to be from Hong Kong and that’s probably true. He works for a Chinese materials research company. I don’t know which one. He got sent home from Artemis for being naughty. They shipped him out a few days ago, so he must be aboard the Gordon. That means you’ve got four days before he arrives at KSC. Hire a detective or whatever to find out where he works. We need that company’s name. Because Kelvin, old buddy, this is the opportunity of a lifetime. That company is about to make billions. I’m going to invest as much as I can in it and I suggest you do the same. Long story–I’ll send you a more detailed email later. Aside from that, we’re back to business as usual. Keep the goods coming. Also, we’ll be ramping up our smuggling volume soon. Artemis is going to have a population boom. More customers coming our way! We’re going to be rich, buddy. Filthy rich. And hey, once that happens, you should come visit. I’ve learned a lot about the value of friends lately and you’re one of the best friends I’ve ever had. I’d like to meet you in person. And besides, who doesn’t want to come to Artemis? It’s the greatest little city in the worlds.

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