Bighead Moon Stories
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Imperial Earth
Bighead Moon Stories are in the tradition of classic hard science fiction.
Mars Landing
Peter Thorpe's Rocket Paintings - high quality reproductions as well as current originals - are available through the Peter Thorpe page at Novaspace Graphics. Also, Rocket Paintings are on various products at the RocketZoom Zazzle store.
UFOs Over Woodstock
Upcoming stories: UFOs Over Woodstock, The Girl with the Yin Yang Belly Button, Fan the Ember Moon.
International Association of Astronomical Artists
Member International Association of Astronomical Artists
Anderson Farms
Anderson Farms, circa 2195
Bighead Moon
text and illustrations copyright © 2002 - 2020 Peter Thorpe
uncorrected proof
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Chapter One
Underfellow Sam Didgerow stood in the doorway of an empty cave and watched the foot traffic passing by. The dim lights of the hall gave no hint of his presence, and the overgrowth of hanging vine hid his face from view. He had not moved for a very long time, even thought the temptation was great.

Deep in the fingertunnels of Bighead City there were kilometers of half-realized real estate, left to mothball in the wake of a surface construction boom. A deep hall was a good place to get lost in. The air was thick and the walls were cold. But there was a measure of freedom. Security seldom ventured below Kay plaza.

Sam watched the flow of humanity. So many youthful faces, bright with the carelessness of adventure. Most were young. None were of his generation. He might be, it occurred to him, one of the oldest persons in Luna. How old? Sam really didn't know, he had never known his birthdate, but his assumed age was, what? A hundred and someteen. Eighteen? Maybe so. Didn't feel like it though.

Sam knew that in just a little while the tunnel would be virtually empty. The dead of the night was a reality here, unlike the round-the-clock frenzy of the Grand Plaza or the surface halls. Soon it would be dangerously late for barhoppers and diners to be out. Soon the already dim lights would get dimmer. Then it would be time for Sam to go to work.

Bear sat with his back to the bar of the Anything Possible Bar and Grill. The beer in his glass swirled very slowly. He watched as a group of noisy teens pushed their way out of the air door. Four guys, one girl. The girl looked happy as she tossed her hair in the air stream. And as she went through the door, a red light blinked from a small clip attached to her left earlobe. Now that's strange, Bear thought.

Behind the bar, Katie saw it too as she rubbed her temples. It had been a busy night. No real trouble, at least nothing that Bear couldn't handle, but there were more people than usual. And with the immigration up, she knew it was going to get busier still. Might have to actually break down and hire some help, she thought, and Bear wasn't going to like that. He'd probably say that the better solution was to get tougher with the clientele, thereby reducing their numbers. It wasn't as if they needed the money.

Bear owned a sizeable chunk of N and O halls, including the Any Poss. And Katie owned Bear, more or less. She was a lucky girl, she thought, luckier than a pretty teen with four escorts.

"Read my mind," Bear said, over his shoulder.

"You want to know why that girl was using a field detector as an earring?"


"Maybe she's just being creative."

"Maybe not."

"Now, Bear, she's just a kid. Probably doesn't even know what it really is. Wonder where she got it."

The five teens had been the last customers. Bear looked through the empty door. Outside the lights were dimming the end of 25th hour. He could see that the ad loop on the wall across the hall had stopped.

"If those kids were one of your stews," Bear said, wiping beer foam off of his bushy beard, "then I'd say we'd have four potatoes and one sweet fish."

"I know what you mean, she sure did outclass them."

"And she had a field detector."

Katie started gathering glasses and plates. "If you want more beer, I have some down in the kitchen," she said.

Bear handed over his glass. Katie shut down the tap and closed up the grill and the dish bin and started their clean cycles. As she turned to shut off the overheads Bear reached out and stopped her hand. She could see that he had heard something. "Wait," he whispered and motioned with a nod to the hall. Then she heard it too. A girl yelling, then a scream. Katie felt the push as Bear launched himself off of the bar and through the door. The air blast was still on, but if it slowed him, Katie could not tell.

When the lights dimmed the end of 25th hour, Sam Didgerow lifted the corrugated metal door behind him and slipped under it into the darkness of the abandoned cave. He lowered the door and reached for his suit. It was where he had left it and he did not have to use his light to find it. After dressing, he set a small beam reflector on the floor facing the door. He didn't have a laser with him, but that wasn't important, he only needed to use the reflector as a mirror.

He lifted the metal door again and jammed it open with a pipe. The opening was about a dozen centimeters high and when he sat on the floor with his back to the outer wall he could watch the hallway through the reflector. She will be wearing red grips with black heels.

A small terra ball sat in his left glove. He felt for the soft spot. The ball had been cut in half, hollowed, filled with a bladder, and a small hole had been drilled into one of the hemispheres. When it was glued back together the terra ball had become a gas bomb with a soft switch fitted into the hole as a trigger.

Sam did not have long to wait. He heard the footsteps through the helmet filters. As he shifted onto his knees he caught the first sign of them in the reflector. Two pair of low cut gliders, and then the red grips. But two more sets of gliders came into view. She will be with two students. Something was wrong. Or was it? Maybe they had met up with friends in the bar?

As they came closer, she was moving back towards the second two. He could hear her say something, then one of the boys laughed.

It didn't matter; the gas bomb could take care of a dozen people. But it wasn't supposed to be five of them, just three. If there was more time, he might have thought about it. But there was no time left so he pushed his thumb into the switch and tossed the ball out into the hallway.

Smoke shot out of the seam as it rolled. The sight of a terra ball on fire confused the walkers, and when it exploded into a cloud of blue gas the girl screamed. They turned to run, but the gas had reached them. Sam watched as they fell to the floor, coughing and gasping. They were unconscious moments later.

Getting the girl back into the cave was no trouble; she was limp and easy to move. He lowered the door and examined the girl with his hand light. A pretty girl. Long hair, straight nose, soft chin. The kind of girl he used to go for.

Sam could remember a better time. Memories were helpful when he was on the job. The body suit he was wearing stank of sweat and dusty age, but it brought him back to a younger year, his first year on Luna. Back then every newcomer was required to wear a body suit in public. He remembered the embarrassment of being new, the awkwardness, the way people were overly helpful. Back then, he couldn't wait to get out of his suit. Now he left it on while he calmed down.

Sam finally got up, pulled the helmet off, and sniffed carefully. If any gas had bled into the cave it had dissipated. He packed the body suit into its bag along with the pipe and reflector. He pulled the girl to the back of the cave and carefully eased her into an opening in the floor where a stone tile had been removed. He settled her down, then dropped into the hole and replaced the tile. They were in a crude low tunnel that led to yet another drop only a few meters away. Down this hole was an empty rail car, the sort miners used. He moved the girl along the tunnel and down the second hole into the car's basket. He then placed a small blast charge up into the low tunnel.

The car followed its rail into a wide cross tunnel, then turned and dipped down into a long straight tunnel. They had moved almost a kilometer down this tunnel before Sam's crono marked the time of the blast. It was a dull, low tone and could have been mistaken for any number of the Lunar rumblings that add to the noise of Bighead City. He smiled to himself. There would be no use of that access again.

Bear had not run far up N hall before he caught sight of the gas cloud. Damn. There was nothing for him to do but retreat. As he came back to the Any Poss, he could see that Katie had pulled the door down. Good. He headed further down N hall to an open drop, took it one level down to O and ran to the short tunnel that led to Katie's cave. "It's Bear," he said to the door, and the door opened.

Katie was already at her com, switching between live feeds from cameras along N hall. She looked up at Bear and said, "Nothing moving on N but we've got four boys on the ground up by Charlie's. No sign of the girl." She turned and put a hand on Bear's hip. "And Red is lying in the middle of the hall up the tunnel...he's up by the Main Drop. Oh, Bear, do you think he's..."

"Don't know. Let me get a call to Hux, he said as he slid onto the cushion next to her. Com responded and a circle opened on the screen, with Hux's tired face in the center. "What's up Dad?"

"Got an emergency," Bear answered. "Get our two suits and meet me here as fast as you can."

"Body suits...or space?"

"Just the body, and hurry."

Five minutes later Bear and Hux were moving up N hall. Bear had promised Katie that he'd take care of Red first. While Hux moved the boys up the tunnel to the Main Drop, Bear grabbed Red in one motion and ran him back to Katie. She already had the kitchen sink filled with hot soapy water. Bear slid Red into it, and the tabby cat immediately started spluttering. Relief swept Bear's face. "Watch the claws," he said as he ran back out.

Hux had all four teens in the Drop when Bear returned. "Red's OK," Bear said, "I guess it's just knockout gas." He looked at the boys. "Did you empty their pockets?"

"Yea, I got their IDs and flitches. Took their belts and shoes too. Right?"

"Sure, anything of value." Bear looked closely at their faces. "So. Poor kids. Dump them up on Kay near the Plaza."

"Can do," said Hux. "There's these too," he said, pulling pieces of a terra ball out of his hip pocket. Bear asked, "Is this all you found?"

"Yea, the hall is clean otherwise."

"OK," Bear said. With any luck, he thought, the connection between the incident and N hall would be questionable. He didn't like the idea of city security messing around down in his hall. They were going to want to know what happened to the girl. Let them start looking on Kay. "Be quick with them and don't let anyone see you."

Bear did a scan of the hall as he moved back down N. What happened to the girl? Was the gas bomb hers? Almost certainly not, and he had heard her scream. She must have fallen with the others. The only thing that figured was a grab. A girl with a field detector had been grabbed. By a professional.

Katie was toweling off a very indignant cat when Bear walked in. He got out of his suit and smiled at Katie. "Good thing Red wasn't anywhere near Charlie's."

"I know!"

He put his arms around her and buried his face in her shoulder. Her hair brushed against his eyes and he could feel her shaking, ever so slightly. "I want you to think very hard about that girl," Bear said into her ear. "Any sense of where she went?"

"I've been trying," Katie said, "and it's weird. I must be off tonight, because I get a very deep feel. Much deeper than O."

Hux showed up minutes later. After getting out of his suit, he laid the kid's possessions out onto Katie's carpet. Cred cards, student IDs, med flitches, belts and shoes. "I put them in the pond on Kay," he said. "You want me to run these names on the com?"

"Let Katie do it. Get those terra ball fragments into a bag. And be careful with them."

"What do you think the gas did to the plants," Katie asked.

"Hopefully not much, but we're going to have to find an excuse to do some clearing outside of Charlie's. I'm more worried about those vents. We'd better clean the filters along that section."

"Got a question," Hux said. Bear waited.

"Look. What's the point in giving security mixed signals when you know, with a situation like this, that the first person they will think of is you. Especially if things don't add up."

"That's the point. This thing doesn't add up. I have no idea what's going on here. And in the very possible chance of a security inquiry, that puts us at a big disadvantage. We need time. I know those kid's last memory will be of N hall, but they'll be found on Kay, and any head start I can get will be to our advantage." Bear scratched his beard as he stared up at the pipes and conduits of Katie's ceiling.

"We will...resist," he said.

Bighead Moon
| chapter one | chapter two | chapter three | chapter four | chapter five |
More chapters of this novella are coming soon.
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