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
for review purposes only

Chapter Four
Bear shut the kitchen down as soon as he saw Chief Baker’s face on the com. He was not ready to deal with security yet. Baker’s unannounced call meant he wanted to get the drop on Bear. That wasn’t going to happen. Bear grabbed his pack and made for his back door. There he checked com once more and saw that Hux had run into Baker in the hall. Not good. Hux would have to let him in.

Bear almost changed his mind. His faith in Hux’s ability to appease Baker was not great. But then, how much did Hux really know? Enough to be careful. Bear locked the door behind him and made his way up through the old access. It had been dug as a delivery tube but was never used as such. It was a long low incline and had a sharp turn at the top. There was a carbon drawing of a woman on the wall, right past the turn. Vines twisted around her long legs and a few leaves strategically covered her. Hux had drawn it when he was fourteen.

Bear keyed the com next to the door but the door wouldn’t open. He tried again. Nothing. To free his hands he put his pack down, and in doing so he noticed a couple good sized cracks in the rough stone floor. Lunar quakes were extremely rare at the pole. Bear was not aware of any recent tremors and had noticed no damage in his quarters. This end of the tunnel was quite a distance off, though.

Bear peered up at the tunnel ceiling and assembled in his head a cubic image of where he was in relation to N hall. The tunnel door led out into a storage cave on the high side of O up toward the Main Drop. It was empty save for some old maintenance equipment covered with tarps. It had no access to N. But if it did, where would that put him? Right below Charlie’s? Bear thought that might be so.

Hux said that he had found the Terra ball fragments in front of the old Farms Store. That was just uptunnel of Charlie’s, to Bear’s left as he faced the door. The same direction taken by the cracks. They seemed to radiate out from the left wall and indeed the cracks crept up the left side of the tunnel. Bear had not used his back tunnel for some time. But something unusual had happened in this area the night before. There could be a connection.

He tried the door again but it would not budge. Bear was stuck for the moment, at least until Hux was able to get rid of Baker. "Com, cave B in 200," he said and the small com screen gave him a visual of his living room. Where were they? Then a voice off screen said, "Not in here either." It was Hux. Next, Chief Baker’s bald spot came into view. "Sure smells good," he said.

"He must have just finished lunch," said Hux. "Now he’s out walking it off."

"Mmmmmm," said Baker.

Hux came into view. He was holding a bottle. Bear recognized it as his best scotch. "Have a shot, Chief?" Hux asked. The older man nodded approval.

Bear watched with dismay as Hux removed a large glass from the bar and poured it half full with the liquor. "Thank you much," said Baker.

"No problem," said Hux as he poured one for himself.

"Your father is a clever man, Hux. I’ve known him since he was a child. A skeptic from the start. Your grandfather had a hell of a time with him."

The Chief turned and glanced up at the ceiling. For a moment he seemed to be looking into the room pickup. The old goat knows I’m watching, Bear thought. But Baker turned back around to face Hux.

"What can you tell me about last night?" the Chief asked.

"You’ve got to ask Dad about that. I was asleep. He told me there were some divers found passed out up on Kay. Katie had a call from your people early this morning. Guess the kids got drunk at her place. That’s all I know. So what’s so important about that?"

"One of them is missing."


"A pretty young Earth girl. Just the type you’d like, too."

Hux took a long drink of scotch, swallowed hard, and said, "You know I’ve got too much to lose getting into a mess like that. When Dad passes away, I’ll inherit all of this. I don’t need to be jeopardizing my cubic owner status."

Great, thought Bear, guzzle my scotch and eye the property.

"You’re not as much the radical as your father, eh?" Baker asked.

"I know what you think of him, but you must understand that Dad is not a bad guy. You should be thankful that he is here. The situation in the deep halls could be much worse. Things are very hard down here and he is the one person who holds it all together."

"What he is holding is a matter of record. I hope."

"I’m sure you have nothing to worry about with respect to Dad. I do hope you find your missing girl."

All right, Hux, Bear thought, now get him out of there!

"One more thing," said Baker, "Your father maintains a nice bank of pickups along N and O. Any data files from last night?"

"No, we only use them for live feed. There’s no real backup system for them."

"Maybe we could subsidize that."

Hux let out a short laugh. "Yea, right."

"Well, it’s a shame I missed Bear. Guess I’ll have to call him up to the station. Damn inconvenience but it can’t be helped. The missing girl has a priority tag. I really need results on this one. Mmm. Thank him for the scotch, will you?"

"Sure thing." Bear watched as Hux put the glasses on the bar and led Chief Baker out of pickup range and to the door. Bear switched to his front hall feed as they shook hands.

"Nice to see you, Chief. We appreciate all the good work you do."

"Yea. Right."

Zeus Dayton began holding his breath as the drop door closed. He had done this exercise in endurance since he was a teen, when he first developed an idea of his purpose in life. Personal challenge was everything to him. He had determined that a person could indefinitely improve himself by constantly striving to out-do self-performance. Competition with others, while important, meant far less than competition with the self.

When he was twenty years old, Zeus could hold his breath for a full minute. At twice that age, he could now go almost twice as long. The display in the car showed official Lunar time in tenths of a second, which gave the impression that the car was moving fast. In fact, it moved slowly. When it stopped to let on new passengers, Zeus stood to the back, silent. His residence hall, F, could be two minutes away, maybe more, if the car stopped on enough floors.

As passengers boarded from B hall, Zeus gave them a calm, easy smile, as if to say, "Take your time." The car skipped Civilians but held on Dee as a boy struggled to get an oversized delivery cart into the car. The boy dropped a package and had to hold the door with his foot while he bent over to pick it up. Zeus moved further to the back and kept an even smile.

E hall was especially busy. When the doors had finally closed on it Zeus checked the clock. Ninety three seconds. Standing in the back of the car, he waited patiently. The doors opened slowly onto F Hall and as he left the car he marked the time. One hundred ten seconds, ten short of two minutes. He took a deep breath and scowled. Maybe tomorrow he would get a chance to beat two minutes. The Lyle case might require his presence down on N.

Zeus opened the door to his cave while thinking of the four students that had accompanied Ms. Lyle the night before. They were under detention in the security complex, attending classes via com. Zeus was determined to prove their innocence.

The thought of Makavitch, and what he stood for, made Zeus sick. If NorthAm were successful, the port would be pulled one more step away from the jurisdiction of city security. Eventually port security might be controlled by off-Luna concerns. What chance would those four kids have if a system like that swept them up? They’d probably be shipped up to a no-G cell in the core of L4, left there to vomit their guts out while waiting for a hearing.

Zeus keyed his auto kitchen. Service was offering two acceptable choices. Fish and greens or breadsteak. He chose the fish.

While eating he watched the port news. The incoming and outgoing ships fascinated him. Their destinations, cargoes and passengers were representative of a human network that stretched from Earth to the asteroids. Zeus had never been past L4, the great station ahead of Luna in her orbit. But he had plans. Mars was a major draw. He wanted badly to visit there someday. Not settle; just visit for a cycle. Home would always be Bighead City.

Something in the news caught his attention. A personal ship in from Terra LEO. Private yachts traveling cis-lunar space had become increasingly more common. It would be some very rich someone. Must be nice, he thought. Then he stopped, a fork full of greens half way to his mouth. The name of the arriving pilot was Dr. Zebig Apolloweight, a man Zeus had dealt with before. The doctor had gotten mixed up in a nasty cryonic lawsuit, and the city had terminated his license. He had illegally continued his practice, and it was Zeus who had done the research and footwork that had led to the doctor’s eventual arrest. The court, of course, had found reason enough to throw the case out, and the doctor had left Bighead City.

Now, some ten years later, Apolloweight was returning. Zeus stared at the screen. Data code was a specialty of his. The yacht was registered to a LEO dock. Zeus recognized the assignment. The orbital dock was one of many owned by Just Add Water, an interplanetary concern that he believed deserved its common name, the JAW.

Just Add Water was in the ice business. They mined it from the Bighead Outcrop, processed it for Bighead City and sold it to the port for fuel and shield use. They controlled both the fish and plant farms and had the best bio labs on Luna. It was JAW money that ran the Medical University as well as the franchised Farm Stores.

Zeus keyed Chief Baker’s com. The Chief, it said, was down at Kay Station. Zeus switched over to Velma at the office desk, and asked her if Baker was aware of Apolloweight’s arrival. No. "When he gets back," Zeus said, "let him know."

Dr. Pass Nabi sat in his darkened office and stared at the com screen in disbelief. He was being transferred. An opening at the Farms. It was automatic. But he had assumed that he would take over Dr. Rama’s post at Quality Lab. Did the Bam Lyle situation account for it? Pass believed that his contact was an employee of Just Add Water, probably someone high up considering the money involved.

The Quality Lab was to be turned over to a Dr. Apolloweight. Pass was to make the transition the next day to the Farms Special Lab. There was an increase in salary, but something of a decrease in status, to say nothing about the commute. His wives would not want to move out of their Grand Plaza cave. No Bighead would.

Pass pulled an atomizer out of his shirt pocket, opened his mouth and shot a spray of Tuval into the back of his throat. He was sure that he had handled the Lyle affair with discretion. The boys had no reason to suspect that Pass was anything but sincere in his willingness to help sneak a restricted Earth girl out of the University compound. It was Pass who had described the exotic drinks served at the Anything Possible to a fascinated Bam. It was he who had, upon instruction, informed Yassi of the date of the affair. It was his carefulness that got them out safely and without suspicion.

Everything had gone well. So why was he being transferred? Had he made some mistake, with respect to the University? He probably wouldn’t be teaching there next term because of the Farms job. Couldn’t really do both.

Bea and Chaude would hold this against him, despite the salary increase. But he would have an excuse to spend more time away from them. They were more interested in each other anyway. And the Special Lab had its own dorm. Some nice green singles there.

Dr. Rama’s death had produced an uncomfortable transition for Pass. Maybe this transfer would help complete it. There was a beauty to the Farms that had always touched him.

Sure, he thought, let’s see how that goes. Dr. Apolloweight could have the Quality Labs. Why not? But just so that he doesn’t look too efficient after the transfer.

Pass keyed a file shuffle based upon the late Dr. Rama’s unusual system of using Hindu keywords. The shuffle would put the system out of departmental order. To an outsider it would all look the same. If needed, Pass could blame it on the eccentric Dr. Rama, who was, after all, conveniently dead.

Katie stroked Red’s chin. He held his eyes closed while she did it. Red was skeptical of most people, but he trusted Katie. Of course, no one owned Red. He was not really ‘ownable’ in the true sense of the word. But Katie’s kitchen fed him so he made concessions when it came to her. He allowed Katie to touch him, like when she brushed him or rubbed his amble belly, something no one else was privy to.

Katie had only a few minutes before it would be time to go up her back stairs to the AnyPoss’s kitchen. She didn’t feel like working. Actually she didn’t feel like going through the kitchen set up. On the other hand, working the bar was different. She always enjoyed the people.

Red purred in her ear as she scratched between his shoulder blades.They were lying on the spongy soft floor of her living room. A soft music ran through the warm floor...a classical piece from Earth...from the library. Katie stretched out and started thinking about reality. She had invited security from a few upper halls to come around for a ‘free beer’ when they got off. A sign of good faith and backed up by Bear.

Bear had something like a mental allergy whenever it came to security. But he wasn’t foolish. They needed to do this.

And his attitude surprised her, though it shouldn’t have. Her sixth sense was almost useless with Bear. He knew how to effectively scramble her thinking.

Red sad up and looked at Katie. His eyes, suddenly alert, fixed on her while his ears turned backwards toward the com.

Red was always a full second up on incoming calls. Katie stood up in one motion as the com buzzed. She expected Bear or Hux and waited for the call-through. When nothing happened, she said, "Run."

"Hamlin Hotel memo. Dr. Zebig Apolloweight wished to inform you of his arrival. No attach."

"Cut," Katie snapped as she put on her shirt. Her spine had grown cold with the message. Zebig was not someone she wanted to hear from. She pulled on her pants and grabbed her pack. Red, aware of her emotion, made for the bedroom.

As she climbed up the back steps it occurred to her that she had very little to worry about because she had Bear, and Bear knew what she thought about Zebig.

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