|Bighead Moon Stories are in the tradition of classic hard science fiction.
|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.
|Upcoming stories: UFOs Over Woodstock, The Girl with the Yin Yang Belly Button, Fan the Ember Moon.
Member International Association of Astronomical Artists
|Anderson Farms, circa 2195
|text and illustrations copyright © 2002 - 2020 Peter Thorpe
for review purposes only
|Bam sat on the stool behind the harp. The instrument rested on her left shoulder, as Dee had shown her, and she worked the sixteen positioned notes of the double C scale one at a time with her right hand. All four fingers were curled and used successively in four rounds. Bam had quickly picked up the pattern from Dee’s demonstration. "How about A?" Bam asked but Dee said, "Learn C first, forwards and backwards. Then practice it with your eyes closed.
The Senator had left them several hours before. He had promised Bam that a suitable ‘rescue’ would be arranged in time. "Until then you’re on paid leave, and your University studies and credits will be frozen." That had sounded just fine to her. School was not exactly her favorite form of education.
"How about my stuff?" she asked.
"For the moment we’re going to have to leave everything where it is. The clothes you were wearing last night are being saved for possible use. Might be nice if they turned up at Union headquarters," he said with a wink.
Dee had said a funny thing right after he left. "It’s a shame he won’t grow up, eh?" Bam didn’t know what to answer to that. Makavitch seemed very grown up to her.
"Are you attached to him?" Dee asked.
"That depends," Bam answered, so Dee said, "Tell me all about it."
"I hardly remember my folks. It’s been the Law Guild for me ever since they died. When I was still in Fours I heard about a senior professor named Makavitch. I guess I kinda fixed on him and when I graduated Intro I put in for his office. I didn’t go through the initial ‘harem shock’ that most first year pledges do; in fact I was up for assistant status within the first few months, and finally passed when I turned sixteen.
"At first the Senator’s Lunar work was not very important to me. I was in the home office. Then a year ago there was a shake up in the clan and I was offered several choices for advancement. Travel assist was one. I asked Kari what she thought. She is senior wife. "You should think of going to the Moon," she said.
It was then that I first realized I’d be coming up here."
"Over here," Dee corrected.
"Yes, over here. Kari said that she had been to Luna some years back with the Senator and it was not to be missed. Many of the others were trying for it too, but I won on points of youth, grades, and service. I’m real good at service."
"I’m sure you are," said Dee with a noncommittal nod.
"Only most of the time he doesn’t seem to care. It’s his business that matters most of course, and I understand that. But hard work gets you quota, as the saying goes. Anyway, if you want to know how I feel about him, well, I guess I have an agenda too."
"Very good," said Dee, "if you have that then you have most of what you need. You are a lot like your mother, you know, and if you can keep yourself alive longer than she did then you may go far."
"How well did you know her?"
"About as well as I know you. I only met her once at one of the family meets at L4. That was maybe thirty years ago. She was just a kid, younger than you are now. She was flirting with one of the station boys and actually went off and got lost with him for a while. Caused quite a fuss as I remember."
Bam smiled. "Then she was a trouble maker?"
"Oh, yes. Had a reputation. It’s a shame your father’s guild got you instead of your mother’s people. You have a lot of family history to catch up on. Between you and me there are six generations of Andersons, Langhams and Metcalfs. My grandson married your mother’s mother. Joe and Kim. Like your parents they died together while they were relatively young."
"They were on the Terrazee."
"No, the reactor explosion killed all aboard instantaneously. Not a bad way to go really, just bad timing. When your folks went down at Europa they were probably thinking of Joe and Kim."
"Yes, they had time to think in that one."
"For perspective, let me point out to you that a person my age has been thinking those thoughts for a long time. On the other hand we get some satisfaction out of beating the odds. I am glad that I’ve lived long enough to meet you, for instance."
"Bam, I want you to be able to say that to your own grandchildren one day. I want that partially out of good wishes and partially because there is something that I have started that you might like to continue. More of that later. Right now I’d like to know just how dear life is to you. Not just your own, but all life."
"Oh, I like living. I have no religious illusions, though I hope for an afterlife just like everyone else. But reality suits me just fine. I mean everything is interesting if you look at it the right way."
"That’s right. How about the preciousness of all life?"
"The way I see it, anything that can say ‘I am’ deserves to challenge the universe. But if I want to eat it then it might have a problem."
"Ah, well. In time you may come to choose hunger," Dee said quietly.
While Bam thought about that Lynn returned with a pair of grip shoes for her. She put them on as Lynn helped to guide Dee’s chair out into the hall. "Excuse us for a minute, dear," Dee said.
Bam pulled the harp back onto her shoulder and practiced the scale once again. She closed one eye and played the scale, then tried again with the other eye closed. At first it didn’t sound right, but she kept going without opening her eyes, and eventually she had it. She wanted very badly to impress Dee.
The weight of her relation to Dee, and the legendary Anderson clan, had not yet fully settled into Bam’s consciousness. In Fours she had read Adam Anderson’s Oh My Monkeys with delight. Other Anderson titles were less known to her though she had seen the holo The Name of the Enemy, which had been based on one of his books.
It seemed too unreal, this sudden realization that she was related to this man. Why hadn’t Makavitch told her? That was simple, he never told her anything of real substance. Well, she thought, the Makavitch days may soon be over. It was not an unattractive thought.
Dee returned with Lynn in tow. She watched Bam for a moment before turning her chair around toward Lynn. "Dinner first," she said, "then we’ll go down. Tell Masami to prep the south wing guest room for her."
"Should I tell Bill?"
"No, not yet. Don’t tell anyone except Masami. Let’s try to surprise the rest."
Bam could hear Dee’s chair turn. It moved towards her. She kept her attention focused on the harp. After a moment she noticed that Dee was softly whistling notes along with her. Bam finally stopped, opened her eyes and asked, "What were you doing there?"
"I was whistling the fifth of each note that you were playing. It’s called harmony."
"So, now all we need is some percussion?"
"I don’t know about that," Dee said with a laugh. "How about some dinner instead?"
Bam trailed after Dee uptunnel and then into a cross hall, which led to a large chamber filled with potted trees, hanging plants and soilboxes filled with flowers. It was brightly lit by sun feeds. An archway at the far end led to the dining room. Lynn was placing a tray onto the table when they came in.
"Bam, you sit on that end where you can look out at the trees. Lynn, get her whatever she wants to drink."
Bam surveyed the salmon steaks on the tray. "Have you got Vodkavia?" she asked. Lynn nodded.
"I’ll have the same, whatever that is," Dee said.
Lynn said, "Ms. Anderson, Vodkavia is a rather strong."
"I don’t care. This is a special occasion. Bam and I are going one-on-one so I’ll have the same, thank you."
Bam smiled as Lynn walked off. "So, can’t you drink what you want?"
Dee inhaled slowly. "Alcohol is something I really don’t need. But I manage to find an excuse every now and then."
"You know, on Earth the popular view of Bigheads is that they are all..."
"Among other things."
"No, that’s all right." Luna deserves much of its reputation. But you are now in a part of Luna that is not well known to Mother Earth. This will give you a chance to form an opinion of your own. We do things a little differently here."
Lynn returned with their cocktails. She served the salmon and vegetables to Dee and Bam and then prepared a plate for herself, which she took back to the kitchen.
Dee gingerly tried her drink. "Mmmmmm."
"Not bad, huh?"
"Very good." Dee sniffed it with her eyes closed. "My own kitchen should stock this."
"You mean this isn’t your place?"
"No, well, sort of. It is my husband’s. He lets me use it when he’s not around."
"Is the harp his?"
"Technically it’s mine. But he plays it better than I do." Dee turned the plate’s heat up slightly as she spoke. "This is my second husband, of course. You’ll like David. He’s chairbound, like me. Makes it easy to outrun him, and with the way you look, you might have to do that."
Bam made a face at Dee. "So if you don’t live here, then where?"
"Well, that is what we are going to find out. First, can you guess where you are now?"
"Bighead City? Or an old part of it?"
"No, this has a couple unauthorized accesses to the city, but this is not a part off it. This," Dee said with a sweep of her hand towards the walls and ceiling, "is Top Five. It is an early support facility for the original mass driver. These caves were deep housing and storage supports for the launcher. We are some twenty kilometers up the Bighead Ridge from the city. We are very close to the pole.
"I live another three kilometers from here, but in a different direction. After dinner we will be going there."
"Does the Senator know?"
"No, he thinks I live here. Bam, I want you to be clear on this. The Senator is not important. If I am correct, he will be dead soon. That is not for sure, but I cannot see it any other way. He has been nice to me, so I should not be so cold. He is really David’s acquaintance and I think he believes that Top Five is going to do him a lot of good. Indeed, his objectives and ours are not that different.
"But he has made one too many enemies on Luna. This time I think he won’t be going back. I am sorry for you and your clan."
Bam said nothing for a minute. She thought of Kari and the girls. They would inherit lifetime pensions if the Senator died. No need to be sorry for them.
"Of course, Bam, I could be wrong."
Lynn came in with fresh drinks. They ate in silence then finished with a light iced desert, which had a flavor that Bam could not place. It smelled like apricots, but tasted like something else.
Over coffee, Bam gathered the courage to ask, "If he dies, would they want to…you know, me too?"
"You could be in danger from collateral damage. I don’t know. But you are much safer with me. Don’t worry about it."
"Aren’t you going to warn him?"
"Oh I already have. Doesn’t make any difference. You don’t think he’s going to take an old lady seriously, do you? But he is well aware of the dangers he has put himself, and you, into. In a way, your disappearance will for a while make his life somewhat safer. The various political and commercial groups that are closing in on him will be confused by this development. They will be forced into a defensive position in regards to you. He has bought himself only so much time though. I’ve seen many like him come and go. He is ambitious and crafty, but he is not lucky.
"Luck counts for a lot, Bam. Luck is in the blood, and we have it."
Bam sipped her coffee as she listened. The vodka drinks had been strong, but the coffee was striking. Her eyes watered from the steam.
"Our family is a fascinating study in beating the odds," Dee said. "That can also be applied to your mother and others in the clan who, on the face of it, seemed to have had undue misfortune such as an early death. And then there are those, like David, who would say that even that is no curse."
"Yes, I saw the inscription over the study," said Bam as she was trying to focus on Dee. The coffee was a fountain of steam that she could not keep her face out of.
"You are a fine example of luck, Bam. You were orphaned at a very young age and you climbed a difficult ladder. You managed to climb high enough to find yourself leaving your birth world on an adventure to its moon. But you were lucky enough to have an ancestor who maximized an opportunity to meet you."
Bam was totally fixed on Dee’s voice. The sound took over her watery image. She put down her coffee and rubbed her eyes. Her head felt numb, and she lowered it to the table. It didn’t seem strange to her that there was no change in Dee’s soft voice as she said, "That’s right, Bam, you are a very lucky girl."
Bear held out his hand. "Let’s see what that gadget has to tell us."
Hux removed the field detector from his pocket and turned the tiny dial on the back of it to ‘open’. He watched as his father connected a hairline from house com to the instrument’s access. Bear keyed it as Hux sat down on the soft floor. The transfer of code took a few seconds because of its complexity.
"There’s about a hundred patents on this thing," he said.
"Security has always been a lawyer’s playground," Hux observed.
Bear searched through the licensing codes. "It looks like a LEO legal holding. I think I recognize it. How much you want to bet this is Just Add Water property?"
"That would be interesting."
"Well, a private company, having an illegal security device, should not be a surprise."
"You really think the JAW would not care if that got in the press?"
"No. Public opinion is not the most important thing to them. They control enough of it to ride out almost anything. Besides, it would be an act of suicide for Luna to kill the JAW. What I’d really like to see is a change from inside. A shift from Earth to Luna control. But in the meantime?"
"In the mean time good luck! This is just the sort of information seed that could yield some results."
"Don’t kid yourself, it’s a weed. Only a weed."
"All right, have it your way. As long as we can keep our independence, why should I worry, right?"
"No, you should worry." Bear turned to face Hux. "You did very well with Chief Baker. I can trust you to be discrete with the things you know, but then, how much do you know? There is still a lot to learn. I worry that you might be caught by naivete."
"Thanks a lot."
"There are also things we will need to talk through soon about your inheritance. This incident, security in our face, means I need to tell you a few more things than I had planned at this point."
Hux laughed. "Like that you own polar acres on Mars?"
"No, and no asteroid stuff either. Just a bit more of ‘ole Luna that I have mentioned before."
"Remember what your Grandfather believed in?"
"You don’t mean the Deep Caves?"
"Not exactly, but tell me this, where do the service structures below this apartment end?"
"If there was a hidden access down there I would have found it long ago."
"What if the access were very small, say the size of your fist?"
"What good would that be? What could go down it?"
Bear rubbed his fingers together as he answered. "Water," he said.
Dr. Zebig Apolloweight floated in a hot bath on the Earthview Terrace of the Hamlin Hotel. He watched a young couple as they sat arm in arm across from him in the bath. The young lady was whispering something into her boyfriend’s ear. Zebig tried not to notice.
Behind the couple, Zebig could see the lunar horizon. The stark surface was etched with an irregular grid of covered roadways. Just above the horizon hung a cloud enshrouded Earth. A piece of a continent showed through. NorthAm. But the clouds were dense over most of it. It was late summer.
Zebig focused on Earth’s western limb. Just above the gleaming edge there were the lights of Terra LEO. They were strong enough to be seen from Luna during times when the low orbit station was not in front of Earth’s bright side.
Terra LEO had been home to Zebig for the last ten years. And for all of those year he watched the Moon. It was like the classic Zimmerman holo, The Face of the Moon, the time lapsed image of the worried face of the Moon slowly yawing back and forth. It was the libration effect, sped up, as seen from Earth’s northern hemisphere. Luna shook its big head back and forth, and for Zebig, it was saying ‘Noooooo’.
The couple in the tub had stopped cuddling and were now starting to notice him. "Please, don’t mind me," Zebig said.
"Oh, sorry, we didn’t mean to offend you," the girl said.
"Nonsense. There is nothing offensive about young lovers."
"Well, thank you." She stood up as she spoke. Zebig watched the slow moving puddles of water slide down her abdomen. He winked at her boyfriend and said, "And you are on vacation?"
"Honeymoon’" he said.
"Ah, of course. And where better to spend it?"
"Oh, we’re from Luna. We really wanted to do it in null gee but L4 was too expensive." The young man gave Zebig an embarrassing shrug.
"Believe me, it’s easier with a bit of gravity."
The girl’s face flushed. Zebig smiled and asked, "Do you live here in the city?"
"We will now," she said. "We’ve been roommates for two years at the Farms, but Ted got promoted." She paused for a second and then held out her hand. "I’m Wend."
Zebig shook her hand and then Ted’s. "Pleased to meet you. My name is Zebig. I’m actually Moonborn, but have spent most of my life away. It’s nice to be back. But, tell me, aren’t you sad to be leaving the Farms behind?"
"No because now we get a whole apartment to ourselves, just down Dee Hall. And we’ll keep it very green, don’t worry." She brushed more water off of her hips.
"So you are doing well. When I was your age I had a cave down on M Hall with four roommates. We were all interns. I’m a doctor, you see. I could have lived in the med compound but the lower halls had scan security, etc."
"Hardly anybody lives down there anymore," Wend said with a frown. "It’s a dangerous place now. Just last night an Earth girl went missing down there."
"They don’t know where she is," Ted put in. "But LunaID says she was important to the NorthAm government."
"But that thing happens down there all the time," added Wend.
"What a shame, it used to be a great place." Zebig stood and reached for a towel. "I was thinking of going down there tonight, but maybe I shouldn’t."
"No," Wend smiled, "It’s OK, if you stick to the better known bars."
"The Anything Possible on N," Ted said. "It’s a good place."
Well, thought Zebig as he wrapped the towel around his waist. At least some things haven’t changed.
Katie hugged Bear when he came up the back stairs to the AnyPoss kitchen. "What was that for?" he asked.
"Just glad to see you."
Katie had finished the food prep and was moving cylinders of tap up towards the bar door for easy access later on. Saturday night was the busiest of the week. Patrons usually went through at least ten cylinders on Saturdays.
Bear took over the heavy work. "Chief Baker showed up at my place. I bailed into the back access. Hux showed up while Baker was still at the door and let him in, talked to him. Hux did all right. I was going to use the access out door, but it was jammed."
Katie turned on the foliage misters. Her kitchen was oldstyle, wood tables and shelves, a vine rack, spice tanks, a fruit and veg hydro stack, and a small grain room.
"Hux let Baker in?"
"Couldn’t be helped. But it went well. I just wish he hadn’t given Baker the good scotch."
Katie turned to look at him. "You should have that stuff hidden. I’ve had it on backorder for almost a year now, and no sign that I’ll be getting any soon." She stopped to brush his beard down with her hands. "That’s the last of it, you know."
Katie opened the bar door and asked com for lights. Bear filled buckets with ice and hauled them into the bar, where he dumped them into the ice basins below the bar counter. Com reacted by starting the refrigeration cycle on the basins. After checking the soilbox monitors, Katie voice cued the misters for the plants. The pearl roses that grew around the bar mirror slowly opened in appreciation. Once the misters were finished, Katie unlocked the liquor cabinet and the steel security panel slid up.
"Hux found the girl’s earring in the soilbox in front of the old Farms store." Bear had sat down at the bar after drawing a beer for himself at the tap. Katie got an ice water and sat down on the stool next to him. She wrapped her legs around his and asked, "Did you check inside the store?"
"Can’t get in. The lock code has been changed recently. I had the JAW code for that unit but it won’t work now. The door looks like it’s been handled in the last few days. The dust was wiped in spots along the lower slats." He stopped to take a sip of his beer. "And I’m fairly sure that the field detector is JAW property."
"I see," Katie said. She sighed and started to say something, then stopped.
"What is it, honey." Bear asked.
"Well, I got a notice. Apolloweight checked into the Hamlin today."
"Really." Bear’s face went blank for a moment.
Katie reached out and stroked his beard. "Not only do I not want to see him, I don’t want to even remember his name. Don’t make it hard for me."
"OK. I won’t say it if you don’t need it."
Bear drew a circle in the mist on the bar top. "But, I will not allow security or the JAW to dig in my hole. If they want to have fun with topside politics, then fine, but if this kidnapping becomes a focal point..."
"What can we do?"
"For one thing I can call a meeting of the Independents. As a matter of fact I can do that tonight. Hux can watch the patrons."
"But he gets angry so easily."
"I’ll tell him to keep it down, but don’t be afraid to let him loose if you need to." Bear finished his beer then kissed Katie’s forehead. "The moot will be at my place if I can manage it. Call if there’s trouble, but trust Hux. I’ll send him right around. Don’t open till he gets here."
Katie gave him a squeeze and saw him to the kitchen stairs. As he went down she smiled at his long black hair and square shoulders. His Asian ancestors were of strong country stock. She had always loved the type, and now she had one. A good one. Bear had found it hard to believe that she would prefer his looks to the handsome Apolloweight. Zebig looked like a statue and had a speaker’s deep resonant voice. All of Katie’s girlfriends had been envious of her relationship with Apolloweight. It was ironic that she was the only one who though Zebig’s looks to be plain. For her, their relation had been based on economics. It was something she was not proud of, but in the end it did prove profitable. After all, she had gotten an apartment out of it.
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