|Bighead Moon Stories are in the tradition of classic hard science fiction.
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|Bighead City, Lunar North Pole
|A Bighead Moon Story
text and illustration copyright © 2002 - 2017 Peter Thorpe
word count: 3750
for review purposes only
|In the law firm of Davis, Davis, Grumble and Davis, I am the odd name out. It may be an unusual name, but I am from a proud family and we are used to the inevitable jokes and comments. Its origin is the Old German "Grimbald", meaning helmet-bold.
DDG&D is one of NorthAm's finest firms specializing in Space Law. Located in Houston, Texas, the concern originated way back in the early days of cis-lunar space exploration and development. If you need to do something in space, legally, see us.
Perhaps one of my most interesting clients to date has been Jason Silver, the 'Silver Star,' an elder well-known musician and composer from Austin. As I was to find out, he was a major player in the entertainment industry. He had two Grammys, an Oscar, and had worked with the best talents in the business. As a pioneer of Slamtronic, or Magnetica music, he is considered a serious force in music history. Magnetica involves whole body control, via magnetic and sonic forces.
Although I find the idea interesting, I'd never attend that sort of concert. I prefer classical music, played in a respectable hall, with comfortable seating.
With his band Klock, he produced the album Underwater Sun, which will be remembered by many people. But Silver was not a one trick pony. My research showed that he was influential in a surprising variety of artistic categories.
I first met him in the early spring of 2140. He is what you see on the com, a tall, dynamic man with a cock's comb of silver hair on his head, and a bellowing voice. He employed our firm to assist in closing the estate of his wife, Annie, who had just passed away. He was unhappy with his previous lawyers, and, as he told me, he decided to move his business to DDG&D because of the name Grumble. "Any entity with that name in it can't be all that bad," he said. "And of course it is you, Grumble, that I wish to work with."
"You do understand that Space Law is our specialty?"
"Yes, and that is my primary reason for hiring you. But first I want Annie's estate settled. There are some details there, endowments and charities. We had no children. Get that done and then I want to get off this planet. I want to move to the Moon."
His plan was simple enough. Take care of his wife's estate, and then use his remaining assets to secure passage to Luna. He wanted us to facilitate a place of residence for him, complete his immigration requirements, and arrange passage. There was one problem, though.
"You are aware," I asked, "that there are age restrictions on immigration to Luna?" He was obviously over 50. Beyond that age you had little chance of being accepted. Exceptions were rare.
"Yes, of course, I know the rules. But I'm sure you can find a way around them!"
By the end of our initial interview I had gotten all of the vital information. He was 76 years old and had substantial assets, but not enough in my opinion to buy his way around regulations. Not that we here at DDG&D would do anything like that. But Silver had enough to purchase citizenship and a decent cave in Bighead City. The city, at Luna's north pole, was NorthAm's only publicly available settlement. The only other places to live on the Moon were Japan's Hiten City, at Luna's south pole, the expansive Farside Observatory, and various small research stations. They were all very much out of the question. Hiten was, for the most part, off limits to non Pan-Asians, and you really could not buy yourself into a science base. So it would have to be Bighead City, where immigration is limited to those under 50 years of age who could prove useful to community and business needs. They wanted a vibrant, young, workforce.
"Have you considered just visiting the city, as a tourist?"
"No. That is not the point. I promised Annie that I would stay here on Earth as long as she was alive. She is gone now, and I want to move. It is a long time dream of mine. I grew up watching the Lunar and Martian colonizations. I have been enamored by space settlement all of my life. I want to make this move in any way possible."
"And have you considered Mars too?"
"No. Luna has more to offer to an old man. Less gravity than on Mars."
I looked him in the eyes. There was passion there. I could not default that. I understood. But I didn't see any easy way around the regulations concerning age. Silver had substantial resources if he wanted to retire anywhere on Earth. But Luna…
"OK," I said. "The matter of your wife's estate will be routine. As far as the Moon goes, well, I'm sorry, but we'll see."
"Oh, stop grumbling, Grumble!" It was not the last time that he said that to me.
I ignored the comment. "I'll need a physical from your doctor, plus a full medical history. As you liquidate your assets, I'll need financial statement updates. We can start the ball rolling right away, Mr. Silver, but I cannot promise that I can get you to the Moon."
The required three months for closing Annie's estate passed without a hitch. Silver liquidated and divested his various assets and delivered a health report from his doctor that was almost too stellar to believe. The health and financial reports framed the basis of the immigration request. I added testimonies from various famous people in the music business that I had contacted. He was well loved in the entertainment community and I was surprised to see how many well-known stars stepped up to deliver impassioned arguments in his favor. Also, Silver added to his assets by auctioning many of his rare collectible instruments, recordings, letters and photos. I was surprised by how much that brought in, but then he was a famous musician.
He once asked me what music I liked. I said Beethoven. I consider that a safe answer. Plus I actually do love classical music. He asked, "And what else?"
"Some of the modern psudo-symphonic material is good."
"Even opera, modern as well as classic?"
"Yes, even opera." I smiled and threw the ball back into his court. "I'd think you would be an opera fan, what with your Slamtronic, dramatic, people manipulating music. Yes? Although I have a hard time believing that can be legal!" I ended with a laugh but he did not seem to notice.
"I love the classics too," he said. "Beethoven, Ellington, Zappa, Anderson…you have to love history! I'll give you points on Beethoven. But what about recent stuff?"
"Why, your music of course!" I said.
He ran his fingers through his hair, looked at me as if I were something unpleasant, and said, "Grumble, don't ever lie to me like that again."
I was beginning to think he might just have a chance at a waiver. Luna City's municipal chamber accepted the request without comment and then we waited. The summer was almost over when we got an answer. I called Silver in to the office to give him the result.
"I'll cut to the quick, Mr. Silver. You almost had them. They expressed definite interest in having a legend for a new resident. Your music is well known there. In fact, they want you to visit, play a series of concerts, even record there. But you cannot legally move there due to a prior drug conviction. Something that you failed to inform me about."
"What??!! That was 50 years ago! And it was for TH-synth! I did no time, only community service. I didn't even think that would be on the books anymore!"
"Well it is and it prevents you from immigrating. I suggest you take them up on the offer to visit. Make friends there. See if there is any way to gain some sort of inroad. You might not be able to call yourself a resident, but you might find your guest visa renewed periodically."
"What good is that? I could be kicked out anytime. I must have a residence!" He was visibly shaken. He dropped into a chair and raised his left hand to his chest. It was the first indication to me that his health report might have been a bit doctored.
He noticed me looking at his hand and quickly moved it to the chair's armrest. "Grumble," he said, "I intend to die on the Moon. There's got to be a way to move there permanently. What if I bought into a parked ship there at the port, and lived in it in the dry dock? I've heard that there are a few old yachts and freighters that just sit in the hangers. People live in them. Too valuable to scrap, too complicated to fly. Right?"
"That is true, and there are waiting lists for those ships. The residents are not necessarily Lunar citizens. The laws concerning their status are vague. Plus, it is far more expensive to live in a parked craft. I can't see how that would work for you."
"There has got to be some way!"
"Mars has a much younger legal restriction for immigration. They want people. I again urge you to consider moving to Mars."
"Absolutely not. Nor will I consider the L4 colony. It has to be Luna. Are you familiar with my work? Have you ever heard the song Slammer?"
"Yes, I researched your work and saw that that was a huge hit."
"I wrote that with Ben Dover of Lick. Do you know the words?"
"I don't really pay much attention to lyrics, I'm afraid."
"I see. Well, anyway, it has to do with sex, but the song uses Luna and asteroids allegorically."
"And it illustrates your love for the Moon?"
"Love does not have to be erotic. But I nevertheless refer to Luna as my preferred mistress. Her naked beauty has always spoken to me. Her beautiful face, always smiling at Earth, haunts my dreams. Annie was my backbone. There were plenty of groupies along the way, of course, and much fun was had there. But Selene, as the ancients called our Moon, is my destiny and I plan to have her!"
I stared at him. He was obviously waxing lyrical. He was a storyteller. I didn't have to wonder about his sincerity. "If I can get your conviction overturned," I said, "and if I can get the age restriction waived, it may be possible. But it could be expensive. You may end up with insufficient funds."
"Grumble, I'll live in a closet if that closet is on Luna. Just make it work."
So I set out to have a 50 year-old drug conviction overturned. It took time to get it to trial and it was closing in on winter before I could get a ruling. Though not an easy task, it was partially successful. I was able to get a reduction in the conviction to misdemeanor, which gave us the ability to reapply for immigration. Another couple of months went by before we had an answer.
I called Silver in to my office once more to give him the news. He was looking older, having in fact turned 77 in December, but his eyes were still filled with fire. He sat down and waited. "Well, we have progress," I said. You have been offered Green Card status. I have friends in the municipal at Bighead City and they really want you there. So they are trying. But to attain a card, you need to be related to a current resident there. Ever considered getting married again?"
His face turned sullen. He ran his fingers through his hair, stood up and said, "No." After a pause he asked, "How much do I owe you?"
"Mr. Silver, we can make this work! If not via the card, we will find some way."
"Like what? And how much money will I have left once this is all over? I should have stuck with my previous lawyers!"
"Would they have done any better? Would they have been any cheaper?"
"No and no." He sat down again. "I am sorry Grumble. They stiffed me on a royalty deal some years ago. I could never go back to them. I apologize. I'm just frustrated." His shoulders slumped and the lines in his face seemed to deepen. "I suppose I should do as you suggested and just visit the city while you work on some plan of permanency."
"Very good. I will get to work on that right away. Have you ever been to space before?"
"Yes, right before the turn of the century I did a benefit gig on L4. It was great. Especially with Luna just out the windows…just out of reach but so close!"
"OK. So you know that you will need a physical for your passage, and it will have to be with the transport's people, not your doctor."
His face turned dark with that. "No, I didn't know. I don't remember any sort of physical before."
"It was not a regulation 40 years ago."
"Damn the regulations!"
"I sympathize with you, sir, but that is where we are now. Are you up for it?"
"Yes. Make the arrangements and let me know."
"Fine. And I would advise that you keep away from the synth until then."
Unfortunately he failed the medical. The best and easiest transport to Luna is Luna Lanes. We tried them first. After the fail we went to Space Ways, but with the same result. I had just set up a test with VGalactic when Silver called to say he was not going to do another. "You are giving up?" I asked.
"Certainly not. I am simply going to travel privately. Ever hear of Dreamscape Tours?"
"The tourist transport company. Sure."
"That's right. They have several ageing specialty ships that they want to get rid of. I just bought one."
"What? Those craft are nothing more than glorified space yachts, dressed up for show. For a trip to Luna…"
"Take a look at this craft," he said. A video opened on my com and I found myself looking at the most unlikely piece of fake space history that I'd ever seen. It was a retro styled rocket, the sort that was envisioned in the middle of the twentieth century, shaped like a bullet, complete with four large stabilizer fins.
"And who is going to fly you to the Moon in this?"
"Just me, Grumble. I bypass all of the regs by flying my own ship. Perhaps this is something that you could have suggested?"
"Private transport will get you out of the medical regs, yes, but there is so much more! Do you have a dock pass yet? Can you pilot a craft like that without help? What are you doing?"
"I know exactly what I'm doing. The craft is mainly an auto-pilot affair, although I can override that if necessary. I understand the controls well enough. I also understand that my account with you is current. I still intend to retain you. But I have solved my own problem. You can process the landing pass. Bill me. I leave for Luna tomorrow."
At that point I wanted to get angry. Silver's actions could reflect badly on our firm. I knew I was dealing with a real character. Famous, but was it worth it? I decided to calm down and process his landing request. Bighead City Port Authority advised me that the request was received.
A tense 24 hours intervened, at the end of which Silver was certainly a third of the way to Luna, and I had no word from him or the Authority. I researched the craft further, gaining some comfort in that it was actually safe enough as far as space yachts go. Its systems were automatic. It was classed for both Lunar orbit and landing. Not that it had ever grounded there. Its flight history consisted of many Low-Earth orbit to Lunar orbit trips and back. It was simply an automatic pilot pleasure yacht. Silver had re-registered it, renamed the craft Slammer, sent me the files, and then had run off on his own. What could I really do?
Finally I got the Bighead Authority reply. Landing pass denied. Not surprising. A passenger with no piloting experience, a space yacht recently transferred, etc, it was what I feared. I had to get him to orbit back.
My messages to him were not immediately replied to. I had just about given up when I got his call.
"The very worth craft Slammer here, may we help you today?"
"Silver, you must return without landing! The pass has been rejected. I have to inform you that this firm will divest itself of any legal responsibility for your account if you do not return to Earth, or at least LEO, after a Lunar fly-around."
"Stop grumbling, Grumble!"
"You want me to inform Cis-Lunar Security?"
"A bit too late for that. And I'm not worried about the landing regulations. I have my own plan, which will work fine. I will move to the Moon whether you like it or not. Here is your divestment. I hope you get a good view of this." He then made a strange hand signal. I found out later that it was derogatory.
So of course I contacted Security. He was still about 20 hours out of Luna. It is amazing that the bureaucracy took a good eight hours to even register the information. I tried several times to contact Silver. He didn't respond except to send a sound file. It was of his song Slammer. That's all I got. And as it played I started to get very scared.
I contacted his doctor. Not a cooperative person. He had done his divesting of Silver months before. Otherwise he informed me that Silver's health was not the best. I had gotten that idea already.
Luna Security served DDG&D with a complaint re Silver. Those boys were smart, and I can't blame them. I was probably going to lose my job. But deep down, I liked Silver, and if I was going down, I was going to fight for him anyway. I could see what his intent was. If I were in his shoes, I might have gone for it too.
The only thing I could think of to do was to personally contact Bighead City port. I pulled a few favors, and got a secure line to the Director of Port Operations. He was hesitant at first, but as I explained, he seemed to find the story interesting, if not of immediate concern.
"You are telling me that your client is eight hours off Luna, and that you think he intends to slam his craft, to crash it, somewhere near Bighead City?"
"I do not believe he intends to let the craft land automatically. He has been denied a landing pass. His health is failing. He is an artist. I fear he is going to do something drastic."
The director laughed in my face, said he would check on it, and then cut the line.
I couldn't sleep that night, and it was very early the next morning when I got a call from Janis Davis, the elder Davis of the firm.
"Grumble, it seems one of your star clients has made some news."
"Oh my goodness, what, what has happened?"
"Please don't grumble. It is a good op for the firm. I am forwarding you the news links about his detention, plus related files."
Silver alive? I couldn't believe it. I opened the files and saw news grabs and Silver's own press release. It went like this: "Thanks to all the fans on Earth, Luna and all around the System for your well wishes. I am fine, although detained, in Bighead City. It seems I broke a few regulations by attempting to travel here in a yacht that I recently purchased. As I was denied a landing pass, I prepared to slam my craft into the Moon, a fitting end for me. I could have landed in a remote region, but that would have been a slow suicide. Not my style. So I counted on my approach to the Bighead port to get attention. It did. Port Operations intercepted me and confiscated my yacht. I was taken off, and am now a guest in the detention facilities of Bighead Security. For those interested, I have been invited to do a concert by the Admin, provided I behave and pass a health exam. I am not sure either of those will happen. But stay tuned and thanks for your support!"
I was able to get him on com soon after that. He grinned at me and asked, "Still have your job?"
"Yes I do. At least I do for now. But what the hell have you done, Silver?"
"Oh stop grumbling, Grumble! It is true that I planned to just slam the Slammer home if necessary, but unlike you, I had faith in my ability to work the system. It is a lovely Solar System, you know. And, I knew the boys here would want the yacht. It is a sweet craft. They intercepted me two hours off Luna, took control of the Slammer, brought me down to Security, and now I'm something of a freak show here. I love it! The 1/6 gravity is better for my health than anything a doctor could do for me on Earth, and my rep precedes me in delightful ways. The Governor's daughter is a fan. They want me to do a performance in the Grand Plaza, up in the dome that looks out over the surface. That would be great. We'll see. There are health matters to consider. The medic here at the detention facility says that my heart might not survive another launch, and that alone will keep my ass from being returned to Earth anytime soon."
Six Lunar cycles later Silver played his last concert. His health had taken a turn for the better, but perhaps the effort of the performance did it. He died on stage. Quite the sensation it was too. The song at that point was Slammer.
The yacht, I have just learned, is on the market.
Peter Thorpe 85 W Walnut Street Suite 302, Asheville, NC 28801