A Quiet Revolution - Chapter Three

How to Launch a Revolution, Luna Edition.

Something like that, anyways.

There was always a chance something would go sideways, no matter the planning, but it was a tribute to their collective professional paranoia that nothing actually did go spoing!


CHAPTER THREE

Tycho Under, Luna

Compared to Artemis City, Tycho Under was nothing at all. But then, Artemis City was over ninety cubic kilometers, while Tycho Under was less than ten. That was still enough to support a population of nearly a million in relative spaciousness.

The limitation on size was tied directly to the unique nature of the city. The central cavern it occupied was discovered accidentally during the early years of the Colony, as a wave of mapping expeditions were sent out across the surface of the Moon. When they reached Tycho Crater the selenologists were surprised to discover an emptied magma bubble three kilometers below the central peak of the crater. Seismological readings revealed the extent of the hollow. The selenologists speculated it was formed when the original impactor created the crater over 100 million years earlier.

Whatever the nature of its formation, it was seen as a potential location for habitation, with its own challenges. The thickness of the surface structure would prevent any but the largest meteor from ever damaging the space. No branch of the cavern came closer than five hundred meters from the surface, and that arm was more than four kilometers away from the central space.

Still, by 2050 the cavern had been accessed and the development of what would become Tycho Under was underway. As nearly as possible, Tycho was self-sufficient, a throwback to the original ‘lifeboat’ concept behind the establishment of the city. Some of the more credulous administrators of the original colony, recalling memories of stories which involved Lunar catastrophes, thought it wise to plan ahead for that particular ‘what if’. Specifically, they imagined they were protecting against an impact event which would destroy Artemis City, either by a direct hit or through a Luna-wide disaster. What they conveniently forgot was any event large enough to ‘remotely’ destroy Artemis City would also wreak havoc across all of the Moon.

Tycho Under, as a direct result of its ‘lifeboat’ status, was the only major Artemesian city connected directly to the other major warrens and cubics. Double pairs of underground tubes, similar to Earthly subways, ran to Artemis City, Scipio City, Hong Kong Luna, and others, providing continuous two-way traffic flow. As a direct result it became the natural transshipment point for goods for all points across Luna. It was faster, and cheaper, to load a pallet of equipment aboard a tube through Tycho than paying for a suborbital hop through vacuum. It was also easier for people to move through Tycho from one warren to another.

Transient populations, large volumes of goods, and lax inspections meant smuggling. Perhaps the smuggling came first, leading to lax inspections. Whichever way it formed, smuggling wasn’t just a hobby for the citizens of Tycho Under; it was a major profession. And since the various officials were as corrupt and venial as Inspector Renault, and just as likely to be conducting their own operations, it was a perfect location for Stone and her companions to begin their active operations.

“I don’t mind spending your money, but I could wish the prices were just a bit better,” groused Nour. She’d been tasked with finding more permanent cubic for them, despite the risks.

While renting rooms provided a degree of anonymity, especially with Mac’s ability to chew through any computerized scrutiny, it was a double-edged sword. Other guests could, and likely did, conceal their identities and true purposes. Adding to their concerns were Nour’s memories of her time in MinSec. She remembered well the special attention they gave to travelers.

A long-term rental was almost unheard-of in Tycho, or truly in Artemis; there was simultaneously too much demand for short rentals and not enough for long ones. A lunar? Two? Three? Certainly, cobber! Six lunars? I can’t tie my property up for so long!

Purchasing cubic would provide many benefits, not the least of which would be stability. Between Mac’s computer skills and Nour’s expertise, they should be able to avoid getting on the radar of any of the local MinSec staff. At least, avoid the ones that couldn’t be bribed or otherwise persuaded to look the other way. It would give Mac the chance to really dig into the LunaNet and make them disappear, as well as providing that indefinable sense of belonging to a place.

They would need a second space, or spaces, for meetings with their growing cells. Those could be rented, with false identities and burner credits which would vaporize almost before their rental was up.

“Like ye said, though, it’s our credits. It’s our shout but you have to tee up, so that’s true blue,” said Stone. “Besides, I know you haggled them down as far as you could without making them suspicious, and the digs you got are fair dinkum.”

She waved an arm expansively, demonstrating her point without another word. The cubic Nour had acquired had originally been office space, but a not insubstantial ‘gratuity’ to the broker had changed the designation to multipurpose. That allowed the conspirators to move beds into the space without worrying about an inspector asking for more baksheesh than they were entitled. The rear entrance, off the pedestrian corridor and unobserved by any sensors Mac could detect, was a bonus, but what sealed the deal was the upper floor.

Most Lunar cubic extended horizontally, across a single level, so it was rare indeed for any second floor to exist. Buildings with multiple floors tended to be the same footprint on different levels, with limited internal access to the upper or lower floors. Not so this cubic; there was a proper lift in the back of the office space, as well as a cargo lift that rose on a hydraulic pillar and pushed up through a hinged hatch in the ceiling.

More importantly, the upper floor had never been used. As the broker explained, “The builder had intended to put in a combination factory and sales floor, with the product, whatever it was, I don’t actually know, it was a double dozen years ago or more. Where was I? Factory on the upper floor, offices for the company below, and a shop in the front to sell the stuff. The upper floor is completely bulkheaded, so maybe he ran into problems because he was going to make things that were hazardous to construct, like I said it was a long time ago.”

The upper walls were more than a meter thick in places, made of solid lunar rock, and had no access to the level they were on. Even power, air, and water came in through the lower level and was routed up into the space.

Stone, Jordan, and Mac took one look at it and knew they had their base. It was completely invulnerable to electronic spying, and a careful recce of the exterior showed it simply as walls of three corridors. The fourth wall went straight into an existing pillar of rock fifty meters thick. While it wouldn’t do for a refuge, since it would be vulnerable to utilities being cut from below, it was perfect for planning and meetings. They were also able to store any potentially sticky items in the upper floor and present the face of perfect innocence to the rare official visitor.

“Chief?”

“Yeah, Alyssa?”

“I’ve got a question.”

“Shoot.”

“I know we’re creating a cell system for them, right?”

“No, we’re not doing anything. They’re doing all the work.”

“Fine. But it’s the three-conspirators-in-a-cell idea, right?”

“Right.”

Inspired by the book, the revolutionaries had adopted the cell structure for their plan. Newling was in charge, and Nour, Caitlin, and Sharon all reported to her. They each had a cell under them of three conspirators, and each of those three were tasked to find three more of their own, down and down and down.

“How does it protect them? I would think someone like MinSec could just roll right up the structure.”

“I thought you got this when we decided on it?”

“I did! But I’ve been considering it more, and I think MinSec could roll them right up, maybe even pull us into it.”

“Naah, not a chance.”

“Can we go over it?”

“Sure. At the top you have Autumn. I don’t know what code name she’s going to take, and I don’t need to know. Let’s call her Comrade Aimee. We’ll make the next cell down the executive cell, Nour, Caitin, and Sharon; Comrades Billie, Barbara, and Bonnie. At this level, everyone knows everyone.”

“I see that. This is the ‘we’re screwed if one of them turns’ stage.”

“Too right. Now, let’s set up the next level. These aren’t decision-makers. What they are are the primary lieutenants, the people who are most involved in the corridor-level activities. We don’t know any of these people, and we don’t need to. As far as they’re concerned, this is a purely local effort.”

“Right, but if level C is compromised, then the organization is gone!”

“Yes and no. Okay, let’s say we’re looking at Billie’s cell. She has Charlie, Constance, and Clara under her, but Clara’s a ratbag. She turns in Constance and Charlie, as well as anyone under her, and Billie. It hurts, but once the executive cell knows Billie’s compromised they ditch everything she might give up and reset. We’re still protected. And once they get down to the D’s, it’s even more secure.”

“That seems counterintuitive.”

“Think it through! Let’s say Danny, under Clara, is the ratbag.”

“He turns in his cell, and Clara.”

“Right. But as soon as Clara gets rolled, Constance or Charlie lets Billie know, and that cell gets pinched off. They disappear, and it’s a dead end. No, the bigger they build this, the more secure the people at the top get, assuming that they don’t get a ratbag in the upper levels.”

“And that’s where Mac comes in.”

“I heard my name, what are you talking about, is it something with the network because I pretty much have it dialed in.”

“We were talking about the cell structure,” said Alyssa. “And the Chief had just said that your role was making sure the people they bring in aren’t finks.”

“Ratbags. I called them ratbags.”

“Those.”

“Oh, yeah, well, what I’ve done is that everyone who they recruit has to be vetted, and the way we do that is to get their comm codes then Harpo, who has all sorts of doors into the Artemis network now, it’s practically a superhighway he has so much access, he tracks them down, everything they’ve ever done on the net, all their contacts, all their contacts, he could practically build a six degrees chart, he probably has, but everything in the system and that’s pretty much everything belongs to us, and if there’s anything even a little bit hinky Harpo passes a message to Nour, and she sends it down to whoever recruited them that they’re not to be trusted, or maybe they are, anyways the finks never get a chance to get into the organization, ratbags I mean, and does that answer the question?”

“I think so,” Alyssa said. “In any case, I feel better about it. How long until we can go home, then?”

“We can’t rush the recruiting. The more people they have, the faster the recruiting will go, but now is absolutely the most critical time. They have to have people who they can depend on in the upper cells, not just to keep their mouths shut but to actually do things to push this forward.”

“And that means what?”

“It’s a fancy way of saying I don’t know.”

“Rowan and ash!”

“You and Davie must be fun at parties,” Stone said.

“Harpo estimated that they’re going to have cells through E filled and be working on F by the end of the week so that should mean we’ll be leaving soon after that, I really hope so because I haven’t been out on a mission this long in, well, forever, I think the last time I was away like this was when we were rescuing Cass and Ken, although Kendra ended up rescuing herself, do you remember Chief?”

“I do indeed.”

“Rescuing Cass and Ken?”

“Mac, do we have any decent liquid amber?”

“I think so, Chief, but isn’t it a bit early?”

“As the philosopher said, it’s five o’clock somewhere, and tellin’ tales is thirsty work. Sit down, Alyssa, and I’ll tell you a ripper of a story about how Mac and me came to be associated with this crew.”


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