The Measure of Humanity - Chapter Fifteen

The Great Escape - Artemis Edition.

I wasn't there, but I heard about it afterward. It was as slick a piece of work as anything I'd ever seen.

Of course, it took a huge leap of faith on the part of James and Cassandra, but that's part of life, isn't it?

Taking a leap?

They did, and they benefitted.

Not to say it wasn't a near-run thing!


CHAPTER FIFTEEN

Artemis City

“Wake up!”

“Shut up.”

“Dammit, Cassie, wake up! There’s someone at the door!”

That snapped her awake. She took a quick look at the time as she stumbled out of the bed. 0204.

The entrance chime rang again.

“Coming!” Tripping over something in the dark, Cassie finally reached the door and slapped the controls to open it.

“I have a package for Cassandra Carnahan,” the suited and helmeted figure said.

“I’m her, I mean, that’s me.”

“Then this is yours. It’s from your mother.”

The figure handed over a suitcase-sized package and, without another word, walked away. Cassie allowed the door the shut and turned on the lights.

“Is that what I think?” Moore padded over.

“One way to find out.” She flipped it around, found the seam, and opened it. As Autumn had promised, there were two MinInt surface suits, bright red with yellow highlights. Included were various paraphernalia and IDs that would get them through the internal checkpoints. Moore started looking at the documents, separating them into two piles.

“We ought to hurry,” Moore said. “The loop is only fifteen minutes. He searched the package, found the undersuits, and handed one to Cassie.

“What’s this?”

“It’s the undersuit. Um. Like underwear, you put it on first. It keeps the suit from contacting your skin.” He demonstrated and she imitated him.

“You haven’t worn suits much?”

She shook her head.

“Okay, no problem. Do what I do. Undo the chest seal, sit down, and slide your legs in first. It’s going to be tight, but that’s normal in atmosphere. In vacuum they’ll expand about a centimeter.”

Following his lead, she managed to get her feet into the shaped ends.

“Take these and tuck them around the undersuit.” He held out some of their faked documents. “We won’t need them in vacuum. Then, stand up and put your arms into the sleeves, adjust your shoulders, then seal the chest up.”

“It feels like a wet suit,” Cassie said.

“A what?”

“A wet suit, for diving. You know.”

“Nope.”

She gazed at him quizzically, then went back to her tasks. “I think I’ve got it,” she said shortly.

He hefted a pair of flat packs and handed one to her. “Attach this to the chest plate, here, here, and here. It should snap on, and if you do it right the readout on your left wrist will turn on.”

She took it and, after peering at the connections, pressed it against her chest. There was a series of clicks and suddenly there were numbers and words scrolling across a small panel on the inside of her wrist.

“I think I got it,” she said. “Now?”

“Boots, helmet, gloves. In that order. The suit coms will activate as soon as the helmet’s on. And put the rest of your documents in the pouch on the right sleeve.”

The boots weren’t challenging, as her feet were protected by the suit. The helmet was self-sealing and set into place quickly, leaving only the gloves. The first one went on easily enough, the latches connecting smoothly. The second glove gave her difficulties, though, and after a few seconds she grunted in frustration.

“Jim, I need help.”

“Yeah, the second glove’s a bitch if you’re not used to it. I’ll get it.”

In seconds they were both suited.

“Check your tell-tales, then check mine.” Moore pointed to her wrist, then his pack. “Anything’s not green, tell me.”

“Looks good,” she said. “You’re all green too.”

“Then we’re out of here.” He grabbed their travel documents and walked to the door.

“Remember, we’re MinInt goons, we have every right to go where we’re going. Do you know how to opacify the helmet?”

“No.”

“On the pad, tap the icon that looks like a sun. Each tap increases opacity by 25%; let’s start with one tap and see what it looks like.”

She tapped and he looked.

“Again.”

Another tap.

“Good. Can you see?”

“Just fine. Let’s go!”

“I agree.” Trying to project a confidence he didn’t feel, Moore led the way out of the cell and turned left.

“Airlock’s down the corridor, to the right, and up two levels,” he said. “The suit beacons should trigger it to open, but if it doesn’t the code is 1-1-9-8-8.”

“Got it.”

“Suits are local comms only, short range, but don’t talk too much if you can help it once we get out. If there’s something I need to tell you, I’ll touch helmets so you can hear me.”

“Won’t the radio pick it up?”

“We’ll turn them off if we have to say anything sensitive.”

The airlock opened as Moore had hoped. They stepped in and the air pumped out, allowing the outer door to open, their suits expanding and reducing the feeling of constriction. The bright glare of the Lunar day shone in.

“I thought it was the middle of the night?”

“We get two weeks of light, two weeks of dark. Shut up.” Moore moved forward, guided by the preprogrammed system, and climbed into a waiting transport. It wasn’t much: four wide wheels, with open treads for better grip in the loose Lunar surface, supporting a platform with six seats arranged in three pairs of two. A wheel and controls were in front of the right-hand forward seat, and Moore sat himself behind them.

“Get in,” he hissed when she hesitated. “We’re about eight klicks from the closest City airlock, and these suits won’t last if we try to walk it.”

She settled next to him. With movements demonstrating his familiarity, Moore got the buggy into motion and headed away from their prison, accelerating steadily. Cassie couldn’t resist looking back, but when she didn’t see anything she touched her helmet to his to say, “Where is it?”

“Huh?”

“The place. Where we were.”

“Underground. Most structures are. Let me concentrate; I haven’t done this in a while.”

They rode in silence for several minutes before Moore slowed, then stopped next to a pair of identical transports.

“Last stop. Airlocks should work the same; if they don’t, the entry code we’re given is 1-2-0-6-9. If that doesn’t work, you can put in 9-9-9, but that’s the general emergency code and sets off all sorts of alarms. I’d rather not do that.”

“No,” agreed Cassie. Fortunately this airlock also opened without a code, and in seconds they felt the suits tighten again as the pressure built around them. In less than a minute the inner door opened, and they passed into what looked like a deserted hallway.

“Don’t take off your helmet,” Moore said as she reached for the seals. “Lots of people wait until they’re back in their cubic, so walking around with them on won’t attract too much attention, especially with the MinInt colors. Ready?”

“Happy to be out of there, but yeah. I want out of this suit.”

“Soon.”

He led them down the corridor, past a half-dozen open emergency hatches, before they saw anyone else. It was another eight or nine hatches before they reached the first checkpoint.

“ID,” said the figure in a MinSec uniform. A name said ‘Brandner’. Another MinSec trooper stood a few meters behind, a weapon pointed in their general direction but just slightly down.

Moore opened his pouch and handed over an ID; Cassie did the same.

“I can’t see your faces,” Brandner said.

“Whoops,” said Moore with a forced laugh. “Lunardi, you were supposed to remind me.”

It took Cassie a split-second to remember that was her name, then she said, with what she hoped was the right amount of chagrin, “Sorry, Mr. Noll.”

“Don’t let it happen again.” Moore cleared his visor and so did Cassie.

Brandner checked their ID again, ran them through a verifier, and handed them back. “Thank you,” she said indifferently, waving them past.

Without hurrying too obviously they moved on. The checkpoints were repeated three more times as they got deeper and deeper into the City, with the same bored guards and the same results. For all of the institutional paranoia baked into the structure of the Four Families, the citizens of Artemis were generally unconcerned about politics unless it directly impacted them. As a result the internal security, though prevalent, was largely pro forma. Today that played into their hands, and they arrived at what was indicated as their destination without incident.

“Here?”

Moore had to admit that Cassie had a point. While not in the undercity, they weren’t in a section of Artemis that he had frequented. There weren’t explicit class divisions, but those involved in government work were definitely given preferential treatment and housing. The commercial class, which is where Moore judged they were, ranged from the opulent to the threadbare, depending on the success of the resident. He adjudged whoever lived here to be working towards the upper half of the spectrum.

“Here,” he agreed, and tapped the entry chime.

In mere seconds the door opened and a middle-aged woman in a wrap appeared, silhouetted in the dim light.

“Yes?” she asked with a heavy accent; Moore recognized it as the hallmark of immigrants from Mars.

“We were sent.”

“No doubt,” said the woman, starting to close the door. “Want none of trouble.”

“Wait!” said Cassie, remembering. “How’s Nicole?”

The door stopped and opened again. “Busy as always. Quick.” The door was pulled fully open, and they stepped into the uncertain future.



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