Chapter five “The Agency’s Neighborhood” in Part One “The Moon” of a science fiction novel in progress
Joseph Culkathadreil was keying messages and commands on his e-tablet before he had gone through the lobby. But he did notice that an alcove had opened in the wall where the four full-size and living African lions were reclining beside a burbling pool.His instincts sparked his heart a bit but his mind told him they were under control. He sent Roberta flowers at both her television studio and at her apartment. He also sent both his sisters flowers at their homes on Earth. Then as he stood on the colonade he reviewed the electronic newsletter of the Church of the Holy Magi and made a two hundred dollar donation to the parish. Just after doing this he saw an online advertisement for Lunar People Finders.
Lunar People Finders seemed to cater mostly to people from Earth who were serious about finding former Earthlings who had lived on the Moon for a long time. He decided it was worth it to him to get their help in finding Daniel. Without more hesitation he chose the thousand dollar search option. They guaranteed no more than two and no fewer than one report every day. He did want to see Daniel again but he also thought it could be useful to have someone helping him investigate the Agency and the pirates while also preserving the information he gathered. He also hoped that he could casualy entrust Roberta to Daniel to look in on from time to time. He and Daniel had kept an eye on and helped eachother’s women from time to time in the years before either was married. Daniel ‘ s only wife he knew of had left him when she was pregnant and Daniel had starting drinking heavily thereafter. Some time after that the two of them had drifted out of touch.
He then rented a physical post office box for three years at the Lunapolis Postal Agency. He also bought the service by which they would send him a photo of his mail and an e-summary of the boxes contents once a week while he was on the Armstrong. He had already spent two thousand five hundred dollars of his advance money. But he felt more prosperous and secure.
He might have worried that Roberta was thinking that he was getting too serious too quickly. But he did not worry about that very much because both of them were so intensely aware that their relationship would expire in two weeks. No matter how close they got it was not likely that their relationship would survive his next journey. He put that thought out of mind in turn. Pocketing his e-tablet he crossed the plaza to a glidecycle rental station just beside the outer wall of Mouton’s Market.
“You rent many of these to Agency people?” He asked the technician who happened to be servicing the automated rental rack.
“It’s hard to tell but I think maybe between a quarter and a third of this station’s rentals. The boss wants us all to try to increase rentals we are supposed to be friendly to those we meet and I know sales sent e-coupons to all the employees whose addresses they could find.”
“Was that a lot of coupons?”
“About two thousand I think.”
“Well, maybe I will register with your website now that I am working there and then I can get something free.”
“Tell the website Bud Owens asked you register to and you will help me out. I earn some credits within the system for recruiting people to our site.”
“I will do that then.”
He took the glidecycle around the Armstrong Agency building trying to give the impression of a half distracted and half lost tourist. However,he had a lot of experience in observation and he noted windows and delivery entrances. He noted the vehicles parked nearby and a man who was taking off his uniform vest as he left the agency building and dropped it into his car before going into a nearby bar. He counted cables that led up to the elevated array that beamed communications from the building to the Relay stations on Elevator Tower. The tower had two floor bases that connected at a an accute angle with a cross-frame that connected at a forty-five degree angle with the upright part that rose from the top of the central plug. There was also a portion that rose stright from the floor. Then the part on the floor and the part on the Plug met in a sphere just a hundred feet or so above the Plug top. From there a single tower rose. He saw the Armstrong’s Chief Medical Officer walking with Smith and Jones the Security Berth winners from the agency to another nearby car. He had come to know that the CMO was named Dietrich Groeneman and that he was from a deeply rooted German-American community — he thought the man had said Ohio. Dietrich was a bit edgy around talk of weapons and the Smith and Jones seemed to be the weapons-obsessed security types. He could see they were off for a social occasion and thought them an odd grouping. He did not follow them and they did not see him.
He passed a large bank of commercial e-columns near a small cluster of quaint cafes and a small stand of cherry trees. He saw some which were dedicated to travelers and chandlers insurance. One was an electobooth where there were ballots for city council, the Junior Class Lunar Colony Senator in the US Senate, The Lunapolis Sector member of the US House of Representatives and The US President. Another panel of booths had restaurant and tourism information. He was going to pass them all by without stopping but then he decided to key into the column dedicated to the Pilots Guild. There he found the interactive job offers guide. His name was now a magnet for several software prograams but he was only confronted with a few actual callers in his guild page account’s secure column only data. He opened the first two and dealt with them. The third and last was an actual person using Casual Conversation Cube auxillary software to attempt to speak with him directly over a time lag.
“Prince Culkathadreil I am Chef Haute Chevalier Jacques Broussard-Summers currently Commander of the Basileus Kai Basilissa Arkadios. I am also an officer in both the Ethnos Arkadios Corporation and the Summers Foundation.’ Greetings Your Highness.”
“Greetings Milord, Sir Jacques.”
The conversation varied between several Louisiana dialects of French, Greek and English. There were three purposes involved. One was that Broussard-Summers wanted to make sure that the Prince would consider crewing on the ship he commanded if he decided on coming from Mars straight back to Lunapolis or Earth. The other involved some communication on Ecclesiastical matters that involved the Greek and Latin rites of several groups of Christians with which their families were involved. The last issue was that Summers wished to transfer some personal secure codes and let the Prince know that his ship would be nearby enough and well armed enough to give support to an old ally should he need it on the voyage to Mars. The converstaion did not last long but all of these things were clearly established and no other probing questions were asked by either side nor was excessive information offered.
Soon he was pedaling his rented cycle down Elevator Road on the well marked cycle lane to Olympiaville. The route brought him past the Lunapolis Colonial Supreme Court Building and the United States Colonial Agency Building which faced it from across the street beside each of these was a large pillar with a list of government agencies and a single direction writ bold above the small addresses. Clearly most of the Lunapolis and United States government agencies were in the “Government Tower in the Central District of Floorville Ward”. He could see Government Tower and Trade Tower well enough as well as other normal skyholders but he was in the Armstrong District of the Floorville Ward and this place had its own milieu. One could never be unaware of Elevator Tower or Rail Tower stretching up to the artificial sky. But these two older stylish government buildings were a different kind of mass constructed of moonstone and burnished steel in a tasteful colonial style that was still Greek and American.
Not very long after passing between these buildings he reached the wrought iron gates of Olympiaville. He saw the softball diamonds domed over with multi-colored wire mesh, each dome was about two hundred and fifty meters high. He saw young girls hitting balls into target zones on the dome. He was hoping to pick up a basketball game and sure enough at the first fork in the road one of the directional signs clearly read “Basketball”.
He followed the lane into a whole complex of varied kinds of courts. The largest belonged to some game called Lunapolis Basketball and he only had time to notice more than two hoops and the presence of water. He would like ot have stopped but wanted to make sure he got a game in before his party. Soon he came to a cycle rack near a sign that said “Pick-up 21”. He parked his cycle there and walked to the court.
The game was the same as pick-up 21 or “21 pick-up” on earth as it was played in the time and most of the places where he had lived. It was played with a single hoop on half of a regulation court with whoever happened to be standing around when ten people and a court became available. He started off in a group of ten with five newcomers. The teams would play regular basketball with three active players each from a toss-up until someone made a shot. Then the team that made the shot would then pick one of their own players to make a shot if he missed the game went on but if he made the shot then his team could pick a player on the other team (even a reserve player) to make the same shot and if that player missed he was eliminated. This went on until one team had scored 21 se tup shots or until the other team had been completely eliminated. Joseph was the last newcomer eliminated and he seemed to earn everyone’s respect when he bruised his ribs on the the top of the backboard. But he was really in pain from that time on. Many of his shots and moves were outrageously wild and off the mark. However two people playing worked for the Armstrong Agency. He found out that there were a lot of secrets there, that there were astrophysicists working on blac hole and wormhole mechanics. He found out that the astophysics program on the mothball cruise was pretty well funded. He was able to do all of this without attracting to much attention to any line of question or even to himself.
As he left the court and headed off towards his train he stopped to watch a few minutes of Lunapolis Basketball. He stayed there long enough to see that the game was played outdoors but with two professional standard size basketball courts end to end a separated by grass nets and a swimming pool. The only change in the courts themselves was that the two hoops nearest eachother and therefor near the middle of the whole field were twenty-five feet high and the ones at the far ends were about fiteen feet high. But there was a two meter strip of grass around the the courts that was also in play. Bewteen the central end strips was a swimming pool thirty feet wide, seven feet deep and running the width of the field. Each team had a one foot wide bridge that only that team could use which ran across the pool. A standard height tennis net ran through the grass strips on either side of the pool . Above the middlle of the pool another net crossed the field. This one ran from ten feet over the water (nine feet over ground level to forty feet over the water. Each team played with five regular players a goalkeeper and a a swimmer. The inner set of of hoops were worth two, three or four points depending on where the shot was taken. The hoops on the farthest end were worth three five or six points depending on where the the shots were taken. All free throws were taken at the end of the quarters and there were no rebounds on free throws He realized that there was still a whole lot that he did not know about the game but it was obviously very poplular and he decided he kind of liked it.When he returned the glidecycle at the Olympiaville rail extension rental counter he saw that there was a largebank of large and small Olympiaville schedule screens. He flipped to modi-bal first because he had never seen the sport played live with robots and swimming pools and live athletes all playing a variant of American Football on the often seen colonial wet and dry field. There were only a few shots to see on screen so he then went to softball ans on that list was a dtailed schedule and map and it showed that the Armstrong Strongarmers were playing an exhibition on the following evening, Tuesday night at seven.
He returned the cycle, he checked the Olympiaville connection on his e-tablet and bought a ten dollar option on the last hundred dollar box for the exhibition game. When he got on to the train he called Roberta from a wall phone in his car. The connection was made with her personal portaphone. The phone rang twice and she answered.
“Helllo Roberta this is Joseph.”
“Hello again Joseph. They just delivered the flowers to me here at the station. What am I going to do with or without you Culkathadreil.”
“Well, there are a few things I hope that you will do with me. I have found out that some of my co-winners on this contest are a softball team. I also found out that they are playing an exhibition game tomorrow night at Olympiaville. If you can spend a little longer than a quick supper I could get us a box and we could have supper there.”
“That sounds alright but I wll not be able to spend the night. Is that alright with you?”
“Ms. Dupuis it is not desirable but it is tolerable and survivable. I hope we can be together this weekend. The training gives us weekends off. I was hoping maybe you could show me some place you like in one of the other colonies.”
“That could work if you don’t mind combining my my business with our pleasure. I have to do a feature on the Aldrin Corporation’s new line of freighters. I was planning to leave Thursday and come back Saturday night. But I have not made any reservations yet. So if you want to go with me Friday night and come back Sunday night we could do something else Thursday night. My brother is playing in a concert that night at the Boston Commons Bar. The Aldrin plant is interesting,they have some really cool spaceships. You could see a bit more of the landscape too. We will be going North to the Mare Serenitatis Sector and the Northern Border of that part of the Protectorate. Aldrinia and a couple of other companies Like Boeing-Chevrolet share a large spaceport complex in the uncapped Posidonius Crater and Aldrinia is actually a set of several capped craters — Posidonius B, Posidonius J and Posidonius K and they are linked in interesting ways. The are also linked to another proprietary crater they own a share with along with abunch of other colonies it is capped and its name is Danielle Crater but Amalgamated Space Industries Colony. So depending on how much time we have you could see and learn a lot about corporate colonies and we could still have a really good time. For example they have a ski slope there which I really like and a good dinner theater.”
“Great, Roberta! While we have been speaking I have authorized you to use my travel pal account. I would be happy to pay for everything if you can make the arrangements.”
“Sounds reasonable to me. I can do that this evening.”
“Great, so we agree to the game tomorrow, the concert Thursday and the trip to Aldrin Colony this weekend?”
“Yes we are doing all that except that we call the colony Aldrinia.”
” Do you want me to meet you somewhere other than the game tomorrow?”
“No, I will see you at Gold Diamond three, box twelve at seven.”
They gracefully ended the conversation in time for him to jump off the train at Sun Tzu Plaza. He realized that he was in the small part of the floor that really resembled an Earth town or city in any way and he might not have much time to see this use of land off the base of the plug which was not as strictly subject to the proportion rule as the true floor. He saw that two of the skinny metal sky holder buildings were three times larger in diameter than normal and a bit closer together. One was Government Tower and while it was not the only government building on the floor it was very unAmerican in that it combined different governments whose sovereignty different constitutional bases. The UN had offices here but remarkably the US Government, the Junior Class ParaState of American Lunar Colonial Society,The Lunapolis Mare Tranquilitatis Sector Government, The Lunapolis City-Colonial Governement and the Ward of Floorville all had offices here as well. Large screens occupied about a third of he surface of the lower floor and these wre constantly showing Public Service Announcements and Approved Rules Candidate Political Advertising. There were two three month long voting Seasons under the refoprmed conversation and small groups of people could be seen drifting into the dozen or so electo-booths that were positioned along the walls of the building at street level. There was also a subway station for trains that ran to only a few mine locations and connected there with the much larger mine subway trains. Few digs were allowed before the Lunapolis floor. He saw another unique thing, several candidates had the endorsement of Signor Grazinni who owned the largest restaurant on the Floor called The Roman Empire.
He rushed across the Plaza to the tower that stood in part between the Plaza and the lawn of two great planter’s houses where their plantation bordered one another and the Sun Tzu Plaza and formed one of the outer limits of Floorville itself. At an odd angle to all this and very much in the tower’s shadow was a small square of clean thee storey building surrounded with a hedge. He entered the gate and recorded a bit of video of it. He then pocketed his e-tab and walked across to a small tobacco shop and bought a cigar. He stood with an umber of men who were smoking and chatting asked one for a light. He saw that beside the Tobacco shop was a Special Forces Registered Club, but the men were not involved with its goings on. They stood looking at two screen walls that represented the two Duelling List Authorities recognized by the American Lunar Colonial Honor Association. He saw that the busiest was the Office of Ritual Confrontation operated by the Ethnos Arkadios. Their screen full of names and brief notes was divided into ten categories: Challenges, Answers, Seconds, First Councils, Statements of Stakes, Nonlethal Contest Round, Second Council, Weapons, Physicians and the longest title Satisfactions and Resolutions, Dishonors. He saw that in the last category there were ten killed on the field of honor in the last five months. On the Challenges section he estimated five hundred. Wounded and unkilled duellists were written in red. He felt a certain curiosity about al of this as it was something he had particpated in himself but he did not wish to linger here on this occasion and walked past a set of duelling masters studiosto return to Washington Boulevard and the edge of the Plaza. He walked through a small group which included two recently wounded men and nodded to them and then followed Washington Boulevard which had statues in various stones from the mines of every US President. They were so close together that their heroic size made them seem crowded. On Earth it would have been inconceivable to display such statuary so close together but not here.
At the end of the not very long street was Columbus Square which blended into Washington Park on the far side. He rushed in recording video of all that he heard or saw that was interesting and he saw th Roman Empire Restaurant. He was surprised to see the softball team standing out in front. He walked over and Samantha introduced him to half a dozen girls he had not really met on the team and he assure her he would be attending at least one game. “Well we don’t have that many so one is pretty good. Can you come in and eat with us?”
“No, I have commitments but tell me about it I am afraid I am issing a good bit. I called after the deadline for reservations the other night and only got a voicemail announcement. I am not sure I will get here agin before we leave”.
“Well Armstrong High School is really two schools. On is in New York and one is in Lunapolis. We have had or do have Grazinnis that work or study in both and they are trating us all to dinner”.
“You all look very nice in your dresses I must say”.
“Thank you ! A water polo team is showing up to escort us and they are dressed up so we have to be too”.
“Well, I will let you get back to your occasion if you let me get a video of all of you here for my son and sister on Earth”.
They agreed and complied. Joseph then rushed back to the Washington Street and headed to Sun Tzu Plaza. He saw St. Patrick’s Cathedral and the US Post Office and only recorded these buildings through his zoom. Then he rushed down the street but on reaching Sun Tzu Plaza again he decided he could not take the time to got to Jefferson Circle on the other end of Wahington Street. Instead he stayed in the central plaza and relaxed for the few minutes nefore his connecting train. There he quickly bought the most expensive cup of tea from a stand called “Walk-up Teahouse”. The longest street in Floorville ended at SunTzu Plaza and was Rutan Road which traveled past nine long blocks where intersected with eight streets named after famous Lunarians before reaching Marquis de Lafayette Square with a large fountain based statue of its namesake. However, even with soom he could make out little of the far end of the street except the other extra-large skyholder called the Trade Tower. He knew this building held the Lunapolis Stock Exchange, the Lunapolis Commodities Exchange, The Lunapolis Government Employees Credit Union,The Chandlers Guild Hall and Office, The Freight-Forwarders Guild and Office, The Zuckerburg Foundation for Private Venues in the Virtual World’s Offices, The US Mint Administrative Branch and the Pilot’s Guild Credit Union Lunapolis Main Branch. Getting there would just be one more thing he could not do on this trip he had a feeling. Standing on an elevated stand for the triple decker busses he recorded a sweeping shot of the whole Plaze for his keepsake album and then turned off his e-tab. He rushed from there to the train that ran out to Cascade Pool East. By the time he got to his room he was hoping for the quickest possible shower and to throw on some clean clothes and make it to the Summers Foundation reception for the crater cap engineers convention.
However, just as he walked into his room the phone rang. He answered it.
“Hello Officer Culkathadreil this is Alan Germany.”
“How are you? I hope that there is nothing wrong.”
“No both I and things in general are alright.”
“Well that is good. What can I do for you?”
“I will say that you do not indulge your curiosity very much. I won’t force you to hide or reveal anything you do not want to right now. I am sure you were very much aware that our High Captain Commander Emerson was not there today and neither were any of the other pilots. To make matters worse I told you that we were through with photographs and introductions. I spoke erroneously that is all. The Commander and the other pilots are off until next Monday. You will have a late starting training day with them on Tuesday. However before that the High Captain is hosting a dinner at your hotel Monday night. Just to prepare you it is likely that your cabinmate will be someone named Thor Patrick Swensen O’Brien and going by every one of those names in very possible comination. He may never show up. He is very highly rated and experienced he holds several UN positions and his ice mining company does business with the agency so he gets away with anything short of murder. Don’t know what to say about him. We will issue you a formal uniform tomorrow and you can wear that. You can also bring a date.”
“I look forward to it then. I think my possible cabinmate sounds quite charming as well. He would not be the owner of Swensen-O’Brien Ice Mining with the large letters SOB in their logo? ”
“He is the very same. Do you think you can get a date or shall I set you up”?
“I’ll do my best to handle it on my side”.
“Fine then, I will see you tomorrow. ”
“I look forward to that as well.”
Joseph now quickly checked his e-tablet before showering. He found two e-mail addresses for Daniel had been sent him by Lunar People Finders. He copied a message to both addresses and told Daniel where he would be for the next two weeks and that he would like to see him while he was on the Moon. Since Roberta was not available that evening he dropped in on the Crater Cap Colony Engineers Convention he had been invited to attend. He handed in his invitation and then went first to the Summers Foundation Holocube for a ten minute long tutorial. The first moment was a scene of the Moon as it was a natural and barren place and it showed living objects being destroyed as they were exposed to its conditions ( a dozen roses and then the many handing a dozen roses to his wife). It showed the Apollo Missions of the Twentieth century and indicated their limits. Then it showed the First Public Proposal and described the twenty-first century Facebook group.Next it showed the document they called the:
Stages of Progress and Benefit:
Frank Wynerth Summers III 1. Limiting radiation risks from solar flares and cosmic rays, wind shelter on Mars 2. Modest thermal moderation 3.Regolith management by creating first level of soilized regolith. 4. Significant thermal moderation. 5. Liquid water storage cheaply 6.Mask only conditions7. Permanent ascendancy towards colonial condition
Then he left his interest had increased in all he had heard about in the holocube and he tried to learn as much as he could to take advantage of this trip to the Lunar colonies as well as to puruse the queries he had been entrusted with more effectively.He went to a brief cocktail lecture and video on Breach Response. The woman engineer talked about super armored nurseries, vacuum proof robot medics and other measures. He suddenly realized that all the red arches he had seeen on cavern homes and in the hotel were places where a vacuum proff door would close if there was a breach ( cutting anyone in the way in half). He realized the pumps not doing anything and painted bright colors with emrgency markings all around Lunapolis would al come on in a catastrophic breach and pull in air and liquid water so it did not all flow into the vacuum of space.ln every crater cap colony the mines sealed off completely just below the emergency shelters. Every colony had patching droids on their caps. Small breaches were corrected quickly and little effect but still metorites and sabotage of caps had led to many deaths in the history of the Moon, Howver every day the safety processes advanced on many fronts simultaneously. This was interesting but did make him feel a bit paranoid.
He did not go to the longer lectures but did visit all cubes and displays. After spending an evening looking at displayed architectural models and chatting with a range of crater cap engineers he was starting to grasp the basic principles of construction. He had also met the engineer who sat next to him on the shuttle when he was landing on the Moon. But Shan Da Jiang would not come to any softball game he would be able to work into his schedule. They shared a drink and agreed they might meet again but that was about all they could do. He also found out that the Summers Foundation and the Wang corporation had both collaborated on builing a cap in the Chinese Zone of the Moon which was being leased long-term by the Armstrong Agency. The Agency was definitely doing some kind of research in the spacetime continuum and the theory of wormholes. He was sure enough that something was up that he sent a kind of coded AND ambiguous message to one of cousin Melvin’s electronic dead drops on the Earth Tech Web. It was just enough to say that some evidence supported the hunches they had divulged to him.
He got a message that Daniel and his fiancee would meet he and Roberta over the weekend in Aldrinia. He was very pleased to renew the acquaintance. He still remembered the summers he and Daniel had spent hunting giant squid together while living in the Culkathadreil underwater habitat when they were boys. Those were some of the healthiest days of his life and the least complicated. The rest of the week went fast, was busy and was successful. He did well on all his evaluations and learned all his basic lessons and routines. He introduced Roberta to the softball team and even got an executive from the Summers Foundation and his wife to come to the game.The two couples hit it off fairly well which convinced both he and Roberta that they were becoming a couple.
The Thursday concert was a lot better than he expected. He had a chance to meet Ken Dupuis, Roberta’s brother. Then he and Roberta went back to the Valley View and made love most of the night. He was a little tired but feeling happy as he and Roberta slipped the recyclable one use proteinate emergancy suits on over their clothes and caulght the seven o’clock express train from the green pyramid on LunapolisCap to the green pyramid on the Aldrinia Cap.
It was night on this trip and he saw one temporary structure crack and shatter with cold when hit by a blast of the rare train exhaust. A set of tools spilled out but he could not make them out as he rushed by at 350 kilometers an hour. There was not much else to report because the train lit only a little of the vast darkeness. He just enjoyed holding hands with Roberta nd chatting about growing up on the Moon or not doing so. During the trip he never really thought about wormholes, the secret agenda of his employer or complexity of his situation in general.
That is he felt that he did none of those things. Actually he did casually and quickly note four people on the train whom he though might be following him. Before they reached their detination he and Roberta both drifted briefly to sleep. They were awakened when the ticket alarm sounded in their train seats. They smiled at eachother and got ready to leave the train.
One of the people he noted on the train was simply the kind of person that evey professional spy or police officer will suspect of something. He would get off of the train and outr of our story but one day would die when a mercenary shot him for no particular reason but that his luck had run out and the last person to suspect him had not been willing to take any chances. Two of the others were indedd part of a group that we will be visiting over and over again — they were indeed his enemies. The last of the four was a woman, unlike the other three. She was seldom detected at anything but there were not very many people of Joseph’s skills and instincts either. This woman was scheduled to leave the Moon on a trip to Mars and had been asked to reschedule. The request, which was not quite an order, came from the Orlov-Romanov Clan Council. Her name was Malisha Andreievna Ryshkova. She would keep an eye on Culkathadreil and join him on the Neil Armstrong. But she would be more successful in staying out of his view and out of our story for a very long time after that brief detection which Joseph was eager to put out of his mind