Clarke County, Space

By Frank Holmes,2014-11-04 17:11
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Published by Legend paperbacks on 1990/12/31


    The author wishes to thank:

    Gerard K. O‘Neill, author of The High Frontier, which initiated the O’eill space colonyconcept, and the Space Studies Institute, which has continued research of the concept; StewartBrand, who promoted the idea in Space Colonies, which inspired this novel; T.A. Heppenheimer,who refined things further in Colonies in Space and Toward Distant Suns; and Richard Erdoes andAlfonso Ortiz, whose American Indian Myths and Legends suggested the character of Coyote (asfreely extrapolated here). All these books were invaluable references and are recommended asfurther reading. Further appreciation is due to Michael Warshaw, Steve Jones-D’ Agostino, KojiMukai, Doug Long, Bob Liddil, Terry Kepner, Frank and Joyce Jacobs, and Robert Mendel forvarious favors rendered. My wife, Linda, listened to my ideas, fetched beer and pizza, andrefused to let me discard this book when I thought about writing something else. Many thanks,also, to Ginjer Buchanan, Susan Allison, and Martha Millard.

    In particular, I wish to thank the residents of Lukachukai, Arizona, in the Navajo reservation.Among them, I am especially grateful to the Reverend Fred Harvey of the Native American Church,and his family. Ten years ago, long before this book was ever conceived, I spent several daysas a house guest of the Harvey family and as a visitor to Lukachukai. My observations of theNavajo way of life went into a journal; I dug it out of a file cabinet and used it as a primaryreference in the research of this work. I never heard from Fred again, but that experience hasbeen pivotal to this work. Any mistakes that I may have made concerning the Navajo people andculture are my own; anything I got right was because Fred, his family, and friends were good

hosts and teachers.

—Rindge, New Hampshire; January, 1988 - April, 1989

    “... I see the main use of space colonies as religious. They should be built, not asindustrial enterprise, but in the spirit of the old cathedrals, like Canterbury. We should takeit all very slow and build in meaningful earth-stories and myths. Clearly space colonies havemore to do with myth than science or industry. I want the connection between the Indian Coyotestories and the space colonies to be very direct and clean. I want the building of the coloniesto encourage folk life and country music and old time religion, not discourage it. I want thecolonies to have a lot of winos and ne‘er-do-wells hanging around the computer consoles,singing and praying and spitting and telling lies.... In my head I’m against all this spacestuff. But in my heart, if they’re goin’ to build ’em, I want to be on one. I want to go toheaven, by hook or crook. I’d feel a whole lot better about it, though, if that guy hadn’thit that golf ball on the moon. I sure do dread being locked up in outer space with tenthousand golfers.”

—Gurney Norman

    Two years later, I found myself sitting on a wooden bench on Canaveral Pier, just outside thelittle bar that’s located at the end of the boardwalk. The bar has a name, but even afterhaving lived in Cocoa Beach for more than twenty years, I can never recall it. I doubt, infact, that any of the residents know what the bar is called. One local says to another, “I’llmeet you at the bar on the pier,” and both people know which bar it is. it’s sort of likeClarke County. If someone mentions Clarke County, it is seldom asked where it’s located.

    Canaveral Pier, along with the nameless bar, had been rebuilt by the town in 2018, after theoriginal pier had been destroyed by Hurricane Judy two years earlier. It was just as well thatJudy obliterated the original pier, considering that it had been slowly crumbling into theocean at the time, a victim of the relentless battering of the Atlantic surf and its owndecrepitude. The hurricane only saved the local taxpayers the expense of having it razedanyway.

    The new pier was stronger, its timber reinforced with ,concrete and lunar aluminum donated bySkycorp and shipped from the Moon, yet it was a near-exact duplicate of the original pier, witharcade booths and food kiosks lining the boardwalk. The town could have just as easily replacedthe pier with an artificial island similar to Disney SeaWorld, farther up the coast in DaytonaBeach, but the residents and the Brevard County Chamber of Commerce, in their wisdom, opted fora replacement pier instead. The new pier retained the old-style, no-tech flavor of thetwentieth century: weathered, whitewashed wood planks that burned the soles of your feet insummertime; ice cream that melted into gooey rivulets running down your knuckles and tastedslightly like salt, games that relied on keen eyes and a good throwing arm rather than biocybeimplants at the base of your skull.

    One of the small pleasures of the nameless bar on the pier were the old coin-operatedtelescopes on the deck outside the bar. You used to see a lot of them in the last century, onthe overlook above Niagara Falls or on the observation deck of the Empire State Building, butthey’re mostly gone now. The telescopes had crashed into the surf when Judy had totaledCanaveral Pier, but they had been salvaged from the wreckage and lovingly restored to the newpier. The telescopes—big round steel objects mounted on thick posts, a quarter for fiveminutes—were obsolete, of course. Even a cheap pair of fiber-optic binoculars had many timestheir magnification, and only one of the two telescopes worked at all.

    But I loved the telescopes. They were reminders of the first time I had visited the bar, backin 1985 when I was a much younger man: in my twenties, a novice reporter for a midwesternnewspaper, who had lucked into covering the launch of Space Shuttle Mission 51-D. That was theone in which a U.S. senator, Jake Garn, had been sent up on a junket, doing little more than

    getting spacesick for the dubious benefit of science. A moment in history. The night before thelaunch a Canadian photojournalist and I had sat out on the deck, getting ripped on tequila andbeer chasers, cracking awful jokes about Barfin’ Jake while an endless string of Jimmy Buffettsongs had rolled out of the jukebox inside.

    Those were the good old days, the pioneer years of the Space Age. Back then, when you dropped aquarter into one of the telescopes, you could view the old Titan and Atlas gantries along theEastern Test Range on Merritt Island, south of the larger shuttle launch facilities at theKennedy Space center—Pads 39A and 39B and the original Vehicle Assembly Building, looming likea monstrous white block above the flat marsh-land. Next to the VIP stands and the Press Moundin the KSC, the bar deck was the best place from which to watch launches. It still is, eventhough the press has long since relinquished the Mound to the tourists.

    Reporters rarely turn up for the Cape launches any more and the tourists would rather go toDisneyland. Finally, space travel became routine. The Titan and Atlas gantries are ancienthistory, replaced by pads for Big Dummy HLVS and various one-shot satellite carriers and therugged old Mark II shuttles that lift off each day. NASA is Still the landlord, but it’s theprivate companies—Skycorp, Galileo International, Uchu-Hiko Kabushiki-Gaisha, Cheap ThrillsInc.—which haul most of the freight and people to orbit. They always said the day would comewhen seeing a space launch would be as exciting as observing trucks leaving from a loadingdock, and eventually they were right. Now only the geriatric farts like me show up to watchwhen the rockets go. This is an impatient age. if medical science hadn’t kept me alive thislong, I would be tempted to say that progress sucks. And so ... well-preserved at the age ofninety-three, one of the last of the original spacehounds sat on a wooden bench in the meagerwarmth of the afternoon sun on an early spring day. Retired from chasing deadlines, I wrote anoccasional, redundant history of spaceflight, or sometimes banged out a science-fiction novelfor the hell of it. Mostly I relished old memories, sometimes flew up to the University ofMissouri for alumni reunions and to deliver lectures to bored undergraduates at the journalismschool. As a venerable veteran journalist and self-acknowledged geezer, I never expected to getanother tip on a hot scoop in my life.

    For my past sins, though, God gave me one. A phone call placed to me by a name without a facehad brought me to the bar without a name, and now a stranger pushed open the glass slide-doorand walked out onto the veranda. He stepped in front of me and asked if I was who he thought Iwas.

    “If I’m not,” I replied, “then I owe Social security a lot of money.” it was a favoriteline, calculated to make young turks respectful of my seniority. He smiled benignly. This oneseemed reverent enough, so I decided to give the cranky-senior-citizen bit a rest. “I take ityou’re Simon McCoy,” I added, returning his smile.

    “Yes, sir. Thanks for taking the time to see me.” McCoy stepped forward, with hand extended.Half-rising from the bench to shake his hand, I took a closer look. Tall, slender, longish butwell-groomed blond hair, wearing a white cotton sports coat, baggy plaid trousers and a bluebow tie, carrying a shapeless white Panama hat in his hand. Faint British accent, like anEnglishman who’d immigrated to the States as a child. Athletic grace, which made me slightlyenvious: he could still climb a flight of stairs without effort, or turn a young woman’s head.

    He sat down on the bench next to me. One of the bar robots—a concession to modern times,albeit not as charming as a waitress—rolled out onto the deck. McCoy ordered a coke and Iasked for a Dos Equis. The hell with my doctor’s admonition to stay away from alcohol; if youcan’t drink beer in retirement, then what good are your so-called golden years? After McCoyhad slipped in his credit card with instructions to run a tab, the robot disappeared backthrough the sliding door. He gazed at the stumpy little machine as it exited. “If it stillexisted I would have asked you to meet me at Diamondback Jack’s.”

    I shook my head. “Jack’s hasn’t been around for twenty years. It burned down in ...”

    Then I stopped. Diamondback Jack’s had been a beer joint on Route 3 on Merritt island, a divefor pro spacers which only the locals had known about. How could someone this young know

    Jack’s? It was hardly the kind of place where someone would put up a historical marker. “Howdo you know about Diamondback Jack’s?” I asked.

    McCoy shrugged nonchalantly. “I’m something of a history buff. When I visit a place I like tosnoop around. Find out some local history, that sort of thing.” He waved his hand towards thedistant launch pads up the coast. “I guess we’ll have to settle for this.”

    “No loss,” I replied. “If we sit here long enough we’ll probably see a launch. Theweather’s good, and Uchu-Hiko usually sends up a cargo vessel on Wednesdays. it beats lookingat pictures of dead men in a broken-down bar.”

    McCoy laughed, absently fondling his Panama hat in his hands. “I’m surprised. One wouldthink, as long as you’ve been here, writing about space, you would be too jaded to watchrocket launches.”

    I was about to reply, when the robot rolled back out onto the deck, its tray loaded with ourdrinks. McCoy picked up his Coke and raised it to me. “To your health.”

    “Such as it is,” I grumbled, tapping my bottle against his glass. Time to end the small talk.“When you called me you said you knew something which might interest me. Mr. McCoy, I hopeyou’re not a writer and this isn’t a ploy for an interview. I stopped giving ‘last of thebreed’ interviews years ago.”

    He shook his head. “Nothing of the kind. Please, call me Simon.”

    “Okay then, Simon, what’s on your mind?”

    “I understand you’re writing a new book,” he said casually. “About the Clarke countyincident a couple years ago. The Church of Elvis, Icarus Five, the evacuation and all that.”

    I was taking a sip when he said this. His words made me choke and sputter; beer sprayed overthe knees of my trousers. “Goddammit!” I snarled.

    “Oh! Terribly sorry.” Instantly apologetic, he pulled a handkerchief out of his coat pocketand hurriedly began sopping at my pants. “ I didn’t mean to get that kind of ...”

    I knocked his hand away. “Who told you about my book?” I demanded. It was a serious matter.if McCoy had said I was fooling around with someone else’s wife, it was something I could havedenied. If he had simply inquired about my new book, I would have told him that I was crankingout another SF

    potboiler. Neither inquiry would have upset me. But there were only a few people, supposedly,who knew that I was doing an investigative work about the events of 2049 in Clarke County. Myeditor and my agent knew better than to blab, and my wife was always sworn to secrecy. As formy sources ... well, journalistic sources always have their own interests at heart, and thesources for this story were already treading on thin ice by aiding me in the first place.Nobody should have told a complete stranger what I was researching. Unfortunately, McCoy hadalready caught me by surprise. There was no use in pleading the First and Fifth Amendments now.To his credit, he didn’t look smug. “Never mind how I know,” he said. “There’s things youshould know about the incident. That’s why I called you.”

    I almost laughed. It sounded like the same shtick every working reporter experiences: themysterious source who suddenly calls on the phone, claiming to know in whose closet theskeletons reside. Sometimes it’s disgruntled employees or nosy neighbors with an axe to grind.There’s rarely anything they know which can be verified. On occasion it’s a wacko, like thewoman who bugged me constantly when I worked the city beat on a paper in Massachusetts, withher claim that the mayor and the entire city council were involved in a prostitution ring. Youlearn to hang up when they start babbling about conspiracies, or at least before they startoutlining their plans to run for President.

    “I doubt there’s anything you know that’s new to me,” I said. “But thanks for the beer.”

    To my surprise, McCoy didn’t get annoyed. He sighed and gazed out at the ocean. “I was afraidit was going to be like this. You’re supposed to have an arrogant streak.”

“Who’s being arrogant?” I said. “I’m being realistic.”

    He looked back at me. “I suppose you think I’m another nut case.”

    “Oh, no. Not at all.”

    “The fact of the matter is,” he continued, “you know little more now about the incident thanwhat you could have gleaned from news accounts of the time. Your book will be nothing more thana rehash of the standard story. No new facts. Not only that, but you’ll be dead wrong on mostof it.”

    “Uh-huh,” I said. “And you know better, of course.”

    “Yes, I know better.”

    “And what’s the source of your information?” I was willing to play along for a while. He hadbought me a beer; it would have been rude to leave right away.

    “I was in Clarke County at the time.”

    I nodded and shrugged. “So were about eight thousand other people. Most of them didn’t knowwhat was going on even when the colony was being evacuated. It’s like saying you were in SanFrancisco when the quake hit. That doesn’t make you a seismologist.”

    “That’s true. Being there doesn’t give me any special insights. Yet there’s more thanthat.”

    I smiled politely. “I’m all ears.”

    He paused, looking down. at the beach. There was a pretty little girl in a swimsuit on the edgeof the surf, feeding scraps of bread to a cawing gang of sea gulls circling around her. Shelooked fascinated and frightened at the same time. “I hope she doesn’t get pecked by one ofthose filthy birds,” he commented. “If I told you how I know ...”

    McCoy hesitated again. “You’ve probably heard this line before, but ... well, if I told youright away, you’d probably think I was crazy. So I don’t want to tell you, at least notnow.”

    I reluctantly took my eyes away from the child. At my age, it’s difficult not to envy youth.“You’re getting warm. You sound a little more reasonable than most insane people I’ve talkedto, though. so give me one good reason why I shouldn’t just get up and leave.”

    “Does getting the story straight for your book count?”

    “Everyone uses that excuse. Especially the ones who are crazy. Try again.”

    He smiled. “All right, try this. You’re a storyteller, when it comes right down to it. Youlike hearing a good tale, and you like telling one even better.”

    I had to grin. He had me there. “So far, so good. Keep going.”

    “So here’s the deal,” McCoy continued. “I’m going to tell you a long and rather detailedstory, and all you have to do is listen. You can take notes and ask questions, and when I’mdone, you can decide whether it makes sense for you to incorporate my story into your book.”

    McCoy hesitated again, then added, “If you’ll hear me out until the end, I’ll tell you how Iknow these things, although I doubt you’ll believe me. So all I want from you is an afternoonof your time.”

    “When you’re my age,” I said, “an afternoon is a great thing to ask for.”

    “It’ll be worth it.”

    I thought it over. I had already written off this afternoon. I hadn’t been planning to returnhome before dark, and who knew? Perhaps McCoy was on the level, and even if he was a crank,maybe this would be fun. Indeed, in my news-room years, I had sometimes amused myself bylistening to crank calls from the UFO abductees and conspiracy mavens. “I suppose, of course,that you want to be mentioned in my book as a source.”

    McCoy didn’t bite. He shook his head. “Not at all. In fact, I insist that I not be mentioned.My aim isn’t cheap fame. I only want to make sure you get the story straight.”

He paused, then added, “For the sake of future generations.”

    “Future generations,” I repeated. “That sounds rather grandiose, don’t you think?”

    McCoy didn’t reply. “Okay,” I said. “If you’ll buy me another beer, I’ll listen. Tell mea story.”

    “Well, then ...” Simon McCoy leaned back against the bench and stretched out his legs,balancing his Coke on his stomach. “Once upon a time there was a very frightened young womannamed Macy...”


    Departure (Wednesday: 11:15 P.M.)

    She had anticipated that the main passenger terminal would be crowded, and she was correct. Thelong Memorial Day weekend was approaching, and despite the late hour people were scurryingalong the concourses and walkways of the vast airport, on their way to catch flights to all theusual vacation spots: Bermuda, Hong Kong, San Francisco, Sydney, St. Thomas, New York, Ho ChiMinh City. A group of little Japanese kids crowded against a railing, staring at a replica ofThe Spirit of St. Louis suspended from the ceiling, while beneath the antique airplane theholographic ghost of Charles Lindbergh, dressed in flying leathers and jodhpurs, delivered aprerecorded lecture on his flight. Today, thanks to suborbital travel, you can fly to Paris inless than an hour, the young pilot commented as a baggage autocart rolled heedlessly throughhis body, but in 1927 my solo flight took almost thirty-four hours and was considered the mostdangerous flight yet.... Yeah, Chuck, Macy thought as she turned away. Tell me about dangerousflights.

    At least the vast numbers of men, women, and children swarming around would make it hard forher to be spotted, if indeed she was being followed. Even if one of Tony’s goons found herhere, a quiet abduction would be difficult. If someone grabbed her, Macy could scream rape,draw attention to herself, perhaps spook whoever it was into retreating. Above all else, Tonyalways wanted family business to be done quietly.

    She hurried down the concourse towards Gate 27, passing through the security smartgate, whichautomatically scanned her face, verified her identity and the presence of the passenger tag onher ticket, and probed her body and the contents of her nylon shoulder bag, Macy’s singlepiece of luggage. She glanced at a status screen as she walked by: 11:17 P.M. Tony was supposedto have picked her up at the compound at ten o’clock when he came back from

    “business.” Even if he was his usual tardy self, she had little doubt that her absence fromthe Salvatore mansion was already known. At this minute they would be searching for her. Macyhad done her best to cover her trail, prepurchasing her ticket on the Amex card bearing herMary Boston pseudonym, and bribing the cab driver who had picked her up in Ladue to forget herface. Yet she knew that Tony would quickly run through all the possibilities; undoubtedly,someone would already be on the way to Lambert Field, to see if Tony’s woman was trying tocatch a plane. Maybe that someone was getting out of a car even now, out on the sidewalk infront of the terminal, striding in through the automatic doors she herself had passed onlyfifteen minutes ago....

    Cut it out, she told herself. Don’t panic now. Just get on the shuttle down to Texas andyou’re home-free. You’ll be out of St. Louis. Then in another couple of hours you’ll be onMatagorda Island, and an hour after that, you’ll be off the planet....

    She harbored no illusions that putting 200,000 miles of outer space between her and St. Louiswould be enough to keep her from Tony Salvatore and his goon squad. It would stall him, but notstop him. Yet all she needed was time and a little distance. Then she could get revenge, eraseTony from her life once and for all. The contents of her shoulder bag would see to that, onceshe delivered it into the right hands. So she hoped.

    She found Gate 27, the United Airlines flight to Dallas-Fort Worth. The waiting area wascrowded, but while there were still a few seats vacant, she did not sit down. She had to keepher face hidden a few minutes longer. Instead, Macy turned her back to the concourse and faced

the wall, fixing her eyes on an ad screen.

    By coincidence, it was displaying an animated holo of Clarke County. It rotated gracefully inspace, the gentle silver-gray orb of the Moon gliding past in the background as the TexSpacelogo shimmered into existence in front of the colony. Macy stared at it, and smiled for thefirst time since she had climbed over the wall surrounding Tony’s mansion. Three days and shewould be there.

    The screen went blank, and in the moment before a chorus line of Las Vegas showgirls begangoose-stepping across the screen, she glimpsed in the black panel a reflection of the scenebehind her. About twenty feet away, standing next to the gate entrance, was a man in a suit,perfectly ordinary—except for the fact that he was watching her. Not with the eyes of a casualstranger sizing up a beautiful woman who happened to be by herself, but with the gaze of aperson who was discreetly keeping track of her movements. A chill electric wave coursed fromthe nape of her neck to the bottom of her spine. Macy slowly turned away from the screen,forcing herself to stare out the windows overlooking the apron where the airliner nuzzledagainst the passenger walkway. In the reflection of the window she could see herself, andfurther away, the man in the suit was still watching. She began to turn in his direction, and afat man with a bawling kid in tow lurched into her. He stopped and excused himself beforepushing past, and the kid trampled across the toes of her boots. When they were gone and shedared to look back again, the man in the suit had disappeared. Macy Westmoreland would havepanicked at that moment—absolutely flipped, lost her cool, bolted for the ladies’ room or thenearest security guard or even, God forbid, to a phone to call Tony to say that she was sorry,she was coming home now, please don’t have anyone kill her, or whatever opportunity camefirst—when the gate agent picked up her mike and announced that United Airlines Flight 724nonstop from St. Louis to Dallas-Fort Worth was ready for boarding. Even before the agent haddone the bit about carry-on bags and persons needing assistance, Macy was pushing her waytowards the ramp.

    FBI Special Agent Milo Suzuki watched as the woman shoved and squirmed her way to the front ofthe mob of passengers, almost falling over an old man in a wheelchair as she thrust her ticketinto the hand of the ticket agent. He could hear the protests of the other passengers andcaught the sour look on the agent’s face. There was a brief exchange between the agent and thewoman, then the agent reluctantly ran her optical scanner over the ticket and allowed the womanto be the first person aboard the aircraft. Suzuki shook his head. “And away she goes,” hewhispered to himself. When it came to shaking off a tail, the woman was an utter amateur. Hewalked away from the gate to the nearest phone booth, in an alcove just off the concourse.Shutting himself inside and picking up the receiver, he pulled out his datapad and, afterconnecting the interface to the phone, dialed the number to the St. Louis field office’scomputer. Once he was logged in, he typed on the pad’s miniature keyboard: WESTMORELAND,MACY—CROSS-REF. SALVATORE.

    Within a few moments, the computer downloaded the file into Suzuki’s datapad. A head-and-shoulders photo of the woman who had just boarded the airliner appeared on the screen. Therewas more information, of course, but this was all that Suzuki needed to confirm that it was,indeed, Tony Salvatore’s mistress who had boarded a jet to Texas.

    He opened a window on the screen and dialed into United Airlines’ passenger reservationscomputer. At first, the AI system would not permit him access to the passenger list, untilSuzuki typed in his federal authorization code—in effect, showing the computer his badge. Oncein, he typed in Macy’s name again. No record of Macy Westmoreland was entered in the UnitedAirlines passenger manifest. Suzuki pursed his lips, then studied Westmoreland’s dossieragain. Bingo: she had a couple of aliases, chief among them “Mary Boston.”

    REQ. ITIN. 5/29/49: BOSTON, MARY, he typed. This name the computer recognized; it immediatelyprinted out Mary Boston’s travel itinerary, gathered from the flight reservations she had madethrough the airline. Milo studied the schedule, tracing it with his forefinger, frowned and

    then smiled. How interesting. Macy Westmoreland had used her “Mary Boston” Amex card topurchase bookings all the way to Clarke County. United 724 would get her to Dallas-Fort Worth,where she would catch the special TexSpace commuter helicopter to the Matagorda IslandSpaceport. From there, she was scheduled to catch the TexSpace SSTO Lone Star Clipper to ClarkeCounty, traveling in First Class. In fact, she already had a room reserved at the LaGrangeHotel in the colony.

    “So why are you running away from Tony, babe?” Milo Suzuki muttered to himself. He saved theinformation he had gathered within the datapad’s memory bubble, then logged off anddisconnected the pad from the phone. Well, it didn’t matter to him. He had followed Macy fromthe Salvatore compound, where he had seen her climb over the wall from his stakeout point upthe street, and now he knew where she was going. All he had to do was contact the Dallas fieldoffice and have her picked up when United 724 landed there. There had to be some usefulness inthe fact that Tony Salvatore’s bimbo was apparently going AWOL.

    He had just tucked the datapad into his pocket and had pulled his phonecard out of his wallet,when the door to the phone booth suddenly slid open and a man shoved himself into the booth.Milo Suzuki had just enough time to clumsily bring up his hands and open his mouth before thesquat barrel of an oversized pistol was pressed into his sternum.

    Suzuki looked up into the impassive face of the intruder. “Golem ...” he said. Without aword, the intruder slapped the gun’s barrel into the palm of Suzuki’s upraised right hand andsqueezed the trigger. There was a soft whufff! as a tiny sliver was fired into the FBI agent’shand.

    “Yow!” Suzuki jerked back from the sudden sting. It was the last thing he ever said.

    Two cc’s of sea wasp venom—the secretion of a jellyfish found only in the Indian Ocean offthe Australian coast, the rarest and most lethal natural poison known to man—was alreadycoursing through his bloodstream. Within seconds it entered his heart. Suzuki’s eyes widenedas his heart began to beat wildly out of control. Gasping, he clutched at his chest and saggedagainst the back wall of the phone booth until, half a minute after the dart had been firedinto his hand, he collapsed and died.

    The intruder caught Suzuki with his gloved hands and carefully settled his corpse onto thebooth’s seat. He looked over his shoulder to make sure he had not been seen, then he quicklyand artfully positioned the dead man’s arms, legs, and head so that it appeared as if Suzukiwas just another exhausted commuter catching a few quick winks in a phone booth. When the FBIagent’s body was eventually discovered and examined, it would seem as if Suzuki had suffered afatal cardiac arrest. The dart itself would dissolve within ten minutes; only a thoroughautopsy would reveal the tiny puncture mark in his right hand.

    The Golem pocketed his hospital-issue sedative gun; made of plastics and protected with acomputer-fouling stealth chip in its handle, it had passed through the smartgate withoutraising any alarms. He then reached into Suzuki’s coat pocket and retrieved the agent’sdatapad. He tucked it into the inside pocket of his own jacket, and stripped off his gloves andcarefully backed out of the phone booth.

    He shut the door of the booth, then strolled down the concourse without looking back. TheUnited Airlines jet was taxiing away from Gate 27 as the killer reached the main terminal; bythe time Suzuki’s body was discovered by someone impatient to use the phone, the Golem wouldbe long gone from St. Louis International Airport.

    The Golem knew that Macy Westmoreland was aboard the plane, unreachable by him. But the G-manhad found something and put it into his datapad; that information would make it easy for theorganization to track down the boss’s girl. She’d got a small headstart, but nothing more.The Golem was a soldier who only carried out orders. This time, though, he hoped he was the onewho got tapped for the inevitable wet job. He had to admit it to himself. He enjoyed his lineof work. 2

The Coyote Dream (Friday: 6:59 P.M.)

    In an elliptical orbit that varies between 100,000 and 200,000 miles from Earth, Clarke Countyglides through the darkness of cislunar space like an enormous, elaborate child’s top. From adistance, it’s nearly impossible to appreciate the size of the artificial world, for there isnothing else nearby to which one can compare it. Closer, though, with tiny OTVs and zero g

    “free-flier” factories parked in orbit around it, the vastness of the space colony becomesoverwhelmingly apparent. With an overall length of 5,250

    feet—just shy of a statute mile—and the broadest width, the circumference of its bowl-likecentral primary mirror, of 2,937 feet, the colony is dwarfed only by the solar power satellitesin geosynchronous orbits closer to Earth. Even so, Space Colony LH-101US is more staggeringthan the thirteen-mile-long SPS satellites. The powersats, after all, are unmanned solarcollectors, while the first true space colony is home to thousands of people. Essentially aBernal sphere, surrounded at each end by torus clusters arrayed along axial shafts, solar vanesand giant mirrors, Clarke County is the largest space station ever successfully built. TheGreat Pyramids of Egypt could be constructed within the biosphere, and the largest sky-scraperson Earth would all be diminished in stature if Clarke County were to be brought home. Yetengineering feats are one matter and the human condition is quite another. People have livedtogether in communities for thousands of years, but no one has yet built a successful Utopia.You can transform sterile, cold lunar rock into air and water, living soil and comfortablehouses, a new sky and a new home, but you can’t so easily change human beings. In every townthere are as many stories as there are the people who make up the community: some good, somebad, some absurd, and some that are best left untold. Technology changes, and each age developsits own miracles. People, however, are as noble, ornery, vile, and downright weird as theyalways were. Same as it ever was ...

    John Bigthorn sat on the front steps of the Big Sky town hall and waited for the sun to godown. It was the end of his duty shift; he had left one of his deputies, Lou Bellevedere, incharge of the cop shop, with a warning not to try to call him with any problems, because he wastaking off his beltphone. It was dinner time and the town square was nearly vacant. Across thesquare, Ginny DeMille was closing the doors of Ginny’s Café. She spotted the sheriff throughthe window of her little restaurant and waved to him, and Bigthorn was waving back when thealarm on his watch beeped.

    Bigthorn mentally counted back from five, and at the exact instant his countdown reached zero,night fell on Clarke County. As the colony’s halo orbit brought it once again behind Earth’sshadow, a wave of darkness started on the eastern hemisphere of the biosphere, above his head,and quickly raced down the walls of the world as a solid terminator line. As nightfall movedacross the habitat, it left behind sparks and ovals of light as photosensitive timers switchedon house and street lights. Finally the terminator line reached Big Sky, and as it raced acrossthe square the street lamps turned on as the bell in the meeting hall steeple chimed seventimes. From the far-off livestock sector in the Southwest quad, on the opposite side of thebiosphere, he could dimly hear the roosters crowing. Directly above his head, from thepromenade outside the LaGrange Hotel, the touristas attending the daily Sundown Cocktailcheered and clapped their hands. In space, there’s no such thing as a tequila sunset. Withouta twilight time, night had come to Clarke County.

    Bigthorn rose from the steps, pulled his dayback over his left shoulder, and began walking outof Settler’s Square, passing a statue cast from a solid hunk of lunar aluminum. “The FinalShift,” the statue was named: an exhausted-looking beamjack in space armor, helmet danglingfrom his right hand, staring upwards in perpetual awe at the artificial sky of the world he hadhelped build. A plaque at the base of the statue was etched with the names of the forty-sevenmen and women who had died—so far—during the construction of the colony. Every few weeks thesun rose to find that someone had climbed up on the statue during the night to place a pair ofsunglasses on its face, crazily changing the Lost Beamjack’s lonesome courage into blissed-out

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