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6.

John Vada had been vice-president for less than two years. It was the prerogative of the President to appoint his vice and when the last vice-president, Paul Chammers, had passed away a few weeks ago, the job John always wanted was finally opening. Chammers had been seventy-two and in bad health. He just hadn’t woken up one day.

Chammers had been a boy of ten during the war, his father had been captain of the only Lunar ship to be destroyed during the entire conflict, a distinction that Chammers had used to very good political, if it could be called political in such a small society, effect. He had been Vice-President off and on again for at least forty years and was so powerful that sometimes he eclipsed the standing presidents as administrator of the city.

Sarah Yelm had gotten her position because Chammers maintained that the Moon needed a pretty face to represent it, a fact that greatly irritated John.

John had once told Mas Kilmar that Sarah was neither qualified nor reliable. He had always disagreed with Chammers’s appointment. She got angry too easily, voiced her opinions too freely. She didn’t work well with Mark either. The two had dynamically opposed personalities and Mark would probably make her look foolish someday. The man was smarter than her, for one, and meaner. John had predicted that the girl wouldn’t last out her term. Chammers went soft in his later years and Sarah was the proof. At least with Essica, you had somebody who could do her job.

He had voiced these concerns to nobody but Kilmar. But in a small society like this, idle talk got back to people very quickly.

This early the halls were usually occupied by one or two people, usually people heading to early shifts, such as those who worked at the physical plant or Operations. Today there were a large amount of people in the corridors. Each with a question for him, either about the American spaceship or other concerns

“No, no,” he had to say multiple times, “We’re not going to war. Just rumors. Rumors.”

When he entered Habitation Module 3 (or M41 as Operations called it), he had a lot of difficulty with Mr. Hamblen, an aging, bent man who kept a little garden outside of his apartment in a little trough filled with dirt. The tomatoes and carrots that came out of it were pathetically tiny, but Hamblen doted on them as if they were family pets.

“Hello Mr. Hamblen,” John said. Waving and walking quickly, probably hoping that he could get through the module and to the Yee’s apartment before the residential modules filled up with people, he was stopped by Hamblen’s cricket-like voice.

“John,” Hamblen said. His voice was melodious, even in old age, it had gained none of the gravelly undertones that sometimes come to men not fond of shaving in the morning. “I heard some strange things today.”

“Oh?” John stopped. “I’m in a hurry can it wait?”

“Wait a moment,” Hamblen said, delicately spritzing his plants with a squirt bottle. “This is important.”

“What is it?”

“I heard we blasted an American ship last night.”

“It was more a group of crazy religious folk.”

“They say America might attack us.”

“That’s nonsense,” John said. “Don’t listen to rumors.”

“Rumors. Right. You don’t live on this side of the city do you?”

“No.”

“Pretty early to be up on this side,” Hamblen said. “Suspicious.”

“I have some business,” John said. “Your tomatoes look like they’re doing fine.”

“Who died?”

“What?” John asked. The question had startled him badly. The old man’s blue eyes were bright crystals set into the wrinkled face. Very intelligent. Before retirement, Hamblen had been director of the factory and most believed he could pick that job right back up with ease if he wanted.

“The last time one of the counselors was down this early was when Riley Rice died.”

“Strictly confidential,” John said leaning in to whisper, “but somebody has died. I can’t say anymore than that right now.”

Hamblen’s face lit with the knowledge. He nodded gravely. An “I understand nod”. He waved John on.

The Yees’ apartment door was like any other on the Moon, except that it was painted with flowers, David’s sister’s work. David’s older sister’s work. It was not recent. Blue forget-me-nots, probably copied from the internet. There were seventy species of flowering plants present in the colony and forget-me-nots were not one of them. Unlike airlock doors or official, technical, or work doors, the apartment doors all swung inward. The reason doors swing inward, John had once been told, is so that the residents could barricade them from intruders. On the Moon, it was more a maintenance issue. Hinges are easier to fix than servos or magnetic sliding systems. The doors were, however, metal and made a nice musical sound when knocked on. John rang the doorbell.

It was answered immediately by a round-faced dark-haired woman. John stood over her by a good three feet. She smiled when she saw him. Instant good cheer with a smile as bright as a sunrise and as wide as a rainbow.

Mrs. Connie Yee née McCullough was of Irish-American descent and very proud of it. She boasted the she was the best almost-Catholic on the entire Moon (she was as culturally Catholic as an agnostic could be) and her imitations of Irish food were legendary. It was said, in front of her, that nobody could cook like her. This was said behind her too, but in a different tone, usually with expressions of pity for her husband and children. Compact, built like a truck, not pretty but light with a word and quick with a smile she had all the charm anybody ever needed and even those girls who might be jealous of her courtship of the handsome Mr. Robert Yee were aware of why he married her and how deep their connection was.

“John? You’re not who I expected,” she said, leaning around him looking for the non-existent form of her son. “Dave’s out somewhere.”

The odor of eggs and bacon wafted from around her. Not particularly Irish, but delightful smelling anyway, perhaps because it wasn't Irish.

“Connie,” John said, “is Robert home?”

“Still in bed,” Mrs. Yee said. Her expression dropped. The humor had left it from the moment he had said “Con.”

“We need to talk and somewhere that’s not out here,” John said, waving to indicate the domed module.

“This isn’t about… no. I’ll wait,” she said. Connie knew something was wrong. Something very, very wrong. “Sit down at the table. I’ll get Robert.”

The table was small and made of moon rock encased in clear plastic. These were common enough. In Moon to Moon transactions the table would cost about thirty lunari. Moon to Earth, the table would be around 700 lunari. Moon rocks sold very well on terraferma.

There were two types of apartments in the modules, singles and family modules. The family ones had three bedrooms, a kitchen, and a living/dinning room. Like the singles, these were not large. The ideal number of occupants was four, the modules being designed by Americans back when the ideal family was the nuclear family. But life never fits those neat models and newer apartments often had more space to add rooms.

Still, the Yee apartment was cramped, and John sat in the quiet room listening to the soft conversation of Connie and Robert the next room over. Their daughter, Andrea, had moved to her own apartment a year ago. There’d been some fuss because she had moved in with her boyfriend before they had officially married, but that had been resolved quickly by Kilmar who married them in the convention module before almost the entire colony.

Tapping his fingers on the plastic tabletop, John waited. It took forever, but finally Robert came out dressed in a blue bathrobe. His wife followed tentatively.

“John?” Robert asked, even with circles under his eyes and his dark hair shot through with white, he retained the same boyish attractiveness that he’d passed on to David. “It’s a little early for a visit.”

Robert Yee was descended from one of the astronauts on the ill-fated Chinese space station Dongfang. The only person to survive the disaster, the Yee picked up by a lunar supply ship (a great risk due to the war with America), went on to be the designer of Armstrong Park.

“You both should sit down,” John said.

“Is it David?” Connie asked. “He left last night.”

“What’s this about?” Robert asked.

“Well….” John said.

“Just say it,” Robert said.

“Your son is,” John interrupted himself unable to get the words out.

“Is he all right?” Connie asked.

“No. Wait, he’s fine. I guess,” John said. “But he’s in trouble.”

“Trouble?” Robert asked. “What kind of trouble?”

“To be frank, as near as we can figure, he appears to have been messing around with Jenifer Hamp. At some point last night--.”

“What?” Connie said. “Hamp? David couldn’t be doing that. She’s married.”

“Please,” John said. “You have to hear it. At some point last night Jonathan Hamp came home. He works the night shift, but he left early.”

“Is David okay?” Connie asked.

“Did Jonathan do something to David?” Robert asked.

“Listen,” John said. “It’s worse than that. Jonathan is dead. We don’t know if it was an accident or not. But we’ve got both Mrs. Hamp and David isolated.”

“My God,” Robert said.

Connie said nothing. At “Jonathan is dead” she had turned off.

“I don’t believe it,” Robert said. “I’m sure David wasn’t doing anything. I’m sure it was an accident. Why would Mrs. Hamp bother with David? That’d make her a pedophile.”

John swallowed. Both Robert and Connie had distant looks. Robert was more talking to himself than anybody in the room and Connie’s was worse. There were lights in her eyes, but they were faraway concentrating on different places, deeps and shores.

“You're going to need to talk to David. He’ll need family at a time like this,” John said. “I’m sorry.” As if that made everything okay.

“How many people know?” Connie asked in a tiny voice.

“Just the lunar council and Dr. Atsuko,” John said. “I can take you to him.”

“Yes,” Robert said quietly.

They left as they were. Connie fully dressed, and Robert in his bathrobe. After ten minutes, the city computer shut the stove down to prevent the forgotten eggs and bacon from setting fire to the apartment.

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