Saturday, April 17, 2010

New Short Story - Draft

(This is the first draft of a story based on the characters in Dark Side of the Moon. I will be posting revisions so you can observe my process. I don't know if it is the best process or not, but it might be interesting. I would love your comments as well. )

Frozen Assets

"So, what do you think?" Mike Cheravic ran a hand over the few hairs he had remaining on the top of his head. Carolyn Masters stared at the empty pedestal and the remains of the display case shattered on the floor.
"You are sure, the mask was in the case?"
    "We're sure. And before you ask, there are no micro-holoprojectors that could create an image of the King Whoit's Death mask"
    "King Teochitonion, the lost king of the Olmecs. It's the only example of an Olmec death mask in existence.  I can't believe this. I argued with the curator of The DeYoung Museum for two years to approve transport of the artifact to the moon. It took us six months to set up the security. Now, this! What happened with the security eyes?"
    "Someone hacked in. They fed in images of an empty room. I know, it's an old trick, but it works and even the best cyber-security can be beat. We got the call at 21:34. The pressure pad triggered the alarm. That is one system that can't be hacked. It's a simple switch. No weight on the pad and the alarm goes off."
    Carolyn picked up the metal band that formed the base of the display case and contained the electronic locking mechanism. She waved to one of Mike's criminology students bagging some evidence near the door. "Moonbeam, could you please get the imaging scanner?"
    Moonbeam, a tall willowy lunar native whose insubstantial appearance almost justified her name, handed Carolyn the scanner.
    "Mike, look at this band," She passed the band beneath the magnifying scanner.
    "I don't see anything."
    "Exactly, no chips, scratches, nothing." She switched the scan to a penetration of one centimeter.
    "The lock is unlocked. Even if the perp was an expert with a magnetic pick and left no scratches, look at all this glass on the floor. None on the pedestal."
    "I don't get it. The perp removed the case and then dropped it."
    "Mike, when was the last time you dropped a glass and broke it? I'm a klutz. I drop glasses all the time. But in 1/6 G, they just float to the ground. Imagine the force needed to smash five millimeter safety glass?"
    "And why would you do it, if you unlocked the case?"
    Carolyn turned off the scanner. "The only reason I can think of is to-"
    "Make it look like a robbery, but in reality, it is an inside job."
    "This is scary. We are completing each other's sentences."
    "That is scary. So, if it is an inside job, let's see who has keys."
    Mike tapped the screen of his handheld. "Only four people had keys to the gallery: the gallery director, but he has an iron clad alibi. He was giving a speech at an awards dinner when the alarm went off. The other keys belong to his assistant, the head of maintenance and the security guard on duty tonight. They each have the same alibi 'home alone.'"
    Carolyn examined at the pedestal. "What's this dark stain on the pedestal?"
    She touched the felt. "It's wet."
    She was quiet for a moment. "Okay,  you can make an arrest."

Jason McIntire, director of the Armstrong University art gallery, perched on the chair across the metal table from Carolyn and Mike. "I don't understand why you want to speak to me."
    "Well, you've been a very bad boy," said Mike. "Doesn't the university pay you enough?"
    "You must be joking. I have a hundred people who can vouch for my whereabouts at the time of the robbery."
    "That was your mistake. But I'll let Carolyn fill in the details."
    "Jason, your plan was elegant, but ignorance and arrogance wrecked a good plan. Here's how you did the crime. Using your access codes, you disabled the alarm system and sent a false image to the security eyes, then you walked in, opened the case  and took out the mask. You smashed the glass case assuming everyone would think it was a simple smash and grab. But all the pieces of the case including the lock were on the floor. A smash and grab would leave some glass on the pedestal. There was none. That means it was lifted off and smashed on the floor."
    "Maybe the burglar used a magnetic pick and then dropped the case by accident."
    "Can't happen. You're new to the moon. In 1/6 G  things don't get up enough momentum to just drop and smash. It had to be an inside job."
"You might have gotten away with this if you hadn't decided to set up the 'perfect' alibi. You placed a block of ice on the pedestal. It's a simple switch. Any weight keeps the alarm disabled. Once the weight goes to zero it goes off. The ice melted slowly enough for you to be safely giving your speech.."
 "It might have been one of the others. My assistant - He spends every weekend in the casinos at Tranquilty."
    "It couldn't be him."
    "Why not? He has a key and  he needs money."
    "Yes, but he doesn't have an alibi. Why would he set up an elaborate alibi like this and not use it. No, you created the perfect alibi, and that alibi will convict you."

Tuesday, November 20, 2007



It's great to hear that you are thinking about coming here. Summer will be perfect. I'll be completely settled in by then and know all the cool places to go. Spring break is coming up here next week so I'm going on the grand tour. I'm going to go the the Tranquility Base Museum to see the original LEM. I'll stay overnight at the Hilton Tranquility Hotel and Casino. Gambling isn't allowed in the towns, but "outside" as the locals call it is fair game. I wouldn't be surprised if the hotels don't import other types of entertainment as well. I doubt the oldest profession isn't represented in some manner even hear, although no one seems to want to talk about it.

After that I'll be going to the Mountains. Mt______ is taller than Everest. Near the top is cliff house (That's right another cliff house) It is a restaurant carved out of the face of the cliff itself. We'll be stopping there for lunch. We'll then take the rover down into the Sea of Tears where we will suit up and go for a stroll. I'd pick up a pebble to send back to you, but there are strict rules about disturbing the environment. These areas are the equivalent of national parks.

Finally, I'll take a leapfrog to Farside Settlement to visit the Conradium mines. It should take only three 20 minute leaps. I guess it's an efficient form of travel, but I don't know if I like the idea of a machine just jumping across the landscape.

On my way back I'll visit one of the ag domes. So, I'll be able to be your guide when you bounce in. Of course, by then I hope to be a glider.

I'll tell you I've been learning a lot of the local slang. It's been interesting. Alot of the slang has to do with the history of the moon. To "do an armstrong" for instance means to be a pioneer or to do something courageous. "It's a Collins" means to just miss out on something sort of like the earth expression "Close but no cigar." An avid golfer is called a "Shepherd". And to crash and burn emotionally is to "aldren."

Of course there are cliques and subgroups and the other groups have their own names for them. Lots of people spend a lot of time outside the domes playing low-g games, exploring or just having fun. They are sometimes called "Dust Bunnies" by those who prefer to stay inside and in return the "dust bunnies" call those who don't go out "cave rats."

Tourists often get the wrath of the native. They are called "leadbottoms" and sometimes "alien invaders."

The geography also provides a source for a few slang terms. For instance, To crater means to fail dramatically. It also means to crash into something by accident. To "dust" someone means to try and stir up trouble for them and to disrespect them.

Well, I need to get back to grading papers.

Take Care. I'll look forward to seeing you this summer,but before then don't be a stranger burn a couple of holo credits on us.


Monday, November 12, 2007

First Day of Class


I had my first class today. The kids were fantastic. Well, most of them are the children of geniuses so the IQ level in the room was soaring. It was amazing to see how they just glide in and float into a seat. Meanwhile, I'm bouncing and jerking around. I'm at about 1/3 G now with my weight jacket. At least the students were polite enough not to make fun of it in my presence. Although, they did snicker a bit when I spun around to write something on the touch screen and floated half way to the ceiling. One young man gallantly held out his hand to help steady me as I floated back to the ground. I recognized him as the young customs agent I told you about when we talked. His name is Jonathan Lafarge, but he told me today he's changing his last name to Endymion.

Many of the younger generation are adopting either first or last names of lunar origin. Endymion is a large crater on the moon in the upper right hand corner of the full moon as it might be seen from earth. Others are a bit more whimsical. In my class I have Two "Moonbeams" and a Daniel Bluemoon. Within two generations, I doubt any Earth names will persist.

Something interesting is emerging here. We have people for all ethnic backgrounds moving to the moon. They come from all nations and each have their own customs and languages (although English is the unofficial official language because the first research and commercial bases were set up by the Americans) but those born here on the moon identify more with the Moon than those terrestrial origins. I guess it is something like what happened after the settling of the U.S. and the Great Immigrations of the 19th and early 20th centuries where the children of the immigrants shed their cultural heritage to be seen as "just plain Americans" only to reclaim that in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

But it seems to be something more profound than that. It's like they are saying that they aren't just cutting ties with a cultural heritage, but with earth itself. They are the true ET's. Maybe it's because unlike the descendant of a Mexican American or Italian American immigrant, these kids can never walk the streets of earth without a full body suit supporting bones adapted to gravity 1/6 that of earth. It would be like stepping out of a plane in New New Orleans and suddenly weighing 800 pounds.

There seems to be a strong Lunar Independence Movement emerging here. You know, when you see news reports about Space Colony Independence it's treated as being just a handful of fringe group activists/trouble makers. But the ones I've met have been very articulate and intelligent. They make some good points. I never really considered the question before. Somehow, it seemed unimportant when I was tending my window box on Church Street with hundred year old street cars rattling by. But here, now, I guess I'll have to give it some serious consideration.

So, you say that Leanne Gundersen has been appointed department chair. Well, she wanted it for years. Personally, even with my arthritis I would run in the opposite direction if they offered it to me. Hmmm... I just noticed. I haven't had so much pain the last few weeks. Low-G must agree with my knee. Now,if I can just keep from spinning off into space periodically.

Well, I've got another class starting in 15 minutes. Earth History: North America 1500-1800. I think that when we get to the Revolutionary War period, there will be some lively discussion.

Take Care and please do consider coming here this summer. I have an extra room and maybe by then I'll be able to loan you my weight suit.


Wednesday, November 7, 2007

New School and a New pair of glasses


How's your daughter doing? It must be getting close to her time. She was one of my favorite students. I kind of like her mother too.

Before I left the reception area, I was equipped with a weight jacket. John said every "bouncer" - which is what they call new comers because we tend to bounce around alot - is given one. It takes awhile to get used to 1/6 gravity. So, this compensates for the weight difference. Every few days I will remove some of the superdense superthin weights and slowly get used to moving in low gravity.

The way people move around here is so amazing. They don't walk so much as they glide. They push off with one foot launching themselves into a low arch, then they touch down just breifly, switch feet and do it again. They call an old-timer or native a "glider." I suspect it will be a long time before I move from bouncer to glider.

John showed me the "teacherage" as he called it. It is one of several small cottages near the grounds of the college. It is a small brick cottage with a small front yard and a good sized back yard. There is plenty of room for a garden. Inside, I have two bedrooms, an office with complete data and advanced comm ports and a direct hook up to the University's private research net. If you ever want to visit, I have plenty of room. Hint, Hint. I can easily walk to school when the weather is okay.

That's right. We have weather here. When you look up you see a simulated sky, but the clouds are perfectly real. Climate, of course, is controlled, but the human psyche is adapted to a daily rhythm of day and night and a yearly cycling of the seasons. According to John, the colony creates a typical climate appropriate to the season, but avoiding extremes. And there are a few "surprises." He said, just last week, in the middle of lunar "summer" they had an unannounced rainstorm. Apparently, several streets had become excessively dusty for some reason and the rain is a type of street washer. Usually, though, you can look up the weather on your com screen just like at home, but here, the weatherman is nearly always right.

I saw the school for the first time today. It's incredible. Remember that summer we signed up for the Bach festival at University of Oregon with it's old style 150 year old brick buildings with ivy growing up the sides? Well, they are using the classic style here, too. It seems the moon is rich in various types of minerals some of these can be made into something resembling red brick. They are even beginning to plant ivy.

But if the outside of the building is old-fashioned everything inside is state of the art. Kathryn, you would love the science labs here. Every conceivable instrument you would want for teaching or research is right there, and if the school doesn't have it, one of the research labs will let the school lease time on their equipment.

The media projection system in my classroom - imagine that a classroom all my own - is fabulous. Holo units, 2-D projectors, RealSound audio systems which play any medium including my vintage tapes, records and CD's. And with laser tracking and magnetic reconstruction built in 100 year old music sounds better than when it was recorded. It's perfect for my 20th Century Popular Culture class.

After the tour, John took me to his office. I didn't realize from his holo-com messages just how engaged he is with his African culture. He has some wonderful pieces of art in his office. It must have cost him a fortune to ship them from Earth, but it's like money is no object here. Well, I guess when your home world is the only place in the known universe that can produce a substance that prevents heart disease and has single handedly almost doubled the expected life span for most people, prosperity is going to follow. I am still in awe at how many "loaves" I get each week. That still tickles me, but it is logical in its own way.

John also gave me a remarkable device. It's a pair of glasses. I know, who wears glasses nowadays. Well, almost everyone does in Armstrong city. The glasses are not for correcting vision. They are links to the city's main computer. They have a variety of functions, like accessing the uni-net, getting directions and initiating voice com calls. But they also have one unique function. Tied into the city's computer, they can be used to identify anyone on sight. Facial recognition software is built into them. So, I can just look at someone and see a little bubble over her head with her name. It's both cool and frightening at the same time. You simply can't be anonymous here. I don't know if that is good or bad, but then, in a small town, you can't be anonymous anyway.

Well, tommorrow, I'm going to go shopping and burn some of those merchandise chips I got at the reception on Oneil.

And please, tell me how Wanda is doing.

Much Love

Finally Here!


Just a quick note to let you know I have arrived safe and sound at Armstrong City. It's quite a contrast to the Oneil colony. For one thing, the city is 50 feet under ground. They say it's to protect the city against meteorite bombardment. Although you wouldn't believe you were underground at all. The weight of the rock is upheld by a two mile high dome. On the dome is projected a holo-image of a natural blue sky. Real clouds float in this artificial sky as part of the lunar climate control.

Everything here is laid out like a small town. There's even a town square with an old-fashioned band shell. I haven't seen the college yet. I understand that there are only a few buildings so far, but from what I could see from the observation deck when I disembarked from the shuttle, there is still plenty of open land. It's hard to believe that 17,000 people live here, but looks are deceptive. The dome is five miles in diameter. That's more than 18 square miles of area.

Armstrong city is the largest of the lunar communities. It has almost as many people as Collins and Aldrin combined. Still I feel like I'm back in Arcata where I grew up. It's like Mayberry has been transported to a crater on the moon. Oh, I know you are a Chemist and don't know about 20th century popular culture, but there was this vid show about a small town and a sheriff. The boy who played his son made many of the best movies of that era. No matter. It's just the type of community I feel most comfortable in.

Oh, I have to go. My dean just arrived. He is going to take me to one of the cottages reserved for the university faculty. I hope I have room for a garden.

Some day you will have to visit me.