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This story contains insects, spiders, casual ableist language.
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By Cat Darensbourg
“No! There is no such thing as a free lunch on Luna. You’re not squeezing an allowance out of me by looking pitiful, Veda!”
In financial dealings, my mom is a harsh mistress, but it was Friday, and I cherished plans to join my school friends that night at the soundclub. I had to try. “But I’m the only offspring on Base that doesn’t get significant parental electrons hitting my e-count. Carla said -- “
Mom made swatting motions in the air. “Carla is not genetically indebted to me for having co-created and then carried her nine months in my womb. You, darling daughter, are.”
“So where am I supposed to download credits from? The vacuum outside? I’m too young to start at the refinery and you won’t let me work in the greenhouses -- “
I had pushed the wrong button. Mom paused in the middle of slapping her leg, and darkened her face the same way every other adult living in Tranquility Base had of late. Gardening, gardeners, and the tons of Trojan-Horse Grade-A topsoil that they had shipped up from Earth with them were all reviled subjects. Tonight, the general Community Council had called a town meeting to discuss the unforeseen problems that had resulted.
Since breathable Base air was always at a premium, no one was going to be burned in effigy. However, if the vote swung the right way, someone might be thrown out the main airlock.
Mom, for her part, folded her arms and looked severe. “I expect more from the flesh-of-my-flesh. Honor me and do not rebel. Manifest and become the razor-witted entrepreneur that I know still lounges on the spiritual couch within you.”
Many times I don’t know whether Mom is mocking me, or off her rockets from the stress that comes from working the house-sized lenses at Tranquility Base’s solar refinery.
“Not even a loan?” No loan, no weekend fun. I endeavored not to whine like a mosquito when I made my final plea.
“Try baby-sitting again.”
Fellow pre-adults from Earth, I have two words of advice for when you arrive with your closest blood relation to take up broad-minded communal living on the moon:
I mean this in the nicest possible way. I would if I could, but I’m too young for emancipation. I’m also too poor to rent a studio somewhere near a ‘sea’ that actually contains water. I don’t care about enduring a year of Spin Gravity Therapy to tone my body back up to tolerating a full-G. I’m turning 15 in another two months, have never been kissed, and the past 10 years away from Mother Terra have left me scarred for life.
Luna? How can I describe it? Rocks. Lots of rocks -- and no greenery outside other than the glow-in-the-dark paint outlining the landing field. Odorless air you have to pay for, and you will be assessed a Closed-Environment Public Nuisance fine if you wear perfume. Knowing that bland-tasting recycled water in the faucet once was dingy recycled water in the sani-bowl. Knowing that the reconstituted ‘meat chips in savory soy paste’ comprising your day’s Protein Allowance sat six months on the community store’s storage shelf.
Not having a bouncy Golden Retriever named Casper because “Pets are Social Disturbances”. Tranquility’s a two thousand-person commune, but some residents are more equal than others. Tranquility doesn’t allow a petting zoo because individuals started bitter feuds over ‘owning’ furry animals that were supposed to be public property. The last kitten that Base maintenance tried to sneak through Customs got pitched into the vacuum -- literally -- and everyone involved got slapped with 500 credit deletions. A small grave was dug, a marker set up, and rumors of a silent feline ghost dashing around the recycling plants resurface from time to time. Frankly, Luna is starved for life that isn’t human.
Thus, when the suggestion to hire specialists and produce fresh vegetables by converting our school gym into a cost-effective greenhouse came up in Community Council, everybody with brains lunged for the chance. The gardeners, their seeds, and their dangerous dirt arrived a month ago. Before the first seed sprouted, a real-as-Moses Insect Plague hatched from a pre-paid, unsterilized shipment of topsoil.
Yes, dear Reader, Tranquility Base is my home among certified Lunaticks.
Friday was lost, but maybe I could scrape together some electrons to save Saturday. There are always jobs when you need work so bad you’re willing to sell you sanity if not your soul. Employment in Hell, however, sometimes has perks. Twenty minutes after my failed Mother-Daughter negotiations, I walked down the Base’s older service tunnels. The section had evolved into economy housing snapped up by people who had arrived in the last two years.
“Mick,” I tried to sound casual as the privacy plate to his crowded family apartment turned transparent. A large insect buzzed past my ear, making me lose some of my poise. “Your Mom’s in?”
Mick was 16, has no attentive snuggle-friend to brighten his life, and is deeply scrumptious to contemplate. He never goes out soundclubbing because he dances like a tortured flamingo, and everybody except me snickers at his hick-Terran accent. On the up side, his dark hair and dazzling ice-blue eyes always send wonderful chills through my being.
“Non,” he replied. “Mama and Papa took off to the meeting.”
“Who’s taking care of Jenny?”
Jenny was four, and his little sister. She needed to have a titanium leash embedded in her spine to make sure she stayed in place.
My smile wattage brightened even though I had to smush a ladybug landing on my chin. “Aren’t you going to let me in?” I hinted. “Before the flies eat me up?”
“The roaches inside are worse.”
“I’ll take my chances,” I said. “Besides, I came to ask about babysitting your little sister anyway. You can tell me about visiting your Aunt Sophie in Nice while I help watch Jenny.”
On cue, the high-pitched humanoid standing behind Mick and eavesdropping on our conversation screeched. We both cringed.
“Where is my Echo? Ou est mon Echo?” Jenny howled.
“New toy she’s lost?” I said. “I could help you find it.”
Mick looked downright panicked. “Look, I must go. Call Mama later.”
“But -- “
An instant later, I stood looking at my reflection in a darkened privacy plate. Though the audio had kicked off, I could still hear Mick and Jenny through the door.
“Echo! Ou est mon Echo?”
“Right here, chérie. We’ll find it -- “
Baby-sitting, I thought as I slunk back to my own domicile twelve corridors away. What a stellar idea.
Mom found me sprawled on the couch with the remote when she returned from Community Council meeting. She looked huffy, and took her middle-aged angst out on me by standing in the holo-projection that I was watching. She knows that drives me bats.
“Ashes, ashes, all are ashes and despair.”
“Which means?” I asked. With Mom it pays to get specific.
“Well, Veda, we have money problems.”
She sighed, flung her hands above her head, and stared at the ceiling. Blue waves from last summer’s remake of “From Here To Eternity” swirled and frolicked around her midsection. The projection was approaching the part that I considered Mom too impressionable for, so I cut the HolE-wood broadcast short before she found naked reason to re-install sensors on our entertainment center. Mom took my action as a gesture of filial respect rather than a desperate dodge to avoid being reduced to the DisE channel. She abandoned her pose, swatted a mayfly, and collapsed on the couch next to me.
“No matter what happens, the Fifty Founders will raise community condo fees.” Her voice sounded dull.
“By how much? And for how long?”
Mom had sold everything when she had divorced Dad, packed us up, and fled Earth to take her current refinery job. She had thrown our entire resources into surviving on the new frontier, and our housing situation reflected it. No one bought a house on the moon -- people here needed community too much. Healthcare and food points had to be earned. If a family couldn’t hack it, they cashed in their “Ticket Back” -- the portion of their monthly wages mandatorily set aside to deport people to Earth with barely the spacesuits on their back and any leftover funds in their e-count. Weight restrictions remained too outrageous for shipping households of clothes and furniture with them. I had attended several garage sales for washed-out families that had left.
Tickets Back could be forced on people who fell behind on condo fees.
“It’s not that I don’t want to give you an allowance, I do -- “
Oh, bright static happiness was not in the making here.
“ -- but things have been tight, and I’ve struggled so we’d have food on the table. The refinery’s business has slumped.”
“What did they decide about the bug infestation?” I kept my voice calm and level. “Why will it delete our credit?”
“Several things were suggested,” Mom said. “Simply waiting it out wouldn’t solve anything, since some vermin are bloodsuckers. Dropping the Base’s air temperature would just make some go into hibernation. Spraying pesticides or introducing any possible poison into living quarters was immediately shot down. Putting up glue-tapes would catch some pests, but not all and not quickly enough. Running the Base air through the electrified-mesh duct filters almost won, but some attendees got tangled in worries about a fire hazard, so it tied with another idea.”
“Buying a new air-supply.”
“Everything that can’t stand vacuum will be quarantined for special treatment, or thrown away and replaced with disaster insurance.”
“But -- but! -- our whole air-supply?”
Mom made shushing motions born from the recent habit of driving away gnats. “Qualified professionals are looking into this, and funds are being collected. They’ll try the mesh and a combination of glue-tapes first, since that’s only a little fee. Our condo bill will only jump by a quarter.”
“And if that doesn’t work? What about our air?”
“Well, after we’ve siphoned off into canisters everything that we can, people will relocate to Luna’s other bases and go through their decontamination procedures. Once the last person is gone, we’ll let our air loose until the Base’s pressure is too low to support life. Pumping the new supply in will take about a week. The people who come back will be assessed a community tax for the rebuilding costs not covered by insurance.”
So Tranquility Base’s solar refinery faced weeks of non-production because of displaced workers who’d get no pay-downloads. Plus, a hefty community fine to start life over, and no profits from having the first Lunar greenhouse to monopolize an untapped fresh-produce market. An unpaid for greenhouse bought on high spirits and heavy credit.
Mom and I watched three ants troop across the couch, searching for nourishment in the kitchen disposal.
“Ashes, ashes, all are dust,” she sighed, reaching over to send the ants flying with three separate flicks of her fingers. “Dust.”
“Yeah,” I replied.
Sunday afternoon and amidst a cloud of noseeums, I consoled myself at the community store by deleting some food points for luxuries. I had chosen an imported chocolate bar when Mick strolled up with Jenny in tow. By the Heavenly Forces protecting innocent bystanders, the child was on a halter and leash.
“Veda! Veda!” she crowed, reaching for me -- or more accurately, my chocolate.
“Jenny, non!” Mick jerked her tether, trying to get his sibling to heel. Of course it didn’t work. “I apologize -- “
“Did you find her toy?” For the sake of international boy-girl relations I broke off a piece of candy and handed it downwards. Jenny crammed it in her mouth in less than three seconds, and jumped up and down for more.
“Toy?” Mick’s brow furrowed.
“Ah -- yes, we, uh, found it. May I have some chocolate, too, s’il te plait?” he asked, giving me a warm smile.
I snapped off another piece, and -- instead of simply handing it to him -- lifted the brown square up to his parted lips. His smile widened the tiniest bit, and he let me feed him.
We lost the moment when I was knocked off balance. Jenny flung her arms around my waist and said, “Do you wanna see my Echo? An’ did you know Mick told Papa that he thinks you’re a major hot -- “
“Jenny!” Mick hissed, prying her loose and slapping a hand over her mouth. “Pardon!” he said, backing away with his struggling sister and his face flaming. “I’ll be taking her home now! Salut, Veda!”
I watched them go, licking bits of chocolate from my fingers. Mick thought I was a ‘major hot’ something? I wondered what other juicy tidbits Jenny’s sharp ears might have caught.
Baby sitting. What a stellar idea!
Tranquility Base regulations strictly banned perfume, which left people with the option of the fresh non-smell of shower disinfectant. In the absence of odor, all genders wore flamboyant styles and colors in dress. The Sunday evening of the chocolate incident, I donned neutral shades. This was a fact-finding mission, and people had discovered that most bloodsucking insects had a taste for brighter hues. Besides, Mick would be out of the house practicing with his S-ball Club.
I secured my weapon -- another bar of chocolate hidden on my person.
“Veda!” Madame Landreaux gasped with relief when I arrived ten minutes early. She, like Mom, was racing to another Community meeting where hot air would be wasted over arguments about jettisoning our atmosphere. “Bonsoir!”
Jenny didn’t bound forward at all. She slumped in a chair facing the corner, looking at her feet.
“What’s the matter?” I asked. “Punished already?”
Madame Landreaux rolled her eyes as her husband came up behind her with her laptop and purse in hand. “Non, she’s just upset her invisible friend doesn’t want to play!”
“Twenty credits extra if notre maison is mostly standing when we get back,”
Monsieur Landreaux, a practical man, said. “You know the drill, oui?”
“Don’t worry,” I nodded, brushing my hair aside to show my earphone. “Something goes wrong, you get beeped.”
The two adults left. The moment the door slid shut, I knelt in front of Jenny, bribe in hand. She barely gave me a glance.
“Jenny, honey, ummmm ... ma chérie, see what Veda brought? This is yours if we talk about Mick.”
Jenny screwed up her face, and kicked half-heartedly in my direction. Not the reaction I expected. I inhaled, and tried again.
“Remember when you and Mick -- “
“I hate Mick! He took my Echo! And now Itsy-Bitsy won’t play with me either!”
“If you tell me where your Echo is, I’ll get it for you!” I said.
“He took it with him.”
Which left me the other option. “Would you like me to play with you and Itsy-Bitsy? Do you think your special friend would like some ... “ I paused and flourished my enticement for good measure, “some chocolate?”
Jenny gave me a look of absolute disgust. “Itsy-Bitsy doesn’t eat chocolate.”
Sometimes, the universe is stacked against me.
Jenny jumped off her chair and stomped to her room.
“Where are you going?” I asked.
“To see mon ami!”
It looked to be a long night. I scrambled to my feet and followed. In her bedroom, Jenny was rummaging through her toy-box. She came out with a flashlight and then dropped to the floor on her stomach, wriggling under her cot that stood against the wall.
“Itsy-Bitsy lives down here,” she explained in a muffled voice as I stared.
Trust Jenny to be the child who made best friends with the creatures-under-the-bed. I flopped down beside her.
“Shhhh!” she whispered as I slid my head and shoulders beside her. “We have to be quiet.”
With that, Jenny switched on the flashlight. I found my nose three inches away from the great hairy grandmother of all spiders.
Fellow pre-adults, have you ever experienced such existential terror that you don’t know whether to cry, scream, or faint?
I tried swallowing, choked on my own spit, and by sheer adrenaline yanked myself back out into Jenny’s room while balanced merely on the tips of my fingers. The spider ran too, but every detail of our encounter burned into my brain. Forcing myself not to hyperventilate, I slowly looked around, realizing how I had missed the obvious.
Not one insect in the entire apartment.
“So, Jenny,” I squeaked casually, then cleared my throat. “Did Itsy-Bitsy eat all your bugs?”
Jenny studied my face for an eon, never having seen anyone quite as white as me before, then answered. “Mick’s and my Echoes eat them too.”
“Mick carries spiders in his pockets?”
“Not spiders! Echoes!”
Jenny’s face screwed up, and then she slowly enunciated, “Liiiizzaaards. Ma tante gave them to us while we were on Earth, only she said not to tell.”
Pets. Higher on the list of Base contraband than drugs. If someone ratted them out, it would be at least a 1000 credit deletion. And then, while I crammed myself thinner than a poster against the farthest wall, The Moment of Enlightenment that my Mom sometimes babbles about struck the core of my slumbering financial being. I thought about exactly what I had seen in the brief moments under the bed, and made myself crawl back underneath just to make sure. Warm and fuzzy thoughts involving money began to circulate through my gray matter, and I relaxed.
“Jenny,” I purred, fumbling for the broken chocolate bar in my now-torn pocket. Best to begin diplomatic negotiations on a good foot. “I think Itsy-Bitsy doesn’t want to play because she’s a girl.”
“Huh?” Jenny asked. “How can you tell?”
“See that ball of cotton she’s sitting on?”
“Oui? So what?”
“I think that’s her eggs.”
Jenny was no fool. It took all of my luxury food points and five more bars before Jenny would part with Itsy-Bitsy’s offspring. I also promised that if she kept matters secret until they hatched, she would get three of them back. Saving the egg sack in a small jar, I hijacked her family’s workstation and prowled through the (electronic) web, looking for matches of Itsy-Bitsy’s markings. Fifteen minutes later, I knew that my investment was non-poisonous. Then I grilled Jenny about Mick until Monsieur and Madame Landreaux returned two hours later. I downloaded my pay from Monsieur Landreaux, and all but skipped back home. Mom was occupying the couch, folded into a lotus position.
“Poison of the mind is the purest rot of all,” she announced as I walked through the door.
“The Here no longer goes to Eternity.”
“Oh,” I tried to feel bad about censors on the entertainment center, but was too excited. Next time I’d scrape my viewing selections out of the temp files. “Hey, Mom, could you help me apply for a real work permit?”
“With who?” she asked, raising an eyebrow. “What are your aspirations in this time of social turmoil?”
“I wanted to try odd jobs at full pay -- not just pin money,” I said. “Then, when our condo fee goes up, I’ll work when I’m not in school. I thought I’d get a taste of the positions open.”
“I sense deception,” Mom replied. “Are you planning anything illegal?”
“No.” Not yet, I added silently. “I want to start a company. And get a pending utility patent.”
She wasn’t fooled. “You, bearer of my DNA, have the heart of a lawyer.” Closing her eyes, she thought for a moment. “The pathetic truth is that we need the credits. I consent -- just don’t bring shame to our family name. Go forth and thwart the forces of eviction.”
“Then could you email my permission slip to Workforce Central now?”
Grumbling, she unfolded from her lotus twist. Ten minutes later I had my own business.
Morning brought Monday, and the beginning of the school week. I put on my brightest clothes and tracked down Mick. He was sipping orange concentrate in the school cafeteria, stabbing a fork at his allotment of powdered eggs, and staring at the Earth hanging in the distance. Seeing my peacock splendor, he gave me a wary look that said he didn’t know whether to run for safety, or stay and enjoy the view.
“I must apologize for ma petite soeur,” he said, moving aside to free a space next to him on the plascrete bench he was sitting on. A disgruntled moth fluttered between us like a winged prayer to Heaven. “Jenny can be so -- “
I took his hand in mine, leaned to his ear, and whispered, “Gecko.”
He froze. “Veda, you must swear you’ll never tell -- “ He stopped again at my smile. “You’re not trying to bribe me into being your -- your playtoy . . . are you?”
I laughed. Mick had started off horrified, but had ended sounding guardedly hopeful.
“Never,” I replied. Then I told him about Tuffet Enterprises and why he needed to be my partner and find and operate a low-powered vacuum cleaner.
“M,” was all he could say when I was done.
Itsy-Bitsy’s eggs hatched two weeks later. Hundreds of miniscule copies of her swarmed through the terrarium that Mick and I had cobbled together. Too tiny to be intimidating, they were the perfect age for sale. I hoped that by the time they were bigger we would be out of stock. We stored their nursery in my closet, and fed the brood live insects that Mick’s filter-vac had sucked from the halls and into a capture jar.
A warm, dark closet is a superb place to be with a cute boy even if you are watching a cage full of baby spiders.
“So, what now?” he murmured into my ear. He had gotten deliciously bolder in the short time we had become co-entrepreneurs. “Sell three for a credit?”
Yes, life was good.
We didn’t advertise of course -- that would have brought our scheme crashing down. While the grown-ups still bickered, half the student body acquired eight-legged household bio-appliances. Payments were downloaded straight into my ecount via my banking bracelet. I knew everything was going according to plan when Mr. Tarver, my calc teacher, drew me quietly aside after class and hinted that my lowest quiz grade could be overlooked in exchange for a certain product.
“Oh, what a tangled web you weave,” Mom murmured when I came home that day. “There are eight calls on the answering machine, twenty-six emails, and I have taken sixteen private messages from coworkers.”
“Are you proud of me?” I had to know.
“Of you? Yes. Of this scam ... only the sands of time will flow forth with an answer. Don’t corrupt Mick too much with your schemes -- he’s a good boy.”
I walked over and kissed her on the cheek before going to deal with my clients.
Within 38 hours, all of Itsy-Bitsy’s offspring had homes and Mick and I had to turn away disappointed buyers. As I predicted, copycat businesses sprang up overnight to fill the gap. The bug problem was reduced by three fourths over the next four weeks. By the time the feces hit the fan, Mick and I were well out of it -- though that didn’t help one bit when it came time for fingers to be pointed our way.
Nothing can be done to make a spider cuddly. When they are little, they are tolerable. When they grow past an inch, most citizens start looking for a rolled newspaper. When they acquire yellow and black bodies as big as your thumb, and have leg-spans that would overlap a normal adult’s hand, panic starts to set in. Even in our age of modern technology, it does something to a human when they walk into an occupied web. And when an individual wakes up in the dark of the night, feeling the scrabbling of eight tiny feet traversing across their skin -- well, things can get ugly.
Itsy-Bitsy was due to be a grandmother if not a great-grandmother by the time the Fifty Founders jointly filed their Closed Environment Public Nuisance form. When the stern looking email summoning me to appear in community court arrived in my box, I smiled. Mick materialized on my doorstep 15 minutes later, looking a tad shaky, but pleased.
“Well, we’re in for it, aren’t we, m’amie?” Mick told me. “Mes parents got the news first and had impolite words to say about you.”
“Whenever trouble starts . . . cherchez la femme!” I replied, laughing.
“If this works . . .” he said, looking deep into my eyes and making me go all shivery, “I promise that we’ll celebrate. Have you picked a lawyer yet?”
“No, I only called the news feed.”
We spent the rest of the evening leaning close to each other over my computer until we found one that would work on short notice and lucrative commission.
Thanks to word-of-mouth, the morning that the two CEOs of Tuffet Enterprises came to trial, the entire base gathered to watch the hanging. Our Defense Lawyer, a thin grandmother with eyes hotter than the lenses at the refinery, had us make our entrance 20 minutes early so we could pass through the throng. On either side, people waved signs, many saying “Spiders are Our Friends!” or “Arachnids Need Love Too!” Those against were as vocal: “Spider is Just an Eight-Legged Word for Bug!” or “Call the SWAT Team!” Since it would have been impossible to fit everyone in the courtroom, most people huddled around small holo projectors outside.
The prosecution representing the Fifty Founders was straight and to the point: “These juvenile delinquents are a hazard to our society, and should be given their Ticket Back.”
Our lawyer: “Tuffet Enterprises is suing Tranquility Base for defamation of character, wrongful seizure of company e-counts, and the money owed by Tranquility Authorities who interrupted a non-poisonous, biological process that will manage the insect infestation without the dangerous electrical meshes and the dumping of Community Atmosphere.”
“Preposterous! These teen lunatics should be grateful we don’t throw them in jail!”
Our Lawyer called up an impressive display of holo-charts. “Here are independent surveys showing the significant drop in the Base’s insect population.”
“And for what? Now we have spiders!”
“Which will die a natural, bio-degradable death once no insects remain to feed them. I remind the court that the legal definition of a Closed Environment Public Nuisance states that the item introduced into society must be of a dangerous or publicly offensive nature that cannot easily be removed from the community’s circulation. Tuffet Enterprise has spearheaded a unorthodox but temporary action which has financially benefited Tranquility Base in both the long and short term, and will leave no lasting damage to the community.”
At this point, the Judge (who was a clandestine spider-owner himself) shook his head with more than a little admiration. “Are you three claiming that what Tuffet Enterprises has done is entirely legal?”
Our Lawyer: “Your Honor, with all due respect, Community Council voted weeks ago that the insects needed to be exterminated at the cost of dumping our atmosphere and accessing a steep condo fee to the people who could afford to remain after such an action. A war chest for the effort was even set aside. Since no specific company had yet been promised the funds, it can be assumed the capable freelancers like Tuffet Enterprises were given implied permission to take matters into their own hands. Need I remind the court that many refinery workers would have been permanently displaced and forced into accepting their Ticket Back? Logically, the funds that would have been spent can and should be claimed by Tuffet Enterprises as payment for services rendered.”
“Just Tuffet Enterprises? Other people sold spiders, too.”
“None were incorporated with utility patents on their products. Those independent operators infringed on a legal patent and we are looking at suing them for company wages lost. Also, they were perfectly willing to let my clients take full blame and assumed punishment for their actions. As of today’s deadline, not one of them has stepped forward in the reasonable time allotted to claim equal responsibility for the outcome of their actions.”
This was true. The small-minded individuals who had done a hefty share of the insect clearing for us had run as soon as the complaints started coming in -- emphatically dumping all the blame -- and credit -- on Mick and me.
The Judge fiddled with his gavel. “If I understand rightly, you’re asking me to grant these pre-adults legal rights to hold our entire community by the financial short hairs.”
The Prosecution snorted and waved a hand dismissively. “Ridiculous! If all these allegations were legal, they’d own most of Tranquility Base!”
Our lawyer gave a smile that promised she was capable of getting any size snowball safely through Hell. “We have a team on Earth looking into exactly that. So far, their results have been nothing short of inspiring.”
In the conversational vacuum that followed, you could have heard a pin drop all the way to Earth.
“But,” our Lawyer cooed, “my two clients are broadminded about our community’s needs, and won’t hold Tranquility Dwellers accountable for the full amount. Forcing everyone to pay such a bill would destroy local society and industry.”
“Meaning?” The Judge gave Mick and I stern looks.
“My clients wish to settle for a much lesser amount -- if certain issues are brought up in Community meeting, at which certain specific new laws will be considered.”
“About what?” snarled the Prosecution.
“All we want is to make this place a little more human,” I said.
“How?” asked the Judge.
On cue, Mick reached into his pocket and pulled out Verte, his gecko.
A roar erupted from the spectators, the Judge started banging his gavel, and -- in the midst of it all -- I got my first and extremely public French kiss.
Two months later, Ark III set down on the launch pad and Tranquility settlers packed the entryway. Mick’s and Jenny’s geckoes might have started the ball rolling, but the newly-out-of-hiding ginger cat harbored by a secret brotherhood of maintenance workers cinched the deal. Some small birds, three stray hamsters, and 20 lab mice sans lab also surfaced. Some spiders were left, but most had died. Few people were sorry -- even among the founders -- as Tuffet Enterprises had donated a hefty portion of our proceeds to make sure all the new pets were genetically engineered to be hypoallergenic. There was even talk of Tranquility Breeders legally selling to other places on Luna, and paying Tuffet royalties.
“And behold, there is a new Heavens and a new Luna and there is great rejoicing,” my Mother murmured, squeezing my shoulder as the first traveling crates were brought in and opened among the eager crowd. “I am proud of you.”
But all I had eyes for was Mick, walking towards me and carrying our three-month old Golden Retriever in his arms.