Archive for November, 2006

November 22, 2006: 10:05 pm: UMC

Chong had spent several hours attempting to make the minidrill work. Malinao had gotten the release undone rather easily and moved on to the cockpit to see if she could raise communications while Chong performed surgery on the minidrill.
The first order of business for Malinao was facing the dead men.  She moved what men she could drag out of the cockpit and covered them.  She had the macabre thought that they might need to burn them to prevent the smell, then the even more goulish realization that burning the dead could remove what little oxygen they had.  She noticed her breaths came heavier but she didn’t mention it to Chong.
The radio equipment was barely accessible inbetween chunks of rock. Malinao found a part of a hand overthe controls. She breathed deep and used an axe from the tool cabinet to hack the hand away.  Ironically she had to tourniquet the dead arm to keep the blood from seeping out into the control board.
She had faced bad conditions before which gave her a strong stomach, but all this was testing her. In her youth she had been shipped down to Texas to her Lola’s ranch outside Austin. Her Lola was a mean old woman, who aside from giving birth to Malinao’s Father, seemed to have no other connection to her family. In her old testiness she refused to leave her ranch but needed someone to care for her. Malinao had eventually been coaxed into volunteering.
Lola Josie was brutal.  She made Samantha slaughter cattle, herd goats and all manner of the most disguting chores a young girl from Chicago could possibly be given. Finally at the end of the summer Lola Josie had died. That was the worst. Malinao had come upstairs to give her Lola the morning sponge bath she demanded. Instead of complaining about how lates Samantha was, she only breathed heavily. When Malinao aske her if she was OK, the old lady had spit on her and called her several bad names in tagalog. Still Malinao had sensed the end was drawing near and had stayed with her holding her hand. The only other words she spoke were a quiet prayer followed by a request that Samantha bring in Oliver. Oliver, Malinao’s Loloed twelve years earlier. After a half hour od sitting by the old woman’s bedsied Malinao had been thanked for her troubles by watching her Lola sit bolt upright in bed turn, look at Samantha and scream, then vomit blood all over her and everything and lay down dead.
The only consolation for that torturous summer had been a box she found set out on a chair in her Lola’s bathroom.  It was marked, “For Samantha” and contained her Lola’s personal diaries and two million dollars in cash. Her parents ha dbanked the cash in Samantha’s name and had quite a few fights with others in the family over the proper disposition.  In the end it had paid for Malinao’s college. The diaries described a long life from a young age to elderliness, and did more to explain the Lola’s condition and attitude toward the world, than anything that could have been said at the time. Malinao had taken it as an apology and felt at peace.
All those memories came flooding back to her as blood spattered on her while she worked on clearing the communications console. She finally found a power router that was unplugged by the cave-in and got power back to the main console board.  There was still no signal generation and she suspected the antennae were all crushed and unservicable. She thought she’d have a look to see if she could somehow jam some kind of makeshift antenna into a port on the hull somewere just to see if they could pick up anything.
As she walked back toward the minidrill, she heard Chong coming.
“Any luck?” she shouted.
He appeared in the doorway, ten times as sweaty and attractive as he had looked earlier before the cave-in.
“No.  I can’t seem to get the motor to engage.  It’s not damaged but the actuators won’t fire.  The power’s not the issue.  I think it’s unrelated to the cave-in. Somehow the sparks just decided to stop firing right now.  I was going to look around and see if we had an spare parts.  How’s the cockpit?  He had a look of concern.
“Messy.  But don’t worry, I’ve seen worse. I’ll tell you about my summer in texas sometime.”
“Can’t wait– I think,” said Chong.
“I got the console cleared and powered but there’s no signal generation.  I was about to have a look around and see if there’s anywhere I could jimmy up an antenna connection.”
“There’s a porthatch midway back from the cockpit console where you might find a port.  I’ll help you look after we eat.”
Malinao looked suprised. “Eat?”
“Yeah, why not.  We can’t breathe or leave, so we might as well eat.  The refrigeration unit is stocked and undamaged.”
Chong walked over and swung open a small white door int he wall.
“What’ll you have?”
“What’s on the menu?” Malinao asked.
“Chicken salad.  Chicken breast.  Fried Chiken and Tofu supplement B15. And grape juice to drink.”
“Who the hell is your cook?  I’ll ahve the chicken.  I mean the chicken breast.”
“And of course the grape juice.”
“Of course.”
They sat down at a fold down table and set to eating.
“It seems strange to have a perfecetly normal sitdown meal in the middle of all this.”
Chong agreed. They fell to talking about the how they’d been thrown into this situation.
“I should never have volunteered to give you a ride to Omaha!” Malinao chuckled.
“I’m glad you did,” Chong ventured.
Malinao gave him a long look and smirked.
“At the risk of having one of those dramatic confessions at a dying moment, I think you’re something else, Richard Chong.”
Chong blushed.  He hoestly blushed.
“Why are you blushing?” she teased.
He looked down. “It’s very difficult for me to be with someone,” Malainao started to reply with a snappy comeback but Chong stopped her. “No don’t.  Let me get this out. It’s not because I’m the President.  Being single hasn’t helped in that respect.  It’s something I’ve had to overcome.  It’s something about me. I can’t settle. Yet anyone I’ve found that fits what I hope for, is either already taken, or not interested.  I don’t wish to compromise, I don’t want someone to lie to me, so I go it alone. I just,” his eyes were tearing a little bit. “I just never could find the right person.  I could never trust someone I guess.”
“Why are you telling me all this?” Malinao murmered.
“Because with one look at you, all my will vanished. I stopped caring about having the right person. I knew if I could be–if I could be with you– none of my ther concerns would matter.  It wouldn’t be sdettling, it would just be right.  And I live in deadly fear that you won’t feel the same. So now I’ve gone and done it and told you an dprobably put you off and ruined everything, but there you have it.”
Malinao looked down and tried to hide a smile. “Well you sure put a girl in a hard position. I mean don’t I have enough to think about what with the life or death situation here?”
Chong loked stricken. “I’m sorry,” he whispered.
“You shouldn’t be.  And I shouldn’t play with you like that,” Malinao whispered back, truly taken aback by how sad he had just looked. She took his hands in hers. “Chong, look at me.
He gazed up at her with a blank expression. He allowed no emotion to cross his face.
“I feel the same. I promise. And when we get out of her, I promise I will still feel the same.  And if you want to dom seomthing about it then, I highly encourage it. So don’t get me wrong when I say, right now, we need to worry about gettin gout of here.”
“Promise?” Chong said. Malinao was struck by his tone.  It was not a little boy’s tone asking for his parents to keep a promise.  It was a threat. It was a challenge. And Malinao found that excited her all the more.
“You can bet on it, boy. Now finish your chicken and let’s get your bucket of bolts drilling again.
Chong agreed and went back to the minidrill stony-faced but happier than he’d ever been in his life. Malinao returned to the cockpit and found the hatch Chong had mentioned on her own. She found the antenna ports and wires and played with them for a half hour but didn’t have any luck.  Her breathing was getting very heavy and she knew they needed to conserve oxygen, so she decided to take  abreak. She was just closing up the hatch when she heard a large explosion from the other end. She went runningback through the other compartment to find the minidrill smoking and Chong lying face down on the floor in a pool of blood.
“Chong!” she screamed.

November 21, 2006: 10:54 pm: UMC
  • This is an ongoing story as part of National Novel Writing Month
  • Sira brought out a tray of steaming bowls of noodles.
    “That ought to stem your hunger for a bit,” she said as she placed the bowls in front of Ford, Lawrence and the younger Ford.
    “Are you sure you don’t remember?” the elder Ford prodded.
    The young Ford furrowed his brow. “No, I don’t.  I’m sorry Fathyer.  My only memories are of you.”
    Ford knew they had been experimenting with memory implants but this was amazing. The young Ford clone ahd been made to believe he had grown up in Omaha, been taken to the Moon by Ford’s wife and then abandoned by her. He had been in an orphanage until he was captured and brought o this apartment.
    And that still left Ford and Lawrence wondering whether they should trust Sira. She had explained that an anti-Fundy group she belonged to had been contacted a week ago by an unnamed source. That source had delivered them the captured Ford clone and later fed them information on how to capture and release the original Ford and Lawrence.
    Ford looked into the boys adoring eyes.  The way he said Father truly reminded him of his own children who missed so dearly.
    “How do you know to trust your sources?” asked Lawrence.
    Sira dropped a spoon in the kitchen and exhaled. “I told you we don’t know, bu they’ve come through every time. My bosses say they have reasons to trust them.  I don’t know what they are. Why are you so suspicious?”
    Lawrence didn’t know where to begin after all he’d gone through.
    “Because they’ve made a perfect clone son for me, and that was never a part of their plan that I knew of,” said Ford muttering.
    The clone-child looked as if he was about to cry. “What do you mean, Father?”
    Ford’s heart almost broke.
    “Look what you’ve done!” Sira protected the young Ford with the care of an older sister. She had been taking care of him for weeks in this apartment. “He’s  aboy.  He’s real.  He’s you!  He’s not a thing.” She handed a tissue to the clone boy.
    Ford knelt down in front of the boyish version of himself. “Son, you’re memories aren’t real.  I know that’s very difficult for you to grasp, but they’r enot.  They were implanted. You are my son in a way. A nd I can’t help but care for you.  You were made from my genes, from my flesh.  But you were not born to me.  You never knew the woman you think was your Mother.  If you think hard, as painful as it is, those memories will fall apart.”
    “No!” the young clone threw his soup bowl across the room, smashing it agains t the wall. “Why do you hate me Father!   Why!  After all I’ve been through why must you reject me too!” He ran off into the bedroom.
    Sira glared a hole in Ford. “I hope you’re happy.”
    Fod sighed and sat back down. Yes.  In some way I am.”
    Before he could continue, Sira began to yell at him again. “How can you say that!  That boy has been through a war, pulled into a totally different world, abandoned by his Mother, captured by the Fundys, sold to black market operatives and then brought to us, only to have his Father treat him like a science experiment!  You’re heartless and I’m sorry I ever brought you here!”
    “Sira, please try to listen to me. What our young John Ford just experienced is known in brain programming as a psychic break.  It’s painful to learn that memories have been implanted.  But the procedure is not so good that it can’t be self-broken by the subject.”
    “There you go again,” she yelled. “He’s not a thing– a – a subject he’s your son.”
    “No Sira” and here Ford raised his voice as well. “He’s not my son, he’s me!  Every cell, every genetic bit, everything but his mind is me.  You haven’t known that but I have ten times over.  And th ebond is much different than a father and son.  I am him. And I know what he goes through here.  He must be angry.  It’s part ofth e process of freeing him from his programming. If you want him, the other me, in there, to be truly free, free to hope, free to feel honestly, free to love, then you must let him hurt a bit first. If that means you wish me to leave then I’ll go!”
    Someone knocked at the door.
    Sira stood frozen.  She didn’t know what to do about Ford and she couldn’t deal with that argument and an unexpected caller.
    “Hide!  Go!” She shunted them off down the hall and went for the door. “Who is it?”
    “It’s Chong.  Is Lawrence there?”
    Sira risked opening the door. “President?  President Chong?”
    “Get in here quick.”
    Lawrence came running out from the other room. “Mr. President!  We’re so happy to see you!We’re so glad we found you!”
    Chong smiled and hugged Lawrence.  Which Lawrence found odd but figured what the heck. He then shook Ford’s hand.
    “It’s good to see you Ford.  We’ve been through a lot together.”
    “Yes we have Chong,” Ford said smiling.
    “Who’s this behind you?”
    Ford turned to see tear-streaked face behind him. “This is my son.  John Ford Jr.”
    Ford smiled a bit at being introduced that way and shook Chong’s hand. They paused just a moment longer than normal as they shook, staring deeply into each others eyes.
    “A pleasure to meet you Junior,” said Chong.”
    “A great honour to meet you Mr. President.”
    Only Lawrence noticed that they blinked three times synchronously.
    “What happened to Malinao?” lawrence interrupted.
    “She’s fine,” said Chong turning.  He looked uncertain as he faced Lawrence. “At least as far as I know,” Chong looked as if he were trying to remember something. “We got back to Tranquility and Vice President Hashimoto and Speaker Malinao were headed back to Cana to look for you. I was headed back to New Canaveral to try diplomatic channels when I was contatced by Sira’s group, letting me know you were here. I sent word to Tranquility but I haven’t heard back.” Chong smiled when he got to the end of the explanation.
    “Where are the guards?  Outside?” Lawrence prodded.
    “No,” Chong answered more quickly this time. “I came alone this time.  I didn’t want to attract undue attention to Sira’s group.  It was part of the deal.”
    “Risky, Mr. President.”
    “You know me,” he smiled in the way only Chong could.  Lawrence still felt puzzled by something.
    Meanwhile Ford had been whispering to his young clone self.
    “I’m so pleased you’ve come now Mr. president.  Sira, your young friend here is a marvel. Tell them junior.”
    “I hear dwhat Father said about the psychich break and I channeled my anager against my memories.  And they broke.  They were gone, yuou know flimsy.  Liek I read them in a abook, not actually lived them.  So I understand now.  And I want to live with my Father, even though he’s my clone-Father.”
    Ford turned to Chong with the widest smile anyone in the room had ever seen on him. “You have a brilliant chance here, Mr. president.  A chance to whip the rug out from under the Fundys.  YOu have the chance, with junior here and I as a test case, to enact the first clone laws ever.  To move it out of the realm of forbidden practice and in the realm of regulated responsible activity.  And we’re your poster family.  Loving father and clone son.  This is ahte face of cloning here.”
    Ford looked down beaming on his junior self. Sira had tears in her eyes, touched by the scene.  Chong rubbed his chin, pondering the idea. Only Lawrence looked worried.
November 20, 2006: 8:58 pm: UMC

Chong took over the operation of the minidrill on Malinao’s return.  He wanted to insure the hole was properly closed up, so not leaks would occur. It gave Malinao and Hashimoto about a half hour to try to figure out what to do next. They could search for a one-armed British man throughout the UMC fairly easily, but if he stayed in Cana, they would get no help. Still Hashimoto phoned back the description an dbulleting to the UMC police.
When Chong was done he was covered in sweat and Moon grime but satisified that the hole wouldn’t leak and give away their activities there.  They all agreed the shed would probably not be investigated too closely by Canaan authorities.
“Have you puzzled out what happened, Samantha? Chong asked as he toweled off.
Malinao found herself extra charmed not only by this unusual use of her first name, but also the brawny sweaty mand who used it.
“Not really.  There were car tracks in the building, so whatever came, came in a hurry and broke right through the door. There was no sign of Narang’s men, but it didn’t look like they abandoned the place, just left in a hurry.”
Hashimoto ordered the drill to reverse course and begin extracting itself back from whence they came. They had to speak up over the rumbling.
“I wonder why they left the arm?  do you think they discovered the dot?” shouted Chong
“Not likely,” Malinao shouted back. “They probably were in a hurry to clear out of there.  None of the really incriminating stuff was there, and their relationship with Cana probably can’t survive too much scrutiny.”
“”What did you do with the arm?” Chong yelled.
“What did you do with the arm?”
“I left it there,” Malinao was almost screaming now. “Why is the drill running so loud?”
“I don’t know.”
The rumbling that had been growing excessively loud, grew into a groan and a shriek and suddenly the drill went dark. A tearing scream of metal, possibly mixed with the screams of men, died down into the sicekning thuds of rocks falling in from the tunnel ceiling, burying the drill.
“What happened?” Malinao whispered into the eerie silence that followed.
“I don’t know.”
The barest glow of the few working emergency lights lit there way to Hashimoto who lay dead under a fallen spike of metal, impaled almost immediately during the accident. Chong reached over and closed his eyes.
“Dear lord,” he whispered.
Malinao couldn’t speak, but reached out to grab his hand.
“What do we do?”
“Let’s see if anyone else is OK, then check the minidrill.  We might be able to get out in it.”
The other crew were all stationed in the forward compartment of the large drill. Chong wrestled with the mangled cockpit door now partially embedded in rock that had fallen through the ceiling.
“It looks like the whole tunnel roof just fell in. It’s not impossible but extremely unlucky.” Chong finally rested the door far enough apart to move into the dark cockpit.  No emergency lights glowed in there.
“Hello!  Everyone OK?”
They heard nothing but a deadly silence.
“I– I need a light,” Chong said.
“I’ll get one,” Malinao turned and went to the emergency locker thankfully preserved intact and brought back a light.
What Chong found inside was too horrific to describe.  Rock, metal and man were mixed into an indstinguishable pile of rubble. Chong closed the light.
“We’re all that’s left,” he exhaled.
Malinao sighed. “Well, do you think the minidrill’s working.”
Chong admired her resilience.  Granted she didn’t see what he just saw in the cockpit.
“It’ll be a tight fit if it is.’
“Tight fit’s better than nothing.  Let’s go Mr. president,” she grimly patted him on the back as they made their way towards the minidrill.
Chong climbed in and tried to execute a manula start but couldn’t get the engine to fire up. He tried several times, raising Malinao’s hopes each time as she saw lights turn on and engines whine only to have it all sputter out and die.
Chong disembarked shaking his head.
“It’s not sparking the engine on its own. I’m not sure why.  We haven’t run it manually all trip.  Even all my work just now sealing the hole was done connected to the ships energy and control. I’ll have to open up the engine and have a look.
“Can you do that?”
“Well, I’m not an actual mechanic, but I know enough about how these engines are supposed to work I might be able to luck into figuring something out.”
“Won’t they come looking for us, I mean after awhile.  If it takes you too long to get it going.”
Chong knew what she meant.  He had sealed the hole at the Cana end and the rocks in the cockpit looked to have sealed it pretty well in front of them. Even with the grill open, air wouldn’t last forever.
“It’s a covert mission.  If we don’t come out, they’r enot supposed to alert anyone.  That was the risk.”
“That was stupid,” Malinao pointed out.
“Well that’s the only way we could even get this harebrained scheme done.  We had to man it ourselves an dpretty much not tell anyone. Our best bet is to get this drill going. If we can do that, we can at least get far enough to make a phone call and tell them to come get us.  Right now they don’t know if we got captured and killed in Cana or what happened.”
Malinao just shook her head.
Chong decided to keep her mind off it. “I have a job for you too, so don’t feel like you’re left out,” he grinned.
“Oh and what’s that? Moral support?” she was not in the mood for jokes.
“No, the release bar for the minidrill will have to be undone manually once I get the engine going.  It’s pretty badly bent.  I need you to work at it and see if you can get it to move. If i get the engine going and you can undo the release bar, we’ll be golden.
She grudgingly accepted the assignment, marching off to the mangled supply cabinet to look for usable tools.
Chong watched her go and let the wind out of his lungs.  He had no idea how to fix a minidrill engine and no idea if there was enough air to even survive the hour. There was nothing to do but work and hope.

November 19, 2006: 10:15 pm: UMC

Narang muttered snd groaned scracthing at the recently cauterized arm. He knew he could get a new one off a clone, but the circumstances and the pain still nettled him. He felt he’d almost lost everything.  None fo the bargaining chips were in his corner any longer.  The Colonial Governor of Cana was cooling on their arrangment given the damage at the shed. He needed a break and he needed it quick.
Carlos marched into the room with a look of purpose on his face.
“We’ve word from Armstrong,” he said.
“What is it?  Out with it,” Narang was in no mood to be civil.
“They’ve gone straight for the young clone.
Perfect, thought Narang.  Now they had a foorhold. The young clone had been implanted with a tracking device and his psyche specifically molded to win the original Ford’s affection. Originally it had been meant as agift after the completion of Ford’s mission, but after Ford had gone rogue, they changed the young Ford to be a capture device. Hopefully the original Ford wouldn’t be too suspicious of its origins. It was not one of the clones Ford had generated himself in his lab in Oakland.
“Benito brought new from Patel as well.”
“Well man, how many times do I have to say this.  Don’t beat around the bush.”
“It’s ready.”
Narang’s eyes lit up. This was good news indeed and well ahead of schedule.
“Let’s get over to the lab,” Narang ordered.
“Are you OK to move?”
“Quite, quite.”
Carlos drove the car and they made the circuitous route to the lab to ensure they weren’t followed. Narang still hadnt learned who had been digging underneath the shed, but he had his suspicions. You couldn’t be too careful, especially with the Canaan government starting to lean away from them again.
They arrived at a low slung dark black building nestled in an industrial area of the colony by the hydration and air plants. It had once been a suite of offices for the energy officers of Cana before they were moved into the main civic building. It was separated from the other buildings around it by a tall wire fence.  The windows were darkened, dating back to the paranoid times when Cana though the UMC might try to sabotage it’s energy works. It had sat derelict for severl years before Patel and Narang approached the Canaan government to lease it. It was perfect for their purposes. A guard let Narang and Carlos in at the fence gate and they walked up the cement path lined somewhat ironically with Moonflowers. They had almost withered out form lack of care when Narang took over the place and he ordered them restored. He didn’t know wy he just liked the look of them. He took this simple joy with him as raised his eyes expectantly to the dark black front door fo the lab.
Patel and Benito met them in the reception area.
Patel ushered them down a pastel blue hallway beyond reception. “My assistants are finishing the procedures. It should be ready to meet you as soon as they’re done.  We can wait in my office. ” He chose a yellow door with the number 300 on it and let them enter before him.
Patel’s office was bare.  A desk a few pieces of office equipment and a large picture of the first Earthrise from the Moon that had been hanging in the office before he occupied it. The only hint of Patel’s personality was a bust of Francis Crick he had carried with him since school.
“I took the liberty of accelerating the project.  I hope you don’t mind Leader.” Aptel said as ahe sat down.
“No, it is most necessary at this point. Will it damage the integrity of the specimen at all though?”
“I should think not.  I’ve discovered a way to cut out a large swath of incubation time,” Patel warmed to his subject. “The interpolation sequences we had been using were hiding an inefficency, churning through useless information.  By cutting these useless sequences out, we’re able to reduce production time by a third without any harm to the expressed qualities.”
“I see,” said Narang.  He got slightly annoyed when Patel talked over his head, and did not like to admit it. “So it’s guaranteed?”
“As much quality as ny of them.”
“Fantastic.  When can we have a look?”
“I should say it’s just about ready–”
At that moment a young woman in a lab coat opened the door and announced that the procedures were complete and a success.
Patel led the group down the hallway through a large set of grey steel doors into a wide open are where several offices had been merged by knocking walls down.  Bright lights lit a laboratory floor and several technicians were gathered around a gurney far to the right.
Thr group approached and Patel asked the technicians to remove themselves. A body lay on the gurney.  Patel poked and prodded it and shown a flashlight in its eyes. He then grabbed a hypospray from a side table and injected the body.
It woke and shakily sat up, shaking its head.
“Hello,” said Narang moving closer.  The body looked up skeptically at him.  Trying to place the voice. “I’m Minister Narang, and who might you be?”
The body looked as though it was trying to remember something long forgotten.  IT furrowed its brown and then muttered. “Chong.  I think I’m Richard Chong.”

: 7:26 am: UMC

Ford and Lawrence still weren’t sure they trusted the girl, but she had got them out of Cana, and at the cost of Narang’s arm.
“Sarah? Lawrence asked.
“It’s SEE-ra, what?” Sira replied.
“What do we do when we get to Armstrong?”
“What?” She turned away from the controls of her Moon Hopper which made Lawrence very nervous. He turned to Ford, who didn’t look so good himself, but for a different reason.
“Watch what you’re doing,” Lawrence barked.
“Well stop distracting me, uh,” Sira returned to the controls.
It had all happened so fast, Lawrence still wasn’t certain he believed it. After they returned in the rescue train, Lawrence and Ford had been taken back to the shed. This had revealed to Lawrence’s way of thinking that the Fundys didn’t have a vast number of bases to work from, since they kept going back to the same one. Ford had been taken for interrogation by Narang and come back in the half-conscious state he was now.  They had both been brought back out into the middle of the shed while Narang gave a hectoring speech, attempting to scare the living daylights out of Lawrence and doing a good job of it.
Suddenly a Moon Hopper, one of the self-sealed EVA units used to travel on the Moon’s surface came roaring through the wall knocking down half the shed as it went. It was a big black model sometimes used in Lunar Truck Shows where the audience stood in a comfortable atmospheric dome and watched huge vehicles, mostly Moon Hoppers and other EVAs do stunts outside in normal lunar gravity.
As it burst in, a chunk of the metal sheeting used in the shed’s wall came slicing through the air and neatly took off Narang’s arm. He screamed, bringing Carlos to his side. Sira had jumped out of the cab and grabbed Lawrence and Ford by the arm.
“I’m a friend.  I’m taking you to Armstrong, come on!”
“Who are you?” Lawrence had quite rightly asked.
“My name’s Sira. Come on we have no time.”
Lawrence saw Narang’s men catching on to what was happening and decided it couldn’t hurt to go with her, so he did.  They had made it through the airlock out onto the surface without any trouble and were now bounding along the Moon’s surface on their way to Armstrong.
It looked like they’d found a smoother patch so Lawrence tried again.
“What are we supposed to do in Armstron, Sira?”
“I don’t know. I thought you would know.  Call the President of the Moon or something right?”
Lawrence gaped. “What do you mean you don’t know.  Why are you taking us to Armstrong then?  All the President’s men are in Tranquility!”
“Well I can’t right go there without being followed, can I?”
“Why are you going anywhere at all?  Who are you?”
Sira sighed and brought the huge EVA to a ahalt in the middle of nowhere on the Moon’s surface.  It was eerily quiet without the Moon Hopper’s engines straining away.
“Look. I’ll explain the whole bloody back story to you, if you like, when we get there.  But right now, I’m trying to drive. If you must know something now, ask him,” she pointed to Ford. “He’s the one who ordered me to do it.  Well not him, but another him. You get the picture?”
“Ohh,” was all Lawrence could manage.
“Right.  Now please let me drive.” She strated the motors up and resumed bounding the EVA at somewhat reckless speeds across the terrain.
Lawrence decided to check on Ford.  He seemed to be coming around a bit.
“You all right?”
Ford shook his head no. “But I will be. I just need some time. Ever been beaten with a bag of oranges?”
“Is that what it feels like?” Lawrence asked.
“No, it doesn;t feel like that, that’s what they did.  They beat me with a bag of oranges.  Doesn’t leave a mark.”
“I see.  Look, do you recognise this girl?”
“What’d she say her name was?”
“SEE-ra,” Lawrence intentionally emphasised the correct pronunciation.
“Sira huh. No.  Can’t say I do.”
“She implied one of your clones sent her.”
Ford looked up sharply. “She did, did she? Well, that’s damned odd. I wonder how one of them even got up here. Travel papers would be difficult. And as far as I know, none of them have personal lives that I was aware of.  But–” and he waved his hand and closed his eyes.  The speculation was draining him.
Lawrence went back to watching the lunar surface go by. It reminded him of being a kid, riding out to the outlying colonies with his Dad. They had gone to visit the work being done at the failed site of a new colony called Ambrosius.  It was one of the failings of the UMC that they had not been able to start any new colonies of their own yet, only bring together the existing colonies. However, Moon population was stable, so the pressure wasn’;t great for one. His Dad had big dreams of making the colony a success. He remembered listening to descriptions of what the Ambrosius colony would look like, what kind of buildings it would have.  It always sounded wonderful.  But the dream had died with his Dad. Now Ambrosius was the site of a small mining operation. The huge colonial dome wasn’t even in proper working order and few buildings had been built. Instead miners lived in self-enclosed small encampment off to the side, and a tourist company brought folks out in a Moon Hopper to take tours of the “Ghost town on the Moon.”
“Almost here,” Sira broke the silence. Lawrence realized he had nodded off to sleep. He could see the glow of Armstrong on the horizon.
“Great.  Now what?”
“Well, since you don’t know, and you won’t shut up about it, I guess I’ll take you to Ford’s place. The other Ford.”
“Won’t that cause a stir?
She looked over at the original Ford briefly.
“No, not really.  They don’t look all that much alike at this point.  You’ll see.”
They made the airlock at Armstrong without any trouble again and wound their way to the EVA storage lot. It wasn’t far to the other Ford’s place in Armstrong. Lawrence marveled at the difference between Cana and Armstrong.  People in suits walked with purpose here in the financial capital of the Moon.  The buildings looked older than Cana but somehow more distinguished and brighter.  Plus there were restaurants not trying to hide the fact that they were restaurants.
Sira led them to a bright white block of flats off a main artery of traffic where important whizzed by on personal transports. That was another difference. Personal transports were outlawed in Cana. Every other Moon Colony was full of them. They walked up one short flight of stairs to an incongruous round orange door. Sira typed in a code and the door rolled open.
Inside was a sparse almost all white living space. What clutter there was came from piles of reading material left strewn about the white furnishings.
“Johnny?  I’m home.  I got them.”
Lawrecne heard a rustling in a back room and around the corner came a John Ford clone. He looked to be all of 13 years old.
“Hello Father,” he said.

November 18, 2006: 9:45 pm: UMC

The dark tunnel was full of dust and soot.  Malinao could barely see Chong through the gloom.  Even the floaters barely cast any light.  The moon dust was so fine, even underground, it clogged filters dn blocked light.
“Where are we now,” she shouted to Chong.
“About to the center of the colony. I think 5th street and Prophets Avenue,” he shouted back.
Hashimoto manned the device monitoring Narang’s quantum dot.
“Another 100 meters, heading 70 degrees north from current directional,” shouted down Hashimoto.
Malinao plugged her ears as the driller fired up again. It was extremely loud, but at least not as horrifice as the detrailers ahd been.  She was impressed by Chong’s skill withe driller.  Most politicians she knew claimed to be men of labour to get votes but really couldn’t do much but talk. Chong was proving his stories about mining weren’t just stories.
The question of what to do once they got below Narang was still an open one.  Chong was for just drilling through the surface but Hashimoto warned him what might happen if Cana found the President of the UMC drilling up through the middle of their colony.  The current plan was to drill close to the durface, then use a minidrill head to open up a small porthole.  That was Malinao’s job. She would man the minidrill and check the surface.  Nobody in Cana was liable to recognise her.
“OK, we’re here,” Chong yeleld after another twenty minutes of drilling.
“Check.  He’s right above us.  You ready Speaker?”
Malinao nodded and set off to climb into the minidrill.
She maneuvered it out from the side of the main drill and followed the cavern up close to the drill point.
“Within range,” she broadcast to the drill.
Chong moved the main drill back enough to give her room to slip in. She bore it straight up through the rock until proximity sensors warned her she was near the surface. She gave the controls a tight turn opening a neat circular hole in the ground above her and turning the minidrill on it’s side perfectly aligned to allow her to crawl out of the cockpit and up through the opening.
Chong whistled through her speakers. “Nice bit of driving.  Where’d you learn to do that?”
“Charm school,” she answered back. The fact was she had never driven a minidrill before  but she had driven rock busters once in california, and found the very similar. Her Uncle, Tito Jun, had a strip quarry and she spent a summer busting rocks for school money.
Malinao came out in a side street which was a relief.  They were trying to pick somewhere unobtrusive, but you nbever know if your math is good until you see it in real life. Malinao climbed on up through the ground and pavement.
“Close the grill,” she broadcast back.”
The driller had a large grill behind it that could be closed to effectively shut ooff the tunnel it had made on its way in. This prevented the air from the colony leaking out through the tunnel they made.  Not only would this give them away but it might kill a few people too. Malinao felt the slight breeze going past her into the hole suddenly die.
Chong’s voice whispered in her ear. “Grill’s closed. Narang’s Quantum Dot is registering 4 meters behind you and two meters to the left. Be careful, just reconnaisance.”
Malinao signaled her assent, and walked back down the alley towards the location of the dot. She was getting it on her reader now as well. There was door in the alleyway that seemed to lead right to the dot. She listened at the door but heard nothing. So she carefully began to open it. She slipped inside and saw only darkness.  There was a large empty room.  She heard nobody around her. She risked whispering to Chong.
“I’m reading a meter away but I’m in a dark room and there’s nobody here.”
“Shhhhh.” admonished Chong. “They might be there but hiding from you.”
“I’m going to try some light.”
No Malinao, it’s too risky.”
But Malinao had already triggered the light.
She looked around into emptiness. Not a soul or even much of anything was in the room.
“There’s nothing here,” she said back to Chong.
“What do you see?”
“Well there has to be something, we’re getting Narang’s dot transmission.”
She caught her breath as she looked down.
“I think I foud the source of the transmission.”
“What is it?  Is Narang there. Get out Malinao!”
“No it’s not Narang.  Well not all of him anyway.
She looked down at a severed arm she only could assume was Minister Narang’s.

: 12:06 pm: UMC

“How could you?” spat out Ford.
“Very easy brother.  I’m the leader of Britain.  As Mr. Chong here has discovered, when you’re the leader of a great power, you can do many things.”
“But you warred against the Fundys!”
“Oh yes, I warred against Touareg and all his religious nonsense. But this cloning thing caught my eye.  It really did. And the Fundys who had stayed loyal to Patel were much less extreme than Toureg’s men.  Much mor ethe pragmatists. Well can’t you see? Cana was willing to cooperate with a less extreme Fundy group.  I was very interetsed in scientific technology that the rest of the world was too frightened of to pursue. My only block was the UMC army.  AS long asthey were involved things were difficult. I can influence all the other armies rather easily, I must say, but not yours Chong, not yours. I tried diplomacy but you were too stubborn for that. So then I tried manipulating my brother. We’d had him under observation and cloned him already. But as I see, that backfired a bit too. Now what to do Chong?  What to do, what to do? You’re here and you know my secret.  I need you to withdraw the UMC troops from Earth and your Vice President has proved to be far more competent than either of us expected. It doesn’ look good for you Chong.  I can’t let you go–”
Suddenly the train stopped and the lights went out.
“Power outage,” muttered Ford.
Nothing but the dim white light of the sun unfiltered by an atmoisphere illuminated the cabin.
“Don’t move,” Narang commanded sounding a bit shrill. “We’re in Cana territory and you wouldn’t get far before the power came back on and we took you back.”
A distant rumbling filled the tube, as if another train were approaching from the Tranquility side.
“There shouldn’t be any trains coming if the power’s out,” stated Chong.
“Shut up,” barked Narang. “Carlos, take out the driver.  You can drive this, no?”
Carlos nodded and moved towards the front.
“See this was an honest to goodness rescue train.  The only way I could get out here to you poor poor people.  But now we have complications. Everyone into the fromt car.”
The rescue train was really two cars but with the divider doors between them removed and widened to give extra space. Narang waved them all into the front part of the train. He ordered Benito to uncouple the back half of the car, then moved into that half himself.  All the time the rumbling had increased and soft glow began to come from the direction of Tranquility. Finally they heard a self-propelled train engine shut off and troops begin walking towards the rescue car.
“Rescue car are you in need of assistance?” shouted someone through a megaphone.
“Over here!” yelled Narang and opened one of the side doors in the back train car then scooted forward.
Hashimoto came striding up into the rescue car flanked by UMC guards. Narang had his siguise back on and stood at the edge of the first car, right behind where he had uncoupled it.
“Now Carlos!” he shouted.
Decoupling bolts fired and the rescue train began to move away. With a bit of luck for Narang, suddenly the power returned and the train began to pick up speed. Chong realized his plan had been to use the xplosive decoupling to buil momentum and then fire other bolts to keep them moving until the power returned.  This plan would have eventually tore the train into bits, but kept them moving.  As it was Cana restored power to their end of the tracks and Narang was going to speed away.
So Chong jumped. He grabbed Malinao and leaped off the platform onto the tracks rolling as he went, taking care not to let Malinao hit the ground as much as possible. He heard shots but couldn’t tell if he’d been hit by one of them, or just the ground. They rolled to a stop against the side of the tube, Chong facing Malinao closer than he’d ever been.
She looked stunned. “I love you.”
Chong froze but wouldn’t have had time to respond anyway, as Hashimoto and the guards approached right then.
“Good to see you Mr. President”
“Thanks Rod.  Rod, I’d like you to meet Speaker Malinao from the USA. Speaker, this is Vice President Hashimoto.”
The exchanged pleasantries and walked back to the self-propelled vehicle that had brough Hashimoto and his troops.
“We got the frequency of your Quantum Dot from Ford.  When he didn’t return we started tracing it.  When it came halfway down the tube and hen turned back, we had a pretty good idea what had happened.”
“So now we need to get back into Cana and get him.”
“Not as easy as it sounds,” Hashimoto replied wiping his brow. “Cana’s been distancing themselves again. They’re saying the war is over and it’s time for us to let them be.  But I think there’s Fundy influence.”
“You’re right,” Chong agreed. “Not exactly Fundy though.  Minister Narang is leading a scientific cloning group of ex-Fundys.  They got kicked out of the Fundys by Touraeg before the ned of the war, and Narang’s taken up their cause.  They’re not as ideologically extreme as the originals except when it comes to cloning.  That is they’re holy grail.”
“narang!  I’m suprised at that.”
“So what do we do?” malinao interjected. “Can’t we inform the Canaan governemnt what happened?  Surely they’d change their minds given the facts.”
“We can try said Hashimoto.  But they pretended not to belive me when I said Chong and you were captured in there.  Just belw it off.  I think they must be farther oin Narang’a pocket than we’d like to beleive.”
“I’ve got it,” Chong said snapping his fingers.
“You do?” Malinao looked skeptical but impressed.
“Rod, can you get me three EVA units and a buggy from Tranquility?”
‘Yes of course, but what are you going to do with them? You can’t drive from Tranquility to Cana in one of those.  It would take days.”
“I don’t intend to drive all the way.  I’ll need a ship to land me outside Cana. Somehwre away from their outlying encampments.”
“I don’t understand,” Malinao shook her head. “What’s he talking about?”
Hashimoto shook his head too.  “I think I know.  Next you’re going to need a nosedriver and a couple detrailers.”
“You got it.”
“A couple what?  What’s going on?” Malinao was confused.  She knew a detrailer was what had blown up in Versailles.  So what was Chong going to blow up. “Are you going to blow something u?”
Chong looked confused then laughed. “No no.  A Detrailer is really meant fro blowing a pathway in a mine. I’m going to use a couple to start a pathway.”
“A pathway where?” she asked.
“Under Cana, right Chong?” Hashimoto answered.
“Exactly.  Right under Narang’s feet.  We’ll track him with the dot.”
“You’re not worried about an international incident?” Malinao smirked.
“Not exactly.  If they want to explain what three or four known Fundys and the British Minister are doing holding my aide and John Ford in captivity in their colony, well, let them.” Chong grinned, something he rarely did.
“well OK, then,” said Malinao flatly. “What can I do to help?”
“Can you dig?” asked Chong.

November 17, 2006: 10:54 pm: UMC
The door led into a side compartment that had a rung ladder up to a port in the ceiling.
“You’re not suggesting we ride on top of the train are you?” Malinao asked.
“Shhh,” Chong shushed her. In a hushed voice he said, “Lawrence, close the door. The light from the cabin was obliterated and they stood in darkness. “We’ll wait here until we start moving, then investigate,” Chong managed to whisper before they heard the door of the car inside open and Canaan policemen searching the car.
Chong felt a hand slide into his and was pretty sure it was Malinao’s.
The search seemed to last interminably.  They could hear conversations but couldn’t make out much of what was said. Eventually the main force left but a sentry was left behind. Everyone began to get very stiff and uncomfotable but  nobody moved a muscle lest they make a sound. After what seemed like hours but probably took no more than 20 minutes, a large group of people could be heard entering the car. The commander was very loud and they could hear his voice distinctly through the wall.
“We’re diverting the train back to Cana for further search. Return to the car for disengagement.”
The group left and Chong regretfully let go of Malinao’s hand.
He carefully opened the door.  He could just barely see the Commander telling the sentry in the next car the new orders.  When they were gone from that car, it was safe to come out, but Chong held them up.
“We have to get off the train.  We’ll just have to walk.”
“Is there air in the tube?” asked Malinao.
“Just enough, yes.  And there’s a walkway that will keep us safe from another train. Though the MM is the only line here, so the only train we’re likely to see in this Tranquility-bound tube is that one on its way back.”
“Too bad we just couldn’t hail it,” joked Lawrence.
“Well, sound horrible, but if we must,” Malinao walked towards the exit.
“No,” Chong snapped a little more sharply than he meant to.
“If we open the emergency exit, they’ll know.  Alight goes on in the engine room.  Normally in a sitaution liek this it might not raise a fuss, but while they’re being searched by police, they’re likely to notice. We have to go out through the top portal and climb back down the side.”
“Won’t they notice that?” asked Malinao.
“A chance we’ll have to take,” Ford interjected. “Hopefully they’ll all be headed back to their car and won’t notice.  The other folks in the other cars won’t be able to see us until the train moves.”
“Good point Ford,” answered Chong. “We’ll have to stay low until the train is gone.”
The group moved back throught he side door and into the compartment that led out the top. LAwrence held the door open until the top porthole was cracked so they would have enough light.  Then he closed the door so they wouldn’t leave an obvious trace that they’d been there.
They climbed out the top and down some handrails a third of the way down the car and plopped back down on the plexiglass tube that carried the train.
“There’s not much air is ther,” Malinao gasped. “I’m not in that bad of shape.”
Chong shook his head. “No not much. It will be slow going.”
“Where are we going to hide?’ asked Lawrence.
The tube was large and there was a cement walkway along the side of the tracks but that didn’t provide much cover. They had to squeeze into a small space between the cement and the curved tube wall and hope nobody looked closely.
“The train will be moving fast enough, they shouldn’t notice us.  At least after the first two cars.  We’ll just have to press our luck I guess.” said Chong
“Press what?” asked Malinao
“Old Moon saying,” answered Chong
Lawrence spoke up. “Actually it comes from Earth–”
“Quiet, the train’s moving,” snapped Ford.
The squeezed down and Chong found his face centimeters from Malinao’s head.  He had the irresistible urge to kiss her hair but he held back. After 10 agonizing minutes, the train passed and they were able to stand up.
“Well, my friends, on with the march,” said Ford cheerily.

Around seven hours later Lawrence was trying to guage their distance from Tranquility. They had been passed by several trains now but had gotten expert at squeezing into the space by the walkway. It seemed like they would be stuck there forever.
“I think we’re  a third of the way there,” Lawrence said.
The group sighed.  That meant 14 more hours of walking without food or water and minimal oxygen. Ford was already showing signs of fatigue. They decided to take another break and sat down on the walkway.
“How are you doing Ford?” asked Chong.
“I’ll be fine,” he said and waved away the question.
Chong knew it wasn’t good. They would have to find another way to get out of the tube.  The phones didn’t work in the tube earlier but he checked again.  There were supposed to be repeaters all through the tubes but in the lines to and from Cana they hadn’t been working properly.  It was frequent gripe brought before the Moon Colony Association.This time he had a weak signal.
“I’m going to try to call Hashimoto,” Chong said. “I’ve got a weak signal.”
Everyone brightened at the thought of egetting through. The signal was breaking up but he heard the other phone ringing.
“Chong is that you?”
Chong laughed. “Yes sir Rod, it’s me. Listen we’re about halfway down the Cana-Tranquility Tube line.  We need a ride.”
“what?  I can barely hear you?  You’re where?”
“Tranquility-Cana tube line,” Chong shouted.
“What about Tranquility?  We’re there.  Are you here?” asked Hashimoto
“No we’re in the tube line!” Chong shouted.
Nothing.  The call ended.
Chong shook his head.  The signal was gone.
“Did he hear you?” asked Malinao.
“I’m not sure.  He didn’t seem to be able to understand me.” Maybe he can trace the call.”
The hung their heads and began the steady march. They debated whetehr they should stop hiding from the trains and start waving to see if they could get them to notice.  Lawrence figured they were out of Canaan territory by now. They decided it was worth the risk given the shape they were in. The next train they saw coming whipped past them.  LAwrence thought he might have caugh the eye of a young girl in a window but couldn’t be sure.  The next one 20 minutes later got the same result.
“Here comes another one,”yelled Malinao.  She stopped and started waving her arms and whistling.
“Whistling?  They’re not going to hear you whistling,” needled Lawrence.
“You never know.  Why shouldn’t I try?” rasped back Malinao.
Lawrence grinned
Chong felt an inexplainable pang as he watched the interchange of two people who’d gotten to know each other well on their journey while impersonating him. Had the impersoantion been too good?
Jus then he noticed the train was slowing to s stop.
“See!  The whistling worked,” Malinao chuckled.
The train was a short two car emergency version.  The kind you’d send on a rescue mission. The crew walked up to the main cabing to talk to the driver. There was only dark glass but they could hear him through it.
“Glad we found you.  We got your call.  Get on board.”
The passenger loading door opened.  It was a little higher than the emergency sidewalk, but Chong was tall enough to boost up and help everyone else in.  Malinao treated him to a grateful smile.
The door closed and the trian began to move.
“uh… is it going back to Cana?” lawrence pointed out.
“Yes. Damn. It is.” Chong realized they’d been trapped.
A door opened at the end of the compartment adn Narang walked through.
“I’m so glad I founf you.  You would have perished out there. And we wouldn’t want that, would we brother?”

November 16, 2006: 10:41 pm: UMC

Chong had been taken back to the shed, but this time he was locked in his room and given no friendly treatment. Carlos looked at him with hate now and Benito with something tinged of disappointment and disgust. His meeting with Narang had been cut short, meaning Narang still had no idea bout Ford and their plan. However, who knew where Ford was and who was dealing with him. Once Lawrence’s dispapearance was confirmed, Vice President Hashimoto could take over on an interim basis.  Hashimoto had not been informaed of hardly any of their plan, to mitigate the security risk. That meant Ford might be executed before any of this could become known.
Chong had been in his room countless hours now without food or any kind of attendance.  There was a toilet off to one side of the room but the window was securely barred. Finally he heard some noise near his room. A muffled shriek and some cursing in Spanish reached his ears. Then the door was suddenly flung open.
“We will take care of you as soon as the leader returns,” snapped Carlos as he flung Lawrence and Malinao into the room and shut the door.
“Mr. President!”
The sight of him alive wiped all their concerns away for a moment.
Chong grinned. “Just as I planned. We all get captured in Cana.”
Lawrence gasped as if he finally understood but Malinao didn’t buy it.
“So your elevator scheme didn;t pan out eh?”
“Uh, yeah about that.  It was a diversion.  It worked as far as it went–”
Malinao was not impressed. “Where’s Ford?”
“Probably in a prison cell in Serenity.”
“What happened?”
Chong told the story of their capture.
“Stroganoff,” said Lawrence when he was done. “Ford got captured all over a bowl of stroganoff.”
“Is that what it’s called? Not bad. Anyway, I was doing well here, until I met with the head of the Fundys. I managed to–” here Chong stopped.  He wasn’t sure if they were monitored. The place looked pretty low tech, but the monitoring devices could be easily hidden. He decided not to reveal the quantum dot, just in case.
“–get in the same room with him and then he recognised me.  It’s Minister Narang.”
This gobsmacked even Malinao.
“How in–?” was all Malinao could manage to get out.
“I haven’t a clue yet. All I know is he was as surprised to see me as I was to see him. Ford’s cover might have been blown if they’d found him anyway, considering Narang’s his brother.”
“So what do you two know form your adventures?”
They told him of their capture in Baghdad and he was quite impressed with their aeronautical adventure.
Malinao finished the story.  “They landed us in Cana and took us in a van here. And that’s the story.”
“What happened with all the scuffling outside?”
“Oh nothing.  Just them being rough.”
Lawrence guffawed. “The Speaker punched Carlos in the jaw after he made a remark about her gender. He’ll have a bruise tomorrow, I guarantee.”
Chong smiled.  He started to get that feeling of speechlessness again.
Malinao brushed it off and started prowling the room looking for a way to escape. The door was locked tight and Carlos and his men were just outside. The bathroom window showed some promise if they’d had a sharp knife and abojut three weeks to work on it. Ther were no ther windows and the joints at the ceiling were heat sealed. Ther wasn’t much as far as tools available.  They could break apart the nightstand for hinges and screws, but that would be noticed and just get the nightstand removed. Malinao set to attempt to remove one screw unobtrusively from the rear of the nightstand.  The bed and the toilet were the only pother things in the space.
After several more hours, Malinao had her screw but had no idea what to do with it.  It wan’t even a centimeter long.
“That’s it?!” she complained after she got it out. “All that threading for this?  It hardly even held the stand together! Man.  All that hard work and all I did was work up a stink.”
Chong took it form her and investigated. “I don’t think that smell is you. Seems liek they’re cooking up something nasty out there. Suddenly the door blew off its hinges and came hurling through the room almost knocking Lawrence over.
Ford stood incongruously in the doorway holding a handkerchief over his mouth.  Carlos and a few others could be seen passed out.
“Hurry, follow me before the gas gets us.”
Ford led them out the front door.  They ntoiced others passed out along the way including someone Chong was almost sure was Narang.
When they got outside, Ford stopped to catch his breath.  He’d been holding it most of the way in and out of the shed.
“I slipped a cannister of sleeping gas in the ventilation.  I figured I might have to carry you all out one by one but I guess that room was well enough sealed. Nice to see you Chong.  And you Madame Speaker, Lawrence.”
They had no time for more talking. Ford piled them in a very tiny car meant for three people.  Malinao wedged uncomfortably in with Chong in the rear compartment.  For that he was grateful. They rode in silence until the reached the main transport station.
Chong headed towards the tarins to Armstrong, but Ford stopped him.
“We’re headed to Tranquility.  I’ll explain on the way.”
Chong found this odd indeed.  Tranquility was a small tourist colony at this point. IN fact it wasn’t even a true colony, it was goverened by Avalon.  Only the museum workers stayed there and most of them lived somewhere else and commuted. It didn’t even have a spaceport.  In pretty much every way you could think about it, it was a dead end.  The exact opposite of the kind of place you wanted to be if youw ere on the run.     They found an empty car on the M Train to Tranquility and sat down for the rather long ride.
“Your man Hashimoto is pretty sharp. I thought I was a goner for sure when Cana extradited me. I suppose that was their plan. I’m pretty sure Cana’s been usurped by the Fundys, but that’s for another day. Hashimoto personally visited me to hear me out, and spoke with one of your guards who was with you in Omaha. Then you two were captured and he pieced together the story from there. Gave me leave to pursue you on my own, knowing he’d blow your cover if he came after you himself.  You could tell it was a hard choice for him though.”
“My cover’s already blown.”
Ford seemed taken aback a bit. “Well how the hell did that happen?”
“Your brother’s now the leader of the Fundys.”
“What?  Oh hell no he’s not. That’s ridiculou.  Narang? Why he hasn’t got a religious bone in his body!”
‘Nevertheless he’s who they took me to meet, and he recognised me. So that’s that.”
“Huh.” Ford consider this for a moment. “Did you get the dot on him?”
“Good.  We’ll figure this out when we catch him.”
“So why Tranquility?”
“Because it was th eonly place Hashimoto felt he could build up a big staff of people near Cana without anyone noticing. I was to get you and either bring you to Tranquility or send word on your condition if I couldn’t.”
Chong was about to ask about the staff of people when the train suddenly stopped. They hadn’t been riding for very long but they were outside of the Canaan dome, and therfore somehwta vulnerable.  The train tubes were thick, but many a disaster movie had been made on a dead train in an outer tube combined with a meteor strike.  It just made people nervous.
An official came over the speakers with an announcement.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, please do not be alarmed. The Canaan government has requested the train stop while an official constabulary car pulls up to investigate.  Apparently some stolen property may be on the train.  A search will be conducted and we ask everyone to cooperate.  This train is till within the bounds of Canaan colonial law and as such, the Moon Metro service will obery Canaan law enforcement instructions.  We’re sorry for the inconvenience but with your cooperation, we’ll get the train running again as soon as possible.  Thank you.”
Ford and Chong were both looking at the emergency exit and eyeing each other.
“You can’t be serious,” interjected Malinao. “There’s no where to go out there.
“It’s a long walk, I know.  But if I’m right about Cana, we’re probably headed for death at this point,” said Ford.
“They wouldn’t kill the President of the Mooon!” objected Lawrence.
“They’ve wanted to kill him since he came down for th epeace conference.  Now’s their best chance.  Nobody but us knows where he is so nobody will trace the bodies.
The car lurched as the constabulary train hooked on to the end.  It was three cars back.  They needed to make a call right away.
“Follow me,” said Chong. He went away from the emergency exit and towards another door near the end of the car.

November 15, 2006: 9:56 pm: UMC

The military truck dropped Lawrence and Malinao at the only working airfield on the outskirts of town. They were taking what looked like an old fashioned jet across the Medterranean to Europe. Lawrence’s eyes grew wide as they moved closer to the antique.
“We’re taking that?”
“Don’t worry Mr. President.  She’ll fly,” said the Commander driving the truck. Malinao pinched Lawrence and gave him a look. Lawrence felt the incongruous and uncotrollable urge to grin.
“I’m sorry Commander, you misunderstand me.  I’m very excited.  I’ve made a hobby of studying old airplanes.”
Now Malinao looked like she was going to sock him.  It was true he had studied old airplanes.  It was not true that the Presiden tof the Moon had.  In fact the President of the Moon had often mocked him for his avoication when they worked together in the lunar mines.
“You know you can’t fly one of those here,” Chong had pointed out to him over and over, trying to get him to see the futility of his hobby.  Now Lawrence would get the chance.
“I had no idea Mr. President,” said the driver. “This is an honest to goodness Airbus 380.  Pulled it out of mothballs somewhere in France and started using it at a low point  int he war. An American Lieutenant got it working so well it’s been in use ever since.  Perfectly safe, though I imagine it pollutes the hell out of the sky. Can’t imagine they’ll let us get away with it for much longer.  But to fit your schedule it was the best they could do. Figured it might be a treat as well.  Not many people alive ever rode on one of these and not many people will again.”
Malinao shrugged and sighed. Lawrence was supposed to avoid conversations to prevent people from getting a good look at him, and here he was chatting up an antique airplane buff. she only hoped he would relinquish the role when, and if, they got back together with Chong.  Both of them were extremely worried now and Lawrence had issued a low level search order with the few Generals who knew the situation.
The airplane was a bit musty on the inside. Lawrence caught his breath when he saw too wide-eyed passengers staring at them as they came around a corner into the main cabin.
“Dummies,” Malinao pointed out. “Look there’s even a plaque describing them here on the armrest. This thing must have been in a museum. They continued to inspect the cabin and found other plaques describing how people flew back in the old days.  A few of the rows had been taken apart to display the oxygen masks and other safety systems. (In one seat a tray table was glued in its down position with a preserved airplane snack, magazine and beverage.
“I imagine we won’t get that kind of service on this flight.
“No, I imagine not,” said a deep male voice.
Lawrence turned around to greet what he expected to be the Captain.  Instead he found himself face to face with a six-foot tall dark-haired moustachioed man holding a gun.
“I would call you Mr. President, but I’ve heard we already have one of those in our custody in Cana. So whoever you are, and Madame Speaker, please have a seat and fasten your seatbelts. Our flight will be departing momentarily for Algiers, where you will make a transfer to a Lunar-bound ship. For your convenience and the safety of our crew, I’ll be handcuffing you.”
He expertly cuffed Malinao and Lawrence to their seats and then to each other.
“Sorry fot the patter there.  I’ve been hiding in the crew cabin, forced to read the display about flight announcements. I tried to keep it as true to the original as possible.  I hope you enjoyed.  Our flight will take us a few hours. I’m afraid I won’t be able to come back and check on you as I’ll be flying the airplane. But do try to relax and enjoy the flight.”
Lawrence could just see as moustache man and another similarly dressed man dragged the actual military pilot out of the cabin and dumped him on the tarmac. Malinao could see nothing. The other man left the way they’d come in and closed the hatch door, leaving them alone on the airplane with the pilot.
“Did he sound Venezuelan to you?” asked Lawrence.
“No he didn’t, he sounded America,” snapped Malinao. “I’m more concerned with whether he really knows how to fly this thing alone.”
Suddenly something hit Lawrence. “These kind of aircraft require a pilot a navigator and ground control to fly properly.  This guy only has one of the three. His knuckles turned white as he gripped the armrest.
The flight went off without a hitch. Lawrence tried to enjoy the feeling of traveling in old fashioned style despite the hadncuffs, but it certainly wasn’t the way he had dreamed of doing it. They landed in a wide field outside what presumably was Algiers.  The climate felt hot and dry enough for that to be true.  A waiting interplanetary ship took them on board where they were once again cuffed into much more comfortable wide leather seats in the back of a commercial craft of some size.
Malinao and Lawrence had speculated quite  bit on who these people were and now their theories were getting wilder.  The organization would need to employ a pilot expert in flying ancient airplanes and have the werewithal to operate an unlicensed interplanetary commerical craft.
“Well they can’t land anywhere in the UMC without attracting attention.  There are ways to bluff obviously, bu they’re very particular about getting confirmed departure credentials these days and those are hard to fake.”
“Could they land in Cana?”
“Possibly.  The Cana spaceport is extremely small, so they;d be noticed, but they’re not too big for it. Cana’s just as strict as the UMC though. So I doubt they’ll have an easier time. Unless…”
“Unless what?”
“Unless they’ve infiltarted the spaceport staff. There was a lot of fear during the war that Cana would side with the Fundys.  They had some pretty solid support.  Even after the colony joined the alliance, they never did much.  Just some funding and a few peacekeeping troops.  A lot of people felt the Fundys would be able to assimilate into Cana.  Nothing ever came of that.  At least we didn’t think anything ever came of it.”
“All right you two, shut up.”
“An African woman came striding back down the aisle of the ship. Look, I’m monitoring everything you say and I have to monitor everything you say, so let me just give you a reason to shut up.  We’re landing in Cana. There’s no conspiracy, we have a license out of Algiers.  We made a pit stop to pick you up which we’re going to explain as a fuel inefficency. Now I don’t know who you are fake President, but you better save your energy because an interrogator is meeting us at Cana and he’s pretty psyched to practie his trade figuring out your identity and why you’ve been masquerading as Chong.  got me?” She smiled a severly insincere smile and walked back up the aisle.
“OK then,” Malinao managed.
Lawrence kept fairly quiet after that.