Then she meets the enigmatic Freydis, who needs her help to uncover something on the Moon that has stayed secret for decades.
Something that her father is involved in.
Something that is angering the Moon Goddess…
Formats: ebook $2.99
Available from your favourite retailer here.
Artemis Doyle had been sick before, but this was the worst. Thing. Ever.
She lay in the padded seat in the passenger cubicle of the shuttle, eyes closed, body limp beneath the restraints, and concentrated on her breathing like the co-pilot had told her. In. Out. Ignore her rolling stomach – thank the Goddess she’d only had half a cup of hot chocolate in the twelve hours before liftoff. Otherwise she might have – no, would have – disgraced herself during the two minutes of six g’s the shuttle had attained when it blasted off, not to mention the eighteen hours of zero g’s it had taken to reach the Moon.
And she would have disgraced her father too.
At least the one-sixth g on the Moon wasn’t too bad, even if she did feel as if she was going to float away if she unbuckled the restraints. Some weight was better than none. And her own weight had plummeted anyway in the last three months; she’d barely felt like eating anything since Mum –
No, don’t go there. Artemis swallowed convulsively, and closed the fingers of her left hand into her palm. A square of flesh-coloured tape was stuck across it, and beneath the tape was a small stone the size of a peach pit. The tip of her middle finger touched the rounded edge of the stone and Artemis breathed in. Slowly, slowly, her stomach began to settle.
She and Mum had found the stone on their last camping trip together. Dad was meant to be on that trip too, but like always he’d been called in to work, his two weeks’ holiday cut short to five days. He was an engineer with Cartwright Global, with very specific and specialised qualifications and knowledge, and his contract stated he was on-call all the time for all emergencies. So he’d gone off to who-knew-where, and Mum and Artemis had gone on their camping and hiking holiday in the Sunshine Coast hinterland without him. And, while she was pitching her tent on the second night, Artemis had found the stone.
It was nothing to look at really, just an irregular flattish shape, dark with a splash of reddish-brown along one side. She wouldn’t have noticed it if she hadn’t knelt on it while banging in one of her tent-pegs. She’d picked it up, and suddenly the lingering resentment she’d felt toward Dad, toward his eagerness to jump whenever CG said ‘how high?’ eased a little. And was it her imagination, or had the stone glowed a faint, mossy green as she picked it up?
She’d slipped it into her pocket and brought it home.
Dad had said he’d make it up to them and take them skiing at Mt Hotham, but he’d never got the chance. Five weeks later, as Mum and Artemis were driving home from the supermarket, the family’s weekly shopping in the boot, a massive Ford Territory had run a red light and ploughed into them. Mum had died instantly, and Artemis had been cut from the car and taken to hospital in shock, her only injuries scratches and a broken arm. The woman driving the four wheel drive had been charged with high-range drink-driving.
It had taken Dad four days to get home from wherever he’d been called away to that time.
He said he’d had to finish his job first.
‘Artemis, sit up please.’
Artemis opened her eyes as she felt hands tug at the straps across her body. Dad was leaning over her, impatiently pulling the straps away. He put an arm under her shoulders and eased her slowly into a sitting position. Her stomach rebelled for a second, then steadied.
She slid her legs over the side of the seat and went to stand, but Dad stopped her with a raised hand. He bent to tug a pair of boots onto her feet, boots that felt heavy and dragged her feet to the floor.
‘Weighted,’ Dad explained shortly. ‘You’ll need them until you get your Moon legs.’
There were two men standing behind him, both dressed, weirdly, in dark suits. They said nothing, but Artemis could see disapproval in their eyes, almost feel it radiating from them. It was obvious they didn’t want her here. Dad didn’t introduce her to them, and instinctively she knew to keep quiet as they turned and led the way to the airlock at the front of the passenger section of the shuttle. Her fingers curled into her palm again, seeking comfort from the stone.
Dad had told her that she couldn’t bring anything except clothes and her e-screen. Artemis had nodded, but as soon as he was in his own room, packing, she’d gone to the first aid box and cut a square of tape. If Dad said clothes and e-screen, he meant clothes and e-screen only – he was seriously anal that way. Maybe because he was an engineer and lived for logic. But no way was she leaving her stone behind. It was one of the last things she and Mum had shared, finding out exactly what the stone was.
So far he hadn’t noticed her contraband, and surprise, surprise, nothing bad had happened.
They filed into the airlock, stood silently while it cycled through and the heavy outer door eased slowly open. Beyond was a short, stark corridor painted light grey. Narrow stripes of colour were painted horizontally along them, yellow, blue, red, green, black, purple. Artemis stepped from the shuttle’s steel plates onto thin flooring that wasn’t quite carpet and shuffled along as fast as she could behind Dad and the two men. All of them moved the same, with a long, loping stride. And gradually, through the nausea still threatening her senses, she realised that Dad had been here before.
He’d never mentioned going to the Moon. And it was still a big deal, coming here. It wasn’t like normal people could afford the fifty thousand dollars a return ticket cost for a few wide-eyed tourist days.
She wondered if Mum had known Dad had come here.
They reached the end of the corridor and turned right into a larger space. Artemis blinked. A maglev train sat waiting for them, a single carriage with the familiar bullet design nestled onto a curved track. The men headed straight for the open door and Dad and Artemis followed. Then a flash of colour drew Artemis’s head sharply to the right.
A girl stood at the edge of the platform where the track exited the tunnel behind the train, a girl not much older than Artemis herself. She had long dark-red hair, level green eyes and the translucent skin of the true redhead. She was wearing a long-sleeved knee-length dress made of some kind of mottled blue-green material which seemed to almost drift around her in the low gravity. Her feet were bare, and she had a wide silver bracelet around each of her slim wrists.
Artemis stared. The girl looked so unlike the stuffy, suited men that it was almost shocking.
‘Artemis!’ barked Dad. ‘Hurry up!’
Artemis flinched, then turned away and broke into a shuffling run. Dad reached out and yanked her on board the carriage as the sirens clanged, and the door shut almost on her foot. The train was moving as she clambered to her feet and looked out of the window.
The platform was empty. The girl was gone.