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First Instance

By Deleted User All Rights Reserved ©

Humor / Scifi

Chapter 1

Unlike the near eternal day on the rim, the floor of Shackleton Crater was in eternal night. It scared Andy Lukassen in a way that he didn’t recognize but that his Homo habilis ancestors would’ve rightly feared. Just three more hours, he thought. Three more hours until sunrise. Remembering that he was more than halfway through today’s shift was half the battle.

It was always the dust up here, ninety-nine times out of a hundred. The stuff got everywhere, chewing up the rubber coating on all the wires, shorting circuits with micro-electrical discharges, and generally being a pain. He was sure that this alarm was just another dust call; just another in all the other times he’d had to go down into the crater and poke around at power assemblies with a flashlight and compressed air.

He looked over at Grant Hardy, that smug SOB. Thought he could do everything, including Andy’s girlfriend, and never pay for it. Today he would.

“Hey Andy, you got a four millimeter socket adapter over there?” he heard over the radio. “I can’t find mine.”

“Sounds about right,” he said. “I found it, alright, don’t think I didn’t.”

“What’re you talking about?”

“Don’t play games with me, Hardy. You know what I mean.” Another voice cut in on the radio: the foreman, Lucy King.

“What’s going on over there, Lukassen? If this is personal, just keep it at home.”

“Tell that to Hardy,” he said, feeling too good about blowing off his superior. “I know you’ve been seeing Laurie. Must’ve thought you’d get away with it too. Well, time’s run out for you.”

Hardy was standing at the next power junction down, about fifty yards away; a long walk on Earth, but not under lunar gravity. Even better, between his suit and the minimal atmosphere, he wouldn’t hear anything coming.

“The hell?” Hardy replied. “What’re you gonna do about it? Hit me?” After one more big hop, he did. Andy’s haymaker caught Hardy on the side of his helmet, knocking him down like a piece of flimsy cardboard. It would’ve been more satisfying if Andy hadn’t bounced off him just as hard. Next thing he knew, he was on his back and a shrill alarm was going off inside his helmet.

His eyes went wide as he began to forget all that training he’d had back on Earth about maintaining breath control when panic starts to set in. King’s voice cut through the noise.

“I just got decompression alerts from Hardy and Lukassen. What the hell are you two doing?”

Hardy spoke up first.

“Andy just punched me!” he said. He was half right, Andy thought, still trying to clear his head from essentially punching himself too. He may as well have punched himself, the way he flew back like that. It occurred to him then that he should’ve thought this through better.

“We’ll sort you two out later,” King said. “Stand by for evac.”

Dammit, Andy thought.

The ride to Armstrong Station was nowhere near as long as the one he’d taken to get to the Moon but it sure felt like it was, if not longer. Of course, that last ride hadn’t been to prison. At least this cell was roomier than the last one he’d been in. Was it even really supposed to be a cell, or was it just a spare room? It probably didn’t make any difference, since he’d be stuck in here either way. He heard a conversation out in the hall: one woman and a man who sounded like he was from Africa. It was worth a shot.

“I get a phone call, don’t I?” he yelled. The speakers went quiet out in the hall and the man poked his head around the corner and looked in at him through the little plexiglass window.

“Excuse me?” he replied, opening the cell door a crack.

“Prisoners get a phone call. That’s the law.” The soldier’s head disappeared into the hall again for a moment. It’s working, Andy thought. Or maybe not. He gulped as the door to his cell opened and the soldier returned with two more. Is this the part where they beat me? Instead, two of the soldiers stood on either side of the doorway and the other looked back at him.

“Let me talk to somebody about that,” the man said. With that, he hopped down the hall, leaving the other two standing by the door. It was a long couple minutes to avoid eye contact with them but somehow he managed it. All the while, thoughts ran through his head. What if they didn’t give him one, like he’d seen on TV? Who would even he even call? His mom? She’d probably laugh at him, tell him it was his own damn fault, and hang up. There goes his only chance to get help. What about Mika, his neighbor back home? She’d know what to do. After all, she’d always said they were friends, so why shouldn’t she want to help him now?

But then what if she didn’t answer? She was also always away, so that was a no-go if he missed her. He’d have to call someone who’d definitely be there, someone who wouldn’t hang up on him or just tell him he’d gone and screwed the pooch again. Who? It was just then, when the guard and another man walked into the room, that he remembered a commercial he’d always wished he could forget but was glad he didn’t: Valens, Richardson, and Murphy Law Offices.

“A lawyer,” he said before the other man could speak. “I need to talk to my lawyer.”

“I’m Captain Harvik with the UN Peacekeeping Forces. You’re Andy Lukassen. The electrician from IRI, right?”

“Yeah, that’s me. When do I get my phone call?”

“We have a videophone on-site but it’ll cost you,” the captain replied. A little vein had started to pulse on his bald head.

“I don’t care how much it costs, just let me call my lawyer.”

“Right this way,” Harvik said. Andy got up and shot the guards an indignant look that he should’ve kept to himself. Tracing the same hallway he’d taken from the airlock towards his little cell, they passed by more peacekeeping troops who looked at him quizzically. Blue beanies or not, I got my rights, he thought. Even on the Moon. They stopped at a little plexiglass cubicle with a computer monitor and keyboard inside. An AT&T sign on the right-hand side with prices on it almost caused his eyes to bulge out of his head. Had it been that expensive the last time he’d called home? He wasn’t sure but figured it would be alright; he had enough saved up from the last year and a half to afford a quick call, as long as he didn’t use video.

“You’ve got ten minutes,” Harvik said him, but Andy wasn’t listening. If all went well, he’d get it done in two. He thought back on that commercial, trying to remember the jingle. Was it a five or a seven after the four? Whistling made it a little easier and finally he had it.

Here goes nothing, he thought. He dialed the number and tried not to hold his breath the whole way through the dial tone. Thanks to nerves and the speed of light, it must’ve been a solid minute of sweat and hand-wringing before a young woman’s voice answered him.

“Hello, you’ve reached the law offices of Valens, Richardson, and Murphy. Can you please hold?” Dammit. No no no no.

“Uh… No! No. I can’t wait. Just please put me through.” The line went quiet for a second or two.

“I’m sorry, sir, but our next representative will be able to speak to you so-”

“Listen to me, dammit! I’m calling from the UN base at Armstrong Station, Sea of Tranquility. On the Moon. You have any idea how much it costs per minute from up here?”

“Sir, if you’re trying to pull some sort of prank, I’m hanging up right now.”

“Look, how do I prove it? Uh…” He looked over at the chart next to his console: four hundred dollars a minute for video, it read. It was an awful lot of money but he’d only need a moment to make it worth his while. Screw it, he thought, and clicked the button to activate the webcam at the top of the monitor.

“You happy now?” he said. The girl on the other end was silent for a full ten or fifteen seconds.

“I see. One moment, please.” He switched the video off, hoping that hundred bucks or so he'd just dropped had paid off for now.

“This is Allan Murphy, attorney at law. How may I help you?” The voice sounded just like he’d expected a lawyer’s to sound: knowledgeable and rich.

“Yeah, my name’s Andy Lukassen. I’m here at the Armstrong Station UN base. The one on the Moon. I need a lawyer.”

“I’m going to need more information, Mr. Lukassen. What happened?”

“Well, I work at the IRI mass driver colony down in Shackleton Crater, near the lunar south pole. I had… I had an incident on the job and the company shipped me off here to the UN base to be held until they can sentence me.”

“Please describe the incident, if you could. Just for your information, I’ll be recording this statement as testimony for internal use only, in the event that we decide to take you on as a client.”

“Sure thing. So I was at the job site, down at the base of the crater, working on some electrical junctions. I’m an electrician. And there’s a guy I work with named Grant Hardy. Well, I was down there with him and he’d been sleeping with my girlfriend and I found out, so I confronted him about it. Next thing I know, I’m in custody.”

“How exactly did you ‘confront’ him, Mr. Lukassen?”

“I walked over and punched him. Then I fell over.”

“Did he provoke you?”

“Well, he slept with my girlfriend.”

“I mean did he physically attack you in a way that incited your physical response?”

“No. He never hit me.”

“I see. Well, I won’t be able to give you a decision right now but I can expect to have one for you in the next three to four days. If you wouldn’t mind, tell me more about the conditions of your imprisonment at Armstrong Station. Where are you being held? Are there armed guards? How have they been providing for your physical needs?”

“They’re keeping me in a little cell with a vacuum toilet and a sink down the hall. I get three meals a day, normal rehydrated stuff like everyone else eats up here. Nothing special, really.”

“Then you’re not under threat of violence? You haven’t been injured in any way?”

“Not really, no. I’ve seen a couple soldiers with guns but the guys guarding me just have nightsticks, from what I can see.”

“That’s good to know, Mr. Lukassen. Now I’ll need to take this under advisory with the rest of my partners and determine if we can take your case. In the meantime, I’d advise you to use any opportunities you may have to make yourself aware of your legal rights in this situation. Also, I’d like to point out that since we have not yet made a decision as to whether we’ll be accepting you as a client, the preceding should not be construed as bona fide legal advice from Valens, Richardson, and Murphy, but only as a preliminary statement from myself as a consultant to a potential client. Is that clear?”

“Yeah. Yeah, it’s clear. Thanks. Hey, uh… How much is this gonna cost me?”

“The first thirty minutes of consultation are free, Mr. Lukassen. If you desire further consultation or if we take you on as a client, we will establish rates in a written contract with you.”

“That’s a relief. Look, thanks for your help but it’s pretty expensive for me to call from here. When do you think you can get back to me?”

“Three to four days.”

“Alright. Well, thanks a bunch. I’ll wait for your call.”

“Thank you for choosing Valens, Richardson, and Murphy.”

“No problem.”

The line went dead. He’d have to wait for the phone bill to find out how many thousands of dollars he just blew but for now, he just felt relief.

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