Copyright © 2016 by AmyBeth Inverness
ROBBING THE HOOD
Copyright © 2016 by AmyBeth Inverness
All rights reserved.
Published in the United States of America
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For all the vigilante wannabees I count amongst my friends.
Eireann shimmied through the curve in the duct, ignoring most of the side channels as she worked her way to the area that had been inadvertently rendered nearly inaccessible over the course of multiple renovations. The Loonies who’d originally built Old Town Sinus Medii over a hundred years ago had expected the systems to be replaced, not constantly added onto. In most places, the HVAC and other systems had been rebuilt and upgraded as planned.
Old Town was too hip for its own good.
The Hood was exceptional. It had been built by the first generation to be born on the moon. In its time, it had been chic and fashionable, the first neighborhood on the moon to offer a few small luxuries to its residents. Almost a century later, it was quaint, hip, and affordable only to the most affluent Loonies.
“Ow!” Eireann muttered as her quads complained about the confining space. She’d been crawling for at least twenty minutes.
“Are you injured?” asked an annoyingly calm artificial voice.
“Cramp!” Eireann yelled, not caring how far her voice would carry within the ancient ducts. “Cramp cramp crampcrampcramp!”
“Do you require emergency services?” asked the voice.
“No, Betsy,” Eireann said. “Just give me a minute.”
Eireann squirmed up to an intersection where she had a tiny bit more room and stretched out the complaining muscle. It was annoying, but something she was used to. When her leg stopped screaming, she turned over on her stomach again and crawled on.
“How much farther, Betsy?”
“The manifold is above you. Access via hatch 27SW.”
Eireann opened the hatch and immediately felt the blast of cool, fresh air. At that kind of pressure, it probably served at least a dozen large homes. Fortunately, her hair was cropped short. Otherwise, in her line of work, it would be flying around and getting hopelessly tangled every time she entered a duct.
“What was Mrs. Ferguson’s address again?”
“The client lives at fifty-eight Apollo Avenue. The designation on the duct should read R17 dash 58AA.”
“Is she still calling every five minutes?” Eireann asked.
“The average time between calls has been reduced from eight minutes to four,” Betsy answered. “I am keeping her informed of your progress.”
The manifold was big enough for Eireann, who was rather short, to comfortably sit up. Twenty-four ducts ran off in different directions.
Eireann held her hand over each as she moved down the line. Arranged in a rectangular pattern on the wall, they were four high and six wide, all identically sized. If everything was working properly, they should all have exactly the same airflow.
Except they didn’t. Eireann put down her hand and took out her anemometer. Most of the ducts were getting the same amount of air, but it was well below what it should be. The four ducts on the far left were pulling twice as much air as all the others, except for R17 dash 58AA. It was only slightly higher than average.
Eireann checked the duct numbers on the left. They were the ones she expected, the ones that went to her client and her neighbors in The Hood.
“Betsy? Where do these ducts go?” Eireann asked, reading off the numbers on the ducts to the right.
“Those go to Beacon Street.”
“Didn’t Beacon Street used to be part of The Hood?”
“Yes. Beacon Street was the edge of the original development. However, when Central Sinus Medii was built, Beacon Street became more associated with that area.”
“The poor area.”
“The average cost of housing on Beacon Street is approximately one-tenth that of the average home in The Hood.”
Eireann examined the four ducts on the left that were pulling extra air. There was some device built in beside them, one she’d never seen before.
She sent an image to her virtual assistant. “What are these?”
Betsy paused a moment before answering. “An avdragare. It increases the airflow in the duct.”
“But how is that legal?” Eireann yelled, her voice echoing in the confined space in spite of the windy conditions.
“Avdragares are no longer legal; however, if one has been in continuous service since it was installed, it is grandfathered in.”
“Grandfathered… argh!” Eireann let her aggravation come out in a long growl. Air was a precious resource. To take more than your share, just because you could, was selfish and mean.
“Would you like me to switch to pirate mode?” Betsy asked politely.
“Avast and en guard! I’ll be making the scallywags walk the plank.”
“Ahoy,” Betsy confirmed. “Wouldst ye like to be contacting the owners?”
“Now, how would that be pirate-like?” Eireann asked. “I’m not the confrontational type. I’m more… ummm…”
Betsy did not offer a response.
“Robin Hood,” Eireann said softly. “So, Betsy…” Eireann looked closely at the ducts. “If… for some unexplained reason these all stopped working, they could not legally be fixed or replaced, right?”
“Ahoy,” Betsy answered.
“Cancel pirate mode,” Eireann commanded. “I need to turn these off for just a minute so I can… uh… evaluate the situ… oops.”
“Do you require medical assistance?”
“Not that kind of oops,” Eireann said. “A good oops.”
She measured the airflow for each of the twenty-four ducts. Without the avdragares pulling extra air, each duct was well within standards for their size.
“Well?” Mrs. Ferguson asked when Eireann returned to the spacious home on Apollo Avenue. “The airflow is even less than it was! Can it be fixed?”
“Oh, it’s been fixed,” Eireann said with a smile. “Your duct is now delivering exactly the amount of air it was designed for.” She handed her customer the bill for her services. “If you’d like extra airflow, you may be out of luck in this neighborhood. There’s a new subdivision over in East Sinus Medii that was built with a system that lets you purchase additional ducts for a greater flow rate. But here,” Eireann gestured around her, “there isn’t enough room for the larger system. Unless the neighborhood decides to upgrade. You know… for everybody.”
“But I… it’s hardly delivering at all! And I’m hosting a party tomorrow night!”
“May I suggest you make it BYOA?”
“BYOA?” Mrs. Ferguson wrinkled her forehead.
Eireann took back the thumbprinted bill and gave Mrs. Ferguson her most winning smile. “Bring your own air.”
About the Author
A writer by birth, a redhead by choice, and an outcast of Colorado by temporary necessity, is a creator of speculative fiction and romance. She can usually be found tapping away at her laptop, writing the next novel or procrastinating by posting a SciFi Question of the Day on Facebook and Google Plus. When she’s not writing, she’s kept very busy making aluminum foil hats and raising two energetic kids and many pets with her husband in their New England home. You can find her on , , @USNessie, and @USNessie.
Also by AmyBeth Inverness
The Cities of Luna
with Dingbat Publishing
Faceplanting is Always an Option
One Does Not Simply Walk Into Mordor
The Day Lorinda Flew
Between the Moon and New York City
My Weird Beige Foreign Neighbors
More by AmyBeth Inverness
The House on Paladin Court
in Precipice 1: The Literary Anthology of Write on Edge
in Precipice 2: The Literary Anthology of Write on Edge
“In the Closet”
in Felt Tips: Office Supply Erotica
edited by Tiffany Reisz
“The Genesis of the Incorporem”
in The Garden of Eden
“The Remorse of the Incorporeum”
in Sulfurings: Tales from Sodom and Gomorrah
“The House on Paladin Court”
in Real World Unreal: Theme-Thology
More from AmyBeth Inverness
“I’m four. I should get four cookies,” Pico reasoned. It seemed perfectly reasonable to her. Why Gramma-dinger couldn’t understand that, she had no idea.
“One cookie,” Gramma-dinger said, then closed the tin and put it back on top of the refrigerator. “That’s all you need. The rest are going up here, out of reach.”
Pico had no idea what ‘out of reach’ meant, but she did understand that the fancy blue tin belonged to her grandmother, not her mother or father. The cookies in the blue tin were Gramma-dinger’s special treat.
“How are you settling in, Mrs. Schrodinger?” the rabbi asked, sitting in Daddy’s chair with his back straight, not leaning back at all.
“Oh, everything is so different up here!” Gramma-dinger said, placing a plate with not just two, but six cookies in front of their guest. “But it’s nice to be close to my son and his family. I was heartbroken when he decided to move to the moon, but it was such a good opportunity, and he’s always been a bright young man…”
Pico sat quietly and watched while the rabbi ate one cookie, then another. The other four cookies were just sitting there, uneaten. Wasted. From where Pico sat, she could see the edge of the blue tin on top of the refrigerator. It had been almost full. It was a new box. There was no shortage of cookies. She knew that Gramma-dinger had an extra box that she kept under her bed, too.
Gramma-dinger stopped talking long enough to eat one of the remaining cookies. They were talking about Grampa-dinger and the funeral. Daddy had gone to Earth when Grampa-dinger died. He was gone for a whole month, and when he came back, Daddy and Mommy told Pico that Gramma-dinger was going to come live with them.
The house was getting crowded. First, her baby brother had arrived out of nowhere. The room she used to keep all her extra toys in had been turned into a nursery for him, even though he slept in Mommy and Daddy’s room. When Daddy got home from Earth, he’d cleaned out the small room he used as a den and they’d moved Pico’s bed into it. Her toys didn’t fit, but Mommy bought a nice toy chest and told her it would be all right to keep some in the living room. Pico’s old room was repainted bright yellow for Gramma-dinger.
The rabbi ate another cookie. Only two were left. Pico wondered what Gramma-dinger would do if there were still two cookies on the plate when the rabbi left. Pico might be able to sneak them off the plate when Gramma-dinger walked the rabbi to the door. She might not notice. She might think he ate them all.
“Rabbi! How nice of you to come,” Daddy said, striding into the room. He shook the rabbi’s hand, then picked up the last two cookies and put them both in his mouth at the same time.
Pico swallowed, watching her father’s jaw demolish the treats. She couldn’t wait until she was an adult. She’d eat as many cookies as she wanted, and she’d let her children and grandchildren eat all the cookies they wanted, too.
Later that night, while Daddy was fixing dinner and Mommy was napping with the baby, Pico heard the familiar sound of the blue metal tin opening. She turned around and saw that Gramma-dinger had some kind of cloth in her hands. The blue tin sat open beside her on the couch.
Pico quietly picked up her dolls and went to sit on the other end of the couch. She’d been very good all week, keeping Gramma-dinger company, and being quiet whenever anyone was asleep. Between her grandmother and her baby brother, it seemed like somebody was always sleeping.
Gramma-dinger put her hand into the open tin and pulled out a piece of brightly colored string. Pico dropped her dolls and leaned over, peering into the tin.
Pico blinked. There were no cookies inside. There were many little cards with bright string wrapped around them, a red ball with needles stuck in it, and several things she couldn’t identify.
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