Crescent, p.1Homer Hickam
Acclaim for Homer Hickam
“Classic science-fiction storytelling in the style of early Heinlein, humor, and grand adventure permeate every page of this first book in a trilogy. Boys in particular may be inspired to bring back the time-honored tradition of reading by flashlight under the covers.”
—SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL REVIEW OF CRATER
“Long-haul trucking on the Moon . . . with raiders, romance and a secret mission. . . . High adventure on the space frontier.”
—KIRKUS REVIEW, REGARDING CRATER
“Crater shows what it would be like to live on the Moon: to work there, to struggle and to triumph. A fine piece of work by Homer Hickam.”
—BEN BOVA, AUTHOR OF LEVIATHANS OF JUPITER
“Readers will be caught up in Homer Hickam’s thrilling novel of life on the moon! Plenty of twists and an admirable, spirited hero in Crater who takes us on an adventure filled with intrigue and excitement that leaves us wanting more.”
—DONNA VANLIERE, NEW YORK TIMES & USA TODAY BESTSELLING
AUTHOR OF THE GOOD DREAM AND THE CHRISTMAS SHOES
© 2013 by Homer Hickam
All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording or any other—except for brief quotations in printed reviews, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
Published in Nashville, Tennessee, by Thomas Nelson. Thomas Nelson is a registered trademark of Thomas Nelson, Inc.
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Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc™. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com
Publisher’s Note: This novel is a work of fiction. Any references to real events, businesses, organizations, and locales are intended only to give the fiction a sense of reality and authenticity. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Hickam, Homer H., 1943-
Crescent : second in the Helium-3 series / by Homer Hickam.
pages cm. -- (A Helium-3 novel ; 2)
Summary: “They said she wasn’t human. They were wrong. A seemingly endless war against the insurgent Crowhoppers keeps the people of Moontown fighting when they’d rather be mining valuable Helium-3. Crater Trueblood’s valiant efforts against the genetically-manipulated beings weighs heavily on his mind. What is he really fighting for? In the midst of a deadly battle, Crater captures an enemy Crowhopper. But this one he refuses to kill. “It” is genetically more human than not and its gender seems to be female. She calls herself Crescent. Crater takes her to Moontown as a prisoner of war, but treats her kindly. However, at the hands of Moontown residents Crescent experiences prejudice and even cruelty. Soon Crescent is imprisoned for a murder she didn’t commit. Crater comes to her aid, and the two become fugitives, escaping into the vast expanse of hostile terrain called “the big suck.” For Crater, it turns out the cause most worth fighting for may be right by his side”-- Provided by publisher.
ISBN 978-1-59554-663-0 (pbk.)
[1. War--Fiction. 2. Prejudices--Fiction. 3. Prisoners of war--Fiction. 4. Fugitives from justice--Fiction. 5. Moon--Fiction. 6. Science fiction.] I. Title.
Printed in the United States of America
13 14 15 16 17 RRD 5 4 3 2 1
To Deborah Underwood, Chuck Lewis, Ken Smith,
Steve Noneman, Jerry Richardson, John Thomas,
Harvey Shelton, Tony O’Neil, and all my NASA
supervisors and co-workers. You understood.
PART ONE: CRATER’S CREATURE
PART TWO: ENDLESS DUST
READING GROUP GUIDE
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
There is no death! The stars go down
To rise upon some other shore,
And bright in heaven’s jeweled crown
They shine forevermore.
—J. L. McCreery
::: Part One
All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful:
The Lord God made them all.
A full tide of glittering stars and fluorescent galaxies washed across the darkness of eternity, the flood of heaven a welcome distraction to Crater Trueblood, who lay in a crumbling ditch waiting to kill or be killed. Actually, it wasn’t a ditch at all but an ancient rille that had fallen inward between two faults in the moon’s crust, but the Colonel had called it a ditch and Crater supposed it didn’t matter much what it was called, considering it was just a place to hide before a battle began.
To his left and right, thirty heel-3 miners-turned-irregular-soldiers gripped their electric railgun rifles and lay in the gray, gritty dust, waiting for the signal to attack. Crater brought his helmet scanner down to the crater-pocked plain that fronted the dustway, the main heel-3 convoy road that crossed a thousand miles of the moon from Moontown to Armstrong City. To the west, snaking around a low hill, a convoy of heel-3 trucks was trundling along toward a feature on the dustway known as the Sinking Ship, a big, brown rock that looked like the prow of a ship sinking into the dust. The convoy was bait for the enemy. If all went according to the Colonel’s plan, the convoy would be ambushed by the crowhoppers, who would then be ambushed themselves. Crater saw the glint of something metallic on the other side of a low hill. The Colonel’s plan was working. The crowhoppers were coming.
“Crater!” the Colonel snapped. “Have a look at the battleputer.”
Crater didn’t understand why the Colonel wanted him to look at the battleputer, but he slid back from the ragged lip of the rille and had a look over the shoulder of the battleputer operator, a fellow who went by the name of Cat Tramon. The view was a signal from a flying drone. In the light gravity of the moon, the drone, no bigger than a small Earthly bird, pulsed along using laser bursts to keep it aloft while it scanned the ragged surface below. Cat gave the hand signal
Colonel John High Eagle Medaris, in dust-covered coveralls and an old scarred helmet, nodded his approval. Infrared signatures showed the creatures moving across the plain, threading through a crater field. “I count twenty moving into position to ambush the convoy, Colonel,” Cat said. “No evidence of spiderwalkers.”
Crater was glad they weren’t going to have to face the eight-legged war machines the crowhoppers sometimes rode into battle. In past battles, he’d fought these mechanical beasts with artificial intelligence and snapping pincers and thought himself lucky to have survived. The crowhoppers on foot were tough enough.
Crater studied the battleputer screen and saw the signature of a jumpcar parked a mile to the rear behind the rim of a large crater. Its landing two weeks ago had been reported by a Lunatic—one of those hardy moon pioneers who lived alone in the wayback—which caused the Colonel to send out the drone, then call up the Moontown Irregulars who, like Crater, were Helium-3 miners employed by the Colonel’s company. The crowhoppers were part of an invading force mostly destroyed by Lunar Council forces over a three-year period. The genetically tweaked troops, sent by the Unified Countries of the World to take over the lunar Helium-3 supply, were reeling after a series of setbacks. This group, then, was a desperate remnant of a defeated army.
Crater saw the glowing figures on the battleputer begin to disperse. “They’re fanning out,” Cat warned. “Moving into ambush position.”
“Tell me when they’re set,” Colonel Medaris answered. “Then we’ll go at ’em.”
Crater glanced back at the Colonel. The old man’s expression was intent, even eager for the coming battle. The Colonel was undeniably a great man. He’d pioneered the Helium-3 scrapes on the moon, founded Moontown, and built many companies large and small. But he was also a man who did not seem to mind the blood and stink of war. General Robert E. Lee, the “Gray Fox” of the American Civil War, said, “It is well war is so horrible else we would become too fond of it.” Crater wondered what General Lee would make of the Colonel. He was well fond of war and did not seem to mind its horrors, nor the body count of friend and foe, as long as he was victorious.
“All right, Crater,” the Colonel barked. “You’ve seen enough. Get back in line.”
“Here we go again,” Asteroid Al said to Crater as he crawled back into the rille, then added, “I hope this is the last battle.”
Crater gripped his old friend’s shoulder. “There can’t be many crowhoppers left, Al.”
“We keep thinking that, then we’re called up to fight some more. I’ve had it, Crater. I’m a heel-3 miner, not a soldier. I can’t take much more of this.”
“Today you’re a soldier. You’ve got to think and act like a soldier to stay alive.”
“Silence in the ranks!” the Colonel growled.
“Get scragged, you old reprobate,” Asteroid Al muttered.
“What did you say, Al?” the Colonel barked. “Keep your focus, man.”
Al shook his head, gritted his teeth, and clutched his rifle. Crater looked down the line and saw one of the Irregulars climb out of the rille and crawl back toward a small crater. Since he was in charge of that section of the line, Crater moved to stop the man.
“Crater!” the Colonel snapped. “Who told you to go anywhere?”
Crater ignored the Colonel and kept crawling. He stopped the retreating trooper by putting his gloved hand on his shoulder, but then Crater saw it wasn’t a man at all but a boy. “Get back in line,” Crater said.
The wild-eyed boy stared back at him.
“What’s your name, soldier?” Crater demanded.
“F-Freddy Hook,” the boy croaked.
“Hook? Are you Liu Sho Hook’s boy?”
“Your mom’s the best blue banger—I mean foreman—on the scrapes. What are you doing out here?”
“V-Volunteered. I came in by jumpcar just a few hours ago with the other new fellows. Mom didn’t want me to go but I thought it was my duty.”
Your duty, Crater thought, is to grow up and be a good man. But he didn’t say that. The boy was here, he had a rifle, and he was needed to fill out the ranks. “You’re going to get back in line now, Freddy.”
“I’m scared,” Freddy said.
Crater made the necessary eye movements toward the heads-up display screen on his helmet to turn his do4u to the private frequency of an experienced fighter named Doom. Before coming to the moon, Doom, once a citizen of the Republic of North India, had been a mercenary in several Earthly armies. “Doom, I need you,” he said.
Doom crawled over and Crater pointed at the boy. “Someone needs to look after Freddy. I’d do it but I think the Colonel’s got something planned for me. He’s been on my case all day.”
“With pleasure,” Doom said and moved to lie beside Freddy. He patted him on the back, then pointed at the power setting on the boy’s rifle. “Move that to the highest level. You must not wound a crowhopper. You must kill him or he will kill you.”
The boy fumbled with the setting, then looked up for approval. Doom smiled at him. “We are going to get back in line now. You will be fine, Freddy. Just stay with me.”
“Y-Yes, sir.” Freddy gulped.
“Crater,” the Colonel hissed. “Stop playing around and get back up here. I want you to take charge of the attack.”
Crater clambered over to the Colonel and switched to his private channel. “Why me?”
“Why not you? My orders are simple. Kill them all. Remember it’s only crowhoppers. It isn’t as if they are real humans.”
Crater couldn’t argue with the Colonel’s opinion. Crowhoppers were a foul bunch, fond of killing, and it didn’t matter if they killed enemy soldiers or innocent civilians, including children. The moon needed to be rid of them. He switched to the Irregulars’ battle frequency. “All right, you scrag heads. The Colonel’s ordered me to lead this lashup.” He looked left and right and saw grim smiles. His eyes landed on Captain Mike, who’d once been an officer back on Earth for one side or the other. “Mike, you take the right side on my signal. I’ll keep the left. You good with that?”
“Let’s just get this over with,” Mike growled.
Crater checked the battleputer one more time and saw the crowhoppers had settled into an ambush line along a series of craters near the dustway. “Let’s go, you apes,” he growled. “You want to live forever?”
He clambered out of the rille, the rest of the men in the line peeling off and following single file. He led them through a field of broken rock, then dropped to one knee. The others did the same, their rifles at the ready. He waved Mike’s line to move to the right to set up the pincer movement. A few minutes later there was a flash in the direction of the dustway. “They’re attacking the convoy,” Crater said. “Mike, are you in position?”
“I’m go for battle,” Mike replied.
“All right, on my count. Three-two-one. Attack!”
Crater stood up and ran toward the dustway, his rifle at his hip. In the gravity of the moon, each stride carried him ten feet. He leaped over a small crater and saw the black-armored crowhoppers had come out into the open. A spray of their flechettes slammed into the convoy trucks abandoned by their drivers and several of the heel-3 canisters were struck, triggering spouts of gas.
Crater shot a crowhopper who clutched his side and fell. A crowhopper beside him brought his rifle around. Crater bounded forward and slammed into the creature with his shoulder, knocking it down. Kicking its rifle away, he put his boot on its chest, jammed his rifle muzzle into the vulnerable spot beneath its spiked helmet, and fired. The Irregulars waded into the crowhoppers, picking them off.
One of the crowhoppers jumped up and made a run for it. Crater followed. The creature turned and fired its rifle, the flechette ripping through Crater’s body armor deep enough that its point nicked his chest. Snarling, Crater pulled the black flechette out and tossed it away, trusting the biolastic p
Crater spotted another crowhopper running away. He followed it through a maze of small and large craters, then saw that it was running toward a black jumpcar, a bullet-shaped suborbital vehicle that landed tail-first. Reaching the jumpcar, the crowhopper climbed its ladder. Crater went down on one knee, aimed, and pulled the trigger three times. The flechettes, each flying at eight hundred miles per hour, zipped through the vacuum. One struck the crowhopper in its right leg, one in its back, and one dented its helmet. It recoiled from the triple impact, then kept climbing until it reached the hatch where it tried to pull itself inside, then seemed to lose heart, let go of the ladder, and fell slowly back into the dust. After crawling a few feet, it leaned its back against one of the jumpcar’s landing fins.
Crater cautiously approached the creature. It sat with its legs outstretched and turned its black helmet toward him. Its face could not be seen, although the eyes in its view slit burned with hatred. Crater activated his do4u helmet communicator and chose the frequency he knew the crowhoppers favored. A language savant, Crater knew its language, a variant of Siberian. “Are there any more of you?” he asked.
“I am in pain,” the crowhopper replied in the guttural voice all crowhoppers seemed to possess. “Kill me.”
“Are there any more of you?” Crater asked again.
“I think you have killed us all, my lord, except me,” it replied, this time in English. “Now it is my turn. Shoot me and be done with it. Death is life, life is death. There is little difference. This the Trainers teach us. This we know as truth.”
Crater lowered his rifle. This one was talking, which was unusual. It might give away valuable information if he could keep it talking. “Have you ever considered your Trainers might be lying?”
“What do you care? Kill me. Savor your victory.”
Crater’s eye landed on disturbed dust nearby. In the shadow of a small overhang of brown fractured rock, he saw what appeared to be a tunnel. “Is this your hideout?” he asked.
Crescent by Homer Hickam / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes