Armstrong City was not the biggest settlement on Luna. It certainly wasn't the newest or prettiest city. What it was, however, was the first city on Earth's moon, named after the first man to set foot on Earth's moon. With everything happening around the solar system, it was something that could be easily overlooked. Mayor Kendrick Lo had no intention of letting anyone forget.
"Armstrong City was the first, fully formed city," he said, punctuating the air with a sharply shaken raised index finger. "When the first attempts at colonization started, we had shallow bunkers, a few enclosed trenches, and an utter failure at that stereotype of a dome. When we dug in, however, and put a real city beneath the surface of Luna, Armstrong City was a success. Before they tried to build Vilma and Innsbruck, long before dreaming up Kamal and Hanover, Armstrong City was here. We thrived while the world spun beneath us. There must be some sort of perk that goes along with being the first born!"
Lunar Minister Reiki Yokata sat quietly, reserved, watching the Mayor. Around the table sat the other Mayors of Luna's cities. The table was a large one, oval, constructed from rock and metal mined here on Earth's moon. Four chairs sat empty. The assumption had been made, when the room was established, that the roster of cities would grow to an even dozen. Back then, there had been only six. Yokata had come to them today with the recommendation for number nine.
Ever since that one small step for man, humankind had looked to the stars. In the time of the Olympus Union, however, Luna was just another body in the collection of colonizable lands. Only Mayor Lo seemed to have issue with the increased construction.
"Besides which," Lo continued, unencumbered, "we don't need another new city. Not just yet, anyway. You're talking about expanding into a small space next to Armstrong. Why waste that? Why would you build brand new infrastructure, from scratch, when we could simply extend ourselves into the nook? It's a foolish overextension of funds."
"Ah," Yokota nodded, "finally you touch on something meaningful."
"Your concerns with privilege of the eldest," he waved the thought off, "that was simple foolishness. You know, full well, that these chairs must eventually be filled. You do make a quality point about the size of the expansion, and the realities of infrastructure. It would, no doubt, cost us less to extend power grid, plumbing and light rail access from Armstrong into this new space."
"But sir," Mayor Brect of Gunson complained, "why Armstrong? The proposed site sits between both Armstrong City and Gunson. If someone is to expand, why not us? What gives Mayor Lo such favor?"
"Why, Austin," Minister Yokota offered a sinister smile, "Don’t you know the privilege of the first born?"
Mayor Lo walked moodily on the exposed dirt of the lunar tunnel. He'd responded to the call from the dig foreman, his brother, Junxuan Lo. Kendrick was angry when he got the call, but livid by the time he'd arrived. Having to take the train and then an independent construction rover was madness. These parts of Armstrong City were far from safe, especially at this time of night, and most especially for the Mayor.
"What took you so long?"
"You're kidding, right?" The Mayor shot a glare at his older brother. "Just tell me what you called me down here for. Where is everyone? I thought you knew I'd authorized overtime."
"Yeah, I know. Thing is, we found something, like I said. As soon as we made the discovery, I sent everyone home."
"Home? You sent them home?" Kendrick could scarcely contain himself, gesticulating wildly. "I can't believe you. How could you possibly be so stupid? Your team has been digging for just three days. You can't shut down now; you've barely made any progress!"
"Yeah, but, Ken-"
"No! Not at all, Jun. No excuses. I'd promised Minister Yokota that the expansion would be faster if Armstrong City were expanding, instead of building a new town. Your team was supposed to show that we could start laying down infrastructure expansions in the next week. If you don't, we'll lose the territory to Gunson. I'll not have that arrogant chump Brect beating us out for anything."
"Just give me one damned minute and follow me!"
Kendrick thought to respond, but held back, clenching fists instead. Gritting his teeth to the point of pain, the Mayor nodded. Junxuan took that and started walking; his brother followed closely. The pair moved past the construction vehicles and into the most recent cuts in the rock. It was there that the Mayor realized he owed his brother an apology.
"Is this what I think it is?"
"Raw diamonds," Jun explained without preamble. "I couldn't begin to explain how they got here. Carbon, pressure, something like that, but here it is. After I sent everyone home, I kept on digging. There's a pretty serious vein here. If I had to guess, I'd say maybe half a ton."
"This shouldn't be possible, though." The Mayor shook his head. "For decades, the experts told us what we'd find in the moon. How could we suddenly find diamonds? It's completely and utterly impossible!" "Those experts of yours," his brother quipped, "they've done some digging in Luna before have they?"
The Mayor didn't respond. He understood the implications. For so many years, experts made predictions. Time and again, absolute fact had been proven wrong as humans had arrived at new destinations outside of Earth. Here was one more.
"Listen, I'm sorry for overreacting." Kendrick began walking back toward his transport. "I've got to go and make official arrangements. Word to Earth about this, plans for extraction and transport, I need to move fast so that you can get back to work."
"Ken, are you nuts? This could be it!" He grabbed the Mayor's arm. "This kind of money, you could buy your way into the Ministry!"
Kendrick shook the older man's grip. Turning on him, he sneered.
"You should know me better than that. Escalating to Minister of Luna would be a dream come true, but not like that. Never something so dishonorable."
"Forget honor, man. That's the old world. This is the Olympus Union, bro! Think of what we could make for our lives. We could make a name for ourselves forever!"
"I've already made a name for myself, Jun. What I'm thinking about now is how much good the money from these diamonds could do for Armstrong City. I'm not sticking it in my pocket; I'm placing it in our budget. We were taught to do the right thing. Maybe you weren't listening, but I Was. Now, excuse me, but there are preparations to make."
"I commend you for your honesty, Mayor Lo."
Reiji Yokota smiled down at the young man darkly. Hands clasped behind his back, the Lunar Minister stood rather casually before Lo's desk. Kendrick sat tall in his chair, but it made little difference.
"Of course, Minister," he nodded. "I know no other way to be."
"How fortunate for us. Now, I have spoken with the Prime Minister, and he feels that you should be rewarded in some way. I have eschewed any monetary recompense, of course." He smiled acidly. "You do have an abnormally high love for your charge city, though. This has been communicated to Prime Minister Oden, and he has offered up what you will, no doubt, consider a fair arrangement."
"Certainly, sir. I look forward to that."
"Yes, of course you would. It has been decided that the earnings from this diamond cache will be distributed as such: a quarter to the Olympus Union, a quarter to the rest of Luna, and a full fifty percent into the coffers of Armstrong City. No doubt, this will mark your career progress well, I should think."
"To be honest, sir, I'm quite pleased. My career has little to do with this. That money should pay for some much needed upgrades around the city. Depending on how much, well," he smiled, "let me wait until the actual numbers come in."
"Smart," the Minister nodded. "You do believe in the notions of honor and duty, don't you, Kendrick."
"Of course," he shrugged. "Who doesn't?"
Yokota didn't answer. He offered the Mayor another slippery smile. Turning, hands still clasped behind him, the Minister stepped smoothly from the office. Lo was certain he saw the man shake his head.
On the other side of the proposed expansion site, deep beneath the surface of Luna, sat Gunson. On the furthest edge of Austin Brect's realm, a small jewelry shop stood. It was unremarkable, no different than most shops, in most cities on Luna.
"I just need enough to make life on this rock a little more glamorous," Jun Lo told the shop keeper. "Come on, these have to be worth plenty."
"Diamonds this raw, sure, we can give you something for it. Nothing like if they were actually cut and polished, but certainly. We can make some kind of deal. Say, you look familiar. Have I seen you before?"