In the the world of Ben Bova’s two-part Moonbase Saga, rocket technology has allowed for safe travel between Earth and space, while other advancements have led to medical marvels. It’s within this rapidly-progressing universe that the Masterson Corporation—headed by Joanna and Paul Stavenger—works tirelessly to colonize the moon. Their mission grows increasingly difficult as opposing religious, environmental, and political groups set out to ensure the Stavengers’ failure. These clashes are a central part of the first installment, Moonrise, which then culminates in Masterson’s successful establishment of a lunar colony.
Moonwar takes place years later when that colony, now called “Moonbase,” is settled, thriving, and enjoying the benefits of life-sustaining nanotechnology. Twenty-five-year-old Doug Stavenger has stepped into his late father’s shoes as leader of the corporation, and he has his work cut out for him: Earth has fallen under the sway of a fanatical organization called the “New Morality”—and they’ve outlawed the very thing Moonbase needs to survive. It’s up to Doug to protect the Stavenger legacy when “peacekeepers” arrive from Earth, threatening Moonbase’s quest for independence and demanding it obey their anti-nanotech laws. Soon, more enemies come out of the woodwork—from capitalists to mercenaries to a corrupt U.N. secretary general—while Doug’s attraction to a sexy intrepid reporter further complicates the situation. Can he manage to outsmart them all and maintain his cool before his family’s pride and joy falls into ruin?
Published in 1998, Moonwar is the fifth book, when reading chronologically, in Ben Bova’s Grand Tour series—which focuses on humanity’s exploration of various planets, moons, and other places within our solar system. Hailed as “an exciting high-tech adventure” by Publishers Weekly, it’s the perfect sci-fi read for those days when you’re in want of a fun, action-packed space adventure among the stars. The following excerpt sees Doug meet with prominent Moonbasers about thwarting the incoming “peacekeepers” who want to destroy the colony's nanotechnology.
So they’ve done it,” said Jinny Anson, with a challenging grin. “Damn flatheads.”
Anson, Brudnoy and Doug’s mother Joanna were sitting before Doug’s desk. Anson was leaning back in her webbed chair almost casually. Wearing comfortable faded denim jeans and an open-collar velour blouse, she looked vigorous and feisty, her short-cropped hair still golden blond, her steel-gray eyes snapping with barely suppressed anger.
Joanna seemed calm, but Doug knew that her composed expression masked an inner tension. She had let her shoulder-length hair go from ash blond to silver gray, but otherwise she looked no more than forty. She was dressed elegantly, as usual: a patterned coral skirt, its hem slightly weighted to make it drape properly in the soft lunar gravity, and a crisply tailored white blouse buttoned at the throat and wrists, where jewelry sparkled.
Seated between the two women was Brudnoy, his long face with its untidy gray beard looking somber, his baggy eyes on Doug. Brudnoy’s dark turtleneck and unpressed denims seemed almost shabby next to his wife’s impeccable ensemble. His gray lunar softboots were faded and shiny from long use.
Although Doug’s office was little larger than a cubbyhole carved out of the ringwall mountain’s flank, its walls were smart screens from padded tile floor to smoothed rock ceiling, flat high-definition digital display screens that could be activated by voice or by the pencil-sized laser pointer resting on Doug’s desk.
Doug kept one eye on the screen covering the wall to the left of his desk; it was scrolling a complete checkout of Moonbase’s entire systems. He needed to reassure himself that everything was operating normally. The other two walls could have been showing videos of any scenery he wanted, but Doug had them displaying the security camera views of the base, switching every ten seconds from one tunnel to another and then to the outside, where the teleoperated tractors were still working in the pit as if nothing had happened. The wall behind him was blank.
Feeling uneasy as he sat behind his desk, Doug said, “Now I don’t want people getting twitchy about this. The base should run as normally as possible.”
“Even though Faure’s declared war on us?” Anson cracked.
“It’s not that kind of a war,” Doug snapped back. “There’s not going to be any shooting.”
“Not from our side, anyway,” said Anson. “The best we could do is throw rocks at ’em.”
“At who?” Doug’s mother asked testily.
“Peacekeeper troops,” said Doug.
Everyone in the office looked startled at the thought.
“You don’t think they’d really go that far, do you?” Anson asked, looking worried for the first time.
Doug picked up his laser pointer and aimed its red spot at one of the icons lining the top of the wallscreen on his left. The wall became a schematic display of the Earth-Moon system, with clouds of satellites orbiting the Earth. A dozen navigational satellites clung to low orbits around the Moon, and the big crewed station at the L-1 position still showed as a single green dot.
“No traffic,” Doug said. “This morning’s LTVs stopped at L-1. Nothing at all moving between LEO and here.”
“Not yet,” muttered Brudnoy.
“They wouldn’t invade us,” Joanna said firmly. “That little Quebecer hasn’t got the guts.”
Brudnoy ran a bony finger across his short gray beard. No matter how carefully he trimmed it, the beard somehow looked shaggy all the time.
“That little Quebecer,” he reminded his wife, “has fought his way to the top of the United Nations. And now he’s gotten the U.N. to declare us in violation of the nanotech treaty.”
Joanna frowned impatiently. “We’ve been violating that treaty since it was written.”
“But now your little Quebecer has obtained the authority to send Peacekeeper troops here to enforce the treaty on us,” Brudnoy continued.
“You really think it’ll come to that?” Anson asked again, edging forward slightly in her chair.
“They wouldn’t invade us,” Joanna said firmly. “That little Quebecer hasn’t got the guts.”
“Sooner or later,” Doug said.
“They know we can’t stop using nanomachines,” Joanna said bitterly. “They know they’ll be destroying Moonbase if they prevent us from using them.”
“That’s what they’re going to do, though,” said Brudnoy, growing more gloomy with each word.
“Then we’ll have to resist them,” Doug said.
“Fight the Peacekeepers?” Anson seemed startled at the thought. “But—”
“I didn’t say fight,” Doug corrected. “I said resist.”
“I’ve been studying the legal situation,” Doug said. “We could declare our independence.”
His mother looked more irked than puzzled. “What good would that do?”
“As an independent nation, we wouldn’t sign the nanotech treaty, so it wouldn’t apply to us.”
Brudnoy raised his brows. “But would the U.N. recognize us an independent nation? Would they admit us to membership?”
“Faure would never allow it,” Joanna said. “The little Quebecer’s got the whole U.N. wrapped around his manicured finger.”
“How would the corporation react if we declared independence?” Jinny Anson asked.
“Kiribati couldn’t do anything about it,” said Doug.
Brudnoy sighed painfully. “If they hadn’t knuckled under to Faure and signed the treaty—”
“They didn’t have much choice, really,” said Doug. Looking straight at his mother, he went on, “But what about Masterson? How’s your board going to react to our independence?”
“I’ll handle the board of directors,” Joanna replied flatly.
She smiled slightly. “He’ll go up in a cloud of purple smoke. But don’t worry; even though he’s the board chairman now, I can keep him in his place.”
“Independence,” Anson murmured.
Doug said, “We’re pretty much self-sufficient, as far as energy and food are concerned.”
“How long is ‘pretty much’?” Joanna asked.
“Maybe a year,” Anson said. “If you don’t mind eating your soyburgers without mustard.”
Brudnoy flexed his gnarled fingers. “Aren’t you glad that I insisted on planting onions and garlic, along with my flowers?”
“Do you have any jalapeño peppers out at the farm?” Anson asked.
Brudnoy shook his head.
“A year,” Joanna mused. “This ought to be settled long before that.”
“One way or another,” said Brudnoy morosely.
“Pharmaceuticals might be a problem,” Doug said, turning to the wallscreen on his right. With the laser he changed the display from a camera view of the empty rocket launching pads to an inventory of the base’s pharmaceutical supplies. “We’ve been bringing them up on a monthly schedule. Got a…” he studied the display screen briefly, “…three-month supply on hand.”
“Maybe we can use nanomachines instead,” Joanna suggested. It was an open secret that her youthful appearance was due to nanotherapy that tightened sagging muscles and kept her skin tone smooth.
“I can talk to Cardenas about that,” Anson replied.
“And Professor Zimmerman,” Doug said.
“You talk to Zimmerman,” she snapped. “He always tries to bully me.”
Brudnoy volunteered, “I’ll see Zimmerman.”
With a guilty smile, the Russian said, “He and I have been working on a little project together: using nanomachines to make beer.”
“Lev!” Joanna glared at her husband.
Brudnoy raised a placating hand. “Don’t worry. So far, we’ve accomplished less than nothing. The stuff is so bad not even Zimmerman will drink it.”
Doug chuckled at his stepfather’s self-deprecating manner. Then he said, “Okay. Our first move is to declare independence and—”
“How can we let anyone on Earth know we’re applying for U.N. membership if all the communications links are cut off?” Joanna asked.
“We can talk to Earth,” Anson assured her. “Radio, TV, even laser beams if we need ’em. We don’t need the commsats; just squirt our messages straight to the ground antennas.”
“The question is,” said Brudnoy, “will anyone on Earth respond to us?”
“They will,” Doug said. “Once they learn what we’re doing. And there’s always the news media.”
“Ugh!” said Joanna.
“Don’t knock them,” Doug insisted. “They might turn out to be our best ally in this.”
“Our only ally,” said Brudnoy.
“Okay, okay, so we declare independence,” Anson cut in. “Then what?”
“If Faure refuses to recognize us, we appeal to the World Court,” said Doug.
Joanna agreed. “Tie him up legally and wait for world opinion to come over to our side.”
“Lots of luck,” Brudnoy mumbled.
“Do you think it’ll work?” Anson wondered.
“It’s got to,” said Joanna.
“Jinny,” said Doug, pointing a finger in her direction, “I want you to take over as base director.”
“Me? Why? I haven’t been behind that desk in almost eight years!”
Grinning at her, Doug said, “You know more about what’s going on in these tunnels than I do. Don’t try to deny it.”
“Not a shooting war . . . Not yet. But we’ve got to be prepared for that possibility.”
“But I’ve got the university to run,” she protested. “And what’re you going to be doing?”
“The university’s going to be in hibernation as long as Earthside isn’t allowed to communicate with us. Your students won’t be able to talk to you.”
“I’ve been studying military history ever since Faure was elected secretary-general,” Doug said. “One thing I’ve learned is that we’re going to need somebody to give his undivided attention to this crisis. I can’t be running the day-to-day operation of Moonbase and handle the war at the same time.”
“You said it’s not a war,” Joanna said sharply.
“Not a shooting war,” Doug admitted. “Not yet. But we’ve got to be prepared for that possibility.”
“He’s right,” Brudnoy said, interrupting his wife. “Doug should devote his full attention to this situation.”
“And I’m gonna be base director again,” Anson said. She did not seem displeased with the idea.
“So you will be our generalissimo,” said Brudnoy, pointing at Doug. “Jinny becomes base director once again. And you, dear wife,” he turned to face Joanna, “must serve as our foreign secretary, in charge of diplomatic relations with Masterson and the other corporations.”
“And what will you be doing, Lev?” Joanna asked her husband.
“Me?” Brudnoy’s shaggy brows climbed halfway to his scalp. “I will remain as usual: nothing but a peasant.”
“Yeah, sure,” Anson chirped.
Brudnoy shrugged. “I have no delusions of grandeur. But I think it will be important to keep the major corporations on our side.”
“I’ll handle relations with Masterson Corporation,” Joanna agreed. “We’ll try to put some pressure on the government in Washington to oppose this U.N. takeover.”
“If you can keep the board on our side,” Doug said.
His mother raised an imperious brow. “I told you, don’t worry about the board.”
“Or Rashid either,” Joanna riposted. Turning slightly toward her husband, she added, “Rashid’s a man with real delusions of grandeur.”
“Okay,” said Jinny Anson. “Then I’ll run the base and you, Doug, you can run the war.”
“Thanks a lot.”
“Somebody’s got to—”
“Hold it!” Doug snapped. The message icon on his left screen was blinking. Urgent message. And he saw that a cardinal red dot had cleared the swarm of loworbit satellites around the Earth and was heading outward.
“Message,” Doug called out in the tone that the computer recognized. His voice trembled only slightly.
“A crewed spacecraft just lifted from the military base on Corsica,” a comm tech’s voice said. “It’s on a direct lunar trajectory.”
“Peacekeeper troops,” Doug said.
They all turned toward Doug.
“So what do we do now, boss?” Jinny Anson asked.
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