“It’s been a year. When does your victimhood expire?”
He leaned against the wall and stared at the ceiling. “Jazz, give me a reason not to call the EVA posse. Anything.”
I forced some logic through the swirling vortex of anger in my brain. I had to be a big girl—just for a minute. I didn’t have to like it, but I had to do it.
“I’ll give you a hundred thousand slugs.” I didn’t have 100,000?. But I’d get it if I could trash that last harvester.
He raised his brow. “Okay, that’s a pretty good reason. What the hell is going on?”
I shook my head. “No questions.”
“Are you in trouble?”
“That’s a question.”
“Fine, fine.” He folded his arms. “What about the posse?”
“Do they know it’s me?”
“Then you don’t have to do anything. Just forget you saw me here.”
“Jazz, there are only forty people in the whole city who have EVA suits. It’s a small pool to investigate. And the EVA masters will definitely investigate. Not to mention Rudy.”
“I have contingencies for that. All you have to do is keep your mouth shut.”
He mulled it over. Then he flashed a smile. “Keep your hundred thousand. I want something else: I want to be friends again.”
“A hundred and fifty thousand,” I countered.
“One evening a week. You and me at Hartnell’s. Just like the old days.”
“No,” I said. “Either take my money or feed me to the EVA mob.”
“Jazz, I’m trying to play ball, here, but you don’t get to jerk me around. I don’t want money. I want to reconnect. Take it or leave it.”
“Fff—” I began, but I suppressed the “uck you” in my throat. I found a limit to my pride somewhere in there. He could destroy my life with a Gizmo call. I had no choice.
“—fffine,” I finished. “Once a week. Doesn’t mean we’re friends, though.”
He heaved a sigh of relief. “Thank God. I didn’t want to ruin you.”
“You already ruined me.”
He winced at the barb. Good.
He pulled out his Gizmo and dialed. “Bob? You still out there?…Okay, I’m just checking in. I’m at the Visitor Center and just suiting up now….Yeah, I got the first train in. I searched the whole center. No one’s here but me and a couple of workers starting their day.”
He listened on the Gizmo for some time, then said, “All right. I’ll be outside in fifteen minutes…okay, I’ll radio when I’m outside.”
He hung up. “Well, I’m off to search for the mysterious saboteur.”
“Have fun with that,” I said.
“Tuesday, eight p.m. at Hartnell’s.”
“All right,” I mumbled.
I finished getting out of my suit with Dale’s assistance. Then I helped Dale into his.
When I got home, I flopped onto my back. Good God I was exhausted. Even my shitty coffin seemed comfortable. I pulled my Gizmo out of the alibi-o-mat. I checked the web and email history. The device had done its job.
I sighed in relief. I’d gotten away with it. Sort of. I could expect some questions from Rudy and the guild, but I had my story straight.
There was a message on the Gizmo from Trond: “That last delivery you made was missing an item.”
I messaged back: “Apologies for the delay. I’m working on how to get that last package to you now.”
I needed a plan for that last harvester before I talked to Trond again. But what the hell could I do? Time for another scheme. No idea what form it would take, but I had to think of something.
Next thing I knew I woke up from an unscheduled nap. I still had my shoes on and the Gizmo in my hand. The day’s exhaustion and previous night’s shitty sleep had caught up with me, I guess. I checked the time and discovered I’d been asleep four hours.
Well, at least I was rested.
I walked laps around Conrad Ground for almost an hour. It wasn’t for my health. I needed to get into the Conrad airlock’s antechamber without being spotted.
The HIB was still in a locker in that antechamber. I’d promised Zsóka I’d return it to her within two days, and that deadline was fast approaching. But every time I passed the damn airlock, someone was nearby. So I just kept walking.
I also wanted to steer clear of the EVA Guild for a bit. They’d given up the search after five hours. Right about now they’d be investigating anyone who had access to an EVA suit. I had my Gizmo activity as an alibi, but I preferred not to answer questions at all. Best not to interact with the folks near the airlock.
After four entire laps, I finally caught a window where no one was around. I darted in, waved my Gizmo to open the locker, grabbed the HIB and its remote, then got the hell out of there.
I had a smug little smile on my face as I headed out of the antechamber. The perfect crime. Then I walked right into Rudy.
It was like walking into a brick wall. Well, not quite. If you get going fast enough, you might actually damage a brick wall. I dropped the HIB case because I’m a clumsy oaf.