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Now his Gizmo showed video from the train. The nice French guy stood up and offered me his seat. I bowed to him and sat down.

“Chivalry isn’t dead,” I said. “Good to know.”

“Muslims don’t bow to people,” Rudy said. “Even Muhammad didn’t let anyone bow to him. They bow to Allah and no one else. Ever.”

Shit. I really should have known that. Maybe I should have paid attention when I was young—before Dad gave up on bringing me into the faith.

“Huh,” I said. “Don’t know what to tell ya.”

Rudy leaned against the wall. “I’ve got you this time, Jazz. This isn’t some minor smuggling. It’s a hundred million slugs’ worth of property damage. You’re going down.”

I shook a little. Not from fear. From rage. Didn’t that asshole have better things to do than micromanage my life?! Leave me the fuck alone!

I don’t think I hid it very well.

“What’s the matter? No comeback?” he said. “You didn’t do this for fun. This has ‘work-for-hire’ written all over it. Tell me who hired you, and I’ll put in a good word with the administrator. It’ll keep you from getting deported.”

I kept my mouth a thin line.

“Come on, Jazz. Just tell me it was Trond Landvik and we can all move on with life.”

I tried not to react, but I failed. How the hell did he know that?

He read my expression. “He’s been selling Earthside holdings to amass a huge slug balance. He must be planning to buy something big in Artemis. Sanchez Aluminum, I’m guessing.”

He must have wanted Trond pretty bad. He was willing to pass up an opportunity to take me down once and for all. But still…rolling on Trond? Not my style. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

He put the Gizmo back in his pocket. “Why do you have a HIB?”

“I’m delivering it. I’m a porter. Delivering shit’s my whole job.”

“Who sent it? And who is it going to?”

“Can’t tell you,” I said. “Discretion about deliveries is guaranteed. I have a reputation to uphold.”

He stared me down for a moment, but I didn’t break my expression.

He frowned, then stepped back. “Fine. But this isn’t going away. Powerful people are very angry.”

“Then they’re angry at someone else. I didn’t do anything.”

Then, to my utter surprise, he turned and walked away. “You’ll be in over your head soon. When that happens, give me a call.”

“Wha—” I began. But then I clammed up. If he wasn’t taking me in, I sure as hell didn’t want to break the spell.

This didn’t make sense. Rudy had been after me for years. This was pretty damned solid evidence. Enough to convince the administrator, I was sure. She’d chuck my reprobate ass down to Earth without a second thought.

If he really wanted Trond, why not arrest me? If I was facing deportation, I’d be way more likely to rat out Trond, right?

What the hell?

I needed a drink. I stopped off at Hartnell’s, sat in my usual seat, and signaled Billy. Time to drown my misery in alcohol and testosterone. I’d have a few cheap beers, throw on something sexy, head to an Aldrin nightclub, and go home with a good-looking guy. Hey, I could even give Svoboda’s condom a trial run. Why not?

“All right, luv?” said Billy. “Try this batch. New formulation.”

He pushed a shot glass forward and grinned from ear to ear.

I eyed it suspiciously. “Billy, really, I just want a beer.”

“Give ’er a try. Just a sip and your first beer’s on the ’ouse.”

I spent a moment in deliberation, but decided a free beer was a free beer. I sipped the shot.

I have to admit: I was surprised. I thought it would taste terrible, like last time. But instead, it tasted terrible in an entirely new way. The flaming hot misery of before was gone, only to be replaced with something savory and foul. I spat it out.

Unable to speak, I pointed to the beer taps.

“Hrm,” Billy said. He pulled me a pint and handed it over. I gulped at it like a lost desert traveler who found an oasis.

“Okay,” I said, wiping my mouth. “Okay. Was that horseradish? I swear there was horseradish in there.”

“No, it’s rum. Well, rum extract and effanol.”

“How the fuck did you start with rum and end up with this?”

“I’ll give it another go later,” he said. “Must be somefin’ in the effanol removal process. I do have a vodka to try out if you’re game.”

“Maybe later,” I said. “Right now I want another beer.”

My Gizmo buzzed. A message from Trond: “Concerned about that last package.”

“Shit,” I mumbled. I had no idea how to kill that last harvester.

“Putting final details on delivery plan now.”

“I am presently a dissatisfied customer. Urgency on delivery is required.”


“Maybe I should find another porter to deliver? If you’re too busy.”

I frowned at my Gizmo.

“Don’t be an asshole.”

“Let’s talk this over in person. I’m available all day.”

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