Page 54

Interesting. I ran a few scenarios in my head and settled on a plan.

Ok. Meet me at my father’s welding shop tomorrow at 8am. The address is CD6-3028. If you’re not there by 8:05 I’m gone.

I set an alarm on my Gizmo for four a.m. and crawled into my rathole.

The thing that sucks about life-or-death situations is how boring they can be.

I waited in Dad’s shop for three hours. I didn’t have to show up at five a.m., but I’d be damned if I was going to let Jin Chu show up before I did.

I leaned a chair against the back wall of the shop, right next to the air shelter where I’d snuck my first cigarette. I remember I damn near puked from all the smoke that built up but hey, when you’re a rebellious teen and you think you’re making a statement, it’s worth it. “Take that, Daddy!”

God, I was such a dipshit.

I checked the clock on the wall every ten seconds as eight a.m. approached. I fiddled with a handheld blowtorch to pass the time. Dad used it to shrink seals onto pipe fittings. It wasn’t “welding,” but you had to do it in a fireproof room, so he offered it as one of his services.

I kept my finger by the ignition trigger. It wasn’t a gun (there were no guns in Artemis) but it could hurt someone if they came too close. I wanted to be ready for anything.

The far door opened at 8:00 on the dot. Jin Chu stepped through gingerly. He hunched his shoulders and darted his gaze around like a frightened gazelle. He spotted me in the corner and waved awkwardly. “Uh…hi.”

“You’re punctual,” I said. “Thanks.”

He stepped forward. “Sure, I—”

“Stay over there,” I said. “I’m not feeling super-trusting today.”

“Yeah okay, okay.” He took a breath and let it out unevenly. “Look, I’m really sorry. It wasn’t supposed to go like this. I just thought I could make a few bucks, you know? Like a finder’s fee?”

I tossed the blowtorch from one hand to the other. Just to make sure he saw it. “For what? What the hell is going on around here?”

“For telling Trond and O Palácio about ZAFO. In separate, confidential transactions, of course.”

“I see.” I scowled at the weaselly little shit. “And then you made more money by selling out Trond to O Palácio when their harvesters blew up?”

“Well, yeah. But it’s not like that was going to stay secret. Once he took over the oxygen contract they woulda worked it out.”

“How did they find out I did the sabotage?”

He looked at his feet.

I groaned. “You are such an asshole!”

“It’s not my fault! They offered me so much money!”

“How did you even know I did it?”

“Trond told me. He gets chatty when he’s drunk.” He frowned. “He was a cool guy. I didn’t think anyone would get hurt, I just—”

“You just thought you’d stir up a billionaire and a mob syndicate and nothing would happen? Fuck you.”

He fidgeted for a few seconds. “So…do you have the ZAFO sample? The case from my hotel room?”

“Yes. Not here, but it’s safe.”

“Thank God.” He loosened up a bit. “Where is it?”

“First tell me what ZAFO is.”

He winced. “It’s kind of secret.”

“We’re past secrets now.”

He looked truly pained. “It’s just…it cost a lot of money to make that sample. We had to launch a dedicated satellite with a centrifuge to grow it in low-Earth orbit. I’ll be super-duper fired if I go home without it.”

“Fuck your job. People got murdered! Tell me why!”

He let out a heavy sigh. “I’m sorry. I’m just so sorry. I didn’t want any of this to happen.”

“Apologize to Lene Landvik,” I said. “She’s the crippled teenager who’s now an orphan.”

Tears formed in his eyes. “No…I have to apologize to you too.”

The door opened again. Lefty stepped in. His right arm still hung in a sling. His left arm, however, held a knife that could gut me like a trout.

I shook all over. I wasn’t sure if it was terror or rage. “You son of a bitch!”

“I’m so sorry,” Jin Chu sobbed. “They were gonna kill me. This was the only way I got to live.”

I clicked the trigger and the blowtorch flamed to life. I held it out at arm’s length toward the approaching Lefty. “Which part of your face you want crème br?léed, asshole?”

“You make it hard, I make it hurt,” said Lefty. He had a thick accent. “This can be quick. Doesn’t have to hurt.”

Jin Chu covered his face and cried. “And I’m going to get fired too!”

“Goddammit!” I yelled to him. “Will you stop whining about your problems during my murder?!”

I grabbed a pipe from the workbench. There was something weird about being on the moon fighting for your life with a stick and some fire.

Lefty knew if he lunged I could block with the pipe and give him a face full of blowtorch. What he didn’t know was that I had a more complicated plan.

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