I frowned at her. “Rudy didn’t seem to know anything about it.”
She sighed. “Rudy and I have a…complex relationship. He doesn’t approve of syndicates or indirect measures like I had taken. He’d like to be rid of me, and in all honesty, the feeling is mutual. If I’d warned him the killer was coming, he would’ve asked how I knew. Then he’d look into how the information got out, and that would cause trouble for me.”
“You put Rudy on a collision course with a murderer and didn’t warn him.”
She cocked her head. “Don’t look at me that way. It makes me sad. Rudy is an extremely skilled police officer who knew he was entering a potentially dangerous situation. And he almost caught Alvarez right then. My conscience is clear. If I had it to do over, I’d do the same thing. Big picture, Jasmine.”
I folded my arms. “You were at Trond’s a few nights ago. Have you been in on this from the beginning?”
“I’m not ‘in’ on anything,” she said. “He told me about ZAFO and his plans to get into the silicon business. He wanted to talk about Sanchez’s oxygen contract. He had reason to believe they were going to be in breach soon and wanted to make sure I knew he had oxygen if that happened.”
“That didn’t make you suspicious?”
“Of course it did. But the city’s future was at stake. A criminal syndicate was about to control the most important resource on the moon. Trond offered me a solution: He’d take over the contract, but with six-month renewals. If he artificially inflated prices or tried to control too much of the ZAFO industry, he’d lose the contract. He’d rely on me to keep renewing and I’d rely on him to feed the ZAFO boom with silicon. There’d be a balance.”
“So what went wrong?”
She pursed her lips. “Jin Chu. He came to town with a plan to make as much money as possible, and by God he succeeded. He’d told Trond about ZAFO months earlier, but Trond wanted a sample to have his people examine—proof that ZAFO really existed and wasn’t just some fairy tale.”
“So Jin Chu showed him the ZAFO and Trond paid him,” I said. “And then Jin Chu turned right around and sold the information to O Palácio.”
“That’s the thing about secrets. You can sell them over and over again.”
“Slimy little bastard.”
She sighed. “Just imagine what a revelation that was for O Palácio. All of a sudden, their insignificant money-laundering company was poised to corner an emerging billion-dollar industry. From that point on, they were all-in. But Artemis is very far away from Brazil and they only had one enforcer on-site, thank God.”
“So what happens now?”
“Right now, I’m sure O Palácio is buying as many tickets to the moon as they can get. Within a month, Artemis will be swarming with their people. They’ll own silicon production and that damned oxygen-for-power contract will ensure no one can compete. And they already started their next phase: taking over the glass-manufacturing industry.” She gave me a knowing look.
“Oh fuck,” I said. “The Queensland Glass Factory fire.”
Ngugi nodded. “The fire was almost certainly set by Alvarez. Busy little fellow, wasn’t he? Once O Palácio sets up their own glass factory, they’ll have both production and supply line locked down. And of course, they’ll kill anyone who tries to get in their way. That’s the breed of ‘capitalism’ we can expect from now on.”
“You’re the administrator. Do something about it!”
She looked to the ceiling. “Between their financial base and physical enforcers, they’ll own the city. Think Chicago in the 1920s, but a hundred times worse. I’ll be powerless.”
“It would be nice if you actually helped in some way.”
“I have been helping,” she said. “Rudy had you pegged as the saboteur right away. He showed me the video footage of that ridiculous disguise you wore to the Visitor Center.”
I hung my head.
“He wanted to arrest you right then. I told him I wasn’t convinced and needed more evidence. I knew that would buy you some time.”
“Okay, so why did you become my guardian angel?”
“Because you’re a lightning rod. I knew O Palácio would have at least one enforcer in town. You drew him into the open. Now he’s caught. Thank you.”
“I was bait?”
“Of course. And you’re still bait. That’s why I intervened yesterday and got Rudy to release you. I don’t know what O Palácio will do next, but whatever it is, they’ll do it to you.”
“You…” I said. “You’re a real bitch, you know that?”
She nodded. “When I have to be. Building a civilization is ugly, Jasmine. But the alternative is no civilization at all.”
I glared at her with pure contempt. She wasn’t impressed.
“So what the hell am I supposed to do now?”
“No idea.” She gestured to the door. “But you better get started.”
I crawled back into my hiding place and sealed the panel behind me. I curled up into a ball in the dark. I was so goddamn tired I should have fallen asleep right then, but I couldn’t.
It all caught up with me. Constant danger, poverty, anger, and worst of all, sheer, unmitigated fatigue. I’d gone beyond sleepy into what my father used to call “overtired.” He usually used that term while chucking my cranky, eight-year-old ass into my bunk for a forced nap.