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KSC’s counter was “It’s 200 meters from our reactors. We need to know it won’t blow up. Give us approval rights or we won’t rent you the space, you little shits.”

Ultimately KSC won because they own the mini-bubble. They never sell property—they’re all about rent.

Anyway, the upshot is KSC must have detailed schematics of the Sanchez smelter somewhere. Like…super detailed with every potential failure case analyzed and covered. I need you to get ahold of those documents. I know you work in a totally different part of KSC, but you still have access most people don’t. Feel free to spread some money around in the process. I’ll pay you back.

Dear Jazz,

The plans are enclosed. They were surprisingly easy to get. No part of them was considered a company secret or industrial process. Sanchez kept the exact chemistry in the smelter to themselves, but everything else was right there in the architectural plans.

I have a drinking buddy in the metallurgy lab in Building 27. They’d been consulted as part of the safety overview. He pulled the plans up on his boss’s computer (which has no password protection). All I had to do was buy him a beer.

So the cost was two beers (had to have one myself, of course). Call it 50 slugs.

Dear Kelvin

Thanks, buddy. Make it 75 slugs and have another beer on me.


“You didn’t have to do that, Billy,” I said.

“Nonsense, luv,” he said. “You said you needed a meeting space, so this is it.”

I closed the door to Hartnell’s behind me and sat at my usual spot. “But you’re losing revenue.”

He laughed. “Believe me, luv, I’ve made far more from you than I’ll lose by being closed for an hour in the morning.”

“Well, thanks.” I tapped the counter. “As long as I’m here…”

He poured me a pint and slid it over.

“Heya,” said Dale from the doorway. “You wanted to see me?”

“Yeah,” I said. I took a swig of my beer. “But I don’t want to tell the same story over and over. So have a seat until everyone gets here.”

“Seriously?” he groused. “I’ve got better shit to do than—”

“Beer’s on me.”

“A pint of your finest, Billy!” He hopped onto his seat.

“Reconstituted garbage it is,” said Billy.

Lene Landvik hobbled in on her crutches. Yes, she was sixteen and Hartnell’s was a bar, but there’s no drinking age in Artemis. It’s another one of those vague rules that’s enforced with punching. If Billy sold teenagers the occasional beer it was no big deal. But if he strayed too far down the age bracket he’d get a visit from angry parents.

She sat at a nearby table and leaned her crutches against a chair.

“How are you doing, kiddo?” I asked.

“Better,” she said. “Not cheerful or anything. But better.”

“Step by step.” I raised my glass to her. “Keep at it.”

“Thanks,” she said. “I don’t know how to bring this up but—did Dad pay you? Or did he…not get a chance?”

Oh man, come on. I’d planned to approach Lene about it eventually, but not until she’d had time to mourn. “Well…no. He didn’t. But don’t worry about it.”

“How much did he owe you?”

“Lene, let’s talk about this later—”

“How much?”

Well, shit. I guess the conversation was going to happen right then. “A million slugs.”

“Holy shit!” said Dale. “A million slugs?!”

I ignored him. “But I don’t have any way to prove it, you’ve got no reason to take my word.”

“Your word’s good enough,” she said. “Dad always said you were the most honest businessman he’d ever worked with. I’ll transfer the money today.”

“No,” I said. “I didn’t deliver. The job was to stop Sanchez’s oxygen production. If you want, you can pay me after I do that. But you know this isn’t about money now, right?”

“I know. But a deal’s a deal.”

“Billy!” said Dale. “All my drinks are on Jazz from now on! She’s a millionaire!”

“Right now I’m a thousandaire at best,” I said. “Buy your own drinks.”

Dale and I had another couple of beers and Lene fiddled with her Gizmo. It would be a long time before her life had normalcy, but at least for the moment she got to be a teenage girl glued to her phone.

Bob Lewis showed up at exactly ten a.m.

“Bob,” I said.

“Jazz,” he said.



He sat across from Lene at her table and said nothing further. Marines know how to wait.

Svoboda came in next, carrying a box of electronics. He waved and started setting up. The damn fool had brought a digital projector and roll-up screen. He connected his Gizmo and, as usual with technology, it didn’t work. Unfazed, he twiddled settings. Happy as a pig in shit.

One person had yet to arrive. I stared at the door, getting more and more nervous as the minutes ticked by. “What time is it?” I asked the room in general.

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