“No,” she said crisply. “I need to know if my people got back safely.”
“Bullshit! You’re calling for help!” I lunged at her. She dragged us both to the floor.
“Knock it off!” said Dale.
She tried to swing at me but only had one hand to work with—the other had a death grip on her Gizmo. I blocked and slapped her across the face. Oh God it felt good to get a hit in.
“Stop that shit!” Dale yelled. “If you idiots hit the wrong button we all die!”
“You told that harvester to kill me! Admit it!” I swung at her.
She dodged to the side and hammer-locked my arm. “Of course I did! How dare you try to destroy my life’s work!”
“Goddammit!” Dale skidded the rover to a halt.
He waded into the fray and pried Sanchez and me apart. Despite what you see in action movies and comics, bigger really is better. A six-foot man just has too much of an edge over two slim women.
“Listen, assholes,” he said. “I’m too gay to enjoy this catfight. Knock it off or I’ll bash your heads together.”
“Language.” Sanchez resumed dialing her Gizmo.
“Would you stop her, please?” I said to Dale.
“If she can reach anyone I’ll be happy.” He let us both go, but kept a wary eye on me. Somehow he assumed I was the aggressor. Just because I wanted to claw that bitch’s eyes out and shove them up her urethra.
Sanchez listened to the Gizmo for a response. Her expression grew fearful by the second. She hung up.
Dale looked to me. “Now what?”
“Since when am I the leader?”
“This whole heist is your deal. What do we do now?”
“Uh…” I flipped the radio frequency to Main. “This is Jazz Bashara calling any EVA master. Do you read?”
“Yes!” came the immediate reply. “This is Sarah Gottlieb. I’m here with Arun Gosal. We can’t reach anyone else. What’s going on?”
I knew both of them. Sarah was a master and Arun was a trainee. We’d put that Queensland Glass fire out together a few days earlier. “Unknown, Sarah. I’m in a rover outside and unable to get any response from town. What’s your location?”
“Moltke Foothills harvesting ground,” she said.
I muted my mike. “Oh right. They’re guarding the harvester from me.”
“Kind of irrelevant now,” said Sanchez. “But it’s nice to know the EVA Guild took the contract seriously.”
I turned the mike back on. “Can you make it back to town?”
“We had planned to ride the harvester back to the smelter and walk from there. But we can’t reach Sanchez Aluminum to ask them to send it home.”
“Probably best to start walking,” I said. I tried not to catch Sanchez’s glare.
“Negative,” said Sarah. “This could be a distraction to draw us away. We’re staying right here.”
“Hey…you’re still a trainee,” she said. “You shouldn’t be outside on your own. Is there a master with you? Who’s with you?”
“Uh…you’re breaking up…” I switched the radio back to our private frequency.
“That’ll take some explanation later,” said Dale.
“One fuckup at a time,” I said. “Let’s go to the Port of Entry and see what’s going on there.”
“Yes,” said Sanchez. “That’s where the train will be—where my people will be.”
Dale took the driver’s seat and got us rolling again. Sanchez and I sat in silence, avoiding eye contact for the rest of the trip.
Dale drove at breakneck speed back to town. As we approached the Port of Entry, we could see the train docked at its airlock.
Sanchez perked up. “How do we get in?”
“Normally you radio the EVA master on duty at the freight airlock,” Dale said. “But since they’re not answering I’d have to suit up and use the manual valves on the outside.”
“Check out the train,” I said. “We’ll be able to see into the port through the train’s windows.”
Dale nodded and drove us across the well-trafficked terrain. We passed the freight airlock and stopped at the docked train. The windows were considerably higher than ours. All we could see from our vantage point was the ceiling inside.
“Hang on, I’ll get us a better view.” Dale tapped at the controls and the cabin began to rise. Turns out Bob’s rover had a scissor-lift as well. Of course it did. Why wouldn’t it? It had every other feature you could want.
We drew level with the train windows and Sanchez let out a gasp. I would have too, but I didn’t want her to see me do it.
Bodies lay in disarray—some in their seats, others piled atop each other in the aisle. One had a pool of vomit around her mouth.
“Whu…” Dale managed to eke out.
“My people!” Sanchez frantically shifted around to look from different angles.
I pressed my nose against the glass for a better view. “They’re still breathing.”
“Are they?” she asked. “Are you certain?”
“Yeah,” I said. “Look at the guy in the blue shirt. See his stomach?”