Page 87

“You’re on speaker, by the way,” said Dale.

“Sanchez,” I said flatly. “So glad you’re well.”

She ignored my bitchiness. “Is the flush working?”

I ran back to the status screens. Each bubble now had multiple blinking yellow lights that hadn’t been there before.

“I think so,” I said. “There are caution and warning lights all over the place. If I’m reading this right, they’re probably the relief valves. It’s venting.”

I prodded a technician in the chair next to me. He didn’t stir. Of course, even with perfect air, it would take these guys a while to wake up. They’d been breathing nineteenth-century anesthetic for half an hour.

“Hang on,” I said. “I’m going to take a sniff.”

I pulled the mask away from my face for a second and took a very shallow breath. I immediately fell to the floor. I was too weak to stand. I wanted to puke but resisted the urge. I held the mask against my face again.

“…no good…” I murmured. “…air still bad…”

“Jazz?” Dale said. “Jazz! Don’t pass out!”

“?’m’okay,” I said, getting up to my knees. Each breath of canned air made me feel better. “I’m…okay…I think we just have to wait. It takes a while to replace all this air. We’re good. We’re doing good.”

I guess the gods heard that and laughed their asses off. No sooner had I said it than the sound of air through the pipes quieted down and fell silent.

“Uh…guys…the air stopped.”

“Why?” asked Dale.

“Working on it!” I shot a look at the status screens. Nothing obvious there. Then I went back to the line schematics on the wall. The main valve was right there in Life Support and it led to a staging tank in that room. It read empty.

“Ugh!” I said. “We ran out of air! There’s not enough!”

“What?!” Dale said. “How can that be? Life Support has air to last months.”

“Not quite,” I said. “They have enough air to refill one or two bubbles and they have enough battery power to turn CO2 back into oxygen for months. But they don’t have enough oxygen to flush the entire city. It’s just not something anyone thought of.”

“Oh God…” said Dale.

“We’ve got one chance,” I said. “Trond Landvik stockpiled huge amounts of oxygen. It’s in tanks right outside.”

“That bastard,” said Sanchez. “I knew he was after my oxygen-for-power contract.”

I looked over the control board again. Thank god Vietnamese uses a superset of the English alphabet. One section of the schematic was labeled LANDVIK.

“Trond’s tanks are on the schematic!” I said.

“Of course they are,” said Sanchez. “Trond would have had to collude with them to make sure his air system could interface with theirs.”

I ran my finger along the map. “According to this, Trond’s tanks are already connected to the system. There’s a whole complicated set of valves in the way, but there’s a path.”

“So, do it!” Dale said.

“The valves are manual cranks and they’re outside,” I said.

“What?! Why the hell are there manual valves out on the surface?!”

“Safety,” I said. “Trond explained it to me earlier. Doesn’t matter. I just memorized the pipe layout. It’s complicated as hell and I don’t know what state the sub-valves will be in. I’ll work out what to do when I’m there.”

I bolted out of Life Support into the corridors of Armstrong.

“Wait, you’re going out?” Dale said. “Wearing what? Your EVA suit’s in here.”

“I’m on my way to Conrad Airlock and I’ve got a big pipe. I’ll pry open Bob’s locker and wear his gear.”

“Those lockers are centimeter-thick aluminum,” said Dale. “You’ll never get through in time.”

“Okay, good point. Uh…” I hurtled through the Armstrong–Conrad Connector tunnel and checked my Gizmo. We had twenty-five minutes left. “I’ll use a tourist hamster ball.”

“How will you turn the cranks?”

Goddammit, right again. Hamster balls had no arms, gloves, or articulation points at all. I’d have no way to grip anything outside.

“I guess you’ll have to be my hands. The tanks are in the triangle between Armstrong, Shepard, and Bean. Meet me at the Bean–Shepard Connector. I’ll need your help to get into the triangle.”

“Roger. Driving to the connector now. I’ll get as close as I can and walk the rest of the way.”

“How will you get out of the rover without killing Sanchez?”

“I’d like to know that too,” Sanchez added.

“I’ll put her in your suit before opening the airlock,” he said.

“My suit?!”


“Fine, yeah. Sorry.”

I plowed through Conrad Ground as fast as I could. My home bubble had some of the most Byzantine passageways in town. When you put a bunch of artisans in one place with no zoning rules, their workshops expand to fill every nook and cranny. But I knew the layout by heart.

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