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My lip quivered a bit.

“I’ve lived my life by the teachings of Muhammad,” he said. “I try to be honest and true in all my decisions. But, like any man, I am flawed. I sin. If your peace of mind comes at the price of a small tarnish on my soul, then so be it. I can only hope I’ve built up enough good grace with Allah that he will forgive me.”

He took both my hands. “Jasmine. I accept your recompense, even though I know the source is dishonest. And I forgive you.”

I gave him a firm handshake and we called it a day.

Not really. I collapsed into his arms and cried like a child. I don’t want to talk about it.

Time to face the music. I waited outside Ngugi’s door. The next few minutes would determine whether I got to stay or had to leave.

Lene Landvik hobbled out on her crutches. “Oh! Hi, Jazz. I transferred the money to your account a few days ago.”

“I saw that. Thanks.”

“O Palácio sold me Sanchez Aluminum this morning. It’ll take weeks to work out the paperwork, but we agreed on a price and we’re good to go. Loretta’s already designing the next smelter. She has some improvements in mind. The new one will prioritize silicon extraction and—”

“You’re keeping Loretta Sanchez?!”

“Ah,” she said. “Yeah.”

“Are you fucking crazy?!”

“I just paid half a billion slugs for a smelting company that can’t smelt. I need somebody to rebuild it. Who better than Sanchez?”

“But she’s the enemy!”

“Anyone who makes you money is a friend,” Lene said. “I learned that from Dad. Besides, she helped save your life like four days ago. Maybe you guys are even now?”

I folded my arms. “This is going to bite you in the ass, Lene. She can’t be trusted.”

“Oh, I don’t trust her. I just need her. Big difference.” She cocked her head at the doorway. “Ngugi says KSC’s eager to get oxygen production back online. The city won’t be too strict with safety regulations. Weird, huh? You’d think they’d get more picky, not less.”

“Sanchez in charge…” I sighed. “This isn’t what I had in mind when I came up with the plan.”

“Well, neither was knocking out the whole city. Plans change.” She checked her watch. “I have to get to a conference call. Good luck in there. Let me know if I can help.”

She hobbled away. I watched her go for a moment. She seemed taller than before. Probably a trick of the light.

I took a deep breath and walked into Ngugi’s office.

Ngugi sat behind her desk. She glared at me over her glasses. “Have a seat.”

I closed the door and sat in the chair opposite her.

“I think you know what I have to do, Jasmine. And it isn’t easy for me.” She slid a piece of paper across the desk. I recognized the form—I’d seen it a few days earlier in Rudy’s office. It was a formal deportation order.

“Yeah, I know what you have to do,” I said. “You have to thank me.”

“You must be joking.”

“Thanks, Jazz,” I said. “Thanks for keeping O Palácio from taking over. Thanks for eliminating an outdated contract that would have stood in the way of a massive economic boom. Thanks for sacrificing yourself to save Artemis. Here’s a trophy.”

“Jasmine, you’re going back to Saudi Arabia.” She tapped the deportation order. “We won’t press charges, and we’ll cover your living expenses until you adjust to Earth gravity. But that’s the best I can do.”

“After everything I just did for you? You’ll just chuck me out with yesterday’s trash?”

“It’s not something I want to do, Jasmine. I have to do it. We need to present ourselves as a community that lives under the rule of law. It’s more important now than ever before, because the ZAFO industry is coming. If people think their investments can be blown up without the perpetrator facing justice they won’t invest here at all.”

“They don’t have a choice,” I said. “We’re the only city on the moon.”

“We’re not irreplaceable. We’re just convenient,” she said. “If ZAFO companies don’t think they can trust us, they’ll make their own lunar city. One that protects its businesses. I’m grateful for what you’ve done, but I have to sacrifice you for the good of the city.”

I pulled out a paper of my own and slid it to her.

“What’s this?” she asked.

“My confession,” I said. “Notice I left out any mention of you, the Landviks, or anyone else. It’s just me. I signed it at the bottom.”

She gave me a puzzled look. “You’re helping me deport you?”

“No. I’m giving you a ‘Deport Jazz for Free’ card. You’re going to put that in a drawer somewhere and keep it for emergencies.”

“But I’m deporting you right now.”

“No, you’re not.” I leaned back in the chair and crossed my legs.

“Why not?”

“Everyone seems to forget this, but I’m a smuggler. Not a saboteur, not an action hero, not a city planner. A smuggler. I worked hard to set up my operation and it runs smoothly. In the beginning I had competition. But not anymore. I drove them out of business by having lower prices, better service, and a reputation for keeping my word.”

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