“I’m still looking into it,” Soren said. “It looks like there really was a Roberta Draper, but she died on Ganymede with the other marines.”
Avasarala waved the words away and scrolled through the report. Records of back-channel steganographic messages between the alleged Bobbie and a known Martian operative on Luna beginning the day that Avasarala had recruited her. Avasarala waited for the fear to squeeze her chest, the sense of betrayal. They didn’t come. She kept turning to new parts of the report, taking in new information and waiting for her body to react. It kept not happening.
“We looked into this why?” she asked.
“It was a hunch,” Soren said. “It was just the way she carried herself when she wasn’t around you. She was a little too … slick, I guess. She just didn’t seem right. So I took the initiative. I said it was from you.”
“So that I wouldn’t look like such a f**king idiot for inviting a mole into my office?”
“Seemed like the polite thing to do,” Soren said. “If you’re looking for ways to reward my good service, I do accept bonuses and promotion.”
“I f**king bet you do,” Avasarala said.
He waited, leaning a little forward on his toes. Waiting for her to give the order to have Bobbie arrested and submitted for a full intelligence debriefing. As euphemisms went, “full intelligence debriefing” was among the most obscene, but they were at war with Mars, and a high-value intelligence agent planted in the heart of the UN would know things that were invaluable.
So, Avasarala thought, why am I not reacting to this?
She reached out to the screen, paused, pulled back her hand, frowning.
“Ma’am?” Soren said.
It was the smallest thing, and the least expected. Soren bit at the inside of his bottom lip. It was a tiny movement, almost invisible. Like a tell at a poker table. And as she saw it, Avasarala knew.
There was no thinking it out, no reasoning, no struggle or second-guessing. It was all simply there, clear in her mind as if she had always known it, complete and perfect. Soren was nervous because the report she was looking at wouldn’t hold up to rigorous scrutiny.
It wouldn’t hold up because it was a fake.
It was a fake because Soren was working for someone else, someone who wanted to control the information getting to Avasarala’s desk. Nguyen had re-created his little fleet without her knowing it because Soren was the one watching the data traffic. Someone had known that she would need controlling. Handling. This was something that had been prepared for since well before Ganymede had gone pear-shaped. The monster on Ganymede had been anticipated.
And so it was Errinwright.
He had let her demand her peace negotiations, let her think she’d undermined Nguyen, let her take Bobbie onto her staff. All of it, so that she wouldn’t get suspicious.
This wasn’t a shard of Venus that had escaped; it was a military project. A weapon that Earth wanted in order to break its rivals before the alien project on Venus finished whatever it was doing. Someone—probably Mao-Kwikowski—had retained a sample of the protomolecule in some separate and firewalled lab, weaponized it, and opened bidding.
The attack on Ganymede had been on one hand a proof of concept assault, on the other a crippling blow to the outer planets’ food supply. The OPA had never been on the list of bidders. And then Nguyen had gone to the Jovian system to collect the goods, James Holden and his pet botanist had walked in on some part of it, and Mars had figured out they were about to lose the trade.
Avasarala wondered how much Errinwright had given Jules-Pierre Mao to outbid Mars. It would have had to be more than just money.
Earth was about to get its first protomolecule weapon, and Errinwright had kept her out of the loop because whatever he was going to do with it, she wasn’t going to like it. And she was one of the only people in the solar system who might have been able to stop him.
She wondered whether she still was.
“Thank you, Soren,” she said. “I appreciate this. Do we know where she is?”
“She’s looking for you,” Soren said, and a sly smile tugged at his lips. “She may be under the impression that you’re asleep. It is pretty late.”
“Sleep? Yes, I remember that vaguely,” Avasarala said. “All right. I’m going to need to talk to Errinwright.”
“Do you want me to have her arrested?”
“No, I don’t.”
The disappointment barely showed.
“How should we move forward?” Soren asked.
“I’ll talk to Errinwright,” she said. “Can you get me some tea?”
“Yes, ma’am,” he said, and practically bowed his way out of the room.
Avasarala leaned back in her chair. Her mind felt calm. Her body was centered and still, like she’d ended a particularly long and effective meditation. She pulled up the connection request and waited to see how long Errinwright or his assistant would take to respond. As soon as she made the request, it was flagged PRIORITY PENDING. Three minutes later, Errinwright was there. He spoke from his hand terminal, the picture jumping as the car he was in bumped and turned. It was full night wherever he was.
“Chrisjen!” he said. “Is anything wrong?”
“Nothing in particular,” Avasarala said, silently cursing the connection. She wanted to see his face. She wanted to watch him lie to her. “Soren’s brought me something interesting. Intelligence thinks my Martian liaison’s a spy.”
“Really?” Errinwright said. “That’s unfortunate. Are you arresting her?”
“I don’t think so,” Avasarala said. “I think I’ll put my own flag on her traffic. Better the devil we know. Don’t you agree?”
The pause was hardly noticeable.
“That’s a good idea. Do that.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“Since I’ve got you here, I needed to ask you something. Do you have anything that requires you in the office, or can you work on a ship?”
She smiled. Here was the next move, then.
“What are you thinking about?”
Errinwright’s car reached a stretch of smoother pavement and his face came into clearer focus. He was wearing a dark suit with a high-collared shirt and no tie. He looked like a priest.
“Ganymede. We need to show that we’re taking the situation out there seriously. The secretary-general wants someone senior to go there physically. Report back on the humanitarian angle. Since you’re the one who’s taken point on this, he thought you’d be the right face to put on it. And I thought it would give you the chance to follow up on the initial attack too.”