“I’m looking at it too.” Naomi’s voice came from the terminal a moment before Amos’ low whistle. Prax thought back to the mysterious sounds of violence in the lab, the bodies of guards they hadn’t fought, the shattered glass and its black filament. Here was the experiment that had slipped its leash back at that lab. It had fled to the cold, dead surface of Ganymede and waited there until a chance came to escape. Prax felt the gooseflesh crawling up his arms.
“Okay,” Holden said. “But it’s dead, right?”
“I don’t think so,” Naomi said.
Chapter Twenty-Five: Bobbie
Bobbie’s hand terminal began playing reveille at four thirty a.m. local time: what she and her mates might have grumbled and called “oh dark thirty” back when she’d been a marine and had mates to grumble with. She’d left her terminal in the living room, lying next to the pull-down cot she used as a bed, the volume set high enough to have left her ears ringing if she’d been in there with it. But Bobbie had already been up for an hour. In her cramped bathroom, the sound was only annoying, bouncing around her tiny apartment like radio in a deep well. The echoes were a sonic reminder that she still didn’t have much furniture or any wall hangings.
It didn’t matter. She’d never had a guest.
The reveille was a mean-spirited little joke Bobbie was playing on herself. The Martian military had formed hundreds of years after trumpets and drums had been a useful means of transmitting information to troops. Martians lacked the nostalgia the UN military had for such things. The first time Bobbie had heard a morning reveille, she’d been watching a video on military history. She’d been happy to realize that no matter how annoying the Martian equivalent—a series of atonal electronic blats—was, it would never be as annoying as what the Earth boys woke up to.
But now Bobbie wasn’t a Martian Marine anymore.
“I am not a traitor,” Bobbie said to her reflection in the mirror. Mirror Bobbie looked unconvinced.
After the blaring trumpet call’s third repetition, her hand terminal beeped once and fell into a sullen silence. She’d been holding her toothbrush for the last half hour. The toothpaste had started to grow a hard skin. She ran it under warm water to soften it back up and started brushing her teeth.
“I’m not a traitor,” she said to herself, the toothbrush making the words unintelligible. “Not.”
Not even standing here in the bathroom of her UN-provided apartment, brushing her teeth with UN toothpaste and rinsing the sink with UN-provided water. Not while she clutched her good Martian toothbrush and scrubbed until her gums bled.
“Not,” she said again, daring mirror Bobbie to disagree.
She put the toothbrush back into her small toiletry case, carried it into the living room, and placed it in her duffel. Everything she owned stayed in the duffel. She’d need to move fast when her people called her home. And they would. She’d get a priority dispatch on her terminal, the red-and-gray border of the MCRN CINC-COM flashing around it. They’d tell her that she needed to return to her unit immediately. That she was still one of them.
That she wasn’t a traitor for staying.
She straightened her uniform, slid her now quiet terminal into her pocket, and checked her hair in the mirror next to the door. It was pulled into a bun so tight it almost gave her a face-lift, not one single hair out of place.
“I’m not a traitor,” she said to the mirror. Front hallway mirror Bobbie seemed more open to this idea than bathroom mirror Bobbie had. “Damn straight,” she said, then slammed the door behind her when she left.
She hopped on one of the little electric bikes the UN campus made available everywhere, and was in the office three minutes before five a.m. Soren was already there. No matter what time she came in, Soren always beat her. Either he slept at his desk or he was spying on her to see what time she set her alarm for each morning.
“Bobbie,” he said, his smile not even pretending to be genuine.
Bobbie couldn’t bring herself to respond, so she just nodded and collapsed into her chair. One glance at the darkened windows in Avasarala’s office told her the old lady wasn’t in yet. Bobbie pulled up her to-do list on the desktop screen.
“She had me add a lot of people,” Soren said, referring to the list of people Bobbie was supposed to call in her role as Martian military liaison. “She really wants to get a hold of an early draft of the Martian statement on Ganymede. That’s your top priority for the day. Okay?”
“Why?” Bobbie said. “The actual statement came out yesterday. We both read it.”
“Bobbie,” Soren said with a sigh that said he was tired of explaining simple things to her, but a grin that said he really wasn’t. “This is how the game is played. Mars releases a statement condemning our actions. We go back channel and find an early draft. If it was harsher than the actual statement that was released, then someone in the dip corps argued to tone it down. That means they’re trying to avoid escalating. If it was milder in the early draft, then they’re deliberately escalating to provoke a response.”
“But since they know you’ll get those early drafts, then that’s meaningless. They’ll just make sure you get leaks that give you the impression they want you to have.”
“See? Now you’re getting it,” Soren said. “What your opponent wants you to think is useful data in figuring out what they think. So get the early draft, okay? Do it before the end of the day.”
But no one talks to me anymore because now I’m the UN’s pet Martian, and even though I’m not a traitor, it is entirely possible that everyone else thinks I am.
Bobbie pulled up the newly revised list and made the first connection request of the day.
“Bobbie!” Avasarala yelled from her desk. There was any number of electronic means for getting Bobbie’s attention, but she almost never saw Avasarala use them. She yanked her earbud free and stood up. Soren’s smirk was of the psychic variety; his face didn’t change at all.
“Ma’am?” Bobbie said, taking a short step into Avasarala’s office. “You bellowed?”
“No one likes a smart-ass,” Avasarala said, not looking up from her desk terminal. “Where’s my first draft of that report? It’s almost lunchtime.”
Bobbie stood a little straighter and clasped her arms behind her back.