If you forcibly deprive someone of that airy concept called freedom, he will resent you and, given the chance, he will fight to regain it. Better, as governments all across the world discovered long ago, to have people willingly give up their freedoms, to actually collude in the process; then, before they realize their mistake, their chains are adamantine. Make the process slow enough to sit below immediate perception and they will grow accustomed to their enslavement; they even might not realize they are wearing any chains at all. By so slowly depriving people of what were only really considered inalienable rights during a brief period in human history, and in only a few countries, did the Committee come to power. But how did it get the people to willingly forgo all control over their own destinies? Simple, really: it used the formula proven by the governments that were its original components. First make the people afraid…
As it strode away from the airlock, Var struggled against the shepherd’s grip, which wasn’t as secure as it should have been. The burst of ceramic ammunition she had fired into it had damaged the robot, some of its tentacles left merely as stubs waving in the thin air, whilst others just hung slack. With her free left hand, she reached into her hip pouch and took out one side arm, aimed and pulled the trigger, firing up inside the tick-shaped body, towards the gaps in its armour. The robot shuddered, things shorting out inside it, and molten metal and fragments of plastic ammo rained down on her. Then the stub end of a tentacle smacked hard against her forearm, right where she’d had her ID implant removed, and the gun spun away. The shepherd adjusted its grip, tossing her about like a fish in a net. She felt a rib crack, but now her right arm was free. Again into the hip pouch, this time her hand closing on the hydraulic shears. She brought them out, closed them over one snake of ribbed metal and set their little hydraulic pump running. The shears sliced with ease through the tentacle and it dropped away, dead. Another tentacle, the shears closing on it, then she fell free.
She bounced once, twice, in a cloud of dust, the shepherd already moving two or three lengthy strides away from her before it came to an unsteady halt and began to turn round. Up on her feet in an instant, and running, she saw a figure step out through the airlock.
This could be one of Ricard’s men—there was no guarantee all of them were in Hex Three, and in fact it seemed likely the bulk of them were standing guard over the technical staff attached to the base. The figure held up a hand, something clutched in it, and waved her down with the other hand. Instantly recognizing what he held, she dropped. He threw, and the cylindrical package arced over her head.
Light flared and something whoomphed. A blast picked her up and tumbled her forward. One gleaming shepherd leg cartwheeled past her in Martian air suddenly thick with dust. Then the figure was helping her up and she recognized Lopomac’s pudgy face, his skin webbed with ruptured capillaries, yet to heal since the decompression he had survived three months ago. Pausing only to snatch up the rifle she had dropped, he pulled her towards the airlock and inside.
“You saw Le Blanc’s little speech?” Var asked, after she removed her EA suit helmet in the suiting antechamber.
“No,” Lopomac replied, resting the assault rifle across his shoulder. “We were too busy watching you fucking over Hex Three.”
Carol was waiting here, Kaskan too, his eyes reddened. All three were watching Var with something approaching hunger. Carol and Kaskan wore EA suits too, as if all three had been readying themselves to come out to her, before Lopomac destroyed the shepherd and got her back inside. Should they go out again? She didn’t know. She needed to assess the situation here first.
“We’ve been abandoned,” she said, probing her cracked rib. “The Committee has left us out here to die, though apparently someone back there convinced Ricard that a reduced base staff can survive the fifteen or twenty years, until they build another Traveller to send out here.” She decided not to mention Messina’s Alexander—it didn’t seem relevant.
“Another Traveller?” Lopomac echoed, puzzled.
“All the others have gone through the Argus bubblemetal plants.” She then focused on Kaskan. “Kaskan, I’m sorry…”
“No need.” He waved a hand in irritation, almost dismissively. “I saw what that shepherd grabbed from the crawler before Ricard turned it round.”
Her throat tight, Var turned to the other two. “What’s the situation here? Ricard captured Miska, and I’d have thought he would have got you two as well.”
“Kaskan saw Ricard and two of his enforcers dragging Miska off towards Hex Three, and told us,” said Lopomac, something odd in his expression.
“Ricard seemed to have forgotten about the cams up on the roof, too,” said Carol. “We were watching when you rounded Shankil’s Butte with that shepherd almost on top of you just about when he sent us a summons. We decided we’d best not respond, and broke into the geology storeroom instead.”
“Hence the seismic survey charge?” suggested Var.
“Lopomac’s idea,” Carol explained. “He decided we needed to first lose our ID implants, then cut the cam-system feed, and then arm ourselves.”
Good, that meant Ricard would not be able to keep track of them, though he would know which airlock she had used, so they had to get out of here fast. Lucky for them it had been decided that Antares Base should not carry readerguns. “How many charges?” she asked, now heading towards the door, the others falling in behind her.
Carol grimaced and held up a single cylindrical charge, its detonator and detachable remote control already in place. Really, it surprised Var that any of these things had been available, since they’d stopped doing seismic mapping on Mars over five years ago.
“Speaking of which”—Lopomac nodded towards the assault rifle—“you got any ammo for this?”
Var reached into her hip pouch, took out the remaining clip and examined it. “Plastic only, I’m afraid.”
She tossed it to him. He caught it negligently, held it up and frowned at it. Then, showing none of Var’s hesitation, he removed the empty clip and replaced it with the new one, setting the rifle over to single shots. Var meanwhile opened the door from the suiting antechamber and stepped out into the corridor.
“The situation is this,” Lopomac said, as he followed her out. “Ricard has two enforcers guarding Hydroponics. He’s got four in the community room, along with that shit Silberman—where all staff were summoned just ten minutes ago.”
“They’ll have seen Le Blanc’s speech,” said Var.
“Not much help while they’re under guard.”
“Miska?” She halted at the end of the corridor, wondering where it would be best to head now.
They seemed reluctant to say anything for a moment, then it was Lopomac who spoke. “We didn’t break out those charges just because Ricard summoned us, nor because he’d got a shepherd up and running.” He paused, not looking at her, but frowning down at the assault rifle he held. “On the way to Hex Three, Ricard stopped off at an airlock—the outer door is still open because someone is lying across the threshold.” He looked up. “We guessed that someone isn’t Ricard or one of his men.”
Var felt the tight ball of doubt in her gut expand and dissipate through her limbs, to leave her with a colder and more pragmatic clarity. If there had been any doubt that Ricard intended to carry through his orders, it had just been dispelled. Her own ruthlessness had now been utterly justified.
“Very well,” she said succinctly. “Silberman is the only exec Ricard has left. I killed the other four. I also killed four or possibly more of his enforcers over at Hex Three.” She awaited some response to that, but only Kaskan reacted.
“Good,” he said, “but maybe not good enough.”
She nodded. “Ricard still has Silberman and the six you mentioned in the community room and Hydroponics, plus himself and two others still over in Hex Three. We have to deal with them or we die—if not very soon then later, when he truly fucks things up here.”
“They’re all armed. Ricard controls the reactor and we can’t afford to use that seismic charge or get into a fire fight in Hydroponics,” Lopomac pointed out, adding, “Even with plastic ammo. Then there’s that.” He pointed to one of the nearby metre-square windows, providing a view across to where she had entered, and then out towards Hex Three. The dust was settling and, coated with it, the remains of the shepherd looked like some strange Martian cactus. However, just beyond it, the second shepherd was striding into view.
Var reached into her hip pouch to take out the remaining side arm, then just stared at it. Ruthless she might be, but simply not ruthless enough. Kaskan was right: even with potentially a hundred and fifty people against them, Ricard’s men still held the upper hand. Four or five assault rifles—and she guaranteed that Ricard still had some ceramic ammo available—could easily turn that number of people into mincemeat. But even if the enforcers presently in the Community Room were somehow driven out, they could simply withdraw to an airlock antechamber like the one she and her friends had just departed—easily defended—then head out of the main base. No one would follow, not with assault rifles trained on the exit, and certainly not at risk of being snatched by a shepherd.
Thereafter, Ricard controlled the reactor, which meant, essentially, that he could shut down all systems. Eventually the air would turn foul and he could dictate whatever terms he chose. She suspected he would just wait until there was no need to turn those systems back on again. He was stupid enough.
“We need to take off the head. We need to get Ricard,” she decided.
“We can’t get to him through Wing Five,” said Lopomac. “We’d need to repair the window and repressurize before we could open either of the bulkhead doors, and that would mean going outside just to get to that section.”
“Maybe we can make it to Hex Three without that shepherd getting to us first,” she suggested weakly.
“Maybe,” said Lopomac, “though the closest we can get to it without actually going outside is the Hydroponics hex, where Ricard has two enforcers. If I didn’t know him to be so stupid, I’d reckon he was covering that approach, too.”
“I can kill the two in Hydroponics,” said Kaskan.
“But how do we do that without risking the glass being smashed, and wiping out any chance we have of surviving here?” Var asked.
“I’ll give the plants too much of a good thing.”
Rows of seats ran down the middle of the passenger compartment, while either side was walled with aluminium cupboards. A large video screen to the fore provided a display from the cockpit, almost as if a hole had been cut through the craft’s exterior to show a carbocrete runway curving away to the right. Flexi-displays were hooked on to the back of each seat, facing the passengers behind. They were of the kind that could be removed, bent into a curve, and lodged inside space helmets to give a 3D effect. Inset into the arms of each seat, ahead of the sockets for oxygen hoses, were VR half-gloves for calling up any chosen view or entertainment.
The two soldiers dragged Saul to one of the front-row seats and manhandled him down into it, then shoved Hannah into the seat just beside him. She glanced to one side, noting the technician now stripping off his overalls and donning a spacesuit like his fellows. Two guards remained standing over her and Saul, with squat, ugly machine pistols trained on them.
“Can you think of any reason why I should not kill you immediately?” Malden demanded, stepping into the space before them and leaning back against the bulkhead.
“You want to know who and what I am, and why I am here,” Saul instantly replied.
“That’s true, but you nearly fucked up this entire mission.”
Saul pressed the heel of one hand between his eyes. Before he could reply, Hannah said, “How? We didn’t even know about this mission.”
Malden’s gaze strayed towards her. “You led the Inspectorate straight to Embarkation, and now we’ve got more on the way. Luckily I’ve given them other distractions.”
“The space plane?” said Saul.
Malden’s gaze swung back to him. “A distraction to facilitate our boarding this space plane, but I used the aeros to remove what I thought was a threat to us.”
“You thought I worked for the Inspectorate.”
“What was I to think? Inspectorate enforcers were heading here; you were ahead of them. It was only after I hit them that I realized they were after you, upon discovering your sloppy penetration of their security here. Did you deliberately follow me?”
“No. Pure coincidence—or more likely our aims are the same.”
Malden then just stared at Saul, almost statue-like, his eyes a deep, dark red and with fractured blood vessels webbing his face, and Hannah realized that Saul’s prediction was on the button. Malden was dying, and it seemed likely he knew it. Perhaps this was the real reason he had not killed them. Maybe he hoped she could do something to help him to change that verdict or, if not, maybe he hoped Saul might somehow replace him.
“So why are you here?” Saul asked.
“I intend to take Argus and the Argus Network out of Committee hands.”
“Why are you here?” Malden countered.
“I’m here to take Argus and the Argus Network out of Committee hands.”
Malden gazed at him blankly for a moment, then stepped closer, studying Saul more intently.
“It’s true,” Hannah interjected. “You’re not the only one who doesn’t care for our rulers.”
“Yet, despite your dislike, you worked for them willingly enough,” Malden commented.
“That’s not fair.”
“Little is fair, in this world.” He returned his attention to Saul and continued, “Do you know they never decommissioned the Traveller VI engine on the Argus asteroid? They kept it at first because they were going to reposition out at the Lagrange point between Earth and the Moon, then as a safety protocol. They’ve kept that engine fuelled and workable for decades just in case the asteroid needed to be used against anything bigger coming in out of the Oort cloud.”
“Yes, I do know,” Saul replied. “But why does it interest you so?”
“I’ll use it to drop the asteroid on Brussels,” said Malden. “The impact should depopulate much of Europe and take out most of the Committee and nearly forty per cent of the Executive.” He paused. “Centralized world government is never ever a good idea.”
Hannah sat quietly chewing that over. Saul had previously stated his intention of seizing control of Argus and the satellite network, and now that she looked at it in the light of Malden’s statement, it didn’t seem enough. Had Saul intended to do something similar? Because, once he had taken control up there, the question remained: what next?
“That seems…drastic,” said Saul.
“Let’s say I have moral doubts,” Saul hedged.
“Why?” Malden asked.
“Perhaps I’m not so careless of human life as you,” Saul suggested. “Anyway, I’d have thought the power of the Argus Network would’ve appealed to you.”
It was like seeing two big cats facing off in a world full of herbivores, but Hannah felt one of them was severely underestimating the potential of the other. Malden had been an intelligent and resourceful man, who was now running some serious hardware and software in his head. Saul had been a genius with an intelligence difficult to describe, let alone measure, and the additions inside his skull were of an order of magnitude more powerful than Malden’s, or at least they would be when the organic interface had made sufficient connections.
“Of course, it does,” Malden replied. “But Argus Station is not essential to that network. In fact, once I’ve seized control of the network and taken the Argus computers out of the equation, I can operate it from down on Earth.”
Hannah seriously doubted that would improve the situation on Earth for anyone.
From outside came a series of clattering booms as umbilicals detached. Hannah glanced round to see two of the soldiers closing the airlock hatch, while others were returning to their seats to strap in. The erstwhile technician came across to them and pulled their straps into position, and from where they inserted in sockets down beside their hips, there came the click of locks closing. After he stepped over to Saul, Hannah reached down and tentatively tried to disengage her own strap. No joy. It seemed the locking mechanisms of the straps could be controlled via the plane’s computers, so they wouldn’t be going anywhere until Malden gave instructions to unlock.
The man then unwound hoses and multi-core electric leads from their suits to plug into sockets in the chair arms. She knew enough about space flight to know these were to control the pressure function in suit capillaries, so the G forces wouldn’t knock them out.
“A lot of innocent people are going to die anyway,” said Malden, as he stepped to one side, then took the seat alongside Hannah. “But the sacrifice is worth making just to cut off the government’s head.”
Hannah thought maybe it was time for her to make the comment that it was all very well for him to make such sacrifices, since he wouldn’t be one of those dying, but she reconsidered. Very likely he would be one of those soonest dead.
With a lurch, the space plane set itself into motion and from outside came the sucking roar of turbines winding up to speed. The movement was undetectable on the screen for a moment, but then Hannah noticed a cam post sliding past them as the plane followed the curving route ahead. The curve then straightened out, and the plane climbed over a massive bridge with barriers running down either side. For half a minute they got a view across the spaceport to where columns of black smoke belched into the sky, then off the other side of the bridge, the plane turned to face a long runway spearing into the distance. It paused there, shuddering, as the racket from its turbines grew to a scream, then with an abrupt roar the seat punched her in the back as the craft shot forward. The acceleration just kept on climbing and climbing, and even at that point she could feel the G-function of the suit tightening it around her legs and the lower half of her body. Then the nose was up, and the same forces trying to shove both her and her seat through the floor.
She turned to see how Saul was taking this punishment, and saw blood trickling down the side of his face. He reached up with an arm seemingly made of lead to touch it, and observed blood on his fingers. How well could his new surgery stand up to this kind of treatment? He glanced at her questioningly, but she just shook her head. She didn’t know.
Then the pressure was off and the plane banking. In front of them the screen divided, one view showing an anvil of cloud ahead and the other revealing the Minsk spaceport sliding by underneath. No sign now of the crash site below, which brought home to her the sheer scale both of the port itself and, by inference, of everything the two big cats here were up against. But soon that view was lost in cloud for a few minutes before the plane punched through into bright sunshine above an endless plain of white. Now the screen lost its division, as a display appeared along the bottom—Mach 3.2 & 20 min to SCRAM—and it began counting down.
“I don’t quite know what to do with you,” said Malden, and Hannah assumed he was addressing her until he leaned forward to look across her at Saul. “It seems you do have similar aims to my own.”
That was a concession at least.
“What about me?” Hannah asked.
“You will help me.” It was not a request. Under Malden’s control, she saw herself in exactly the same position she had experienced under the Committee. “What software is he running?”
She met his gaze. “His own.”
Malden returned his attention to Saul. “Hannah told me you were once Alan Saul—one of their most brilliant researchers—until Smith used pain amplifiers and cerebral reprogramming to destroy your mind.”
Saul shrugged. “Alan Saul is gone. I’m a two-year-old.”
“Smith runs security aboard the Argus Station.”
Malden just stared for a long moment, obviously making his calculations. “Argus Station is heavily firewalled with numerous cut-offs between it and Govnet. Most importantly it has a plain old-fashioned off switch to completely disconnect it from Govnet.”
“The EM field they turn on to block solar radiation whenever there’s a storm,” Saul agreed.
“You know, it’s been very difficult to obtain information from up there for some time…I tried accessing by satellite uplink but failed. Security is far too heavy and when I started trying to steal access codes, the EM field came on and cut the station system out of the circuit. Its own internal network is maintained by coded shortwave radio when the EM field is off, and line-of-sight laser and hardwire when it’s on.”
“Hence you going there with soldiers?”
“I need to get inside the station, to be effective. I need to disconnect the transformers supplying the EM field to be sure I won’t be cut out.”
“I myself intended just to sneak aboard,” said Saul.
Malden shook his head as if listening to the plans of a child. “Then, the moment you started taking over, all Smith would have needed to do was switch on the EM field, cutting you out of the circuit, then hunt you down.”
“I’m sure I would have found a way round that,” Saul replied huffily.
Despite Saul’s obvious capabilities, Malden gave a superior smile now. Hannah realized he was thinking like a revolutionary, locked in that groove where it seemed the only solution to anything must involve guns. Perhaps some part of him assumed that taking over a space station must require drama. Obviously Saul wasn’t averse to guns himself, but Hannah realized that, by having an optic plug installed in his head, he’d negated the need for troops. His huffy response to Malden was just a pose, and he was way ahead of the man.
“I can either leave you aboard this plane,” Malden said, “in which case it’s certain station security will come looking for you—or you can come in with us.”
Malden glanced at him. “He knows the situation.” He turned back to Saul, weighing him up. “You do understand the situation?”
“If you leave me aboard the plane, Smith gets me and I’m dead. And even if I try to betray you to Smith, I’m still not going to be his best buddy. I’ll still end up chewing a bullet.”
“Our objectives are essentially the same, too,” Malden said. “And by working together now—and in the future—we can be a lot more effective.”
As Malden returned his attention to Hannah, she felt the locks on her straps disengage.
“You will be accompanying us, too,” he told her. “I’m going to be needing you later.”
He wanted to live. Did he also visualize building an army of cyborgs like himself and Saul to rout the remains of the totalitarian state down below, after the asteroid had done its work? Until he replaced that state with one of his own, nearly indistinguishable?
The countdown on the screen slowly clicked its way down towards zero. At two minutes, the space plane shuddered, and shortly afterwards a great hollow roar grew in volume and Hannah knew it must now be opening its scramjet intakes. Next came a mutter, like some steel giant grumping to itself, then a crash followed by massive acceleration. That same steel giant next came and put his foot on her chest, then pressed his weight on that foot. Her vision seemed to tunnel, and she could only just see the frame newly opened on the screen, showing the rear view of a great ribbed flame like a scorpion’s tail whipping out behind; below it the maps of Earth were rapidly shrinking.
“They’ll know you’re coming,” Saul said tightly, his voice hoarse.
Hannah looked across at him, saw more blood running from his scalp, and watched as his eyes folded up into his head, exposing their whites. Despite wearing the same sort of suit as she did, he was blacking out, but she could do nothing for him just then…or perhaps ever.
At first the whole structure seemed like a toy, and only by seeing another space plane, like the one they were aboard, clinging to one of the massive docking pillars stabbing out into space, like an iron redwood growing from the station rim, could he recalculate the scale. An object moving across the outer surface of the station wheel, which he had at first taken to be someone in a spacesuit, he now realized must be some sort of vehicle or robot the size of a bulldozer.
A big technical control centre had been built on what might be described as the top of the asteroid, which sat at the centre of a three-quarter ring five kilometres in diameter and over a kilometre wide and deep. Three cylinder worlds held this ring in position, each of them a kilometre wide and nearly two kilometres in length, spaced at three quarters like spokes, their near ends connected to the asteroid itself, whilst at the fourth quarter, projecting from the rocky surface directly towards the break in the ring, sat the massive Mars Traveller engine.
Two further spokes were positioned evenly in the two gaps between the three cylinders. These were the two ore transit tubes that ran from the asteroid’s surface to connect with the smelting-plant docks located in the rim. Extending out from the plant docks, on massive cables, were the smelting plants themselves, positioned about a kilometre out from the station—these looked something like giant combustion engines surrounded by a spider-web of cables and further scaffolding to support the foil parasols of folded or unfolded sun mirrors, all again surrounded by vapour spilling from the processes conducted within.
Up close, Argus certainly did not look so neat as it did from the surface of Earth, and it now seemed much larger than the last government-approved images of it that he had viewed. The sections between the spokes, from the asteroid to the station rim, were infilled with lattice walls with numerous accommodation units and other features sandwiched between, all connected by tubeways through which ran wormish trains. The levels expanding outwards from the original wheel were not being built one at a time, so in some areas three or four “floors” of the station extended out into space, webbed throughout by structural members, with random chequer-square sheets of bubblemetal scattered across them. In fact there seemed no clear dividing line between where the station ended and space began.
“Keep your head still,” Hannah instructed.
Scarface, whose real name was Braddock, had found him another helmet to replace the one he’d managed to fill with his blood, and then given Hannah a battlefield medical kit. Apparently each of these soldiers was carrying one. Having stopped the bleeding, she was now using a stapling tool to put his scalp back together. Wound glue would only last if he didn’t exert himself for a week or so, which seemed unlikely.
“How bad is it?” he asked.
“Very minor,” she replied. “You know what head wounds are like.”
Now she was spraying artificial skin over his scalp, and finally she turned his head round and concentrated the spray over his right temple. He just met her gaze and said nothing. That she was further concealing the nub of synthetic skin covering the teragate socket in his skull told him she had picked up some idea of his intentions.
He looked round as Malden towed himself in from the space plane’s cockpit, gazed over to where one of the soldiers was throwing up in a sick bag, then focused his attention on Saul.
Saul had to admit that Malden seemed to know a great deal about how Argus Station operated. In the beginning, it had been Saul’s intention to take control there in the same way he had taken control of that gene bank and then Inspectorate Headquarters London, by feeding Janus into the system and letting the AI do all the work. Now Janus resided inside his head, was actually part of him and, had he not used a bit of forethought, he would have possessed no way of physically linking into a computer system. But he had considered this, which was why that teragate optic plug resided under that nub of synthetic skin at his right temple. He could only assume that when Dr Bronstein had made his report to Malden, he had neglected to mention the details of the operation Saul had undergone. And Saul preferred not to enlighten him.
“You okay?” Malden asked.
Saul had managed not to throw up as they went zero gravity, and now nausea pills were dispelling the rest of the sickness. Obviously they weren’t working so well for others aboard, including Hannah, who looked decidedly ill.
“I’m good,” he lied, for really his head felt as if someone had been sandpapering the inside of his skull, and though extended processing within lay available to him, he felt almost frightened to use it. “So what’s the plan? They have to realize this is no regular flight by now.”
Malden nodded. “They’ve denied us docking and demanded to know who we are, and what we want. I insisted we’re just the expected flight, but they’ve checked with Minsk and know the assigned crew isn’t aboard, and that this plane took off without permission.” He shrugged. “They’ve also just put the EM shield up, but that could be because of the solar wind.”
“We don’t use the dock.” Malden moved over to his seat and strapped himself in. Immediately after that, text appeared along the bottom of the cabin screen: PREPARE FOR DECELERATION.
“Get strapped in, guys. This could be tricky,” warned a voice over the intercom—obviously the pilot.
Hannah pulled away from Saul and strapped herself in. He picked up the new helmet from his lap and clicked it down on its neck ring, before doing the same. A frisson of fear tightened his gut. If Malden wasn’t going to dock this plane, that probably meant they were going for a space walk.
Spikes of flame stabbed in on either side of the screen view, jerking Saul forward against his straps. Then one constant flame erupted from the left, swinging the nose of the plane round, the momentum trying to throw him into Hannah. The station slid aside, then the plane came under massive deceleration, this time thrusting him back down into his seat. Manoeuvring next, the nose swinging back rapidly and the station grown huge, filling the screen, one of its surface-mounted steering thrusters—an engine the size of a train carriage—became clearly visible, projecting at forty-five degrees from the station rim, then abruptly dropped away. A glimpse of Earth, and then starlit space. Main engine now; a double blast again slamming him backwards. Lines cut down through the forward view, cables and the belly of a big smelting plant slid above like an iron Zeppelin. Then the main engine came on yet again.
“Helmets!” Braddock shouted. “Suit-integrity check!” Why the hell did he want them to do that, whilst still inside the plane? Then Saul realized the docking was going to be violent. He closed across his visor and, using the small control panel on his left forearm, called up the integrity check in the liquid-crystal laminate in his visor. He then turned to Hannah to instruct her on what she must do, but she was already busy working her own panel. Good for him to be reminded that the technology of her spacesuit was child’s play to someone like her.
Then they hit.