Re: The Show Must Go Off

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Herr D

The Show Must Go Off–part eighteen

On the twenty-third day, I was finishing up my minimum (I still hadn’t figured out how to meet workweek’s quota in less than two shifts) when Jenko suddenly loaned Crunch his spotter and told him to get some practice. That got my attention. Jenko didn’t think much of Crunch. Giving him a leg up, well . . . I watched him double check that Crunch wouldn’t kill himself or send debris flying everywhere and walk toward me while I pretended to chafe over how little ore I was getting out of my debris. At easy knife-throwing range I looked up as if I hadn’t noticed him coming, nodded, put the ChemCheck back on auto, double-checked my tether, and grimaced at him. He was using the tether we’d set up today, not even checking it as he walked. Even in near zero gravity he never bounced, though. Pretty graceful for a hunchback. I used my com till we touched suits to carry our voices. “You not getting anything either?”
He didn’t break stride, just kept coming. “Just the magnesium, but that’s about gone. This rock may have a nuclear core.”
That was a standard complaint of his. You know even in those days the miners had software for sizing an asteroid and making cagey guesses on what had metal and what was practically ice-filled pumice. But once in a while the law of averages didn’t pay off because rock would be concentrated unpredictably. We didn’t have the imagers and dark spectrometers; they came out later. It was a waste of fuel to lighten an asteroid too much, you know? And we’d whittled this one down pretty far.
“I think you and I need to talk.” Jenko was never one to waste words. Or like it when others did.
“I won’t say anything, but I know you hack.” Mmmm.
“That shift you were out here alone? Then you came back and reported the pirate attack?”
“You didn’t strike me as a killer. Or as that fast.”
“So I looked at your report form. You were at the same kiosk I was at when I was alone. But you weren’t home yet.” Ouch.
He continued with, “I don’t know where you really were, and I don’t care. There’s a problem coming, and I want you to handle it.”
“What problem?” I looked up. Crunch was doing pretty well, so we’d have a few more minutes.
“Chat rooms are getting encrypted. Rumors are spreading.”
“Door 23.”
“The one that failed?”
“What are they saying?”
“That an Enforcer rigged the door. That a bomb was planted in the trash deposits to cause the quake in the first place.”
“That’s absurd. Who would their target have been?”
“Doesn’t matter. There could be a really bad riot.” I thought about that. The life I saved might be my own, after all.
I nodded. “What do you think I could do?”
“Fake a report. Claim a dead prisoner did it. Suicide. We have a riot, or some fool starts digging through the trash deposits to prove it and causes another quake, lots of people could die and get us killed, too.”
I nodded again. “I’ll pass the word to handle the problem.” There–that was vague enough. I might just ‘know’ the hacker.
I pointed at Crunch. “You’d better tell Crunch to keep his knees bent. We don’t want his back ruined.”
Jenko grinned, nodded, and lazily spun on the tether. He headed back without another word.