City of Pearl
I will be honest in all my dealings with others.
I will avoid experiments on feeling life-forms wherever possible.
I will safeguard the environment.
I will not plagiarize or hinder the work of other scientists, nor knowingly publish false research.
I will put the common good before professional pride or profit.
The Da Vinci Oath,
popularly known as the Scientists' Oath,
April 25, 2299
I'm going home. "Good morning," said Shan Frankland, and held up her warrant card. "We're from Environmental Hazard Enforcement. Please, step away from the console."
She loved those words. They cast a spell. They laid bare men's souls, if you knew how to look. She looked around the administration center and in three seconds she knew the man at the desk was uninvolved, the woman marshaling traffic was surprised by the intrusion, and the man lounging against the drinks machine ... well, his face was too composed and his eyes were moving just wrong. He was the fissure in the rock. She would cleave it apart.
I'm going home. Five days, tops.
"Inspector McEvoy," she said, and motioned her bagman forward. "Over to you." She put her warrant card back in her top pocket and stood watching while her technical team flowed in and put in override codes on all Mars Orbital's systems. The station was temporarily hers.
This is the last time I'll have to do this.
"May I?" She walked across to the station's video circuit. The traffic marshal stepped aside. She settled into the seat and tapped the transmission key.
"May I have your attention, please? This is Superintendent Shan Frankland. This orbital station is now under the jurisdiction of the Enforcement Division of the Federal European Union. There will be no traffic movements or transmissions until the preliminary investigation is complete. Please report to your muster stations at 1600 station time for a briefing from my officers. Thank you for your cooperation. We'll be out of your way just as soon as we can."
She leaned back, satisfied. Space stations were lovely places to carry out environmental hazard audits. Nobody could make a run for it. Nobody could get evidence off the premises. There was only one way off Mars Orbital without a scheduled flight, and that was via an airlock. It was right and fitting that she should have a relatively simple rummage job as her final task before retirement. She had earned it.
McEvoy crouched down level with her seat. "All locked down, Guv'nor. We should have it logged and wrapped in six hours, but there's no reason why we couldn't start carrying out preliminary interviews now."
Shan cocked her head discreetly in the direction of the man she'd spotted at the drinks dispenser. "I'd make a start on him," she said. "Just a feeling. Anyway, I'd better go and pay my respects to the station manager. This has probably ruined her entire day."
And this time next month, I'll be clearing my desk.
Mars Orbital looked and felt exactly as the schematics on her swiss had told her it would. She took the little red cylinder with its white cross from her pocket and unfurled its plasma screen to study the station layout.
"You should treat yourself to some new technology," McEvoy said, and tapped the side of his head, indicating his implants. "How old is that thing?"
"Hundreds of years, and still as good as that thing in your skull. I'm an old-fashioned girl. I like my computing in my pocket." She stood up and oriented herself along the lines of the map on the swiss's screen, then set off down the main passageway. Looking straight ahead, she could detect the gradual curve of the main ring. For a second she felt she might be falling, but she looked straight ahead, resisting the temptation to stare out of the nearest observation area to goggle at a Mars that filled her field of view. It wasn't her first time away from Earth, but she had never been within touching distance of an inhabited planet before. She wondered if she might find time to do a few tourist things before departing. She'd never get another free flight like this again.
The station manager's office was exactly where the swiss said it would be. Its name-plated occupant, Cathy Borodian, was quietly angry. "I thought you people were on a fact-finding mission for the European Assembly."
"It wasn't a complete lie. We're still finding facts, aren't we?" Shan stood before her desk and watched the woman trying to cope without access to her mainframe, hands fumbling across the softglass surface; it remained steadfastly blank, showing only a system unavailable screen under the coffee cup and half-eaten chocolate brioche. "We'll be out of here as soon as we possibly can. Routine inspection for biological and environmental hazards you're not licensed to manage."
"I don't think Warrenders is going to be happy about this. They have a contract."
"Well, last time I looked, civilian government still just about ran Europe. Not corporations."
"Are you able to tell me exactly what the problem is?"
"So there's a problem?"
"No. Not at all."
"The Federal European Union doesn't ship out forty audit and technical officers unless it thinks there might be irregularities.
"Does that answer your question?"
"Not completely. What about our teams on the surface? Can they come back inboard?"
"If they need to, they can flash us and one of my people will escort them." Shan understood the woman, even if she felt no sympathy for her. She had schedules and commercial pressures, and shutting down the orbital was a major crisis, with or without a police investigation ... City of Pearl
. Copyright © by Karen Traviss. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.