Authors: John Scalzi
Tags: #Science Fiction, #Fiction, #General
“Where are you from, Marlon?” Wilson asked.
“I’m from Chicago,” Tiege said, regaining his composure.
“Where are you from most recently?” Wilson asked.
“Harry, come on,” Tiege said. “This is crazy.”
Wilson ignored him and turned to one of the women, Kelle Laflin. “Last year a hurricane smacked straight into Charleston,” he said, and watched her go pale. “You must remember.”
She nodded mutely.
“Great,” Wilson said. “What was the name they gave the hurricane?”
Coloma noted that Laflin’s face was already primed for dismay.
Wilson turned back to Tiege. “Here’s the deal, Marlon.” He pointed over to the control room. Tiege followed the vector of the point to see Captain Coloma sitting there, behind a console. “When I give the captain the signal, she’s going to start pumping air out of this shuttle bay. It’ll take a minute for that cycle to happen. Now, don’t worry about me, I’m Colonial Defense Forces, which means that I can hold my breath for a good ten minutes if I have to, and I also have my combat uniform on under my clothes at the moment. So I’ll be fine. You and your friends, however, will likely die quite painfully as your lungs collapse and vomit blood into the vacuum.”
“You can’t do that,” Tiege said. “We’re a diplomatic mission.”
“Yes, but from whom?” Wilson said. “Because you’re not from Earth, Marlon.”
“Are you sure about that?” Tiege said. “Because if you’re wrong, think about what will happen when the Earth finds out you’ve killed us.”
“Yes, well,” Wilson said, and fished out a small plastic case that contained the pinprick bomb in it, resting on a ball of cotton. “You would have been dead anyway after this bomb went off, and we along with you. This way, the rest of us still get to live. Last chance, Marlon.”
“Harry, I can’t—,” Tiege began, and Wilson held up his hand.
“Have it your way,” he said, and nodded to Coloma. She started the purge cycle. The shuttle bay was filled with the sound of air being sucked into reservoirs.
“Wait!” Tiege said. Wilson motioned to Coloma with their agreed-upon signal and sent a “stop” message to her PDA via his BrainPal. Coloma aborted the purge cycle and waited.
Marlon Tiege stood there for a moment, sweating. Then he cracked a rueful smile and turned to Wilson.
“I’m from Chicago, and these days I live on Erie. I’m going to tell you everything I know about his mission and you have my word on that,” he said, to Wilson. “But you have to tell me one thing first, Harry.”
“What is it?” Wilson asked.
“That you weren’t just fucking with me about the Cubs,” Tiege said.
“You want explanations,” Colonel Abel Rigney said to Coloma from behind his desk at Phoenix Station. In a chair in front of the desk, Colonel Liz Egan sat, watching Coloma.
“What I want is to walk you out of an airlock,” Coloma said, to Rigney. She glanced over to Egan in her chair. “And possibly walk you out after him.” She returned her gaze to Rigney. “But for now, an explanation will do.”
Rigney smiled slightly at this. “You remember Danavar, of course,” he said. “A CDF frigate named the
destroyed, the Utche ship targeted and your own ship mortally wounded.”
“Yes,” Coloma said.
“And you know about the recent incident with the Bula,” Egan said. “A human wildcat colony on one of their worlds was attacked, and it was discovered that three modified, undercover CDF members were among them. When we tried to retrieve what was left of the colony, the Bula surrounded the ship and we had to ransom it and its crew back from them.”
“I knew about some of that from Wilson and Ambassador Abumwe’s people,” Coloma said.
“I’m sure you did,” Rigney said. “Our problem is that we suspect whoever ambushed the
and your ship at Danavar got information about the
’s mission from us. Same with that wildcat colony in Bula territory.”
“Got the information from the CDF?” Coloma asked.
“Or from the Department of State,” Egan said. “Or both.”
“You have a spy,” Coloma said.
“Spies, more likely,” Egan said. “Both of those missions are a lot of ground to cover for one person.”
“We needed a way to pinpoint where the leak was coming from, and how much they knew. So we decided to go fishing,” Rigney said. “We had a decommissioned spacecraft, and after your actions with the
we had a spacecraft crew without a ship. It seemed like an opportune time to cast out a line and see what we came up with.”
“What you came up with was a bomb that would have destroyed my ship and killed everyone on it, including your fake Earth mission,” Coloma said.
“Yes,” Egan said. “And look what we discovered. We discovered that whoever tried to sabotage you has access to confidential Colonial Defense Forces research. We discovered whoever it was has the ability to access communications through Colonial Defense Forces channels. We discovered they have access to CDF shipyards and fabrication sites. We have a wealth of information that we can sift through to narrow down the person or persons selling us out, and to stop it from happening again. To stop anyone else from dying.”
“A fine sentiment,” Coloma said. “It glosses over the part where I and my crew and your people all die.”
“It was a risk we had to take,” Rigney said. “We couldn’t tell you because we didn’t know where the leaks were coming from. We didn’t tell
people, either. They’re all retired CDF and people who occasionally do work for us when someone being green would be overly conspicuous. They know there’s a chance of death involved.”
“We didn’t,” Coloma said.
“We needed to know if someone was going to try to sabotage that mission,” Rigney said. “Now we know and now we know more than we ever have before about how these people work. I won’t apologize for the actions we took, Captain. I can say I regret that the actions were necessary. And I can say that I’m very glad you didn’t die.”
Coloma stewed on this for a moment. “What happens now?” she asked, finally.
“What do you mean?” Egan asked.
“I have no command,” Coloma said. “I have no ship. I and my crew are in limbo.” She motioned at Egan. “I don’t know what your final inquiry has decided about my future.” She looked back at Rigney. “You told me that if I completed this mission successfully, I could write my own ticket. I can’t tell if this was a successful mission, or even if it was, whether your promise is any more true than anything else you’ve said to me.”
Rigney and Egan looked at each other; Egan nodded. “From our point of view, Captain Coloma, it was a successful mission,” Rigney said.
“As for the final inquiry, it’s been decided that your actions at Danavar were consistent with the best traditions of command and of diplomacy,” Egan said. “You’ve been awarded a commendation, which has already been placed in your file. Congratulations.”
“Thank you,” Coloma said, a little numbly.
“As for your ship,” Rigney said. “It seems to me you have one. It’s a little old, and being stationed on it has been seen as a hardship post. But on the other hand, a hardship posting is better than no posting at all.”
“Your crew is already used to the ship by now,” Egan said. “And we do need another diplomatic ship in the fleet. Ambassador Abumwe and her staff have a list of assignments and no way to get to them. If you want the ship, it’s yours. If you don’t want the ship, it’s still yours. Congratulations.”
“Thank you,” Coloma said again, this time completely numbly.
“You’re welcome,” Egan said. “And you’re dismissed, Captain.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Coloma said.
“And, Captain Coloma,” Rigney said.
“Yes, sir,” Coloma said.
“Give her a good name.” He turned back to Egan, and the two of them fell into a conversation. Coloma walked herself out of the door.
Balla and Wilson were waiting for her outside Rigney’s office. “Well?” Balla said.
“I’ve gotten a commendation,” Coloma said. “I’ve been given a ship. The crew stays together. Abumwe’s team is back on board.”
“Which ship are we getting?” Wilson asked.
“The one we’ve been on,” Coloma said.
old hunk of junk,” Wilson said.
“Watch it, Lieutenant,” Coloma said. “That’s my ship. And she has a name. She’s the
Also by John Scalzi
Old Man’s War
The Ghost Brigades
The Android’s Dream
The Last Colony
Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded
Edited by John Scalzi
About the Author
JOHN SCALZI is the author of several SF novels including the bestselling
Old Man’s War
and its sequels, and the
New York Times
He is a winner of science fiction’s John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and he won the Hugo Award for
Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded,
a collection of essays from his wildly popular blog
). He lives in Ohio with his wife and daughter.
This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, organizations, and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
HUMAN DIVISION #5: TALES FROM THE CLARKE
Copyright © 2013 by John Scalzi
All rights reserved.
Cover art by John Harris
A Tor Book
Published by Tom Doherty Associates, LLC
175 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY10010
is a registered trademark of Tom Doherty Associates, LLC.
The Human Division
John Scalzi’s stirring new novel in the universe of his bestselling
Old Man’s War
New e-episodes will appear every Tuesday from January 15 to April 9, 2013, on all your favorite e-book sites. Don’t miss a single one:
The Human Division #1: The B-Team
The Human Division #2: Walk the Plank
The Human Division #3: We Only Need the Heads
The Human Division #4: A Voice in the Wilderness
The Human Division #5: Tales from the Clarke
The Human Division #6: The Back Channel
The Human Division #7: The Dog King
The Human Division #8: The Sound of Rebellion
The Human Division #9: The Observers
The Human Division #10: This Must Be the Place
The Human Division #11: A Problem of Proportion
The Human Division #12: The Gentle Art of Cracking Heads
The Human Division #13: Earth Below, Sky Above
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