Chapter 3: Run Mode

“Joan? Roland? What can I do for you?” Asked Edwardo.
“We found something that wasn’t right -- up there on the platform today.” Joan said.
“Did you fix it?”
“It wasn’t broken.” Said Roland. “It just shouldn’t have been there.”
“Did you break it?” Asked Edwardo.
“No, you don’t understand.” Said Joan.
“If it isn’t broken and you didn’t break it then what’s the problem?”
“It’s not supposed to be there.” Roland said.
“An adaptor on a datapipe. It’s some kind of tap into the main network up there.” Roland replied.
“I’m sure you’re mistaken.” Said Edwardo, “but just to be sure, I’ll call in to the platform deployment team and they can have a look.” He said reassuringly. “So, how did it go today? You two finish up?” He asked, changing subjects.
“Yes.” Said Joan.
“No.” Said Roland.
“Well which is it, yes or no?”
“We didn’t finish. Roger and Tracy will have to go out tomorrow.” Said Roland.
Joan looked at him, but then nodded. “I just meant we’d finished for the day.” She hastily added.
They all sat there for a moment and then Roland and Joan got up almost exactly at the same time and left. They closed the door after them.
“Well, he’s going to call the platform deployment team. They’ll look into it.” She said.
“I’m not so sure. What if
they put it there?” He asked. “If they had, they certainly won’t be finding anything wrong when they go look.”
“Is that why you said we weren’t done?” Joan asked.
“Yes, I want Tracy and Roger to see it. Do you know where their rooms are?”
“Yes. Don’t you?”
“No, actually.” Roland admitted.
“Well, let’s go tell them.” She said.
They collected Tracy and went to Roger’s room. The four of them sat in Roger’s room and Joan and Roland had explained what they saw.
“So, what are we supposed to do when we get to the platform tomorrow?” Tracy asked.
“Go and find that connector, make sure its still there and see if you can spot anything else out of the ordinary.”
“What are you two going to do?” Asked Tracy.
“I’m not sure, but we’ll see what we can dig up here.” Said Roland.
In the mean time, I’ve created a private forum just for us four to connect and talk. It’s encrypted. “The password is ‘The Space Between’” Said Joan. “I think we should set our dots to follow the forum, so we can talk to each other.”
They all set up their wrist dots to access the new forum.

Ox Anderson was drinking coffee in a small cafe in downtown Platinum when his wrist dot flashed red twice, and repeated every few seconds. “Damn.” He said under his breath, but he tapped the dot anyway and it stopped beeping. He quickly finished his coffee and left. He walked along the sidewalk and turned on his ear speaker. He tapped his wrist dot again and he listened.
“4.25-4/5 is compromised. Find Edwardo Colon at 4.27. Make him look the other way.”
Ox walked to his surface skimmer. He climbed onto it and switched it on. He headed out from Platinum on his way to the 4.27 station, to meet with Edwardo just as Roland had done eleven weeks earlier. But, unlike Roland, Ox carried a laser pistol and was looking forward to using it.

He tapped his dot a few times and called Edwardo.
“You have a problem, Ed.” Ox said.
“Oh yea? What’s that? Who is this?” Edwardo asked.
“I’ll tell you this once: keep your people away from the 4.27 platform on the 4/5 wall. Understand?”
“Look, I don’t know who you are, but its our role to be there if we need to.” Edwardo protested.
“I’m with the network deployment team and your kids screwed it up. Stay off the platform.”
“I’ll have to confirm this.” Edwardo said. “And, what did they screw up, anyway? They may be Generation One kids, but they’re damn good.”
“I’ll explain when I get there. It’s probably better if the kids aren’t there.”
“You’re coming here?”
“Yea, I’m coming out there to set things right.” Ox said and terminated the connection.

Edwardo was annoyed. “
Who does he think he is anyway?” He thought to himself. “I’m going to call the network deployment team lead and find out what the hell is going on.” He used a console for a visual link and contacted the network deployment office. He managed to reach a deputy manager.
“Hello? This is Edwardo Colon. I’m the general manager at 4.27.”
“Yes, Mr. Colon, how can I help you?” The man said.
“Well, I want to know what your team thinks is wrong out on wall 4/5 on the network platform near 4.27. What is it you think my crew did wrong?” Edwardo asked as reasonably as he could.
“Excuse me? I don’t think I know what you mean. Is there a problem on that platform?” The man asked, obviously confused.
“You aren’t aware of any problems on that platform?” Edwardo asked.
“Lemme check the status… Nope. Looks good from here. I guess there was a problem for about a week, but looks like that got cleared up today. Was that your team?”
“Well, yes, actually.”
“I’m confused. Why is it you think our team has an issue with your teams work?”
“I received a call from one of your guys. He was really upset about something.”
“Nobody on my team contacted you. I’d know. We track all issues through to their resolution. I think you must be mistaken.” The man said.
“Well, I’m glad there isn’t a problem.” Edwardo said. “But, who called me?”
“I haven’t the slightest.” The man said.
“OK, well, thanks for your time.” Edwardo said.
“You bet. And, thanks for taking care of that network drop problem!” The man added. “Bye now.”
Edwardo ended the call. “What the hell?” He thought. “
This guy’s a fraud, but I don’t want him confronting my people. I’ll send them all out on service calls.” He decided. “I’ll deal with him myself.”

Then Edwardo contacted the Rose World Security Force and explained the situation. When he could not explain who had threatened him the officer said they’d send out a team to investigate and suggested that Edwardo not meet him at all. Edwardo thought about leaving, but the station was his responsibility and if someone had an issue with his team’s work, he was going to deal with it responsibly.

By the time Ox Anderson had left Platinum, Roger and Tracy were on their way to the platform. Edwardo called Joan, “Hi Joan? I need you to fly over to the network platform at 4/3 by 4.18 and do a hard reset on a network node. OK?”
“Right now?” Joan replied via her dot.
“Sorry, it’s urgent.” He said. Edwardo knew that the hard reset wouldn’t harm anything but would get her out of the station for a couple hours.

Then Edwardo called Roland. “Hey, Roland, I need you to fly over to the network platform at 4/3 by 4.37 and do a hard reset on a network node. Can you do that for me now?”
“Yes, I’ll leave in a few minutes.” Roland replied via his dot.

Joan called the others via the encrypted forum they’d arranged. “Listen, Edwardo just asked me to go reset a network node down by 4.26.”
“He just asked me to do the same thing at 4.37.”
“You guys should go.” Said Roger. “Isn’t that our job?”
“They both crashed… at the same time?” Asked Roland, incredulously.
“And, there are Public Service stations near both of those platforms. Their teams should be handling it. Why us?” Joan asked.
“It doesn’t make sense.” Tracy said. “Unless he’s just trying to keep you busy or keep you away.”
“Why would he want that?” Roland asked.
Nobody had any response.
“I don’t like this. We always work in pairs.” She said. “Something’s wrong.” Joan said, worried.
“Well, it’s our role. We have to go, but let’s stick together. How about we go to one and then the other?” Joan suggested.
“OK, let’s go to 4.37 first. And, let’s take some rations and water with us. It’s gonna take a while to get there.” Roland added.
“You two: be careful, OK?” Tracy said.
“We will.” Said Joan.

An hour later Ox floated up in his skimmer. He’d flown there at top speed, abandoning the floor for a straight flight path right to 4.27. He got out and walked inside the building. He walked right into Edwardo’s office and sat down.
“Who are you?” Edwardo ask.
“I’m Ox. Where are your kids?”
“They’re all out on service calls.” Edwardo explained.
“The network team wants your team to stop servicing the network platforms.” Ox said.
“No they don’t.” said Edwardo. “I just spoke with a deputy manager.” Edwardo said flatly. “Now who are you and what do you want?”
“I want your team off those platforms.”
“Why? We just…”
“Shut up.” Ox said.
Edwardo was shocked. “Now see here!”
“I’m only going to say this one more time: stay off the network platforms. Understand?”
“I can’t agree to that. It’s our role to maintain them.” Edwardo said.
“You want to die for that role?” Ox said and he pulled his laser pistol from under his jacket and pointed it at Edwardo.
“You can’t be serious...”
“You’re really not very bright.” Ox said and he stood up and aimed right at Edwardo’s chest.
“OK! OK! We’ll stay away!”
“I have a better idea. I’m closing this station.” Ox said. “Nobody needs you out here anyway.”
“How can you close this station?” Edwardo asked.
“Like this.” Ox said, and he pulled the trigger on his laser pistol. There was a sound like a pop and a small patch Edwardo’s skin exploded. He died almost instantly. The laser had burned a hole through his chest and stopped his heart.
Ox tapped his wrist dot and said “One down. Four to go. I need evidence planted to incriminate the four others who worked here. Make one a gun printer. Make two the shooters and one an accomplice. Acknowledge?”
“Acknowledged.” An emotionless voice responded.

Meanwhile, another of Edwardo’s golf ball beetles managed to finish its migration home and dropped into the bucket with the others.

This is too easy.” Thought Ox to himself. “The kids will come back one at a time to report and I’ll take care of each little problem.” Ox found the mess hall and fixed himself something to eat. Then he went to the roof to watch and wait.

Roland and Joan had begun flying out to the network platform on the 4/3 wall near 4.37.
“He’s up to something.” Said Joan.
“Like what?” Asked Roland.
“I don’t know, but this isn’t right.” She insisted. “You know that, right?”
“Well, yea, I guess.”
“Call him and ask him why this node needs to be reset. See what he says.”
“OK.” Roland tapped his wrist dot a few times and to connect to Edwardo’s dot, but Edwardo wasn’t accepting the connection.
“He isn’t answering.” Roland said.
“I think we should go meet up with Roger and Tracy.” Joan said.
“I think you’re right.” Said Roland. He tapped his wrist dot again and spoke to the forum, “We’re coming to meet you at the platform.” He said. “Did you guys bring the excursion cart or did you fly there?”
“We flew here.” Said Tracy. “And, we found what you guys found too.”
“We’ll be there in about an hour. Something’s wrong. We can’t reach Edwardo. Or, he won’t answer us.” Joan said.

Tracy and Roger sat at the edge of the platform looking out over the disc floor below them.
“I’m going to try to reach Edwardo.” Said Roger. He tapped his wrist dot and tried to open a connection without any luck.
Tracy tried too, with the same result. “His dot is online, he’s just not answering.” Tracy said.
“What’s that? Over there?” Roger asked, pointing to flashing lights several kilometers off. They had a clear view as a pair of Rose World Security Force skimmers and made their way quickly up the middle of the disc a few hundred meters above the floor.”
“Those are security skimmers. They’re moving really fast!” S/he said.
“I wonder where they’re going?” Roger said.
Tracy’s dot flashed and suddenly Joan’s voice could be heard. “Hey! You guys see those lights down there?”
“Yes!” S/he said.
“I listened to the emergency web – they’re on their way to 4.27.” Joan said.
“What happened?”
“I don’t know, but it’s security, all right. We’ll be there soon. Why don’t you see what you can find out?”
Tracy and Roger got up and walked over to one of the platform’s permanent consoles and began searching for information about the emergency, but there was no information yet.
Time passed and they saw the skimmers reach 4.27. A few minutes later Roger called out. “Hey, they just posted an update. Oh! That’s not good.” Said Roger darkly. “One person dead of a laser shot to the chest. Four suspects at large.”
“That’d be us, I imagine.” S/he said.
“Why would anyone think we killed Edwardo?” Asked Roger. “We’ve been up here the whole time!”
“Who else is there? Unless he killed himself, we’re the logical suspects.”
Just then they could hear the voices of Joan and Roland calling to them. They turned around and the two were just landing close by.
“Hi, did you find anything out?” Asked Roland.
“Edwardo’s dead. Shot with a laser.” Said Tracy.
“Is that why the emergency lights are there?”
“They think we did it.” Said Roger.
“Who? One of us? We were all off on service calls!” Said Roland.
“That means none of us has an alibi.” Joan said.
“We didn’t do it! We should just go back and explain what happened.” Said Tracy.
“What happened? We’re all gone and he gets murdered? That doesn’t sound very convincing.” Said Joan.
“We were together in pairs.” Said Roger. We can vouch for each other.
“That doesn’t mean much.” Said Joan and she looked out over the edge of the platform back at 4.27.
“So, what, are we supposed to do now? Be fugitives?” Asked Tracy, in obvious disapproval.
“I don’t know, but they’re on their way up here now. Look.” Said Joan and she pointed down at 4.27 at a skimmer flying on a straight line toward the platform. “They’ll be here in a few minutes.
“Quick! Everyone, down under this platform is a ledge. There’s a cave there and we can hide.” Said Joan.
They all switched on their flight packs. Roland cleared the console and then ran a microphone test program, adjusted a couple parameters and left the console running. They flew over the edge and found the ledge a couple hundred meters below. They entered the cave and disappeared inside.

“What are we doing here?” asked Tracy. “This is crazy.
We didn’t kill anyone! We should go back and talk to them.”
“Let’s find out more first.” Said Roland. He held up his wrist dot. They should be at the platform by now. Let’s listen in, ok?”
“How?” S/he asked.
“I left a high-gain microphone test running up there on the platform’s console and routed the audio to my wrist dot. It should pick up most of what they say. They can’t hear us, don’t worry.” Roland said.

They sat in the mostly dark of the cave and listened to voices.
“They’re not here.” One voice said.
“Of course not, they’ve run. They printed a dozen lasers last night and they bolted.” The other voice said.
“Why’d they kill the old man?”
“Who knows? But the security camera has two of them going into his office. There’s video of another one using the printers to make the weapons.”
“You can see the weapons?”
“No, but he’s printing, and the records show
what he was printing: laser pistols.”

“Did you print laser pistols last night, Roger?” Asked Tracy, with uncharacteristic sarcasm.
“What did you print last night?” Asked Joan.
“Shoes!” Said Roger. And he pointed to his new shoes and smiled.
“They think you printed laser pistols!” Pressed Joan.
“I didn’t!” Insisted Roger.
The voices from the platform continued. “What about the fourth one?”
“Obviously in on it… ran with them.”
“So, they are armed and they killed the old guy. Where do you think they went?”
“That depends on what they took.”
“What’s missing?”
“The mineral printheads.”
“Oooh, those are hard to come by. I guess they’ll trade them or sell them for currency… so, I’m guessing they’re heading to disc one.”
“Yep. The tunnels and the core have been alerted. They’ll never get out of disc four.”
“We have their dossiers?”
“Yea. One’s on probation. The others are nobodies, but all four are Generation One.”
“They’re so young. It doesn’t make sense that they’d do this.”
“Who knows? I don’t know. The Generation One kids by me are strange. Have you heard the music they listen to?”
“Well, they were here. Look, they left this…. Shit!”
“They’ve been listening to us!”
“Are you…” was the last thing they heard over Roland’s wrist dot.
“They found the mic program and turned it off.” Roland said.
“We’ve been framed.” Said Tracy, shaking hir head.
“We can’t go back.” Said Joan.
“You heard them, we’ll never get out of disc four.” Said Roger.
“Well, not through the inter-disc tunnels at least.” Said Joan.
“Or the core.” Said Tracy.
“How else is there to get out of here? And, even if we could, where would we go?” Asked Roland.
“There’s only the hub and the inter-disc tunnels.” Said Joan.
“They won’t be watching disc five.” Said Roland.
“That’s probably because anyone who went there would die -- there’s no air there!” Said Joan.
“Axel.” Said Roland.
“Axel?” Asked Joan. “Oh, your friend, the pilot whose dad died?”
“Yea, Axel.”
“What about him?” Asked Tracy.
“Last I talked with him he was working in disc five. He rigged his ship with a cutting laser and he’s helping with some of the terraforming. If we could reach him, he could get us out of Rose world.” Said Roland.
“Where would we go?” S/he asked.
“Jane’s world.” Said Joan.
“Why there?” Asked Roland.
“Lots of parties.” Said Joan.
“Will you be serious?” Said Tracy.
“I am. We need to get lost for a while. It’s a big place and we’d fit in – there’s a big chunk of Generation One there.” Said Joan. “It’s a perfect place to hide.”
“Can you reach Axel, Roland?” Asked Joan.
“Sure.” Said Roland and he tapped his dot a few times to open a channel.
There was no reply.
“Sometimes it takes a while… maybe he’s working.” Suggested Roger.
“He’s a pilot. Maybe he’s busy. He’ll answer when he can.” Roland said.
They sat in the dark and ate some of the food Joan and Roland had brought. The water was refreshing.
After about half an hour Roland’s wrist dot flashed. He tapped it and heard his old friend. “Its Axel.” The voice announced, but he sounded angry.
“It’s Rolo.” He responded. The others looked at him in surprise.
“Roloooooo!” Suddenly his voice was happier.
“Long story… are you in disc five?”
“Yes, I’m cutting the bottom of a lake. How are you?”
“I’m in trouble. I need some help.”
“Sure. Whatcha need, Rolo?”
“I need to leave Rose World and I need to get to Jane’s world. Can you take me?”
“Ask about us.” Roger mouthed silently to Roland.
Roland nodded.
“That’s a long flight – almost two weeks weeks you know?”
“It’s OK. And, I have three friends with me. Is your ship big enough for them?”
“Well, maybe. There’s only two sleeping compartments. It’s going to be tight in here for a two week trip.”
Roland looked around. There seemed to be no alternatives. “Yea, we’ll survive. Listen, how do we find you? How can we meet? We’re in disc four… I’m sending you our location now.” He tapped his wrist dot three times in succession.
A second later he heard Axel’s voice. “Ok, you’re on the other side of the disk. It’s easier for me to cross, so I’ll come over to your side.
“How will we meet?” Roland asked. “We don’t have pressure suits.”
“We can meet at the hub.”
“Isn’t there any other way?”
“Not that I can think of.”
“Listen… we’re in trouble. We’re trying to leave the disc
“Really, what did you do?” Axel asked.
“Nothing! But, we’re still in trouble.” Roland explained.
“OK. OK. Lemme think. Stand by.”
The cave was silent.
“I wasn’t printing guns.” Said Roger to nobody in particular.
“We know.” Said Joan. “And none of us shot Edwardo.”
“Edwardo’s dead.” Said Tracy, with a blank, shocked look on hir face.
Everyone was quiet. It was dark and someone was sobbing, but Roland wasn’t sure whom because people were shifting positions.
“He was an OK guy.” Said Joan. “He let me get away with
a lot of stuff.”
“He was easy to work with.” Said Tracy.
“I liked him.” Said Roger.
They sat a while in silence.
“This is so crazy.” Said Tracy. “This just shouldn’t be able to happen!”
“Why not?” Asked Roland.
“Because… we didn’t kill Edwardo, but there’s evidence that makes us the out to be the murderers? Where did that evidence come from? Who changed the printer log?” Tracy asked, angrily. “And, who killed Edwardo?”
“Whoever it is was, they fooled the the Security Crew.” Said Roger.
“Tracy’s right.” Said Roland.” Someone changed the printer log and they must have known what they were doing because they also made it look like we killed Edwardo. They’re using information as a weapon.”
“I wonder if we can get through the hub somehow?” Joan asked out loud. “It’ll be watched, but if we did something clever, we could get through into the disc 5 spaceport. They wouldn’t expect us to go that way anyway.”
“They’ll be watching.” Said Tracy.
“We’ll make them watch something else.” Said Joan.
“What else would they care about?” Roger asked.
“Us.” Said Roland.
“Exactly!” Said Joan.
“Wait, what?” Asked Roger.
“We’ll make them think we’re in another location… to draw them away.”
“Which location?” Asked Tracy.
“All of them.” Said Joan. “Can you do it, Roland?”
“Yes. That’s brilliant. We’ll make them all think we’re breaking through all the checkpoints at the same time.”
“Except for the one we’re really breaking through, of course.” Said Roland.
“Then, they’ll still be watching it! What’s the point?”
“No they won’t. They’ll be racing to the other side of the hub to catch us.” Said Joan.
“Are you sure about that?”
“No.” Roland said.
“They’ll figure it out soon enough, won’t they?”
“If we do it right, they’ll spend more than a little time looking for us.”
“We won’t be where they’re looking, Roger.” Said Joan, answering a worried look on Roger’s face. “We’re going to trick their video feeds.”
“Can you do that, Roland?” Asked Roger.
“I think so.”
“Do you think he can, Tracy?” Roger asked.
“Yes. I do.” Tracy said.
“Joan?” Roger asked.
“Yes. I think he can too.” She said.
They were all quiet for a couple minutes, thinking.
“I’ll call Axel.” Roland finally said.
They all nodded and Roland reached his friend a few moments later. “Axel, we’ll meet you at the disc five space port, but I’m not exactly sure what time. We’ll figure it out and let you know.”
“Yea, sure. I’ll be docked. I’ll send the slip number to your dot. See ya soon, Rolo.”
“He calls you Rolo?” Asked Tracy.
“It’s short for Roland Oliver.” He replied. “We’ve got to get to the hub without being seen. Any ideas?”
“We all have flight packs. We can just fly there. We could do it at night so they can’t see us.”
“They have infrared cameras.” Said Joan.
“Well, how are we supposed to avoid those?” Asked Tracy?
“What about the hub elevators?” Asked Roger.
“They’ll be watching them. You’d never get inside.” Said Joan.
“But, if we can get into the maintenance shaft we can ride
on top of the elevator all the way to the hub.” Said Roger.
“You can? Do they they have security cameras there?” asked Roland.
“They don’t.” Said Roger.
“How do
you know?” Asked Joan.
“My dad built the elevators in disc four. That’s why I grew up here. I’ve been inside the shaft lots of times. I’ve ridden all the way to the top. They don’t have cameras or
I’d have been caught. But, we have to strap on. It’s a full 1/3G stopping force for the last couple kilometers. It’ll throw you off and you’d fall up to the hub. There’s an elevator at Platinum and two more at 120 and 240.”
“120?” Asked Roland.
“120 degrees. That’s near 4.21” Roger said.
“Is there a town there?” Asked Roland.
“No. It’s just a storage lot, some skimmers and the elevator. It’s about fifteen kilometers from here. Maybe a little more.”
“That’s a long way unless we fly.” Said Tracy.
“We can fly, we just need to be invisible.” Said Joan.
“How can we do that?” Asked Roland.
“By flying behind something, of course.” She said. “Like a delivery drone.”
“Ahh… brilliant!” Said Tracy.
“Can you route one here, Roland? When it gets here we can fly between it and the wall all the way to 4.21. Nobody would see us. Can you do it?”
“Sure, that’s easy. As long as we’re willing to forge an official equipment request and we order the right equipment, it will get delivered right to that platform.” He pointed up.
“How long will it take?”
“It depends on where it’s coming from and how long it takes us to figure out what to order.”
They worked on it together and finally found a gel energy cell replacement service that would deliver by drone. Roland forged an urgent, official request and soon a large drone was dispatched to collect the heavy cells and take them to the platform.
“The estimate says about two hours before it gets here.” Roland said.
The daylights were dimming outside and they huddled in the cave. It was cooling off a little and they ate the rest of the food they’d brought.
They chatted and worried together for hours but after a while Roland’s wrist dot flashed to indicate the drone was nearby.
“We’ve got to risk it.” Joan said.
“Let’s have a look first.” Said Tracy.
They moved to the edge of the cave and looked out. It was mostly dark.
“Why would they watch the platform anymore?” Asked Roland.
“Well, I don’t know. Because we were here?” S/he said.
“They already searched here. Why would we come back?” Roland persisted.
“I can see the drone over there. See those lights?” Said Joan. “Lets follow the wall up to the underside of the platform and over the edge on the near side.”
They all agreed and one by one they followed the course she suggested and flipped up over onto the platform a couple minutes before the drone landed there.

They flew to the drone and each attached their safety hooks to the side that faced the wall while it unloaded a box onto the platform. Then it suddenly lifted off the platform and began its return flight. They held on and watched the platform recede behind them.
“Will it take us to 4.21?” Roger asked.
“Better than that. They’re going to the hub, via the elevator.” Said Roland, smiling.

It didn’t take that long to reach the elevator at 4.21 and it was fully night by the time they arrived.
The drone landed in front of the elevator and signaled for it to open. They detached from and jogged toward a nearby stand of short trees.
“See that big column there, about forty meters away? That’s a door into the maintenance station for the elevator.”
“How do we open it?” Asked Roland.
“It isn’t locked.” Said Roger. “At least, it never was when I used to play here.”
“Lets find out.” Said Joan, and she ran across the open space and opened the door. It was darker than the night inside and she disappeared into the blackness. The other three followed her and Roger went last, closing the door behind them.

Roger pressed his wrist dot and it glowed strongly. He found a dusty switch on the wall and a long row of lights wound back into the rock wall and around a curve.
“After you.” Roger said with pride and motioned politely with his hand.
“Nice.” Tracy said and smiled.
Roger returned the smile and bowed his head slightly.

They walked through the tunnel as quickly as the low gravity would allow and made their way to a power control room. “This is close to the shaft, but we shouldn’t go this way. In case someone is watching.” Roger said.
“Which way then?” Tracy asked.
“Up.” He said and he started climbing up the wall by holding onto a conduit that disappeared into the darkness above. “Follow me for a while. Hold onto this.”
They climbed and when they reached the ceiling they followed him into a layer between two floors of the power station. It was full of conduits and it was dusty, but they managed to make their way through it. By the time they had gone fifty meters of this half-space they were covered in dust. Their mostly light blue maintenance suits were now almost completely black. Their faces looked dusty and the sweat pouring from their heads drizzled down and made them look ever worse.
“Through here.” He finally said and directed them through an open section of the wall onto a small platform inside the elevator shaft. One car was down below. “We’ve just got to drop down onto that car and wait for it to go to the top.” Roger said.
“Can you call the elevator to the top, Roger?” Asked Tracy.
“Yea. There’s a set of controls on top.” He answered.
“Won’t someone wonder why it went there unless there is someone inside?” S/he asked.
“They might if there was
nothing inside. But, there’s a load of batteries in the freight compartment. They won’t think twice about accepting a delivery.” Said Joan.

They dropped down from the ledge onto the top of the platform. They fly carefully to avoid hitting the walls. Once on top of the platform they attached their hooks to the safety railings.

There was a dusty utility console on top and Roland used to find out about the layout of the hub and the elevator’s upper terminal. Roger worked the elevator controls and it started its journey up. They suddenly felt like they weighed twice as much and it was hard to stand. After a few minutes the elevator reached its operating velocity and the feeling of normal spingravity returned.

Roland worked and the others rested or chatted with each other.
“What are you going to do, Roland?” Asked Joan.
“I’m gonna cut some camera feeds by adding a virtual device to their network with the same address. That will make them think we’re interfering, which, we are.” Roland answered
“How will that help?” Joan asked. “Isn’t that tipping them off?”
“We want them to be searching for us really hard.” He replied.
“Why?” Joan said.
“We want them searching really hard in the
wrong place.” Roland said.
“Ohhh. I see. What place?”
“Just about everywhere we aren’t.” Roland said.
“How will you do that?” She asked.
“I’m going to put a few surveillance cameras near each checkpoint into a test mode so they send false positive alerts.” He said.
“For each checkpoint?”
“All the checkpoints run through the same surveillance network, so they can share information. It isn’t as hard as it sounds. I just pick the cameras I want to ‘test.’” He said.
“Won’t they know something’s up?” She asked.
“They would if they knew, but I’m also going to cause deletion of the holographic encryption key for their surveillance channel too, so they won’t be able to send encrypted messages. They won’t be talking to each other, if that works.” He said.
“Won’t their security prevent you from deleting the key?”
“Oh, I won’t delete it. They will.”
“Why would they do that?”
“Because when I enable this hack, it will switch callbacks for ‘open connection’ and the key pair generator buttons. Unless they bother to check very closely, they’ll generate a new key pair as soon as they try to call on a secure channel. That works just as well as deleting it, because it will take them time to distribute the new key pair everywhere. And, they won’t know what happened at first, so it should buy us some time.”
“You’re a little scary, Roland.” Said Joan.
You have no idea.” Said Tracy, to Joan’s surprise.
Suddenly the elevator made a whining turbine noise as the brakes kicked in and they were suddenly hanging from their hook lines. The notion of “up” seemed foreign for a moment and they felt as though they were “falling down” toward the hub. After several minutes they floated back to the top of the car and it slowed and finally stopped.

“Wait!” Warned Roger. They did. They could hear the elevator doors opening and people talking inside. They could hear people removing the crates of gel power cells and then they heard the elevator doors close.
“Now, follow me.” Roger led them sideways to another small opening in the shaft wall. It was disorienting to look down a thirty-kilometer shaft, but they entered another dusty space adjacent to the other shaft. “This way.” Roger motioned for them to follow.

He led them through the half space, over conduits and through wiring harnesses and power lines. Finally they climbed down a wall similar to the one in the power control room at the bottom of the shaft. “We can wait here until we’re ready to move.” Roger said. “Nobody ever comes in here. Well, almost never.”

“Are you ready, Roland?”
“I am.”
“You guys ready to move? When it happens we’re going to have to move fast. You guys OK with flying indoors?” Joan asked. They all nodded yes.
“Lets check in with Axel.” Roland said and tapped his wrist dot.” You there, Axel?”
There was a pause during which they all held their breath. “I am, where are you?” Axel said.
“We’re close. Is your ship ready to go?” Roland asked.
“Yep, she’s all set. I’m in Slip 18L.” Axel said.
“Ok, I figure we’ll see you at your slip in about twenty minutes.” Roland said.
“I’ll be here.” Axel said.

Roland looked at the others and nodded. They all nodded.
“I’d say now’s the time.” Said Joan.
Roland tapped his wrist dot once, then a couple more times. He thumbed it and he said, “Meltdown.” His wrist dot turned blue. He looked up at them. “Now we wait.”
“How long.”
“Until whoever’s is watching the hub on the other side thinks they have us cornered and calls for backups.”
“Without their security network key?” Joan asked.
“They’ll just use their dots.”
He wrist dot flashed green twice and then back to blue. “They just lost their encryption key.” He said. I figure in just a couple minutes now they’re going to call for help on an unencrypted com link. We should go find a door.”
They made their way to what Roger indicated was the final door. Roger opened it slightly and peered outside. It was bright in the hub elevator plaza. He kept watching through the slightly opened door.
“Not yet.” He said.
They all breathed quietly. The minutes passed slowly.
Then from the left came a skimmer with three helmeted security officers. They were talking urgently to each other and they zipped past the door less than 20 meters away.
They disappeared around a corner to the right.
“Now.” Said Roger and he opened the door.
They all moved out into the open space. It was empty except for a cleaning crew on the other side, who took no notice of four dusty maintenance workers coming out of the elevator maintenance door.
“This way.” Said Roger and led them through the plaza and finally through the pressure barriers into the interdisc tunnel that led to the disc five spaceport. “This way.” He kicked off the ground and flew horizontal to the floor. The others followed and they sped through the tunnel way too fast to be safe. But, they flew well and quickly covered the ten kilometers between discs in twenty minutes. They stopped a few hundred meters short of the opposite end.
“Do you think there are officers on this end?” Asked Tracy.
“I doubt it.” Said Joan. But, just in case… is there any other way into the spaceport from this tunnel?” She asked.
“There’s the ventilation ducting.” Said Roger and he pointed up.
“Where’s it come out?” Asked Tracy.
“All over. But, we can get out in the storage bays. There are so many, even if they were looking for us it they wouldn’t know where we came out.”
They followed him into the ventilation ducts and they made their way through several turns. Roger seemed to know his way and after another few minutes they opened an access panel and pulled themselves to the ground between two shipping crates that were attached to the floor. “Slip 18L should be this way…” Roger led them through the docks and they finally arrived at the slip. The umbilical access tube hung loosely in the gravity-free spaceport. Roland pulled himself over to it and tapped a button on it. The end opened and he climbed inside. The others followed. He pulled himself along and opened the hatch on the other end.
“Ho there, Axel!” Roland said as he opened the door.
“Ho there, Rolo! You made it! Come on in!” Axel said.
Axel watched as one by one the dusty and sweaty fugitives pulled themselves into the small tug. When they were in he said, “Well it isn’t big, but it’s mine.” He smiled. Nobody smiled back.
“Can you get us out of Rose World?” Asked Roland.
“Well, yes. You mean right now?”
“Yes.” They all said at the same time.
“OK. OK. Lemme just…” he tapped a few buttons on his console and the umbilical detached. They heard a loud pair of clunks in quick succession. Then they felt the engines come on and the ship pulled away from the slip.

“We’re off.” Said, Axel. I need to fly for a while, but I’ll be with you when I can. There’s two bunks. I leave it up to you to decide who gets them. Sorry, the cargo hold is full up. I’ll… just stay in here. I can sleep anywhere.” He turned around and began maneuvering the ship away from the spaceport. The interior lights dimmed to make piloting easier.

They all looked at each other. They were dusty and sweaty. They sighed in relief and for a moment they just breathed and looked at the inside of the ship.

Tracy looked inside one of the two small rooms, then the other. “I call top bunk.” S/he said and disappeared into the first room.
Joan got up and went into the other room. “I call top bunk.” She said and disappeared inside.
Roger and Roland looked at each other. Despite being exhausted, and in need of a towel bath, they were in no hurry to choose rooms.
Roland spoke first. “Thanks for getting us here. I never knew your dad helped build the elevators.”
“It never mattered before.” Roger said.
“Well you were heroic today, Roger. I don’t know what we would have done without you.”
“Probably just more console magic.” Roger said dismissively.
“It’s not magic.” Roland said.
“I know. Sorry, Roland. I’m glad you know that console magic or it wouldn’t have mattered that I knew about the elevators. You’re the hero today, I think.”
Roland hated praise. “We got here, everybody helped.”
“Yea.” Said Roland and they floated in silence. The ship changed course and they were lightly pinned to the wall. They were too tired to fight it and sat there against the wall of the ship, upside down with respect to each other with their heads about an arm’s length apart.

“I like Tracy.” Said Roger.
“Yea? Me too. Tracy is really smart. Tracy showed me how to make a printer print a printer last week.” Roland said and for a few moments he didn’t look exhausted.
“I like Tracy
a lot.” Roger said. They both looked at the room Tracy had chosen.
“So, you’ve picked a room then?” Roland asked and realize it would mean he’d be bunking with Joan his heart thrilled.
“No.” Roger said.
“Oh.” Roland sat there. “Why not just take the room with Tracy?”
“I’m kind of afraid to find out…” Roger said.
“About Tracy?”
“About me. I already know how I feel about Tracy. I just don’t know what that means about me.”
“I don’t get it.” Said Roland.
“If Tracy is a guy… see, my Dad was kind of a homophobe.” Roger said.
“So, if Tracy is a guy, you won’t be attracted anymore?” Roland asked.
“No, that’s just it.
I already am attracted. Now I’m trapped on this little ship and I can either sleep in a room with Tracy… or just be safe, you know?”
“Yea. What about Joan? Don’t you like her? She is sooo beautiful, don’t you think?” Roland said and then he remembered he was talking to Roger and looked at him again.
“Joan’s unavailable and mean. She’s always teasing me. I’ll bet she pulls the legs off spiders.” Roger said dismissively.
“So, why don’t you sleep in Joan’s room?” Said Roland, and he thought to himself, “B
ecause I will die of temptation if I sleep in the same room with her for twelve days.” Roland didn’t say.
“So, then it’s settled? You sleep in Tracy’s room and I’ll sleep in Joan’s room.” Said Roger.
“Yea. Probably best.” Said Roland, but inside some part of him immediately regretted the arrangement and his head hurt. “OK, I’m going to bed now.” Said Roger he pushed off the wall and floated toward Joan’s room, opened the door and went in, closing it behind him.
Roland pushed off and went over to Tracy’s room and knocked on the door.
“Just a sec!” Tracy said from inside the small room. Then a few moments later s/he said “Come in.”
Roland opened the door and went in.

Joan was nestled in her sleeping sack, finally warm and comfortable. She’d cleaned up a little with a towel and was drifting off to sleep. Roger undressed in the low light. His flight suit’s many clasps made clicking noises as he released them. She opened her eyes slightly and watched his silhouette. He was more than just fit, he had an extraordinary physique, which was especially unusual in Rose World because the low gravity meant people didn’t need as much muscle strength. Her eyes were open only a tiny bit and she breathed slowly and evenly as if she was asleep, but she wasn’t. Some part of her felt so tempted… but another part tried to say ‘No’. She shifted in her bag and covertly watched him undress and clean up with his towel. He stretched a few times and she could not keep the slits of her eyes off his naked, perfect body. She loved the way his body looked: his muscles, his legs, his ass, his arms. She could imagine those arms around her. Finally he climbed into his sleeping sack. She lost herself in a quiet but intense fantasy and then fell asleep.

The room Tracy and Roland shared had no bunks. Tracy was suspended in a sack on one wall. S/he had been joking about the bunks. He wondered if Joan had been in on the joke.

There was a free sack on the other wall. “It’s OK, I’ll close my eyes.” Tracy said, closing hir eyes with obvious emphasis.
“I’ll return the favor.” Said Roland, politely. He got undressed, cleaned himself with a towel and climbed into his sack.
“Are you covered up?” Tracy asked.
“Yes, thanks.”
“Sleep well.” Tracy said.
“Sleep well.” Roland echoed.

Roland was tired, but he couldn’t fall asleep right away. He listened to the sounds of the ship. He felt the ship shift whenever Axel adjusted its course. He thought about the day and wondered whether he’d be able to recover a copy of his software project from the 4.27 data center. It was probably going to be confiscated as evidence and he’d never get any of it back. This made him feel sad. He had hoped that this was the beginning of a new mind, but it had only become a talking inference engine. “
It crashes if you ask it what it wants.” He mocked himself with his critical voice. The thought in his mind as he drifted into sleep was whether this program was his last and final one. His first dream was of his funeral and a room full of people laughing at his ridiculous life achievement, that crashes when you ask what it wants.

Everyone on the ship woke up at almost the same moment when the ship accelerated suddenly and forcefully. Axel had maneuvered the ship out of Rose world’s hub spaceport and cleared the perimeter control area around it. At the low speeds allowed for interior flight and the spaceport exit protocols the journey that was little over forty kilometers took more than four hours.

The thrustgravity was much stronger than the spingravity of Rose World. Roland looked over and Tracey was blinking but awake. “You first.” Tracy said and disappeared back into the sleeping sack, head hidden. S/he let out a long, sensuous sigh while hidden in hir sleeping sack.
Roland got out of his sleeping sack. It took a lot of effort. Roland was glad he had been getting more fit by playing soccer with Roger. He looked at his old clothes. They were so dirty that he couldn’t imagine putting them on. He opened some shelves and found some of Axel’s clothes. He put on a pair of pants and a short shirt. Everything was too big, but it was clean. “
I wish I had a toothbrush.” He thought to himself. “The room’s yours.” He said. He opened the door, pulled himself out, and shut the door after him.

Roland pulled himself forward to where Axel was sitting. “Where are we?”
“We’re on our way to Outpost 102.” Axel said.
“What’s that?”
“It’s a place where we can stock up on supplies. “ Axel said. Then he noticed what Roland was wearing. “Nice clothes.”
“Thanks. Can we get clothes there?”
“Of course. And more food. We’ve got plenty of water and the ship recycles it. We use our waste for fuel.”
“Your ship flies on shit?” Roland asked.
“Why not? Would you rather I recycled it into your dinner?” Axel replied.
“No.” Roland’s stomach growled.
“You sleep OK?”
“Yea. Sleeping in Rose World has been hard.” Roland said.
“So, are you going to tell me why you and these three are
escaping from Rose World?” Axel asked.
“Well… uhh…”
“Hey, it’s
me, Rolo. You can tell me. Whatever it is.” Axel assured him.
“We… found something. Something that shouldn’t be there.”
“Yea?” Axel said, intrigued.
“And, we told our manager. And someone killed him. Now they think we killed him and all of Rose World’s security force is looking for us.” Roland finished.
Axel just stared at him. Then he laughed. “Rolo, you don’t have to make up shit like that! We’ll have more than enough to reach Jane’s World!” He laughed some more. “So, what then? You’re all going to the ‘Moon Down’ show in Jane’s World next month? Where’s your gear?” Axel asked still laughing.
Roland wondered if he should let Axel believe they were just escaping for a party on Jane’s World. It was a lot more plausible than the conspiracy theory he’d have to explain.
Axel continued. “I’ve been to Moon Down. It’s
a lot more than just a big party. You’re going to have a great time!”
“We’re not going to Moon Down.” Said Roland.
“No? What then?” Asked Axel.
“We’re running, Axel.” Roland replied.
“Yea, I can tell. I’m just trying to figure out what from.” Axel said.
“I told you.” Roland insisted.
“What, the story about your
murdered boss? They think you did it? You? Roland Oliver?”
“Yes, with Joan. And, the other two as accomplices.” Roland confirmed.
“That’s ridiculous. You’re a complete pacifist. You won’t kill bugs!” Axel demanded.
“No, I just fix them out of existence.” Roland said and tried to smile.
“Funny. I just mean: I know you didn’t kill anyone, Rolo. So, I’m back to my question:
why are you running?”
Roland recounted the events of the previous day, including the fabrication of the logs and the other so-called evidence that so clearly implicated them. Axel listened and occasionally changed course slightly, but kept the acceleration at a steady ½ G.
“So who did it? And why?” Asked Axel. “I love you man, but
nobody would go to this much trouble to frame you. It just doesn’t make any sense.”
“It’s because of that little network tap I found up on that platform.” Said Roland.
“Maybe the cable was too short and they just connected two shorter ones together. Did you think of that?”
“Actually, no.” Roland said. Then he added, ”Because they wouldn’t do that. This was on a network platform. It was on a primary node. They have enough long cables, I think.” Roland said thoughtfully.

While Roland and Axel talked in the cabin, Joan woke up and climbed out of her bag. She picked up Roger’s shirt and hung it over the mirror. “Ugh…. Blech!” She said. She started opening some drawers and boxes and found a one-piece jumpsuit and some thermal underwear. She put them on. There was no bra and she didn’t even want to touch the dusty, sweaty one she’d worn the day before.” She zipped up the jump suit and turned around. Roger was looking at her with his eyes wide open.
“Well, Good mooooorning!” Said Joan, obviously annoyed.
“Uhh… Good” He started to say.
“Oh!” She felt ready to scream at him for watching her get dressed. “You could have said something!”
“Sorry! I just opened my eyes and you were already there, getting dressed. I wasn’t even sure if I was awake yet or still dreaming. Really!” He tried to explain.
“I’m not part of your dreams!” She yelled.
“I know! I’m sorry! I’ll… damn it! I’ve been awake for like two minutes and you’re screaming at me. Will you give me a break? I just woke up…” He closed his eyes and hoped he could wake up again to something different. He heard the door slam and knew it would not be so.

Joan entered the cabin just as Roland and Axel were laughing.
“Good morning… I think. Is it ever morning in space?” Asked Joan in an annoyed voice.
“Did you sleep OK?” Axel asked Joan.
She just stared at him and didn’t answer.
“We’re on our way to Station 102 for supplies.” Said Roland.
Outpost 102. We’ll be there in a few hours.” Axel looked at Joan in his jumpsuit and was moved by the way it didn’t fit her.
She sensed his eyes on her and it was just another harsh reminder to her of the Joan Field. She hated it. She fumed while she stared out the window at Rose World receding behind the ship.

There was an uncomfortable silence during which Roland wrestled with his mind and lost. Axel realized how much he missed having a girlfriend. Joan wondered why all men seemed to fall under a spell that robbed her of mattering.
A few minutes later Tracy entered the cabin. “Hey there.” Tracy said. Looking around s/he settled into an open spot on the other side of the cabin.
It was uncomfortable in the small ship. Just then Roger opened the door. He was completely naked. He pulled himself into the cabin. “Hey, Axel, do you mind if I use some of your clothes?” Roger asked.
“Uh, sure. You know, we have an intercom in the room, man.” Said Axel.
“It’s OK. I don’t care.” Said Roger.
“Is that supposed to make
me feel better?” Joan asked, now even more annoyed.
“You’re a bomb that went off. That doesn’t make be bad or wrong. And it doesn’t make me ashamed of my body either.” Roger said.
“Well thanks, I really
do feel better now.” She replied with molasses sarcasm she’d refined over the last few years, but saved for rare moments like this one.
“Apparently, I’m supposed to be blind while she’s getting dressed.” Said Roger to everyone else.
“I agree.” Said Roland. “You should close your eyes.”
“I agree too.” Said Tracy.
“I am really just flying this ship right now. Look out for that roooooock!” Said Axel trying to make a joke. They were in an empty region and there would be no need for maneuvers for half an hour.
Joan flipped around and stared at Roland and Tracy, who were obviously serious.
Then she looked back toward Roger, but not at him.
“OK, I’ll close my eyes.” Roger said.
“And no around naked!” Joan added.
“So, I have to wear clothes because you say so?” Roger asked.
“No, you have to wear clothes because
I say so.” Said Axel. “So, please help yourself to some of mine until we get to Outpost 102, OK?”
Joan turned around to face Axel. She paused and then said “Thanks.” But she was so angry when she said it couldn’t help but also sound sarcastic. She wished it hadn’t.
“OK.” Roger said. He pulled himself back into his room and put on some of Axel’s clothes. They were a little too small, which made him bulge through them comically. “
Great, at least I won’t look like a fucking gorilla.” His critical voice shouted inside his head. He pulled his shirt off the mirror and looked at his face, but it was his father’s voice he heard… “You’re a meathead!” It would say.
I’m not a meathead.” He said aloud to the mirror. He put on his springy shoes. He’d designed them to be the best indoor 1/3G soccer shoes in the Belt. “I’ll never get the printer specs back from 4.27.” He realized suddenly. These shoes are all that’s left. They do look nice…

Roger returned to the cabin.
“Listen up!” Axel said a minute later. “Anyone ever been to Outpost 102 before? No? Well, it isn’t like Rose World.”
“Can we get supplies?” Asked Roger.
“Yes, but you’ll need some kind of currency. Or, something scarce.” Axel said.
“We don’t have anything like that.” Said Roland.
“Well, that’s not really true. You have four flight packs. Those are worth quite a bit, actually.” Axel said.
“We might need those.” Said Joan.
“Well, its OK. I have some currency.” Replied Axel.
“How do you get currency?” Asked Roland.
“I deliver things. I’m not a good enough pilot to be a rock hunter yet.”
“What kind of rocks do you plan to you hunt for?” Asked Tracy.
“No, I’m not a prospector! I’m a pilot. Rock hunter is what they call pilot escorts who guide ships through the dangerous sections of the belt. It’s what my dad did.” Axel explained.
“So, you deliver things and people give you currency? Doesn’t that work against the belt’s shared needs system?” Asked Tracy.
“Yea, I guess, but the shared needs system doesn’t work with scarce things, just plentiful things.”
“You’re still undermining the system.” Roland said.
“The people I help don’t see it that way. I think there’s room for both systems.” Axel said.
“Currency can be copied.” Roland said.
“Not this currency.” Axel said.
“Why not?” Roland asked.
“It’s just information. It isn’t physical. It can’t be copied.” Axel explained.
“All information can be copied.” Said Roland, defiantly.
“You’re wrong there, I think: I’ve heard that artificial minds can’t be copied, and neither can this currency, because it’s just an idea distributed across a dozen compute cores in different places. Without a coordinated effort, the copy can’t be made.”
“Cryptocurrencies have been around a long time.” Said Joan. “I’m surprised you didn’t know that, Roland.”
“You’ve used currency?” Asked Roland, surprised.
“Of course.” She said. “You haven’t?”
“No. It’s against the rules. Nobody used currency at Green Davis.” He replied. Then he looked at Axel. “I never thought you’d turn into a criminal after you left Green Davis”.
“Currency isn’t a crime, Roland. And I’m not a criminal. And just because you never saw people use currency didn’t mean they didn’t use it. Plenty of people at Green Davis did.” Axel finished.
“It might not be a crime, but it is against the way things work.” Insisted Roland.
is the way things work, Roland.” Replied Axel, but he was kind in how he said it.
Roland looked at Joan. She nodded ‘Yes’. He looked at Roger who nodded as well. Tracy shrugged to say s/he didn’t like it but it was true.
Roland’s heart sank. “It feels wrong.” Said Roland. “The shared needs system worked at Green Davis.”
“What works for five hundred people doesn’t work for a hundred thousand.” Axel said.
“So, what? You think we should live like the people in the bubbles? Pay for everything? Rich and poor people and all that?” Roland asked in disbelief.
“No! I’m not a neocapitalist! I’m just saying that the shared needs doesn’t work for things that are scarce. Currency is better than rationing.” Axel said.
“But not fairer.” Roland said.
“What’s fair about having no chance? At least with currency you could decide to give up more of it if you wanted it more. Price is what desire looks like.” Axel said. “Eliminating currency denies ourselves.”
Roland looked at the others. “It’s against the rules.”
“What rules?” Asked.
Roland didn’t answer but he looked glumly outside the ship at the endlessness about the tiny ship.
“You’re not breaking any rules, Roland.” Axel assured him. “Everyone uses currency sometimes. It’s OK. Really.”
Roland looked like he was ready to cry. He felt like something precious had been taken from him, but he couldn’t say what it was. “I guess I thought everywhere else was like Green Davis.” Roland admitted quietly.
“Well, you should be glad it isn’t, Roland! Remember why you left?” Axel said.
“Maybe I shouldn’t have.” Roland said.
“Nah. It was time. You weren’t happy.” Axel insisted.
“I feel lost.” Roland said.
“You won’t always. You’ll see.” Axel said.

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