Facing five Hunter ships surrounding the entrance to the Ceres mining station, Riss makes her decision.
“Well,” Enoch said, a note of urgency in his voice, “what do we do now?”
Riss stared calmly at the viewscreen. Five ships faced them. Four were those she knew well. The Sagittarius, the oldest, could not match the Artemis’s speed or shields. Gennaji could not use any nuclear weapons this close to allies, unless he wanted all of them to lose power as well as bathe all of Ceres in a wave of radiation.
The Corvus looked like it’d seen better days. Recent damage was still visible on its left side and rear. Idly, Riss wondered if it were captive, and not ally. Athene and Haephestis, she knew could not best the Artemis on their own.
But it was five against one. She didn’t like those odds. As strong as Artemis was, the battle wouldn’t last long. Especially with the Pleiades at point.
Surrender herself, or be destroyed. A simple ultimatum.
“If you do give yourself up, you know he’ll just destroy us anyway,” Sanvi pointed out.
Riss nodded. “Probably they’ll try, at least.”
She sat back. Five more minutes to make a decision.
“Coop, are you sure one of those ships has ditrium on it?”
“Yes. And that’s the fourth time you’ve asked me, Riss.”
She sighed. Ditrium. She’d gone all the way to Transneptunian to find ditrium, in the hopes she could do for Mars what Sergey had done for Luna.
And make a tidy profit, naturally. But somehow now money didn’t seem as important.
Not important at all, she realized. Not to her. Not to her crew. But to Gennaji—
“Coop,” she said. “Do you know the chemical composition of gold?”
“What kind of question is that?” the geist responded, offended. “How could I ever call myself a geologist if I didn’t—”
He gasped, then grinned.
“Do you think you could give a demonstration for our friends out there?”
She could swear a slightly wicked gleam entered his eyes.
“As the Russians say, ‘When money speaks, the truth stays silent’,” he said with a grin.
Riss laughed. “And as the Sufis say, ‘Three things ruin a person: greed, envy, and pride.’ Let’s see if we can go for all three.”
“You’ve been reading my mind,” the geist said shaking his head. “I’ll never get used to that.”
She shrugged. That was, probably, what both of them had actually done inadvertently. Which apparently they could all do, if they concentrated hard enough. She needed to rely on that new ability now, more than ever.
“Enoch,” she ordered, “inform Sagittarius that I’ll meet them on Ceres to surrender myself. In the meantime,” she pivoted to Sanvi and Coop, “we need to find that ditrium. Coop, you need to put your heads together. Let Sanvi and Enoch know as much as you know about the composition of various heavy metals; copper, silver, gold, even iron and lead.”
She unstrapped herself from the command chair and swam to the corridor exit. “You may need to merge again.”
“Merge?” asked the geist. He looked back and forth from Sanvi to Enoch.
The navigator shrugged. “Good a term as any, I guess.”
“When you’re done, join me on Ceres,” Riss said from the exit. “I’ll return the Hopper to you once I get close enough.”
“But then how will you—” Sanvi queried. “Ah.”
Riss laughed. It’d been a while since she felt free, despite the risk. Despite the danger.
It felt good.
She stuck her head back into the command center and pointed at her ear. “Use the helmet comm to keep in touch. I feel like going for a walk.”
Next: Bringer of Light, Chapter 29: Ceres – Weng. Sam wonders (not for the last time) how he got involved and what his role is.