Captain Petty nodded

“Captain Petty nodded. "Major Mwarabu and his crew will remain on the Miyari and begin repairs." She turned toward the ship’s commander. "Sir, are you able to reattach the engine casing to the hull?"

"We can," Mwarabu said. "And there are other repairs to perform. They will take three or four days. But we’ll still need that azoth heart, or we’d be repairing a relic."

"We’ll get you that heart," Petty said. "I’ll lead my company to Corpus City. It’s only a few kilometers away. We’ll assist the colonists who sent out the Mayday, then delve into the mines. We’ll find that heart. And then we’ll blast off this rock."

As the officers walked back toward the Miyari , Ben-Ari looked over her shoulder. Osiris still stood by the dislodged engine, gazing right at her. The android’s lavender eyes glowed, and for the first time, Ben-Ari realized that Osiris’s eyes were the color of scum miasma. The android smiled thinly at her and nodded. Ben-Ari looked away.


They walked across the black landscape under the red sky, heading toward the city.

The company had lost a third of its warriors in the crash. An entire platoon had been wiped out, slain in their shuttle on the way down to Corpus. The remaining three platoons—two of the STC, one from Earth—had suffered losses as well. The survivors of Latona Company, one hundred and thirty-three of them, now trudged across the wilderness, geared for war.

Marco walked in his squad, carrying his supplies and weapons. His canteen, magazines of bullets, gas mask, flashlight, first aid kit, assault rifle, helmet, grenades, bayonet, and pack full of battle rations rattled as he walked, weighing down on him. He was thankful that the gravity here was slightly lower than on Earth. In addition to their usual supplies, his platoon had taken new pieces of technology from the Miyari. Headsets now fit into their helmets, allowing them to communicate through an earbud and microphone. Marco had to nudge Addy and tell her to shut off her mic; he could hear her breathing—and occasionally cursing—through it.

There were twelve privates in their squad, down from fourteen, following squad leader Corporal Diaz through the darkness. Two other squads of earthlings walked alongside, all still in their drab fatigues. They held their guns before them, magazines loaded, ready to fire at any scum that should emerge.

And there were plenty of hiding places for scum here on Corpus. Here was a landscape of canyons, cracks, boulders, hills, valleys, and mesas. The rocks and soil were black or charcoal, and a sickly red light shone on everything, reflecting off the gas giant above. Marco kept seeking some hint of blue or black sky, but Indrani was too large, hundreds of times larger than Corpus. They were like a speck of dust hovering around a bloated head.

Lailani walked on the other side of the squad, nearly vanishing beneath her pile of weapons and supplies, and her helmet covered her head like a pot. She looked like a little boy who had dressed in his father’s uniform. Marco walked toward her. He wanted to speak to her, to make amends. He had not spoken to her alone since Kemi’s arrival. Lailani had been avoiding him since, and he knew that she was hurt.

I want to apologize for all this, Marco thought. To tell you I love you, Lailani.

Before he could reach her, Addy rushed up to block his way.

"Hey, Poet," she said. "How many scum you reckon you can kill? I bet I can kill more."

"I’m sure you can." He tried to walk past her.

Addy skipped forward, blocking his way again. "Come, on, Poet, show some spirit! Try to compete. We’ll count our kills." She snarled. "Come on, show me your war face!"

He sighed. "Addy, I’m a drafted librarian. I don’t have a war face."

"Sure you do! Try it. Like this." She snarled, her entire face going into it, and raised her fists. "Roar!"

She was scared, Marco knew. She always resorted to bravado when scared.

"Addy, Beast was saying how Russian girls can kill more scum than Canadian girls."”