Exit Strategy (The Murderbot Diaries #4) - Martha Wells

Chapter One

WHEN I GOT BACK to HaveRatton Station, a bunch of humans tried to kill me. Considering how much I’d been thinking about killing a bunch of humans, it was only fair.

Ship was on approach and I was waiting impatiently to pick up HaveRatton’s feed. Since Ship was a minimum capacity bot pilot and had all the brains and personality of a heat shield generator, I was also monitoring all its inputs and caught the navigation alert when it came in. (I knew Ship wouldn’t betray me intentionally, but the chance of it doing so unintentionally was resting at a solid 84 percent.)

The alert was from HaveRatton’s Port Authority, and ordered Ship to divert away from its usual slot in the private commercial docks to another section at the end of the public passenger embarkation zone.

I still had the schematic of HaveRatton from when I had boarded Ship here on the way to Milu. I could see that section of the embarkation zone was right next to the PA’s docks, where the deployment point for the station’s security response team was.

Oh, that’s not suspicious at all.

Was it about me? Maybe, probably? Ship had carried Wilken and Gerth, who had been sent to sabotage GoodNightLander Independent’s attempt to reclaim GrayCris’ abandoned terraforming facility, so it might be about them. Wilken and/or Gerth were hopefully being held by GI somewhere now, and GI might have requested HaveRatton do a routine search for evidence.

It didn’t matter. If there was anybody waiting for Ship, I couldn’t be aboard when it docked.

I could direct Ship to a different dock but that wasn’t a great idea. The PA would not only know someone aboard had done it, but that that someone was riding a bot-piloted cargo transport whose feed manifest said it was currently traveling without crew or passengers and was on minimal life-support. Even stations as big and heavily armed as HaveRatton had to be careful of anomalous approaches that might turn out to be raiders attempting to board. (It would be a stupid attempt, since Ship couldn’t carry enough raiders to do anything but die messily in the embarkation zone, but I’d spent my entire life on security contracts trying to stop humans from similar catastrophic stupidity.) It might worry the station command enough that they would fire on Ship. Ship might be unresponsive but it was doing its best and I didn’t want it hurt.

So it was a good thing I still had the evac suit.

I’d used it to escape Abene’s shuttle after the combat bot attack—another thing that had happened that I wished I could delete from my memory. (Deleting memories like that doesn’t work. I can delete things from my data storage, but not from the organic parts of my head. The company had purged my memory a few times, including my whole mass murder incident, and the images hung around like ghosts in an endless historical family drama serial.)

(I like endless historical family drama serials, but in real life, ghosts are way more annoying.)

Earlier when I was getting ready for station arrival, I had packed the evac suit into a supply locker. I figured since Ship seldom ran passengers along with cargo, it would be a long time before somebody finally noticed it wasn’t on inventory and actually checked its docs and registrations. Now I started unpacking it, fast.

I really didn’t want to get caught.

I stuffed my bag under my jacket and got the suit on and activated. As Ship made its docking maneuver and eased up on the designated slot, I cycled through the cargo module airlock on the opposite side. Ship’s drones gathered to watch me, confused as to why I was going out the wrong door and beeping sadly about it. As Ship locked on to the station, I slipped out the airlock and sent a close and seal request. As I pulled myself along Ship’s outer skin, I deleted the last few bits of me from its memory.

Bye, Ship. You were there when it counted.

If a report of what had happened on Milu had gone out on a faster transport (Ship’s progress was leisurely at best) then it could have easily beat me here. They might know that a SecUnit had come to Milu, saved some humans, failed to save a human form bot, killed the shit out of three combat bots, and that Ship was the only transport who had left Milu right after all that happened.

Me not being aboard when they searched, with no sign