Rogue Protocol (The Murderbot Diaries #3) - Martha Wells Page 0,1

assembled chair barricades, all tried to chime in, and there was more pointing and shouting. This was typical. (If it wasn’t for the shows I download from the entertainment feed, I would have thought the only way most humans knew how to communicate was by pointing and shouting.)

The objective twenty-six cycles of the journey had felt like a subjective two hundred and thirty, at least. I had tried to distract them. I had copied all my visual media into Transport’s passenger-accessible system so it could be played on all their display surfaces, which at least kept the crying to a minimum (for children and adults). And, granted, the fighting had decreased dramatically after the first time I pinned someone to a wall with one hand and established a clear set of rules. (Rule Number One: do not touch Security Consultant Rin.) But even that usually left me standing there helplessly listening to their problems and their grievances against each other, against various corporations they had been fucked over by (yeah, tell me about it), and against existence in general. Yes, listening to it was excruciating.

Today, I said, “I don’t care.”

Everybody shut up again.

I continued, “We have, at most, six hours left before this transport will dock. After that, you can do whatever you want to each other.”

That didn’t work, they still had to tell me about what had caused the latest fight. (I don’t remember what it was, I deleted it from memory as soon as I could get out of the room.)

They were all annoying and deeply inadequate humans, but I didn’t want to kill them. Okay, maybe a little.

A SecUnit’s job is to protect its clients from anything that wants to kill or hurt them, and to gently discourage them from killing, maiming, etc., each other. The reason why they were trying to kill, maim, etc., each other wasn’t the SecUnit’s problem, it was for the humans’ supervisor to deal with. (Or to willfully ignore until the whole project devolved into a giant clusterfuck and your SecUnit prayed for the sweet relief of a massive accidental explosive decompression, not that I’m speaking from experience or anything.)

But here on this transport, there was no supervisor, just me. And I knew where they were going, and they knew where they were going, even if they were pretending all their anger and frustration was caused by Vinigo or Eva taking an extra simulated fruit pac. So I listened to them a lot and pretended to be launching major investigations into incidents like who left a cracker wrapper in the galley restroom sink.

They were heading to a labor installation on some shitshow world. Ayres told me they had all sold their personal labor for a twenty-year hitch, with a big payout at the end. He was aware it was a terrible deal, but it was better than their other options. The labor contract included shelter, but charged a percentage for everything else, like food consumed, energy use, and any medical care, including preventative.

(I know. Ratthi had said using constructs was slavery but at least I hadn’t had to pay the company for my repair, maintenance, ammo, and armor. Of course, nobody had asked me if I wanted to be a SecUnit, but that’s a whole different metaphor.)

(Note to self: look up definition of metaphor.)

I had asked Ayres if the twenty years was measured by the planetary calendar or the proprietary calendar of the corporation who maintained the planet, or the Corporation Rim Recommended Standard, or what? He didn’t know, and hadn’t understood why it mattered.

Yeah, that was why I was trying not to get attached to any of them.

I would never have picked this transport if I had a choice, but it had been the only one going to the transit station that was the connection to my next destination. I was trying to get to a place called Milu, outside the Corporation Rim.

I had made the decision after I left RaviHyral. At first, I had needed to move fast and put as much distance between myself and its transit station as possible. (See above, murdered humans.) I’d grabbed the first friendly cargo transport and after a seven-cycle trip I disembarked on a crowded transit hub, which was good, because crowds were easy to get lost in, and bad, because there were humans and augmented humans everywhere, all around me, looking at me, which was hell. (After meeting Ayres and the others, obviously my definition of hell changed.)

Also, I missed ART, and