‘Open the door,’ she said.

‘Do not open that door,’ said the Captain.

‘It’s safe,’ said the scavenger. ‘The toxins and nanospores have bee neutralised – as long as you stick to the green spaces.’


‘Shut up, private.’

‘She’s not wearing a helmet,’ said Corporal Ong. The Captain shot him a venomous look.

‘Nanospores,’ she said. ‘Total War-tech. That scavenger’s dead.’

‘But – what about the plants?’

The Captain ignored this question and turned to the woman at comms.

‘Get me regimental.’

‘That won’t work,’ said the scavenger.

After a few seconds of effort, the comms-operator grunted.

‘She’s right, sir. We seem to be locked out of the system.’

‘How?’ This was impossible, the captain knew: the line to regimental was a hardwire, running deep underground and with active defences against nanotech. The redundancies for the redundancies had redundancies. It should not be possible to sabotage it without setting off a dozen alarms. She looked at the scavenger. ‘Who the Hell are you? Where are you from?’

‘My name is Alice,’ she said. ‘I was born in Freetown Habitation, and four months ago I was banished for stealing from a citizen. Wrongly, by the way.’

‘No. I don’t care about the sob-story of a dead criminal. Who are you?’

‘Are you from the Mountain?’ asked Corporal Ong.

‘No,’ she said. ‘But I stand with them. We fight for the liberation of humanity, Corporal Ong.’

‘Cut the external microphone,’ hissed the Captain.

‘You can’t,’ said Alice.

‘She’s right,’ said the comms operator. ‘We’re completely locked out.’

‘Hell,’ said the Captain, turning white. ‘Hell. Check the door systems. No – everyone – suit up. If she can—’

‘Do you know what has happened to Sergeant Booker, Alice?’

‘Corporal, if you speak one more word to that thing I will have you shot.’

‘I’m sorry,’ said Alice. ‘He’s dead.’

Everyone,’ said the Captain, ‘put on your survival suits. If she can control our comms, she can control our doors.’

‘Fine,’ said Alice. ‘I told her that just asking wouldn’t work. Get ready for a breath of the freshest air you’ve ever tasted.’

‘Oh, Hell,’ said the Captain, as she fiddled with her neck-seal. The light on the external door switched to yellow, indicating that the outer part of the airlock was open.

Corporal Ong didn’t bother with the suit. If this woman could gain control of a patrol base so easily, how was a survival suit supposed to help? This was Total War-tech.

But, still: nanotech couldn’t stop a bullet.


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