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at all about the person doing the coding, until another set of codes was
visualized to reset the software.
The problem was that you needed to have a clear and highly disciplined mind to
be able to pull the visualization trick off. At the moment, all six of the
MARS Marines were somewhat less than clear in the mental department. Not only
were their minds sluggish with alcohol, but under the influence of the nano
activators in their drinks they were having trouble focusing on anything with
much clarity or discipline, much less memorized strings of alphanumeric
 Wait a sec, Chu said. He was standing still, eyes closed, arms outstretched.
 I almost have it& .
They waited, expectant.
 No. I guess I don t.
 Someone write the code down. We can focus on that.
 No& no&  Colver said.  I ve got it. Yeah! There& .
She was silent for a moment, as the other Marines waited.  C mon, c mon,
Gonzales said.  We gotta move!& 
 Okay, Colver said.  Dock 27 is that way.
 I coulda told you that, Chu said miserably.
 And I have the recall coming through. Shit. I think we re all gonna be AWOL.
They passed the word at
1830 hours. We were supposed to check in at 2000.
Absent without leave meant NJP for sure. The six of them had checked out at
Samar s quarterdeck at
1800 hours, and switched off the company AI minutes after that. It was now
just past 2300 hours, three hours after they were supposed to be back on
 Well, let s get the hell back there, then, Ramsey said.  We ll just have to
face the music.
 Sure, Colver said.  What can they do to us& ship us back to Alighan?
 Don t even joke about that, Staff Sergeant! Delazlo scolded.
Unsteadily, the Marines began making their way back toward Dock 27 and the
Unfortunately, as soon as Colver s AI was switched back on, the Shore Patrol
had a fix on her, and her name was flagged as being AWOL.
And so the six Marines of 55th MARS ended up spending the rest of the local
night in the brig at Shore
Patrol headquarters.
Platoon Commander s Office
UCS Samar
Dock 27, Earth Ring 7
0910 hrs GMT
 What the hell were you thinking, Marines? Either Lieutenant Kaia Jones was
furious, or she was one hell of an actress. The muscles were standing out like
steel rods up the sides of her neck, and the anger behind her words could have
melted through Type VII hull composite.  Switching off your AI contacts like
that? She paused, sweeping the six Marines standing in front of her desk with
a gaze like a gigawatt combat laser.  Well?
 Sir, we were not thinking, sir! Ramsey snapped back, his reply militarily
 No, I should think the hell you weren t.
The six of them stood at attention in Jones office on board the Samar. After
an uncomfortable night in the SP brig ashore, they d been escorted back to the
ship by a pair of square-jawed Navy petty officers with no-nonsense attitudes
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and little to say. Master Sergeant Adellen had met them at the quarterdeck,
signed off on them, and ordered them to stay in the squad bay, except for
meals, until they could see the
Old Man.
 Old Man, in this case, was a woman; long usage in the Corps retained certain
elements of an ancient, long-past era when most Marines were male. The
commanding officer was the Old Man no matter what his or her sex. Just as a
superior officer was always sir, never ma am.
Of course, the joke in Alpha Company was that in Jones case, you couldn t
really tell. She d been a
Marine for twenty-three years fifteen of them as enlisted. She d been a
gunnery sergeant, like Ramsey, before applying for OCS and going maverick, and
her face was hard and sharp-edged enough that she looked like she d been a
Marine forever.
Rumor had it that she d been a DI at RTC Mars, and Ramsey was prepared to
believe it.
 What about the rest of you? Jones demanded.  Any of you have anything to
 Spit it out, Chu.
 I mean, sir, everyone does it. If we didn t have some privacy once in a
while, we d all go nuts!
Jones leaned back in her chair and watched them for a moment, her gaze
flicking from one to the next.
 Privacy to jack yourself on nanostims, Jones said at last.
 Sir! Gonzales looked shocked.  We would never 
 Spare me, Gonzo, Jones said, raising her hand.  You were all medscanned at
the Shore Patrol HQ, and I ve downloaded the reports. You were all buzzed. The
wonder of it was that you were still able to stand up& much less incapacitate
that group of& young civilians.
 Sir, you& know about that, too? Ramsey asked.
 Of course. Your little escapade was captured on three different mobile
habcams, as well as through the
EAs of two of your& targets the other night. As it happens, you single-handedly
took out half of the hab s local militia.
 What? Colver exclaimed.  Those punks? Sir! There s no way!
 Don t give me that, Colver. You ve been in the Corps long enough to know
about gangcops.
Ramsey digested this. He d run into the practice at several liberty ports, but
he d not been expecting it at a high-tech, high-profile facility like Earth
Ring 7. Gangcops and police militias were widely tolerated and accepted as a
means of ensuring the safety of the larger cities and orbital habs.
It was the modern outgrowth of an old problem. Police enforcement could not be
left entirely to AIs, neither practically nor, in most places, by the law.
When local governments had problems recruiting a police force, they sometimes
resorted to enlisting one or another of the youth gangs that continued to
infest the more shadowy corners of most major population centers. The idea was
to clean them up and give them a modicum of training  rehabilitate them, as
the polite fiction had it and send them out with limited-purview electronic
assistants tagging along in their implants. Whatever they observed was
transmitted to a central authority, usually an AI with limited judgment,
keyword response protocols, and a link to city recorders that stored the data
for use in later investigations or as evidence in criminal trials.
Defenders of the policy pointed out that crime in targeted areas did indeed
tend to drop; its critics suggested that the drop was due less to crime than
to less reporting of crime; paying criminals to act as police militias was,
they said, nothing less than sanctioned and legalized corruption.
In any case, a certain amount of graft, of intimidation, even of violence was
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unofficially tolerated, so long as the peace was kept. Wherever humans
congregated in large and closely packed numbers, there was the danger of panic
and widespread violence. Political fragmentation, religious fanaticism, rumors [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]


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