This was interesting. Autumn Newling, for all that she presented herself as cold and uncaring, didn’t have to pick Jim and Cassie.
She was going to pick two more prisoners, yes, because she needed them for her plan. But Jim and Cassie really needed to get out, and she also knew they would be particularly sympathetic figures. And, I found out later, she looked upon Cassie as sort of her little sister.
And Autumn is smart. With this one move, she managed to cover a bunch of different bases. Brilliant!
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Artemis City, Political Rehabilitation Center
“Cassie, it’s Autumn.”
“I know who it is. Nobody else visits me, except Jim, and he just walks in. Go away.”
She dropped her voice, even though she knew that the monitors could still hear her if they were bothering to listen. “I’ve got news.”
The hatch opened instantly.
“Get in here!”
Autumn shook her head. “My room,” she said, and walked away.
“Fine,” grumbled Cassandra, who hurried after. As soon as the hatch closed behind her, she said, “Well?”
Autumn shot a look to Moore, sitting in his usual spot on the couch. “I’ve gotten word that there’s going to be some excitement later this week, at a restaurant in the City.”
“That’s your news?” scoffed Cassandra. “And how the fuck does that make any difference to me?”
Autumn snapped, “Because you’re going to be there, you idiot!”
“What are you talking about?” She waved at the walls. “Hello? Isolated and don’t have suits? Sound familiar?”
“If you’ll shut up for a minute, I can tell you!”
“Oh, sure. Fuck, why am I even bothering to hope?” Cassandra collapsed into the open chair, far faster than the Lunar gravity would explain, and Moore was by her side instantly. She turned and clung to him, weeping, and he crooned soothingly to her while she cried.
“S-sorry,” she finally said. “I thought I was doing better than that.”
“You’ve done brilliantly,” Moore said, still holding her. “More than anyone could expect.”
She sniffled. “Have I ever told you about my ancestor, Evelyn?”
“According to her diary, she was an Egyptologist in the early 20th Century. What she went through, and what she overcame? That’s who I’ve modelled myself after since I’ve been in here. Or tried to,” she finished wiping her eyes. “Now look at me.”
“I’m sure she was never thrown into a prison on the moon,” said Autumn, and Cassandra managed a smile.
“No, but that’s about all that didn’t happen to her. Now that I’m over my breakdown, what’s going on? How does this affect me?”
“Simple. One of these nights, about two, while Jim is spending the night with you in your quarters, you’re going to have a visitor. I don’t know exactly when, but it’ll be soon.”
“Who’s the visitor?”
Autumn shook her head. “No names. You won’t see their face; they’ll be in a MinSec suit and the visor will be opaqued. But they’re going to bring in a large package and say that it’s from your mother.”
“Yes, now stop interrupting! Nobody’s going to examine something that your mother sends you, she’s got enough protection and pull from on high to guarantee that. The package will contain two MinInt suits, as well as convincing paperwork and internal passes; you get into them and walk out.”
“It’s a nice plan, Autumn, but how do we walk out? I don’t even know where we are in relation to the City, and I’m sure Cassie has even less idea,” objected Moore.
Autumn nodded. “Thought of that. There’s an internal guidance chip that’s programmed with your destination. Just put the earbuds on and listen.”
“And what about the monitors? I know you’ve got all sorts of protection on this room, but won’t they notice anything?”
“Just before your visitor arrives, the monitors are all going to go on a loop. Everyone else should be asleep, so nobody’s going to notice that the blackness on the video is the same blackness they saw fifteen minutes earlier. That covers your visitor and your departure, but you can’t dally. It’s only good for a single run-through, and then it goes live again.”
“So we put on suits and just walk out? What then?” Cassandra was wary but eager.
“Follow the guide. Oh, and when you get to the safe house, you need to ask the person there, ‘How’s Nicole?’ They’re supposed to answer, ‘Busy as always.’” Autumn waved her hands in a ‘that’s all’ gesture. “After that, you’re in their hands.”
“What about you?” Moore asked.
“Don’t worry about me,” Autumn replied. “I’ve got my own plans.”
“We’ll meet again.”