Aylsia stared out of the window at the rings of Saturn glowing into the space station, mindlessly fumbling with the small, square device in her hands.
Braxton smiled impishly. “It’s a device driver that overrides station systems. I can control everything with it.”
Her eyes glittered. “How?”
“I can get these computers to do whatever I want. Hack into secure files, monitor communications, jam communications, override system commands, change the kitchen menus, add to supply orders, open and close secure doors and ports, whatever I want. I call it Genie.” He smiled and leaned over her, taking the drive from her hands. “But that’s not what I want to take control of right now.”
She found it on the floor this morning when she put her boots on and slipped it into her uniform pocket. Why?
Why not? It was interesting.
The captain stormed into the room, his boots thumping on the metal floor. She slipped Genie back into her uniform pocket as he sat across the table from her and put his tablet down.
“You’re in a lot of trouble, Aylsia,” his voice boomed. “Sabotage is a serious charge. Why did you do it?”
She leaned forward. “Why would I do it, Captain? Why would I put all of my work to waste when we’re finally getting results from the water mining on Enceladus?”
The captain leaned back. “Why, indeed?”
Aylsia leaned back and stared out of the window silently. Surely, he could see this was a setup. What’s more cliché than the science officer turning against the whole station?
“Fortunately for you, your record is spotless and you’ve had a major success with the Enceladus Water Mining project. The hydroponics system hack was discovered quickly and nobody was hurt; it’s just an inconvenience of food rations until the output is back to normal. Plus, it’s not like we can ship you back to Earth. Your sentence will be light,” he leaned forward, “but how long you serve it will be up to you. We found evidence of funds being passed through your accounts from SpaceCorp. If you give us the names of the people you were working with, this will go easier for us all. They can take the brunt of the charges for bribery and sabotage, and you’ll be an innocent victim of circumstance to help yourself and your family.” He leaned back. “After all, living in space pays well because it costs greatly. Money is a powerful motivator. So is family.”
Or perhaps the Captain didn’t see it after all, and it was right under his nose. She knew two of those names right now, and he wouldn’t like it.
Then again, perhaps he did know, and he was in on the smokescreen too. Funny how a closed community looked ideal in theory and panned out to be the same old stuff in reality.
Aylsia took a deep breath. “It looks like you have me dead to rights.”
He spread his hands. “You’re the only one with the access and authorizations to sabotage the hydroponic bays.”
Genie seemed to hang heavy in her pocket. She felt her face flush.
“I am not. All of the command officers have full access.”
He mimicked her sign. “Let me rephrase that. You are the only one with the combination of access and skills to do it.”
“You mean I’m the one responsible for my staff.”
He raised an eyebrow. “Are you saying a member of your team set you up?”
Aylsia swallowed as the drive dug into her leg. “I’m not saying anything without legal representation.”
The commander frowned. “That will slow things down. Are you sure you don’t want to talk now? Like I said, the glitch your hacking caused in hydroponics was minor and the circumstances only warrant a brief stripping of rank and penance period, perhaps two weeks. You’ll be restored to head science officer and your record will be expunged once all terms are met.”
She raised an eyebrow. “Is that so?”
Suddenly, she understood. She couldn’t win. They wouldn’t let her.
Actually, she could win. They just couldn’t see it.
Aylisa stood. “Fine, I’ll talk.”
He stood and shook her hand. “I’ll prepare the confessionary statement and convene the disciplinary counsel in the main conference room in half an hour. Meet us there.”
She wouldn’t need half an hour. She might not even need a minute which was handy, because they were so distracted with framing her that they wouldn’t notice what happened in the next few minutes until the statements and hearing notes were signed, sealed, and shipped off separate from the issue they were about to face.
Aylisa walked purposefully to the Information Technology station. It was 17:57 hours, just before the shift rotation. With any luck, this would be done by time the rotation was complete. Aylisa stopped short with the door didn’t automatically open for her.
They were quicker than I anticipated, she thought as she pulled Genie from her pocket and cupped it in her hands. She rapped her closed fist on the window. “Braxton, the door won’t open.”
Braxton looked up from his computer and stepped to the door. “I’m sorry Aylsia, but I can’t let you in. They told us to keep the door locked.”
“How long have you been working for SpaceCorp?”
He paled. “What are you talking about?”
“I know why you set me up. The sabotage in the hydroponics bay was meant to be caught quickly, just enough to create a distraction and get me temporarily confined to the stripping of rank during penance duty while you hack into the lab. Two weeks is just enough time to allow you to sell my research on the Enceladus water mining to SpaceCorp. How much did they offer to pay you?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Routing the down payment through my accounts threw more suspicion on me. Well done, Braxton. At least you could have left me something for my trouble, but it looks like I’ll have to take my cut on my own. Sleeping with Braxton in technology infrastructure must have been the golden opportunity you needed to hack my work and line your pockets. It’s brilliant, but you missed two things in your perfect plan.”
Braxton’s pale face flushed red. “How dare you accuse me of –“
“Your first problem is that the initial plan for Information Technology wasn’t big enough, so the section had to be moved. This room is a converted docking bay, so it opens to space.”
Braxton smiled cruelly. “Your access has been restricted. I was the one who did it. You can’t do anything.”
Aylisa held up Genie. “Your second problem is that you forgot the most important thing they told us in training.”
Braxton paled. “You stole it –"
“Memento mori.” Aylisa pushed the button.
The glass wall on the far side of the room opened to space, sucking Braxton into the vortex of space. Aylisa smiled as she watched the body crush and melt into the rings of Saturn.
“That will complicate things,” she said as the station shift change chime rang through the station.
Aylsia calmly walked out of the science bay and melted into the crowd shifting for the evening rotations. She ducked into the recycling room up the hall from the conference room and slipped Genie in a metal recycler chute, smiling as she heard the crunch and whirl of the system disintegrating the device driver.
Aylisa swung her hips walking through the hall, smiling at everybody she passed. It would be a light sentence, confined to quarters while they were looking for the Captain’s missing son.
She was ready to confess everything she didn’t do now.