Rachel-7’s interruption gave Daniel another second to think.
The choice was one of numbers: Alitma’s daughter or all 8,109 victims of the Cassandra incident.
Unfortunately, he knew what he had to decide: The extract would stay hidden on Argo 12.
This sucks, he thought.
He took one more swig of his flask.
“Alitma, I —"
“Sorry Daniel, com receptors are on the fritz,” Rachel-7 announced. “Belmont radiation went off the scale. Alitma can’t hear us. We can hear him though.”
“Yes, Daniel?” Alitma asked, still on his knees. “Daniel?”
A subordinate informed Alitma of the Afterthought’s technical difficulties.
Alitma stared at Daniel. Then he spoke softly as he stood to his feet.
“Even in your final moments you mock a grieving father. You send me another bluff, another lie. I know you can speak to me.”
Daniel considered defending himself, but he knew Alitma would not hear him.
“I was right,” Alitma said. “You would rather take vengeance than rescue a helpless child. You are a murderer, Daniel Wei. More than I ever was.”
Alitma sat down hard, his Mek suit clanking against his captain’s chair.
“My daughter's death is on your head… like the deaths of so many others. Add it to the heap, monster.”
Daniel winced as if he had been struck.
“The cannon’s Verian armor is breached,” Trak said. “We should see the first fissure right about …”
A three-foot-long gash opened in the cannon’s side, just a meter away from the Afterthought, venting a cloud of plasma.
“… now,” Trak said.
“Stop that,” Rachel-7 said, in a quick l-mail.
“What?” Trak said, responding in the same fashion.
“That ‘about … now’ thing,” Rachel-7 said. “You’ve done it at least three times.”
“Two times,” Trak said.
“You did it once at the hospital too,” Rachel-7 said.
“I was only counting the time on the Afterthought,” Trak said. Ayes and Meks have long memories.
"Still irritating," Rachel-7 said.
With its temperature rising, the shield that enveloped the Afterthought would not last much longer.