Peter Watts

Behemoth

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    "Bring terminals at personal discretion. Garcia's waiting under Med for triage."
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    The tableau beneath smears into a diffuse glow of sweeping headlamps. In the further distance the rest of Atlantis lights the water, deceptively serene.
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    The preshmeshed figures clambering along the hulled remains of F-3 have to content themselves with the wounded and the dead. They're crabs, ungainly and overweighted.
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    The cries rise in her head before they reach her ears; raw chemical panic lighting up the reptile brain like sodium flares, the smarter mammalian overlay helpless and confused, its vaunted cognition shattering like cheap crystal in the backwash.
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    Back at Juan de Fuca, they were able to make some pretty shrewd inferences from changes in signal strength.
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    A sudden blue tint suffuses the sonar display.
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    "Attention, everyone. Attention. This is it.

    "Atlantis has preempted."

    Now they're reading perfidy all over the place.
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    It's as though someone's kicked over an anthill in there: every brain in Atlantis is suddenly lit up along the whole fight-flight axis.
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    And there's that look on his face, the slightest arching of the eyebrows, that sense of deadpan— amusement, almost— seeping out from behind his eyecaps.
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    Rowan watches her, suddenly wary: the way she looked when they met for the first time, five years ago.

    The rifter looks back steadily. "Pat, don't hold out on me. I'm having a tough enough time keeping the dogs away as it is. If you've got something to say, say it."
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    Lenie spares an impatient glance, catches the expression on Rowan's face and double-takes. "What?"
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    People with self-imposed rules of conduct have been known to bend and twist and rationalize those rules to let them both have their cake and eat it.
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    "He was decirculated." Rowan says, her own euphemism—as always—easily trumping the other woman's.
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    Lenie snorts. "Give it a rest, Pat. I'm not calling you a liar. But we've already cut you more slack than you cut us, back then.
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    Finally Clarke relented.
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    Making do, the Entropy Patrol would throw crumbs enough at Sudbury to keep the lights on and the clearance codes active, ever-grateful for their uncomplaining minion and the thousand fingers he kept jammed in the dike
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    The rest of the Patrol had taken up the call and flattened Rio as soon as they had the scoop, but it had been Desjardins who'd told them where to aim.
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    Rifters don't worry much about privacy, for one thing.
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    The whole geothermal program was fast-tracked, rearguard, and on the fly; the rifters themselves were a short term stopgap even on that breakneck schedule.
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    Didn't you keep the kibble under the sink?"
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