Asimov's SF, October-November 2011

Free Asimov's SF, October-November 2011 by Dell Magazine Authors

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    They had taken the device away before destroying the military base. They blew up the base, but first they made sure that no stealth tech was on board.
    And they didn't abandon the experiments at all.
    Instead, they moved the experiments to an even more remote site, did not let the scientists working on them have their families anywhere nearby, and made everyone who worked around stealth tech sign waivers in case of “accidental death or disappearance."
    But Rosealma didn't find out about that for a year. She was too busy, testifying at the various courts martial and being investigated herself for some kind of negligence.
    Eventually, she was cleared, and then she was offered a new job: Director of Stealth Tech Research.
    And that made her furious.
    * * * *
    Squishy used cleaning solution on her hands, then cleaned her surgical instruments. She didn't put them away, however. She still needed to run them through the sonic cleaner. But she didn't want to leave Quint alone in the cockpit.
    He was sitting up. His skin looked raw from the cleaners she had used on it. The cuts dotted his face. They weren't as bad as they had been, but they would scar without the proper treatment. And they would hurt when the numbing agent wore off. She could still give him something, knock him out, take him to some place on her own. And she was considering it.
    "You came here too,” she said, continuing the conversation.
    He had said she'd made a mistake coming to this ship; she could argue that he made the same mistake.
    She said, “It would have been easier for you to evacuate. You had already given the authorities my information. There was no reason for you to join me."
    He gave her a hurt look. “You need me."
    He had said that in the past, and it never failed to provoke her. It angered her now. She didn't need him. She had never needed him.
    She had no idea why he thought she did.
    "Why do I need you?” she asked, unable to keep the sarcasm out of her voice.
    "Because I'm the only person who can prevent you from disappearing into the bowels of the Empire's prison system."
    "You sound like I've already been tried and convicted,” she said.
    He shrugged. “Times are different now. You destroyed government property. Military property. That was classified as a weapons research site, Rose. They don't need to try you. They just need to show a few select judges that you're guilty."
    Her eyes narrowed. “You think they'd charge me with murder?'
    "Probably not,” he said. “They'll probably charge you with treason. Which is worse."
    She swallowed in spite of herself. “Murder can carry a death penalty. How is treason worse?"
    He looked down at his hands. “There are some things, Rose, that you don't want to live through."
    She felt even colder than she had. She hadn't quite bargained for all of this. Somehow she had thought she would get away. Or maybe she had thought she would die on that station.
    She had certainly made contingency plans for her own death. She had told the others how to get away if she didn't show up. And she hadn't thought of capture.
    So what made her assume she wouldn't show up? She had to have assumed, deep down, that she would die. Because dying was certainly no less than she deserved, not considering all that she had done.
    Hundreds—quite literally hundreds—of people would still be alive if she hadn't gone into stealth tech, if she hadn't realized that no one was thinking about stealth tech correctly.
    She even recalled the moment of realization. She remembered when it all started.
    * * * *
    Thirty-two Years Earlier
    Rosealma had been naive and terrified, outside her element, in a school on Hector Prime, a school on the ground, in real gravity, in a place where she couldn't just float away.
    She had chosen the Mehkeydo Academy because it was the best planet-bound school in the sector. She had grown up on The Bounty, a multinational cargo vessel, that never stopped anywhere for longer than a few weeks.

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