Exclusive excerpt from exit strategy the murderbot diaries

I could direct Ship to a different dock but that wasn’t a great idea. The PA would not only know someone aboard had done it, but that that someone was riding a bot-piloted cargo transport whose feed manifest said it was currently traveling without crew or passengers and was on minimal life-support. Even stations as big and heavily armed as HaveRatton had to be careful of anomalous approaches that might turn out to be raiders attempting to board. (It would be a stupid attempt, since Ship couldn’t carry enough raiders to do anything but die messily in the embarkation zone, but I’d spent my entire life on security contracts trying to stop humans from similar catastrophic stupidity.) It might worry the station command enough that they would fire on Ship.

Ship might be unresponsive but it was doing its best and I didn’t want it hurt.

I’d used it to escape Abene’s shuttle after the combat bot attack—another thing that had happened that I wished I could delete from my memory. (Deleting memories like that doesn’t work. I can delete things from my data storage, but not from the organic parts of my head. The company had purged my memory a few times, including my whole mass murder incident, and the images hung around like ghosts in an endless historical family drama serial.)

I picked the one that was labeled as basic, practical, and comfortable for travel. I hesitated over long skirts, wide pants, full-length caftans, and tunics and jackets that went to the knees. The idea of combining them all, and having a lot of clothing as a buffer between me and the outside world, was attractive, but I wasn’t used to it and I was afraid that would show. (It had taken me long enough to figure out what to do with my arms and hands while walking and standing still; extra clothing meant that much more potential for attention-drawing mistakes.) The scarves and hats and other head and face coverings, some of which had human cultural functions, were also tempting, but it was exactly the kind of thing a SecUnit trying to hide might use, and would just flag me for additional security scans.

I’d worn two different sets of human clothes by now, so I had a better idea of what was most efficient for me. I picked workboots not much different from the ones I’d stolen back on Port FreeCommerce, self-sizing and with some shielding to protect against heavy things dropping on them, not as important for me as a human. Then pants with lots of sealable pockets, a long-sleeved shirt with a collar to cover my data port, and another soft hooded jacket. Okay, so it was extremely similar to what I had been wearing, just in a different arrangement of black and dark blue. I authorized the payment, and the packets dropped out of the slot.

Thinking about her brought up a whole knot of confused emotion I didn’t want to deal with right now. Or ever, actually. But it wasn’t a decision I had to make immediately. (Yeah, “Or ever, actually” applied there, too.) I could always break in to wherever she was staying and leave the clips in her belongings with a note. (I’d thought a lot about the note. I had other options but would probably go with “Hope this evidence against GrayCris helps, signed Murderbot.”) I needed to concentrate on how to find out if she was still on Port FreeCommerce or had gone back to the Preservation Alliance without—

My newsfeed search turned up a string of hits and the tagline on the top-ranked most-popular made me stop in my tracks. Luckily I was in a wide place in the mall, where the big transport lines had their offices, and the sparse crowd spread out and flowed around me. I made myself move over to the nearest office entrance, and stood in the spot where their proprietary feed was displaying advertising and informational vids. It wasn’t ideal, but I had to be somewhere where I could stand still and just concentrate on the news story.

I had ended up with their emergency go-bag, filled with hard currency cards and a variety of ID markers. The markers are meant for subcutaneous insertion and contain identifying information. Normally they wouldn’t be readable by anything but the scanners designed for the purpose, but with a little fine-tuning my scan had been able to view the encoded data, and I had examined them all on the trip back to HaveRatton.

Identity markers in the Corporation Rim usually had a lot of information on the bearer, but these were temporaries meant for travelers from outside the Rim. They had a string of numbers from a non-corporate political entity authorizing travel, place of origin, and a name. Obviously this was why Wilken and Gerth had them, so they could switch identities at need. Corporate political entities are more interested in keeping track of their own humans than anybody else’s. I had seen on the media that travel was easier for non-citizens inside the Corporation Rim than citizens, sub-citizens, and all the other categories each different political entity had to keep track of their humans. (It could be worse. At least humans could cut out their ID markers; I had corporate logos etched onto parts of me I couldn’t get rid of.)