These chains had once supported the cage lift

“These chains had once supported the cage lift. Their links had been sawed through.

"Ma’am," Marco said, looking at his lieutenant.

Ben-Ari approached, as did a few of the others. They stared at the chains together. Marco passed his hand over one broken link. The cut was smooth, as if a circular saw or laser had sliced through it.

"These did not bend and snap under the weight, ma’am," Marco said. "Somebody cut them. Somebody sent this cage lift crashing down on purpose."

"The fucking robot did it!" said Addy. She raised her gun, yanked back the charging hammer, and pointed the muzzle at Osiris.

"Fuck." Elvis spat. The young soldier was pale and shivering, perhaps remembering how Osiris had choked him back on the Miyari . He too raised his gun, loaded a bullet, and aimed at Osiris. "Fucking robot must have sabotaged the ship too."

A few other soldiers raised their own guns, loading bullets into chambers, pointing the muzzles at the android. Osiris stood calmly, stared at them, and tilted her head.

"Are you angry at me, masters?" the android asked.

Addy spat. "Don’t you masters us, you piece of junk." She flicked off her gun’s safety. "I’m going to put a bullet through your goddamn mechanical brain."

"Wait, wait!" Marco said. "Addy. Elvis. Beast. Wait. How could she have cut the links? She has no saw." He turned toward Ben-Ari. "Ma’am, the android has hands, like we do. Strong hands, but the links aren’t crushed. They’re cut."

"So she tossed aside her saw," Addy said, keeping her muzzle pointed at the android. "Lieutenant Ben-Ari, permission to put a bullet through the android’s head."

A small high voice emerged from Ben-Ari’s earbud, barely audible in the tunnel. "Ben-Ari! Ben-Ari, what the fuck is going on down there? If you destroy STC property, I’ll have your hide!"

Ben-Ari ignored the captain. The lieutenant stared at the android, stared at the soldiers, stared back at the lift cage. "Emery," she said. "Go search the wreckage for a saw or laser blade. Anything that could have cut through the links."

"Yes, ma’am."

As the others kept their guns pointed at the android, Marco rummaged through the wreckage, then turned back toward his lieutenant. "Nothing, ma’am. Do you think . . ." He looked up the shaft and shuddered. "Maybe scum lurking in the shaft? Their claws could have sliced through the links."

Ben-Ari nodded. "All right, soldiers. Lower your weapons. We have no evidence against the android."

"She’s the fucking saboteur!" Addy shouted, then forced her voice down. "Ma’am."

"She’s a machine, Linden," said the lieutenant. "A very expensive machine."

Osiris nodded. "I am programmed to serve humanity, masters. I did not cut the chains, and lying is against my programming. I believe it likely that scum lurked in the shaft."

"You serve the scum," Addy said, refusing to lower her weapon.

Marco chewed his lip. He had a lot of respect for Ben-Ari, but he was inclined to agree with Addy and the others. He didn’t trust Osiris. He remembered his encounter with her in the Miyari ‘s chapel, how she had unnerved him. How she had choked Elvis. Could she have been the one to sabotage the ship’s engines during the scum attack? Could the scum have hacked into her programming? But how did that explain the lack of any saw?

"She couldn’t have cut the cables," Marco finally said. "Addy, she has no blades. It had to be the scum up there, hiding in the shaft, using their claws."

Another unpleasant thought came to him. Could Captain Petty or one of her troops cut the chains, attempting to seal Ben-Ari and her platoon down here? No. He shook his head. Captain Petty was perhaps vindictive, but she wouldn’t murder her own soldiers . . . would she?

"Private Linden, lower your weapon at once," Ben-Ari said to Addy. "That is an order. That goes for all of you."

Grumbling, Addy lowered her gun, as did the others.

"Now unload your guns," said Ben-Ari.

Muttering among themselves, the soldiers pulled open the chambers of their guns, fished out the loaded bullets, and returned them to their magazines.

"I’m going to keep an eye on you, robot," Addy said, pointing at her eyes, then at the android.”