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Lt. Daisy Wong, space marshal, despised Los Angeles, Mars.

She despised it this time around just as much as she had the last time work had forced her onto the Red Planet. Her boss, Captain Spaulding, had arranged a favor for the political higher-ups, and so here she was, on Mars, doing the work.

Daisy hated doing favors for the higher-ups. However, in this particular instance, Daisy had to admit that she would have agreed to take on the case, anyway . . . even without Spaulding's so-called request that she do so. The favor involved a member of Daisy's family, and family is family, especially when it's part and parcel of some of the most powerful criminal tongs in the Sol system. Besides, Mars was only one grubby little planet and Los Angeles, Mars, was only one grubby not-so-little domed city.

Meanwhile, Daisy's partner, Officer Muffy Chatterjee, was in the throes of open glee, had been since their shuttle had dropped into Mars orbit. All the way through customs, her delight had not slackened. All the way through the spaceport to the waiting line of taxis, her grin had not faded. And now, on their ride into town from the spaceport, she was excitedly watching the passing scenery—red and gray and grubby and plasticized and dirty though it was. She was also keeping up a stream of dirt-side—that is, Earth-side—accented chatter.

Muffy's hometown was in the northern part of India, Earth, and at the moment, she sounded as though she would have felt more at home in a sari than in her uniform. Newbies. You had to love 'em.

Daisy listened to Muffy's stream of consciousness and tried not to think about the pet-shop humidity, the stench of spilled food rising from the taxi's floor mats, and the inescapable Martian grit. It had already worked down in between her collar and her neck, where like sandpaper it abraded her skin.

The environmental systems inside Mars's domed cities were supposed to keep the grit at bay, but they didn't. Of course. Nothing ever worked quite the way it was supposed to. Once she and Muffy returned to Diligence, the LaGrange colony they called home, Daisy would have to send her uniforms to the cleaners at least twice before they'd be really clean.

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