Copyright 2011 David Brin


"They finally fired Bylinsky." 

I was up to my knees in agrisludge, a frothy brown mess at the bottom of my personal greenhouse tank, when I heard the remark. For a moment I thought I had imagined it. 

Your hearing plays tricks when you're wading around in mucky water, barely held to the floor by under a hundredth of a gee. I was groping in the goo, trying to find whatever had gummed up the aspirator. My breath blew up little green and brown droplets that hovered in front of my face for long seconds before slowly settling down again. 

"Ralph! Did you hear me? I said Bylinsky's out!" 

I looked up this time. Don Ishido, our communications and operations chief, hung halfway through the aft hatch of the greenhouse, twenty meters away. He was watching my reaction, maybe in order to report to the others exactly how I took the news. Probably there was money riding on it. 

I nodded. "Thanks, Don. Bylinsky's days were numbered. We'll miss him, but we'll survive." 

Ishido smiled faintly. He must have bet on my poker face. "What do you want me to tell the others, boss?" 

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