Category: Wrote in 365 Parts

Written in 365 Parts: 105: The Visit

They opened the seal on the inner shell of the survival tent and pushed hard on a few locations to get the thick layer of dust from the outer shell. A touch of the static cleanser cleared the last vestiges of wind borne particulates after the tapping on the wall. They opened the seal on the outer shell and nodded at the figure in the stealth suit who was a slim shadow even at this close range. They stepped aside allowing the figure to enter and then resealed the shell.

Once inside the figure turned the active camouflage off on their suit turning it a warm grey, like the occupant they kept their visor shaded and used an intercom, with a voice modulator, to talk. “Do you have it?”

“I do.” They moved over to the kit and pulled out the samples retrieved from the morgue a few days before.

“Did you check the bodies?”

“I did not have enough time to do anything more than a cursory check. It was clear that there was some observation of the building. I was able to evade all sensors and scanners but didn’t want to risk manual sweeps by Judiciary or others.”

“That was wise. The opponents are extremely inventive. They were, however, otherwise occupied so there is a good chance that there is no knowledge of your activities even now.”

“That is satisfactory. You are sure that you left no trail to here.”

“I am confident that they would have had a significant challenge in following me. I assume that you took all necessary precautions.”

“I did. I have also been monitoring carefully the patterns of drones and vehicles, along with satellites, to ensure there has been no observation of my movements or being here.”

“Good.” The visitor had been using a small analysis pack to examine the samples. “The samples are in good condition and match an initial verification. I will need to take them away for further examination to see if they are an exact match. You have done well. You came highly recommended.”

“I assume the same of you.”

“We all have the same immediate master if my understanding is correct. I have been told that the payment will be made in the usual fashion. Is there anything further?”

“I have nothing further. I will be waiting here for some more time to make sure that there is no observation.”

“That is probably over-cautious.”

“As you have stated the opposition is clever so it may be best to assume they may still have some remote monitoring. If they have not followed you then my staying here will further draw conclusions that you have never been. It covers us both. Even if they were to come here there are no samples and you will have left with few traces.”

“I agree with your logic. You will be contacted via your preferred route.”

“Very well.”

The visitor activated the stealth camouflage and very carefully left the survival tent. Once alone the occupant quickly resealed and turned on the static wall to attract the dust and recover the outer shell door. Then they unpacked at speed the bedroll and opened the storage bag in the base of the tent. They may not have much time.

Written in 365 Parts: 104: Time To Exchange

The air was thin on the high plateau but it still had enough body to carry the dust high into the air. It was worse when the winds blew. They lifted particles from across the plateau and scurried about. The dust travelled with it to coat new parts of the world. In this way the landscape was constantly shifting. It was a slow moving ocean that would drown anything that stayed still for any length of time. Hiding it under a unity of emptiness.

After sixty hours on the plateau the small survival tent had been coated with the dust. On one side the winds had built up a small mound, while tendrils of sand stretched out on the other as the particles crashed and tumbled to the ground. From above it looked as if some desert creatures had breached the waves of the land leaving a small wake showing its passage. Soon the desert creature would disappear below the all encompassing ocean, and all traces of the breach would be slowly blown away by the wind.

Inside the person slept. They were used to waiting, it came with the job and so they had practice. They had a library of favourite entertainment on internal storage and enough rations to last for weeks. They could wait here for a long time if they really needed. For some strange reason they took a perverse fascination in the voices that seemed to carry on the wind. It reminded them of past conversations. It was easy to let the mind wander and to have the wind howl out a reply. It was easy to rewrite old losses with the help of a gentle breeze.

The meeting point had been chosen well. Few came to this desolate plateau. There was some mining to be had in the hills and valleys to the west. There were some small farmsteads in meadow valleys to the south. But the only close visitor to this place was the occasional robot drone that flew over at a great height. They would be supply or freight vehicles for the few commercial concerns. But the closeness of these visitors was a deception. Even they were distant specs to be seen in the far distance.

The dawn was a slow affair. The skies lightened in the distance behind the mountains that ringed the whole plateau throwing peaks into sharp silhouette. It took greater than an hour for the sun to breach the lowest peak and cast a grey light upon the dusty land. Then the sun would slip and hide behind the taller peaks throughout the morning, like a child playing seek with a friend. When it was joined by its sibling, who had at least the good grace to rise late and stretch higher in the sky, mixing bright blues into the grey light.

The bright of the afternoon, though, was merely a tease for how quickly the light would fail. Sunset seemed to be a race for the suns to get below the high horizon leaving the plateau dark with the shadows of the mountains casting deep scars on the world. The skies above quickly fell to black even while the sharpness of the twilight cast the rising peaks in a harsh relief.

It was at dusk that the person in the tent heard a gentle crunching of soft steps approaching outside. The tent had been set to stop light escaping to prevent an easy discovery. To find the tent one had to know it was there. The organic waited, a small signal flare on an encrypted screen of their short range comms unit showed a message. They quickly used the public encryption key they had been given to decipher the message. It was their contact. It was time to exchange.

Written in 365 Parts: 103: Off Course

The largest vessels constructed were at the tail of the first wave of colonization. They were behemoths built in the floating dockyards around Titan. Twelve of them were made and each one took thousands of men working for decades to build and fit out. It was said that the wealth of nations were tied into the project.

Each vessel was over five kilometres, long with the largest three being close to nine kilometres. They had a minimum girth of five hundred metres and keel height of twelve hundred metres. They were created for the furthest missions, journeys that would take hundreds of years to complete. They had supplies to last the colonists decades after landing, and were intended to be generational colony supports. 

The majority of their journey would be conducted by autonomous systems. They had some of the most complex artificial intelligences created to run the millions of support systems that were required to safely bring the vessels to their distant homes. The intelligences were sufficiently mature that they had comparable emotional matrices to mammalian lifeforms. As such each main system was governed by ten organic crew. They would take turns to wake once every ten years and spend a year in the company of the intelligence. This pattern would repeat for over two centuries, each crew member would age twenty-three years but the artificial intellect would never be alone.

The ten companions were volunteers and chosen form a varied background to best represent the differing balance of humanity. In this way the artificial intellect would have a broad spectrum of understanding to better serve the colonies that would grow and thrive at their final destination. The ten chosen for each vessel underwent a battery of psychological and physical tests to ensure their compatibility and adaptability. They had over a decade of training to bring them to the height of efficiency.

When the ships left the solar system they were heralded as the most significant step into the unknown. They would go further than any humans dared. Humanity would receive centuries of transmissions each one taking longer to return home as the vastness of distance was crossed. The furthest vessel would only be able to transmit a weak radio signal that would take over a hundred years to return to Terra. 

Out of the twelve ships that left only nine made it to their destination. Two were lost en route to catastrophic incidents. The twelfth ship went silent within a few years of leaving the solar system, all that is known from its transmissions is that it went drastically off course.

Written in 365 Parts: 102: Colonization Futures

The very first type of vessel to explore the outer systems were built by the collective efforts of governments working with contracted companies. Civilisation, the natural curiosity to discover what was beyond the reach of one system, demanded it. The vessels were crewed by volunteers from thousands who applied. They went  to the closest exoplanets thought to be able to support life. The vessels were large and self-sufficient as there would be no rescue if they failed, most would not even have the luxury of a post mortem.

The vessels had some personnel to help with the flight, There were also dozens of robots, mountains of food rations, atmosphere processors and materials to start construction. On landing the colony vessels would become the vast initial foundries that would spur further production. Engine rooms and support systems designed to be turned into foundries and fabrication plants. All of the windows, plexiglass and reflective surfaces could be utilised as greenhouse or solar arrays. Nothing would be wasted. All materials were bolted together so they could be taken apart with sufficient ease.

Many of the early colony vessels made it successfully to the worlds they intended to conquer. The vast majority of those that landed were able to establish colonies. Radio signals took decades to travel back to Sol. The first expansion took close to a century during which technology leapt onwards.

Fewer than half of those first colonies survived a decade. The failure rate in the end was higher than all hoped. But that didn’t stop humanity. A second generation replaced the first even before the initial signals had returned to Terra. This wave of vessels were smaller and contained more robotic assistance, they also contained the first birthing tanks. The earliest colonies spoke of the birth defects and high mortality rates pre- and post-natal. In order for mankind to survive adaptation to local conditions was necessary from virtually the point of conception.

A new breed of humanity would be created, suited to their new worlds. There would be, from this point onwards more than one homeworld for humanity. Terran was now simply a subset of humanity. With this change in perspective eventually came the change in terminology. Human seemed too biased to Earth, it spoke only of Terran humans. So the generalised term people was adopted as a casual universal norm.

The second wave of colonies were far more successful;. The closest exoplanet was a mere thirteen light years away. It was an icy world of Teergarden C, renamed as Boreas after the Greek Goddess of Snow. The world was reachable by the fastest vessels in fewer than twenty-five years as they accelerated to over half light speed. The system was a gift from the heavens, rich in radioactive and heavy elements. Soon mining colonies were established and major corporations started to increase their spread by building new corporate entities in distant systems. The corporate race to colonise and capitalise on space began and Colonization Futures started to dominate stock markets.

This was the third wave of colonization and the largest. This was the Expansion when thousands of ships raced out of the Sol system into the beyond. Many of these vessels were trimmed down industrial behemoths filled with the hardest people that could be employed. They would face death out in the furthest reaches, but their families on Terra and the nearby colonies would have lives of wealth. They sold their lives for a share in the future potential wealth of the Expansion.

Written in 365 Parts: 101: The Expansion

Before The Expansion, the vast colonisation of space when humanity threw itself confidently to the far reaches of imagination, little travel was done outside of the Sol system. Humanity had little interest in the time it would take to reach even the closest neighbour eve if the radiation could be tolerated. The issue was not one of impending doom that gave humanity the impetus to leave its solar habitat. Sol, Terra, the colonies on Mars, Europa, Ganymede, Calisto, Titan and Enceladus thrives and will do so for as long as organic life wishes to exist upon them.

Humanity started this Expansion after the accidental discovery of suspension fields which was a significant time after the ability for human consciousness to be uploaded into a construct program. The suspension fields were vital to allow organic life to thrive in a newly colonised world. Humanity could accelerate up to a percentage of the speed of light using the manipulation of gravitons. However that still left decades or more of travel between potential habitable worlds. But once the vessels arrived they would be barren of life, little organic could survive the acceleration and deceleration never mind the vast ages that the travel may take. What would be used for food. What life could be used to help populate the world, to colonise and control.

Suspension fields held life in stasis. Not all life survived without issue. The simpler the genetic construction, the more likely they would be to survive the journey. Plants, microbes, insects survived in greater numbers than anything of a higher complexity. This was fortunate as such life is needed as the building blocks of colonisation. But it was still a challenge.

The ability to upload consciousness into a program. To allow simpler genetic material to be frozen and suspended. Coupled with medical advances in cloning and tank births allowed humanity to take complex lifeforms as partial electronic algorithms with simple genetic material to the far reaches of space.

Vast colony ships were sent to every potential habitable world over a period of centuries. Humanity threw itself to the stars with the knowledge that they could conquer and populate. There was a near galaxy worth of wealth to be utilised. Light might limit communication, but distance would not limit Influence.

Written in 365 Parts: 100: No Choice But to Stop

“I don’t know.”

“You don’t know. You just went along with their request to live birth a baby without questioning what they were going to do, or why they needed to do it? That’s a very trusting stance, or you just didn’t care?”

“Yes I was trusting. Maybe a part of me didn’t, originally, care.  It wasn’t quite that simple. I wanted the wealth and they were offering a lot. I was already greatly desired due to being the close match, but I don’t believe that I was the only person they could have used at that time. I wanted to make sure I was chosen and I wanted to be rewarded. That’s why I signed their contracts and did their bidding. It was selfish, but I felt I had no choice.”

“Whose bidding?”

“Yee On Kline, the Corporation. That’s who did the procedures. They are the ones who looked after me. I assume they are also the ones who originally paid me.”

“So what’s to stop them taking the money away?”

“I am not a total fool. I invested wisely and got good returns. I also had the sense to make sure the only penalty was the return of the original investment. If they try to claw their money back they can do so through the courts and it would not ruin me. It also matters so little now. It has been long enough.”

“You must have heard something? Nobody said anything?”

“I know I wasn’t the only one on the program. And I know this isn’t the only time they tried.”

“The only time they tried?”

“To recreate Marsh. This isn’t the first Marsh and I doubt it will be the last. It takes them fifty years or so to make the copy complete. I guess after those fifty years they use Marsh in some way that makes them useless.”

“Well I wouldn’t put Marsh at being fifty years old.”

“It was thirty-four years ago that I gave birth to this Marsh.”

“Good to know. Where do they get the memories from?”

“I don’t know.”

“What else do you know?”

“Is Marsh alive?”

“I want answers.”

“I need to see him.”


“He’s my child.”


“I need to see him.”

“I never said they were still alive.”

“He has to be.”

“How do you know it is fifty years?”


“How do you know it was fifty years? How do you know it makes Marsh useless?”

“Because this isn’t the first child they took from me.”


“This Marsh is the eighth child I have had for them. I have been doing this for almost four centuries. But now I have no choice but to stop. That is why I broke them out of there. I needed to speak to them, to say sorry for the other Marsh’s I brought into this universe to be used for some forsaken reason. To say something. To see the man I carried eight times.”

“This is the eighth! And it was you? You broke Marsh out?”


“Why do you have no choice but to stop?”

“I’m dying.”

Written in 365 Parts: 99: His Mother

“You’re his mother?”


“If we are talking about the same person they look roughly your age. I gather then that you have a significantly extended life?”

“Of course. As you have already discovered, I am quite wealthy. The medical procedures to keep me looking young, regenerating and yet live a healthy life are expensive but well within my portfolio.”

“And Marsh is your child? What, did you donate an egg?”

“Not quite. Do we have to cover the mechanics of what occurred?”

“You’re damned straight we do. I want to know pretty much every detail. Most of me doesn’t want to believe you.So we will see what you have to say. If there is an elaborate lie that you are trying to spin?”

“There is not. Marsh, the name they are using, is my child. I am their mother. It is a complicated situation. But I gave birth to them.”

“Sure. Well what about the fact that they think they were born over a millenia ago? How do you explain that? Then there is the people trying to kill anyone connected to them. Then there is the fact that a wealthy socialite is slumming it below city levels looking for people who could get her killed. All of that needs more explanation. You seem to have some answers. So go for it. Tell me what is going on. Tell me what you know.”

“Please tell me, are they alive?”


“Yes. Can I see them?”


“This is hardly fair.”

“I would like explanations.”

“Very well. I will tell you what I know. They were born over a millenia ago. Though not in this current organic form.”

“So, a clone?”

“Not exactly. They had organic material from his original parents. Their gametes are stored in some very secure facility. They used them to recreate as closely as possible a natural reproductive phenomena of the original Marsh. Their is genetic manipulation of the chromosomes and DNA, there has to be. There must be a pattern of the original Marsh’s physiology somewhere, and that is matched. Then the zygote is implanted into a host parent for natural birth. They like the process to be as natural as possible”


“It increases the chances of the process being as close to authentic to the original. Tanks do not a human make. There are slight, but detectable, differences between a fetus raised in a tank and one raised in the womb. That’s what they told me.”

“So you were a surrogate?”

“Yes. I am a close enough biological replication of the original mother. Enough for the purposes of the experiment.”

“Why did you agree to that?”

“I wasn’t always wealthy. This wealth is a product of being that surrogate.”

“And what is the experiment intended to produce? Why do they need a close resemblance, to the manner of gestation, of Marsh?”

Written in 365 Parts: 98: Nice Boots

Drick walked into the small room that was being used as a sort of holding cell. On closer inspection the ridiculousness of the disguise being used by the organic was even more amusing. There was a stark contrast between the clothes and boots, but they also wore expensive undergarments. Drick recognised the logo of a designer clothing manufacturer who only used natural materials. Which were hellishly expensive on this planet. There were also the tattoos that were high quality, currently declaring the person was female and a sky-citizen. 

The icons for sky-citizen scrolled lazily behind the usual preferences and availability. It was a note that the organic had property above cloud level. It was an assumption of wealth and an automatic guarantee that they could get credit anywhere. It was also a huge giveaway that they were slumming it and they hadn’t done that much in their life as they could have disguised the tattoos.

Drick smiled and laughed a little while sitting down opposite the woman. It had the desired effect of making her look concerned as the laugh did not have any mirth to it. “Nice boots,” said Drick, “how much did they cost?”

“Who are you?” the woman used a stern demanding tone.

“I asked a question.” Drick stared into the woman’s eyes until they looked away. Drick gave them a speck of admiration for the defiance but waited for them to speak.

“I cannot recall.”

“Did you purchase them or were they a gift?”

“I bought them, why do you ask?”

“If you bought them you should be able to pull up the transaction on your banking screen. How much did they cost?”

“Why are you keeping me here? What does it matter how much my boots cost?” The woman’s voice was elevated and slightly shrill.

“How much did the boots cost?” asked Drick.

“I said I don’t know. I asked to be told why I am here.”

“How much did the boots cost?”

“Oh fifty thousand credits. What does it matter?”

“Thank you.” Drick smiled. “Nice tats.”


“I said nice tattoos.”

“Why does that matter? Everyone has them. Well everyone who comes from a tank has tank identification iconographics. Mine are hardly different to your own.”

“Except in cost. So you were born into wealth as well as being wealthy now. Is it independent or are we still surviving on some family harvest?”

“What makes you think I have wealth?”

“Nice Boots. Nice Top. Nice tattoos. Street clothes that were bought to look well worn while still having the smell of being freshly created. All of that. You merely confirmed it when you told me how much the boots cost and were so uncaring about the ridiculous sum.”

“That’s not that much.”

“It’s triple what a street worker earns in a year. You spent that on boots and you don’t think it is that much? So very wealthy and have been so for all your life. What brings you down to the under city sky queen?”

“Who are you?”

“I am the person asking you questions.”

“What gives you the right to ask me questions?”

“Let me make this clear to you. If I thought I needed a right I would have expressed it. I could have drawn a weapon to threaten you with. Or have the rather bored looking bruiser in the corner punch you a few times to soften you up. Or I could just strip you of all that’s valuable and throw you onto the lowest levels with rags and a set of re-programmed idents. But I don’t need to pick any extreme method. I simply need to tell you that I am the one asking the questions. What I choose to inform you of other to that is my choice. I will not be answering your questions unless I believe it will significantly advance my own desires. Are we clear?”

“Yes. But maybe treating me with a shred of decency or compassion would get you better answers. Maybe giving me some answers might make me talk? Have you thought of those?”

“What’s your name?”




“Martha, what?”

“Martha Caprenis.”

Drick smiled and waited looking at the woman’s eyes. The woman tried the defiant glare again, and then looked away. Drick kept motionless, waiting. On an internal screen information was scrolling across as Rodero ran data to Drick continuously updated from the information that the woman provided, and other data they could prise from the grid. 

“Why are we waiting?” the woman, called Martha, eventually asked.

“Because I want your name.”

“I told you. It is Martha Caprenis.” Drick stared at her. This time she looked away even quicker. “You keep staring at me.”

“Name?” Drick kept the tone of their voice the same neutral level. It was having the desired effect.

“Martha Caprenis.” Angry.


“Martha Caprenis.” Angrier.


“Martha Caprenis.” Shouting.


“Martha Caprenis.” Shouting louder.


“Martha Caprenis.” Screeched.


“Martha Caprenis. Martha Caprenis, Martha Caprenis. Stop asking me” Almost a sob.


“Oh, stop it. My name is Candice. Candice Stamford.”

“Martha would be one of your employees. Identifies as female. Married to a person identifying as binary. Has a season ticket for the Western Reach sky elevator. Which means she likely works in the apartment you hold on the Western Reach. Not your holdings on Orbital Platform Eleven” Drick paused, and smiled.

A screen flickered into life on a wall and an image, taken twenty years before, appeared. “There you are,” said Drick looking at a group of young organics in expensive evening clothing, “at a fundraiser for the regional representative. How sweet, you mix with leaders, Miss Stamford.”

“When did you know?”

“That you were lying?”

“Yes. No. Who I was?”

“About ten minutes before I walked through that door.”

“Then why did you do this? Why ask me questions if you knew the truth?”

“Why are you looking for Drick?”

“Do you know them? I need to find them. I need to know if it’s true. If,” Candice had risen slightly from her seat.


“I need to know if he is really dead. Like the Judiciary reported. I need to know.”

“If who is dead?”

“Marsh. He uses the name Marsh. He has no idents.”

“Why do you need Drick? Surely the judiciary would know?”

“Because there are larger forces at work, I cannot believe that they would just kill him. They cannot have done that. So I need to know. I know that Drick has something to do with it. They have a long history of being clever and a trouble maker. They will know the truth.”

“You seem well informed. Then you would know that this is dangerous. You are in potential danger right now. Why risk it? What does this organic, Marsh, mean to you? Why are they so important to you?”

“It’s personal.”

“Do I really need to ask again, as it is getting tiring and I may have to try a different tactic. A less conversational approach. Why is Marsh important to you? Why would you come here yourself looking for Drick? Who is Marsh?”

“He’s my son. I am his mother.”

Written in 365 Parts: 97: What Am I Looking At?

“So what am I looking at?” Drick took the proffered holopad from Lane and fired up the display. They were sat in Drick’s van. Lane had requested an immediate meeting and Drick had complied. Asking the Union to bankroll a job while owing them a favour was treading on dangerous ground. So being ultra respondent to their summons seemed the wisest course of action.

“You tell me.” 

Drick raised an eyebrow and then shrugged and looked at the image. It was, presumably, a live feed from a room with a table and four chairs. One of the chairs was occupied by an organic. There was another stood in the corner of the room. The person at the table wore rough, loose-fitting, street clothes that looked as if they had been bought recently. They were out of keeping with the very expensive boots on their feet, and clearly sophisticated tattoo tags visible on their wrist and neck. The person in the corner of the room looked like a Union enforcer. Big, overly pumped up muscles, street clothing that looked as if it had been thrown in the trash years before. They were presenting as male and packing a gun under one arm. “Someone annoyed you?”

Lane spoke into a comm link, and on the screen Drick was watching the Union man spoke. “Look up at the camera,” they indicated towards the view.

Drick was looking at an unfamiliar face. “Who are they?”

“You don’t know them?”

“No, why? Should I?”

“They have been making enquiries about you. Well, not at first about you. They started in the market where you had your little shootout. They were mostly asking questions about what happened in that fight. They paid in untraceable credit bars and they paid well. Enough people spoke and they must have got your name from somewhere. Anyway, then they started asking at a few Union bars about you, and naturally that worked its way to my attention.”

“How long?”

“Started about an hour after you had the fight over the market. But that news got around really quick and there was no secret about who was having a fight. It was well mentioned which security forces had been stupid enough to shoot up in our territory.”

“Right. Well I don’t know them, but they are asking about me. What were they asking?”

“General details from the sounds of it. Your name, who you work for, whether you had an unusual male with you.”

“They actually said unusual male?”

“Pretty much.”

“Well that is even more interesting. I think I should probably talk to them.”

“Is that wise?”

“If I only did things that were wise I would likely never do anything at all.”

Written in 365 Parts: 96: Fill It Up

“Well I had good suspicion that they were not entirely who they thought they were. The implant was a clue as it made no sense to fit such an extensive model and then disable it. I thought it might have been used to simulate a history and make it more real. But what you are saying seems to contradict that.” Drick stared at Rodero and then sank the whole glass of vodka, “fill it up.”

The glass refileed and another appeared next to it, whisky with ice. Rodero sat down. “The memories are too real, Drick. The way that the neurons interact with each other, the map of pathways in the brain. They have to have been formed over the years and not implanted. You can’t grow this type of complexity. The only way to grow this would be to take the exact time.”

“What do you mean?”

“If you wanted to implant these experiences you’d have to grow a baby and then raise it in a constructed world. In a sensory tank. And slowly form the memories over time. Then you’d have a brain that worked like Marsh’s mind. Fast growing this, or implanting it, would leave traces of the fakery. Even with the best technology it is hard to replicate a natural protein exchange at the neurological level. You might be able to do a few, but the whole mind, it would be inconceivable.”

“But it isn’t inconceivable to keep someone in a tank and simulate their entire life.”

“It would take years, the same number of years that you needed to fake. And why would you do that?”

“I don’t know. There are a lot of things that I don’t know. If we suppose that Marsh was made this way, how would we go about finding out?”

“You’re asking me! Well I guess you’d need a specialist in genetics and pharmaceutical biology for that. They might also give you some insight as to why you would want to do such a procedure. Hell we know it would be expensive. And, you know, it sounds like a huge waste of time to do it. So I wouldn’t do it.”

“Everything that doesn’t profit you directly is usually a huge waste of time to you.”

“This is true.” Rodero laughed and took a generous drink of the simulated whisky. “Do you want me to keep digging. I think it might be helping Marsh to free up some of their memories.”

Drick drained the vodka and gently shook the glass to prod Rodero into filling it once again. “Then keep digging.”