Deep in the belly of the fuel-extraction infrastructure of Rilao, Leah Olamina trips an alarm.
She’s done this before, an elaborate dance to convince others not to follow. Only she knows that the precautions are merely a performance, a way of hiding in plain sight.
A decontamination chamber rises from the floor to envelop her and send her down an elevator shaft. Below, she steps into a narrow tunnel. In front of her lies a “root portal” of the giant Pterocarpus tree.
She removes her mask and gets to work inoculating roots with nitrogen-fixing bacteria. The administrative engineers who designed the root portal don’t understand the symbiotic role that these bacteria play.