The Spider and the Great Big Stolen Thing, Part 6

Day 63. 166 pages, 82,613 words.

The empty light-years between stars had nothing on the distance between Dimensions, a concept all but inapplicable to spatial physics. Travel between Dimensions was only possible at relative speed – ten thousand times the speed of light – or faster. At relative speed, the traveller entered ‘soft-space’, and to all practical purposes departed from reality altogether. If one did this outside of Dimensional space – and there were points in every Dimension at which exit could be gained – the Highroads would manifest itself. Or themselves. That was when eaningful progress became possible. The relative speed drive was the basis for all inter-Dimensional travel and commerce, the cornerstone of the civilised urverse.

If, of course, one dropped below relative speed while navigating the Highroads, the result was a formless white infinity from which the only escape was accelerating back to soft-space.

Gornack the Deconstructor looked out of the porthole and into said formless white infinity, wondering why he’d ever agreed to take apart the immense piece of merchandise the Spider had stolen.

“Right,” Merdokk said briskly, jotting down calculations on a scriber. “We have twenty-seven frameworks and the object itself, each with seven engines. They need five to work in their current configuration. Six frames burned out and were lost in the shift to the Highroads. That leaves twenty-two, or one hundred and fifty-four engines. Eight of the frames have lost two engines and six have lost one, which leaves one hundred and thirty-two. Twenty of these are damaged, too risky to use, leaving a hundred and twelve. Ninety of these are in perfect condition, so I want at least ninety manageable pieces fitted out. Can you do it?”

Gornack crossed the control module’s tiny living space and looked out of the second porthole. It was a less depressing view, anyway – a view that actually looked like a view, rather than just a white circle. He cast his eyes across the collection of massive metal frames hanging in the emptiness, and the darker, bulkier shape of the object he was out here to deconstruct. He cast his eyes across its upper surface – the massive vents and pylons, the fins and ports and cables. He could also see the deep-etched dorsal lines that showed it was constructed, rather than grown.

“I can do it,” he said, striding for the airlock and his neat ranks of tools, “just don’t leave without me.”

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