The Spider and the Great Big Stolen Thing, Part 7

Day 64. 171 pages, 84,856 words.

The exact physical properties of the Highroads at zero-velocity, or un-space as it was called, were not really known. There was somehow neither air nor vacuum, so while one was not specifically breathing while outside, there wasn’t any danger in that regard. The chemical and physical processes involved in respiration were suspended, or changed in some way that had not yet been adequately explained. On the other hand, technology based around certain wave-forms or radiation types did not function, so the safest way to avoid tumbling away into infinity to die of eventual exposure[1] was by tying oneself to one’s ship with a good old-fashioned rope. It was possible to jet around relative to objects hanging in the same specific region of un-space, but trying to get anywhere else at less than ten thousand times the speed of light was a one-way ticket to nowhere and madness.

[1] Respiration may not work, but digestion did, albeit on a slightly altered scale. You might not suffocate but you would inevitably starve.

Gornack didn’t particularly like the Highroads, and he liked it even less at zero-velocity. He resolved to halve his projected three hundred hour deadline. Armed with his harmonic resonator backpack set and dressed in a decidedly un-dreadful blue coverall with a set of compressor magnets in the front pocket, he kicked away from the Spider’s cruiser and swung his way out along the top of the nearest framework. The utter silence of the Highroads surrounded him.

He started by quartering the entire superstructure and rigging up containment fields on its exposed inner edges. Then he halved each section. His usual procedure with large items was to keep doing this until the pieces were small enough to fit through the feeder of his black hole dispose-o-matic, or otherwise be packed away by the client. This time, of course, was a little different. The pieces needed to be rendered down to a size that could handle being enclosed in a relative field and piloted for an unspecified distance. That meant they couldn’t just be chunks, and their containment fields needed to be able to stand up to atmosphere tests, acceleration tests, and the obligatory Highroads stress tests. And at the end of it all, they needed to be put back together into the ugly great thing’s original shape. And still be able to operate.

“Two million yachut,” he found himself humming under his breath as he worked. “Two million, two million, two million…”

Molren, as a species evolved in the eternal daylight of the Quin Cities, did not need to sleep. However, it wasn’t possible to continue working full-pace indefinitely. The body required rest and sustenance, the brain required time to shift down a gear and rearrange its files a bit. Merdokk and Gornack spent seven or eight lull periods sitting in the cruiser playing Bazong, tuning the deconstruction equipment, and studiously avoiding talking about the Spider’s chosen career. Gornack knew the Spider was a Class Four criminal, and he was damn sure the Spider knew it too. When the silence drew out, and filling it became too tempting, the Deconstructor shook off his lull-glaze and went back to work with a will. The hull came apart in great crescent shapes, the inner chambers were lined up and separated, and the core systems were carefully detached. Piece by piece, the thing came apart.

And with every piece, Gornack glanced across the void, expecting the Spider and his ship to be gone.

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