Day 53. 123 pages, 55,523 words.
“Honestly, the pair of you,” Lelhmak said. They’d returned to the kitchen and were sitting around the table, drinking heavily-watered frohu liquor. The syrupy mixture was the only narcotic the processor would produce that was both strong and approved by the academy, but at least even a phobe could drink it. “You call yourselves students of Firstmade and Elder Theology. We’re on a research tour of the Four Realms with a stated focus on the Cursèd megaengineering site and – under no circumstances whatsoever – an occasional discreet look at Castle Void. The Elevator is right there at The Godfang’s Landing.”
“Was right there,” Gyden corrected him.
Lelhmak waved this off. “Was there. We were practically floating in her flight path. You never bothered to familiarise yourselves with the Pinian Brotherhood’s principal enforcer across The Face of the Deep?”
“The Destarion is not an enforcer for the Brotherhood,” Predericon said. “I may not be familiar with the platform’s specifications but I have read the accords and treaties connected to the Godfang. Brotherhood authority in the Void is seated in the Archangelic court, and enforced by the Vorontessæ or in exceptional cases by the Burning Knights. The Elevator is a transport platform now, nothing more – hence her nickname.”
“And if you believe that…” Lelhmak muttered, then went on more firmly. “Regardless, if you’ve read the accords, you should at least be familiar with the Destarion’s armaments.”
“Flesh-Eater is a weapon category,” Gyden said excitedly. “I remember. There were World-Eaters, and God-Eaters…”
“And All-Eaters,” Lelhmak nodded approvingly. He turned back to Predericon and jabbed a finger at Gyden. “There, you see?”
“That creature outside is a weapon, then,” Predericon said calmly.
“In a sense,” Lelhmak shrugged his bony upper shoulders. “The Destarion is old. She’s got weird, olde-worlde ways of describing her components. The Flesh-Eaters are sort of low-level security and anti-vehicle armaments. They take different forms. The attractive fellow lying in the ice out there is an internal measure.”
“If an internal measure is lying in the ice in the middle of an impact crater…” Predericon said.
Lelhmak nodded again. “That means whatever brought the Speed down,” he said, “might also have brought down the Elevator.”
“So maybe we did handle the crash as well as could be expected,” Gyden remarked.
“Mm hm,” Lelhmak raised his glass and drank sourly. “You covered yourselves in glory.”
“More to the point,” Gyden went on, “if the Destarion is down here, she’ll probably have resources we can use.”
Old Man Lelhmak seemed completely flabbergasted by this suggestion. In the hopes of intercepting a scathing response, Predericon said, “I don’t know if it’s a good idea to approach the Elevator – not according to some of the stories I’ve heard about the platform, anyway.”
“Come now,” Gyden said. “We’re students of Firstmade and Elder Theology, not Post-Worm Folklore.”
Lelhmak slammed his lower hands on the tabletop. “And if you think there’s a line between those two subjects, child, you’re not the student I took you for,” he snapped. “For once in your life, listen to your desperately boring friend.”
Predericon and Gyden flicked brief, surprised glances at each other. Lelhmak’s surly criticisms and ire were usually reserved exclusively for Predericon, who – he made no secret of the fact – he considered the more promising long-term academy candidate while simultaneously harbouring forgivable sentimentality towards the younger researcher. For the elderly but brilliant phobe to so forget himself and address them in correspondence to his actual opinions, the severity of their situation was clearly far beyond what they’d suspected.
“Alright,” Gyden said, subdued but not petulant. “The Elevator is dangerous. She’s also a very valuable and high-powered asset. If she’s downed somewhere on this moon, recovery teams will be working on retrieving her.”
“It’s been seven hundred and twenty-two days,” Lelhmak said wearily. “Either they’ve already retrieved her, leaving a few broken bits and pieces lying around, or…”
“Or they’re not coming,” Predericon concluded.
Lelhmak drained his frohu and grimaced. “Not coming or can’t come,” he said. “Which brings us back to the question of just where the Hell we are.”