Day 55. 123 pages, 56,335 words. Actually did quite a bit this weekend despite a lot of faffing around, but I also moved a bunch of pages into Part 3 so the total word count didn’t climb by much.
After careful inspection and sampling of the Flesh-Eater, Lelhmak declared it inert.
“It might be able to be broken down and reconstituted into new units on board the Elevator,” he said, “but it’s dead now. A little bit of cold and airlessness wouldn’t have slowed it down otherwise.”
“You said it was an internal security unit,” Predericon said. “Could its forcible removal from the platform have caused it to shut down?”
“I’m not a scholar on this particular subject,” Lelhmak said, his habitual grumpy tone softened by the sheer intellectual excitement of what they were doing, “but I don’t think so. The Flesh-Eaters were meant to be pretty autonomous, and while they didn’t venture far from the platform, that was more to do with the treaties and conventions than any operational limitation. Plus the fact that there’s not much point having a localised small-arms set that wanders off and goes on holiday.”
The upshot of the examination was that there was no risk in dismantling the alarming-looking thing and bringing its intelligence matrix inside. Predericon knew it was safe because Lelhmak mounted only mild objections to Gyden going out to perform the operation. And most of his argument was a gruffly affectionate insult about Predericon being a smaller loss to the academic community if she went instead, and got sliced up by the unit’s autonomic defences.
Predericon pointed out in turn that Old Man Lelhmak had just been talking about sacrificing himself for the good of the crew anyway, so maybe he should go. Lelhmak huffily agreed to this, but Gyden overruled him on the grounds that she’d already handled the unit and was familiar with the EVA equipment – which, furthermore, she hadn’t cleansed to phobe standards. Lelhmak grimaced, but yielded amidst mutters of what shamelessly grotty little children he was forced to work with.
Gyden went out, cut the Flesh-Eater into manageable pieces and stored each one in a series of sample containers, and brought the one containing the head back into the airlock. They scrubbed and scanned and re-scrubbed the ‘sample’, then took it around to the comms console.
“Should be easy enough to link up,” Predericon said, “the computer-to-computer actually has a zirgox adapter. We’ll just have to hope that the Flesh-Eater’s fibre-fluid isn’t too old to handle the connection.”
“Start it with a low-yield single-layer spike,” Lelhmak advised, “and see if smoke comes out of its nostrils.”
Predericon braced herself, pried apart two of the glossy white eyelids, and eased the adapter into the glistening black zirgox. It was still deeply cold, but the interface on the console lit up with an active connection.
“That was easy,” Gyden remarked. She leaned over the console and began distilling the link. Predericon adjusted the angle of the adapter – the substance inside the Flesh-Eater’s head was thick and tarry and less crystalline than the zirgox fibre interfaces she was used to – but further re-seating proved unnecessary.
Lelhmak grunted. “Argo-tech was first invented by the Dark Realms,” he said. “How difficult can it afford to be?”
“Not too difficult for everybody else to adopt it,” Gyden murmured. Before Lelhmak could retort, she added, “I’ve got what looks like a set of logs. The most recent segments have actually been compiled into a black box package.”
“Let’s see it,” Predericon said.
– Posted from my Huawei mobile phone while in carpark.