Bookwyrm, Part 4

Day 69. 42 pages, 15,855 words.


 

After they’d been walking through the Elevator’s interior for about an hour, Predericon found herself wishing she’d left her EVA suit on. Or, failing that, that she had a set of filters like Old Man Lelhmak’s. The warm moisture of the air was deeply and increasingly unpleasant, making her feel as though she’d been licked by some enormous animal. A friendly animal with a clean mouth, to be sure, but under that sensation was an indefinable feeling of menace. An animal marking its territory, or establishing dominance.

The Destarion continued to talk with them as they walked, her voice as warm and ostensibly friendly as the air they were breathing.

“I regret that my internal transit systems are no longer at optimal efficiency,” she said. “I had to disable them in order to limit Odium’s alternatives for movement. Appallingly fast, Demons. Still, I believe the security measures will hold for a fair while yet. They have held for almost two years, after all.”

“Do you have any estimation as to how long they might continue to hold?” Predericon asked.

“More than six months,” the Elevator answered after a long pause, “less than another two years.”

“Right,” Lelhmak said, “so no rush, but just as well we opened comms with you when we did.”

Predericon squinted at him, but couldn’t make much out behind the glowing panels of his hygiene filters. She suspected he found the convenience of it all a bit too much to swallow, because she did. She was also deeply suspicious of the oh-so-simple plan the Destarion had laid out for them, and found it very hard to believe the ancient, resourceful platform hadn’t found a solution to her own problem, which essentially amounted to carrying an unconscious humanoid to a different part of the platform. Admittedly, a Demon seemed to be an unexpectedly formidable intruder, especially under the current circumstances. But it was nevertheless fairly tame compared to some of the enemies the platform must have faced in her time.

At least, that was, if you believed the stories. And if Predericon was suspicious, it was impossible to believe that her crusty old phobe mentor wasn’t.

They continued on foot. There were a few smaller chambers that acted as elevators or transports, but none of them were routed close to the Demon’s containment area anymore. The majority of the walk took place in ‘service channel one’, which Predericon suspected would be a vertical shaft if the platform was in her intended configuration, but that didn’t matter because the Elevator’s adjustable gravity orientation made ‘vertical’ and ‘horizontal’ a matter for debate. They followed the tunnel in a straight line for almost four kilometres, either angling slowly under the surface of Lelhmak’s Moon along the Destarion’s buried hull, or sharply under the surface towards the Destarion’s innermost chambers and decks. Service channel one accounted for about half of the time they spent traversing the platform interior.

Eventually, however, they arrived at one of the smooth open doorways.

“Service channel one ends here. You are now leaving Segment Four and entering Segment Eleven,” the platform told them. “No Flesh-Eater presence or protection beyond this point. Please try not to be upset by some of the speech patterns and idiosyncrasies I may present in Segment Eleven. You will not be harmed.”

Predericon looked at Gyden, then at Lelhmak.

“Oh boy,” Lelhmak muttered, “this sounds like a better and better idea the further we go.”

“We’re still going on, though,” Gyden said, “aren’t we?”

“In case it’s escaped your notice,” Lelhmak told her, “we don’t have a whole lot of choice,” he jerked a thumb over his upper shoulder. “Every door we’ve gone through has sealed behind us and she keeps switching the gravity and – I’m fairly sure – moving the rooms and passages, too. We have as much chance of getting out by just going on walking forwards as we do trying to backtrack and hoping she opens the doors for us again,” he cast a glance at the ceiling. “No offence,” he added in a louder voice.

“Absolutely none taken,” the Destarion replied warmly. “I hope you will return the favour in Segment Eleven.”

“Perhaps – since we would seem to have time – you could explain these ‘segments’ you refer to?” Predericon asked, raising her hands to stop Lelhmak stepping forward the way he’d stopped them earlier. “We are unfamiliar with your structural characteristics and operational … peculiarities, and would not like to blunder into a situation outside our expertise.”

Old Man Lelhmak gave a soft, sarcastic snort at this, but his nod was approving.

“That seems entirely reasonable,” the Elevator said. “I will attempt to explain.”

 


– Posted from my Huawei mobile phone while sitting in the carpark.

This entry was posted in Astro Tramp 400, IACM, Oræl Rides To War, The Book of Pinian and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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