Day 85. 76 pages, 31,989 words.
Predericon stood at the edge of the archive, staring unblinking into its sluggish, slow-pulsing centre.
From this viewpoint she could see the slope in the floor, and feel it in the angle of her stance. The Destarion’s ubiquitous white enamel vanished very easily into illumination, even such strange illumination as the archive, but it was still visible at the outskirts.
The entire chamber sloped, imperceptibly at the walls but then more steeply in an exponential curve, towards the centre. The archive was gathered in the middle of the room as though held there by gravity, unable to spread beyond a certain gradient. Indeed, Predericon suspected gravity might have been a factor, since this was enriched light, dense with folded particulates and other information-bearing functions of the gelid subspectrum that she had studied only in the most superficial of ways. It was old data technology – older than old.
Because of this, the light was strongest in the centre of the archive … while at the same time the floor’s curve became a vertical chute that formed a black circle even the archive couldn’t illuminate. The effect was rather hypnotic before you even began to unpack the data hidden in the light.
Gyden and Lelhmak were sitting a couple of metres in front of her, perched on the smooth white slope but not too close to the precipitous drop-off. They had been coming and going from the archive, but working their way steadily deeper, into the brightest part of the shapeless mass of information. And spending longer in the light each time they went in. Predericon had as well, because there was little else to do. And the archives were fascinating.
Fascinating … and dangerous. Because she’d waded around in the shallows interminably, sifting scraps and fragments from the ether with her poorly-adapted computer interface, enough to know that she was seeing only a fraction of what was there. A fraction of a fraction. Even when she went deeper, and immersed herself in the light, she knew that what she was seeing was only a tiny piece – a layer that her brain was able to process through her visual cortex. That ability would improve, but only if she went deeper into the archive.
It was alluring. There was more information there, more stories, than she’d ever suspected could exist. The history – the mythology – of the Godfang, blazing away in that weird puddle of light. And more – much more. The origins of the Bookwyrm were just the beginning. And really, it wasn’t as if avoiding the archives would protect them from danger. It was too late for such considerations.
The Bookwyrm itself periodically stalked into the very centre of the shifting lights, and stood on the surface of the pit as though floating. It could not descend into the darkness – the structural and functional proscription was apparently so strong as to suspend its twisted figure on the interface between Segment Twelve and Segment Thirteen – and so it stood, head level with the Molren’s where they sat, bathed in the lethargic glow of the archives.
The deepest point of the depression was also the killing floor, where the Bookwyrm had dragged Odium to affect its demise and dismemberment. That fuzzy spot of shadow may even have helped in the process.
Presumably the Bookwyrm also took in data from the light. Predericon had asked it whether it had seen every story yet. It had told her it didn’t know. The Bookwyrm had been a part of the Destarion since the Godfang was all but new, but the data folded into the lower archives didn’t seem to be limited to anything so prosaic and narrow as the platform’s service record. Information found its way into the archive from elsewhere, and had been built into the system by the legendary Arbus Rosedian according to the vagaries of the inventor’s own dangerous genius. By craft lost to modern science, the lower archives – like the rest of the Godfang – had been imbued with life more than they’d been constructed.
Predericon had tried to work with that, at the beginning. If information was still being logged into the lower archives, there must be some sort of interface, and perhaps that meant there was some other way out. But it proved fruitless. She figured out enough to conclude that while there was some sort of slow osmosis going on it was impossible for her to control, let alone take advantage of, without the interactulix. Which was probably why whoever had taken it away had done so in the first place.
They were hungry. The archives helped them forget, but that did nothing to affect biological reality.
They’d brought rations with them, of course, neatly bundled in Predericon’s pack and Gyden’s, and Lelhmak had his own special phobe-friendly nutritional supplements. They’d used them sparingly, but Lelhmak had drawn the line at full measures. If they couldn’t get out of the lower archives in the six months or so it would take them to run out of food, then being there for eighteen months perpetually weak and half-crazed with hunger would not noticeably increase their chances of escape. Predericon and Gyden had agreed to the logic of this.
The indomitable little water condenser sustained them, but even Molren could only go so long without food. It had been twenty-nine days since she’d eaten her last ration bar. Predericon had become listless and had stopped performing what she considered productive research three or four days ago already.
Gyden had thoroughly examined, and then finally eaten one of Odium’s severed appendages, but had declared it devoid of flavour, texture, or noticeable nutritional value. She’d then reported the substance as having passed, undigested, through her system. Predericon and Lelhmak had thanked her for her sacrifice to the ever-expanding bounds of knowledge.
Predericon sighed, and lowered herself to sit in the shallows.
“Show me,” she said.
The light welled up paradoxically as she closed her eyes.
– Posted from my Huawei mobile phone while sitting in the carpark.