Predericon in Darkness, Part 17

Day 105. 117 pages, 49,986 words.


 

For a split-second that stretched like a long, silent week, Predericon froze. This probably saved her life, because for that split-second she and her pack practically became part of the hull.

There was another slithering rustle and more wet breaking sounds as Gyden’s body was crushed and shredded by the grasping vine-thing that had dropped from the ceiling. Then, in the pause between movements, Predericon felt the air beside her shift. The motion was accompanied by the pallid non-sound of a Godfang interior door gaping open.

Whether Gyden had managed to trigger the door mechanism just before being snatched, or the attacking creature had set it off in the same way it had presumably opened the hatch through which it had appeared, or even if the Destarion was finally responding to Predericon’s presence for no justifiable reason – whatever the explanation, the gastroclave door opened and there was another tense crowded silence broken only by the horrible sound of the ceiling-thing curling tighter. In preparation to return to the ceiling, or to attack Predericon, she once again couldn’t have guessed.

She continued to stand silent and stiff as a Boreal against the wall as, with a wheezing and dragging sound like decay in motion, the misprints surged out of the gastroclave chamber and – from the sound of it – attacked Gyden’s killer.

Predericon edged a little way from the door as slowly and quietly as she could, although between the grunting and slobbering of the misprints, and the thrashing and weird chittering screeches of the vine-thing, she didn’t think she would have been noticed anyway. Still, she had no idea how any of the denizens of the darkness were detecting one another and what was setting them off, so it was probably better to err on the side of caution.

The battle between tentacle-serpent and misprints went on for what seemed like an interminable length of time, but abruptly faded upwards. The tentacle-serpent retracted into the ceiling, still lashing and shrieking, and the misprints seemed to go with it, grunting heartily as they presumably clung to the creature and let it drag them away. In the silence that followed, Predericon waited almost a full minute to be sure there was no other movement in the room or the doorway, then stepped inside the gastroclave chamber.

The room, now that her eyes were adjusting to the darkness that had fallen when Gyden’s biolume contacts had broken, was actually illuminated with a glimmer of greyish light. It wasn’t enough to reveal much except the silhouette of a hemispherical object in the centre of the space, the light seeming to come from its far side. Predericon crept towards the shape at a tangent, and circled it to find – as she’d suspected – a small pale-grey interface panel on the side. This, she guessed, was the gastroclave.

She shrugged off her pack, set it on the floor, and crouched down to study the interface. It appeared to be a combination of glyphs and Ancient Pinian. Makes sense, she thought, especially if this is an area that hasn’t seen an update in a while. Maybe ever.

She focussed on the challenge, because the alternative was dwelling on what had just happened outside. The Bookwyrm picked its subject well, she heard Gyden’s voice say in her mind. You always immersed yourself in problems rather than stepping back from them. Like that sculpture in your cabin.

Howi,” the interface said, astonishingly loudly after the long silence. Its voice was similar to the Destarion’s, but not identical. “Skat-ru.”

From the icons, it was clearly an invitation to select a lexicon. Predericon tapped the one which resembled a Molran silhouette with ears raised. Xidh.

“Welcome to Gastroclave Nine,” the gastroclave said, “the grwzzzzest place on promenade deck grwzzzz.”

“Thank you,” Predericon whispered. “Can you maybe lower your volume?”

“Why does everyone always grwzzzz me that?” the gastroclave wondered, but pitched its voice to a more reassuringly barely-audible level. “You don’t seem to have a passenger profile, would grwzzzz me to grwzzzz for you?”

“Yes please.” Predericon said.

“Processing existing order,” the gastroclave whispered. “Please wait until grwzzzz is clear and grwzzzz functionality restored.”

“Wait, what…” Predericon straightened and frowned down at the interface. It did seem to be cycling through a glyph reminiscent of an iterative data compilation like their processor back on board the Speed’s Virtues (Curiosity). The gastroclave was printing something. “Cancel order and reset,” she said hastily.

“I’m afraid I can’t grwzzzz that,” the gastroclave said, “you don’t grwzzzz passenger profile so you grwzzzz but don’t worry, this won’t take a second.”

Predericon stepped back from the gastroclave as it finished processing its latest misprint, and birthed it greasily into the world.

 


– Posted from my Huawei mobile phone while picking up Toop this time.

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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