They talked long into the night, going back and forth over the Butterfly’s strange story and the seemingly endless interpretations enabled by the accompanying texts Elan had collected. Broker, of course, had no need of sleep but was actually beginning to look a little worn out nevertheless, his ears a bit limp. Elan, for his part, was definitely beginning to feel the effects of the all-nighter / all-dayer sandwich he’d bitten down on, even if the intellectual meat therein had sustained him nicely.
“So what do we have, in the final analysis?” the Blaran summarised. “This is either the preserved journal of a perfectly normal human refugee and her friends and family and family pets, fleeing into space in an aki’Drednanth ship and so utterly dependent on cultural markers and references to which there are no longer dependable translations that it is basically unreadable,” he paused to gather himself. “Or else it is the final testament of a monster primeval that heralded or perhaps even caused the destruction of Earth, then escaped into Six Species space in Truck’s ship along with an assortment of nightmarish creatures of myth and folklore. And also Sloane was there,” he concluded, “possibly in a box.”
“Or anywhere in between those two poles,” Elan agreed wanly. “Maybe Truck ferried a group of Sloanic scholars to Declivitorion in the Last Days, along with a copy of the Book and a wide array of obscure titles and nicknames that made perfect sense at the time, and one of them fancied herself worthy of writing the Book’s final chapter – or himself, if it was actually Tiakmet and assuming Tiakmet was male – and another fancied herself even more and decided to write a superior sequel to a work she considered the words of a madman. And one of them had a baby and two of them had gas,” he sat back with a heavy sigh. His mother had bidden them an amiable goodnight some hours ago, and headed to bed with a final admonition that Mister Broker not keep her Elan awake too much longer if he pleased. “Anyway, that’s it,” he said, and gestured wearily at the book and its codex. “I could sit with it for another week – or another decade – and not get much further. What’s there is there, without any additional information or context,” he waited, watching the Blaran but actually focussing most of his attention on not nodding off.
Commander Viator Broker – if that was his real name, and Elan knew damn well it wasn’t – sat and mused until Elan’s eyelids did in fact droop. Then he straightened, ears standing resolutely and the Molranoid equivalent of fatigue dropping away with an immediacy that Elan knew was just plain biology but still seemed shockingly unfair.
“How much notice will you need to ship out?” Broker asked. Elan blinked. “Come with me to the Repositorium,” he elaborated. “It’s close, out by the Þursheim Hades line. We can be there and back in a couple of days.”
“I can go whenever you like,” Elan said in surprise, “just need to get the usual clearances and all, but I assume you will have taken care of those. Is there any reason we can’t wait around and ship out in the morning? I could tell mum where I’m going … ”
“No, no reason,” Broker said. “But like you say, you’ve done what you can here and it’s obvious you’re going to need to see what else is going on before you can help with my actual problem – the existence of which you figured out almost immediately.”
“So there is something else,” Elan said in excitement.
“Plus, you clearly need some sleep and it would be more efficient to do that in transit than to do it here and then sit twiddling your thumbs while we fly to the edge of the system,” Viator added. “But I know that sleep and efficiency are often mutually exclusive ‑ ”
“Well I’m hardly going to be able to just go upstairs and go to sleep now,” Elan said crossly, “am I?”
“I sort of suspected not,” Viator admitted.
Elan stood, and was pettily gratified to see the Blaran jump to his feet eagerly.
“But I’m going to try, though,” he said. Broker’s ears drooped, and Elan almost laughed sympathetically. “I’m not going to leave without telling mum,” he explained. “And then I’ll be awake and alert while we’re flying out to the Hades line, so you can tell me all the stuff you haven’t told me yet,” he clapped and rubbed his hands dynamically. “How’s that for efficient?” Viator looked positively deflated, and Elan smiled. “This discovery has waited eight thousand years,” he said. “It can wait a few more hours.”
“That’s not a very human attitude, MagaXidh Ende,” the Blaran said with a hint of his usual good humour.
Elan chuckled. “Isn’t that why you contacted me?”