Fallen Angel, Part 12

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.

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Fallen Angel, Part 11

Day 54. 123 pages, 55,523 words.


 

There still wasn’t a reasonably established answer to this question, however, so the three Molren sat and discussed the various hypotheses that came closest to fitting the evidence.

The presence of a single Flesh-Eater, Gyden insisted and both Predericon and – grudgingly – Lelhmak concurred, didn’t necessarily imply the presence of the Elevator. Still, it was a fair indication, and the presence of the Flesh-Eater or the Flesh-Eater and its home platform changed the basic equation they’d been working with.

Not enough to actually force a conclusion, of course.

“So if we’ve been relocated, then at least something from the volume immediately surrounding us was also moved,” Predericon said.

“And if the Four Realms were swallowed up by a spatial anomaly and reconstituted into a ballworld solar system like the ones in Cursèd’s Playground,” Gyden replied, “then at least we might not be alone in this new environment.”

“And the sensors still can’t tell us if we’re even still in the Void,” Lelhmak added, “or how big this ‘new environment’ might be.”

“No,” Predericon admitted. “The heavy-spectrum scanners and essential physics contrast engine burned out during the … just before the crash,” she said.

“Burned out, like they never even existed in the first place,” Gyden put in, just in case Old Man Lelhmak didn’t remember this conversation from his previous revival, and wanted to berate them some more.

“I get it,” Lelhmak grumbled. “So we’re left with really nothing much better than the naked eye. And our eyes, and what’s left of the sensors, tell us that we’re in a solar system in the stellar-vacuum style, considerably larger than the volume of the Four Realms. And that the solar system is part of a galaxy that’s even larger still. And that the Castle is gone.”

“Yes,” Predericon said, as if they hadn’t gone over this hundreds of times before. “And we are unable to pick up any comms traffic. We have either been transported a huge distance and the sensors are unable to find any reference point, or we have been left behind in a fundamentally altered sphere of near Castle space, and the sensors are not equipped to accurately scan it,” Gyden shifted in her seat. “Or,” Predericon concluded in the interests of fairness, “the Cursèd megaengineering site underwent a dramatic and unannounced state-change, and everything we’re seeing on sensors and out in the sky is a simulated backdrop to account for the new configuration,” for whatever reason, she prevented herself from adding. Things were speculative enough without adding motive as a variable.

“Why choose?” Lelhmak actually seemed to be in his element now. “We’re stuck down here with nothing but our eyes and a completely beshitted sensor array. Any of those options, or none of them, or all of them might be true.”

All of them?” Gyden echoed sceptically.

“Until more information comes along,” Lelhmak spread all four hands. “Don’t forget, we were playing around in the Pinians’ back yard. Cursèd was the construction site of a Firstmade God. This might just be a test case, a new layout run-through, simulation on a cosmic scale. Just because the Four Realms have been stable for millennia, doesn’t mean they’re always going to be. And just because we’ve got machines and technology and logic and empirical evidence, doesn’t mean the Firstmades have to give a crap.”

“And just because ‘the Ghååla did it’ is an unsatisfying scientific conclusion-” Predericon paraphrased one of Old Man Lelhmak’s favourite weed-out-the-time-wasters axioms.

“-Doesn’t mean the Ghååla didn’t do it,” Lelhmak concluded, and scowled at her. “Sycophant.”

“Fossil,” Predericon replied blandly.

“Alright,” Gyden cut through the exchange and pointed at Lelhmak. “But you just said we need more information. And also that we can’t risk going looking for the Elevator because we might find her and that would be awful.”

“I didn’t say we needed more information,” Lelhmak replied. “I said ‘until more information comes along’,” he paused. “Which, now I come to consider our situation, may not have been the most reassuring choice of phrasing,” he admitted.

“Is there some way we can find out more about what happened from the Flesh-Eater?” Predericon asked. “Without undue risk of exposing ourselves to the Elevator,” she added, when Lelhmak opened his mouth in exasperation. He closed his mouth, and looked thoughtful. “Its head seemed to be packed with zirgox interface fibre-fluid,” she pressed her advantage. “It’s possible we could interface with it using the computer-to-computer handshake protocols.”

Lelhmak opened his mouth again, then stopped. A smile of disturbingly uncharacteristic rapture spread across his face.

“We can look into its eye,” he said, “and find the last thing it saw reflected there. Akmet, that’s the stupidest, most brilliant thing I’ve heard since you thawed me out.”

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Fallen Angel, Part 10

Day 53. 123 pages, 55,523 words.


 

“Honestly, the pair of you,” Lelhmak said. They’d returned to the kitchen and were sitting around the table, drinking heavily-watered frohu liquor. The syrupy mixture was the only narcotic the processor would produce that was both strong and approved by the academy, but at least even a phobe could drink it. “You call yourselves students of Firstmade and Elder Theology. We’re on a research tour of the Four Realms with a stated focus on the Cursèd megaengineering site and – under no circumstances whatsoever – an occasional discreet look at Castle Void. The Elevator is right there at The Godfang’s Landing.”

Was right there,” Gyden corrected him.

Lelhmak waved this off. “Was there. We were practically floating in her flight path. You never bothered to familiarise yourselves with the Pinian Brotherhood’s principal enforcer across The Face of the Deep?”

“The Destarion is not an enforcer for the Brotherhood,” Predericon said. “I may not be familiar with the platform’s specifications but I have read the accords and treaties connected to the Godfang. Brotherhood authority in the Void is seated in the Archangelic court, and enforced by the Vorontessæ or in exceptional cases by the Burning Knights. The Elevator is a transport platform now, nothing more – hence her nickname.”

“And if you believe that…” Lelhmak muttered, then went on more firmly. “Regardless, if you’ve read the accords, you should at least be familiar with the Destarion’s armaments.”

“Flesh-Eater is a weapon category,” Gyden said excitedly. “I remember. There were World-Eaters, and God-Eaters…”

“And All-Eaters,” Lelhmak nodded approvingly. He turned back to Predericon and jabbed a finger at Gyden. “There, you see?”

“That creature outside is a weapon, then,” Predericon said calmly.

“In a sense,” Lelhmak shrugged his bony upper shoulders. “The Destarion is old. She’s got weird, olde-worlde ways of describing her components. The Flesh-Eaters are sort of low-level security and anti-vehicle armaments. They take different forms. The attractive fellow lying in the ice out there is an internal measure.”

“If an internal measure is lying in the ice in the middle of an impact crater…” Predericon said.

Lelhmak nodded again. “That means whatever brought the Speed down,” he said, “might also have brought down the Elevator.”

“So maybe we did handle the crash as well as could be expected,” Gyden remarked.

“Mm hm,” Lelhmak raised his glass and drank sourly. “You covered yourselves in glory.”

“More to the point,” Gyden went on, “if the Destarion is down here, she’ll probably have resources we can use.”

Old Man Lelhmak seemed completely flabbergasted by this suggestion. In the hopes of intercepting a scathing response, Predericon said, “I don’t know if it’s a good idea to approach the Elevator – not according to some of the stories I’ve heard about the platform, anyway.”

“Come now,” Gyden said. “We’re students of Firstmade and Elder Theology, not Post-Worm Folklore.”

Lelhmak slammed his lower hands on the tabletop. “And if you think there’s a line between those two subjects, child, you’re not the student I took you for,” he snapped. “For once in your life, listen to your desperately boring friend.”

Predericon and Gyden flicked brief, surprised glances at each other. Lelhmak’s surly criticisms and ire were usually reserved exclusively for Predericon, who – he made no secret of the fact – he considered the more promising long-term academy candidate while simultaneously harbouring forgivable sentimentality towards the younger researcher. For the elderly but brilliant phobe to so forget himself and address them in correspondence to his actual opinions, the severity of their situation was clearly far beyond what they’d suspected.

“Alright,” Gyden said, subdued but not petulant. “The Elevator is dangerous. She’s also a very valuable and high-powered asset. If she’s downed somewhere on this moon, recovery teams will be working on retrieving her.”

“It’s been seven hundred and twenty-two days,” Lelhmak said wearily. “Either they’ve already retrieved her, leaving a few broken bits and pieces lying around, or…”

“Or they’re not coming,” Predericon concluded.

Lelhmak drained his frohu and grimaced. “Not coming or can’t come,” he said. “Which brings us back to the question of just where the Hell we are.”

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Fallen Angel, Part 9

Day 52. 123 pages, 55,523 words.


 

“Gyden’s exploration of the surface has revealed that we may not be the only ship stranded here,” Predericon reported.

“So let her tell me,” Lelhmak snapped. “I assume you logged it all already.”

“Predericon logs everything,” Gyden said, “including exactly how much of a burden your bony old grey arse is on our supplies.”

Lelhmak pocketed the nutrient tube and squinted at Gyden. “Bit less smarm, bit more data.”

“I found an unidentified species or artificial,” Gyden said, “apparently thrown some distance, maybe from a vessel during impact.”

“You didn’t bring it inside, did you?” Lelhmak groped unconsciously for his breathing filter.

“Oh, yes,” Gyden rolled her eyes at Predericon. “In fact we’ve been cutting pieces off it and opening the inspection window and rubbing them on your face while you were asleep.”

“Excuse me if my faith in you is limited,” Lelhmak retorted. “You’ve been stranded here for how long?”

“Seven hundred and twenty-two days,” Predericon was helpless to avoid providing.

“Gosh, that’s a big number, isn’t it?” Lelhmak said. “That’s a long time to be unable to even agree where you are, let alone get mobile.”

“Again, if you can think of a way to get us off the surface with none of the materials we need to process replacement parts…” Gyden told him.

“I told you last time,” Lelhmak growled. “The sleeper has all the material you need to attach it to one of the guidance jets and convert the whole thing into a single-person escape pod. And still leave enough equipment behind for a second person to survive down here for centuries while the first goes looking for help.”

“Yes,” Predericon said. It was true – they’d run the simulations. Unfortunately the reduced capacity would mean that only one Molran would be mid-range sustainable at base in terms of environment and nutrients. A second set of consuming organs would overload the recalibrated system within weeks. “And the third person dies.”

“The third person, specifically Old Man Lelhmak, is quite prepared to do that,” Lelhmak told them. “Heh.”

“I’ll make another note of it in the log,” Predericon said. “In the meantime, that contingency can wait for at least another sixty or eighty years without suffering unacceptable loss of efficiency. Which might even allow all three of us to get home alive.”

“And if we’d tossed you out into the cold last time, you would have missed this,” Gyden added. They stepped around and into the airlock section.

Lelhmak went to the viewing panel, and stood looking out at the body for a few seconds. The silence stretched out.

“Kedane?” Predericon ventured.

Old Man Lelhmak started, as though he’d been nodding off to sleep like an elderly human and Predericon’s voice had jolted him back to full wakefulness. Full, unwelcome wakefulness. He turned wide-eyed to the two researchers.

“Oh, this isn’t good,” Gyden said softly.

“You know what it is,” Predericon said, “don’t you?”

Like his revival from the sleeper unit, Lelhmak’s recovery from surprise was so abrupt you could almost swear it hadn’t happened in the first place. “Of course I do,” he said irritably. “Don’t you? It’s a Flesh-Eater.”

 


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

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Fallen Angel, Part 8

Day 51. 121 pages, 54,810 words.


 

Day 722 (Centre / Mind standard). Reactor at 98% efficiency. Batteries at 100% and stable. Recycling systems condition green (sustainable). Air supply condition green (sustainable). Sleep chamber effective durability at 36%. Estimated depletion of raw materials for nutrient fabricator 492,000 days.

Gyden returned from her latest excursion with the body of an unidentified life-form (statistics, images and current hypotheses attached). We have deemed it too great a risk to bring into base despite its apparent sterility. Study of the body is yet to determine whether it is dead, dormant, or inanimate. Research ongoing and samples to be collected. The body has not reacted to being moved, or proximity to the ship, in the past 48 hours.

Gyden has recommended that we move the body to a safe location some distance from base and attempt a controlled thawing. I concur, even though the construction and implementation of a remote facility will cost us some battery life.

I have recommended that we wake Old Man Lelhmak in case he is able to make a determination as to the origin of the body. Gyden has naturally concurred.

No further communications received. Investigation of unknown life-form ongoing. Investigation of possible planetary bodies deeper in-system on hold pending ship repair and sensor overhaul. Ship repair and sensor overhaul on hold pending location of suitable raw materials. Drill project for water collection is on hold due to recent developments.

Researcher Predericon Ti Akmet, Lelhmak’s Moon.

Log ends.

Predericon shut down the interface and climbed across and out of the room, up and around and down into the sleeper chamber. Gyden was already waiting by the device.

“Ready to initiate revival process,” Gyden said formally. Predericon nodded her agreement, and Gyden tapped a few controls. “Reviving.”

It was always an interesting experience watching Old Man Lelhmak wake up. The ancient Molran scholar’s face flicked through a range of expressions and reactions in very rapid succession, always in the same order. First he looked charmingly lost and vulnerable. Then his eyes sought out Gyden, and his expression softened in relief when he found her. Then, just as quickly, he shifted to his standard demeanour.

“What is it this time?” he grumbled. “Forgot how the condensers work?”

Gyden had already donned a glove of sterile manipulator film, and reached out to help the grey-skinned phobe out of the sleeper. She passed him a cleanser with her lower left hand. Lelhmak grimaced, baring his yellowing old incisors to the gum, and began to rub himself down briskly.

Predericon picked up the one-piece they’d set in place for him the last time he’d gone under, and Lelhmak snatched it from her with his upper right hand.

“Introductions?” she asked pointedly. Lelhmak scowled at her and – equally pointedly – gave the garment a scrubbing, focussing on the fold by which she’d been holding it.

“Kedane Lelhmak, research overseer,” he said, and waved at Gyden with his lower left hand. “Gyden Lazeen, researcher,” he nodded in Predericon’s direction. “Predericon Ti Akmet, researcher. Speed’s Virtues (Curiosity) research vessel. Manatrikti Academy of Firstmade and Elder Theology and Megaengineering, Third Echelon. Cursèd outer envelope, Void Dimension. Bartiqa’s Founding Principle is the conservation of observable reality. Podnak’s number is 3,223,347 by 11,776.2 by 19 by 10 by 10. Müllick’s-”

“Alright,” Predericon said, and Lelhmak favoured her with another scowl. “Successful revival acknowledged.”

“Seconded,” Gyden added. “You’re still all there.”

“Where else would I be?” Lelhmak muttered, although as usual he was unable to put the same crotchety flair into his voice when he addressed Gyden. It wasn’t particularly professional or academically sound, but Old Man Lelhmak’s appointment as overseer was a courtesy that all three of them silently accepted. He pulled his one-piece on and leaned down to retrieve his filters and sheaths from the storage cabinet at the side of the sleeper unit. “I assume we’re still crashed on Predericon’s fabulous materialising ballworld?” he asked, hands moving in a deft blur as he slipped the sleek little pieces of technology into pockets and nestled them against ears, nose, jaw, wrists.

“We’ve named it Lelhmak’s Moon,” Predericon said, and stepped back to give the phobe space to exit the chamber. He finished fastening his clothing and did so, as straight and brisk as ever. “You’re welcome.”

“If I’m remembered as the man named after a piece of floating debris that his idiot research team mistook for a moon…” Lelhmak growled. This was, of course, Old Man Lelhmak’s version of good-natured ribbing. He was perfectly aware of their situation and its connected anomalous readings, having familiarised himself with them on his previous revival. That, Predericon was mildly surprised to note, had been over a year ago. And had only been for a matter of hours.

“We’re orbiting a gas giant that might be more your speed,” she suggested.

“We could call it Lelhmak’s Ego,” Gyden added.

“Mm hm,” Lelhmak said, which was his usual reaction to having amusement thrust upon him. “Last time you woke me up, Castle Void was missing and the sensors were telling you we were in the middle of a stellar cluster nowhere near the Four Realms or Cursèd’s Playground?”

“Still the case,” Gyden confirmed, as the two researchers followed Lelhmak up through the ship.

“Not exactly the middle,” Predericon put in, “but a solar system apparently inside-”

“And you haven’t fixed the gravity plates yet?”

“Maybe you can show us how to do that using nothing but ice and charm,” Gyden replied.

“We may need to substitute charm for more ice,” Predericon commented, “but the good news is we have plenty of ice.”

“Mm hm,” Lelhmak swung into the kitchen and jabbed at the processor with a sheathed finger. “Did you fix the processor at least?”

“The processor wasn’t broken,” Predericon replied patiently. “It just wouldn’t print that ghastly slurry you call food. We programmed in a whole bunch of pellets from your book of standards and guidelines.”

Pellets,” Lelhmak grumbled, and jabbed at the processor again, vindictively. A small dispenser tube of concentrated nutrient capsules that Predericon didn’t think could be described as anything but ‘pellets’ emerged with a soft grinding noise and a click. “You haven’t fixed that resequencer glitch,” he concluded triumphantly.

“It only makes that noise when you use the machine,” Gyden protested.

“Probably too afraid to make a noise when you two use it,” Lelhmak retorted. “Worried you might try to repair it,” he upended the tube and let three pellets drop into his mouth. “Alright,” he said, his words slurred by chewing. “What have you got?”

 


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

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Fallen Angel, Part 7

Day 50. 118 pages, 53,413 words.


 

They stood side by side and looked down through the viewing panel at the thing lying in the ice just outside the airlock. Predericon felt like a child again, looking into the ground-floor public window of the Makester Building’s Hall of Horrors.

It was thin, skeletally so, its approximately Molran-height body stretched out flat on the crushed ice of their base sector, although due to their misaligned gravity plates and the subsequent slant they’d built into the airlock, it appeared to be displayed on an angled sheet of ice for their inspection. Prone, evidently frozen solid, it was pallid-skinned and covered in something that could be robes, could be bandages, either white or simply frozen. They hung around the shape like a shroud.

It wasn’t a Molran, and Predericon could tell even at this distance it wasn’t human. Its skin looked hard and glossy, like enamel, and she didn’t think it was simply the cold that made it so. It looked artificial, but why anything so grotesque would be consciously created was beyond her. Its head was domed like a human’s rather than broad and flat-topped like a Molran’s, but its proportions were even more exaggerated, the head elongated. Its limbs were smothered in the garment it wore, so it was impossible to tell anything about them except that they were thin.

Its face was likewise warped, with no visible mouth and an almost-normal nose composed of vertical slits surrounded by folds of hard white skin, the visage dominated by a pair of colossal eyes. Hand-length, they were nothing but two more vertical gashes in the thing’s head, only darkness visible behind the ice-rimed lids.

“You dragged it back here?” Predericon asked.

Gyden nodded. “Strapped it to the sled. It weighs a ton.”

“And it’s dead?”

“Certainly looks like it. I found it amidst some ridges near the edge of our map. It looked like it had been flung there, maybe by a crash. It was in a little debris-field but I couldn’t find anything else nearby except ice and rock,” she raised her recording pod. “I’m going to make a best-estimate line for its possible trajectory, and follow it back. See if I can find a ship.”

“Can you identify the species?”

Gyden shook her head. “Nothing in the current database, which is weird – even if the database has taken some corruption. Not to jump to conclusions, but-”

“It does support your theory that we’ve been transported to a distant region of the Void,” Predericon allowed. “New information is good. I assume it was clean?”

“Absolutely sterile,” Gyden didn’t take offense at the implied suggestion of code violation or negligence. “We could bring it in here and it wouldn’t even upset Old Man Lelhmak … except of course I’m still not entirely certain it won’t wake up if we thaw it. But I checked it and ran all the tests. It barely even registers as organic, it’s so clean. And look at this,” she expanded an image onto the airlock wall. “Inside its eyes.”

Predericon stared at the inky black surface between the long eyelids. It looked crystalline yet damp, despite the freezing temperatures. She recognised the substance. “That’s a zirgox sensory data interface.”

“That’s what I thought,” Gyden said, “but you’re the expert there. So it’s either an organism with integrated machine parts, or it’s a machine built to look like that.”

“And zirgox is a known Corporate data technology,” Predericon said, “so it’s either a case of parallel technological development, or it’s a known Corporate species or artificial that our database has either lost or never acquired in the first place. Fascinating.”

“Also its fingers are blades,” Gyden added, and put up a second image. In it she had clearly lifted aside some of the frozen wrappings, revealing a wicked white hand that really did look as though it was made out of ceramic knives.

“And you want to follow this thing’s debris trail back to whatever ship it fell out of?” Predericon asked in disbelief.

Gyden grinned.

 


– Posted from my Huawei mobile phone while coo coo ka choo.

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Fallen Angel, Part 6

Day 49. 116 pages, 52,641 words.


 

After lunch, Predericon checked the supply and logistics data again, and noted its unchanged status.

Gyden’s excursions essentially balanced out, logistically – she wasn’t a burden on the ship’s systems when she was gone, except for the food rations she took with her. On the other hand, the gains achieved by her absence were lost by her coming and going through the not-particularly-efficient airlock system they’d assembled, and the need for additional resources to enable her to move about the surface of the frigid moon.

Still, they weren’t in a dire situation, in terms of supplies. Sooner or later they would run out, and then they would die. But that was a long way off, and their options not yet exhausted.

Predericon performed a thorough maintenance check on all the interior hull repairs and shielding, then spent a few hours alternatively repairing, tweaking, and attempting to use the comms system to raise anyone or anything, anywhere in the solar system. There was a lot of nonsense noise, and even that was almost entirely drowned out by the background shriek of the newly-formed cosmos. If there was anything further out beyond the system’s edge, it was practically invisible and inaudible.

She ate again, read a mixture of mindless entertainment and further simulation exercises through lulltime, and performed another pointless pre-repair prep and materials stocktake for the necessary maintenance required to get them off the ground. She re-checked the figures on escape velocity, gravitational shear and tidal force, adjusted for their shift in location. She tinkered with the sensors and logs but found nothing new to address.

Then she returned to the log interface and made her entry. Climbed and descended the room. Jogged up around the engine block and down to the sleep chamber and equipment storage. Checked the equipment and containers, and the hull at their crash-point. Checked the sleeper bay. Wiped down the glass and looked in at the sleeping phobe’s face.

Went to her cabin and stared at the stone. Went to the kitchen and ate nutrient bars. Realised she’d been a little longer in her cabin than she’d thought, and combined the supply and logistics and hull checks into a simplified visual check. Sat at the comms system. Ate nutrient bars. Lull. Pre-repair prep and stocktake. Adjusted readings on their orbital stats. Checked the sensors and logs. Went back to the log interface and made her next entry.

And then did it all again.

Day 720 (Centre / Mind standard). Reactor at 98% efficiency. Batteries at 100% and stable. Recycling systems condition green (sustainable). Air supply condition green (sustainable). Sleep chamber effective durability at 36%. Estimated depletion of raw materials for nutrient fabricator 492,000 days.

Gyden yet to return, standard excursion is four or five days so she is not overdue at this point. No further developments on the signal.

I’m considering repurposing one of the elevation jets to drill a well. The ice on the surface can be melted and purified in acceptable volumes, and condensers 1 and 3 are still operational, but over time it might be more energy efficient to draw up liquid water from beneath the crust. Still have to run the numbers a few times, and clear with Gyden.

No further communications received. No life signs found. Investigation of possible planetary bodies deeper in-system on hold pending ship repair and sensor overhaul. Ship repair and sensor overhaul on hold pending location of suitable raw materials.

Researcher Predericon Ti Akmet, Lelhmak’s Moon.

Log ends.

She was just walking to the upper corner of the chamber and preparing to descend when the airlock cycle alert sounded and the floor gave a sympathetic shudder. She slid to the door, swung into the passageway and hurried to the airlock they’d constructed in the side of the ship, over the wreckage of its existing access hatch.

Gyden was already inside and was removing, brushing down and stowing the ice-encrusted EVA gear piece by meticulous piece. The young Molran – Predericon couldn’t help thinking of her as ‘young’, although there was less than fifty years between their ages and they had both said farewell to First Prime some time ago – with the bead-highlighted face and the softly-phosphorescent ear-ribs gave Predericon a nod of greeting but didn’t say anything until she had finished stripping off her equipment and clothing. She sprayed herself with cleanser and pulled on a utilitarian one-piece from the nearby locker.

“I found something,” she finally said.

“The source of the signal we picked up?” Predericon asked, filtering as much sarcasm as possible out of her words but still leaving what she considered an appropriate amount. Gyden’s insistence that the garbled deep-sea booming they’d logged shortly after the crash was actually a signal continued to be something of a sore point. Especially since it was Predericon who almost always had to make the log entries, and had as a result noted ‘No further communications received’ upwards of six hundred and fifty times, when ‘No communications received’ would have sufficed.

“No,” Gyden, as always, proved deaf to both sarcasm and diplomacy. “Something else.”


 

– Posted from my Huawei mobile phone while bibbidi-bobbidi-boo.

Posted in Astro Tramp 400, IACM, Oræl Rides To War, The Book of Pinian | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments