Monday, February 18, 2008



The hand stroked Parric's head, passing through his antennae as if they had no substance.

"It is not necessary to be touching."

"Sorry. Sort of a reflex action there," Knowicent said, pulling back her avatar's hand. Her eyes glowed intensely blue. Faint circuitry traced the contours of her sleek, angular face. Two oblong lobes jutted out from the nape of her neckbase of her skull, with thousands of glowing hair-thin optic cables looping from them to her skull. "But what do you expect? I've never seen you in this condition before."

"Don't concerning yourself with my condition," Parric said, maintaining his trancelike state. "My healings will be swift."

Knowicent pursed her lips and arched her brow. "Let me rephrase that. I've never seen a Crafter of Onimik in this condition before. Come to think of it, I've never even heard of--"

"I'm understanding you the first time," Parric said.

"So then, are you going to tell me what did this to you or are you just wasting my time?"

"No. I'm needing your telling me what did this."

"You don't already know? Well, this is something." Knowicent's eyes lit up as she settled cross-legged in front of Parric. "Animal, vegetable or diety?"

"I'm suspecting it is a constructing," Parric said, describing the otherwhereian to her. "It is not feeling right to me. Entropy is clinging to it, as it were old and exhausting of all energy. But as you're seeing, it's not exhausting of anything. It's openings and closings of gaps don't match with limits of its thinkings."

Knowicent thought for a moment, her optic cables flickering many colors. "The moironteau matches the general form of your creature from a cosm in the 2.86443 negative variant range. But it doesn't have these 'footheads' you describe. It actually expells its stomach through the ventral side of its abdomen to envelop its prey. Lots of acid. Very nasty. And it's a chlorine breather. Was this one you fought breathing clorine?"

"Not that I am noticing."

Knowicent thought for a moment. "It's connected with this Flavius business, isn't it?"

"It is doing the killings."

"Then I'd agree with you that it's a construct--a very specific one at that." She ticked off her fingers. "Limited intelligence that's just enough to carry out the mission and associated variables. Physically powerful--overkill really, considering the target. The design... shit. The design's just insane. There's no long-term viability built into it. Whoever put this thing together wanted to make it as intimidating as possible and cost wasn't a consideration."

"It is very full of intimidatings."

"The design is a message. A blunt-force message, but that's not key. Practically anybody can build a musclebound bulk, almost. You build muscle, then send it through the Nexus using a carrier of some sort. It's quicker that way. Easier. Cleaner. But not this one. They build gap control into this one, and extended its physical presence into at least five dimensions so it could do that climbing trick. That blocking of your gap thing--"


"Wedging. Yeah. That's unique to you. To Crafters. I mean, I've got dozens of tacts on file someone could use to block the most common methods of gap access," Knowicent cocked her head to the side, "but none of those would work against you. Parric, you were anticipated. Killing Flavius may be this otherwhereian's primary task, but knocking you off has to be a close second."

"Then why am I still alive?"

"You Crafters are a mysterious sort." Knowicent shrugged. "My files on you are sparse, to say the least. Maybe this otherwhereian was somebody's best guess that wasn't quite good enough. You're just stronger than they anticipated."

For the first time, Parric moved, dipping his head as if burdened by guilt. "No," he said, barely audible. "I'm being weaker."

"Did you say something?"

Parric shook his head. "I'm needing more than that. Who is creating it? Who is sending it?"

"Parric, I can't tell you what I don't know. I do know that whoever it is has extensive knowledge of Flavius and yourself. They've got tremendous resources at their disposal. If they did patten this assasin after a moironteau--and I'm fairly convinced they did--you have to anticipate that they've got a data base nearly as extensive as mine to draw from. The moironteau's cosm is obscure, even for the chlorine zones."

"But you are not knowing who this might be."

"Specific names? No, I have no idea. But I know you've made more than a few enemies in the time I've known you. Make a list of the worst, and start there."

"Great," Parric said, sarcasm heavy in his voice. "Just what I'm needing."

"So. When are you going after Flavius again?"

Parric didn't answer. Silence fell between them. Knowicent sat patiently, concern creeping across her face.

"There'll be more, you know," she said at last. "That one you fought, whether it's dead or not, it's not a one-off. Wherever it came from, you have to expect there's more to come."


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