Eclipse Phase: Into the White

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The engineer was ruggedly handsome, with unkempt black hair and a decidedly un-Titanian rakishness to his gear. She often suppressed this talent. Nor was this occasional antipathy limited to transhumans; she often felt the same toward uplifts, even neo-octopi and neo-avians, whom most humans found closed and alien. It made it difficult at times to play the hard-nosed investigator. He chuckled, smiled jaggedly. Or a fucking exsurgent? Few people knew the term. Keegan had watched her reaction.

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So had Januszczak. She sat stone-faced, waiting, letting the silence work at Keegan. She was betting he loved his voice too much for his own good.

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What was he doing? But a desperate man might try something. Nikkanen herself had a round face with high cheekbones. Some of the team wore vacsuits with helmets off habitually, but on Nikkanen, it looked buttoned up, clinical—a sterile wall between her and her surroundings.

This alone made Nikkanen interesting. My older brother was born there. What had been a good closing question with Keegan was a terrible one early in the interview with Nikkanen. Kjartan could be brusque, but he was a good sort. Our primary subject of interest is Mick Keegan. Nikkanen tensed again.

Januszczak was making a hash of this. Magda was shaking a bit, her voice unsteady.

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That was stupid of me. Though from her reaction to your question, she might know who is. Being angry at a Fleet intel man for being forceful in an interview was like being angry at a wasp for stinging you on the thumb. Not just during the crime, but on multiple prior occasions.

Our warrant to search the premises is still active. It caught Nilsen several times. It could be a headache later; better if we can make a case without you revealing that. He had a nervous, seeking face. She felt as if he were searching Januszczak and her for both approval and weakness at each question. She tried to swallow her unease with him in order to make an honest assessment of the man, but it was difficult. Her interviews with the other researchers suggested things had been rocky between him and the director for some time.

Nilsen straightened. Here was something new, uglier in his bearing: pride. He cleared his throat. Or releasing data on his own? Building a case.

Eclipse Phase: After the Fall

She gazed off into a corner. I did no such thing. His voice was intimidatingly calm. This is still just an interview. Her suspicions began to veer back toward Magda Nikkanen. Then Ragnarsson entered the room, his face grave. The words were blasted into the wall with carbon grit that resembled black spray paint. They were communicating by laser, but Januszczak, in the rear, trailed a comm tether. Antigua was on the other end, holding down the fort. Ragnarsson, taking point with his assault rifle, kept his eyes trained on the hallway as they stopped to examine it.

Above the inscription, the white ice had been carved into an intricate bas relief of a small city—clearly on Earth, as the foreground of the carving depicted a harbor. The manic precision of the bas relief was in marked contrast to the grit-blasted words. A sunny day on the harbor—the last one, ever. They were leaving the old city, half drowned, half frozen. He looked one last time at the painted scrawl on the old feedstock tank. The coiling presence of the exovirus was whispering danger to her, but her dampers and the drugs kept her murderously calm.

Nikkanen had left a heat trail easily followed in the infrared. Januszczak, bringing up the rear, had been marking the ice to leave a breadcrumb trail.

Eclipse phase : After the fall. - Version details - Trove

They left the inexplicable ice sculpture behind and soon glimpsed light around a corner. They would attempt stealth. Looming behind Nikkanen was a hunched thing, two meters tall at the shoulders. It looked like a giant troll vacuum packed into a spacesuit. It leaned crutch-wise on wiry, elongated forearms that reached to the tunnel floor and ended in huge, padded fists. A second, smaller pair of arms extended wing-like from the shoulders, bracing it against the tunnel ceiling, while a third, even smaller pair extended from the chest.

A dendritic froth of fractal branching digits wreathed the two smaller pairs of hands. It clearly did not breathe through the crushed slit of a nose, but the eyes, set deeper, darted about with agonized intelligence. All three trained their guns on the pair.

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The exsurgent drone made no move. Nikkanen,] Januszczak signaled. Nikkanen raised her hands, open. How had this one survived? There must be autonomous machinery somewhere in this maze capable of sustaining it— which meant there might be more of them.

Eclipse Phase - Into The White

You have my word on that. An instant later, so did Januszczak and Ragnarsson. The thing closed the distance between them in one leap, knocking Nikkanen to the ground as the access jacks tore free. It trailed a spray of frozen blue gore along the wall where slugs had torn through it. She ducked easily, but a lunge with one of its upper arms caught Januszczak in the chest. The thick, visible fingers of the arm wrapped around his shoulder and upper chest, and then the branching mist of fractal digits flowed onto his vacsuit, pulling it apart. Januszczak convulsed as his suit vented, misting the blood and gradue that flowed from the breach, freezing instantly as it drifted toward the floor.

The drone advanced, holding him like a shield. She avoided the exsurgent but found herself shooting down the corridor, out of control. Well, why not, then? She put her hands out to touch the circuitry, reached out with her infection. The glassy substrate shattered around her, and she fell into a quantum foam of numbers expressing a space cold, dispersed, and virtually endless in scope.

That's How We Roll: Eclipse Phase

Was she seeing the end of the universe in simulation—or was that eschaton only one variable in something larger? Ragnarsson crouched over her, looking about warily. His vacsuit was slightly charred and showed signs of very recent self-repair. Shrapnel, maybe. Probably not the best idea, but the comm tether was nowhere to be seen. Fucking crazy thing to do down here, but I had no other way. She sat up. She had tasted aleph numbers, cardinalities beyond the transfinite. We need to get back to the station. She stood, dizzy but otherwise fine.

To the outsiders gathered it seems an innocuous occasion.

Eclipse Phase: Into the White Eclipse Phase: Into the White
Eclipse Phase: Into the White Eclipse Phase: Into the White
Eclipse Phase: Into the White Eclipse Phase: Into the White
Eclipse Phase: Into the White Eclipse Phase: Into the White
Eclipse Phase: Into the White Eclipse Phase: Into the White

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