Children of Ruin by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Children of Ruin by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Author:Adrian Tchaikovsky
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Orbit
Published: 2019-05-13T23:00:00+00:00


4.

No word from Helena; no transmissions from the locals, no ransom note or demands or even threats. Or rather, plenty of incidental transmissions should one choose to turn receivers towards their world, but nothing aimed at the Lightfoot. No communications with the Voyager either, which is still hiding out in case the xenophobia of the aquatic civilization here turns out to be insuperable. And Fabian has the uncomfortable feeling that a timer is inching down the wire somewhere. The locals are technologically advanced and erratically paranoid. Octopoid eyes somewhere are going to be searching the further reaches of their solar system for perceived threat. It’s what Fabian would do, after all. He can only assume these angry molluscs have at least as much common sense as a male Portiid.

All of this makes Fabian very angry, an emotion he shows neither in palp nor footfall. It does not do for male spiders to give rein to that kind of outburst as a female might. He is expected to be meek and deferential, and it eats him up inside like a parasitic larva sometimes.

The Voyager mission had got him out from under the shadow of some particularly dominant females in his peer house, who would have blithely taken the credit for his researches—not necessarily a theft, so much as a kind of intellectual eminent domain: anything he produced would obviously be a product of the peer house itself, with Fabian as mere conduit. After that, and with his work hovering frustratingly near the boundary of success without quite crossing over, all these excursions aboard the Lightfoot came at exactly the wrong time. He resents the risk, because if there is one archetypally male trait Fabian espouses wholesale, it is a regard for an intact exoskeleton. He resents the interruptions. He particularly resents the fact that now, of all times, progress is being made. Why couldn’t this have happened back when they had the opportunity to focus on it?

He is also beginning to resent Meshner, or at least his frailties. Humans are supposed to be robust. How could they not be? They’re huge, and they have that absurdly overcompensatory immune system that makes him wonder how any of them can ever fall ill at all. Except Meshner is not well, and months of research-heavy interplanetary travel cooped up aboard the Lightfoot is not mending him. Fabian has spent no small amount of thought on the subject of how much their researches (“their” when negative, “mine” when positive, and he is fully aware of the mendacity of this and cannot train himself out of it) are to blame and tells himself stridently that it is only a little, and other factors outside his control are more culpable. And he is practically there. Only a little more and Fabian can go happily off and encode his findings for the benefit of future generations. Except that those findings are going to be trapped in the ship with Fabian for the foreseeable future, and may meet an explosive death in the vacuum of space with him.



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