Knowing that Cassie was upstairs or at least in Grand Lake, I considered calling her. With her Abominator Citizen’s Mark, she registered to Abominator devices as an Abominator or at least as a servant authorized to use their stuff. Chances were better than average that she could have full control over the device.
Knowing that the Xiniti fought the Abominators and hacked into their technology, I asked my implant if it could connect to the device. It replied that it couldn’t sense any means to make contact.
That either meant that the device had hidden its communication systems or that they’d been damaged to the point that they no longer worked. Either way, I wasn’t getting much help from the implant.
If I wanted to know more, that meant I might have to resort to either touching it and seeing if there were any physical controls or seeing if my limited Artificer abilities might make it do something interesting. Suspecting that “interesting” might mean activating long-hidden weapons and summoning them to destroy the new threat, that was my second choice.
I walked into the corner of the lab and activated a suit formation I’d worked up for lab work. This corner wouldn’t have raised any eyebrows except possibly among toddlers. On the floor were three barrels of small, black, and yellow cubes. I’d used them to make a connection with the tablet. The counter ran the length of the wall, but the section above the barrels held cardboard boxes filled with more small cubes, but many of these gleamed like metal, most of them gold, some black, and others the color of a blue-green alloy commonly used in Abominator tech.
The cubes in the barrels reached out to me, building bridges of themselves as ants might do, and covering me in seconds. Anyone watching would have seen the cubes rearrange themselves into an exoskeleton with artificial muscles, separating into layers of material with different levels of flexibility, some hard, others flexible padding.
When they finished, cubes from the boxes did the same, covering the suit, turning it from blocky and unfinished into glossy armor with the Rocket’s R symbol on the front. The rocket pack didn’t hang from my back because this was a lab configuration.
I walked back to the table where the tablet lay. Commanding the power interface I’d made to adjust, I picked up the tablet in my gauntleted hands, watching the interface stretch and recreate itself on the fly.
Then I watched the screen. The picture changed as I moved it, changing angles to show the “ghost” from the top along with the wispy line I’d seen behind it. Despite what I’d thought might be true when I first saw it, the ghost and the line weren’t connected. Plus, from this angle, I could see there were more lines, all extending downward, all of them moving, reminding me of smoke and flame from a campfire. It made me think that it might be an energy source, but if that were the case, the energy source was so far away I couldn’t see it.
I angled the tablet to show as many lines as possible, keeping the ghost in the picture only by happenstance. Writing appeared next to the ghost and the lines. The characters appeared in clusters of five or six. I didn’t see a pattern in their positions except that one or two characters were in the middle and the rest on the outside.
My implant translated them without asking me, identifying the writing as Abominator script, the 21st, and final variation. Under the ghost, the words translated as “Cosmic Ghost/Proto-Artificer? Indeterminate.” The words near the lines said, “Artificer Core Technology Energy Signature.”
That prompted a memory. I’d heard a similar phrase before. When I’d accidentally visited a place in what I sometimes referred to as the hyperspace superhighway, I’d overheard to Artificers from the Destroy faction mention something called the “galaxy core weapon” and that Lee had used it. And that wasn’t the only memory that it prompted.
On our way out from Earth, as we went through a solar system with a dead sun and the remains of a battle that predated humanity, Lee mentioned that he’d used a weapon powered by the cores of galaxies in a fight against his own kind. I didn’t remember him saying straight out that he’d kept it when he’d deserted the Destroy faction, but that would explain why they were hunting for him.
If the lines were energy leaking from the weapon, it surprised me that the Artificers hadn’t already found him. On the other hand, it might be well hidden from his kind but barely visible to the Abominators. From what Lee said, it sounded like studying Artificer tech was their species’ main occupation.
It wasn’t unlike how Lee was successfully invisible to his own kind when he wanted to be, but human telepaths could detect him—though attempting to read his mind could leave them catatonic.
Almost without thought, I readied myself to contact Lee or more likely his friend (friendly ex?) Kee, the Artificer techie genius who’d designed the weapon. At that moment, the “ghost” that might be me became a touch brighter and Abominator script began flashing across the tablet’s screen, a cascade of the same words.
My implant translated it as, “Danger! Take cover!”