Len nodded at them, “I assume you’re delivering the new artifact. If you’re here for the next delivery of mechs, I told your… owners… that they’re going to be late due to certain parts being unavailable.”
As he’d said, owners, he’d grinned at them and not a nice grin. It was more of a smirk. The Tara twin gave no reaction, an expressionless dark blond woman in a black business suit. By contrast, Captain Clone’s eyes narrowed and his mouth widened in an expression that in my life meant that Cassie’s next punch was going to hurt. I’d mostly seen it after a hard punch while training, or when we were playing Monopoly.
The less said about that, the better.
Captain Clone didn’t attack, but I might have stepped back from his slow smile, “We are here with the new artifact, and as it happens, our owners did get your message about the parts issue. They want a list of the parts, your specifications for them, and where you normally find them. They’ll make sure you get them. They need those mechs on time.
“I hope you’re actually having problems getting the parts because if you’re deliberately being slow our ‘owners’ will be extremely irritated.”
Len straightened and stared at Captain Clone for a second and replied, “I’m not lying. We’re having problems getting the parts. I’ll send them the list and if they can get them for me within the next week, we’ll be able to keep to the schedule. Any longer and it will be pushed back by however long it takes for us to get the parts.”
Captain Clone nodded and began to turn away, “Good. You won’t wait long.”
The Tara clone matched his pace and they walked away together, two figures in black suits walking out the door.
Aloud, Len said, “Did they even leave the artifact?”
He noticed the brown cardboard box on the white table next to a mech arm. It was near where the clones had been standing. Len stepped toward it at about the same time my implant finished replaying the moment where the Tara twin placed it on the table.
Pulling out a jackknife, he cut the tape holding the box shut, and pulled out a circular tablet made of rust-red metal. Too wide for one human hand, it had a dome-shaped protrusion on the middle of the screen and jagged, broken metal on the right side as if it had been snapped off of a larger object.
My implant identified it as a piece of a “god killer,” a device designed to allow the Abominators to identify Artificer technology, and detect and defend against any Artificers in range. I checked the implant for more information, learning that the Xiniti had never seen it used, but had discovered broken pieces of them on worlds where the Abominators investigated Artificer ruins.
Len held up the device, turning it so that he could look into the broken side. Then he lowered it and spoke to someone off-camera, “Hey Stan, get me the charger.”
The man Cassie puked on stepped up, holding what appeared to be a brick made of a blue-green material I’d seen used in Abominator tech. This brick differed from most by the tentacle-like protrusions from one side.
My implant labeled it “charger,” which made me more worried than before because it meant that Armory had it right.
Len took the charger and moved it up to the jagged metal. The tentacles extended inside and the rest of the device adjusted, extending to cover all the broken parts of the tablet and fuse with it—though the point where the devices met was visible, red metal meeting blue.
Then the screen began to glow. The upper half of the circle showed a collection of symbols that the implant identified as derived from an Abominator writing system, but could not translate. The lower half appeared to show thin lines spreading out from a mass of more lines. It reminded me of how I looked in what I half-jokingly thought of as “elder god vision.”
Lee had told me that other Artificers would see me as an infant of his species, but if that device could detect me, it wasn’t a good thing. Worse, if Len or the Nine got access to the weapons that went along with the sensor portion of the device, I didn’t like to imagine what happened next.
Len touched the screen of the tablet. Nothing changed. That’s the point where I ended streaming the video to Cassie and Yoselin’s implants and letting Daniel watch through a telepathic connection.
As the picture of Len’s lab went away, leaving me to see our hotel room with Cassie, Daniel, and Yoselin sitting around the table, I looked over at Yoselin who was frowning, “Did your implant give you any information when you saw the round tablet? Cassie and I probably got the same thing, but I’m hoping you got something different.”
She shook her head, her curly hair swinging around it, “It labeled the tablet ‘forbidden,’ but labeled the strange brick a ‘charger.’ What did you get from your implants?”