Author : Julian Miles, Staff Writer

The office was tidy and the boss sat smiling behind the desk as he finished pouring a second glass of malt whiskey. The smell almost made John drool. Andy looked up with a beaming smile.

“Come in John. Take a seat. This is informal so you can take the suit off.”

“Thanks, Andy.”

The scream of a decompressing astronaut made Anders tear his headset off again. To his left, Chas added a third upright to the second five-bar gate on the whiteboard. Over the speakers, the scream trailed off to silence broken only by the dreadful snapping noise of something slamming into John’s battered brain through his ruined nasal passage. Everybody swallowed hard as Commodore Vinter stormed in.

“Gagarin take it! That’s eight of my lads it’s deluded and data-stripped. How in hell are we going to get it? The data in its spirals must be priceless.”

Thurlow stood up shakily.

“It’s the oldest we’ve encountered. Brilliant at mental hallucinographics and very aware. We may have to torch it. Can’t let any of the other companies succeed.”

Vinter purpled from the neck up before bellowing at all and sundry.

“I am open to suggestions that do not involve blasting several billion Eurodollars worth of alien DNA data store to space dust.”

“Got a winner, chief.”

Everyone turned to stare at Phillips, the stick-thin two-metre genius data analyst from somewhere rustic in the North of Britain. Vinter looked about for someone to object before nodding for Phillips to continue.

“My mate Eddie. He’ll bring that in. I’ll stake my bonus and his freedom with full share reinstatement on it.”

Anders and Chas ducked as Vinter threw a datapad across the bridge before bursting out laughing.

“You’re on. But if Eddie gets brain-stripped, you’re next man up. Don’t need a data analyst if I can’t get any data.”

Phillips paused and then grinned.

“Deal. I’ll go and brief him while the bay lads suit him up.”

Eddie gusted from the hatch and drifted over to the door. The office was plush, shiny hunting rifles on the wall and a bearded old boy who reminded him of his poacher granddad sat by the table pouring ale from a frosted green bottle. He looked up.

“Take a load off, son. Ditch the suit and tie one on.”

“Up yours.”

The old boy looked nonplussed.

“Easy lad. No need for that. It’s why I asked you in here, so I could compliment you on the way you handled yourself. Need a few more like you, we do.”

Eddie strode up to the table and looked at the bottle. The label read ‘S’YHPRUM’, just like he’d seen it in the mirror the night he glassed his Dad. He smiled.

“Okay, pass a glass.”

“Can’t sink a cold one in that rig, boy. Unzip and get stuck in.”

Eddie’s smile got wider.

“Tell ya what, I think I’ll skip the unzip and just get stuck in.”

He finished with a shout as his gauntleted fist slammed into the old fellow’s face with the amplified force of his suit behind it. There was an audible snap and the room vanished.

Eddie floated in front of a spindly form that was wrapping itself almost lovingly around the extended arm of his suit.

On the bridge, Phil laughed out loud as he explained.

“The patterns show that as a Spindle-drift gets more data, it takes a fraction to enhance its basic defensive imaging capability based on hierarchal command structures. But for Eddie, giving an authority figure grief isn’t learned behaviour, it’s damn near genetic.”


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