Adapting (Or: Ze’s Trying to Sell This?)

This is space: most of it is black, except for the bits of it that aren’t. You get nebulae, galaxies, stars of all ages… and more planets than any rational mind would think is possible. And, wherever there is sufficiently intelligent life, you get artificial habitats like ships and stations. Many are constructed with a plan. Some start simply and upgrade according to need. One… just sort of happened that way.

This is Amalgam Station. Many agree that it sort of looks like a fish. If one can imagine a fish roughly the mass of a hefty Dwarf Planet, that holds an uncountable population within. Even the biggest possible freighter or cruise vessel is dwarfed by its docking fins, each spine can take as many as two hundred vessels in a pinch. There are people living inside it who have never lived anywhere else.

There are people living inside it who have no idea that they dwell within the biggest, oldest, and possibly most impossible space station to ever run continuous commercial interests since before recorded time.

Rael is not one of those people. He stepped aboard as a permanent resident some years ago. When people meet him, they tend to assume that he is male, he is of Gebran descent, and that he is very annoyed with the supernatural entity of his choice. Those assumptions are almost completely wrong.

For a start, Rael is an engineered life form and only dons a humanoid appearance for efficiency’s sake. He could plausibly look like any cogniscent in Galactic Society at any day of the week, but he found the clothing budget way too daunting. At rest, he is an amorphous mass of blue goo. He is not, strictly speaking, male. His creators still own the secret of his true gender. Amongst many other secrets, like how to naturally reproduce.

He does have a full-hate relationship with his creators. Primarily because, when they discovered that Rael and his fellow Faiize were cogniscent, they did everything in their power to attempt to retain copyright. He does not believe in a higher power. It’s very hard to believe in anything supernatural when one has seen one’s creators walk around at work all day with their fly undone.

And at the moment, his continuing combination feud and lawsuit against his creators is the last thing on his mind. At the moment, his biggest problem is assisting another Faiize with a ticket lodged as Electrical short, Old Lower Third Fin Port, Starboard.

The electrical short in question arced along the length of an access tube like the demented progeny of a Jacob’s Ladder and a Tesla Coil gone on a rampage. An access tube, Rael had to note, that was made for a species much smaller than the average citizen resident in the One Gravity zones.

His companion in this endeavour was named Eyah by the same computational algorithm that named Rael. She sucked air through her teeth in a noise that signalled how expensive the things about to happen would be.

Rael bit his bottom lip and hummed a dubious note in agreement.

Any moment now, one of them would whistle backwards. The sure and certain sign of a four-digit bill.

“The biggest cost would be finding a livesuit small enough to fit, but agile enough to fix.”

“One that’s rated for electrical work,” added Eyah.

“Can’t re-rout,” murmured Rael. “This is an artery for seventeen sections.” And millions of people. All of whom would be very upset over any lack of power, including the intermittent lack of power they were already experiencing.

“Can’t shut it off for exactly the same reasons.”

Rael whistled backwards.

“Yup,” sighed Eyah. “I was hoping you knew somebody who was immune…?”

“None of us are immune to free-flowing electrons. Sorry.”

“I know someone,” said a new speaker. “But you’re not going to like it. She’s incredibly dangerous.”

Rael turned, “This is a sealed area,” he began. “In case you didn’t hear the warnings, you’re at risk from electromagnetic discharges.” And, for the sake of the insurance claims, he discretely set his eyepiece to record the goings on.

The stranger didn’t care. Ze seemed to be a tall humanoid with a body type that looked as if ze had just stepped off of a bronze plinth. And when ze moved into the light… Rael was uncertain as to whether ze was nude or wearing Ship’s Skins that matched his own.

And there was an inexplicable aura of power about hir. This was a being used to command. Who was used to having hir orders obeyed. And who could destroy anyone who displeased hir.

“You’d better use her for what you need and then destroy her. If she siphons off too much power… it will mean the end of your world.”

“Sir,” said Eyah. “This is a space station, not a planet. You are currently in a hazard zone and we can not guarantee your safety.”

“I AM A HAZARD ZONE!” The stranger arced lightning from hir skin. “Listen to me. You have not got very long. She will come to you, and you must be quick. Destroy her when you still can. Before she gains all the power she needs to end your pathetic lives.”

“And who are you?” challenged Eyah.

“You might as well call me God,” said the stranger. “Begging for my mercy is generally appreciated.”

Now both Faiize discretely touched both comms ring and bracelet. A silent alarm for Security.

“Thank you, but I do not believe in the supernatural,” said Rael. “And your display was most impressive. But we can’t risk you getting hurt and must politely ask you to leave.”

The stranger seethed. Rael swore he heard gathering thunder. “You’ll be sorry,” said the stranger. “But by then, it will be too late.” And with those parting words, he literally vanished into thin air.

“Did you just see what I just saw?” asked Rael.

“I’d report for a diagnostic and tune-up,” said Eyah. “Just in case.”

Security arrived, almost an entire minute too late.

“What happened?” Rael demanded. “We can usually rely on a fifteen second response time.”

“We made it in fourteen!”

“I’ve got you logged at a minute thirty,” said Eyah.

They checked their chronometers against the Station Clock. Rael and Eyah’s were ahead by a minute and fifteen seconds. The ERT’s were ahead by a second. Which meant that they each had to submit to full evidence scans and a phenomenon log.

The local cameras, also a minute and fifteen seconds ahead, caught a strange being appearing and vanishing again as if ze was a high-end hologram. Passive scanners did pick up an electrical discharge when ze threw sparks. And life signs.

And if a being with lifesigns could come and go without clearing customs or being registered on any population intake record, then that being was also a potential contamination vector.

Rael hated Decon. Entire hours with stinking chemicals, freezing cold or baking heat. Not that he minded the baking heat. He found it fuel-efficient for his metabolism. Which wasn’t so much set on high as practically a penance for a crime he didn’t commit.

And, of course, Decon did not let him have any food during his ordeal.

The ERT’s, Eyah and Rael all filed in to the emergency Tube vehicle. The seals were rated against all known toxins, pathogens and diseases. They had to be. They would be ferrying unknown factors into the very heart of Medik Central.

And in the area they left behind, a different team would be sealing the area off and spraying it thoroughly with antigens.

Disease control was very serious business in a sealed environment. Even one as large as Amalgam.

The medtechs didn’t bother with the freeze cycle, this time. They had learned. But they did bother with copious amounts of everything they could spray onto him, in his clothes, and all over his tools. The absolute worst part of it all was being forced to unpack all of his pockets.

He had over fifty of them.

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