Written in 365 Parts: 194: Puppet On A String

Marsh marvelled at the size of the room that they had entered into via the supply pipe airlock. It was a hanger bay for the generation ship, probably the only bay on the entire ship judging by its size. 

They had entered near to the rear of the hangar bay. The airlock hatch they had used opened in the ceiling with a small set of recessed steps that would function in any gravitational direction, including zero-g. Both of them had set their magnetic boots to active when they were climbing down into the airlock so the stairs proved to be no issue.

Drick had pressurised the airlock chamber before they opened the door. Then they had cracked it slowly and opened it a fraction. They had pushed a thin optic fibre through the crack and used a probe to look around. 

There was cover nearby where a central column had been constructed to house the fuel supply lines. It was a long pylon that stretched to the floor. It didn’t look to be a part of the original superstructure so had to be part of the same additions as the supply pipe. 

They had moved out onto the ceiling, clinging upside down using the gravity nullifiers and the magnetic boots. They then moved into the shadow cast by this pylon.

Below them there was the supply vessel they had followed to the rock. On closer examination they could see that it was an unmanned vehicle. There was no cockpit. It was a frame with engines and a small computer to handle navigation and piloting. The rest of the frame was filled with cargo boxes that were neatly fitted together to make the smooth hull. The boxes themselves interlocked to form the outer shell of the vehicle wasting no space.

As they watched they noticed a small team of service robots disassembling the whole vessel and opening the various cargo containers. Boxes and canisters were being loaded onto other small service droids that shot away as soon as they were laden.

The ceiling they stood on stretched away into an almost hazy distance. Marsh estimated it was maybe two kilometres in length. It was over half a kilometre wide and maybe two hundred metres high. But it was not an empty echoing room. Almost every square centimetre of wall space was filled with racks of vessels. 

Wheeled trucks, hover planes, jet planes and space vehicles were tightly packed into modular bays and cradles that hung from the ceiling. There were rows of wheeled platform vehicles, all terrain cargo carriers and agricultural vehicles. There were submersible vehicles, and a few highly efficient looking military vehicles, mixed in among the shuttles and cargo vehicles. Even a modest guess would estimate there to be thousands of vehicles in the bay. There were also hundreds of thousands of boxes, from the labels it was impossible to determine their contents, but a guess would be that they were parts and spares for the vehicles.

Marsh felt a slight tug at his wrist and looked at Drick to see them pointing towards a shadowed area to the side of them. It was a narrow walkway next to the cradle for a large shuttle vessel. They both moved quickly, but as soundlessly as possible, toward the walkway. Marsh found that rolling his foot in the magnetic boots, as practiced on the ship over the past few months, made them attach and detach with barely a sound. There was noise suppression built into the suit, but the robotic workers may have highly sensitive receptors, so every precaution had to be taken.

They made it into the shadows and Drick moved the whole length of the cradle until they had reached the wall of the hanger. Only then did Drick touch the helmet of their suit to Marsh’s suit allowing communication without transmission via direct electrical contact.

“I wasn’t expecting the ship to be unmanned.” Drick’s words flashed into the monitor screens behind Marsh’s eyes.

As always Marsh closed his eyes slightly to help him focus. “I know, I would have thought some executive from one of the companies would have made the journey.”

“They may have,” said Drick.

“You want to take a moment to explain yourself again. Heck Drick, it has been months now, I still am just about as ignorant at this as the day you met me. I don’t get the subtle inferences. In fact I don’t think I get much at all, but I may just be me.”

“That’s not ignorance,” Marsh saw the wry smile through his half-lidded gaze, “that’s your natural stupidity. You are a big dumb bloke. And you chose that on purpose.”

“It’s the way I am.” He smiled as he thought the words.

“It suits you,” Drick answered. “I meant that it is likely, since there was no atmospheric pod, that it was an artificial intellect.” A strange look crossed Drick’s face.

“Problem?” Marsh raised an eyebrow.

“Not really,” said Drick, “just another piece of a puzzle and an annoyance. I feel a little more manipulated at that information. As if I already knew it. In fact I know I already knew it. Some of my guesses are just too on the nose.”

“Feeling manipulated?” Marsh had opened his eyes fully to stare at Drick’s face.

“As I said before, sometimes I am the organ grinder and other times I am the puppet on a string.” Drick had an unusual look on their face. “The monkey being fed the breadcrumbs.”

“Way to mix your metaphors.” Marsh prompted hoping they would elaborate.

“Don’t try and act smart, you’ll ruin the illusion of being a trustworthy idiot.” Drick’s stared right into his face, as they too opened their eyes and looked at his.

“Thank your lucky stars I am here so that you can turn your casual irritation into violence at a fellow filthy air breather.” he said.

“Thank your lucky stars that you are an air breather otherwise I would have reprogrammed your interaction systems with a shotgun weeks ago.” Drick smiled.

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