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They had spent a day or two collecting the larger plants that grew higher up in the hills and building a frame upon which to lay their boats, saving them from infestation by the wood-gnawing beetle. Colophinanoc took a slow breath through his lateral spirochetes. “But given that the end result was just that she went to the repro-center—a common enough activity—I assumed you’d be let down.” “Well, yeah, but still, draw it out.” “I thought I would tie up that thread so I could focus on Kyolnican’s ongoing saga of hiding his culpability in the missing Hexacron Credit scheme.” ‘Saga’ was a big word, and certainly not the one that John would have picked, but again he appreciated the effort. Go on.” “You’re doing the thing you do with your face when you’re mad.” “What thing?The Kinri was trying to figure out a way to piece it together in a way that John would find interesting- John could tell, and he appreciated it. ” Colophinanoc lifted a limb and touched John’s forehead with a cold digit. You do that when you look into the sun, when you calculate soft-shell nosh-bug hatch rates, and when you’re mad.” A second cold touch right under his hairline, “and this part, this tightens up when you’re mad.” “I’m not mad,” he said, backing away a step.They had been marooned on Xephon for eight weeks, local time, almost six months earth-standard. ” Colophinanoc regarded him with the top eyes–the mid-lines watched the water. “Like discovering you’ve left a chunk of carapace cuticle hanging from your genital hump.” “I see.” “Yeah, so there we were–” He looked over. ” Colophinanoc’s long mobility legs hung over the edge of the small boat and barely made ripples as he changed course. Scare he fish too much and they’d bolt to the deeper part of the Crashdown lake.John hoped he’d last until week ten before he started begging. He let himself think, dream for an instant that this was going to work. Later John could ask about the six knots and how they related to each other and many other things. John, in the prow, gathered up the net, folding it carefully and making sure the stone weights were spaced just so. He’d been cautious about how much chatter he engaged in on the lake; Colophinanoc was a captive audience.It had not taken long for Colophinanoc to come up with a dozen or more tasks that they did separately. “Yeah, so there we are, Sully and I, trying not to bust out laughing at Nanooni and—” the slightest shiver runs through the reed boat, Colophinanoc shifting, Colophinanoc getting .He waited; watched the sunken fan tree where they had herded the fish. John dropped it, standing in the silence for a long time. Got some rotten spots, and those attract the borers, which just tear it up that much more.” “Have we gotten more rain? A glimmer of silver in the murk of the fan tree’s limbs. With a twist of the hips that fed into the twist of his shoulders John let the net fly out into a perfect circle on impact with the lake. ” The toad-cold grip of Colophinanoc’s ropey fingers wrapped around his wrist. Xephon 3 was, as near as the combined opinions of John, Colophinanoc, and AI Citizen #25399 (the first-aid AI didn’t really count) could tell, a lot like earth toward the end of the Devonian period. The lifeboat stuck up from it into the air, maybe four meters.He hadn’t caught onto the gnawers in the walls yet.Seven and a half Earth years left until estimated rescue-day. ” Colophinanoc didn’t slow down, and John jogged back in front.
“We need to talk.” Colophinanoc’s manipulator digits didn’t stop their movement, their rhythmic squirming in and out and around the small basket he made. Also, from the twist at their bases, John suspected he was a little a little hungry. Like a little yappy dog or a Cygnus Crawler that can’t keep its tentacles to itself.
The east wall wouldn’t be visible from here, but later John was sure Colophinanoc would inspect it. “Think we should move the sour-root harvest up, or maybe the red-berry planting back? Sour-root will stay good for quite a while.” They discussed it—as John knew they would. That the kinri was watching him pace and play make-believe was bad enough, but John had quietly convinced himself that maybe Colophinanoc was learning something about human interaction. She faced the screen, took the cigar out of her mouth and said, “Such a tone! ” A message popped up on the screen– twenty seconds! Watching the four adventurers act like middle-school cut-ups and arguing with Frank, that’s where. The lake was a good thing: a provider and a protector.
And the kinri would find the bad spots, because John has very carefully worked bad spots in, even going as far as putting eggs from a borer bug nest into it. Something real and tangible, that was the kind of thing that Colophinanoc could discuss, and John could take the discussion to strange places and “what ifs” and various other things which would be annoying, but bearable, to the kinri. Whatever, Colophinanoc was one thing, but getting through the impending crap-sandwich Frank had set up for him was another. Technically, I am Frank’s character.” “You want to be a corpse with a wealth of unused charges? The big fighter only got three steps into the room before an orc spear caught him in the chest. “Hermione’s still suckin’ wind from the ignoble retreat from the lair of the lizard folk,” Frank pointed out. ” Big Wang landed on the table next to the archer, leveling him with a blurry-fast kick to the gut. It teemed with fish, small ones about the length of his hand and various other things–the shelled fish, which seemed like an odd combination between a fish, a clam, and a jellyfish.
Then: “I think we need to rebuild the east wall.” “Again? ” Because tasks, jobs, concrete things were the best way to get back on the alien’s good side. It was a trick learned, a skill he had practiced, over the long days, like Colophinanoc’s silent rowing. “Always bad luck.” For a while Frank had been Francine, but that had just made John incredibly horny. “Do not damage the AI.” “I’m not gonna damage it,” John shot back. I’ve been working toward this encounter for weeks.” “Put the AI down.”All of Colophinanoc’s eyes were on him; the alien’s body was titled back and down. “I’m not gonna—” The first mobility limb lifted up. “Alright, alright.” He let go and watched as Colophinanoc put the AI back in its case. Who knows what the added radiation from the lifeboat’s engines and batteries would have on the life here…
John let it sink for a bit, then started hauling it back. A few extra minutes per day, a few extra days per season—it adds up.” The top eyes swiveled to look back at their composite shelter. And although Colophinanoc wouldn’t care if he caught him masturbating, getting caught masturbating to an AI wasn’t something John was willing to endure. probably nothing, but John couldn’t help wondering, and sometimes even dreaming.
There was no grass, just a kind of plant that grew about mid-shin high then burst out into dozens of thumbnail sized leaves.