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The Glow of a Worm inside a Child's Eye (Cover Art)

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Chapter 67 - The Glow of a Worm inside a Child's Eye[]


The Snow Ravens found a way...


...to keep Giao confined. It wasn't even that hard. A shelter on a lush, habitable world, with a lock on the inside of the door. Star Commander Jordan at first found it amusing-until the girl practically had a heart attack when she was forced outside for the first time.

Medical subcaste examined her against her will and consent, and diagnosed it. "Phobia, it is an overpowering, irrational form of Agoraphobia centered on planetary surfaces. It is rare but not unheard of within documents from before Exodus. Sol Belters often were the victims of it."

This made the soon-to-be Solahma Watch officer much, much, more interested.

"So...Giao...how many times have you actually been...on the surface?" he asked.

She glanced at her feet, "I couldn't hack it on the Q-course, it's why I'm still enlisted."

"Really? Hmmm Your 'surface leaves' in your medical record then-"

"Hatter's burrows." she told him. "Earthlike gees, but..."

"Contained?" he offered.

"Yeah. none of that endless, open sky, no randomness. No biosphere designed to kill you, no weather that lies about the hull state... Hatter's a dead world so it's safe, it isn't...like outside."

"Before you...'enlisted', what was your life? Did you never visit a world at all?"

She shot him a glare, "I saw the pictures in the books like everyone else, and we had the gardens in the burrow. I bet you couldn't rig a sixteen hour EVA by the age of nine, or check and set the charges on a rockbreaker by the time you were ten, or rig a capture bag at all."

"Correct. I do not know what half that means." he confided. "I assume it has to do with work, quiaff?"

"Mom's a surveyor, we're only affiliated with the co-op because being a wildcatter is shit for returns and it's nice to have the maintenance padding." she half-agreed. "I can assay a rock, I can fix a pinnace, I can rig rock-crackers so you get manageable ore instead of high velocity interplanetary dust, I enlisted because it looked exciting, I stayed because I'm a good KF Drive wrench and the banked payouts are enough that when I hit retirement, I'll be able to stake on my own in a belt that isn't crowded with others, maybe make some sweet Kroner for air and water and wood."

"Wood?"

"Doesn't grow well in domes, it's a luxury that's worth as much for the volume as gold and it makes a burrow nicer to be able to afford wood for a desk, or bureau, or furnishings. a really GOOD strike and I can afford Red meat, which is a pain to ship from a planet."

"Clarify, what is a...'rockbreaker'?" he asked.

"one to fifteen kilotons depending on the size of the find." she told him, "Nuclear, usually. Conventional explosives are fine for precision work on small finds, or to finish pre-rubbling, but at a kilometer or more you want nukes to crack it for processing."

"Nuclear explosives?" he was aghast.

"Ayeh. what, you think you're going to force-calve a comet or crack a medium size strike with...what, Blastex and lasers?" she scoffed, "you'll be at it for the next half century and still not get a useful haul! Kilo for hour, nukes are the most efficient primary processing you can do. You bag it up with a carbonan bag reinforced with boron-alloy thread, set the charges on the cleave lines, detonate, wait for it to cool, and repeat until the pieces are small enough to feed into a smelter, unless you're building a burrow, in which case you find a metallic primary heavy, bore it with small nukes, pack with water-ice, and float it in front of a parabolic reflector -the outer layers liquefy, the inner, ice-packing sublimates and expands, in a couple weeks it's ready to have life support and internal furnishings...what?"

"Nukes...as tools." he mused.

"Yeah. duh! it's what they're for. It's efficient and we get plenty of heavy metals from Hatter for the charges."

His report to the the Loremaster would have to be passed over to the scientist caste to verify she wasn't lying.


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