Episode 2 -- Night Flight
Rainwater Station hummed all around hangar bay 24D. Courier 7 lay here, in its berth, radiators neatly folded and antennae retracted.
Bubbles' feeding sap was perfectly transparent. Through the reinforced glass of her canister, Isaac/Isabeau could see the vegetal architecture of the artificial intelligence. Bubbles was nestled inside a small spherical room that provided a permanent influx of artificial sunlight. When they had first met each other, five years before, the sheer complexity of Bubbles' cloud of lichen and microscopic leaves had been quite the impressive sight for Isa. Now, however, they admired her simplicity. The artificial intelligence was a forest folded unto itself, millions of green-and-gold stars gleaming together. Yet, her sophistication was nowhere near that of a human brain. Bubbles was every bit as intelligent as Isaac/Isabeau or Talasea, yet she inhabited a substrate that was several orders of magnitude simpler than their brains. The AI, though, did not exactly think like a mammal. Her words, her intuitions, her understandings were very human but they did not come from the same processes. Bubbles entertained simultaneous thoughts, instead of the sequential thinking of human brains. She was closer to the distributed intelligence of a tree, or even a forest, than anything else.
Isa tapped the container. A lichen branch hummed in response. The silly bird appeared on Bubbles' post-it.
"Everything alright in there?"
Bubbles was in a partial sleep cycle and half her vegetal processors were offline.
"Rather. Courier 7 is a nice ship. It's quite simple and I don't like complex vessels."
"I see you haven't taken over onboard systems yet. They don't accept your presence?"
"They do. But they are also perfectly adequate and I don't see why I'd replace them. Besides, I don't feel ready to merge with a ship. Not after what happened last time."
"Still having nightmares?"
"An AI doesn't dream, Isa. We don't have nightmares either. We simply do not make this convenient distinction you have between dream and reality, as a part of us is always sleeping. I might have used the term nightmare out of simplicity, but it's not quite what I intended to say. It is wrong to say that I still dream about the destruction of the *Distant Shores*. It would be more correct to say that I never ceased reliving it."
"Talasea said you were like a soldier who had lost a limb."
"And Talasea, with all due respect, is wrong. When the *Distant Shores* exploded, I *was* the ship. To me, its destruction never ended. It is still going on, in every waking moment."
"And when will it end?"
"When I will finally be able to stop thinking about how and why our ship was destroyed for the simple crime of exploring an old ruin. I am currently trying to reconstruct the trajectory of the missile from the last data I was able to acquire before ejection. Slow work, but I have to do it for the sake of my peace of mind."
"I know what you are going to say. I have already considered it a thousand times. It's not an obsession, Isaac/Isabeau. My thoughts, as complex as they can be, do not interfere with my mental well-being. Neither do they interfere with my abilities as a crewmember."
"I wasn't insinuating anything of the sort and I am sad you can think I was. But I'm sorry. It wasn't my intent to hurt you."
"I know, Isa, I know. I would have been much more miffed had it come from Talasea."
"Oh? Why is that?"
"Because she's always sincere."
It was cold in the pressurized hangar next to Courier 7. The Lunar Mechanic leaned over her workshop, surrounded by a small court of maintenance drones. Three superconductor toroidal batteries lay on the table, smooth surfaces reflecting the ambient lights. Talasea considered them in silence. It was hard to believe that these objects, barely the size of a handbook, contained as much energy. Superconducting batteries were strange objects. It was easy to forget that, for centuries, their size had only been justified by the necessity to bring them them to very low temperatures. Modern superconductors could operate at room temperatures and thus weren't subject to the tyranny of cryogenic coolant.
"So?" asked Talasea, pointing at the three tores.
"These two are in good shape but the third one is too unstable. If I put it back in Courier 7, it might quench destructively. There are several tens of megajoules stored in that thing. Magnet quenching could turn it into a fragmentation grenade."
"I know how SMES units work, thank you. What happened? Physical damage?"
"Likely. It's one of the oldest batteries aboard Courier 7. I should have swapped it earlier."
"Did you empty it?"
The Lunar Mechanic smiled.
"No. It can still blow right in our faces."
"Why didn't you discharge it then?"
"Because I know what I am doing."
Talasea nodded. Then, slowly, she grabbed the SMES unit and elevated it right under her eyes.
"I wonder if the debris from a destructive quench would have enough velocity to kill me on the spot."
The Lunar Mechanic nodded.
"Are you sure?" asked Talasea while considering the toroid as if it had been some kind of exotic bird.
"Ten years ago, I worked on a mining ship in lunar orbit. An old thing whose battery had been neglected for far too long. I'm alone up there. I remove the battery, leave it to my djinn like an idiot and it quenches without a warning. I found my drone under the shape of a faint cloud of gas and debris. Trust me. Your pretty face is even less resilient than a space drone."
The Lunar Mechanic took the battery back and stored it in the armoured rack she used for damaged SMES units.
"What are you trying to prove, Talasea?"
"Oh. Nothing. I just wanted to see if finding myself in front of a live grenade would manage to scare me. You see, a few years ago I had a ship accident. Since then, I have a few hundred grams of metal in my body and I can't feel fear anymore."
"Some would consider that a decent outcome."
"And did this toroid manage to scare you?"
The Lunar Mechanic sighed, shook her head and gestured Talasea to exit her hangar so that she could go back to work.
The Postmistress intercepted Talasea as she passed the hangar door towards the inside of the station. She held an empty teacup in her hand and looked as if she had just stumbled out of her office even though it was on the other end of Rainwater Station. Sometimes the Irenian wondered if the grey-haired woman didn't have the gift of teleportation.
"I am in need of you. It's a bit early in the week, I know, but I have a slight issue."
"I assume the other courier ships can't handle it?"
The Postmistress laid a tired gaze upon the hangar. Around Courier 7 stood six other vessels, stamped Courier 1 to Courier 6. Though the messenger drones were as large as the Internationale, even their shapes looked dull.
"Is it a delivery?" asked Talasea.
"The contrary. We're about to welcome a messenger drone from the Earth. Long-range automated cargo vessel, codename Night Flight. Its reintegration point is a variable star located seven lightyears away. I would like you to meet up with it. The Night Flight is a big machine and it's also a fragile one. The letters and packages it's carrying are of great value to our community. My mind would be more at peace if you accompanied the Night Flight for the last leg of its journey."
"Right. We're departing as soon as we can."
A massive equatorial storm had taken hold of Typhoon. Yes, thought Isaac/Isabeau, the gas giant's clouds still looked like eyes -- that of a very old sea creature, slumbering across aeons. Bubbles' avatar had moved across the screens, so that she'd look like she was sitting on the blue giant. The AI looked grim.
"I do feel like the AI of a random messenger drone and I don't like it."
Isaac/Isabeau ate a piece of apple cake while going over the translation check-list.
"Messenger drones aren't sapient, are they?" they answered.
"No. AIs may emerge inside one from time to time but they very quickly manifest themselves. Messenger drones are a crap envelope for a sapient being. Dumb, limited things. The only interesting aspect of a messenger drone is its delta-v. The small ones are like racing ships. Unlike Courier 7..."
"Well, yeah. It's easy to to be fast when you weigh ten tons on a rainy day."
"I do not advise using messenger drones in a rainstorm."
"That was a metaphor, Bubbles."
The avatar giggled.
"I know! I was messing with you."
Talasea entered the cockpit with a bag of dried fruits. She had engaged the magnetic clamps of her flight suit and moved almost like in normal gravity, save for her long black hair, floating behind her like a lazy jellyfish.
"Right, lovebirds, are we ready to translate?"
"Relative velocity matched. Ready."
"Very ceremonial, well then."
Talasea gave Isa a bright smile, the first one they'd see in a long while.
For a split-second: the world takes the colours of a sunless day.
The destination system of the Night Flight had no name, just an alphanumeric code that contained its spectral type and galactic location: EOL-PRAU-AV-04, with a literal translation in Arabic and Hindi. Despite their oddly poetic aspects, these denominations were nothing but cold identification sheets. There was one for each of the four hundred billion stars in the galaxy, discovered or not. Isa looked towards the main star. EOL-PRAU-AV-04 was a very simple system, made of a single star and a cloud of debris devoid of any human presence. The sun gleamed in yellow and red. The only reason why the Night Flight had chosen it as its exit point was the variable nature of the star. It pulsed every six hours, creating variations in magnitude that were visible hundreds of lightyears away, allowing for very accurate long-range translation drops.
Bubbles deployed the multispectral sensor suite of Courier 7 and started prowling its surrounding for signs of the Night Flight. It took her a little under eight minutes to catch the ship's thermal signature. What she saw was quite grim.
"Isa, Talasea, I have a problem."
The avatar snapped her fingers, highlighting a dot on the system map, at the edge of the variable star's sphere of influence. In theory, the Night Flight should have found itself in deep space, a few light-hours away from EOL, with a low relative velocity. Instead, it was barely a few millions kilometres away from the star and moved at several tens of kilometres per second, relative to Courier 7. It was so close to the star that Bubbles had trouble acquiring a clear bead on the target. Talasea hung her thermos to a magnetic tray and let out a beautiful irenian curse.
"What in the actual hell is that ship doing..."
"I don't know. I've been trying to contact it, both with radio messages and our communications laser. No answer whatsoever. Not even a pre-recorded message."
"Maybe its fusion drive has failed," answered Isaac/Isabeau, nestled in their seat.
"The Night Flight is equipped with an emergency magsail precisely for this kind of issue," shot back Bubbles, "it can decelerate even without a fusion drive. And even if all of its engines are out, it can still use its geometry drive to get out of the way and call for help. The only reason I see for the ship's current trajectory is that its autopilot is offline."
"How much time do we have until it is unrecoverable?"
"A few hours at best, considering its current velocity. The star is very active and its close environment is too dangerous to allow for ulterior recovery."
"Can we get the cargo back ourselves?"
"This is going to be hard. We could intercept the Night Flight with a translation but we don't have enough thrust to actually catch up with it."
Talasea nodded. Bubbles was right. The geometry drive of Courier 7 could allow the ship to teleport a few kilometres away from the Night Flight but the speed difference between the two ships would only give them a handful of seconds to meet up. If Courier 7 was to send a drone towards the Night Flight, it would crash on the cargo ship and probably destroy it. A more powerful ship would have probably been able to catch up with the Night Flight but the engines of Courier 7 had been designed for lightness and fuel economy, not for raw power. Isa started considering her possibilities regardless. The main microwave drive was way too weak but Courier 7 could also use its auxiliary drives. The first auxiliary engine quenched individual batteries -- instead of simply emptying them -- to provide direct thrust out of superheated plasma. The second auxiliary drive was fuelled by the tanks of metastable nitrogen. It was, in effect, a rocket drive, capable of outputting immense amounts of thrust at a very low fuel efficiency. This engine was primarily meant to be used for take-off, but by combining the thrusts of all three drives for an hour -- the longest time they could afford to thrust for before the Night Flight would be unrecoverable -- Courier 7 could possibly reach a significant fraction of the cargo ship's speed. It could perhaps be enough to catch the most important containers, if the EVA djinns could go fast enough. Isaac/Isabeau told Bubbles, who nodded in approval.
"It's not impossible but...we'll be very close to the star. When it pulses again, the Internationale will be dangerously exposed. Why do you want to get this cargo so much? Just packages and letters..."
"We are mailpeople now," answered Isa.
"Our job description doesn't include intercepting a mad ship darting towards a star."
Talasea raised her eyes from her thermos and blinked, as if springing out of a bad dream.
"The Night Flight has spent two years and a half travelling from the Earth. Each and every one of its letters has been weighted, rewritten, reconsidered to the milligram, so that as many of them could be sent aboard the vessel. The words carried in that sip have been chosen and reflected upon many times by several thousand people. Letters of love, letters of regret, letters of hope, boring letters, extraordinary letters. Essential letters. Not a single one of them is useless. One day, a letter like this saved my life and that is not a joke. That's why I want to try. Because some of these letters, all of them perhaps, may change lives."
"I hear this argument," answered Bubbles, "I'm not saying I approve of it but I get it. Very well."
"I propose we start with a single, hour-long thrust to align ourselves on the Night Flight. Then a translation within ten thousand kilometres so that we could observe it closer, try to establish a comlink and, if possible, ask the autopilot to drop the containers so that we could tag and grab them."
Talasea and Isa fastened their seatbelts. The pilot pushed the throttle.
The three drives ignited in sequence. The main Lazward drive started drawing battery power to heat up hydrogen propellant. Then, several SMES units were diverted towards a secondary circuit where they were quenched and vaporized to inject superheated plasma in the exhausts. Finally, Isaac/Isabeau started up the auxiliary rocket drive, that started converting metastable fuel into heat and light.
Talasea grimaced as she felt thrust push her against her seat. Her flight suit inflated in several places to balance out blood pressure in her body. Isa exhaled and took her hand. Their monads -- little artificial organs implanted in their neck -- liberated painkillers and anti-g drugs in their veins. They spent the following hour in a confused transe. Courier 7 was nothing but a small blue blade, sheathed at the top of a white flame.
After an hour of thrust, the propellant reserves of Courier 7 were empty and half the batteries had been emptied or quenched. Isa cut the drives. Talasea pushed the translation controls.
The star suddenly filled the void. It was so bright that it took the virtual windows of the cockpit a short while to compensate by dimming the output from the cameras. Talasea had reintegrated the ship ten thousand kilometres or so away from the Night Flight. Bubbles turned the sensors towards the cargo ship.
"Well, would you look at that..."
She sent the three dimensional silhouette of the Night Flight to the windows. Isaac/Isabeau could see the seven hundred metres long frame of the ship. They saw the complex superstructure of the fusion drive, the steel-water plate acting as a radiation shield, the metal scaffold containing the cargo and the propellant tanks, the AI module at the front -- but the longer they looked, the less the ship made sense. It wasn't destroyed but it wasn't alive either. It was a ghost, thin and fragile, darting towards its destruction in a fusion-powered pyre.
"The ship has been hit by high-speed impactors, probably a swarm of debris or micrometeorites. One chance in a billion but the Night Flight had no armour. The autopilot module has been completely trashed, the radiators have been either minced or torn off and I am unsure the fusion drive is properly contained. I see no working RCS either."
"Can you link up to intact subsystems?"
"Trying to. The Night Flight still has an intact antenna. I'm attempting to transmit our postal service codes."
"You're trying to take control of the ship."
"Of what's left of it, aye."
A few seconds passed, during which the Night Flight crossed over a hundred kilometres. Then, the three-dimensional schematics lit up, highlighting a few subsystems the AI had managed to take control of. Bubbles had full admin access to the individual containers and the fusion drive. The rest was either destroyed or unreachable.
"I should be able to drop the containers but I still don't approve of the idea. Our relative angles are awful. The djinns are stupid."
"And the digital mail data?"
"Three terabytes of recorded messages. I am copying them aboard our ship. But the letters are out of bounds, I'm afraid."
"Can you fire the fusion drive ? If the Night Flight thrusts towards the star, it may be possible to bridge the remaining gap between our relative velocities."
"Isa, the radiators of the cargo ship are mostly useless. The fusion drive must be producing several terajoules of heat when under power. Without working rads, the Night Flight will melt."
The star pulsed as it entered a bright cycle. The screen of Courier 7 were further dimmed by Bubbles to absorb the influx of light and heat. A cloud of swirls appeared alongside the front section of the Night Flight. The fragile superstructures of the interstellar ship were melting. Contrary to Courier 7, the cargo ship did not possess any meaningful thermal armour. The magsail was long gone, its fragile web entirely disintegrated. Tali sighed.
"Whatever happens, the Night Flight is lost. Go ahead, Bubbles."
"Wait," interrupted Talasea, "leave us a minute so that we can escape the radiation cone of the fusion drive. Isa, I don't think we'll have time to eject and get all the containers. We'll have to sort them out in order of priority. Do we have access to their specific content?"
"No but the cargo manifests contain a few general indications. Wait. There are only administrative documents in a few cargo racks...here, I see a container with nothing but handwritten letters."
"Very good. We'll eject this one first, as soon as we've matched relative velocities. Bubbles?"
For the following ten seconds, the Internationale and the Night Flight continued moving in parallel, ten thousand kilometres away from each other. The star now filled a third of the sky but the Night Flight plunged towards its doom at twice the speed of Courier 7. Bubbles felt awful. The idea of deliberately killing a ship was exceedingly sour to her vegetal soul, but she ended up switching the drive on regardless.
Somewhere at the heart of the Night Flight, the ravaged structure of a fusion candle sprung to life. A set of gears ejected a micropellet of deuterium and tritium, not larger than a grape. A myriad of lasers were triggered, triggering a fusion reaction. The pellet liberated a vast quantity of energy. Most of it was converted into thrust, produced by the vaporization of a large amount of reaction mass. The rest was turned into a hail of neutrons, sterilizing the wake of the cargo ship, as well as thermal radiation. Normally, waste heat would have been absorbed by the radiators and dissipated into space, but the dying vessel did not possess this capability anymore. The Night Flight became its own heat sink. Thermal output spread through the ship, melting cables, rupturing rivets, stressing soldered plates, turning the hull white hot.
A bright plume appeared in front of the ship, facing the star. The fusion drive now worked at full power, burning pellet upon pellet, in a desperate effort to slow the Night Flight down and allow Courier 7 to catch up with it. Bubbles had originally assumed she could maintain thrust for about ten minutes. She managed twenty, by sacrificing the water tanks to dissipate additional heat but the vessel was doomed. After eighteen minutes, the Night Flight was nothing but a white-hot candle. Bubbles announced she was about to lose containment on the fusion drive. Talasea ordered to kill the engines and eject the containers. Their relative speed was still in the ballpark of a few hundred metres per second but Courier 7 now had a chance to grab the containers.
The Internationale switched its geometry drive again and teleported a hundred kilometres away from the Night Flight, right behind it so that it wouldn't place itself within the radiation cone.
Right as Bubbles sent the kill order, the Night Flight's superstructure betrayed her. The control circuits had melted, preventing the instructions from propagating through the vessel. Bubbles immediately switched to emergency controls but it was already too late. The lasers lit up but the fusion chamber could not withstand the superheated plasma any longer. The entire drive melted down. As it vaporized itself, a rapidly expanding sphere of plasma started devouring the ship.
The Night Flight had lived through its penultimate moments. The sensors of Courier 7 captured every single second of its death in exquisite detail. Bubbles desperately tried to eject the containers while the Night Flight died all around her in a storm of plasma and molten metal. For a split-second, the artificial intelligence believed the letters would survive but the rupture of the hull cut her hopes short. Talasea and Isaac/Isabeau witnessed thousands of packages and letters succumb to the sudden fiery expansion of the drive. The cargo ship spewed molten debris in a spiralling trajectory. Well below the star's escape velocity, they would end up falling into the star well before cooling down. The pilot sighed but didn't say anything. They watched the container fragments, spread across the void at the speed of a rifle projectile. Isaac/Isabeau briefly wondered how long the ink would withstand the combined assault of vacuum and heat. There was nothing to do. Courier 7 could barely pick up the signatures of the debris and the wreck was nothing but a molten, irradiated constellation falling towards the star. Even if Courier 7 had had the time to catch up with the letters, their individual containers were now lost in space.
Suddenly, Courier 7 woke up. A blood-red alarm lit up on the instruments panel, followed by the automatic highlighting of a section of the ship on the screens. Hull rupture, said the computer, albeit without gravity.
"Debris strike," announced Talasea, without losing her composure, "it comes from the Night Flight. I have a slight loss of atmosphere in the crew compartment. Some damage on electrical circuits but I can't really tell how expensive they are."
"I'll check it out," added Isaac/Isabeau, unbuckling their harness, zipping up their flight suit and leaving the cockpit.
The first thing they noticed through their helmet visor was a collection of small plants drifting through the ship's kitchen, drawn towards hard vacuum by the air escaping through a hole in the hull. It was barely ten centimetres across. The debris strike had cut through the outer armour with ease, piercing several layers of circuits in the process. The air would take several hours to leave the kitchen. Isaac/Isabeau plugged the breach with a mixture of carbon plates and self-expanding gel. Then, they turned towards the inside of the room, looking for the arrival point of the projectile. The improvised penetrator wasn't hard to find. It had pierced right through Talasea's pressure cooker. The complex machine had been properly pulverized. The piece of debris was lodged in the water heater. The only thing preventing a sudden flood was the presence of a carbon nanotube cylinder, stuck halfway through the hole.
"Isa," asked Talasea on the radio, "what's happening?"
"The projectile is a letter cannister from the Night Flight. I imagine it's been ejected during the explosion. One chance in a billion..."
"Are the contents intact?"
Isa examined the cylinder. It bore the emblem of the Astropostale, the Earthbound interstellar postal service. Each of the letters aboard the ship had been stored in a similar contraption. The carbon nanotube structure was very sturdy -- almost like a military-grade cannister. The front part had been folded by the shock but the rest was more or less intact. Isaac/Isabeau managed to recover a roll of yellowish paper, moist but readable.
The last surviving letter from the Night Flight.
Isa folded the letter with the utmost care, then drifted back towards the cockpit.
Six hours later, Courier 7 was vertically landed in a vacuum hangar on Rainwater Station. The Lunar Mechanic watched in distress. The Internationale had a whole in the hull and the entirety of the prow was covered in dark soot from the exposure of its heat tiles to the variable star.
"What the hell did you do with your ship? It's a courier vessel, not an exploration ship! You're not flying an Inyanga anymore, kids!"
"I doubt an Inyanga would have survived such a brutal exposure to a star. At least I wouldn't have tried," commented Isaac/Isabeau, who knew the fragile exploration vessels by heart.
The Lunar Mechanic leaned against the thick glass of her office and waved towards the two crewmembers.
"It was idle talk. I've never worked on an Inyanga. Whatever. Get out of here. I'll repair the damage and you'll figure out the rest with the Postmistress. Out!"
Talasea and Isaac/Isabeau left without asking for more.
The Postmistress sat by her desk, an empress in a room far too large for a single person. Rainwater station had entered its night cycle. A blueish light peered through the windows, surrounding the middle-aged woman in a purple aura. She was busy sifting through her files, a teacup in her right hand. In the other, she held the pencil with which she had just filled a very long and very complex ship damage statement for the station authorities and the Five Suns administration. From time to time, Isa and Talasea gave each other sideways looks. They sat at a small table, piling up priority mail. The Postmistress didn't look particularly upset, only surprised.
"There's one thing you should remember, I think...you're state servants now, but it doesn't mean you are obliged to dive into a star for mere letters. Courier 7 is a sturdy ship but it's not an interceptor. This tube could have ended up in a much worse place. Like the engines for instance. You do know what a direct impact in SMES units mean, right?"
"Oh," whispered Talasea, "I know a certain mechanic who did stress it, yes."
"And rightfully so. But I won't patronize you, I have better things to do. I do admire your spirit of initiative, albeit the operation was less fruitful than expected. But a letter, well, that's already something. And that's already a lot...now, out of my office. You must be exhausted."
Talasea and Isa quickly vanished. The Postmistress watched them depart with a smile. These two were to be watched, she thought, but they were also quite capable. With time, she could probably give them the most important letters, the ones with the Astropostale seal...
Something suddenly sprang to life in her piles of paper. Intrigued, the Postmistress took out a mailing envelope whose e-ink stamp had transformed into a stupid bird with large, equally stupid eyes. The Postmistress smiled.
"Bubbles. How do you do?"
"Very well. You do not ask me why I'm here?"
"Oh. I wouldn't count too much on the firewalls of an e-ink postage stamp. I imagine it must be trivial for you to hack it."
"That's the how, not the why."
"Alright. Do you want to ask me something?"
"Yes. I have questions. Is it common for long range courier ships to arrive here in such a state? Space is vast and micrometeorites don't strike like that."
"Huge assumptions, little stamp."
"I'm not assuming anything. I just have a certain experience with destroyed spaceships. First-hand experience. So I'm just asking questions. That's all."
The Postmistress stared at the postage stamp. This little bird was really silly-looking. She wondered if it wasn't a way for the AI to shield itself against reality.
"Yes," she admitted, "it is strangely common. The Night Flight is our third transgalactic ship to suffer this kind of damage. Three ships in twenty years, that's...quite a lot more than baseline."
"Same damage each time?"
"Probably. The Night Flight is the first ship we've managed to really get eyes on, thanks to you. But the damage on the other ships, reconstituted from wreck analysis, looked quite a lot like that on the Night Flight. Compatible with micrometeorite impacts, yes...but also with a kinetic fragmentation weapon."
"Who would do that?"
"I have no idea. There are fifty thousand lightyears between us and the Earth, covered in the span of six months and one thousand two hundred and fifty translations. Many things can happen between the Earth and the Five Suns."
"What do you know, exactly?"
"Me? Many things, Bubbles. That's the privilege of postal services in such a place. Sadly, though, I don't know what's happening to Astropostale ships."
"Mmmh. You know, I might end up filing an official demand to put weapon hardpoints on Courier 7. You're starting to scare me."
"Oh. I doubt you can mount anything other than a slingshot."
Bubbles disappeared from her postage stamp with a shrug. The Postmistress sat back and lost her gaze in the contemplation of the nightly station.
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