Furious Gulf

Free Furious Gulf by Gregory Benford

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Authors: Gregory Benford
beer.”
    This time Shibo was puzzled.
    What is “cat beer”?
    “Milk. Sorry, it’s a kid’s joke.” Toby whispered to her.
    He had said it without thinking. He wanted to be taken seriously here, not as just a funnel for Shibo’s expertise. He had
     not let Cermo or Killeen have direct access to Shibo through comm interface, which would have been an easy techno-trick. Then
     they would have just bypassed him completely, a kid left out of adult business.
    “There’s a lot I don’t understand about this engraving,” Killeen said. “First, can you get it writ right for us?”
    For Shibo it was easy. In a few moments she relayed to one of the big wall screens.
    “So I was right.” Killeen slammed a fist on his desk. “They had a long era when they beat the mechs—see, the ‘five kinds of
     living dead.’ I saw that written on a monument, a tomb, years ago—remember? You were both there.”
    Cermo frowned. “Ummm, I recall something . . .”
    Toby said, “I remember. The inscription was about a powerful ‘He,’ though, and—”
    “It was about mechs, for sure,” Killeen went on. “And this ‘she,’ a great leader—they took her away somewhere.”
    Cermo’s brow wrinkled doubtfully. “How’s that?”
    “Plain as starshine,” Killeen said, getting up with muscular energy and pacing before the screen. “See? This ‘she’ ‘voyaged
     on to place immutable’ after her ‘bodily form evaped’—evaporated? She’ll ‘rise as shall we all who plunge inward to the lair
     and library.’ They left the Chandelier, at least some of them. And went somewhere else, this ‘lair’ where they’d be safe.”
    Cermo nodded reluctantly. “Yeasay, I remember a tomb. As for the rest . . .”
    “It’s obvious!” Killeen paced quickly. “Look, I recorded it using one of my Aspects. Here—”
    On a screen flashed:
    He,
    on whose arm fame was inscribed, when, in battle in the vasty countries, he kneaded and turned back the first attack. With
     his breast he parted the tide of enemies—those hideous ones, mad-mechanical and unmerciful to the fallen.
    There was more, and Killeen rattled on, reciting passages and comparing them with the inscription they had seen near a tomb,
     and none of it made any particular sense to Toby. Some, like
He: Who led Humankind from the steel palaces aloft,
probably referred to the Chandelier Era. Others, such as
He: by the breezes of whose prowess the southern ocean is still perfumed,
must have come from a time when there were oceans on Snowglade, not just the lakes he knew, that shrank every year. But there
     were plenty, like
He: Who set forth Humanity in the names of the Pieces,
that made no sense at all. And his Isaac Aspect told him that even the folk of the Arcologies were mystified by such wordy
     relics.
    Killeen paced and talked, paced and talked. When his famous ardor came on him like this, he had a hypnotic energy. But Toby
     could see a quiet frenzy building in his father and did not like the signs.
    Cermo intervened, voice smooth and soothing. “Could be, lotsa big fat maybes in there—but that’s not the point, Cap’n, ’member?”
    Killeen blinked and took a deep breath. “I . . . suppose not. I had hoped that the engraving would give us some way to deal
     with this tight spot we’re in.”
    Toby tried to keep his voice light and businesslike. “What spot?”
    Cermo said to his Cap’n, “We should hold a Gathering.”
    “Yeasay. I can present our choices to the Family—”
    “
What
spot?”
    Cermo said, “The explosion in the Chandelier, it was the energy source for a pulse of radiation. We thought it was meant to
     catch us, but could be the emission was the true intent.”
    Toby kept his face blank to cover his surprise, the way his father sometimes did. “I didn’t pick up anything, on any comm
     band.”
    Killeen thumbed up a spectrum plot on a wall screen. “No wonder. It was far up in frequency, way above anything we can see.
     Gamma rays.

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