we should dump it in the nearest sun

by uzwi

The K-tank had been through some recent high-temperature event, after which it pitched into empty space a light minute off the Nova Swing’s bow, where it hung in a dissipating froth of zero-point energy & junk matter until Fat Antoyne fetched it on board. It was scarred & scraped, losing colour rapidly through a palette of christmas reds via light plum to the matt grey you would associate with a military asset. Much of the exterior work had vaporised; the remaining fitments made no sense unless it had been an internal component of some other structure. Once it was cool enough to touch, Antoyne unbolted the porthole cover. “Shine the light,” he said. Liv Hula shone the light & they looked at what was inside. Liv turned away in disgust. They were thirty lights from anywhere, in the voids by the Tract itself. The big argument they had, which went back and forth while Antoyne screwed the porthole cover back on, was if they had come upon the tank by accident, or whether it was another item on MP Renoko’s cargo manifest. It was a measure of how weird their sense of reality had got, Liv Hula insisted, that they couldn’t decide. They stood there for a time, arguing back & forth, then left the hold. As soon as the bulkhead door closed behind them, bursts of high-speed code issued from the K-tank–chirps and stutters, odd runs of simple calculus, fragments of ordinary language mysterious yet emphatic–as if the occupant was trying to make contact but couldn’t remember how. The other items in the hold were inappropriately excited by this, flashing & winking in return, humming with subsonics, emitting brief flashes of ionising radiation. After perhaps an hour–its baroque ribs and lumps of melted inlet pipe making it look like a child’s coffin decorated with mouldings of elves, unicorns & dragons–the newcomer seemed to calm down. “We should dump it in the nearest sun,” said Liv. [From Empty Space.]