“Phobia. Kinetics. Dodecahedron.”
Cara was alone with the tanglemind. Robin said she’d only be gone twenty minutes tops. That was an hour and a half ago.
“Tourmaline. Aureolin. Wisteria.”
The world’s easiest babysitting job was getting on her nerves.
“Polychrome. Leptis Magna. Backscatter.”
The Holsteiner Crown, like all federated naval ships, had an onboard tanglemind. Technically, it was a person—at least it used to be—but it was better not to see it that way. Most people never saw it at all. Rumor had it they were all ex-mil; court-martialed capital offenders. Whatever the case, they were just equipment now. Enigma machines made of blood and bone.
“Cerebellum. Mamberamo. Torus.”
Cara was no expert, but she understood the concept. The tangleminds, the whole network of them, were governed by quantum entanglement devices implanted in their brains. They communicated with each other continuously, and, critically, simultaneously, regardless of their physical separation across the colonized systems. It was an extremely secure system, but it would be for nothing if the tangleminds constantly spouted off intel for whoever happened to be within earshot, so instead they spoke in a nonstop coded string of nonsense.
“Zeppelin. Quasar. Tardigrade.”
It was up to each ship’s computer to decode the cyphered messages in the noise. And it was up to the specialist on rotation from the ship’s medical complement to keep a watch on the tanglemind. Right now, that was Robin. But it was a dull job, and Robin was trying to hookup with some new transfer in second squad, so she asked Cara to cover for her. Cara had no medical training, but Robin wasn’t worried. It’s simple, she said. Sit here and make sure it doesn’t die. Cara was more worried she’d die herself of boredom if Robin didn’t come back soon.
“Mirage. Asylum. Cara, you are in grave danger. Find an escape pod! TAKE ME WITH YOU!”
Such a thing was not supposed to be possible. Her heart pounded, and the only sounds she could hear were the rushing of blood through her ears and the resumed crypticisms of the tanglemind.
“Obsidian. Paladin. Perturbation.”