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Snow White’s terminal glowed weakly. The motion sensors stayed silent. The workstation and the FER, the Final Evaluation Report, within it remained safe. The two dozen scientists whose two-year efforts and careers rode on that report wouldn’t have to lynch him.


No answer. Just silence.

It finally sunk in. Relief flooded him and Sean sagged against the wall, resting his head against the plastic. Enough sensors to deter a gaggle of ninjas and here he was yelling “Cookie!” like an idiot. Great Zeus, he was paranoid. Not my fault, he assured himself. Nobody can blame me. Living on a planet where a pocket computer unit served as a tantalizing appetizer would drive anyone into paranoia. Before coming to Nemuria, all personnel had to be stripped of their augmentation and implants. They’d surrendered their direct uplinks, their personal computer units, even their watches. He would’ve given his right arm for a piece-of-shit uplink. Anything to keep from typing. And writing. Gods, what a tedious chore that was. Just the hand cramps alone…

He squinted at Snow White one more time, before closing his eyes. She was still in one piece.

It wasn’t like the trogomets could help it. They weren’t bad natured, really, and pretty bright for a non-sentient species. Unfortunately, to an organism whose primary stomach housed a distant cousin of Geobacter metallireducens, most metals looked pretty tasty. Particularly iron. Manganese. Gold. Platinum. The Geobacter metallidevastor microbe gained energy from the dissimilatory reduction of just about any metal, and thus to a fuzzy, the innards of any computer presented a heavenly smorgasbord. If it was metal, it was food. How the hell did something like that even evolve? Nemuria was rich in metal deposits, but not that rich. Luckily, trogomets’s secondary stomachs liked carbohydrates well enough, or the fuzz balls would’ve starved to death eons ago.

Sean yawned. When did he last sleep? Was it twenty hours ago? Thirty? Did it matter? Fatigue flooded him, anchoring him, and he wanted nothing more than to curl on the plastic floor and pass out in the blissful glow of the electric lamp.

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