The Cold Steel Mind
    ‘Give her a challenge and she’s like that,’ Al said.
    ‘True, but if she doesn’t find anything dangerous she’s still going to want retribution for earlier.’
    ‘Get in first. I’m sure you’ll enjoy yourself, but the effect she is actually referring to is the variation in blood pressure the lack of gravity causes. I believe the term is “head rush.”’
    ‘Huh, some people get off from hanging upside down when they come.’
    ‘The same principle. I believe strangling someone during sex has a similar augmenting effect.’
    Aneka avoided grimacing. ‘The only time I’ll choke someone is when I intend for them to die during it. Point taken, however, since I don’t have the same physiology, she’ll get more out of this than I will.’
    ‘There,’ Ella said, breaking the reverie. ‘Does that look like what Al spotted?’
    Pulling forward with one hand, Aneka slipped the other down the front of Ella’s suit, and looked at the complex, 3D graph displayed on the screen. Frequency distribution on one axis, time and amplitude on the others, and it matched the image Al was displaying within visible limits. Aneka gave Ella’s right nipple a firm squeeze. ‘That’s it. Any idea what it is?’
    ‘Ah! Ohhh… that is really distracting.’ Ella did not, however, do anything to stop Aneka from continuing to grope her. ‘The computer’s running comparison algorithms on the pattern. That could take a while…’
    ‘Al, can you bang through this search faster?’ Aneka asked.
    ‘I could, but the ship’s systems won’t take more than a few minutes and Ella obviously wants to continue your earlier activities.’
    ‘Al thinks we should fuck while we wait,’ Aneka told Ella, giving her nipple another squeeze.
    ‘Al, Ah! Does does he?’
    Aneka started to peel Ella’s suit open. ‘Yes. I, obviously, think it’s a safety risk.’
    Twisting in space, Ella reached for the buckle of Aneka’s belt; she was not going to get caught out this time. ‘That doesn’t seem to be stopping you from following his suggestion.’
    ‘I must be getting impulsive tendencies from you.’
    Unsealing Aneka’s suit, Ella said, ‘Good, I was hoping you would.’
    ‘The computer couldn’t identify it at all?’ Monkey asked.
    ‘Nothing in its database matched the pattern,’ Ella replied around a mouthful of food. ‘Probably just some random noise in the electronics around the flight deck.’
    ‘But Al’s looking it over in case he can make anything of it,’ Aneka added.
    ‘Al’s computational power is quite remarkable,’ Cassandra commented. ‘If there is something to find, I’m sure he will.’ She was not eating, but then neither was Aneka.
    ‘Xinti quantum computers,’ Wallace said. ‘Incredible pieces of technology. The only things more complex we know of are the units they ran their own minds on.’
    ‘Like the one I’m running on,’ Aneka replied.
    ‘Indeed. It’s probable that some piece of the ship’s communications equipment woke up briefly. A self-test perhaps.’
    ‘But the computer’s still asleep?’
    ‘There has been no sign of unusual activity in any of the systems we’re monitoring. When you mentioned the noise burst, I checked. All quiet.’
    Aneka nodded. ‘It’s possible I’m being a little paranoid.’
    ‘Paranoia is quite normal under the circumstances,’ Cassandra interjected matter-of-factly.
    ‘Uh-huh,’ Ella agreed. ‘I think I’d be a little paranoid, under the circumstances.’
    Aneka laughed. ‘I can’t imagine you being paranoid about anything.’ Which was something of a lie: Ella had her insecurities and Aneka knew it.
    ‘Just to be safe,’ Wallace said, ‘I’ll have the station’s computer run a full diagnostic sweep of the Agroa Gar’s systems. If there’s anything strange going on, I’m sure we’ll find it.’
    ‘I’ll do the same with the Hyde,’ Shannon added. ‘Better safe than sorry. If I let the ship break, Drake will have my

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