Assuming Lurt could pull it off, Adikor would have access to the quantum-computing lab tomorrow. But he needed to make some arrangements before then.
Saldak was a big town, but Adikor knew most of the scientists and engineers on its Rim, and a good fraction of those who lived in the Center. In particular, he’d become friends with one of the engineers who maintained the mining robots. Dern Kord was a fat and jolly man—there were those who said he let robots do too much of his work. But a robot was just what this job called for. Adikor set out to see Dern; now that it was evening, Dern should be home from work.
Dern’s house was large and rambling; the tree that formed the bulk of its shape must have been a thousand months old, dating to the very beginnings of modern arboriculture.
“Healthy—well, healthy evening,” said Adikor as he came up to Dern’s home. Dern was seated out on his deck, reading something on an illuminated datapad. A thin mesh between the deck’s floor and the awning above it kept out insects.
“Adikor!” said Dern. “Come in, come in—watch the flap there; don’t let the bugs follow. Will you have drink? Some meat?”
Adikor shook his head. “No, thank you.”
“So, what brings you here?” asked Dern.
“How are your eyes?” asked Adikor. “Your vision?”
Dern flared his nostrils at the odd question. “Fine. I’ve got lenses, of course, but I don’t need them for reading—at least not on this pad; I just choose larger symbols.”
“Go get your lenses,” said Adikor. “I have something I want to show you.”
Dern looked puzzled, but headed into the house. A moment later, he emerged with a pair of lenses connected to a wide elasticized fabric band. He slipped the band over his head, bringing it down to nestle in the furrow behind his browridge. The lenses were on little hinges; he flipped them down over his eyes and looked at Adikor expectantly.
Adikor reached into the pouch attached to the left hip of his pant and pulled out the sheet of thin plastic he’d written on this afternoon. Adikor had made the symbols as small as he possibly could—he’d had to search for a stylus with a fine-enough point. Scanner resolution had improved since those images of Adikor hitting Ponter had been recorded, but there still was a limit to how much detail could be made out. Adikor had endured cramps in his right hand making ideograms smaller than anyone back at the archive building could possibly read.
“What’s this?” said Dern. taking the sheet and peering at it. “Oh!” he exclaimed as he began reading. “Really! Do you think? Well, well … I can’t let you have a new one, of course—not if there’s a good chance you’re going to lose it. But I’ve got several old ones that are due to be decommissioned; one of those should fit the bill.” Adikor nodded. “Thank you.”
“Now, where and when do you need this?”
Adikor was about to shush him, but for all his exuberance, Dern was no idiot. He nodded after finding the information he was looking for on the sheet. “Yes, that’s fine. I’ll be there, waiting for you.”