When the response came, it was negative, as he’d expected. He was just about to start digging into the files again when a section of one of the scanner’s displays caught his eye. “Aru, what’s this?” After a mere 2 years, he still had plenty left to learn about the subtleties of shipboard operations.
“Scanners have picked up an object anomalous to the surrounding terrain. Current scanning resolution is insufficient for a more detailed analysis.”
That he could fix. He adjusted the scan parameters and the image on the display resolved into more detail; Corwin sucked in a surprised gasp. “A ship! And it doesn’t look like an old wreck, either.” There’d been traces of other ships; the place had seen enough battle after all. This one looked small but intact.
“It’s warm, too. Definitely not old then.” He stopped poking around at the controls. “Well Aru, so much for hanging around up here for another day. I’ve gotta get down there right now.”
In response, Aru sent several small portage chassis bearing cases to him. Opening the first, he found a military grade pistol with several reloadable capacitance charges on a belt clip.
Corwin frowned. “Thanks Aru. I’ve never actually trained with anything like this though, you know. I’d better not shoot my foot off.”
“There’s no time to learn like the present.”
“Thanks,” he groused. He was tempted to ask where the weapons—and it was weapons, the other cases revealed other small arms, including several slug-throwers—had come from, but he didn’t have to. “You expected something like this, didn’t you, Sobol …” There was no other reason for her to have sent weapons along.
Checking the last case revealed something other than weaponry. Instead, he found several data chips. “Any idea what these are?”
Aru was non-responsive for several moments. Corwin assumed he was assessing the chips in some way.
“They are adjustment programs for each of the weapons.”
Corwin whistled. Those were rare indeed. Madeline had been concerned. “We’ve had these on board all this time and you don’t give them to me until now?” he exclaimed, aggrieved. They would have been incredibly helpful in learning to use the weapons. They adjusted the mind, not the weapons themselves; it was a form of rapid learning technology. “We’ll have landed within an hour. There’s no time to use these now, I’ll have to do my best with them untrained. Remind me to slot these into my bed for the trip back.”
Adjustment programs only aided the acquisition of skills, they didn’t impart skill outright. They were used in conjunction with practice, reinforcing and helping to correct learned patterns while the subject slept.
He selected the first pistol he’d found, and one of the slug throwers, on the theory that if he ran into something one of them couldn’t handle, the other might do the trick.
He strapped the weapons to his waist, wishing he felt as natural wearing them as his childhood heroes had always looked. Instead, they felt heavy, awkward and cumbersome.
The ship was descending rapidly. He eased off on the descent a bit, fine-tuning their course to arrive some small distance from the other craft, leaving it between them and the ruins of the old colony dome. “Ready or not, here we come,” he said. He wasn’t sure if the warning was for the owners of the other ship, or for himself.