Posted January 10, 2021 at 12:00 pm

"Yes, her name is Sraddi," Numair said brightly, as Sraddi carefully turned herself around on the fence so that she could sit facing them. "She was my final project for my construct engineering degree, actually. She is shaped like an Aetherian animal called a rit."

Hawk looked Sraddi over, and Sraddi looked back at him mutely with her large metallic eyes. "She's not alive?" he said after a minute.

Numair seemed genuinely startled at the question. "Eh? No, of course not. That's a serious crime, to create a living construct." He paused. "...Why do you ask??"

"Uh," Hawk said, still looking at Sraddi curiously. "No reason, I guess."

"Here, I'll show you," Numair offered, and reached forward to touch Sraddi, who lifted one of her wings to allow it. A thin rope of green lightning shimmered around Numair's hand, and he added, "Pardon me, Sraddi."

A split opened down Sraddi's breast, glowing a livid pale green, and another opened crossways at the base of her neck. Tiny gold circles linked by straight lines began to appear as if coming from the split. Then, all at once it seemed, the outer part of Sraddi's torso seemed to flake away into nothing, revealing a delicate, almost simple metal skeleton beneath. The yellowish metal was also inlaid with more symbols, and even more golden symbols seemed to float freely within the cavity of the ribcage. There was something round at the center of the ribcage, but the bright light shining around it made it hard to distinguish.

"I thought we could use some bits of her design in our antenna," Numair said blithely, while Hawk stared. "Particularly her core and intelligence spells."

It was a moment before Hawk regained his ability to speak. "This is nuts," he said, and glanced at Numair, half-joking, "Why are you hanging out with me again?"

"Oh, stop that," Numair told him gently.

Black and white butterflies hovered around the tops of the tomato plants, against a very blue sky.

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