"If it's Formics, they wouldn't need one," said Ender. "The Hive Queen would know they wanted to come in and make another worker open it from the inside."

"If I breach the seal," said Sergeant, "it might cause serious damage inside."

"It's a poor design that doesn't have an airlock," said Carlotta.

"The inside door might be open," said Sergeant. "We don't know what's going on in there."

"There might be fifty heavily armed soldiers waiting to blast you when you get the door open," said Ender.

But Sergeant was already getting a pry bar from the Puppy's exterior tool rack. After a few minutes: "There's a little give, but I think the door isn't hinged. I think it slides."

Ender laughed. "Come on, you two. Think like a Formic! You're trying to open the door as if it were designed for a human to pass through. Formic tunnels are low and wide."

Sergeant muttered a few unpleasant words and then began to rerig the Puppy to pull the door in the direction the Formics would have thought of as down.

It was slow, pulling against the drag of interior machinery, but it slid open. There was an airlock, and an inner door. Sergeant closed the outer door, and opened the inner one.

The visual from Sergeant's helmet showed almost nothing, even when Carlotta enlarged it to fill the holospace.

"Switch on a light," said Ender.

"Light forward," said Sergeant, sounding annoyed. Didn't he like Ender making obvious suggestions? Poor boy.

The visual now showed a low tunnel, with tunnels branching off in a couple of directions.

"Nobody there to greet you," said Carlotta. "They're all dead."

"Or they laid a trap," said Ender. "Go on in and see."

Sergeant reacted to Ender's taunt by blanking the display.

"Hey!" protested Carlotta.

"I warned you, Ender," said the Giant.

"Why punish me?" demanded Carlotta.

"Come on," said Ender. "They're dead, there's no danger."

"Wrong," said the Giant.

The display came back on. It was obvious that Sergeant had indeed slid into the low tunnel. It was tall enough that Sergeant was probably sitting up.

"There was motion a moment ago," said the Giant. "While you were wasting my time with your immature behavior."

"Ender's immature behavior," said Carlotta.

"Which you just matched," said the Giant. "Sergeant is in

a dangerous place and you're wasting --"

Motion in the display. Lots of motion. A dozen small creatures emerging from side tunnels and beelining toward Sergeant.

"Get out of there," said the Giant.

At once the display jiggled and swiveled nauseatingly as Sergeant threw himself feetfirst back into the airlock.

The airlock door was half closed when two of the small creatures launched themselves through the door. One went for Sergeant's body, one for his helmet. It blocked at least one of the viewers, so the image lost its depth and went flat.


Tags: Orson Scott Card The Shadow Science Fiction
Source: www.StudyNovels.com