Sweat is dripping from his every pore; his plates are all lifted, straining against his one-size-too-small shirt. He wipes behind his fringe with a moist sleeve and it comes back with great wet patches. Damn it.

Shaking his head (and releasing a fine mist of sweat into the surrounding air, he can be sure), Nihlus refocuses on the console. Think, brain, think. There has to be a way around that encrypted key. He can almost see it, like an actual key dangling just out of reach outside a dirt cell. Except it’s too damn hot, and he can’t fucking remember. He rubs his jaw. Works a little tension out of his face, unknots a couple of muscles. Better. But not there yet.

His hands are clammy inside the gloves. Should’ve gone bareskin a long time ago. And every time he moves a finger the soaking fabric rubs his skin exactly the wrong way, sometimes delivering pinches that hurt, that motherfucking hurt. That’s something new.

Okay, okay, let’s try again; he hisses under his breath. Let’s start with the UI. Bypass to source. Easy enough. Then the tricky part. There’s a specific insertion he needs, and brute-forcing isn’t going to cut it. Too many permutations. Can he cut it down somehow?

He narrows his eyes at a single line of code. His vision blurs. He shakes his head again, blinking. Patterns. There must be patterns. Organic ones, says the feeling in his gut. They have to be, to not get picked up. If he did some kind of manual matching, lead by example?

It’s worth a shot.

“Six-fifty-two. Not too bad.”

Nihlus loosens his shirt collar as much as he dares. “Thank you,” he says, hesitant.


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