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There had been a battle. The berserker had met some terrible opponent, and had taken a terrible wound. A cavity two miles wide and 50 miles deep had been driven in by a sequence of shaped atomic charges, through level after level of machinery, deck after deck of armor and had been stopped only by the last inner defenses of the buried unliving heart. The berserker had survived and crushed its enemy, and soon after, its repair machines had sealed over the outer opening of the wound, using extra thicknesses of armor. When Hemphill sees the blasted cavity, what little of it his tiny spacesuit lamp can show, he feels a shrinking fear greater than any in his memory. Stopping on the edge of the void with his arm instinctively around Maria, he is stunned by the realization of just what fighting the berserker means. They have already come an hour's journey from the airlock, through weightless vacuum inside the great machine. Hemphill, his pistol ready, has a bomb, and 200 feet of cord tied around his left arm, when he recognizes the once-molten edge of the berserker's great scar for what it is: the damned thing has survived a level of attempted destruction that not only had hardly weakened it, but rendered the bomb Hemphill carried under his arm only a pathetic toy.

© 1998 Fred Saberhagen; (P) 1998 Blackstone Audiobooks

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