The sheer number of nanobots helped Q44 quickly locate its goal—the Ace of Spades.
After finding the card, the machines disassembled it at the atomic level and carried the individual atoms back to Q44’s main body.
Then, they reassembled it behind Q44’s other cards, just out of sight of the crew.
Lastly—because the Destroyer had argued that secrecy was essential for the cheat—Q44 projected a scrambler field around the pilfered card, keeping it shielded from the prying sensors of other clouds and the station Administrative Mind.
The entire theft took thirty-five seconds.
None of the other players noticed.
Q44 didn’t like poker, cheating, or the Destroyer. And Q44 especially didn’t like helping the Destroyer cheat at poker.
The cloud would rather be defending its own collections or writing its memoirs, or anything, anything,
other than floating there, holding the Destroyer’s cards.
However, the station Administrative Mind had ordered Q44 to follow the Destroyer’s poker instructions, and Q44 had to obey. The Administrative Mind didn’t care that Q44 didn’t like it.
Q44 would have liked it even less if Q44 understood the real purpose of the cheat.
“Have I mentioned that this game is boring?” the Destroyer said.
“Yes,” Jeska said.
“Can I persuade any of you to play a game of Pac-Man with me?” the Destroyer asked. “Highest score is the winner? Let me out?”
It should come as no surprise that Pac-Man still exists more than seven hundred years after its creation. Humanity does not give up its diversions easily.
“I’ll play Pac-Man with you,” Prnei said from his repose on the ceiling.