By the time Xi returned to the compound, it was well after full dark. Phile had tonight’s watch, and she opened the heavy durasteel doors to grant Xi entrance. “It’s unwise for you to have returned so late,” she admonished. “You should have been back here before sunset.” As soon as the doors were secured behind him, the heat closed in. Tiny droplets of condensation erupted along his metal frame, and his internal cooling fans whirred to life. Thirty-two-point-three degrees Celsius, Xi’s sensors told him. Far below the threshold of what he could tolerate, but he disliked having a damp…

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