Brina didn’t remember what keelhauling was, but she decided she didn’t want to know. Many of the ship’s crew stared at their feet while others dragged her to the bow. “Do you think this a good idea?” she heard Devlin say to Brindley. “Suppose she dies? She probably will!” “Then we won’t be docking in Tasman.” “She’s only a woman!” “Shut up Devlin. Do it now!” The crewmen lowered Brina over the bow by the length of rope attached to her wrists while another sailor guided the other length of rope to the stern. He worked it under the moving ship’s hull and pulled it taught. “Ready!” he yelled from the stern. Six men lowered Brina to the crashing bow-waves, while three others hauled on the stern rope. Her feet touched the cold water, so she began to take deep breaths, taking her last a moment before her head went under. After that, she understood little of what happened, except that the sea battered her against the barnacle-studded planks of the hull and her lungs began to scream with the agony of asphyxiation. She held on as long as she could, feeling her chest convulse with its primitive urge to breath. The last thing she saw was a patch of light in the bottle-blue water behind her thrashing legs. “You’re a lucky bitch!” a male voice said. “The Captain wouldn’t have revived anyone else but you!”
“I need a shave.” “Let me show you. Take this off first.” She tugged on the collar of his jumpsuit. “Oh no! You’re not getting me naked that quick.” “Ha! You’ll see us naked before too long. Don’t be shy.” “No!” “Alright! Just strip to the waist then.” Omah unfastened the sticky front tab and peeled the smooth, metallic top down to his waist, rubbed his bare chest out of embarrassment and gave Archivist a lopsided grin. Now look in the mirror and say, “Shave!” “Shave! Hey! What’s this! I have a white mark on my chest. Like a key!” “Yes. I thought it was kinda cute when we were shown your body in one of our first briefings.” “Oh god! You mean you’ve seen me naked?” “Sure! All of it. And you’re quite a healthy man.” Omah blushed and replied. “But what does this mark mean? Do you have it?” “No. You’re the only one. We don’t know what it means. You had it when you came to u- … . Oh there, now you’re jumping the gun! Or making me! Let’s do the shave.” “But wait a minute! At least it’s something not blue! And Controller; he seems very emotionless and blank. Are you all robots?” Archivist’s laugh sounded like the delicate titter of a teenage girl. “It sometimes feels like it.” “Androids then? Cyborgs?”
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— Omah learns about nano-generators, commonly called n-gens. —
“Ship!” he said out loud, not being able to remember the correct name of the intelligent machine. “Can you hear me? R19 or whatever you’re called. Ah, it had something to do with water. Now I remember. R1902, do you hear me?” “I hear you Omah. But my correct name is R19020.” “Sorry.” “It’s okay.” The ship’s voice was low, soft and soothing. But Omah couldn’t tell if it was male or female. “Can you put the light on please? I’m not sleepy.” The light came up to a comfortable day-time level. “Thanks! Also, I need something to eat. I’m starving!” “Your last century was the late 13th of the 6th Age. Do you recall it?” “Some of it.” “Do you recall microwave ovens?” “Yes.” “Now we have nano-generators. Some call them n-gens. They create almost anything, up to the size capacity of the generator, from a block of white plasma. To the right of your desk, above the bookcase, you will see its door. You may tell it what you want yourself by speaking clearly. But now I will do it for you.” “I see it.” “What would you like to eat?” “Roast chicken with bread sauce, mushrooms, carrots, sprouts and gravy. Followed by hot apple pie and cream.” “Coming right up!” “You sound like one of those vid chefs!” “When you see a red, flashing light, you can safely open the door.”
— Omah isn’t disappointed when he finds out Archivist wasn’t inviting him to have sex. —
“You didn’t sound very certain back there,” Archivist told him as soon as they had left the Ward Room. “I’m certain of nothing right now!” “I meant your choice … . The tour?” “Oh.” “It wasn’t an invitation for sex,” she added. He felt the buggy’s pace quicken slightly, keeping pace with her. “I didn’t think it was. It just felt nice to hear somebody talking in a homely fashion. I guess it relaxed me.” “Homely?” Omah caught a glimpse of Archivist in a wall’s polished surface. He decided he preferred her dark brown hair to Soother’s black. He had to jolt himself out of comparing them both. “Yes. My mother used to say, “Bed for you,” as if it were a state of being, rather than a place. Just like you did.” “Oh. I don’t remember my parents. At least I don’t think so.” “Now you don’t sound so sure.” “No. You don’t understand … . Oh, it doesn’t matter.” “Sorry.” “It’s okay. They left most of your memory intact.” A picture in his mind gave Omah another jolt. “I think I just remembered my partner!” he cried out. “Her face!” “Was she beautiful?” “I guess. But I really miss her already. And it seems like only yesterday.” “I’m jealous.” “Sorry.”
— Omah wakes up after an unknown period of cryo-sleep. He’s not sure where he is or why the woman looks the way she does. —
The blue woman began to unfasten Omah’s sleep corset with practiced skill. “My name’s Soother.” Omah wasn’t a tall man and always felt inadequate until he knew whether a woman stood taller than him or not, and when he felt inadequate, he tended to be aggressively sarcastic: “Soother? Is that your boyfriend’s pet name for you?” “You can cut the jokes. I don’t have a boyfriend. Such concepts died long ago.” “They did? Nobody told me.” “How do you feel?” “Hm. A bit angry. I think I argued with somebody last night. My partner?” “If you did, she’s long gone. You should forget the argument.” “What? What year is this? I think I feel sick.” “Never mind the year. It’s a long time after your last memories. You’re a survivor.” “Well that makes me feel a little bit better.” “Do you feel like walking? It’s good to walk if you can manage it. It will help you to recover quicker.” “Well, I don’t think I can walk. My legs feel like jelly. But I would like to take a look around … . If you don’t mind?” “Not at all. I’ll get a buggy.” Omah noticed the second disconcerting thing. It had been on his periphery for some time, but he had managed to ignore it. Now he no longer could. His arms were blue too.