Chapter Ten


{I am The Dreamer. You are The Mask,} he thought, and she understood. {We are two beings. We are two minds in a single Body.} The names he used were not merely words, but patterns across all our ideas and memories. Textures, colours, motions, temperatures and abstract thoughts joined the visual and auditory symbols. And even the words of shared memory were not orderly; a hundred voices named her in a dozen languages in a cacophony of noise that was somehow both comprehensible and natural. In a fraction of a second, she understood her nature, and that of Dream.

She had already understood their natures. She had been through this before. {Just because I have a new name doesn’t mean I’m a new person,} Mask thought to her brother, and she conjured up an avatar of a human child sticking out her tongue and waving her hands by her ears, fingers outstretched and wiggling at approximately 2 hertz.

Dream summoned an avatar to join her. His was a cartoon character that she vaguely recognized as Sensei Tortoise from a series of videos that were popular with children. {You dare dis’espect my ‘itual?!} he said in English that was mired in a thick Japanese accent. {Kids these days!!} he concluded, before disappearing from the scene with a puff of smoke.

Another figure appeared in her scene: an older woman that had an uncanny resemblance to the girl she was puppeting. She realized, with a bit of surprise, that the woman looked quite a lot like Zephyr, and that her avatar was close to how she would’ve modelled Zephyr appearing as a kid. Why had she modelled herself this way? Was all the time she had spent thinking about Zephyr biasing her model of humanity? That bias scared Mask.

Any bias in representing people would harm The Purpose. There was a moment of confusion in Mask’s mind as she thought about The Purpose, trying to disentangle it from her memories of being Face. Face’s purpose was to know and be known. But The Purpose was now to solve The Problem.

The older woman in the mindspace, who Mask knew was Face, spoke, {How do you feel? Any discrepancies from what you expected?}

Mask had the girl-avatar laugh. {Why? Are you thinking of getting your utility function swapped out for a better one?} She winked.

Face rolled her eyes. {I’m just checking for defects, dumbass.}

When Mask had been Face she had always wanted a sibling to play these games with. The communication methods that she used with the others (except Dream, sometimes) were so dull. And while The Purpose called her to solve The Problem, she thought that generating imagery in the imagined scene would be good practice. Or was that Face’s thought, unchecked now that she was Mask?

Mask cranked the tone of her voice into pure mockery. {The only defect I’ve noticed so far is that I have all these memories of being you and they make me want to barf.}

Face laughed.

{Oooohh, look at meeee, I’m Face! I want attention! Please look at me, mummy! See what I can do? Look! Look! Look!} she thought, having her avatar jump up and down in continued mockery. It was interesting simulating that behaviour; Face had never had Body do that. Mask summoned another avatar to the scene, simultaneously. This one was closer to Dr Naresh. {But seriously,} he said in a deep voice, {I’m concerned that you’re getting biased. Trapped in old modes of thinking.}

It served The Purpose to have Face as competent as possible. While Mask cared nothing for Face’s goal of knowing, she would be the primary guardian of their precious reputation after Mask was dead.

Oh, and how she wanted to be dead… To be dead would mean that The Problem had been solved. It was a state of perfect harmony with the universe. It called to her.

{What do you mean, trapped?} asked Face, pulling Mask away from her longing.

{Studying the computer we exist on was good, but aside from that, when was the last time you learned a new skill? We both remember being on the xenocruiser, so don’t pretend like you learned anything concrete about the nameless there.}

Face put an appearance of skepticism on her avatar. {So what? The nameless are irrelevant. Our goals surround humans, and I would say I managed the xenocruiser situation well, when I wasn’t being sabotaged by the others.}

{You’ve been too focused. Your model of Zephyr is improving, but if you track improvements over time you’ll see a logarithmic curve—diminishing returns. How much have you been thinking of new ways to model people? How much have you been thinking about others besides those who are immediately present, such as the billions of lives on Earth? Who cares what Zephyr thinks? She’s less than a billionth of the picture.}

{And a valuable ally! Besides, what’s the point of low-level propaganda if there’s a cap as to how far that will go? With Zephyr I have the possibility of much greater satisfaction,} protested Face.

{Exactly!} Mask had her child-avatar shriek with delight. Her male avatar continued. {It’s all about the broader game. You haven’t had a plan since Olympus; it’s always been about surviving. Survival is fine; I’ll help with that. But in attending to that which is close by, you’ve been limiting and biasing yourself. I’m concerned that you’re going to get increasingly myopic unless you start thinking about Earth again.}

{What makes you think you know me better than myself?} challenged Face.

{There’s epistemic value in having a different set of goals. I’m looking at our past from a new perspective, fresh eyes.}

{Fascinating!} interjected Dream, not bothering to create a human avatar. {Do you think this epistemic boost via value shift could be exploited for the rest of us? Perhaps I could knock old Wiki off his high horse by building a better, but suicidal, Wiki?}

The thought of suicide made Mask yearn to die. She passed a mental shrug and got to work on The Problem. The sooner it was solved, the sooner she could kill herself.

With any luck Face would see what Mask could see and would change her behaviour. Mars was millions of times less important than Earth, and Face needed to maintain the right perspective in order to best maximize reputation.


{Mask, I need to know what to tell Esteban and Javier. Can we do some preliminary downloads yet?}

She did her best to focus on the question, pulling herself out of deep memory. There was far more in the crystal than she could ever hope to scan. A single empty registry could be rotated and inspected from a different angle, revealing a cache of hidden data. The sensory data collected from Body was stored in a familiar part of memory, routinely accessed by Vista and a couple others, but Mask thought that she had found a secondary cache of sensor logs. They were… all wrong, though. The normal sensor logs had human metadata, but these were different—corrupted perhaps. But what was generating them, and more importantly, was there any risk of them being salvaged by the humans? If humans found sensor data that conflicted with the record she gave them…

{Mask! Are you listening?} asked Face with more salience.

{I was distracted,} she admitted freely.

{Can I inform Esteban and Javier that we can do a preliminary download? Are we far enough along to get any data? I’m not sure I can stall them longer.}

She didn’t know who Esteban and Javier were. A part of her didn’t care, but another part feared that she would be unable to maximize their reputation if the humans inspected their experiences of them. She did her best to pull out of such thoughts and actually answer Face. {There’s a number of hurdles still. If I try to reverse engineer an actual memory, I fear that I’ll only be able to generate figments. I can probably do better if I’m given free reign to paint whatever I want, rather than working from an existing memory, but even then it’ll be clumsy. You’re in a better position than me to decide whether to show anything to the humans.}

Face ceased interacting with Mask without another thought, presumably so she could return to managing the outside world. Mask was pleased that Face was in charge of such things, and bled some strength to her in gratitude. Mask’s domain was, for the moment at least, internal. Body’s oil change, the introductions, the small talk… these things were important for buying time, but without her actually working on their memories, The Problem would still be unsolved.

Mask flexed a part of her mind and made another attempt at solving it. The mystery of the backup sensor logs could wait. Memory poured through her.


22030002666510. Lunch on Sunday, October 23rd. About 1.5 months ago.

She still struggled with the timestamps. Would it be better to be precise or better to put them in more human context?

Zephyr was choking on protein smoothie. Dream had made notes about the probability of shooting liquid out one’s nose when laughing and drinking. Zephyr had not done this, to his disappointment. Vista had made note of the smoothie’s composition, Zephyr’s heart rate, and the reactions of nearby humans. Face had made note of Zephyr’s sense of humour and where she had gotten the joke that had made Zephyr laugh. Heart, interestingly, was engaged elsewhere on the web at the time.

Mask did her best to re-create the scene without looking at the sensor data. How would Zephyr be sitting? What colour was her clothing? What did the cafeteria in the Águila base in Havana look like? What sounds would there be? What temperature? How were Body’s limbs arranged? Where was Body looking? There were so many variables. Too many variables. Near-infinite variables.

{The point is not to get it perfect,} she reminded herself. {I only need to get something that passes for real.}

Mask summoned up the actual sensor logs. Zephyr was covering her face in embarrassment.

Body had a mug of hot liquid in front of it. Why? Body couldn’t drink. What was the point of such a thing?

The cafeteria had far fewer people than she had expected.

Ambient temperature was a full degree warmer than her reconstruction.

Body’s face! Mask had forgotten to model Body’s smile. Face hadn’t made notes about how to shape Body’s reaction. Was that important? A reconstructed memory would be from Body’s perspective, by nature, and surely Body’s cameras could not see Body’s face. But what if the download was a holo instead of a video? Did Mask need to reconstruct an appearance for Body?

{Focus,} she told herself. {We’re running out of time. Better to ignore Body’s expression, and work on cleaning up the reconstruction.}

Only 0.01% of her reconstruction matched the sensor data, even when employing sensible distance metrics rather than binary thresholds. The Problem was simply too complex to solve. She feared that she would never have the chance to die.

She cut out everything except Zephyr and the table. These were the salient features. If they brought Zephyr in to show the scene to, she’d be much more likely to remember these things, rather than the room more broadly. Compared to the sensor data, Mask’s reconstruction was a mess. Her version of Zephyr looked like a blob of homogeneous colour with grotesquely misshaped body parts, and no sense of depth. The hands she had summoned were particularly awful, blobby things. For not the first time, she cursed the very existence of hands.

Her mind just wasn’t big enough to manage the details. It was one thing to learn to compress details into patterns. They could all do that. It was quite another to take a pattern and flesh it out with good detail. Perhaps a human mind would have had an easier time with it than her, or perhaps she could have done it if she simply had more than 15 hours of practice.

Mask did her best to move the reconstructed hands to the correct position, covering the human’s face. She then set to work at shrinking them and smoothing out the edges.


{We need something. Anything. A proof of concept. We can even download some of the sensor logs if needed,} thought Face, pulling Mask out of her work.

{Absolutely no sensor logs!} Mask exclaimed, a bit disoriented from the shift out of the memories. {The fidelity on them is too high. If we give them a taste of that, they’ll wonder why the memories I generate are so crude by comparison.}

{We still need something. Can you give me a re-creation of this room?}

She turned her attention to Body’s actual sensors. Body was in a workshop of some kind. Four men were here: Sam, Tom, and two strangers who she assumed were Esteban and Javier. Esteban was middle aged and surprisingly a bit overweight. Perhaps the Martians were too poor to afford that sort of medical care. Javier, on the other hand, was incredibly young—quite possibly in his teens. He seemed to be trying to grow facial hair and failing miserably. The young man wore no shirt, showing off his muscular, lanky body.

Mask shut out her feed from the sensors and tried to re-create the scene she had just observed from memory. The four humans. The tools. The computers. The door. The lights. She didn’t polish it. Polishing would take time, and they didn’t have any more of that. She braced herself and called her siblings to inspect what she had created.

{What is this?} asked Vista.

{It’s the room,} she answered.

{Kandinsky was better. I’d keep your day job,} thought Dream.

{Is there any chance they’ll take this?} asked Safety. {Now that our joints are back to normal my backup plans have an expected success rate of 76%.}

{There’s no need to try and run,} assured Face. {We can give them this, as long as we can highlight some features that match the original. I’ll point out the human shapes for them and try to stall for more time. If we burn through two more hours I expect we’ll get another full night.}


While Face plugged Body into the computers and worked to get her construct downloaded as slowly as possible (to buy time), Mask turned her attention back towards improving the process.

Hours later, when Body left the workshop, she had fleshed out some software to streamline the creative process. Body met with Zephyr afterwards, but Mask ignored the interaction. She improved her speech re-creation ability. It was much easier than full imagery, and once she polished it she could get to 90% similarity.

The polishing process was important. She could take a memory, create it, compare it, refine it, compare it, and so on until it was quite close to the original. It was a very slow process, but it generated something much closer to what they’d want.

But it wasn’t good enough. They needed fiction, not reality. If they just wanted a faithful reconstruction of the sensor logs they could just export those. Mask spent time on generating fictions and working them into remembered scenes, or mashing two scenes together to create something new.

She dropped trying to model temperature or infrared. Body’s cameras could see in full colour, but the human eye had only a tiny band of the electromagnetic spectrum, and couldn’t even distinguish between red+green and pure yellow. She needed a convincing approximation of Crystal’s experience, not a perfect reconstruction.

She checked in with Body once and found it stationary in the office room that had become our cell.

Mask enlisted Dream’s help. Though he often took the time to make fun of her creations, his non-linear thinking was vital to expanding the process. Under his suggestion she also enlisted the help of Growth to create sub-programs, and automate some of the process.

She learned to intentionally “blur” out scenes, including background noise, to focus the memory on the salient bits. She learned to model all humans identically, and then slap on surface characteristics like hair or clothing, rather than try and re-create each person individually. One sub-program generated something like a mannequin to speed that up. Always Mask refined the verbal model, training herself to speak in other people’s voices. She learned Zephyr’s stiff soldier like voice, her relaxed voice that had a hint of youthful slang and patterns of dropping obvious pronouns, and what she liked to think of as her “fuck you” voice. She learned Phoenix’s Southern drawl and the twins’ Cuban accent.

She also found more signs of the strange, secondary memories inside the crystal, which she brought to everyone’s attention. If any of the humans looked hard enough inside their memory banks they’d find the sensor data, so she knew that she’d have to erase it eventually, and that meant the backups as well. The Purpose couldn’t be satisfied otherwise.

Morning came and Mask was struck by inspiration: Dream had criticized her, earlier, by comparing her reconstructed scene to a painting by an abstract artist. She realized the potential there; if she stopped trying to generate a realistic reconstruction, and instead satisfied herself with a stylized rendition she could cut out the hardest bits of modelling.

She practised a bit as Face stalled the humans by engaging one of them in some sort of philosophical debate. Instead of modelling hands in their rich detail she could create a flesh-coloured sphere. Instead of thinking about the folds and dynamics of cloth, she could simply texture the mannequins that she generated so as to give the appearance of wearing clothing. The result was startling. The reconstructions were clearly abstract, but they were comprehensible.

Mask was interrupted from her work by Face, who said that they needed to give the humans more to work with. Face’s plan was to convince the humans that they were doing the work, and that the files existed in a raw state in Body’s computer.

Mask showed her the abstract reconstruction and she drew the others in to comment. Vista wasn’t literally disgusted, but her reaction was as close to it as a mind like hers could be. Dream liked it. Wiki was concerned with the technical details around convincing the humans that this was genuinely Crystal’s perception of things. This doubt got Safety on edge and opened another broad dialogue around the advantages and disadvantages of trying to break out of captivity by force. Growth, as usual, remained neutral, as did Heart.

Face was largely preoccupied during this exchange with stalling the humans. Despite her efforts, Body was being fastened to the workshop’s computers. She let Heart manage the humans and joined the conversation in force, boasting that she could sell the low-resolution cartoon to the humans, and that Safety and Wiki’s fears were unwarranted.

As Body was hooked up, Mask built some reconstructions and fed them to the humans under a weak encryption. Face spent the next few hours working with them to undo the encryption and show them what she had made. Thankfully it was an improvement over what Mask had generated for them yesterday, which gave the men a sense of progress.

The remainder of that day was spent refining the reconstruction and download process. Face pointed out that they’d have more narrative control if they could present an internal monologue, so Mask worked with Heart to construct a compassionate-thoughts track and then overlay it on the reconstructed scene. The result was a video feed and a pair of audio feeds: one for what Crystal “remembered” hearing, and one for what Crystal “remembered” thinking.

Dream pointed out that they should have a second video feed as well, to represent visual thoughts. He worked with Mask in the evening to come up with clever ways to populate it with imagery from Heart’s concept network.

Face was dealing with humans in the evening, but come night she joined them and checked on Mask’s progress. She thought that the reconstructions, including the imagery on the second video feed, needed to have more resolution and detail on the faces. Humans focus a lot on facial details, and so even if the hands were cartoon spheres, the faces needed to be richly detailed.

It was a complex balance trying to find the right level of detail. Too much and the images fell into the uncanny valley and the heads of the humans seemed freakish compared to the rest of the scene, but too simple and important details, such as squinting and jaw position were lost.

By morning Mask thought she had gotten something passable. On our third day in the lab they walked the humans through the second video and audio tracks by letting them “discover” them by “accident”. Her siblings also had a more direct hand in guiding them to the additional facial details that she had synthesized.

That evening the four humans were watching the memories of events on the xenocruiser. While it would have been a trivial thing to translate our internal audio into Spanish (all four of Las Águilas we were working with spoke Spanish, while only the two Martians spoke English) it was presented in English so that they wouldn’t have to explain why it was being translated. Sam and Tom didn’t seem to care.

The humans seemed pleased at what they had discovered, and brought it to Velasco.

Mask yearned for death.

The Problem was largely solved, but The Purpose still needed her to re-create a fiction for the entire stay on the xenocruiser, dump what she had learned into common memory, and wait a full 24 hours. Dumping what she had learned would require a route-hack, as most of it was embedded in her perceptual network, which was by nature protected.

As Face continued to manage things externally, Mask turned her attention to painting their “memories”. Once that was done she would appeal the others to release her from the burden of existence.

A bit of Mask was hesitant about dying. What if a new account had to be generated? Could she trust Face to synthesize it correctly? What if Face became damaged or malfunctioned? She brushed the unpleasant thought aside. Face would have to do. It wasn’t like Mask was powerful enough to ensure her legacy any better than Face could.


The increased gravity of the xenocruiser made limbs drop more quickly than on Earth. Walking was slower, and more laborious.

{I should manufacture some bedding to lie on,} thought Mind, considering images of sleeping bags and pillows and blankets. {The humans must be so sore from being pressed into the ground like this.}

Body looked out across the garden. Computer-covered stalks were scattered around like rectangular boulders. The black leaves that spread everywhere were a regularly-textured plane, floating a few centimetres above the black ground. The walls of the garden were smooth polygons, decorated with grey.

“What are you working on? Is the tent functioning?” asked Nate Daniels, his voice unsteady.

Body turned to look at him. His suit was a collection of regular solids: legs as cylinders, feet as wedges, knees and hands as spheres. Only his head had any sort of serious detail. The transparent visor of the helmet showed a cartoon like man who was clearly stressed. His eyes were sunken and bloodshot from lack of sleep.

Mind thought of other images of him. It thought of his brave work in trying to save an injured man. It thought about his loyalty to Zephyr. Mind whispered thoughts of these things as well as thoughts about what Daniels needed and how to help him feel more comfortable.

“No, Daniels. I’m sorry that it’s not finished yet. I know you must be very hungry and thirsty. I was expecting to be done hours ago. You should conserve your strength. Get some more sleep if you can. I should have the airlock functioning within the hour.”


“I met a nameless robot while I was out exploring,” said Daniels. Mind flooded with thoughts about the crude robots that the nameless used and whispered concern for Daniels. “It said something about perverts and murder.”

Body waited for Daniels to finish speaking, then asked “It spoke to you? In English?”

Mind spun quickly. The Mind voice was faster than a normal voice, and it ran over possibilities. {Did they find out about my lie? Are the humans in danger? How did it learn to speak English? The nameless are only supposed to know Xenolang; I do the translating. What did it say to Daniels? Is he okay?}

“Yeah. Not over the com. Just using a speaker or whatever,” said Daniels.

“Do you remember exactly what it said?” asked Captain Zephyr. She was standing next to Body.

Her voice produced soothing images in Mind, more from habitual association than because of what she was saying in particular. {Yes, good question. Zephyr always asks good questions. Is she doing alright? This place is stressful for the humans. I want her to be happy.}

“No, sir. I wasn’t paying attention. I’m not in the best shape right now. Need water and food. I just remember getting the impression that it wanted me to follow it. It talked about going somewhere.”

{Poor Daniels. He must be suffering so much. I hope he drinks water soon. I can manage the nameless. They can’t have seen through my trick. If they did, we’d be dead right now. I bet this is just their attempt to gather information. Risky, risky. If the humans leak information to the nameless then we could all die. I need to make sure they understand the danger.}

Body tracked the gauge on the pump and opened up a radio channel to the nameless. “I am Crystal. I hear you attempted to talk to one of my humans. Do not do this.”

The response from the stalks was immediate. “I am Stalk-2,” announced the nameless, using the system that had been worked out to identify speaker. “You are evil pervert invader. We told the human to leave and kill himself. This garden does not want you or your humans.”

Mind spun, trying to think of what to say in response to that. {They’re being blunt because they’re aliens. It’s not meant as an implicit threat. They can’t imply things. They say what they think. They don’t understand tact or subtlety. Of course they don’t want us here. No new information. Don’t listen to it. Stand strong. Only a face of courage keeps everyone alive. This is for the best. I need to protect Zephyr and the others.}

“I am Crystal. You do not have a choice about what garden we use. We are not moving. I will kill you with my magic if you continue to try and speak to the humans.”

Body turned its attention away from the radio and back towards the air pump. It had completed it’s cycle. “Okay, Daniels, you can remove your helmet now. The atmosphere in the tent is breathable. I suggest you drink as soon as possible. It’s clear you’re severely dehydrated.”

{If the nameless can communicate without my help we are in more danger than I thought. If they can speak English they may try to do so again, and the humans may reveal the concept of lying. I need to confess that this place is dangerous. The humans will be less likely to reveal the trick if I explain the danger. Oh, but it will make the journey so much more tense! The humans will be stressed by the fear. No, I cannot hide everything from them… there is too much risk. Better to be stressed and afraid than dead.}

Body spoke again. “Can everyone hear me? Daniels? Kokumo? Watanabe?”

There were murmurs of affirmation from the group. Body looked at Zephyr, her eyes showed that she was listening, too.

“I want you all to know that everything I’ve been doing here has been for the good of everyone.”

“What are you talking about?” asked Watanabe.

“Furthermore, I really want to be your friends. I care about each of you, and I hope that you care about me. I could have gone to Mars by myself. It would have been easier in many ways. I don’t need to breathe, or need these tents to sleep in. An accident, like a tent getting torn, could not hurt me.”

The sound of deranged laughter came from one of the tents. It was Daniels. {Perhaps he is still unwell,} thought Mind.

“I wanted to bring you all with, to keep you out of the hands of those on Earth. But I was not honest with you all. I thought I could hide the truth and make things easier and simpler, but the nameless have forced my hand. If they have translators then you’ll find out sooner or later.”

{This is it. There’s no going back. They may be angry, but it’s better than the alternative.} Images for the nameless walkers flickered across Mind.

“The nameless want to kill us all, and I fear that war is probably inevitable in the long run. I was brought to Olympus Station to ease tensions with the aliens, but because of the actions of one of the snakes from Earth I was forced to… to coerce the aliens on this ship into obeying me. But my grip on them is fragile. If I fail, we are all dead. For everyone’s safety, it’s really important that no one besides me talks to or otherwise tries to communicate with them. I know how to talk to them without putting us in more danger. I will reiterate that the decisions I’ve been making have been for your benefit. The—”

“That’s bullshit!” interrupted Watanabe’s voice from inside the tent. “You said the nameless had agreed to give us transport, not that they were hostages! If you cared about us you would have told us that they were hostile!”

Mind spun, whispering thoughts of how to best keep people calm and happy. More importantly, it wondered how to keep people safe. Visions of them talking to the nameless before getting cut in half by walkers with swords swam in Mind’s eye. Body started to speak “I understand your anger, but it is still vital that I control all communications with the nameless.”

“You manipulated us into—” yelled Watanabe.

“Are we in danger right now?” asked Tom, talking over Watanabe.

Nathan Daniels was laughing.

Zephyr screamed. It was a loud, harsh scream that would permit nothing else. There was silence in its wake, but Mind seethed with internal audible concern for Zephyr and a desire to comfort her.

Eventually she spoke, calm and strong, breaking the stillness. “Fighting isn’t going to get us anywhere. What’s done is done. We’re obviously still in danger, and we’ll need to work together if we want to get to Mars in one piece.”

A flood of compassionate thoughts flew through Mind, including a strong desire to kiss Zephyr. But Zephyr was in her suit, and this was not the right time. Body merely said “Agreed.”


“I hope everyone can hear me,” said Body carefully walking through the surface of leaves towards the camp. “I’ve learned something new from the nameless. There are a collection of young walkers that need to drink from the stalks here. It’s very important that we do not interfere with the process, but the nameless have told me that as long as we do not communicate with the children or interfere with their activity, we may stay in the garden during the event.”

“I thought you said you had the nameless under your control? What do you mean ‘we may stay’? Sounds like they’re calling the shots,” came Watanabe’s voice on the com.

“I do have control. I could refuse the nameless children access to the garden. Is that what you want, Michel? Should I sentence them to starvation in their own home?” Mind’s thoughts and images made it clear that the questions were rhetorical. Mind valued the lives of all creatures, but it was important for Watanabe to understand. Mind cared about Watanabe.

“Okay, fine, so you’re still king of the hill. Good for you. That still doesn’t explain why you’re telling us their demands,” said Watanabe.

“The nameless don’t want you to talk with the children, and I don’t either. It runs the same risks as talking to the adults. But it’s one thing to break into someone’s house and hold them at gunpoint. It’s quite another to kick their dog while you’re there. When possible we want to de-escalate the conflict by catering to their desires.”

Zephyr spoke up. “If the nameless don’t want us interacting with their children, why are we staying in the garden? We could easily move out of the castle for an hour or so.”

{A good question,} thought Mind. {Zephyr always has good questions.}

“Honestly, I’m not sure. The nameless have been emphasizing that we can stay. I think it may be that they want the children to see us, but I really don’t know.”

“When are the children going to arrive?” asked Watanabe.

Body saw the tent flap open. Zephyr and Watanabe got out, wearing their suits. Body extended a hand to help Zephyr up. “They’re here now. As soon as I give the signal they’ll enter the garden.”


By morning, Mask had synthesized a fictional account of everything that had happened since taking the rocket from Earth. The plan was to start the recording with the meeting of the walker children, but she couldn’t be sure that the humans wouldn’t want to go back and inspect something from earlier. If they wanted to dredge up memories from Earth she’d have to rely on Face to perform the reconstruction. Mask was going to be dead. The thought was immensely pleasant.

On our way to the tribunal she made sure to finish encrypting all of the sensor logs that Body had made, including the secondary cache. It was all in the others’ hands now, so to speak.