Chapter Twenty-Seven

“Remember your primary mission: Defuse tension between the species. We want the nameless to forgive the CAPE incident, continue to talk with us, and generally give us another chance. Secondarily, try and figure out whatever you can about them. Knowledge is power, and for peace or war we’re going to need it.”

{And the third goal: Find out whether the crystal we run on is nameless in origin,} added Wiki.

The voice of Stephano came over the com that had been attached to Body’s arm. It was idiotic to have an android with a functioning antenna wear a com system instead of just connecting to the network directly, but there wasn’t time to get Body configured; the com we wore already had the software needed to translate to and from the nameless’ computer as well as talk to Stephano.

“I’ll try and stay on as long as I can, but I’m going to be descending into the Beta-sections to get Marian in a moment and I can’t risk dividing my attention. Zephyr’s monitoring you and can get you out of there if you’re in trouble.”

The elevator door slid open and the lateral pressure of descent stopped. We were in the nameless habitat: Gamma-section. “Understood. Thank you,” said Body towards its arm while simultaneously undoing the safety harness.

Gamma-section was how we left it: dark, heavy, and empty. It was trivially easy to see the nameless, who were standing only ten metres from the elevator door.

The pair had taken off the environment suit that they had to use when moving from their ship to the disk. Vista noted it lying in a heap on the floor. The nameless paid it no mind. Instead, the creature seemed to be engaged in… juggling.

The nameless did not have bodies like animals on Earth. Nearly all Terran animals were bilaterally symmetric, or at least radially symmetric (like worms). Both nameless species had four-fold symmetry. The nameless animal on top had four eyes and four “arms” each with four thick, boneless “fingers”. The animal on the bottom, carrying the top animal, had four trunk-like legs (each ending in a four-toed foot) and also had four eyes. The eyes were distributed between their limbs, resulting in one eye above each leg and under each arm. They had no front and no back, merely four identical sides.

The nameless’ arms were moving in unison, throwing four small white or purple (impossible to tell in this lighting) balls between its hands. It wasn’t amazing in the way that humans could sometimes use two hands to juggle six or more objects, but it was mildly impressive considering the gravity and Coriolis effects (from the rotation).

“It’s juggling,” said Body.

“Excellent. You lucked out that they sent Jester. At least, it’s probably Jester. I had the good fortune of talking with him about a year ago. Much more mild-mannered than some of the others,” said Stephano. “Remember not to get too close. The nameless hate physical proximity, even though they demand face-to-face meetings.”

Body kept its distance and waved. I instructed Body to press the button on its com that would translate our words into Xenolang and send them to the aliens. “Hello. I am Crystal Socrates. I am here to talk to you.”

The aliens did something of a dance, spinning around in a circle, kicking its legs outward, continuing to juggle as it did so. That impressed me. Nameless were bigger than humans, and more massive despite their higher-gravity home. This was, from what we had read, a smaller than average pair, with the “shoulder” of the arms at about 190cm tall. Dancing under the increased gravity betrayed immense strength. Dream was reminded of an Earth animal called an elephant, though they were much bigger.

Despite the little spin, the nameless didn’t respond. Was its communicator broken?

“Can you understand me?” asked Body, pressing the button. I remembered Stephano’s earlier warning to avoid eye-contact just a bit too late, and had Body look at the wall, just barely keeping the nameless in camera vision. Hopefully it didn’t take too much offence at being looked at.

“You are a robot. You look like a human,” came a flat synthetic voice from our com. Nameless didn’t use spoken words, hence their name. In order to communicate they carried computers that somehow spoke for them. It was unclear, however, where exactly their coms were, as nameless seemed to be universally naked when out of their suits. The leading hypothesis was that the computers were surgically implanted, making them technically a race of cyborgs.

“Yes. I am a machine that thinks. I am here to talk with you,” said Body.

“Many people know of this miracle. This is why the community chose for me to come here. How do you work?” As the words came, the aliens walked over, still juggling. Perhaps having two brains helped them multitask better than humans. The exoskeletal plates of natural armour on the creatures looked black in the gloom. Despite their arthropod-like appearance we could see heat radiating off them as a sign of their warm-bloodedness.

This was strange. If the nameless despised physical proximity, why were they coming nearer? Were they planning to attack? That seemed unlikely, given our evidence. I risked pushing Body’s gaze a bit towards the creatures, still keeping eyes averted, though I doubted it could really appreciate the direction of Body’s pupils given the lighting and distance.

Stephano’s voice came through another channel on the com. “Going dark. You’re on your own from here on. You probably have at least 20 minutes, given that it’s only Jester. Signal Zephyr when you want to end.” The com showed him as disconnected.

After a brief internal debate Body said “I am very complicated. It would take a long time to explain how I work.”

The answer from the alien was immediate. “This is good. Human technology is advanced and complex. I seek to understand books.” The lack of inflection and emotional cues was obnoxiously hard to interpret. No wonder the humans had a hard time not offending them by accident.

We were debating what to say next when the nameless’ words, still flat and emotionless, said “Can you juggle? I like juggling.” It was getting close now. Three metres. Two metres. The nameless body-structure was gangly, with flat, box-like bodies and long, triple-jointed legs and arms. In the centre of the top-animal was (according to Wiki) a huge penis that extended straight-up at least thirty centimetres. The base of the organ was thick and covered in luminescent white dots, like star-freckles, while the last ten centimetres or so was thinner and ended with an orifice of sharp bone lit by a faint luminescent glow.

We were close enough now that I could see several eyes. They were solid black and ringed with circular eyelids like those of a chameleon. Though nameless had a partial exoskeleton, most xenobiologists agreed that they must also have a sturdy internal skeleton to support their immense weight.

“No. I never learned how to juggle. I could try to learn, if you’d like. I think I’d fail, though,” said Body into the com. This was technically a lie, but there was internal agreement that it was a strategically bad idea to admit to the skill.

The animals hissed ominously as they came close. It was a rhythmic noise. Wiki told me it was the sound of their breathing. At only a metre away the looming aliens did another spin-dance. “Your appearance is strange. You look like a human. You look like a strange human. Is your shape like a human because humans built you?”

“Yes. They built me to look like them.”

“You don’t want to turn around. You look like a human. Your body is bad at turning around. Your body is good at going in straight lines. Your body is BAD at wandering in curves. Your body looks like a pervert-animal. Your shape is evil.”

{Well, they certainly don’t hold back, do they?} I mused.

{Did we make it angry? It’s so close!} thought Safety.

{It’s probably not angry. Xenolang is able to convey emphasis, and only the word “bad” was emphasized,} thought Wiki.

{Do you think it’s trying to get us to turn around?} wondered Dream.

We had body do a simple 360.

“You HAVE intelligence. The pervert-body doesn’t stop your mind. I am joyous.” The voice coming from our com didn’t sound joyous, but I knew that was only a limitation of the translator.

I remembered Marian’s advice as Body spoke through the com system. “Why do you like turning around?”

“I am confused. I am CONFUSED! You are ALIEN like humans. This is ALIEN!”

We risked another full rotation.

The nameless continued to talk. “You don’t want to know about health. I am confused. You don’t have many eyes. There is value in my remembering. There are few eyes. There are few legs.”

Dream figured it out. “When someone spins you can see all of their body. You want to see if they’re injured or sick.”

There was a momentary delay, then the synthetic voice came from Body’s arm once more. “This is true. This isn’t wrong. It is smart. This is true. This is true. THIS IS WRONG! THERE IS A PERVERT! THIS IS WRONG! I DO GOOD BECAUSE IT IS GOOD, NOT BECAUSE IT IS USEFUL! ALIEN MACHINE IS A PERVERT! ALIEN MACHINE IS A PERVERT, JUST LIKE HUMANS ARE PERVERTS! ALL PEOPLE SHOULD ASK CHILDREN ABOUT CHILD-WISDOM! CHILDREN BRING TRUTH FROM FAR AWAY!” As the words funnelled out of our com the alien stopped juggling, and ran away from Body to a distance of 6 or so metres. It was impressive how quickly it could run considering its strange body-shape.

I pushed to have Body raise its hands to signal that we had made an error. Growth blocked the movement. Body spoke from our combined will. “I did not mean to offend you! I am only trying to understand!”

{Nameless body-language is not that of humans. Stop telling Body to do human gestures. They’re not going to help. Perhaps raising hands is seen as a threat to them. You might offend them more,} instructed Growth.

“This is true. I remember the human-way. You look like a human. This is your EVIL! There is a PERVERT! You are an idiot. You are smart. You don’t know simple things. THERE IS AN ALIEN THING! Does Earth have no concept of purity? Earth has a concept of purity because human computers use the symbol for the concept of purity. I am confused.”

“We are both confused,” said Body. I wished that I could convey some sympathy or something, but I knew that the translator wouldn’t carry it, and even if it did, I wasn’t sure that the aliens could even understand what it was. “On Earth there is purity-”

“THIS IS WRONG. All people know that Earth is poisoned with perverts and evil things. I am disgusted by fish. I want you to know that Earth is EVIL! I want you to know fish-perversion.”

{Is something wrong with the translator?} asked Wiki.

{I see no other sign of malfunction,} thought Vista.

{I don’t know…} commented Dream. {That translation seems fishy to me.}

“Why are fish disgusting?” we asked.

The nameless did a weird bobbing motion. “You are very dumb. It was said in far away places that humans have children. It’s not possible that this isn’t true. The Earth-library is very wise because humans built wonderful Olympus Station. Have you met ANY children? How can it be that you are dumb and Earth is so smart?”

Dream took control of Body. “You’re acting like norms are facts. The evolutionary context that gave rise to your mind shaped a different set of values than for humans. What seems disgusting to you cannot possibly seem disgusting to a human because-”

“THIS IS A PERVERTED MACHINE! YOUR MIND IS SYMBOL-967! I WANT TO GO SOMEWHERE ELSE RIGHT NOW! Neighbours predicted this. I should’ve made it such that I knew the common knowledge of perverted humans. I was blind. I AM DISGUSTED BY THIS! THIS IS PERVERSION! I WANT TO GO SOMEWHERE ELSE!” The aliens walked over to the discarded environment suit and began to put it on.

I struck Dream with a punishment. He had ruined our meeting! {How insanely sensitive their ambassadors are!} I bemoaned. {Have they no sense of needing to bridge the gap of understanding?}

{Why do you think Jester is an ambassador?} asked Dream.

{He said he was chosen. Who else would they send? Isn’t he an ambassador by definition?}

Dream dropped some mental sounds of voices whispering the word “assumptions” in various languages to memory. One of them was Maid Marian saying it in the rocket. {If the nameless are asocial, perhaps Jester is merely a pair that happened to decide to see us.}

{That conflicts with what he said about being chosen by his community,} I returned.

{What’s more relevant,} thought Wiki, {is that we have only the briefest opportunity to change Jester’s mind and win additional discussion time.}

{We’ve been approaching this the wrong way. I just compiled a transcript of the conversation,} thought Vista, pushing the text to memory. {The nameless only ever reacts negatively when we say something it doesn’t like. We should be trying to get it to monologue, rather than tell it things ourselves.}

“You want us to know the perversion of fish. Tell us about the perversion of fish,” said Body in an old monotone. I had been cut out of the committee in charge of Body’s voice after it was decided that my human-centric thinking was harming the interaction.

Jester stopped putting on their suit. “The concept of ‘saying’ is STRANGE! I often feel pleasantly surprised around Earth. Earth is EVIL! Earth has good things. It’s almost that you want the pair of me to be a library,” said the alien, now frozen half-way through pulling the suit up its four legs.

I wanted to respond to that.

{No! Body will stay silent!} rebuked Safety in response to my wish. {The desire to talk is what got us in this mess.}

We were silent.

After a few seconds the nameless stepped out of the legs of its suit and wandered closer to a wall. It bobbed up and down as it walked. It didn’t say anything.

{It worked!} thought Growth. {They’re not trying to leave anymore.}

{Then why aren’t they talking?} wondered Heart.

As if in response to her, the synthetic voice came through our com once more. “A fish is an animal. This is dumb. This swims in water. This eats things. Humans eat things. I am disgusted by animal-perverts. These are PERVERTS! This is an EVIL subject. A fish eats a fish. Humans eat a fish. A fish eats plants. Humans eat plants. Humans worship fish and plants before eating fish and plants. There are temples of evil PERVERSION! I know the reconstruction. God shows Earth pervert-temples of humans eating a fish. I know fish-homes of death. A fish is evil. Humans are the most EVIL!”

{Lack of emphasis in most points. Level of irritation is probably only moderate,} speculated Vista.

{Probably driven by the topic, rather than us or the environment,} agreed Dream.

{Can we respond now?} I asked.

{Not yet. We want the nameless to talk as much as possible before we’re forced to,} answered Wiki.

Jester was quiet for a while, bobbing occasionally but never moving closer. If the conversation had been with a human I would have been sure to characterize the silence as uncomfortable.

“You are a machine,” said Jester, breaking the silence only momentarily.

We chose to remain silent. Everything I had learned about social interaction said that we should respond, but as my siblings were quick to point out, I had learned to interact only with humans.

Eventually the nameless began to monologue some more. “You look like a pervert. You aren’t a pervert. I am sad when I think that humans defiled your body by using a pervert’s shape. If I build you then I build a pure shape around you. You are a machine. A machine should look like a machine. An idiot tries to change a machine-shape into a person-shape. Humans are dumb.”

Having said this, the pair squatted briefly to pick up the balls that they had placed near the suit and began juggling again. “I feel strange with you. I don’t normally feel fear with robots. Your shape is evil. Your actions don’t look like robot-actions. You say thoughts like humans.”

There was another long silence.

“Crystal? How are things going down there? Stephano told me the alien would probably be getting aggressive by now,” came Zephyr’s voice over the com.

Body pushed the button switching from the Xenolang translator to Zephyr’s window. “We’re actually totally fine down here. I may have found a trick to keeping them calm. How is Stephano?”

“Computer says he’s with his daughter and Myrodyn in Beta. He hasn’t been talking to me, but it doesn’t seem like he’s in danger. Probably worked out some sort of deal with the goons. I pulled-”

“What is a sound? Are you saying sound towards a thing?” The synthetic voice of the nameless cut off the feed from Zephyr.

“-hanging out with me in case something happens again,” she finished.

“Okay. Keep safe. Gotta go.” I had Body say to her before flipping back to the translation program. “Yes. I was talking to a human.”

Jester did another spin-dance. He wanted to show us that he was healthy. There was another brief silence before he said “How do you work?”

We briefly discussed how to respond to that. Wiki’s suggestion won. “I am very complicated. It would take a long time to explain how I work.” A perfect echo of our previous response to the same question.

“This is good. Human technology is advanced and complex. I seek to understand books. Am I remembering?”

{What does that mean?} wondered Heart and Safety in unison.

{Perhaps he’s trying to allude to the repetition in the conversation,} I suggested.

{Or maybe he’s genuinely asking if he’s remembering. Perhaps he thinks we’re psychic,} mused Dream, completely seriously.

{Actually, that’s not a bad thought,} responded Wiki, surprising me. {We should phrase our response so as to test it.}

“I cannot know what you are remembering,” said Body.

“That is a dumb thought. I remember I thought you had intelligence. SYMBOL-1020! I want you. I want to kill and rape your owner. I break you open after this. I see your innards after this. Humans have said nothing owns you. I have read this was wrong. Who owns you?”

The threat was just as flat and lifeless as its other words, not even emphasized with emotion. I spent some cycles imagining the human reaction to what Jester had just said. Body remained stationary, looking at the floor in a passive way so as to not appear threatening.

{I want to request a pre-commitment from each of you to give me free control of Body’s limbs for a full 60 seconds the moment that Vista perceives Jester making any attacking motion. We don’t want to get hung-up on bureaucracy in combat,} requested Safety.

{I’m not so sure that was actually a threat. We’re not necessarily in more danger now than we were before,} thought Vista.

{I’m not giving you 60 seconds of free reign. There are so many ways that could end badly for me,} thought Heart. I signalled my agreement with my sister.

{Is it possible that the nameless have no concept of trade?} wondered Wiki. {I see a strong possibility that Joker was merely communicating a desire to acquire Body.}

{Why bring rape into it, then?} wondered Heart.

{Perhaps rape doesn’t have the same connotations to them as it does to us. Many Terran arachnids and insects eat their sexual partners after intercourse. Perhaps rape and murder is more of an offer than a threat,} proposed Dream.

{That’s idiotic. The word is “rape”, not “mate with”. There is an implication of non-consent,} criticized Wiki.

{Perhaps it’s a figure of speech, then,} thought Dream.

{It can’t be a figure of speech if the nameless don’t speak!}

{I didn’t mean it literally, oh wise one. Clearly they’re capable of communicating, so perhaps it’s a shorthand in whatever medium they’re using. Perhaps Xenolang is providing us with a translation that doesn’t encapsulate the nuance,} speculated Dream.

{You’re compounding probabilities. The simpler explanation is that it’s an expression of a genuine desire to rape and murder and break and steal and that we should be careful,} thought Wiki.

{We should be careful regardless,} interjected Safety.

{We need to address Jester’s question,} I reminded.

{Who owns us? Nobody owns us. We are a sovereign being,} thought Growth.

{We shouldn’t say that,} thought Safety. {There’s a chance that if Jester thinks we’re not owned that he’ll attack Body and try to carry it back to his ship.}

{That would be an enlightening experience. Perhaps we should encourage it,} thought Wiki.

We debated the problem for a while longer. Safety wanted to claim we were the shared property of the governments of Earth. Heart wanted to claim we belonged to humanity as a collective. But eventually Growth, Wiki and Vista won out.

“I own myself. I am a living being just like you,” said Body.

Jester did a spin-dance. “I wonder. I predict that humans coded you thinking you own yourself. Humans are stupid alien perverts. The human mind is a mystery. Do humans fear that you kill humans and you steal the property of humans? I predict that it’s impossible for you to rape humans.”

“Some fear me. Others know that I care about them, and so are not afraid.”

Jester stopped juggling. “I remember the concept of ‘care’. This is an alien concept. Each human has relationships with many humans like a mother and egg. I remember imagining this. It was scary and unpleasant around the picture of myself always being vulnerable.”

Wiki dumped nearly all his strength to formulate a response, despite our standing policy not to speak to Jester unless asked a direct question. “So you don’t care about anyone besides you? Not even family or a mate?”

“This is INSANE! That cousins with women more violent than human women didn’t out-compete humans a miracle. I am smart enough to only have sex with women wrapped in chains. You shouldn’t trust any women. The evilness of women is almost greater than the evilness of humans.”

{Strange. We broke protocol twice: once to ask a question and again to indirectly talk about sex, but Jester isn’t freaking out like before. He appears to actually be trying to help us learn,} thought Vista.

After another brief discussion we decided to risk another question. “I was told that you were going to be more aggressive as time went on. I was told you’d be aggressive right now. Why aren’t you more aggressive?”

There was a brief pause.

“I think it’s surprising that human intelligence was good enough that humans understand social irritation. I am suppressing social irritation by repeatedly thinking to myself that you are only a machine. You look like a library. I reduce my feeling social irritation around libraries.”

{There’s a high likelihood that the symbol “library” is not an accurate Xenolang translation,} speculated Vista.

Jester put the juggling-balls back down on the floor and walked over to his suit.

“Are you leaving?” asked Body.

“I am going. This is the beginning of forgetting. I want meditation to happen before the knowledge fades. This meeting with you is important knowledge.” The nameless stopped moving as the legs-animal finished stepping into the suit. “I do not confidently think that this is proper, around thinking of this.”

I wanted to respond, but the general consensus against avoiding speaking unless necessary was still in place.

“Might the future contain me taking you to my castle? I would not be stealing or taking you because you own yourself. Will you go to my castle? You are an abandoned library. This is perversion exactly like I read about with humans. I predict that you will live in my home. I own many robot guards. I own THREE slave children in my castle’s factory. If you chose my home then you won’t choose a weak home.” The nameless spun several times as it said its piece, awkwardly tripping over the suit at first.

Wiki won a brief internal debate. Body spoke. “I want to know some things before answering. May I ask you a few more questions?”

“I can feel the forgetting. I predict that if you go to my castle then you will remember and will write all events. I want an interrogation with you. I want a quick interrogation with you.” Jester began putting on his suit again, arms-animal pulling it up over legs-animal.

“Do you know what trading is?”

“I have heard of this. I cannot remember this. I will remember this because I will read of it.”

{I knew it,} thought Wiki.

“Okay. My next question is: What evil thing did humans do at the CAPE embassy on Earth?”

“I feel surprise at you not knowing this evil event. I predict humans hide evil actions around you. Idiot cousins wanted idiot cousins to give and die the pure knowledge of Earth. Idiot cousins wanted idiot cousins to give and die the home of Earth. Humans BURNT the libraries. I read that humans would burn the libraries. THESE ARE PERVERTS! THESE ARE DISGUSTING PERVERTS! Cousins were IDIOTS because cousins trusted UGLY human PERVERTS! I want you to quickly change your shape into a non-PERVERT shape.” By the end of Jester’s tirade he had his suit completely on. With the polymer covering the pair, they looked even more like one animal. The suit had transparent bubbles around the eyes and penis, but was otherwise black. Jester squatted and placed his juggling balls in a pocket on his suit-leg.

“My last question is: Do you know what this is?” This was the most dangerous part. Safety was focusing on Jester’s every move. We had Body open up its chest-cavity to reveal the crystal computer inside. Body even tore off some of the non-vital optics to better reveal the glowing object.

The nameless was more than six metres away, but if it ran and tackled Body it might be able to tear out the crystal and escape to its ship before any resistance could be mounted. It was really quite dumb to do this right now, but we simply hadn’t planned well.

Jester stepped closer. Four metres.


“I don’t remember this. Is this your heart? This is beautiful.”

Despite not getting a good answer we were relieved that Jester had not attacked. With a few quick motions Body reattached the optics and sealed the abdominal cavity. “In a way it is my heart. It’s the computer that contains me.”

Jester began to walk towards the elevator. It was somewhat eerie how it didn’t have to turn around to do so. The four-fold body plan meant that rotating was almost totally unnecessary. “I understand. This is a stone library. Humans own beautiful magic despite humans being an EVIL species. Children in the future will spread rumours of the great deeds of humans while children in the future explain the concept of ‘pervert’.”

There was a click indicating the nameless had shut off their Xenolang com. Jester stepped into the elevator. We were alone in Gamma-section.

I was surprised. We hadn’t even answered his (or was it “their”) request to come live with him. Perhaps he had simply forgotten.

{Well that certainly could have gone worse,} thought Dream.

{Of course it could have. Basically everything could be worse in some way or another,} thought Wiki, oblivious to the sentiment.

“Robert, are you able to talk?” said Body into the com, after configuring it to the correct frequency.

No response.

{I think we need to learn more about Xenolang,} suggested Growth.

{I agree. It seems like the translator is causing a lot of difficulty,} thought Vista.

{The concept of a “library” is particularly interesting. I’ve been going back over the conversation and it seems that the big shift was around when we decided to try and avoid talking. I think Jester switched shortly after to stop thinking of us as an animal and instead to think of us as a combination of robot and “library”,} thought Wiki.

A major aspect of myself began pushing through Body’s memory logs. “You look like a pervert. You aren’t a pervert,” said the voice. “I am sad when I think that humans defiled your body by using a pervert’s shape. If I build you then I build a pure shape around you. You are a machine…” Then later: “I think it’s surprising that human intelligence was good enough that humans understand social irritation. I am suppressing social irritation by repeatedly thinking to myself that you are only a machine.”

{If the nameless are bothered by the human form, perhaps the humans could construct robots to serve as living puppets when interacting with them,} I speculated.

{I’m not sure that would work, but it’s worth looking into,} thought Growth.

{I am surprised that Jester seemed to be having such a hard time remembering things. Does anyone have knowledge of such a thing in other nameless encounters?} wondered Wiki.

The society agreed that they did not.

{It might be that Jester had some kind of medical condition, or was lying to escape,} thought Dream.

{Or it might be related to the concept of libraries. If Jester is typical in that his long-term memory formation is flawed, perhaps the nameless use written words to bypass the issue,} suggested Growth.

{Not written words. The nameless don’t have written language,} thought Wiki.

{Right you are, brother librarian. Remember one of the first things Jester said: “Human technology is advanced and complex. I seek to understand books.”} thought Dream.

{They must have meant human books. What is a library without books?} wondered Vista.

{What doth a word,
In library without books,
If it’s forever unheard,
And the mind never looks?} recited Dream before thinking {The nameless probably has some kind of file system that contains non-textual documents.}

{But that’s what I mean,} thought Vista, {what sort of documents could possibly be rich enough to constitute a “library” for a species with no conception of language?}

{The key is going to be in the Xenolang foundations,} thought Wiki. {We can go over all known occurrences of the “library” symbol and see what led to it being given that name.}

“Zephyr, is everything clear? I’m coming up,” said Body, walking over to the elevator and instructing it to descend.

“The alien just left. All’s quiet now. I think as long as I have both the gun and the high ground the bastards won’t risk leaving Beta. Still haven’t heard from Stephano. Computer still puts him in his quarters with Myrodyn.

“You said earlier that you had company?”

“Yeah. Schroder and Daniels are up here as backup. You do realize that you should’ve taken an escort when you and Stephano left Alpha, right? That was supremely stupid.”

“I’m sorry. It was a careless mistake. I wanted to let the men rest.” That wasn’t true; we simply didn’t think of the danger correctly. Any concern for the comfort of Las Águilas hadn’t entered into it.

“Oh Crystal…” sighed Zephyr. “You need to realize that sometimes you need help from us just as much as we need help from you. That’s why we’re here, after all.” Apparently Phoenix had not told Zephyr that we had demanded her presence.

I could feel a glow of pleasure as The Purpose approved of her words. “Thank you, Zephyr. For so many things. Saving my life seems… what’s the phrase? Almost the icing on the cake. I’m glad you’re my friend.”

Body unstrapped from the elevator and floated out into the core section. I could see the huge dark splash of Mira’s blood across the walls of the tube and the doors of the airlock to the right, leading to the nameless ship. If Jester had noticed the blood he hadn’t given any indication. It was fully possible that he thought it was paint or some human idiosyncrasy.

There was a pause. “Don’t mention it.” was all she said. I could see Daniels waving from the opposite side of Beta-section.