|The last real Thylacine in captivity.|
I stare so hard into the crowd that has Lithe and Limber in it that they turn and stare back. I don’t know what expression they see on my face but they pass their work to the nearest bystanders and start to make their way to us. Lithe alerts Red-tail by tweaking her braided hair and she comes too.
All the leaders in the same place again. What is it with us? “Were you in your Totem-shape when you first woke?” I ask Mongoose.
“On the platform. When I didn’t see you, I thought I would go look for you. You’re getting an idea?” Mongoose says.
I’m remembering. “The once-human, now-machine pattern calling herself Kosi Lionhair stole the Ark Ship’s de-and-re-constructor and installed it in this ship. She says. In Reception. Where we came in.” I shudder. “I so don’t want to be the only one to know that.”
“Well …” Red-tail says. “You have successfully spread it to the rest of us. And?”
As if it has been waiting for a cue, the Kosi Lionhair entity giggles. “One door-opener reporting for duty! Sir!” There’s a clacking sound accompanying that I’m not familiar with. Nor is anyone else going by their expressions.
“Well, that fell flat,” the entity says. “Heels clicking? The salute?”
Everyone around me stares at the substructure. I don’t see anything about it that explains Kosi’s presence.
“Never mind,” The Kosi-entity says. “What I’m on about is clearing the deck. Since the fighting will have to be down here?”
There’s no reaction from my companions.
“You forgot to tell them, Jeb?”
I am mute. Mongoose shifts his arm and hugs me to him like he will never let me go.
“You’re not to fight, Jeb,” Kosi says. “I need you unhurt.”
Doesn’t tell me whether she sees us or sees how Mongoose holds onto me.
“Sounds like the doors to the airlocks are about to be convinced to open,” Uncle Puma says into the air while he also gestures at his crew. “Red-tail, you and Crow go to the south-side airlock. Help and organise.”
“How many per airlock intake?” he asks the air again. Red-tail doesn’t move. Crow doesn’t move.
Oh. It’s experimental.
Kosi giggles. “The airlocks sometimes hold fifty, sometimes only thirty. You should ask them that are so keen to get back into the Ark Ship and it only spat them out a few cycles ago?”
I understand from that that the human people with us were born on the Ark Ship and have spent a few cycles, whatever they are in length, on the alien starship. They do seem keen to leave.
“It is uncanny how the machine-pattern’s replies seem to answer the Chief’s questions,” Thyal says.
He can still talk! I’m so so glad.
“But I assure you,” he says in the ponderous way he has sometimes, “That there’s nothing down here that she can use to see or to hear. No sensors. Her timing is so good that she must still have a superlative imagination.”
“What has that to do with anything?” Uncle Puma says.
“She is imagining the conversations that we might be having and inserting herself in them,” Thyal says. “Moreover, I suspect that her world’s level of technological development was higher than that existing in this starship.”
Isis raises her eyebrows at Thyal’s more-overing.
“If I’m making any sense?” Thyal says.
“Hardly,” Isis says. “If she was human, she surely would have originated on Earth?”
“By which either of you mean to say…?” Uncle Puma says.
“Thyal is saying Kosi’s pattern’s development over-reaches the level of technology of this starship,” I say.
Seeing various people make ready to ask difficult questions, I hurry on. “And Isis is saying that if Kosi was human she surely would’ve come from Earth and how can Earth be more advanced than this starship when Kosi in this ship is meant to have beaten the Ark Ship’s AI into submission?”
Not just Uncle Puma is silenced. I get a lot of dark looks. I’m quite confused as to who knows what and who doesn’t.
Thyal takes the heat off me. He shakes his blunt thylacine head. “I was astounded by the simplicity down here when we arrived to do mischief. The command dash is nothing but a bunch of illogically paired on-off switches. If the rest of this starship is the same, no wonder that the child-that-was, if she originally came from a technologically superior future Earth, decided to hitch a ride with the Ark Ship.”
Just like that Thyal gives all of us a different understanding of the machine-pattern and, more importantly, of the Earth we are all hoping to get back to.