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While my twin slept, I walked the Dead.
They were not truly dead, but neither did they sleep; too lightly did they slumber for the final rest, and for the former did they doze too deep. In glazed compartments deep within Herakles did they abide. Sometimes when sleep eluded me, far above them on the bridge, I walked the decks with dim lights on. Although the scene was one that could be quickly linked to haunting, it was not so; light-years lay between us and the boojums of humanity, left on the ground by careful sterile field and cargo check. Here the wide spacing between safety lights left only comfortable dark for slumber, not concealment, and there was no ancient gasping (as a drowning man) for the touch of wholesome sun.
Here a woman, perhaps twenty-five. Her face peaceful save her brow. Furrowed in determination - for what? To arrive? That there be no pain on freezing, or that there be no pain on leaving, loss or grieving at the years (both time and light) gone past? I walk on.
A family, clearly marked, parents with two children in between. All wear quiet faces, sleeping with the certainty of those who know their loved ones are near. I lay my hand on the daughter's capsule for a moment, withdraw; a handprint of condensation fades behind just over her shoulder. I have an absurd impulse to paint handprints on the armorcryst above each sleeping shoulder - leave a note that the friendly watchman has been by on his rounds and (yet) all is well.
I have time to wonder where the carbon of the corpse I made will end up. I released it into the not-space between the Lanes. Without a mind to guide its path, I have no idea if it will ever return to corporeal causal space, or even if it can be said to exist at all. Perhaps the matter that makes it up will one day return to a Lane, be absorbed, millions of years hence.
Perhaps I'm looking for absolution.
The Bridge is dark when I return, just as I left it. My twin is still asleep in a flight couch. I drink water and Herakles feeds me while I wait for him to awaken and for my tired brain to uncover what it is that I must do.
* * *
"Did you see who it was?"
I awake with a start. My twin is still in his couch, staring out into the dark ahead of us. I shake my head to clear it. "No."
"Neither did I. I only heard you shout and saw the wall go."
I stretch, unsure of how long I'd slept. "So are we now fugitives for having met, I wonder."
"That is how it would seem."
"We need more information. We can't form a plan."
"Before that, though..."
"What are we trying to do?"
I looked over at him. He was still looking straight out at the stars. "What do you mean?"
"What are we trying to accomplish? What is the desired endstate? Do we just wish to find out who or what is hunting us? Do we wish to stop them? Is the purpose to return to our lives, such as they were, before we met? To continue on in the Lanes together? If the latter, are we saying then that we wish to Change all so that others such as we can meet? If that, then we are taking on a greater task."
I sat back, slowly. "I...see your point."
"It would behoove us to decide before we set out from this place of what would appear to be relative safety. Are we going forth to discover, or to war?"
I thought. "For now, neither. For now, we're going to decide."
He turns to look at me. "Going to, or going in order to?"
"Very well." He stands slowly, unfolding one joint at a time. The motion is familiar, mirrored; a pang of loss thrills through me, a private familiarity with my body ripped from me. Foolish. "Where, then?"
"There is a man I know. He is not easy to find."
"Does he, too, have a place?"
"Not...precisely, no." I cannot tell him how to find my friend, because the secret of the algorithmic jump is not mine to give. "I have to ask you to trust me, because the means to find him is one he entrusted me."
"Right then." I take hold of his forearms; he clasps mine in turn, and our Names vanish into the Bridge's ventilated conditioned air in a waft of identity and eft before we too are Gone.
Our soles touch white sand and green grass, in front of the gigantic clock. I look over at him, and see his face transform in delight as the thunder rolls and the manmade sun is loosed to batter down upon us. While he is entranced, feeling slightly guilty at the misdirection, I call up the first step of the mental dance, and as his head tracks upward I pull us backwards into the Lanes - first step upwards for the ungainly bird, first step onward as we seek our quarry.
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