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one on the voyage.
Slices of a small unidentified scion were laid out on a board, pinned and labeled. But for their clothes
-- long shirts tied up with belts, loose pants and sandals -- we might have been in a late
nineteenth-century Earth laboratory.
"No one at Athenai is enthusiastic about this expedition. Some profess interest, some give
encouragement, none show enthusiasm. Lenk himself wonders about its utility." The captain finished
signing and took up the newspaper. "Some of us at least have rediscovered ambition. What's _your_
ambition?"
I said, "To learn about the ecoi and our place among them, Captain."
"If the master says you're adequate, I won't contradict him. We'll sail short three hands -- short ten,
if we count seasoned sailors and A.B.s. But by Fate and Logos, we'll sail." He plucked a sheet from the
folder and waved it for Randall's benefit. "Received this while you were up the Terra Nova. Permission
from the Administer of Science and Metallurgy at Athenai. Should have been here three months ago. We
are forbidden to 'risk the metal-containing ship _Vigilant_ unnecessarily, or to report findings to anyone
other than the officers and ministers of Able Lenk.' 'Science and Metallurgy' indeed. As if the ship's metal
is more important than crew or mission..." The captain thrust the permission form into the folder again. He
shook the newspaper, turned the headline toward Randall, who bent to read it. "Villages raided on the
north coast and around Jakarta, and upriver here at Moonrise. Ships taken. Crews let off in boats or
rafts." He drew up his cheeks, squeezing his eyes to slits, and sucked on his teeth, then straightened and
lifted one hand, as if after all this meant very little.
"I've a hunger for knowledge," I said. "I need passage for experience. I need to reach Athenai
eventually -- that's all. My mother and father told me to go where I can be educated. Apprenticed."
"How old are you?" the captain asked. He had an odd habit of touching the prominent knob of his
chin with his fingers and tugging until he had a space of one or two centimeters between his teeth, all the
time keeping his jaw muscles clenched as if in defiance.
"Twenty," I said.
"Family?"
"Datchetong. A branch not reassigned."
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"Proscribed, with no education, then?" the captain asked.
I appeared distressed, nodded.
"Bonded or linked?"
"No triad connections," I said. "I've been in the silva for a couple of years, on my own. Trying to
study."
"Then at least you have some survival skills ... Shall I check with the disciplinary and make sure
you're not fleeing his wrath?"
"We've both met the disciplinary," Randall said quietly.
The captain leaned closer, eyes penetrating. "You know nothing about our expedition?"
"More now than I did a few days ago," I admitted.
"Two years in the silva -- Elizabeth's Zone? Breath of Logos, you're _the mystery man,_ aren't you?
From Moonrise?" He swung around on his seat to face Randall. "You didn't tell me that, Erwin."
"I didn't want to prejudice you. We traveled back together."
"I should have guessed ... And the disciplinary gives him a fair mark?"
"So far," Randall said.
Keyser-Bach pulled his chin vigorously, glancing between Randall and me. "They say the Brionists
and General Beys in particular are working several sea routes, commandeering ships. I don't believe them
-- I think the Brionists are blamed overmuch -- but we can't afford not to be -- "
"Vigilant," I said.
Randall seemed to enjoy such cheek. The captain seemed less amused.
"This expedition has been in the making for ten years, and it starts without the enthusiastic support of
anybody in power. We set out with faith and strong drive and not much more." He puffed out his cheeks.
"You'd be shocked at the youth around here, and the courage of our seagoing breed.
"But if the master thinks you're fit, we'll sign you on as an apprentice. Don't expect to do a lot of
science. Expect calluses and shouting."
I made my way around the boat before the assembling of the crew, and made my own assessment.
In their decades on Lamarckia, the immigrants who had taken to these seas had pushed the words for
things nautical this way and that, deleted or elided, added and compressed, but still, most were
recognizable. Recognizable as well was the design of the _Vigilant,_ a forty-meter three-masted
full-rigged ship made largely of xyla, with brass and steel trim. A few details would have startled sailors
on Earth (or in the fourth chamber of Thistledown, where a replica clipper ship had once plied the Lake
of Winds): broad in the beam, forecastle prominent, the bow sharp but with a bulbous protrusion at the
waterline. Seen from above, the overall outline of the ship would have resembled a short chisel with a
drop of paint hanging from the angled tip. Two canvas-vaned windscrews rose abaft and slanted
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