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Crush

Pre-adapted.

Even now, at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, Fischer doesn't know what Scanlon meant by that.

He doesn't feel pre-adapted, not if that means he's supposed to be at home here. Nobody even talked to him on the way down. Nobody talked much to anyone else, either, but when they didn't talk to Fisher it seemed especially personal. And one of them, Brander — it's hard to tell with the eyecaps and all, but Fischer thinks Brander keeps looking at him, like they know each other from somewhere. Brander looks mean.

Everything's out in the open down here; pipes and cable bundles and ventilation ducts are all tacked onto the bulkheads in plain sight. He saw it on the vids before he came down, but those somehow left the impression of a brighter place, full of light and mirrors. The wall he's facing now, for instance; there should be a mirror there. But it's just a gray metal bulkhead with a greasy, unfinished sheen to it.

Fischer shifts his weight from one foot to the other. At one end of the lounge Lubin leans against a library pedestal, his capped eyes pointed at them with blank disinterest. Lubin's said only one thing to them in the five minutes they've been here:

"Clarke's still outside. She's coming in."

Something clanks under the floor. Water and nitrox mix, gurgling, nearby. The sound of a hatch swinging open, movement from below.

She climbs up into the lounge, droplets beading across her shoulders. Her diveskin paints her black below the neck, a skinny silhouette, almost sexless. Her hood is undone; blond hair, plastered against her skull, frames a face paler than Fischer's ever seen. Her mouth is a wide thin line. Her eyes, capped like his own, are blank white ovals in a child's face.

She looks around at them: Brander, Nakata, Caraco, Fischer. They look back, waiting. There's something in Nakata's face, Fischer thinks, something like recognition, but Lenie Clarke doesn't seem to notice. She doesn't seem to notice any of them, really.

She shrugs. "I'm changing the sodium on number two. A couple of you could come along, I guess."

She doesn't seem exactly human. There is something familiar about her, though.

What do you think, Shadow? Do I know her?

But Shadow isn't talking.


* * * | Starfish | * * *



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