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2

Naturally, I told them to go. Go on, I said, who wants the company of sweet-natured girls and delectable males, both of whom praise me, and offer help for hearth and land, and promise further comrades to come, and who make me laugh and want to hug them sick? Well, obviously, I didnt do any such zaradann thing.

We sat a long while over our white alcohol in Kams bird-plane. We got a little drunk and made drunken plans. I said they must come and live on the ship, for now at any rate. Plenty of cabins, I said. All colors of the rainbowyellow, scarlet, apricotbut maybe theyd better have the violet one, it would tone with Danor nicely. And theyd be able to insist to Four BEE that they have a water mixer. Two, even. One for the home, one to make shrubbery. The Committee, if they hadnt denied it to the Outcast Killer, surely couldnt deny them? Naturally, theyd have to move out of my vicinity temporarily, in case the Committee monitored their position. (A beam had been installed compulsorily on the plane, so they could call for aid, etc.or was it to spy on their activities?) While we were in proximity with each other, the Q-Rs would tell us to share my water mixers, but if Danor and Kam were over the mountains at the time, the city must deliver. Then, once the goods had arrived, my guests could return, plus water mixers, and wed have three lots of Rain for the Garden. This seemed very logically worked out, and rather sharp. Kam congratulated me again on being devious.

It got latish, and suddenly the Sisters went off with their usual thump and the unopaqued windows pulsed with distant red. Id been impressed by the windows and the arrivals lack of phobia. Love had sustained them? They didnt jump much, even now. However, reaction to the Sisters expressed itself from another quarter. From somewhere aloft exploded Danors swan.

Id forgotten the swan, and so had they, it seemed. Perhaps theyd slipped it something to keep it quiet on the journey out. Currently awake, it raced gawkily for the exit, and fled from the plane. Once outside, it burst into klaxon sneezes. Probably it had a pollen allergy.

Danor was concerned, and Kam practically helpless with laughter; I somewhere between. It looked as if the swan might well be a child substitute, too, for Danor, since she and Kam could never become makers in the city. Recalling my pet, and the horrendous adventure with the devil of the provision dispenser, I eventually sympathetically followed Danor down the ramp, out into the night.

Danor called to the swan across the dark, intermittently volcano-lit spaces of the whispering Garden. In reply, from odd nooks, eyes sparked gray (Gray-Eyeses, obviously) or gold (snakes). The swan meanwhile could be heard faintly klaxoning to the left and plodding stolidly over everything growing at ground level from the sound of it. I recalled that old fear of minethat real desert animals might attack an android version, outraged at it for its weird similarities and differences.

Danor, I said, Ill get it; I know the paths, and shot into the undergrowth.

I was going quite fast, despite Kams alcohol, when the klaxon ejections abruptly ceased, but right then I spotted the swan.

It was lying full length, swan-fashion, on the earth, and, for a second, I thought it was dead, and nearly let out a screech of primeval woe, as once before, so long before, yet clear as yesterday. More clear. The pet lying dead, and I

But no, the swan wasnt dead. It was lifting its brainless, elegant head, rubbing its neck on the stem of a tall flowering cactusthankfully not of the prickly variety. And now the swan was rolling on the cool, water-mixer-moistened soil. Its plumage was filthy already and it had petals stuck all over its beak. But unmistakably it looked glad, in the throes of genuine haphazard pleasure.

I hefted it under one arm with difficulty, and took it back to Danor.

One hour later she and I had it in the bathing unit, flapping and flailing, as we rinsed our future from its lavender quills.


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