Ship’s Heart: Naime the Shipwright (character interview)

My day, or rather, my Day, is counted differently now that I am no longer mortal, or rather, embodied in a mortal frame. Since Landfall, we have resolved to count time by the Ship’s Chronometer, the Time of the Original World. So when I speak of Days rather than days, that’s what I mean.

My own circadian rhythms are rather different. I can spawn process-threads that speak back to me but travel through not-Me, the great cooperative of fleshly and cybernetic entities that is the Ship, and now that are the Outposts. My nervous system still lives. By the sorcery of biochemical trickery, it has ramified far beyond its initial extent, and cooperates with other Ship’s Hearts and the Artificial Intelligences to keep us alive against the Void. We are conscious and autonomic, just as our human-scaled counterparts; we daydream and we think and we keep vital functions in rhythm. We rest as we work; some of our threads sleep while others are running.

Our sense of Time is not mortal Time, but it is related.

Our sense of Scale is not human scale; our senses extend far beyond our physical body, by way of the Ships’ Nexus and the Jump-drones and our array of sensors. We see into the electromagnetic spectrum far above and below the energy of the rainbow.

We sing songs, we dance, we joke, we read, just like mortals.

We take care of our own, and the others as well. Or rather, the Others. Downbelow, or behind the Outposts (what preposition you use depends upon point of view), that jeweled string of worlds already has Inhabitants, close enough to us in biochemical kinship that we can die of each others’ plagues.

And have.

Now, late in my Day, late in our Days, in the life after our lives as Ships, we find ourselves interpreting once more, the middle term not only between flesh and machine, but between Humans and Inhabitants.

(The old usage had “aliens” but that’s a misnomer: they were there first, when we first found this system.)

We have settled the matter peaceably, after much struggle.

We each keep to our own, and communicate via the Ships, or the Outposts.

I am the frontier, the boundary, the place-of-meeting that is neither one thing nor the other.

When I was a child, long long ago, I learned the ancient art of drawing. I watched my littlest clan-sibling, as they smiled at the seabirds swooping beyond our balcony.

On one side — round rosy brown cheeks, long lashes, bright eyes, that turned-up dab of a nose that all the Astok children have in infancy.

One the other — sky and sun, racing clouds, the glitter of water below us.

The line, which does not exist, where my baby clan-sibling’s profile met the air — that I traced with stylus on tablet. Tens of millennia ago on the Original World, with burnt-wood on stone, on canvas, on paper made of pounded plant-fibers, my distant ancestors echoed the same gesture.

Now I am the Imaginary Line. I am the sentient demarcation.

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