Day 48. 64 pages, 30,172 words.
Doctor Galhbron led him out of the lab – these excursions were growing slightly more common since their visit to the Pelindrake but were still a rarity – and through the well-guarded Biorelic Research Samples 1, 2 door into the larger region that Maladin knew was called Sentient sample groups. They didn’t leave that area, a fact Maladin established by the fact that they traversed another corridor and another set of doors, but these were not guarded or labelled. Soon they arrived at another door, this one a familiar and simple Sample Storage refrigerator.
She led him inside. It was cold, but nothing he couldn’t handle.
“The samples – your p’bruz – are just dead Bonshoon bodies,” Doctor Galhbron said, “but you may find them distressing, on an emotional level. Are you sure you wish to view them?”
“Sure,” Maladin said, once again taking care to speak neither hastily nor with an excess of feeling. He nevertheless felt compelled to add, “I think that if one of them is this Dunnkirk I have memory-fragments of, I may recognise him. This may provide a valuable step in my recovery, or at least the recovery of my memories.”
Doctor Galhbron nodded her approval of the logic in this, and led him to a row of Molranoid-sized biosample containers. They looked like … something he had seen before, Maladin was certain of it. Something connected with a ritual or ceremony he had witnessed, but not the awakening. They did not look like sleeper pods. He did not mention the familiarity to the doctor yet – he often got these glimmers of connection, but did not speak of them until he had something more concrete to explain.
The containers were labelled Sample 3, Sample 4 and on up to Sample 8.
“We began the awakening and rehabilitation process with Sample 8,” Doctor Galhbron explained, “in the 2830s. Professor K’Yaan was in charge of Biorelic Research at that point, and he was of the Voltagña intellectual discipline. It seemed counter-intuitive, as though we were beginning at the end of the set, but over time the elegance of the idea – especially as the processes were refined and enjoyed greater degrees of success … ”
Maladin suspected she was once again filling the silence with largely-irrelevant information, although in this case he wasn’t sure why.
“Am I Sample 1?” he asked.
“You are Maladin,” Doctor Galhbron said, surprisingly firm. Then she sontinued with her crisp explanation. “The first Bonshooni of the Jathan pods – Sample 8, Sample 7 – survived for a short time and then succumbed. Samples 6, 5 and 4 lived long enough to enter premature Prime, which was traumatic and gave rise to complications … we were able to resolve those complications, but we were also able to develop the experimental nutrient and stabilising agents you have been taking, to hold off your First Prime until its … more natural time. It is our hope that this will give you as close to a normal Bonshooni maturation and lifespan as possible.”
Maladin started with Sample 3, since he was already familiar with the Bonshoon he and his last living p’bruz had shared the laboratory with. He doubted this was Dunnkirk. He’d never gotten that sense of familiarity, and he was fairly sure she had been a girl in any case, and Dunnkirk – again, he was fairly sure – was male. Sample 3 had been dissected, but placed into storage meticulously enough that her features were still discernible.
He moved on to Sample 4. This Bonshoon was bigger, more clearly mature, having been forced into First Prime and given the chance to age a while before succumbing. Still, it wasn’t Dunnkirk either. Maladin moved on.
“You have been doing this for a long time,” he commented to Doctor Galhbron.
“Yes,” she agreed. “This project is only the latest in a long line. The history and genetic heritage of the Molranoid species is very important,” she let this slightly sentimental scientific philosophy stand on its merits as he reached the final container, opened it, and looked down at the Bonshoon within. “Is it…?”
Maladin shook his head. “Dunnkirk is not here,” he reported.
“Are you certain you would recognise him?” Doctor Galhbron asked. “If you do not know what he looks like exactly, are you certain of the familiarity trigger response?”
“No,” Maladin admitted. “I am fairly sure Dunnkirk was male, but even that … I do not remember anything in detail. I have to concede that any one of these – or even my p’bruz back in the lab – could be Dunnkirk, and I am simply not recognising him the way I was so certain I would.”
“It is an impossible question to answer,” Doctor Galhbron said supportively, “although I admire your candid assessment. Perhaps the only way to know for certain is to locate all of the Jathan pods and examine all of your fellow sleepers. Only then will you know if you recognise Dunnkirk on sight.”
“You could be right,” Maladin said. “Seeing as how we are unlikely to find all of the pods, I will focus on recovering and clarifying what memories I have.”
“Remain mindful of self-reinforcement and creative gap-filling fallacies,” Doctor Galhbron said.
That, Maladin thought as they sealed the containers and departed from the storage chamber, was easier said than done. Almost his entire mental landscape was constructed of self-reinforcing, creatively-filled gaps.
They returned to the laboratory.