Min caught one of the flagpoles, her feet shifting unthinkingly on the four-inch rail.
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Below, a silver fan/flower of water erupted up as ZoŽ sank down.
Min had no memory of movement, of crossing the intervening distance from pool house to edge; she was only conscious of the stillness within her, the razor edged clarity as her body shifted to a different kind of awareness. The moment lasted no longer than a breath before she vaulted from the side. The sea rushed her with terrible swiftness, only marginally mitigated by the ship's safety screens.
She mistimed it, hitting at a bad angle; not yet completely straightened for clean entry. The shockóand that of the freezing waterówas bruising, driving the breath from her. She arrowed quickly for the air, even as a third body crashed through the icy seaís membrane. Min broke the surface, blinking the salt from her eyes and scraping her hair out of her face, tumbled from its loose topknot. After a second, Duncan's head broke the surface as well, about two arm-lengths distant. She didn't see ZoŽ anywhere.
"Where is she?"
The noise of the engines was terrific down here, as if the rapid throb of Min's own heart had been magnified a million times, beating at their eardrums. Her entire body hurt from the cold as if she'd been knifed and then smashed. She hated to think of what it must be like for Duncan, or ZoŽ, who hadn't even had augmentation. Two minutes for them at most; maybe as many as five for me. Maybe. This better be fast, or we're all going to die, Min thought.
Min couldnít control the convulsive shiver that swept her from heels to crown, the fear that paralyzed her until she started to slip beneath the waves herself.
"There!" Duncan pointed, shattering her train of thought and lending her the ability to think and move again. She slewed around quickly, seeing only the medusan coils of ZoŽís dark hair, floating just below the water, like seaweed. Ah, hell.
She flicked down her secondary eyelids. Another moment of blankness, of non-thought, and she was under the water.
ZoŽ was only a little below, arms floating up limply as she sank. Again Min was struck her beauty, so different from Minís own lanky awkwardness. Her eyes closed as if sleeping, ZoŽís expression was peaceful, glimpsed through the seaweed coils of her hair. And below her...
The Guard flinched in an effervescent rush of bubbles, hands clenching reflexively to fists. Beneath the skin, metal rattled, painful, aching, begging to be freed.
Itís not real.
It canít be real.
She knew that the War had changed her, damaged heróBut I am not delusional, she thought. [i]Not in shock, not suffering trauma aftermath, not crazy.
Gods help me, not crazy; I would take oath on it. [/i]
But when she looked again, it was gone.
There are no gabaja outside of Homeland, she reminded herself yet again.
Min blinked, blue with cold, eyes aching with salt, and wondered if she'd really seen anything at all.
There was a jerk, hardly painful, as Duncan suddenly caught the trailing coils of her hair, dragging her up towards the surface. Before he could tow her out of reach, Min lunged for ZoŽ, tangling her fingersówhich were already starting to lose feelingóin the other girlís equally long tresses.
This one, she would save.
She couldn't possibly have seen a gabaja.
That which could hunger, could starve. - Octavia Butler