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There was a little silent beat as Park waited for Jimex to respond to that. But the custodial android said nothing to dispute the claim; he only stood there, looking at them placidly. Park could suddenly feel the chill emanating from the walls. Finally Chanur turned away again and said, "Now, if you don't have any questions regarding your own health, I'll ask you to leave, Park. You're fine, and some of us have actual work to do."

And go to hell to you, too, Park thought after, hurrying down the corridor a few minutes later with Jimex trailing her steps. She was eager to get away from the medical bay, eager to be alone with her thoughts—but just a few steps in, she slowed and put a hand out to his sleeve. "Take me to the service tunnel, please," Park whispered, hunching her shoulders a little in the dark. The tunnel between the medical bay and the ship's private quarters opened up before her like a throat. Normally she relied on the map in her neural inlays to guide her through the ship, but there was that swaying feeling in her head, a remnant of the tranquilizer tabs and her recent illness. Jimex nodded and began to lead her down the corridor, marching strangely like an executioner leading his victim to the gallows.

Park had to grit her teeth and force herself to forge onward, clinging to his sleeve. The Deucalion was structured like a rabbit's warren, the ship itself a gray oblong disc whirling through space, its innards three decks' worth of cramped and crooked passageways that twined around each other in dimly lit confusion. No straight lines here, Park often thought. No straightforward direction, no clear-cut compass. The way the corridors twisted around each other—coupled with the way the ship spun—meant you could never really tell what direction you were moving in. Whether you were going down or up. The reasons for this were backed by physics—streamlined shell for acceleration; spread-out channels to distribute mass; rotating sections of the ship to create gravity—but it didn't make navigating the damn thing any less unnerving. It was like following the root system of a giant tree, shuffling blindly along in the half-dark. Or climbing through the arteries of a mechanical heart. What would be found, deep down in the core of things? You could never be quite sure.

Park suppressed a shudder. She often felt a feeling of erasure, being trapped aboard the ship: as if everything within the great vessel was bent towards annihilating her presence. Even the state-of-the-art filtration systems eliminated all odor, all animal smell and musk. There was no sense or proof of presence; it was as if the humans on board were being sterilized out of existence. And she could never get used to the way her soft deckboots made no sound on the red-veined tile—a kind of hellish-looking carbon composite meant to protect them from the heat of reentry. The silence of her own footfalls disconcerted her. She felt always as if she might be swallowed whole by the ship.

Finally she found the bright circle in the wall that indicated the service tunnel she wanted and stumbled toward it. The actual everyday sections of the ship were well-lit, but the passageways between them and the storage rooms operated at half-luminescence, to conserve power. She stopped when they were tucked safely away into the bend and turned to Jimex.

"Who works in the cafeteria?"

His head whirred again. After he'd checked his databases he replied: "Philex works in the cafeteria on most days. Megex on others."

"Speak to them, please, and find out which crewmember could have had access to my food when I wasn't looking. From last night's meal as well as lunch. And speak to Ellenex as well—I want to verify Chanur's story." For all I know, she could have been the one who poisoned me, she thought but didn't say.

Jimex cranked his head to the side; in a human it would have been akin to a tilt of curiosity, but in him it simply looked as if his head were askew. "Dr. Chanur's story," he repeated.

Park stared at him. "I want to hear from Ellenex what I was sick with, when I was found. Whether the stockroom has really been untouched. Those sorts of things. Chanur won't allow her to speak to me, but she won't stop you." The robots all had a silent way of communicating with each other, though she suspected she was the only one who knew this—besides maybe Reimi. After a moment she added: "And I'd like to hear from her about Reimi—Officer Kisaragi—too. About what really happened with her. If Dr. Chanur's version of events are true."

Something wasn't right, she thought as Jimex nodded and thunked dutifully away. The nearest ISF outpost was five weeks away: it took eighteen hours or more to send a message there, the same amount of time to receive a response back. How had they obtained permission to freeze Reimi so quickly, when she'd fallen sick only yesterday afternoon? And why in such secrecy? For what purpose?

No, something wasn't right.
Thinking of this, she pulled up her datagrabs of Chanur's face and examined them, rifling through the snapshots on her neural inlays. Privacy War skirmishes were still erupting on the outer rings of the system, rebels and ISF agents battling it out on colonies like Halla and Blest, and confidentiality was on everyone's minds. Current privacy laws dictated Park had up to one hour to view any images for "personal use" before they were deleted; she used that opportunity now to scrutinize Chanur's features. Yes, there was definitely something there: secrecy, annoyance, hidden anger and laughter in turns. But laughter at whom? Park? And anger at what?

No wonder she turned her back, Park thought—even though such a gesture was considered offensive in Chanur's native Martian system, where face-to-face contact was scarce enough. There was a gamut of feeling roiling beneath the physician's surface, and she'd hidden her face knowing—as everyone knew—that Park would sniff her out, given long enough. That meant she had something to hide.

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