[tight beam, M8, tra. @n18.104.22.1689]
"The ship's really going? Are you sure?"
Keraki Nlissa was an excitable and enthusiastic woman. Over the seventeen or so decades of her life, she had thrown herself into numerous occupations, hobbies, amusements, pastimes, entertainments, passions, fads, crazes, manias and obsessions with great and sometimes worryingly monomaniacal concentration.
She was of rather less than average height, by prevailing Culture standards, and slightly built, but made up for any perceived lack of stature with boat-loads of energy and eagerness for whatever amusement had attracted her interest. Over the decades, she had mastered many skills, achieved many - admittedly, self-set - objectives, had been the recipient of widespread acclaim on three separate occasions, as well as twice being the target for general opprobrium. At this particular moment, she had coffee-brown skin, white-blonde hair and electric blue eyes - all subject to change without notice, of course - and was currently wearing only a brightly-coloured sarong - and thus entirely naked from the waist up.
"Yes. It's made a public announcement. And it's asking for volunteers to go with it."
Even in her most emotional moments, Rahanna Owhanic seemed to radiate an aura of serene calm. She was a tall matronly woman with long black hair, currently held in a simple plait which fell to her waist. She wore a modest dress of dark grey which covered her from neck to ankles. For almost all her adult life, she had strived to become a passionate and skilful artist, using only the archaic medium of oils on canvas. She would very occasionally put on exhibitions - almost always well-attended - of her works, hung unframed on white walls or stood on easels. She was always delighted when some attendee expressed an interest in one of her works; invariably she would press the piece in question on the visitor as a gift. Over the many decades they had known each other, Owhanic had become a close friend, frequent companion and occasional lover of Keraki Nlissa.
"I've heard! It's so exciting!" Nlissa squeaked, holding out her arms and spinning like a top, "I’ll put my application forward right away. And the hot gossip says that anybody who applies will be accepted on the voyage."
Owhanic smiled tranquilly.
"I had heard," she said calmly, "The talk seems to be of nothing else at the moment. And I am happy that you have decided to go."
"I'm so looking forward to the expedition," Nlissa said, staggering dizzily for a moment, "And you, my dear friend. Will you come with me?"
Rahanna Owhanic took both her friend's hands in her own and looked deep into her eyes.
"No, Keraki, I will not come with you. This is something you must do on your own."