A novelette set in the Culture universe created by Iain M. Banks

The wave curled and coiled, a rolling white tube of breaking foam cutting across the azure water of the bay. The steady swell from the deep ocean was trapped, corralled here by the slope of the seabed and by the twin jutting headlands into a paradise for surfing enthusiasts which had become justifiably famous all over this vast world.

The surfboard twitched and turned as its rider navigated an intricately fractal path along the boundary between smooth water and foaming chaos, the board's three inverted shark-fins digging into the water guided by feet and ankles and the motion of the surfer's body.

The surfer, a man called Yir Refan-Haifeen, had dark hair, now streaked by sun and salt, and a rangy build that made it evident that he swam a great deal. He crouched on the board, now speeding through the tube of air within the rolling coil of water, one hand stretched out to just graze the inner surface.

There was a soft chime from his terminal, which somebody from an earlier era might have mistaken for an earring. He acknowledged the call with a grunt, not wishing to break his concentration.

"Hi, Hub here."

"Hello, Hub. I'm a bit busy here at the moment."

"I can see. Your surfing skills are pretty impressive."

Surfboard and rider shot from the end of the tunnel of water just as the last of the wave collapsed into sparkling foam.

"I have a favour to ask," Hub's calm voice continued, "Something I would like you to do for me. And I would like you to meet somebody."

Refan-Haifeen looked up; the sun was beginning to set, the blazing orb merging into the pale pink haze of an Orbital sunset. He shrugged.

"Okay, Hub. And of course this is all terribly urgent."

"Both urgent and important, I'm afraid."

"Right. Let me get to dry land and take it from there."

"Done. Later."

Refan-Haifeen rode the snow-white surf back towards the golden sand. Hub's request was not entirely unprecedented - he had heard of a few such requests from Minds before - but the reports of the outcomes did not make particularly encouraging viewing.

He picked up his surfboard and walked back to his transport, a sleek two-wheeled machine waiting silently on the beach.

There was somebody there, a woman, waiting for him.


[stuttered tight point, M32, tra. @n4.28.755.1067]
  xGSV Wisdom Like Silence
    oOrbital Y'grath
I beg you, old friend, please do not look too closely at the package.

[stuttered tight point, M32, tra. @n4.28.755.1067+]
  xOrbital Y'grath
    xGSV Wisdom Like Silence
But, why, exactly? Why must I not look at this thing?

This too must remain untold. Remember, it is the Interesting Times Gang who is asking for this.

Well, I have to agree to your request. But it is with the gravest misgivings.

You have my most sincere thanks.

Top of Page Next