Waldo was one of the least flamboyantly augmented individuals in the crew of the Yelcho, the ship which had so effortlessly rendezvoused with the speeding hulk of the Endeavour only a few weeks before. Privately, I suspected this was one of the credentials for his job: his relatively normal appearance, at least to our eyes, must have been part of the selection criteria for a mission which must had been months in the planning, even given both the speed of their craft and the way in which collective decisions were made in this era.
Some people resembled fantastical creatures far from human form. One person - who held some moderately senior position, although I had not really grasped their idea of rank - was shaped as a very good impersonation of a bipedal and carnivorous dinosaur - a fact which had caused several members of the Endeavour crew severe shock on an unanticipated encounter.
Others seemed to be entirely machines: shining structures of silver or gold, or shadowed in matte black. One very curious individual was something very like a knotted mass of cables linking some small number of junction boxes and translucent globes like oversize light bulbs.
About the only think they had in common was their approximate size: none appeared to be more than half as big again as what I insisted of thinking of as a normal human, in any direction, nor less that half that size. Another one of my unvoiced suspicions was that the reason for this commonality was more to do with convenience in navigating the open spaces of the ship rather than any aesthetic sense.
But they were all people, Waldo had insisted: distinct individuals with their own lives and desires and personalities. People could change their form, not exactly on a whim, since it took a certain amount of time and - well, not money, which was regarded as a rather quaint and nearly obsolete relic, but at least a responsible use of a certain share of the common wealth.
Most of the crew of the Yelcho kept their distance from those rescued, or at least arranged that their presence was carefully announced long before they actually arrived. There had been a few unfortunately incidents shortly after the interception when important crew members had been mistaken for statues or, worse, dumb machines by us: primitives as far detached from today’s civilisation as the First Elizabethans were from Quantum Mechanics.
Waldo was our - well, we debated long and hard how to describe his role. Guide and protector? Certainly, he was the one we were encouraged to go to when any of us had problems, and he had shown use around the inside of the Yelcho on our arrival and even provided a tour of the outside, even if it was entirely virtual.
Teacher? Well, yes, he was always on hand to answer queries from the Recovered - a sobriquet we had applied cheerfully to ourselves - and gave a very good impression of never either avoiding the question or talking down to the primitives. He would patiently explain about anything we cared to ask, even if it was a topic which would have been understood by a child in this era. Unfortunately, his explanations always seemed to run aground on some fundamentally inexplicable point, whether it was why the speed of light was still an unassailable barrier but nevertheless did not quite prevent travelling between stars in a matter of months, or why money was no longer a necessity for the distribution of resources.
The more cynical or perhaps despondent of the Endeavour's erstwhile refugees took a different attitude: curator, collector of curios, even zookeeper were all terms which were bandied around at one time or another. Not in front of the Yelcho's crew, of course - although most of us were convinced that we were all watched, monitored at all times.