Waldo was something else, too; he had recently become my lover, although this was not, as far as I was aware, generally known amongst the Recovered. After my initial shock at seeing his silver arm in action, I found myself increasingly attracted to his evident masculinity and his calm thoughtful personality. Perhaps I was emotionally vulnerable, too: it was only a few months in personal time since Henry Harrington, my intended - intended father of my children, I should stress - left the Endeavour and me behind to pilot the Message in a Bottle, the craft we had sent to signal our plight to the rest of the galaxy.

After a certain amount of nervous hesitation on both our parts, it seemed that the attraction was mutual. I began finding excuses to spend more time in his company, asking question after question about human society as it now was, and what is was like to live on planet Earth in this century.

At first, our meetings were in the public social spaces of the Yelcho, although we soon found ourselves locating the more obscure and out-of-the-way spots where we would be unobserved by all but the most diligent of searchers. It was at one of these more discreet spots that I finally felt able to ask him about his arm, which I had at first regarded as merely a prosthetic device.

We were sitting face-to-face across a small table, with two mugs of already cold coffee decorating the slightly worn surface which separated us. We had been talking quietly, earnestly, for hours.

"No, no at all," he replied to my query, "The arm isn't a disability. Quite the opposite, really: it is just the minimum amount of - well, what you would call augmentation, I suppose - that I felt I could live with. Otherwise I really would feel disabled."

He smiled wanly.

"Look, I've had other shapes in the past, forms with much more capability and flexibility. I thought it was best, when I was accepted on this mission, to adopt a human-basic body pattern. But I couldn't be without some of the most basic aids."

It was at that moment I finally summoned the courage to do something I had wanted to do for days, to reach out and touch him. The silver arm was surprisingly warm and very slightly yielding under my questing fingertips, and the rest of his body was - I was convinced from a large number of extremely close inspections over the next few days and night - entirely human.

I suppose the relationship could not go unremarked for ever. My extended absences from friends and colleagues amongst the Recovered must have caused a degree of comment, although several of my old contemporaries had become near-recluses after our implications of our rescue had become clear.

My unmasking was the expression on my face when, one day, I glanced up from a table in the nearly-empty cafeteria to catch sight of Waldo entering the room. The look, compounded of, I suppose, some combination of lust and anticipation, was immediately recognised by Adele, who had been my closest female confidant and friend aboard the Endeavour and with whom I was currently sharing the table. She spun around to inspect who I was looking at; when she realised who it was, her eyes widened in shocked surprise followed closely by a more personal interest.

Waldo stopped in the doorway, smiling broadly in my direction. Then, seeing Adele turn and stare at him, his expression fell and he looked faintly embarrassed. Recovering quickly, he mouthed "see you later" in my direction, making the ancient "call me" sign with his human hand, then spun on his heel and hurried out.

"Are you having an affair with Waldo?" she practically squeaked as soon as we were alone.

"Yes," I replied flatly, unable to keep a smirk off my face.

"Well, he's making you happy, I can see," he said, smiling back at me, "And I had wondered what you had been doing with yourself these last few weeks."

There was no chance of persuading Adele to keep my secret to herself. She was naturally too fundamentally honest to be part of any such subterfuge and in any case it was something I would never want to ask of my best friend. Mentally, I resigned myself to my situation becoming common knowledge within the hour.

"You want to go to him, don't you?" Adele went on, her smile widening.

I nodded, gobbled the last mouthful on my plate and was on my feet following Waldo before I even thought to answer her.

"I'll see you later," I said over my shoulder. I was sure Adele would understand.


Much much later that same day, I was lying alongside Waldo on the bed in his cabin. I was sated, at least temporarily, and very much inclined not to move from my comfortable position on his shoulder. Waldo was wide awake - as he always was under these circumstances - but happy enough to converse in his usual calm way. In my light-headed and post-coital state, a question occurred to me which I had not asked before.

"What did you do before you came to rescue us?" I asked, slightly sleepily.

A smile appeared on that handsome face and his eyes looked into the middle distance, remembering who knew what? "Actually, I've spend quite a number of years doing my bit to bring back together the strands of humanity," he said softly, "This isn't my first encounter with people from the historical past."

"So you've visited lots of planets, lots of colonies?"

"Well, yes, but I don't think you'd recognise all of them as such."

"I don't think I understand," I responded hesitantly.

I lay quietly, enthralled, as Waldo explained. In the centuries since our precipitous departure, humanity has factionalised, with different groups in different star systems adopting divergent philosophies. Economics was not, it seemed, quite the driver which it had been on Earth when we had left, with resources being more widely available and more equitably distributed. Much more was provided from space-based operations - basically, exactly the kind of asteroid mining that had been advocated by the Expansionist faction.

On the other hand, planet Earth itself had become very much a managed facility; I got the impression that, in this century, it was looked after with almost fanatical care - gardening the countryside - in very much the style that the Consolidationists of my era had demanded.

Waldo talked on and on: how the population of Earth had diminished and how many people lived in space almost all the time; the wonders of ringed planets visible to the naked eye, and mile-high waterfalls, and world-girding mountain ranges; the heroic efforts of men and women to build new outposts and civilisations out amongst the stars.

Perhaps I dozed, despite my fascination. When I woke, he had gone; I left Waldo's cabin and made my way slightly unsteadily back to my own accommodation.

Part 2 Part 4