“You trust your father?” I asked.
“Of course,” he said. “Don’t you?”
“I haven’t seen my real father in three years,” I said.
“Is that sad, for you?” the young human asked.
“He sent methere.” I pointed to a bright russet point in the black sky. “To learn discipline.”
“Shh-shhaa!” The Florian—a smaller variety of human, half Chakas’s height—scampered from the stern on bare feet to join us. I had never known a species to vary so widely yet maintain such an even level of intelligence. His voice was soft and sweet, and he made delicate signs with his fingers. In his excitement, he spoke too rapidly for me to understand.
Chakas interpreted. “He says you need to take off your armor. It’s upsetting the merse.”
At first, this was not a welcome suggestion. Forerunners of all rates wear body-assist armor through much of their lives. The armor protects us both physically and medically. In emergencies, it can suspend a Forerunner until rescue, and even provide nourishment for a time. It allows mature Forerunners to connect to the Domain, from which all Forerunner knowledge can flow. Armor is one of the main reasons that Forerunners live so long. It can also act as friend and advisor.
I consulted with my ancilla, the armor’s disembodied intelligence and memory—a small bluish figure in the back of my thoughts.
“This was anticipated,” she told me. “Electrical and magnetic fields, other than those generated by the planet’s natural dynamics, drive these organisms into splashing fury. That is why the boat is powered by a primitive steam engine.”
She assured me that the armor would be of no value to humans, and that at any rate she could guard against its misuse. The rest of the crew watched with interest. I sensed this might be a sore point. The armor would power down, of course, once I removed it. For all our sakes, I would have to go naked, or nearly so. I halfway managed to convince myself this could only enhance the adventure.
The Florian set to work weaving me a pair of sandals from reeds used to plug leaks.