When we arrived back at the warehouse, we jumped straight down from the truck into the big room, and the doors were closed behind us before the truck drove away. The Professor was already standing at the controls of the big machine, making last-minute adjustments, but he turned back to us and said “It’ll be a few hours yet. You can stay and watch if you like, of course, but it’ll just be me pressing buttons .” Suddenly we were at a loss as to what to do with ourselves, though I’m sure James could have made a few suggestions. We went into the conference room, and James and I passed the time arguing with each other as we tried to tell Alex the old Maui-stories we’d learned as children. Everyone knows them, I guess, though under all sorts of different names, and Alex listened bright-eyed, bringing up comparisons to Prometheus and Anansi, and soon we’d given up the original subject and launched into a more general session of arguing and agreeing and telling snippets of stories and trying to remember things we’d read. If you’ve ever been involved in something like that, you know what it’s like, and how impossible it is to remember who said what afterwards, unless someone says something that really pisses you off. When you’re agreeing, though, I think that conversations like that are the closest the outer world can come to the way our thoughts work, inside our heads and all alone.
“You three are going to fit in very well in university, I think, if you pass the time by arguing amongst yourselves and trying to get to the truth at the core of things.” We all started as the Professor spoke, and I learned one of the limitations of our new senses: we could only get use out of them if we were paying attention to them. “In any case, the time has now come. We’re taking him out of the tank and putting him in a bed in your room, and he’ll wake up there. You should probably be there when he does, since you’ll be with him for the rest of the year at least.” We all stood, looked at each other a little sheepishly, and followed him out into the big room, where the casket was swung out again, and the fluid draining away into the bowels of the machine, leaving Darwin lying there, still unconscious, wearing nothing but a thin slick of fluid and a pair of dark blue Speedos. The orderly orderlies rinsed him with warm water from a showerhead sort of thing as the Professor applied some sort of pump, apparently clearing his lungs of fluid. It was all shockingly intimate, like stumbling across a mother giving birth. The orderlies then towelled him dry as the Professor reached behind his head and detached something. I reached up and felt the base of my own skull, and suspicions I’d been harbouring for a few days suddenly crystallised. I kept them to myself, though. The knowledge might be more useful at some point in the future.