We dug back into the shoreline according to some plan dictated by Constancy.
As far as we could tell, we and the other crews were were making complex the simple, beautiful curve of our coastline.
Curves were becoming irregular fractals once the high basalt dams came down.
The serious questions were, "Why do this?" and, "Why do it so inefficiently?"
I had a feeling I'd find Neil getting drunk somewhere on the Sea of Tranquility seafront. He always liked high class bars with nice views, when he was sane and presentable enough to get served.
Sure enough I found him at a table looking out over the Sea of Tranquility, kept company by a G&T.
I sat opposite him and ordered a coffee from a sullen looking waiter.
"So what's going on Neil? Why was I brain-screwed by Constancy then bugged by her?"
"A black dog and a white dog fight, which one . . . ."
"No Neil, no more of that shit. Answers please"
"Look," he said, pointing behind me. I turned to see his dogs glaring at me.
"Don't care, never will. Why did you get Constancy so pissed at me." I ignored the huge favours he had done me and the Sea of Dreams. My brain was more important.
"I was spreading my wings a little," he said. "You were the one who got me away from the dogs Michael. If they'd been around when I pulled my magic tricks with your Sea they would have chewed through the door to stop me."
"So why didn't they?"
"The mote repelling field of that strange gun of yours confused them. It had the opposite effect on me of course. Cleared my mind to the point where I could issue commands to the Ship again."
"What did you say?" I asked. "About the commands I mean?"
He leaned forward and pulled aside the fur above his right breast.
"I wish our ancestors hadn't bred us for fur and large eyes," he said.
Beneath the matted fur I could just see a tattoo of three spirals in a equilateral triangle.
Shocked, I leaned back and inspected the highlands.
The Sea of Tranquility rose gently until it was over our heads. The white houses on either side were like clean foam on a breaking wave. Behind them the wheat fields glowed pale grey under the bright pulses of the noon sun.
"If that tattoo were fake Constancy would tear you apart. So you really must be crew."
"All that's left as far as I know. The others vanished one by one. Constancy couldn't kill me of course. "
A heron flew overhead, laboriously pumping air like a poor mechanical parody of a bird.
"Why couldn't it? Who are you?"
"I'm the captain and Constancy is hardwired to protect me."
"That is such bullshit. There never was a captain. With Constancy there's no need for one. Anyway, you're just a stinking drunk like me."
He looked south at the soaring endcap, pulses of gray daylight travelling out from the central hub.
"I'm 350 years old Michael. None of us stayed truly sane after 200. Constancy had to take over. Someone has to make the tough decisions."
The dogs were sitting, intently watching us. I'd never seen them so placid.
"The others are dead. They were in the way I suppose. I, however, can do things Constancy can't. I can access protocols it has no access to. You saw what I did with your Sea. That won't last by the way. All the Seas are screwed in the medium term. Iced over as available energy falls. I think Constancy has a plan though."
With that the dogs tried to leap over the table at Neil. Fortunately for him I was in the way and braving a whirlwind of snarls and teeth I held them off while I yelled , "Get to my apartment and get the gun." He ran north as I returned to being pissed at the powerful dogs.
Eventually I got a blow to the throat of one of the feral beasts, but as it fell the other one clamped its jaw on my arm.
It hung onto me, dragging me to the ground. As I lay there, trying to pull myself free, the dog I thought I'd killed weaved over and vomited in my face.
We're digging fjords," said the man with all the answers.
"Tiny, wee fjords. Liquid water coastline segments for seals and walruses to live in when the freeze comes."
Most of us ignored him, wanting only to eat our gruel and sleep. Some no doubt planned to give him a beating that night.
"And why the hell would that be a priority Alan? Sea of Vapours is already cold enough for seals and walruses," I asked.
"You'll see. For now, think about what a stable, low energy ecosystem would look like."
Alan was most likely the Constancy spy for our work crew. It was hard to tell if his claims of inside information were bullshit or not.
The impossible colour again.
"It's called blue. Eyes like yours, adapted to the low light levels on the Ship, only see shades of grey. I, however, can excite your visual cortex directly" (the dolphins lifted me to the surface, chattering clicks like bursting bubbles)
"Even now, with the low energy levels we use, the system is dying. Something must change" (cold blue water all around, no sign of land, no sign of my parents)
Cold blue water all around ("things must change, energy levels in Ship must fall, the Seas must suffer")
"A great freeze is coming. The ecosystem must be flattened. The brutalised will survive. Hence the work camps, factories for vicious practicality" (the dolphins carried me, me alone, across the great blue to land)
"Neil disagrees. He would rather fire the gun" (it's so cold out there in the deep water, sinking into that new colour, seeing it get deeper in shade)
"He has your gun. He can't use it. Not yet at least. He is very intelligent. That extra implant you now have lets me track you even if you get the gun back"
I woke up, a jaw shaped gash in my right arm, a blinding headache and a face full of dog vomit.
In disgust I threw up myself, the mess I made adding to the utterly foul dog mess.
I threw up again, a cascade of vomitous horror that lasted an eternity followed.
The dogs were gone, thankfully, so I cleaned myself off as well as I could and staggered away, vaguely wondering why the sheriffs hadn't come for me. I could only put it down to Constancy regarding me as an ally now.
I headed back to my apartment to find the print covering the gun hole smashed on the floor and the gun gone.
Constancy has returned to me a few times since. Across my system rather than through EMP or nano laced dog vomit.
I think it's scared. Its' neat plan for an iced over world inhabited by a rigid, low tech society could be rendered pointless if Neil bypasses the safeguards on the gun. He'd rather see the Ship destroyed than our gentle, complex society reduced to that level. He told me he's 350 years old after all. He said that past 200 one is insane.
My hope is to try and get Constancy to modify the severity of It's plan. It's a friend to me now. It shows me the beauty of blue whenever I ask.
It's told me It's finally over-ridden the restrictions on It or the dogs killing Neil. So now its a race between Constancy getting Its' motes past the guns suppression field and then sending in the dogs, or Neil getting past the gun's safety.
I know where I stand.
I have visions of a world of ice, two dogs slipping on a frozen lake, chewing on a human corpse.