"You think you have the human experience all pegged, don't you?" "The Void is in your eyes." "Bullshit. Now you're just talking." "No, Alera remembers it. She saw the emptiness within you warring with the glad wisdom you used to survive." "Alera doesn't remember anything. You fucking ate her, remember?" "Alera is here with us. As are the rest. The entire crew of the Pricey Vulture remain in our lives forever. Except Jae, and you. Jae is lost. But you can yet join." Lang felt heat in his face. He felt a horrible intuition inside of him. "No thanks." "You will remain. All of your memories. All that you knew and learned and retained will survive." "It won't be me." "But it will. What is 'you'? A collection of material compounds pressed into a particular shape? You see how easily we can reproduce that, without missing a detail? A pattern of thoughts? We retain those and use them to inform the whole. No one we absorb is ever gone. Their own memories, and not just memories of them, survive." Lang swallowed. He felt cold inside. He thought of an old spacer legend, one of the early Admiralty warships, the Theseus. It had been badly damaged in battle with the xenohomes of Elysia-2, and two separate junkers had picked up pieces from it. The Union was split among competing guilds in those days, so both crews had sought payment, but the Admiralty only paid per ship, not per weight, so only one junker could collect. This prompted both guilds to put their own money up to restore the Theseus, each building off the scrap they collected. In the end, an Admiralty court was unable to determine which ship was the actual Theseus, and so refused payment to both. The cost overheads forced the guilds into bankruptcy and the Union was formed. The Admiralty ended up taking over both ships for practically nothing in the auction. One was designated Theseus II, and the other Theseus III, and that was that. Which ship was the Theseus? Neither, but both of them could be called that. The Thing took another step to him. They nearly touched, and Lang could feel an electric current in the air. He looked up and saw Alera's face and could no longer critique the appearance of it. It was Alera's face, as sure as he was sitting there. "It will hurt," said Alera's voice, "but then..." "...forever" said Lang. "...forever" said Alera. Lang sighed. "Let's go to sick bay." He looked up and saw Alera's face and could no longer critique the appearance of it.