Implied Spaces
just enough to restart the species should something go terribly wrong with the wormhole worlds.
    Daljit lowered her glass. “Why Aristide?” she asked. “That’s what I can’t work out.”
    He looked at her over the rim of his glass. The brilliant shoreline glittered in his eyes like the missing stars.
    “Do you regret,” he said, “staying behind?”
    She tilted her head and considered this. “You mean, do I regret not getting blown up? No.”
    “The Big Belch was regrettable, yes. But I meant—”
    “What you really mean is, Do you regret remaining in the Sol system? Because if you didn’t, at least a bit, you wouldn’t have asked the question.”
    “Touché,” he said. His look was bleak.
    She looked at him. “ Do you regret being the Pablo who stayed behind?”
    “The others—aside from the one who got toasted—are living interesting lives. Terraforming, building new settlements, new platforms, new universes.”
    “New genders. Don’t forget Tau Ceti.”
    He nodded. “I’m the Pablo who stayed behind. To coordinate things, supposedly, though they don’t actually need me for that. But—though my avatars are leading interesting lives—it seems to me that they aren’t getting any closer to answering any fundamental questions.”
    She smiled. “The Existential Crisis.”
    “Indeed.”
    “Do you think you can find fundamental answers by transforming yourself into a swordsman and exploring the implied spaces?”
    “If I haven’t found any existential answers,” he said deliberately, “I’ve certainly found an existential threat.”
    There was a moment’s silence. “Touché, yourself,” she said.
    He smiled, sighed, and decided to lighten the mood.
    “The implied spaces intrigue me. As a metaphor, if nothing else.”
    She smiled, and was as willing, for the sake of digestion at least, to avoid discussing the darkness on the near horizon.
    “And you explore squinches with your cat and your sword,” she said. “I can’t help but think that’s romantic.”
    “I’m glad you think so,” he said, “but catalogs of ants and spiders don’t seem very romantic when I’m working on them.”
    “The romance lies in the sword, I think.”
    He glanced at Tecmessa in its case, leaning against the boat’s smooth paneled walls, then turned back to her.
    “Remember when I said that I’m still being monitored by lots of people?” he said. “Every so often, one of them wants to kill me. It’s irrational, because all they can do is kill the time since my last backup, but then assassins were never known for the lucid quality of their thought.”
    “You could have got a gun,” she pointed out. “Or a taser. Or a magic wand, or a Ring of Power. But instead you got a broadsword .”
    “Guns and tasers are good for only one thing. A sword is more flexible. When I was off in Midgarth, I managed to take a couple prisoners with Tecmessa. If I’d had a gun I would have had to shoot them—and in any case, guns won’t work in Midgarth. The rules of the universe won’t permit it.” He paused, as Daljit’s face had brightened with delight.
    “Your sword has a name!” Daljit exclaimed. “That’s wonderful!”
    Aristide blinked. “If you say so.”
    “That’s the mark of a romantic. Next thing, you’ll be wearing a mask and a cape.”
    “Maintaining the secret identity as a millionaire playboy would be a problem,” Aristide said. “I’m afraid it would be too exhausting.”
    She just looked at him. “Millionaire playboy?” she asked.
    “Bruce Wayne,” he said.
    “Who?”
    He was thunderstruck.
    “You don’t know Batman?” he said.
    She looked at him blankly. “I guess not,” he said.
    He felt an obscure sense of betrayal.
    “I lived with you for a dozen years!” he said.
    “Fourteen. But what’s this Batman got to do with it?”
    “Nothing,” he sighed. “Apparently.”

    They returned to the laboratory to find Bitsy still sitting before Daljit’s

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