He tilted his head back, looking up into the sky. I gazed along with him, and caught the glimmer of some few stars, even at the height of day. “I taught small children,” he said. “I oversaw a laboratory. I worked in a hospital. People paid to talk to me, which I remember but do not understand. I performed in front of crowds. I was every kind of army officer. I cooked for a great house. These things are not distinct.”
I nodded, thinking of my earliest memories. “And if I ask you tomorrow?”
“Perhaps I will have been a nurse as well.”
“Yet you remember each of these things.”
He shook his head, once. “Not all of each of them, and not each of all of them. Tomorrow, I might forget the children.”
This seemed to me unlikely. But I remembered, then, what Jerem Cozak had said of centers of consciousness and memory. “Yet no one else will have been all of them,” I said, “except perhaps for Marcus.”
Julius scowled. “Marcus is different,” he said. “He—”
“Del Tanich,” said a gruff voice behind me. “Take this blade.”
I turned to see that Marcus had finished gathering the mastodons and equipping the squads, who sheathed extra swords but dropped provisions. Yet there was no guarantee that we would not become lost ourselves. The falling snow still shortened our horizon to a dozen human strides. But Marcus stood still, having stopped Julius in mid-reply. He held out to me a dagger whose likeness I had never seen before.
The blade, curved as the long teeth of a smilodon, shone gold in the midday sun and would match my palm in length. The handle was white and molded and looked as though it might be soft.
“From our ally,” he said. “She carried it from Earth.”