Chapter Twenty Two
On that day,
I woke in a room as white as an unblemished scroll, on a slab I would have thought made of alabaster stone. I looked down past my chin and was surprised to see I had no armor. I felt as though I’d borne Profusionist armor for a very long time. It was gone now, and in its place I wore a fine silk tunic and trousers, as green as a city whose name I could not quite remember. My old clothes, the coarse brown linen I’d worn so long against my skin, had been cleaned and folded beneath my head as a pillow. I felt that, whatever the cause, I had slept entirely too long, so that I was refreshed but forgetting something important. I sat up, my head spinning.
“Del Tanich of Ariel,” said a voice I knew very well. “It seems that this time I was the one to awaken first. It has been three days.”
I started and looked to my left, the source of the voice. And could not quite credit what I saw. Beside my bed sat a great broad chair, of the same hard white substance as my bed and the walls and ceiling of the room. And in that chair sat a cloud. But I could not quite make out what made up its pall. Once, it seemed to be a white mist, like a fog. Then it shifted, and I thought it a swarm of small soft moths, or the white butterflies one is said to find in meadows at high altitudes.
Then it shifted again, and I saw in its parting flesh like my own, and the curve of a bare shoulder, then a face I instantly recognized. Then the White Swarm shifted a final time, and I saw running through Jerem Cozak’s chest and midsection a system of metal plates and wires and circuitry which was, I knew immediately, also composed of the same sentient white machines that made up the cloud and the moths and the furniture and the room. And they made at least half of the human form I saw through the stirring cloud of moths and mist. Indeed, I could not separate them.