Bithot saves a fisherman.
A young Scottish fisherman had fallen from a trawler in the North Sea. His companions were unaware and his cries for help were unheard. He was far away from the boat and by the time his presence was missed he was about to perish in the cold rough sea. Bithot scanned him and found that his brain pulses were compatible with Jane's, so he brought him aboard the craft. Bithot was happy with his work, but Ekurb was not so happy.
"If they find out we will both be finished. We will end up at the Sulether mines. Madness, absolute madness."
"Do not keep on about it, Ekurb, or I may see to your transfer there myself."
"This is nothing humorous; suicide is against all the laws."
"She is alive so she has not committed suicide. It was not her will because I prompted her. She would never have done it otherwise, would she?"
"That is manipulation, you cannot do that."
"Where does it say that? You have a lot to learn, Ekurb, and if you do not learn by watching then you will never become a selector."
"What about the sudden disappearance of a healthy human? How will that be received by their authorities?"
"That is not our problem. That is something that her Earth husband will have to worry about. Now let us put on our breathing masks and get some rest."
I woke with a jump and pulled myself into a ball under the bedsheets as if to protect myself. I felt warm in the comfort of the bed and felt relieved when I thought that I had only been dreaming. I was naked and wondered why I hadn't put any nightclothes on. I never slept naked and was surprised at how I enjoyed the feel of it, but I realised that it was not my bed and I threw the covers back. The sight that greeted me gave me a shock as I looked up through the clear ceiling to the sky above. My mind was in turmoil, had it all been a dream, was this bit a dream, was I dead? I thought of the letters, the struggle with Bob, the fight with Colin, the voices in my mind, and the plunge from the balcony. Now I woke in a strange bedroom wondering what I was doing there. I pinched the back of my hand and then my lip. I felt for my pulse, this bit was no dream and I was not dead.
The bedroom was old-fashioned but clean and nicely decorated. The furniture though pre-war was of high quality and looked impressive. I got out of bed confused and walked over to the dressing table. Looking into the mirror, I was surprised to see that my face was unmarked. My clothes were on a stool, clean and neatly pressed. I suddenly realised that someone could walk into the room and see me naked. I dressed quickly and in a panic and then left the room. Someone was cooking fried breakfast and the aroma drifted along the passage making me feel hungry. I made my way slowly along the passage, stopped, and looked into the living room.
"Hello, lass, your breakfast is nearly ready."
I looked at the elderly man. "Who are you? What the hell's going on?"
"It will all be explained later. Sit down and I will pour you a cup of tea, and then after breakfast, you can have a fitting for your wedding dress."
"Wedding dress!" I gave a sarcastic laugh. "What are you talking about, I'm already married."
"Do not worry about that marriage, it is over now. It is not valid here and you are free to remarry."
"This is crazy, I'm marrying no one." I sat opposite the man as he poured my tea into a large bone china cup. I sat dumbfounded as he explained where I was and how I had got there.
A middle-aged woman walked in from the kitchen with two large cooked breakfasts on a tray and a young man strolled in behind her. The woman put the tray down on the table. "Hello, I'm Eve," she said. "I live next door. This is your partner Jimmy."
The young man looked at me and smiled, but I looked back at the old man and shook my head. "Oh no, I'm not having this. I want to go home. I've got to find Terry." I stood up. "I'm not playing your stupid game. You said you could take me back, well do it then. I want to go home." I ran from the room and back to the bedroom.
After Jane had left the room Eve looked at the young man. "You'd best go back next door while we sort this out. I'm so sorry about all this."
Jimmy gave an unconcerned grin. "Och, don't worry. Happens to me all the time back in Aberdeen." He gave a laugh and took his breakfast from the tray before setting off back to Eve's house.
"I do not understand," the old man said. "I have seen people take the news in all kinds of ways, but I have never known anybody who wanted to go back and face their own certain death. I didn't expect it from her."
"Well you can't bleedin' send her back, that would be barbaric."
"I do not know about barbaric, but it would be embarrassing. It has never happened before, we always say that people would be returned to the same time and place where we rescued them, but that is not true. We cannot put her back into exactly the same time and place, because that is in the past, and despite what you see in some of your films, time travel can only be achieved in a forward direction. Although we are capable of sending people forward in time, travel to the past or return from the future is impossible, what has gone has gone. We can get another partner for Jimmy easily enough, but what do we do with Jane? There would be no place for her without a partner, and our security people would never take the risk and allow her to return to your planet without using option twelve."
"So all those years ago when you said I would be blown up by a German bomb, you were telling me lies."
"Believe me, Eve, if you had insisted on going back; well, let us just say that some people believe option twelve to be a far worse fate."
"So what is this option twelve? They won't kill her will they?"
The man gave a look of disapproval. "Eve, we are not human, we would never dream of such a thing." He gave a long sigh. "It is my fault. I should not have brought her here and option twelve would be unfair because I put my feeling before logic. However, she is here, I am fond of her, and I do not want to lose her. There must be a way to resolve this. Go and talk to her, see if you can find out what has gone wrong." Eve was not aware of the implication of option twelve and the man didn't mention it further.
* * * * *
Jarlut walked into the office of his superior and they both looked at Jane on the screen that was part of the desktop. "What are we to do about this girl, Jane?" Jarlut said. "She might deteriorate without a partner, and even if she does not, she will cause an imbalance, jealousy may breed amongst the others, there could be all sorts of problems. Bithot said that he could check on her friend Terry, but I am not sure if it is the answer. Jane has caused a bit of an upset by rejecting her chosen partner."
Jarlut was pleased that option twelve had not been mentioned, but he knew that it might be considered if there was not a satisfactory conclusion to the problem. He was also aware that Bithot was concerned because he had put himself at risk of disciplinary action. No one had been rescued in such circumstances before and there was already talk that she was not a suitable person for the island.
Jarlut's boss was looking at him with one of his eyes, the other eye still watching Jane on the screen. His eyes worked independently, his brain having no trouble processing information from two sources. "I have just spoken to the selector, Bithot. He has a plan. First, he will find the one she pines for and send news of him, as you have said, but then he will observe the man for a while disguised as a tramp. If his plan works, then Jane will have her partner and you can relax again."
"And if his plan does not work?"
"Then it will be out of our hands. The Screeners will decide the human female's fate and the fate of Bithot and his crewman. I am afraid The Screeners are eager to deal with Jane and not because of any hostility towards her. It is more to do with their belief that Bithot overstepped his authority in the way he rescued the female. They are seriously looking to make an example of him. But maybe you worry too much Jarlut. We have time on our side and The Screeners cannot make a move until we are sure that Bithot's plan has failed."
Jarlut smiled as he bade his superior goodbye, thinking how Bithot's plans had always seemed to work, before. However, these circumstances were different and of great concern to Jarlut. Even if Bithot were successful, Jane still seemed to be uncooperative.