"Right," said the Iceman, dusting his hands off as he came inside. "Let's have a look, shall we?"
"Everything all right?" Gill said.
The bodywriter did not answer. He retrieved Starless from the restroom and then led the women to the loading bay.
"Is Johnson cognizant?" he said.
"No, sir. We put him under."
"Saying things he wouldn't ordinarily say, was he?"
"Yeah. Moving all herky-jerky," Starless put in. "like a puppet." They climbed to the ship.
Starless was worried.
Shepherd! It's time for you to hide! Are you listening?
Answer if you can hear me!
"Is it possible he contracted some sort of disease?" Gill was saying; "an infection of the brain, something like that?"
"He's contracted something, yes. But not a disease."
The bodywriter pushed open the door. Inside the ship, lights fluttered like falling leaves. The record had a lurch to its step, and the Knife slept slumped in the captains chair, his naked feet propped on the dash, one of Gill's filmy dresses tossed over his eyes to block out the light. As they came closer, they saw he was wearing one of dresses too, a slinky number with a low neckline and a fringed hem.
"My," Iceman said, grinning, "this quite a place."
Gill ran everywhere at once, blushing and apologizing. She flipped up the lights, yanked off the record, and snatched her dress off Vince's face. He woke, grinned at her through his hooded eyes.
"Hi," he said.
"Hi yourself," she said. "The bodywriter's aboard. What's all this?"
He rubbed his eyes. "What do you mean?"
She held up her dress angrily.
"Well... I guess I couldn't resist," he said, looking down at himself, not at all embarrassed. "I missed you," he said.
Starless led the bodywriter back to the sleeping berths.
He's going to see you if you aren't hiding...
The sleeping berths were cooler and darker than she'd left them. The Shepherd was hiding in the dark.
"Turn up the lights. I can't work this way," the Iceman said.
"I'll help you move him somewhere a little brighter."
Howl lay in stasis as they'd left him. His lips were thick with sleep, his hands tucked pale at his sides. She put her hand against the side of the chamber, opening it. "Here," she said, "it'll take some time for his functions to thaw back to normal. You should be able to examine him without activating whatever was-"
"You know what's wrong with him, don't you?" the bodywriter said.
"No. I feel it." She tugged Howl's feet over the side of the stasis chamber. It was deep sided and it was difficult for her to manipulate his legs over the edges. Finally she planted his feet on the floor. Together they helped Howl stand between them.
They shuffled him stiffly down the hall to the kitchen which doubled as medical for the small ship, with its large table and good lighting. The bodywriter laid the captain down.
He reached into his coat and pulled out an administrator. "A gadget of mine," he explained, fiddling with its dials. "I've got just about every known antidote, booster and vaccine on here. There we are- just a little pinprick." He held the casing against Johnson's arm and administered the shot in a dart of air. Howl Johnson trembled.