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An hour later, lying in Abdi's bed: "I thought you had a girlfriend."

"Yes, but she..." He hesitated. "We have an 'open relationship' now. She wanted to try."

"She wanted to try because you live on a mining support vessel half the year."

"Yes, exactly."

"And she's in Malmö." "Yes."

The Varuna had a rotating crew that currently numbered eleven men and five women, and sexual relationships on board were forbidden by company policy. Malmö was a city of half a million people. "Do you ever feel like she got a better deal?" Resaint said.

"It is fine," he said, not very convincingly. "I am fine with it."

She hoped she hadn't spoiled his mood, which had been good even before the sex. After he rescued her, he wasn't cocky about it, but she could tell he was privately elated about his feat of heroism. In hindsight, she hadn't been in any real danger standing at the railing, but if she'd exaggerated it to herself, why shouldn't he exaggerate it to himself too? It was quite sweet. If Abdi ever told anyone about this, he would be able to say he'd reeled her in, literally hook, line and sinker. And so here she was in his cabin, which was redolent in so many ways of her room back in her first year at university: the textureless blond wood, the soft glow of a light fixture with a T-shirt draped over it, the single bed which barely fit two bodies. After smelling that unfortunate lemon hair tonic on him every day for weeks there was something weirdly gratifying about finally seeing the bottle it came in, like meeting a famous person. She hadn't expected this to happen, although admittedly it was consistent with past practice: sleeping with people when circumstances ensured she would never see them again.

"The spindrifters—would they ever have people on board?" She hadn't yet told him about what she'd seen. Somehow it felt like a secret she'd been entrusted to keep.


"Some of them, I think they can do rescue. Like if someone's boat is sinking and there is no one else to pick them up. They have little cabins inside so they can take you back to land."

But why, Resaint thought, would a castaway, presumably desperate to be picked up, black out the windows of their lifeboat?

Later, she was awoken by knocking, just in time to save her from a steam train bearing down on her across a shingle beach. She was surprised to find the two of them had dozed off together on his precipice of a bed. Her whole arm was numb.

"Karin?" The voice calling through the door belonged to Devi, the Varuna's captain. Resaint felt Abdi tense beside her.

"What is it?" No point pretending she wasn't here if Devi already knew.

"Please come out."

She unfurled her phone. It was four in the morning. For some reason she had no network connection. "Is it urgent?"

"Yes, it is."

"All right. I'll be out in a few minutes." Resaint was pretty sure Devi would want to maintain the polite fiction that nothing illicit had been going on in here. The captain was an extremely fastidious person, which meant she was a stickler where it mattered, but also preferred to leave the animal lives of her crew unacknowledged. Whether Devi had any animal life of her own was of course the subject of exuberant speculation.

"I am very sorry, Karin, but if you do not come out right away I will have to open the door myself."

The bedmates muttered swear words in chorus, she in German, he in Somali. Hurriedly they dressed, handing clothes back and forth like barter, and then Resaint went to the door and opened it. "Come with me back to your own cabin, please," said Devi, who averted her gaze as if Resaint was still naked, clearly so painfully embarrassed about the whole situation that for a moment Resaint almost felt sorry for her. This would have been a lot easier if Resaint had been asleep in her own bed, instead of—for all Devi knew—interrupted in a moment of forbidden ecstasy.
"What's going on?" Resaint said. She'd rebooted her phone but it still couldn't find a signal. "Has something happened? Is the network down?"

"It's not down for me," said Abdi. And Devi still wouldn't meet her eye.

It was this, more than anything, that made Resaint suspect that her situation here had taken a nasty turn. "Did you kick me off the network?" she said. "What is this?"

Another polite fiction, a deeper one, was essential to Resaint's work here. This was the polite fiction of her independence.

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