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“And besides, the cabin boy is always a girl,” she said, giggling in a way that I would come to learn was completely unnatural for her. But that’s how she came on board, out of all the applicants for all the positions on this ship.

She wanted to be a starship captain, she said, but the ships don’t land any more since the war. Since the burning. Since my first ship was laid to rest, her bare bones scoured by the desert after the scavenging companies picked her clean.

“Let me show you my library,” I said, like a pickup line. But I meant it, to show her the books. Who reads anymore, words on paper, except to pass the news from one hand to another?

And if, in the library, at night, she read poetry aloud or I did, who was the wiser? Only our ears heard it.

“I’ll show her around,” she said, volunteering for a duty that was supposed to be lighter than the inventory she was assigned to take, and I agreed. No sense in making our reluctant guest’s confinement more onerous than necessary.

I watch them enter the library together. I check the wind and the charts and give the helmsman his orders, and I don’t think of words burning on paper.

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