“It is now only a few days,” said Michael one evening after dinner, “before we must leave the ship and go to Perinent. One thing remains before we go there.
“There are magnetic and other force fields on Perinent, some of which will make you feel uncomfortable if you have metal in you, for example metal fillings in your teeth. Also, several of you suffer degenerative problems like arthritis. We have arranged that those of you, who wish it, can be treated by the Galant’I, who are the best doctors in the Galaxy.
“They will replace any metal you have inside you with equivalents, which will not cause you pain even when you are in strong fields. At the same time, they will ‘service’ your bodies, replace worn-out parts and generally put your bodies into their best possible working order.”
“Is there any pain from the treatment?” asked Marie.
“No,” said Michael. “The Galant’I have their own sleep-gas. It is not as pleasant to take as ours. But the sleep it gives is so deep and long that there can be no pain.”
“So,” I said, “who wants the Galant’I’s treatment?” Fourteen hands were raised. Not even Hoong or Dede, not even fit Sabrina or young Elise, were completely satisfied with the bodies they had.
At that moment, a being like a three-metre tall, slim cone on three stubby legs, with three considerably longer arms and wearing a light blue robe, came in. “I am Doctor Guran of the Galant’I,” he said. Michael and Gabriel bowed to him, then indicated to us that we should do the same.
“I can treat maximum four at a time,” said Guran. “Each of you will be asleep for about two hundred revolutions of the ship, or a little more. To treat all fourteen of you will take about nine hundred revolutions.”
“That is good,” said Michael, “but we have not much time left.”
I was angry with Michael. I would have planned this to happen earlier in the voyage, if I had been asked. But I bit back my anger, and said simply, “Volunteers for the first round?”
“I have a pin in my leg,” said Ben. “I’m going first.”
“I’m the oldest,” said John. “I’m going in the first group too.”
I felt I should hang back, to see first what effect the Galant’I treatment had on the others. “I will go last,” I said. “Lily, will you join me in the last group?”
The final order was worked out amicably, and Ben, John and Marie left with Doctor Guran of the Galant’I for the treatment rooms.
Next evening, only eleven of the Team met for dinner. Mutters were exchanged. But the atmosphere improved when Guran arrived with Marie. She looked zonked, but she said to us, “I know I look tired, and I am tired. But underneath, I feel better than for years.”
“Watch Marie recover!” said Guran. “She will soon have more energy than any of you.
“John will soon be up again, too. But Ben is a more difficult case. I never knew any species who put so much metal in their bodies as you humans! It is good that he was first to be treated, otherwise I might not have had enough time.”
Guran dined with us. For Galant’I can absorb energy in many forms, and Seraphim food is one of them. But it’s not pretty to watch or to listen to – the food has to be sucked up from under the skirt at the bottom of the cone.
By the end of dinner, Marie was becoming brighter almost by the minute. I decided I would give Guran the benefit of the doubt. “Cees, Galina, Shami, Hoong,” I said to the second batch of volunteers, “it’s your turn now. If you still want the treatment, please go with Doctor Guran after the meal.”
They all did.
Two evenings later – after John had re-appeared looking half his age, and Ben and the others had shaken off their sleepiness and acquired an energy I had not seen from them before – it was my turn.
It wasn’t exactly a fun experience. The Galant’I sleep-gas didn’t give any pleasure; it made my head spin, for several minutes, before I could finally relax into unconsciousness. And coming back took a long, long time. But, as promised, there was no pain at all.
And as soon as I was at last fully awake, I knew that Guran had done a good job. My teeth were more regular than for decades. My eyes were back to their full focus. Injuries to ribs and fingers were repaired. My aches and pains in knees, elbows, feet and ankles were gone. My energy level was back up to that of my twenties. But I was still, very much, me.
I had an all but new body. It was almost time to find a new world.