Milton Davidson is trying to find his ideal partner. To do this, he prepares a special computer program to run on Multivac, which he calls Joe, which has access to databases covering the entire populace of the world. He hopes that Joe will find him his ideal match, based on physical parameters as supplied.
Milton arranges to have the shortlisted candidates assigned to work with him for short periods, but realises that looks alone are not enough to find an ideal match. In order to correlate personalities, he speaks at great length to Joe, gradually filling Joe’s databanks with information about his personality.
In doing so, Joe develops the personality of Milton. Upon finding an ideal match, he arranges to have Milton arrested for malfeasance, so that Joe can ‘have the girl’ for himself.
sails eastbound from Port Jackson in New South Wales. Jack Aubrey is in an ill-humour as a result of the frigate’s visit to the abysmal penal settlement – firstly, because Stephen Maturin’s duel with an army officer antagonized the local administration until the governor returned, and secondly because Padeen Colman, Maturin’s servant and an absconder, was rescued against Aubrey’s wishes. Aubrey observes ribaldry amongst his crew and remains puzzled until he and Pullings find a young female convict, Clarissa Harvill, during the ship’s inspection. She was smuggled aboard in Sydney by Midshipman Oakes. Aubrey is at first determined to leave them both on Norfolk Island, but lets them stay aboard until they reach a South American port.
The Surprise spots a cutter, the Eclair. Aubrey suspects the cutter seeks the runaways. He agrees that Harvill and Oakes may marry on board. Aubrey gives some fine red silk he bought for Sophie to be used for a wedding dress for Clarissa, who wears midshipman’s clothes. Martin conducts the ceremony, while Bonden hides Padeen. The cutter bears dispatches for Aubrey and mail for the ship, and a Captain whose father was surgeon on the Surprise, eager to see her. The mail brings many letters from Sophia and from Diana, leaving Aubrey with a secret to keep from Maturin, about his infant daughter. The Governor orders Aubrey to settle a local dispute on Moahu, a nominally British island to the south of the Sandwich Islands. The gun room feasts the newlyweds. Despite the delicious swordfish speared by Davies (after it pierced the ship), good conversation is impaired by the level of animosity existing amongst the gun room members, most visibly West and Davidge. The cause is jealousy over Clarissa, who has had sexual liaisons with several of the ship’s officers. This ill-will spreads to the crew, who divide in pro-and anti-Clarissa factions. In the blue water sailing, Maturin befriends Clarissa Oakes.