I should probably label this '0058, then, shouldn't I? I bet the new year's come and gone without my really noticing; after all, I haven't really been watching the news.
Okay, so I haven't written anything in here in over a month. I was stuck in bed, what do you want? A daily log of everything I ate, drank, and read? Forget it!
I'm up and about, and yes, I'm back to working on the Shirow, although admittedly I'm still getting about on crutches and have still have on a rib-wrap; They aren't fully healed. I was pleased to know that the PFusion pack came on line in four weeks, just like clockwork, and was giving out sufficient power to operate the Shirow at full capacity. Not that I was going to need full capacity, there was nothing to shoot at, so I removed most of the hardpoints and the HUD.
Yes, I'm still wearing the .45, although I have yet to fire it. It was in my clothes when Brieanna let me get up. She never questioned my possessing it. After all, most people own them, and know how to use them. It's part of what makes this world so peaceful. Who's going to start a fight when your opponent is equally or better armed?
And if he does, there are enough bystanders who don't want to become statistics to take care of the problem.
I've disabled the arms and legs until I get into the damned thing. I think that's a reasonable attitude to take towards the armor. After all, it was my stupid program bug that caused the thing to try and kill me.
As for the kiss, well... We haven't talked about in the month since it happened. It's almost like it never happened. I said almost. Brie's attitude towards me has changed, a little. She's nicer to me, I think. She's certainly around more often.
I got my Shakespeare back, too. Managed to find another VHR somewhere in the house. It's almost like things I need appear, but always in an inappropriate form. Like the fusion repair stuff, or the servos that I ripped out of a maintenance unit to fix the neck of the armor. In any event, I'm not watching Shakespeare so much, now...I've moved on the Greek tragedy. Oh, and I finished all three of Halleck's books. Good stuff, especially The Assassin's Guidebook. Not that I'm planning on killing anyone, like I said.
And why is everything in the house so... so old? Like, why a VCDHR? Why not just a bubble card player? Why does everything in the place use moving parts? Almost like they're designed to... break down.
That's it. Oh, shit, why did I never see it before?
That's what this place is for. That's why Brieanna is around so rarely. So that when things break, I'm the only one around to fix them.
It's to make me feel useful. Therapy. Positive-work therapy. That's what this whole place is. Even Brieanna is part of that. And the .45. Props to make me feel useful. Attempts to get me do things.
So what do I do? Abandon everything, confront Brieanna, take off, or just go on?
I'll tell you what I plan on doing. I plan on going on, that's for sure. I want to finish this powered armor. I also want to get a little better at the flute, although the more I play it the more sure I am that I should go back to keyboards. And, I'm going to confront her.
May as well.
In the Spring.
Captivity, Week 24.
Again, I haven't written much in the past two months. It's snowing, and white, and I don't leave the house much, other than to get to the garage. I've slipped back, a little, in my healing; The hip's giving me trouble. Which is a damned pity, since I've got the armor as good as it's going to get. Which is pretty damned good, considering that in some cases I've got parts epoxied together.
I think I've gotten a clue as to what Brieanna does when she's not here. I caught her once when I was searching through the house for something, coming down a corridor with blood on her hands, up to the elbow, maybe a little past.
"Uh...hi, Brieanna." When she realized I'd seen her, she turned a corner into the back hallway and disappeared. I figure she's a medico of some kind. Back to that theory again. She can't be Psi, that's not her talent, but maybe she's a surgeon.
In any event, it's just another mystery of Brieanna. Then again, with all the hardbound Hallecks in her library, maybe she kills people for a hobby.
Anyway, when it's really too bloody cold out to work on the armor, I stay inside and play the flute. Brieanna for a while tried to accompany me on acoustic guitar, but after a while she went back to the electric. The acoustic isn't her thing, I guess. She's really good, and we raise quite a ruckus, and it sends the cat ducking for cover.
Oh, yeah, did I mention we've got a cat? I call it 'cat.' Pretty original, huh? Why do you name something that won't come when you call? Sometimes, though, when it's had just a little too much catnip, I call him 'Braindamaged.' It's a little black-and-white monster.
Captivity, Week 28
I've finally decided to talk to Brieanna about it. Things have changed.
I waited until I heard her coming out to tend the horses. We'd gone riding a couple of times, and the grey stallion was putting up with me rather well, although it occasionally had delusions of superiority, and I had to ride those out. His name was Smoke. So original, Brieanna.
Well, at least the Unicorn was named Laboratory. Why would anyone name a riding beast Laboratory? Oh well.
"Hi," I said as I walked over to the stables.
"Good morning. How's the work coming?"
"Not bad; I'm almost ready to start the heuristics work."
"Oh. Then what?"
"Well, then I re-tune the sucker, and... well, I don't know. I didn't consider it past getting the armor up and running. Why?"
"Just wondering. Like to ride with me?"
"I was about to ask if I may?"
She smiled, and took out Smoke and Lab. I will not call that animal by his full name. I asked her where to, and she indicated that she wanted to visit a lake that should be fully thawed out by now, about five miles along the ridgeline.
I followed her, and after a while, I said, "Brieanna."
"Why go to all this trouble? I figured it out, this is all positive-effort therapy, isn't it? An attempt to make me feel, not needed, but useful. To give me things that attach me to the living, isn't it?"
"I was wondering when you were going to ask me that. Well, you've at least solved the why of the whole thing. Have you got the who?"
"Well, the pop-psych in my family is Paul, so I'd guess it was his idea."
"Two for two. Any more revelations you want to give me?"
"Just a few. One, I don't think I need it anymore. I think I'm ready to rejoin the living. Two, I won't leave until you think I should. And three, I think I love you."
Her smile faded, then returned, faded again. She didn't seem quite sure what to say. Then it returned, and she said, "Let's go to the pond. I want to show you something there."
We never made it to the pond. About halfway there, she said, "Ken..."
"Uhm, if you're ready to rejoin the living, then you're going to have to come with me. I just got a call."
But she was already wheeling Lab around back towards the house. "Come on!" she shouted.
I wheeled Smoke around. He argued, but fuck him, I pushed him on and chased after her. She stopped in front of the house, and without bothering to tether Lab, ran inside. I was right behind her when she came out of her rooms and headed up the spinward corridor at full tilt. I was sure she was going to run headlong into the wall when she vanished! The wall! The wall was the house's goddamned Sdisk!
I ran after her, and came wheeling to a stop on water. A waterborne stepping disk, in a pond. I was impressed. Whoever built this one was good. When it was active, you could walk on the water of this small pond. The area of the disk was defined by a glowing, blue-white pentacle, the apex of which just touched a flat stone on the edge of the pond.
Brieanna was already running for the rim, and at the edge were two Centaurs and two horses. She ran for one of the horses, she said something in to the Centaurs, who left the other horse and followed her as she began riding hard out of sight, the two Centaurs following. I hadn't recognized the Centaurs, but that's not surprising, the population of Centaurs had shot up beyond fifteen thousand.
I ran for the other horse, untethered it, and followed the trail. It was a long ride, and at a trot it was quite a while. Like most Pendorian towns, it had followed the tradition of putting the stepping disk thirty kilometers from the center of town.
When I got to town, I realized that we were nowhere I'd ever been before, but I thought I'd been to most of the established area of Pendor. Oh well, the population's well on it's way towards seventy thousand, I should expect things like this. When I got into town, people were looking at me. I stopped someone, and asked them in Quen where the human female had gone. He indicated a building towards the center of the town.
Like all Pendorian towns, this one was a mixture of old and new. The place was spotless, and magnificent in it's look. It had the feel of a quiet eighteenth-century American village, straight out of Walt Disney's fevered imagination, but I could also see the influence the technology of the world had had. The streets were clean, and behind some of the buildings, rather than pack-horses, people had grav flitters. This seemed to be a strictly Centaur community, which is somewhat unusual, but not to be unexpected. Unlike the humanoid races, Centaurs need larger and differently- shaped spaces.
These houses were all obviously handmade. This town had never had an FAMECE near it, apparently. Wait, yes it had. The road was obviously made by a FAMECE, but every building had that incredible handmade look that just glows. I tethered the horse outside the house, amused to note that both horses had already been surrounded by scurriers. I addressed the empty air. "Excuse me, but does the local AI have a name?"
I was somewhat surprised by the response. Most AI's don't like telepathic contact, but this one came out and said My name is Alan Majors, Shardik.
"Alan? Ember built you a couple of years ago."
Yes, she did. How are you doing, Father? Haven't seen you in a couple of years.
Yes, well. Miss Flanders is inside. I assume you're looking for her?
"Yes, thank you." I walked in. It was a local healer's office, and what I saw inside was completely different from the simple rural atmosphere outside.
"Oh, good, you're here." Brieanna was lying on the floor, and her left arm was halfway into the sex of what was a very pregnant centaur lying on the healer's floor. "She's having a difficult foaling. Look, Ken, I know you don't like to discuss it, but I need your psi."
My psi? I don't have psi. "What psi?"
"I thought... You're a clair, aren't you?" This wasn't a discussion to be having now.
"No!" I said, holding up my hands. "Imaging implants. For the lab."
"Good enough," she said. "You can see. I need you."
"Okay, for what?" It was no longer a thing I wanted to hide, not if she needed it to save a foal, or the mother.
"Tell me what you see. Damn, how could you people live without the right equipment."
"We've never needed it, Miss..."
"Oh, shut up." She was angry.
"Okay," I said, putting my hands on the belly of the centaur. "You're close. It's...you're near a shoulder. It's still moving, but..." The microprocessors along my forearms translated the delicate sonic data into images for my brain.
"A shoulder? Damn, it's breached. I'm going to try to turn it, grab a leg, preferably the rear hip. Can you guide me?"
"I'll try. Uh, Brieanna?"
"Yeah?" Her arm sank deeper into the centaur.
"Isn't there supposed to be some sort of membrane about the foal?"
"You mean there isn't? Eighty second count!" she shouted up towards the roof. Alan's voice came out, counting down. "You," she said, looking up at one of the Centaurs, "get me the knives. If I don't get it, I'm going to need them."
"Brieanna, you're near a foreleg."
"Yeah, I feel it." Twenty seconds.
"I'm going to turn it." Thirty seconds.
"Okay, you've got it. You're right, amniotic sac is gone. Oh, hell." She looked up at another centaur. "Shock blankets, pneumonia injections, the works. Got it?"
She didn't bother to get a reply. Fifty seconds. "Brieanna, that's a rear leg you're right next to."
"Okay, I'm going to keep turning." Sixty seconds. "I'm going to give a pull, I've got the flank hip." She began to withdraw the arm. The centaur I was touching hadn't said a word, was just staring. I looked at her, and she was breathing deep, and I reached out with one hand and stroked her hair. She took my hand and held it, fearing for her child and herself. Seventy seconds. There was a breach, a rush of fluid, and then the foal's hip broke air, and the rest just dropped out. Brieanna's hand came down sharply on the flank of the foal, and he (for "he" he was) screamed, his first, wonderful scream. He coughed up some of the amniotic fluid, but Brie was already toweling him down and cleaning him off. She was smiling broadly, and the mother was still staring, and I reached over and hugged her.
She hugged me back, crying. Brieanna gathered up the foal in her arms and brought it over to the mother. The mother looked up, and accepted the child, leading a mouth to her breast. The child took to it, he knew what it was there for.
I'd rarely seen centaur foals, seeing as there were others far more qualified to help with that, and for the most part the birth process was perfected anyway. There rarely are breach pregnancies like that. This one was like most of them, though, the humanoid torso far more mature than in humans, say, about that of a five-year-old, but it would stay that way until the mind caught up with it. It was a compatibility issue I'd designed in. Needed it for the lung capacity.
I looked back to the mother. "What's...what's your name?"
She looked at me calmly, and said, "Mary."
"Mary...Mary Green." She looked tired, but happy. So she was one of Sandy's kids, huh? And already having kids of her own. She looked like one of Sandy's, too, all middle-dark skin and light coat, with bright eyes. Shit, I feel old.
"And what are you going to name him?"
"Joel. I think. I'm not sure. I might ask the father."
I laughed. "Do that. It's only fair."
She nodded, and a hand tapped me on the shoulder. "Excuse me?" It was Brieanna, having washed. I moved out of her way, and she knelt to talk with Mary for a few minutes. I moved away; what they discussed was none of my business.
Believe it or not, when it was all over and Brieanna left for home, I went with her. I think I had a few things to resolve.
"Brieanna? What just happened?" I asked.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, 'What just happened?' We just saved a foal, didn't we?"
"Well, that was about five hours ago." She smiled.
I did too. "You know what I mean. I mean, that was... I don't know really how to say it. Spiritual, I think. Am I making sense, or am I just drunk?" There had been a small celebration afterwards. I'd forgotten that Centaurs don't have mugs, they have MUGS, and their ale is ALE.
"Well... " She paused. "What's spiritual about it?"
"What's spiritual about it? Giving birth, being present, being part of the process, especially when there's trouble? That's important, isn't it?"
"Is it?" she asked.
"Damn it, don't confuse me. I think it is. It's... it's more real, I think, than other things. I'm so drunk. I'm not making sense."
"Yes, you are."
"Then why won't you help me figure it all out?"
"That's your job, Ken."
"Thanks. No, I mean it. I mean... being there, seeing one of Sandy's kids, and helping with the birth... it made me... it makes me feel more attached... to the people, the land... Am I making any sense?"
"Do you ask that a lot when you're drunk?"
"Yeah, I guess I do. Don't change the subject."
"I'm not. It's up to you to determine what's real."
"I am. You are. Mary is, and so is the foal."
She smiled. "Look, what's real and unreal doesn't matter, does it? It comes to your attention, you deal with it, right? No need to get anxious or upset over the whole thing."
I stood up and walked over to her, where she stood next to the closet. "Brieanna."
"Back... this morning, when I said I loved you? I meant it." And I took her by the shoulders and kissed her.
She smiled. "Good. Oh, by the way, I told Paul this morning I wasn't going to handle you anymore."
"Because it's not ethical for a psychiatrist to sleep with one of her patients."
I knew it! But it still didn't stop me. I reached down and took her up in my arms and carried her to the bedroom. Once in, I knelt slowly, putting her down on the bed. I rose again and closed the door, passing my fingers over the lights, lowering them down almost all the way.
I went back to the bed and sat down, one leg folded underneath. I looked into her magnificent eyes, and they glowed back quietly, like small golden coins. I leaned into a kiss, and when our lips met the gentle wetness of her tumbled into me. The kiss alone would have satisfied me for hours on end.
When it did end, though, I pulled back and looked away.
"What's wrong?" she asked.
"I... I feel... guilty, I think."
"Because I hated you, once, before I knew you."
"You still don't know me. How can you say you love me?"
"I don't know. I do."
She put her hand on my shoulder and I turned to face her. I smiled, weakly, and said "I also feel a little shy, like I don't know quite what I'm doing here."
She pushed me back onto the bed, and got on top of me, and said, "You were about to make love to me." She descended, kissing my forehead, my cheeks, my lips, my tongue. That kiss was as wonderful as the others.
I didn't feel erotic. I had an erection, but mostly I felt... special. I don't know. I do know that she was good to me.
I wanted her. Somehow, I knew, inside, that any life with her could never be permanent, that we were both too independent for that, that in the end even living together wouldn't work. But right now I wanted to touch her, to hold her, to make love to her.
She took my shirt off with one swift motion, laughing softly as she did, as if it were something joyful just to have my skin exposed. Her fingertips caressed my chest, running over the soft skin, eliciting strong moans from me as I enjoyed her touch and fought off the impulse to laugh from the tickling. Her fingers with the nails tilted forward just enough to touch skin circled my nipples. I arched my back in response. Yes, Brieanna. I want you.
Her fingers ran down the center of my chest and belly, pausing to circle my navel before she headed down to my pants, slipping her hand underneath the cloth to find my erection and toy with the head of my cock with two, three fingers. Her hand went further, until she could wrap her entire hand around it. She stroked gently, then turned her attention to my pants, opening them and freeing my cock from its confinement. She took it and stroked up and down, the smile on her face simple and pretty.
I reached up and began to undo her clothing as well, taking the tunic off of her shoulders and unhooking her bra underneath. Her breasts, small, with large aureoles and already hard nipples, came free, and I pushed myself up to lick the nearest one. She giggled as I did, and I nipped her. She groaned louder. Her hand tightened around my cock, almost to the strangulation point, and I lightened up. So did she.
She let go of my cock and it bobbed back against my belly, but only for a moment. She turned to give me a view of her cunt as she bent over to take my cock into her mouth. I reached for her; I wanted to taste her, to lick her. To make her come. But she put a hand against my chest and pushed me down, telling me to "Just pay attention." I smiled, and she returned to my cock, sucking it so deep into her throat that I could feel her muscles working against my dick, throbbing in countertempo to my own heartbeat. She was relentless in her sucking. I've very rarely come by fellatio, but she was going to do it. The scent of her wet, dripping cunt drove me out of my mind; her crotch hovered mere centimeters from my face, while her tongue pressed against my cock and coaxed me onward.
"That's it," I said. "More," I said. She agreed, going after my come with gusto, her head bobbing up and down. Doesn't she ever get tired? She was going to make me come, she was. I could feel it, the heat rising. I reached up and put my arms around her torso; I just wanted some part of her to hold, and that pleasure, that pain of denial, was so high, so much, and I buried my face against her thigh as I screamed my orgasm, my relief. I could feel her swallowing, her throat muscles working harder against my cock, my flagging erection.
She turned back, a small touch of my come under her lip. I reached out for her and she descended onto me. I licked the salty morsel away and kissed her, deeply, tasting my come from her and feeling our tongues again, now different. Her mouth seemed as strong as ever. Now I know what the term "athletic" means.
Her hand returned to my cock, and she said, "Can we get you going again?"
"Absolutely," I said. Already I felt the strength returning to my body.
"Do you want to?"
"Brieanna, I want you right now more than anything. See? It's coming up already."
And it was. My cock resumed its previous hardness with a ferocity that surprised even me. I wanted her. I felt like I'd been denying my lust for her for months. Maybe I had. I rolled her over onto her back and she opened her legs for me. I bent down and licked her cunt, giving release to the desire that I had for her taste, her scent. I buried myself in her pussy, getting her juices over my face, so I could smell her no matter where I went. I wanted to be marked with her scent.
"Ken... Get inside me, now, please," she said, pleading.
I rose and crawled forward, aiming my hard and throbbing penis at her cunt, and I descended, sliding into her without much adieu. She arched her back to meet my chest as we came together, joined by the flesh. It felt like it might have been the most important moment of my life, a day like the day I watched the construction droids finish Pendor, or the day I decanted Paul. I felt her cunt surround my cock, her legs wrap around my buttocks, her arms around my chest.
I began to fuck her, feel her bucking against me, her lips against my cheek as we made love. This was no passive lovemaking; we rolled around on the bed, sometimes her on top, sometimes me. I sped up, slowed down. I felt her body throb against me, her gasps loud in my ear with the harder thrusts. I thrilled to the feel of her body, her breasts pressing against my chest, and I ducked down to suck and nibble on one; she responded by dragging her nails suggestively over my ass. I could feel my cock getting harder, closer to orgasm, and I reached the brink of no return, and I said "Brieanna..."
We stared into each others' eyes, and she watched as I slowly, painfully, stroked my cock in and out of her, taking those last final thrusts as slowly as I could, feeling the pleasure build and build...
And came, slamming down onto her one last time, shooting my come deep into her cunt, feeling the last vestiges of strength leave me, collapsing on top of her, joyfully dropping down into her arms, eyes closed and world spinning.
I pushed myself up, onto my elbows, and looked down at her. A small drop of sweat fell from my nose, and she batted it aside. "Good reflexes," I said.
She laughed. "Feel better?" she said.
"Much. And I'm not quite so drunk anymore, I don't think."
She laughed and held me close. I felt good in her arms.
A little later, after I'd slept, she woke me and said, "Are you ready to go home?"
"Then I have something important to tell you." Her face was very serious, and I waited. "Remember when I said I was nobody you've ever worked on?" I nodded. "I'm a posit."
Everything came to a standstill. "A.. a posit?" I asked. Posits are a sort of android... Full AI computers installed into the braincases of deliberately encephalitic tank-grown organic bodies. "Who?"
"Paul, M'ress, Kay, Dave, along with C. Mark Kisel and P. Amadhi of Grand Design. I was commissioned in 53 and finished in 55. You're wondering why we waited until 57... I wanted to be clear of incorporation shock before attending to the purpose for which I was built."
I looked at her. It is impossible to tell a posit from a normal member of whatever species they're installed into, unless you carry some very sophisticated hardware. "No wonder your IR signature was human, but your interface is cyber/cyber."
"I've got one question, though."
"Your looks. Designing a posit, they could have pre- or post- designed you to look like anyone. Why do you look they way you do?"
"I don't follow." Don't get me wrong; I was still responding to her as if she were the woman I had just made love to. That was her right. Posits are as alive, and as far as I'm concerned, as deserving of my human response and respect as anybody else on the Ring.
"I mean, look at my particular fetishes."
"Hold it," she said, smiling. "You mean, why am I blond, 180 centimeters tall, and skinny, as opposed to raven, 160 centimeters tall, and slightly overweight, which I recall is your particular preference in humans?"
"Yeah," I said, returning her smile. Nailed it right on the head.
"I'm not sure. My job isn't to analyze my builders, it's to analyze you. But I suppose you could say it's because they wanted you to look at me differently. I guess I'm not perfect, but I'm perfect for you?" I laughed. She joined in.
"Brieanna, what are you gonna do now?"
"Well..." she said. "I don't know. My job, technically, is over. Legally, I was a free woman from the day I came on-line. But I volunteered for the job I was made for, and now... I don't know. What did Paul do on his first day out?"
She laughed. "I see your point. Nice to know you're your old self again."
"Not exactly," I said. "Do you want to come with me?"
She pursed her lips and said, "No, I don't think so. You don't need me, really. And I'm... not really perfect for you. I was taught how to antagonize you, too, you know. To get you to fight."
"I know. You were perfect for the task at hand, but not forever."
"Does this mean your warranty's run out?" I said, trying to make a joke out of it.
"What's that mean?"
"Nothing. Look, at least come with me back to the Castle."
She shook her head. "No. You go on without me. This place is locked out of the SDisk network, but you will always be welcome here."
I nodded, leaned over to kiss her. "Good-bye, Brieanna."
"Hey," she said. "This ain't good-bye. This is a 'see-you-later- alligator' sort of thing."
"Then, see you later. If we meet again, then... Oh, Hell, I can't remember my Shakespeare right now." She smiled.
"Listen," she said in a quoting sort of voice, "We psychiatrists know a hopeless case when we see one. There's a Hell of a good universe... next door. You go."
I smiled, leaned over and kissed her. "See ya."
"You too." I closed the door behind me and walked down the hall, through the doorway into the SDisk, and the Castle.
Nobody was there to greet me. I wandered around for a little while, feeling dazed. I'd only been gone for a few months, or so it felt to me. To the people here, I'd been nearly dead for... five years?
That's when I ran into her. About 100cm tall, black mottled fur that trailed over her nose and down her back. She held her tail high in the air- that must get tiring. I walked over to her and said, "Hello, little femFel. What's your name?"
She turned quickly, the way children will, and said, "Bawr!"
Bawr? M'Bawr? But you weren't even... born, five years. "Well, M'Bawr, where's your mom?"
"Right here," said a voice that made my heart jump. "Nice to have you home, Ken."
I turned and faced my lover of the past forty-odd years. I found my voice, desperately, and said, "It's good to be home. You look good."
"So do you," she said. "Want your old bedroom back?"
"You bet. Come on, and bring her, if she'll come. I want to get to know the newest Mahn a little better. You like ice cream, Ember?" I said, immediately fixing a nickname for her.
She nodded, and said "Bawr!" again. I laughed. "Come on." We walked back towards Castle commons, and reunion with old friends.