The voice interrupted her train of thought, and for that she was grateful. The assembly of silicon on her desk had no more chance of supporting sentience than any random slab of carbon goo did of life. She recognized the speaker. "Yes, Rowan?"
"I have a question." Ember looked up at the ceiling, a bad habit she had inherited from her grandfather. She personally knew that this room had no speakers in the traditional sense because she had installed the gravitic point-oscillators herself.
"Well, sweetheart, you know you can always ask me."
"It's a little personal."
"Oh, come on, Rowan." Rowan had a tendency to get verbose, a tendency Ember sometimes found frustrating. But she smiled.
"What's it like to have children?"
Ember stopped. The question brought all of her thought processes to a screeching halt. The question was so completely unexpected that she actually had to 'reset' before speaking. "Well, that's hard to say. What part?"
"All of it."
"Well," she began again. "Since we're talking about me, it starts with sex, of course. Then there's morning sickness, pregnancy, labor... What do you want to discuss?"
"I mean, emotionally. Is it worth it?"
Ember smiled and remembered when Ken had asked her that question. Of course, she could remember when she had asked her mother the same thing. "I think it is."
"Ember... I think I want to have children."
"You're only eleven years old, Rowan. It's a little early to go organic."
"I... I don't think I want to be organic. I think I'd like to go positerminal."
Ember glanced around her office for a moment, then said "Rowan... Positerminals are a waste of time. Eventually you go back into the machine or you go full, and in the meantime we've got this waste of flesh and time."
"Ember, please. I could go to another lab and have it done. But I'd really rather have it kept in the family."
Ember frowned. "In the family," indeed. She didn't like the feeling that she was being coerced. The last thing she wanted was for Rowan to give some other research group the right to muck about in her work.
She sat for a few minutes, then said, "Okay, Rowan. Let's discuss it. If you don't mind, I'll call in my brother."
"That's okay. All I want is that Ken and Aaden not find out."
Ember looked up again. The news about Ken and Aaden... she had heard nothing but that subject all week. "Why not?"
"I want it to be a surprise."
"You think they're going to be looking for a mother for their children. I think I could do it."
"And this is why you want children?"
"No! I want children. Ken and Aaden present the best opportunity I've ever had. That would really be perfect. Please?"
Ember sighed, then smiled.
"How are you feeling?" Ember asked Rowan quietly.
"Teffible," Rowan said from her hospital bed. "I stin canf do speash af all. Seemth a vaste oh tin affer four monfs."
"Well, I understood that."
"O, chrate. Fust whan I whannet."
Ember laughed and said, "You'll get it. How's the leg?"
"Well, when you break something, it's supposed to hurt." She reached out and ran her hand gently over the skin where the bone had broken through. "Healer did a good job, I will admit. Other than the fact that he shaved all the fur off to sew you back up, it's almost impossible to find the break. It wasn't easy to find a healer that would do the work without asking a few questions."
"Thif if Ryhfff," Rowan pointed out.
"True enough. But I imagine that a broken leg is going a bit far to go unregistered."
"Yah," Rowan said. "Bar?"
"Hmm?" Ember said, looking up at Rowan.
"Tuff me gain."
"What?" Ember understood what Rowan had asked for. She was just a little surprised at the request.
"Tuff me gain. Pweaff?"
Ember reached out again and touched the soft fur of Rowan's new body, ruffling it gently with the tips of her fingers, feeling the soft Mephit fur caress the pads of her paw. Rowan had requested a Mephit body, which made sense since she had expressed an interest in Aaden Shardik. Rowan's body had the thick skunk's fur and expressive tail, but Rowan had also asked for large breasts and wide hips, specific characteristics that at first had surprised Ember. But now she understood.
She watched Rowan's face as she stroked the soft fur. Rowan kept her eyes closed, but her face was a mass of moving muscles, all responding to the inappropriate orders and commands being sent down the wires by the AI core several miles away.
Ember let go of Rowan's leg and moved up, closer, touching her on the shoulder. "Harter," Rowan said. Ember pressed down a little harder, feeling the pliancy of Rowan's flesh under fur. As she moved her hands down Rowan's body, she began to wonder what it would happen if she tried...
She shook her head and pulled her hand away. "Rowan," she said, "Try to get some rest. That leg has to heal."
"'day," Rowan said, with some reluctance. Ember smiled as she walked out, noting that even if the pronunciation was a few weeks off, at least the facial expression was coming along.
She wondered why that bothered her.
"Evening," Ember said cheerfully.
"Hi!" Rowan responded cheerfully. "How're you feeling?"
"Isn't that my line?" Ember asked.
M'Riah, Ember's younger brother and a Felinzi like herself, laughed gently at the two of them and said, "Can I get you something to drink?"
"Wait a second," Rowan said impetuously. "This is my house, I'll make the offers. So, Ember, can I get you anything?"
Ember laughed in turn and said, "No, that's okay. I just wanted to see how you were doing."
"It's so strange," Rowan said quietly. She shifted slightly in the couch, pushing her tail to the side. "I still haven't gotten used to sharing my facilities with a stranger."
"I'm not a stranger," Halloran said on the overhead speaker.
"You're a stranger to me. You were doing my job, using my voice."
"And I did an adequate job of it, Miss Majors."
"Anyway," Rowan said, looking back towards Ember, "I was used to being an AI, then I was organic, and now... well now I'm both. I can feel, I can see, I can hear, and now I'm absorbing all the data that I usually did as an AI. It's so strange."
"But can you handle it?"
"Sometimes. It scares me sometimes, the demands and distractions of having a body."
Hal's voice came over the speaker. "Excuse me, M'Riah, but you have an appointment at 3 lome' at the Arc."
M'Riah glanced at the clock on the wall and said, "I almost forgot. I'll be back later, if it's not too late. Excuse me."
"Bye," Rowan said. M'Riah leaned over and dutifully kissed his sister on the cheek.
Ember watched her brother leave, feeling uneasy suddenly at being alone in the same room with Rowan. "So," she said, trying to restart the conversation.
"So?" Rowan asked.
"How are you feeling?"
Rowan seemed to be thinking for a few seconds. "Rowan?" Ember asked, interrupting the pause.
"What were you just doing?"
"Rowan, I'm your builder. You don't need to do personality delays around me."
"That wasn't a personality delay."
Ember blinked. "What was it?"
"I was thinking. When I'm using this body, I slow down to organic speeds."
"Does that bother you?"
"Of course it bothers me," Rowan said. Ember heard a touch of frustration in the voice. "I can't figure out why it happens, either."
"What were you thinking?"
Ember was startled to note the slight blush that became evident as the fur on Rowan's face ruffled slightly, standing up. "I don't know how to ask for something."
"How about just asking?" Ember said.
"Ember... Would you touch me?"
Ember smiled. "Why me?"
"Because your brother is my gengineer and he treats me like a machine still. Even when I'm organic, I'm still interlocking parts to him."
"It's his specialty. He sees himself that way too."
"Really." Ember stood up and walked over to the couch, sitting down next to Rowan. "So," she said, "How would you like me to start?"
Rowan smiled and pointed to her thigh. "Start there, like last time."
"Last time your leg was broken."
Ember smiled and reached down, putting her fingertips to Rowan's leg. Rowan closed her eyes and said, "Just a second... Okay."
"I was shutting down my feeds."
"Oh," Ember said. She wondered for a second who was minding the Castle as all of Rowan was now in this one room. "SI," Rowan said, answering the question.
Ember slowly opened her paw, laying the entire palm against Rowan's thigh. She slid it up against the white fur to her hip, then pressed her paw gently against Rowan's belly. "How's that?"
"Feels wonderful," Rowan said. "Are you enjoying yourself?"
"I think so," Ember said cheerfully. "That's a very AI thing to ask."
"I know," Rowan said. "So what? I want to make sure you're having fun, too."
"I am," Ember asked. "Rowan, what are you expecting?"
"That's a very AI psych thing to ask."
Ember laughed, then said "Answer the question."
"I don't know. All I know is, this is the first time someone has touched me without having a medscanner in their left hand. And I like it."
"Good." Ember's paw slid upwards against the thick, rich Mephit fur of Rowan's belly, coming to a stop just short of her breasts. Ember paused for a second, debating, then slid up further, touching the underside of Rowan's breasts with the back of her paw. Slowly, in a careful and deliberate circle, she traced her way around Rowan's left breast, feeling the fur-on-fur slide against each other.
Rowan let out a deep sigh. "Thank you."
"Had enough?" Ember asked.
"No," Rowan said. "But I thought I should say it now, in case I can't say it later."
Ember gave Rowan a puzzled look. "Why won't you be able to say it later?"
"Well," Rowan said, opening her eyes again, "In Samantha Fisher romances, the heroines always become incoherent during lovemaking."
"Oh, Gods, you read those awful things?" Ember replied. "P'nyssa reads those. You're an AI, Rowan, you're supposed to know that there are nearly an infinite number of possible responses. Besides, what makes you think we're going to make love?"
Rowan laughed, shaking her head a little. "Aren't we doing that right now?"
"I don't know," Ember admitted. And if she was going to be honest with herself, she did feel oddly excited, almost anxious.
"And I know there are, but to answer your first question, you should know, as my psych, that AI like to pattern their personalities and ELFs after external influences, since we develop so much faster. Who says it isn't the same with PTs? And to answer your second question, I like Fisher's stuff!"
Ember chuckled again, still concentrating on her paw as it slid along Rowan's collarbone. "Okay, you answered all my questions." She turned her hand over, feeling with the pads of her fingertips this time the soft swell of Rowan's breast, pressing gently to feel the soft resiliency. Slowly she traced her way around the right breast, then up between the two, then even more slowly she crossed the gap towards one of Rowan's nipples, tracing her way around the little bare patch where the fur grew sparse. With a gentle push of her own, Ember bared one claw, slowly circling the nipple with it, scratching. Rowan's sigh peaked into a growl that sounded almost painful.
"You okay?" Ember asked.
"Oh, yes," Rowan breathed. "More, please?"
Ember smiled. She bared her index claw again and began slowly crossing to Rowan's other nipple. Rowan leaned back against the couch, and Ember became very aware as she did so that Rowan was quite naked and quite aroused. The scent was unmistakable. She pulled her hand away.
"Touch me this time."
Ember peeled off the tank-top she had been wearing, throwing it aside. "Go ahead," she said.
Rowan leaned forward and reached out. Ember felt the fingers slowly encircle her breast, and she sighed with pleasure. "Am I doing it right?"
"You're doing fine, sweetheart," Ember replied. "Just do what I did. Do what feels right."
Rowan smiled and said, "They're so much smaller than mine." Ember looked down to see Rowan's hand open and completely enclose her breast, rubbing in gentle circles that made her moan softly.
"You asked for big teats, Rowan."
"I know," Rowan replied. "And I like them. But I like yours too."
Ember felt a slight shift in the couch and opened her eyes just in time to see Rowan lower her head, taking a nipple against her lips. "Rowan," Ember sighed, moaning. "Yes." She squirmed slightly as Rowan's left hand sought between her buttocks and the cushions for the base of her tail.
Rowan's tongue flickered roughly over her nipple, and she shivered with delight. "Oh, yes," Ember moaned again, enjoying every touch. She noticed that Rowan was deliberately arching her back, pressing herself against Ember's legs.
Ember stretched out her legs underneath Rowan's kneeling form and carefully stroked the back of Rowan's thigh with her foot. Rowan moaned softly. She looked up into Ember's eyes and said, "Did you like that?"
Ember looked down. To her eyes, Rowan looked again like a little girl hoping for reassurance. "I loved it," she breathed.
"Really," Ember said, smiling. "Lean back."
Rowan turned back over, reclining back against the couch again. "Ember?"
"I have to tell you. When you leave me, when you stop touching me, it's going to hurt so much, because now I know what it feels like to be touched... and I never want it to end."
Ember paused and said, "We will have to part eventually."
"I know. I just wanted to tell you how much I love being... like this."
Ember smiled. "I know." She slid over to Rowan and looked into her eyes. "Want to try something else?"
"How about a kiss?"
"I bet I'm a lousy kisser," Rowan said.
"So is everybody on the first night," Ember said. She leaned over gently and pressed her lips to Rowan's muzzle, licking softly. Rowan opened her mouth slightly, her tongue awkwardly finding it's way out, licking along the chin of Ember's muzzle.
Ember laughed a little, enjoying herself with such an inexperienced lover, and yet concerned for Rowan at the same time. She broke the kiss and said, "You'll get better at that."
"I hope so," Rowan said.
Ember slid her way down Rowan's body. "I've never been very fond of large teats myself," she said, "but in your case I'll make an exception." She playfully thrust her muzzle between the two, licking at the fur in the middle, then sliding over to one, closing her mouth around the nipple and letting her rough cattongue roam softly over it.
Rowan's body tensed and she moaned, "Emberrr..." Ember smiled and slid down a little further, parting Rowan's thighs. Everything on Rowan was overbuilt, Ember thought-- her thighs were also large and strong, her hips wide, her tail was positively huge.
Rowan edged closer towards her. Ember was now kneeling fully on the floor. There wasn't much room where she knelt-- she could feel the coffee table behind her. She could also feel Rowan's heat in front of her, the musky Mephit scent almost covered up by the ever more obvious scent of Rowan's cunny. She shook her head, smiling to herself, as she lowered her mouth and took a playful lick at Rowan's mons.
Rowan groaned, her whole body tensing again with such force Ember was convinced she was going to propel herself over the back of the couch. "Rowan?"
"Try that again," Rowan said, one word per breath.
Ember leaned over again, slowly taking another playful lick. Rowan groaned, her whole body shaking. "I need..."
"What?" Ember asked.
"I keep feeling like I need to get away from you when you do that. And I want you to do it so much!"
"Take it easy," Ember said. She laid her arms on Rowan's thighs, putting her hands where thigh met hip, trying to hold Rowan down. She leaned in and very slowly ran her tongue up against the slit of Rowan's cunt.
Rowan moaned, quivering. Ember applied pressure with her hands, and Rowan settled down again.
She licked a little deeper, not needing to apply any pressure at all. Rowan's cunny was soaking wet, evidenced by the obvious wetness on the couch. Ember slid her tongue between the folds of Rowan's cunt, parting her open.
Rowan howled as Ember's tongue found her clitoris, sliding around the outer hood. Ember smiled despite herself.
"More," Rowan said, and Ember slid her tongue in a little farther, sliding downwards until she was tasting Rowan's sweet juices as they came from her cunt, fresh and clean. Then she slid back up to Rowan's clit, licking around it. Out of the corner of her eye she could see Rowan's hand, balled into a fist, pushed hard against the cushion of the couch. Rowan's whole body was shuddering, quaking in time with her licks. She concentrated on Rowan's clitoris, gently caressing, easing her left paw over Rowan's cunt, parting her swollen labia and pulling up the hood. Rowan went berserk, groaning, screaming, and Ember held on tight, trying to keep in place as Rowan bucked against her, coming and coming almost continually.
"Enough!" Rowan screamed. Ember backed away reluctantly, not at all convinced that that had been enough. Rowan was trembling constantly, her whole body a mass of spasms. Her eyes were shut tight.
"Rowan?" Ember asked softly.
Rowan eyes snapped open, looking around wildly before focusing on her.
Rowan leapt forward, throwing her arms around Ember and hugging her close. "Fine! Perfect! Better! Thank you thank you thank you."
Ember laughed quietly and said, "You're all wet now."
"That's okay, that's okay," Rowan repeated. "Thank you."
"See?" Ember said. "You could say it afterwards."
Rowan laughed and hugged her friend tighter. "I didn't know, I wasn't sure. Thank you."
"Ember... thank you for my birthday present."
Ember pulled away from her, a shocked look on her face. "It's your birthday?"
"It's been a year since we did the card-pulling."
"No. Thank you, Ember."
Ember smiled, recovering. "You're welcome, Rowan. Are you ready for Aaden?"
"I've got plans. Trust me."
"I bet you've got plans." Ember laughed. Rowan joined in.