The Journal Entries

Anar, Lothess 14, 00609


"Rev? I'm going outside. I need some air." The voice, somehow managing to convey feeling despite its mechanical tone and origin, came through the headphones clearly.

Captain Revor Idyll keyed his mic to respond. "Okay, Cheyenne. Just don't go too far. We'll be jumping into Sendar space in just a few minutes."


Rev shook his head wondered, not for the first time, why it was that the only member of his crew to show signs of claustrophobia should be a robot. Still, with a crew of nine on the Avalon, all male, he supposed that some idiosyncrasies were going to show up. Odd that this one should come from the one member of the crew who was neither human nor a citizen. Nor male, for that matter. Still, although the Merchant Marine had gone back to segregated crews again after a spate of rather nasty incidents, he hardly thought Cheyenne was going to be in trouble. Despite her feminine name, Cheyenne was ex-combat and she looked it; seven and a half feet of gleaming chrome, chestplates that fanned open to reveal excessively overheated inner workings, feet that walked digitigrade, and a face without pity or mercy, a face meant to terrify an enemy.

Revor was used to her. So was most of his crew.

"Rev?" A hand came down on his shoulder.

"Yo," he said, startling and looking up. "What's up, Jack?"

The older man smiled. "You were off in space there for a second. I just wanted to give you the midcool update; everything's going fine."

Rev nodded. "Thanks."

Jack looked down at the monitor. "Cheyenne go outside again?"

Rev nodded, then startled again as an alarm went off. "Evan, tell me what's going on!" he shouted.

The engineer sitting at the sensor array station examined his screens. "Transient jump, Captain. Just started coming in. We have It's a Sendar vessel, sir."

"Which one?" Rev asked, jokingly. Although they had a technology that apparently exceeded even the Pendorians in some places, the Sendar had proven to be a species remarkably ill-at-ease in outer space. Some biologists were at a loss to explain how a species could rise to sentience without the inherent curiosity that humans had, and it often disappointed both Terrans and Pendorians that the first species they should come across aside from themselves should be so, well, staid. "Boring" was the adjective most often applied to Sendar poetry and literature. They were a very formulaic species not given to excitement. There were, therefore, very few Sendar space-going vessels.

"It's the Sim, sir."

"The Sim," Rev said, pressing his fingers together to stretch the tendons until he felt pain. "Are they headed in or out?"

"In, sir. Towards Sendar."

"It's weird, meeting a vessel out here in the middle of nowhere. I can't remember the last time we came across another ship during a cool-down. Hail them and inform them that we're going their way. If they have those fast-cooling coils of theirs, tell them that we're not going to get in the way if they want to drive through."

The engineer, Evan, nodded and keyed in Rev's words. A minute later the response came back, "We will remain for the company and our comfort. It would be rude to leave you alone here."

Rev shook his head. "Thank the Sendar captain for me, Evan." He sagged in the weightlessness of the command cabin. "Very polite of them."

"That's what they are. Polite," Jack said.

"And what are we?" Rev asked.

Jack grinned. "Rude, crude, and unacceptable. We don't take gruff from the universe and we make it give us what we want." He pointed at the screen. "But that's how we treat the universe. They are a different matter. If we were to leave without telling them, it would be insulting."

Rev nodded. He was just the Captain, after all. His grasp of interplanetary protocol was limited at best. "All right, if we're going to hold them up, we may as well be civil about it."

They sat calmly for about ten minutes. Rev would glance at the viewscreen to look at Cheyenne once in a while; she had taken a seat against the hull and sat with her head tilted away, looking at the stars.

"Ninety percent," Evan said.

"Tell Engineering we're going to start maneuvering for the jump point but not yet. Also, tell the Sendar that we're going to head that way." He tapped the microphone. "Cheyenne, time to get inside."

"Working on it," Evan replied, typing commands and speaking quietly into his headpiece microphone. "What the...! Captain, transient!"

"What? A third? Where!?" Rev said. "What is it?"

"FOF reports a Terran vessel-- wait, key is not recognized!" Evan turned back to Rev, who had already locked his chair down and grabbed the manual piloting controls. He keyed his microphone. "Vasili!" he shouted. "Get the spine mount working. We have trouble!"

"What kind?" Vasili shouted back. Rev could hear him flipping switches in the background.

"The illegal kind!" For all its modernity, the ship had old-fashioned, tried-and-true controls. Manual control of the fusion bores was a pedal on the floor. His foot put it down to the deckplate.

The drive kicked into life, bright and hot as he started running for the jump gate.

"Captain! The Sendar vessel is reporting that their maneuvering drive was down for cool-off! They're helpless!"

Rev hesitated for less than a second before twisting the stick on its Z and killing the main drive. The ship rotated on its center of gravity and came to, pointing back the way it had came, back towards the Sendar vessel and the twin-crescent shaped ship that was coming towards the two of them. "Missiles!" Evan shouted. "Releasing countermissiles! Opening up the chains!"

Two lights headed towards intercepts of the enemy vessel's launches, followed by a hail of steel visible only on radar, a cloud of magnetically accelerated pellets designed to shred incoming warheads. It usually worked.

"Sir, the Sendar vessel is taking heavy damage. The enemy is packing a rail cannon!"

Rev twisted the stick again and the ship turned, slowly, belly-up to the incoming ship, and interceded between it and the Sendar vessel. What may have seemed a gesture of submission from a multi-ton starship was in fact a protective maneuver; Rev knew that the bottom of the ship was the most heavily armored, designed as it was to land on smaller worlds such as Luna, and needing that protection as defense against debris kicked up by landing drives.

"If there aren't any missiles, send the chains at the enemy!" Rev shouted.

"I'm on it!" Evan replied even as his fingers flew across the terminal.

The ship rocked. "What's down?"

"They got the left chaingun with a small rail, sir! We're seriously outgunned here!" Evan shouted. "Still open with the right one. We're losing pressure in the cargo hold."

Rev bit his lip and hoped for a sign. Vasili gave it to him. "Meson gun on-line, Rev. Let 'em have it!"

"Grab hold of something!" Rev shouted. He dumped fuel mercilessly into ports not ready for that kind of power. The Avalon lurched as it turned corner over corner until the front of the ship came into line with the crescent-shaped vessel, which was now turning to run. "Keep it on..." he whispered as the red target indicator turned green and a tone sounded in his ear. He squeezed.

A meson cannon is nothing more than a pair of particle accelerators that fire a pack of mesons, subnuclear particles that exist only for miniscule moments of time. In their natural setting, they represent and enforce the strong nuclear force that binds protons and neutrons. Like neutrinos, they fly through anything in their way if released unnaturally. And when the meson cannon's stream stops supporting them, they express themselves by upsetting the balance of forces within atoms nearby. It can be messy.

He was rewarded with a bright light from the enemy vessel as the meson cannon tore through the ship and exploded dead center within the left crescent. A jet of gas erupted and Evan whooped. "You got a hydrogen tank, Captain!"

Another explosion rang through the Avalon. "Vasili!" Rev shouted.

"This is Edison, sir! Vasili's injured! That hit we took damaged the meson cannon's cooling coils! We can't fire again!"

"They're coming back, sir!" Evan shouted.

Rev twisted the stick again. With the damage they were taking they were in no shape to jump. The Sendar vessel was leaking from at least three large holes; the Avalon wasn't doing any better, and the only thing the enemy had suffered so far were a couple of chaingun hits and one meson round. Still, he had to do something. He again stomped on the main fuel feed at his feet, pushing the ship back between the Sendar vessel and the pirate's ship. "Why do they always have bigger guns?" he gritted as he watched the ship maneuver slowly, crippled with the loss of half its fuel, and the engine that used it, but hardly out of the game.

"Fire glitter and chain, Rev. Do not fire any missiles," Cheyenne's voice said in his earphone.

"Did you copy that, Evan?"

"Yes, sir. Glitter away! Chain away!" The engineer pressed buttons, opening up with the anti-missile battery and the anti-laser defenses. The space between the Avalon and the pirate vessel filled with millions of particles of polished glass, a haze fouling both radar and visual displays. "Here's hoping for a silver BB," he said, referring to the one-in-a-million chance that something critical might get hit.

"Let's hope," Rev said. He watched as the enemy vessel turned towards them, the forward arms of its engines menacing like pincers. Space battles either took far too long or were over far too quickly for Rev's comfort. This one looked to be the second kind. The ship, now at less than four hundred meters, closed on the crippled cargo starship.

"Sir, something wrong with the enemy vessel! Their reactor's going wild!" Evan shouted

Rev stomped on the fuel feed again. "Maximum Z!"

"But that's right towards the Sendar vessel!"

"Better them than that explosion!" Rev watched as the pirate ship seemed to shudder and then started to come apart at the seams. It wasn't an explosion, not really. It was more like something living and monstrous was trying to rip its way out of the ship. A jet of superheated nuclear fuel coursed out of a tear that appeared in the heart of the pirate ship and sprayed into the empty cold of space. Rev imagined he could see the bodies of men going with it. Of course, he knew that they had probably all vaporized in the explosion, and even if they had tried to kill him he hoped their deaths had been quick. The jet flamed for almost a minute and then died away. Slowly, the cold of space reasserted itself on the IR display. Rev examined the spherical display in front of him and killed the maneuvering engines, opening up on the other side and slowing their progress towards the Sendar vessel until they finally came to a halt less than two hundred meters apart.

"Rev," Jack's voice said in his ear, "let go of the stick."

Rev jerked suddenly, his hand coming loose from the control. "How are we?"

"Vasili's in sickbay with a concussion. Basir is looking after him. Joseph was injured, a laceration, nothing major. I got a little banged up but nothing to go to sickbay about. Evan, how's engineering?"

"Cooling plant is dead, sir. There's a hole in hold four, but the bulkheads are holding. Four is where the beer is; the casks should hold."

"Let's hope. Those Sendar really like their beer."

"Yes, sir," Evan said. "Enemy vessel is drifting, sir. No signs of activity although it is hotter than Hell over there."

"You'd expect that. Where's Cheyenne?" He looked down at the viewscreen where the robot had been just fifteen minutes ago.

"I don't know, sir," Evan said. He turned to a keyboard he rarely used and typed in a series of esoteric commands. "I'm getting no reading on her personal locator, sir. She's not on board."

Rev nodded. "She's over there." He pointed to the dying hulk of the pirate vessel.


"Don't ask me how I know, Evan. But I know. She somehow managed to cross two kilometers unnoticed during the battle, invade the ship, and make a mess inside. It's actually a recommended strategy, combat droid boarding." He leaned forward and looked at the screen. "I wonder how she got there."

"You don't think she's..." Jack let the thought trail off.

"I'll try to raise her," Evan said.

"No." Rev shook his head. "If she's intact she'll call us. If not, we'll recover her body later. In the meantime, try to raise the Sendar and ask them if they need assistance."

Evan nodded, tapping at the translation console. "The Sendar Captain says, 'You are heroes to save our vessel and our lives. Your actions and your offer touch us deeply. We have called for help and it will arrive in a few hours. We have injuries you could not assist with and you have ship damage of your own to take care of, but by your actions we have no fatalities. Is there anything we can do for you?'"

Rev nodded. "Tell him that we are intact. We may have lost one crewmember. Thank him for his offer but we will wait for the rescue vessel as well. We have our own maintenance to attend to."

Evan typed the response. "Sendar Captain replies, 'Understood. We will be in contact. Out.'"

"Nice cabins," Vasili said as they were shown to their separate rooms. He leaned his head into the one with his name on the door and looked around. "They're bigger than our two-man spots on the Avalon."

"They don't have a budget like we do," Rev said with a smile.

"I trust you gentlemen have found your quarters to your liking?" asked a voice with a barely contained but polite growl from the far end of the hallway. The captain of the Tanka, an Uncia, had invited the crew of the Avalon to spend the next week or so with him. The damage to the Avalon had been more extensive than they had originally thought; the Sendar had agreed to fully refurbish their ship for its heroic actions, and had contracted with a Pendorian rescue fleet for the repairs.

Rev had to admit that the idea of spending a week in interstellar space, so far from the common ports, made him nervous. Although this spot in the middle of nowhere was a common point for ships with jump drives, most ships only came here for a few hours at most, and then went to the next point. Rev could cross the short distance between Terra and Sendar in about fifteen days, but those days were spent working, half in hyperspace, half in realspace. Here, he had nothing to do but stare out at the stars. "Yes, Captain K'Ravi, we're fine. Your ships are quite magnificent." His crew, all seven of them, gathered behind him.

"That's what ships are for," K'Ravi said with a toothy but mysterious grin. "You Terrans have not quite figured out abundance yet, but you will."

"I'm sure. And I'm grateful for the repairs."

"The Sendar asked and we readily complied. We had nothing else to ply our trade on at the time, the Sendar volunteered to cover most of the material costs, and-- just a moment." He held up his hand and glanced aside, then turned back to Rev. "I hate to ask this of you, but could you look at something?"

"I suppose," Rev asked. "What is it?"

"I want you to identify your shipmate's body."

Rev glanced back at Vasili and Jack, who both nodded. "Sure."

The captain waved his hand over one wall and a video screen cleared. An image formed, poorly-lit at first but he could make out two humanoids in space suits maneuvering in what were probably the cramped and ruined corridors of the pirate vessel. One of them pointed a torch at the floor. "We found this next to the secondary fusion reactor." Through the viewscreen he could make out the sharp angles of the samurai mask of chrome that had been Cheyenne's face.

Rev nodded as the hope he had been carrying dimmed. "That's her."

The Uncia nodded and the image disappeared. "I am sorry. We will, of course, see if there's anything we can do for her."

Vasili interrupted. "She was a liquid-cooled matrix model."

"Nevertheless, we will do what we can for her," the captain said. "Please. Relax. Grieve, it is appropriate. After my people have gone over her, if funeral services are requested we will gladly conduct them. I do not know of many robots that have religion, but there are several people on board the Tanka who do."

"Thank you, Captain," Rev said. "We'll decide later."

The Uncia nodded. It was clear to both that there was little more to say. "I'll leave you to your rooms. You're free to move about. The AI, Griz, will prevent you from getting yourself into trouble."

Rev sighed and glanced at the open book on the couch, wondering if he should sit down and begin reading again. He tried to read at least one book a week, but this one was proving to be more of a challenge than most. The past four days had started to wear on him. He had spent time in the Pendorian gym, casually deflecting the suggestions of a few of the fems and even mels who had looked at him with appreciation. He liked to keep fit; he had had a tension-arm exercise bench in his tiny cabin and had used it.

But neither the physical pursuits nor the intellectual had any real attraction for him. He had lost a best friend. The Pendorians understood when he explained it to them, but as one of them had pointed out, they had been living with robots and AIs for centuries; they were truly citizens, and friends, even if Terran law didn't quite understand that.

The doorchime rang. He looked up and sighed. "Come in."

A woman wearing a simple white jumpsuit with sleeves rolled up to just above the elbows walked in. Although most Pendorians wore an appearance of youthfulness, this one was clearly no older than nineteen or twenty, younger than usual, perhaps young enough to be her real age. She had an oval face with full, red lips, eyes that suggested but did not demand Asian ancestry, and a skin color reminiscent of native North Americans. Her black hair fell about her face to her shoulders in a dark brown frame. Although he was used to the standards of beauty found on both Terra and Pendor, she exuded a kind of exotic loveliness and Rev couldn't keep himself from staring for longer than was polite. "Oh, good," she said in a matter-of-fact voice that was sweetly high-pitched. "They said I might have that affect on you."

"Um, can I help you?" Rev said.

She ignored him for a moment and walked over to the table in the center of the room, taking the seat opposite the couch where Rev lay. She glanced at the book. "Fermat's Last Theorem for Dummies, Rev? I knew you had a masochistic streak in you but aren't you overdoing it?"

He glanced at the book. "The bulk of it explains the Taniyama/Shimura conjecture, which I'm not quite getting. The accompanying datacard with graphics showing..." He paused. "Have we met?" He knew almost upon asking it that the question was absurd. He would remember a beauty like hers, and it was rare for even Pendorians to want to appear so young and immature so he suspected that she was as old as her appearance suggested. Yet she acted like she knew him.

"You don't recognize me?" she asked, grinning.

"No, I don't believe I do."

"You will," she said. "Remember? 2442, Australia, in the outback. Eagle's Rock, in fact. The Chinese had taken it by force, and we were hired by the Aussiegov to help take it back. I took a LAW in the chest for that one. Total clusterfuck. You pulled me out, remember? That's when the tic started up." She glanced at him. He was sitting up, a dumbfounded expression on his face. She smiled.

"Chey... Cheyenne?" he stammered. "What. Are you really Cheyenne?"

"So they tell me," she said, looking down at herself. "It sure doesn't look like me, does it?"

"No, it doesn't!" he agreed. "But nobody else except Vasili knows about the tic, or about Eagle's Rock."

She smiled. "I remember. Our mission failure brought down the Australian government, not that we had a chance anyway."

Rev grinned. "I know. And I remember finding those software blocks when I tried to repair you."

"Hey, we single-handedly started the AI Wars that year," she said. "Not that anyone knows it was us. Well, now you know, I know, and Griz knows." She pointed up at the ceiling. "But that's a state secret, Griz."

"Understood, Miss. Even in that frame I would not dare disagree with you," the AI replied calmly.

"'That frame?' You're still a robot?"

"Yeah. Droids don't transfer to organics very efficiently, and certainly not in three days. Two of the White's Theory medicos on board are robots. They had enough spares in storage to make two complete bodies, one female-framed. The engineering team managed to recover enough of my memory tracks to install me in a new PCPU."

He rose from the couch and sat down in the chair opposite hers. "So, are you really Cheyenne?"

A look of guilt crossed her face. "I don't know. They say it's an existentialist problem. The Pendorians tell me that transition to a new body is assumed by Pendorians to cause such a drastic personality shock that the reactions you may be used to seeing in me won't be there as you remember them. I'm not used to this body, really. It has touch and taste and sight mostly in human limits; I can't hear the infinity of radio and gamma and I can't see IR and UV and dim light the way I used to. Well, I could if I wanted to, all the equipment's there, but I was told to keep it in human limits and learn to live with it unless absolutely necessary. So the Pendorians believe that I might not be Cheyenne as you knew her. But I have all her memories and all her skills and a legacy of feelings that she slept with every night. And the old Cheyenne isn't here to disagree with me." She reached into her pocket and pulled out a thick card with her face occupying the left half of one side. "This is my citizenship card. They registered me. I'm legal now, Rev. A citizen of the planet Discovery. Apparently they went independent and are looking for Pendorian support to keep the Terrans off their back."

"That's good," he said. "I was getting a little tired of having to hide you every time customs came around."

"I understood." She reached out and with the back of her fingers touched his cheek. "I can feel now. I can turn it up or down. The doctors told me about settings that were 'normal', but they seemed strong to me. I'm trying to leave them high, but they're so distracting."

"That's what it's like to be human, Cheyenne. Did you get to choose how beautiful you would be?"

She laughed. She had done that in her combat chassis but it had never sounded natural. In this guise, it sounded right. "I know I'm pretty this way, Rev, but really, look. My nose is too long, my forehead too high, and then there are these thick thighs of mine. The engineer said he started out with perfection in mind but he gave me something better called 'wabi'. I have no idea what that means."

"Wabi is something that is just a little flawed. The idea is that perfect things are boring but imperfections show the caring and working hand of a person in his creation. Whoever did this for you was pretty close to the truth when he said you had wabi." A thought occurred to him. "Can you eat? Taste?"

She nodded. "Not only can I eat, but I have to drink, apparently. It's required for maintenance, since I have internal generators to manage this body's odors and secretions. This frame was for a combat medical droid whose duties could include post-traumatic psychological care. So everything works, smells right, and feels right. And I get good feedback, just like if I was a person. I'm not trained to use those sensations, but they're all there for me."

"You are different from the Cheyenne I knew."

"How is that?"

"She was never evasive. I can tell you're being evasive, Cheyenne. She always told me the absolute truth whenever she wanted to say it."

"Are you sure? You can only know I'm being evasive now because this face shows my emotions whether I want it to or not. I could have been just as evasive as the combat model without you knowing."

Rev gave in. "You could be right. But you're still evading me."

"Okay," she said, nodding. "Rev, I want to have sex."

Rev sat up straight, his eyes unblinking for a moment with surprise. "I... I suppose that could be arranged." He stopped for a second. "With me?"

She nodded. "With you, and with Vasili." She grinned. "And then with Evan, maybe the whole crew eventually!"

"Now that's Cheyenne," he said, laughing. "You never did anything by halves."

"And I don't want to now!" She reached out and put her hand around his wrist. "I want to start with you!" She stood up and literally hauled him out of the chair, pulling him into her embrace.

He felt the heat from her skin against his and the smell of her hair suggested the same fresh, simple soap he had found in his shower that morning. Every detail was perfect. If this was Cheyenne, things on the Avalon were about to become very complicated. "Cheyenne... how, um, complete are you?"

"Like I said, they built this frame to handle psych duties. That could include having sex with a patient whose biggest problem was loneliness or abandonment." She looked up at him with soft, brown eyes that held just a hint of glee.

"Cheyenne," he said, pushing her away just slightly, "I don't know how this is going to work. I mean, we've known each other for twenty years."

"Follow me." She led him over to the bed and sat him down before sitting down next to him. She didn't let go of his hand. "Rev, I have known you for twenty years, and for twenty years we have been as apart as that day on Eagle's Rock when my fusion pack was about to blow up and you couldn't get out of your powered armor because of all the nerve gas. I listened to you assault an APC all by yourself, in engineering powered armor no less, and win. You carried me on your back nearly ninety miles and I know that's not easy even in powered armor, knowing I could blow up at any second, all the way to Vasili's place. You are my friend and I owe you my life. Even if the tic hadn't shown up--"

Rev touched her lips suddenly with one hand. "I have to ask you about that."

"About what?"

"The tic. What happened to it?"

She smiled. "I lied about it."

"You WHAT?"

"I lied about it. Vasili helped me. He convinced me that it was the best way. It's not that I can't kill, Rev, I just don't like to. The same way humans are. So I could invade that pirate ship and take out those dregs who were trying to kill my friends-- and innocents. I just didn't want to do it for pay."

"You mean to tell me that I spent those years--"

"Putting together a better life than the one you had. You didn't have to keep me around, especially when you didn't think I could help further your mercenary career. You had no obligations to me, Rev. I gave you a choice. You just had a tool that you couldn't use to kill anymore."

"You were more than a tool, Cheyenne. Just because the anti-AI laws don't give you citizen's rights, that didn't make you not a person."

"To you, maybe. The state, and most of the people I worked with, thought otherwise. Still do, maybe even moreso. And because they could put whatever blocks they wanted into my thinking I couldn't even know to disagree with them. That's why it wasn't slavery. It still isn't; they're just better at building SIs instead of AIs like me with SI blocks to keep them in line." She pulled his hand back up to her lips and bowed her head down, looking up at him through her eyelashes and bangs as she kissed his knuckles softly. "Rev, are you angry with me?"

He took a deep breath. "I don't think so." She kissed his hand again. Her mouth felt warm and he could feel a trace of moisture where she left him. "They thought of everything."

"Only my engineer knows for sure," she said. "So, what about my offer?"

"Do you really want to bang the whole crew?" he asked.

"One at a time," she agreed. "As soon as I'm done with you." She reached for the clasp of his jumpsuit. It came open with an easy tug. "If you want."

"This is weird."

"It's going to get weirder," she assured him as she crawled down into bed with him.

"What do I do for you? Can you come?"

"No, actually, I don't think I can. I don't think that's the point, though, is it?" She shrugged off the top half of her own jumpsuit. Her breasts were small, a little less than handfuls, but they were the same golden color as the rest of her, tipped with dark brown nipples that demanded he touch them.

"That seems unfair."

"Oh, believe me. There are compensations," she whispered. "Take off your clothes."

Rev readily shucked himself of his outfit. "How do I look?" he asked.

"Like a prince," she said. "A Nubian warrior."

"I've never thought of myself that way," he said. "More of a Zulu."

"Zulu. I remember the shield you had painted on your armor." She pressed him down to the bed, her body covering his, her nipples caressing the bare flesh of his chest. "You are so handsome, Rev."

"And I have not had someone as beautiful as you are in my bed for many, many years, Cheyenne. Wow, that really does sound weird to my ears."

"Then stop talking and kiss me." She lowered her mouth to his and Rev tried to give her a soft kiss, but she responded with a fierce insistence. Rev heard her moan aloud.

He wrapped his hands around her torso, surprised at how small her waist felt in his hands. She hadn't looked this small when she had taken her suit off. Yet, holding her pliable body in his hands, he couldn't help but think of her as a girl.

She kissed his neck, and he raised his head to give her better access to it. "No hickeys," he said.

"Like they'd show up on you. I'm gonna give Evan the biggest hickey he's ever had, though!" She kissed his chest. "What's this?" she said with a giggle as her hand wrapped around his cock. "The captain's staff?"

"Where did you learn so much?"

"Some of it is leftover programming from the model, and some of it comes from days of being bored and reading all the books in the library. Since the on-board library has an anonymous volume score I paid attention to what you guys were reading." She licked the head of his cock just once and Rev felt waves of fire dig into his groin.

"It's been a long time, Cheyenne. I'm already edgy."

"Good enough," she said, taking the length of it into her mouth. Rev gasped. She was amazing. Her hand wrapped around his balls and she was able to take the entire length of his cock down her throat. Part of his mind told him he shouldn't be surprised at that, yet she seemed so human otherwise that he found himself amazed when her superhuman capabilities came out.

While his analytical mind watched with curiosity, his cock responded with unadorned lust. A beautiful girl was sucking him down with practice and skill and he couldn't hold back. The only release he'd had for nearly two years had been at his own hands and now--

He came with a shout, all of his desire boiling out of him in one loud sound of pleasure and surprise.

She crawled up to him, wiping her mouth with her arm. "You were fun!" she said.

"And you are unbelievable. I knew you always had a streak of cruelty in you but that's just too much."

She grinned. "Was I cruel to you?"

"You know you weren't. Come here." He reached out with one hand and pulled her down to him. "You feel so human. You don't weigh more than a girl your size should, you're warm, you're wet, you even smell good."

"I'll still need Vasili to do maintenance on me, although not so often."

He chuckled. "When do you want to meet the crew?" He asked.

"You look tired, Rev."

"Coming does that to a man."

"Why don't you close your eyes and rest, and we'll talk about it after your nap?"

"Sounds... like an idea."

He heard the doorchime from the shower. "Griz?" he asked.

"Yes, Vasily. You have a visitor."

"One of my crew?" he asked.

The AI didn't respond. "Griz?"

"I do not know how to answer that question."

Vasily wondered what that could mean. He decided he would have to find out for himself. "Tell whoever's out there that I'll be out in a second." He quickly rinsed and threw a robe over his shoulders. With an aging sigh he walked out into the main cabin and palmed the doorcontrol.

A small, warm body threw itself against him as hands tried to find their way into his robe. He fell backward. Lips were pressed to his. He grabbed the hands and rolled their owner off himself. They wrestled over and he found himself holding down a giggling, black-haired girl looking up at him with glittery eyes. "Vasily!" she said. "It's good to see you again!"

Nonplussed, Vasily looked down at her and asked, "Who are you?"

"An old friend," she insisted. "Don't you like me?"

"I don't know you," he said, letting her hands go and straightening up.

"Do you have to?" she asked as her hands again crept into his barely-closed robe. He could feel her hands tickling the hair along his thighs and his erection stirred. He knew that Pendorians sometimes had weird ideas about sex, but looking at this woman he wondered if he should play along. He had been lonely for a long time and she certainly was beautiful. "Trust me, Vasily," she said, her voice descending into a seductive purr. "You want this. The ship will protect you if I'm crazy, won't it? And you do know me, you just don't know it yet."

Her hands reached further into his robe, encroaching on his already erect cock. He had to decide now, and finally he nodded. She grinned and shimmied her way under his body until her head disappeared underneath the cloth of his robe. He felt her breath on his thighs and wondered if he wasn't going to regret this someday. Then he felt her mouth kiss his thigh and he knew he would. His heart beat harder in his chest even as she kissed his thighs, her mouth going back and forth from one to the other. He could feel her hair brushing against his skin even as she seemed to be getting closer and closer to his erection. She leaned upwards, his robe parting to reveal both her smile and his erection even as she engulfed it in her mouth.

He pitched forwards onto his hands and knees, unable to keep himself kneeling upright even as she sucked down the full length of his cock. Vasily's head reeled as she took it all deep down into her throat; she had him as surely as he had had her pinned down a few minutes ago. Her head bobbed up and down from the floor with unbelievable strength; it was if she did a thousand sit-ups a day just for this one activity. He was having trouble holding back after just a minute.

But then she stopped! He groaned even as he felt her again work her way up between his supporting arms. She had that same gleeful, enigmatic smile. "So," she said, "Wanna fuck?"

"Yes!" he groaned. "Yes, now."

She grinned as she worked off her uniform pants. She left the shirt on, one that Vasily thought he recognized identified her as a member of the ship's medical staff. Is that what she was doing? Taking care of the crew? He didn't doubt it even as she kicked the pants off and hoisted her legs into the air. "What are you waiting for?" she asked.

He didn't need to be reminded. Sitting up just long enough to strip off his robe, he fell onto this vixen on the floor, plunging into her recklessly. She groaned aloud as he sank his entire shaft into her cunt with one solid thrust. She was tight but wet enough that he could still move. Her body seemed to be wrapped around him, arms, legs, cunt gripping him and sucking him inwards. He could feel her squirming underneath him, moaning his name. He realized he didn't know hers. It didn't matter. His cock knew all it needed to know about her. She was hot. She was loud. She might even have been coming herself when he came, shooting off a stream inside her with days of pent-up frustration behind it.

When the stars stopped swimming in front of his eyes, he was looking down at the same wide grin he'd seen after first wrestling her to the floor. "So. Did you enjoy that?" she asked, her tone verging on the sarcastic.

"Who are you?" he asked.

Her voice changed suddenly to one more electronic, less human. Familiar. "Vasily. It's me."

He blinked. He blinked again. "Chey... Cheyenne?" he asked, surprised.

"Yep!" she said, the girl's voice returning. She pulled him down on top of her and kissed him hard on the lips. He found himself unable to respond, torn between memories twenty years and two minutes old, and she noticed enough to let him go. "I'm sorry if I startled you, but I wanted to, well, thank you for all the help you've given me over the years."

"That was some thank-you!" he said as he lay down on the floor next to her. "I think I'll have Basir take a quick look at my heart after something like that."

"That might not be such a bad idea. Here, let me." She put her hand on his chest and closed her eyes for a second. "Nope, you're okay."

"How... how do you know? How did you come to be here... like this?"

She sat down and repeated the story as she had told Rev. "I'm getting the hang of this body slowly. The Sendar say they've paid for it already, so it's mine. And I knew a lot of medical stuff before they moved me although that was just to make me a better killer."

Vasily nodded. "So you told Rev about the tic?"

"I couldn't hide the truth from him," she insisted, cuddling close. "I need a shower."

"I was just taking one when you came in. I see what the AI meant by his comment when he said he didn't know if you were a crew member of my ship or not."

"I hope you guys wanna keep me." She stood up and offered him a hand.

"I think we will," he said, accepting. He marveled at her strength as she hauled him up off the floor. "Come on. Shower's warm. And I want to take a closer look at you."

"Good. 'Cause I think I prefer to be looked at this way. Besides, you're going to have to learn how to do maintenance on this frame."

He led her into the spacious shower and turned the water on. "I think the basics are clear enough," she said, taking down the showerhead and holding it between her thighs. "But I'm still trying to figure out what I can do with this body. And what I want to do." She looked up. "What should I do, Vasili?"

"What did you want to do when you were just a combat droid, Cheyenne?"

She took the bottle of soap and applied it to herself. "That's the problem, Vasily. I... I can't remember. I don't think I had a, a purpose, when I was just a combat robot. I just went from day to day. Now that I'm in this body, I guess I'm wondering if I should do the same thing or what."

"My little lost robot, you are asking the same question everyone else asks. Why am I here? What do I do? They are hard questions to ask, and impossible to answer. You will have to figure that out for yourself."

She sighed. "This is going to be harder than I thought."

"Coming back from the dead usually is," Vasili said, kneeling down. He ran his fingertips delicately over her belly and one thigh. "The skin is very nice. You are very beautiful, Cheyenne, your self- descriptions to the contrary. I assume that if I am going to be fixing you sometimes that I will get instructions from the Pendorians on how to do that?"

She nodded. "Although I shouldn't need much unless I get into combat again. This is a very self-maintaining system."

"Good," he said, standing. "Cheyenne, on a ship as cramped as ours, the presence of an available female could be a devastating thing. We would be best treated if you isolated yourself to one person, or no person at all."

"I suppose." She grinned. "Still, I did want to do Evan."

He smiled. "If so, then you must do it tactfully. Come. Let us get dry. We have much to discuss."

"Second Weapons Officer Cheyenne reporting for duty, Sir," the short, brown-skinned girl said with a smart salute as she walked onto the bridge.

Rev supressed a laugh even as he heard a clipboard fall to the floor. "Welcome back, Cheyenne."

Evan walked back. "Cheyenne?"

She nodded with a grin, then wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed his cheek. "The Pendorians found a way to rebuild me. Neat, huh?" She turned around; even the shapeless white jumpsuit couldn't hide all her loveliness. "It's weird, though. Guys don't act scared of me anymore. I know that's what's supposed to happen but I'm not used to it. I think I like it, though."

"I can understand why," Jack said.

"Okay, enough. You'll all get your chance to talk to the prettiest robot in all of space. Evan, you've got first watch. Cheyenne, I don't know if we need you quite yet. You moved into your cabin?"

She nodded. "Although I have to get rid of all the old stuff. Guess we gotta put it back onto the black market, huh?"

"That's about right."

She glanced around the cramped bridge with it's flat panel monitors hanging down from the ceiling, invading the space that was meant for human beings. "In that case, Rev, I think I'd like to go outside."

"You can do that?" he asked, surprised.

"Just watch me."

Rev shook his head. "Some things never change. Just don't go too far."

"From you guys? Never."