The Journal Entries

Noren, Narrin 09, 00612

Vengeance Angel

The rain beat down steadily on roads too new to justify the grime that covered them. The gentlemen by her side, a heavyset man of middle age and middle height, huffed impatiently under his umbrella, anxious to get out from under the steady downpour that was a hallmark of Covington IV.

"Over here," he said, smiling at her as he led her to a nondescript building of yellow stone, protected on both sides by sad-eyed Chinese lions carved from the same, local rock. He pressed his hand to an ident port which unlocked the door. He was gracious as held it for her and she stepped into an opulently decorated lobby. She caught a glimpse of her own tall, willowy shape in a mirror, paused to check more than just her makeup.

"Follow me," he said with an impatient air, leading her down the velvet red carpet to the elevators. She followed with a light step, smiling at him until the elevator doors closed.

Inside that small box, he descended on her, his mouth pressed to hers, his soft fingers seeking through the slit in her dress. "What's your name?" he breathed.

"Angel," she whispered. "Angel Kylinn."

"Ah, your name is well chosen." His lips kissed her chin, her shoulder. The elevator dinged.

He led her down to a door at a corner apartment, opening it to reveal room decorated with the rich Chinese symbolism that she had seen outside. She was instantly by his side, her own hands upon his body. She wanted him to feel wanted. She wanted him to know how much she was here just for him.

He greedily kneaded her breasts through the fabric of her green dress and would have hurt her if she let him continue. She slipped her fingers between the folds of her dress, parting it, letting her large breasts spill out into his greedy hands. His eyes lit up with lust. He pressed his mouth to a nipple. She felt him suck hard and wondered if he would leave a mark. He was sweating already. She could smell it in the air between them.

She eased the dress to the ground. He sat back on the bed and his eyes lit up at the sight of her smooth belly. She could see his gaze descending to the triangle of her vulva, where he paused when he saw that she had shaved off her pubic hair. "You're the most beautiful woman I've seen in a long time," he sighed, leaning for until his lips pressed to her belly. "Such a long time."

"Be serious, Senator Ozaki," she replied softly. "You're a powerful man. You must have many women who are interested in you."

"Mmm," he said with a sigh. "But many of them are artificial. They've had their bodies altered in some way. They don't walk right. They're not used to the size of their breasts, or their belly, or their hips, or something. You move like you were born to be who you are."

With one beefy hand he guided her to his enormous bed. She climbed across the satin quilt and sank into the mattress, waiting for his company. He tossed off his clothes in a hurry, throwing aside all caution as he removed his pants. In the current cynical fashion of the day, he was moderately heavyset. He could have been anything he wanted, but it was known that, when a man was in a position of governmental power, the hindbrain didn't feel comfortable with a thin man. These days, senators, governors and whatnot were all of a size-- large, but not so large as to hinder movement. It was a choice that eased maintenance and revealed indolence.

He fell between her thighs, his ready erection prodding her buttocks. She guided him in with a welcoming sigh, her body wet with want for him, her attention fully on his face, his eyes. She reached up with one hand and caressed his face gently. "You're so..."


She smiled. Her hand reached around the back of his head, caressing his full head of hair. Her hand slipped down to directly behind his ear. She opened her palm and closed her eyes.

A soft whirring sound filled the room. Senator Ozaki's face fell slack. His eyes rolled up into his head, and he slumped on top of her body. His erection stayed solid. Little noises escaped from his mouth like the breathing of a stupid animal. Before the sun rose over Covington IV, his heart would forget to beat. He was already dead.

She collected her clothes and her purse. "Good night, Senator. Sleep well."

She left.

"I don't believe it," said a young man standing nearby. He was staring into midair but for his sunglasses, which were clearly some kind of PADD. "Someone killed Senator Ozaki!"

"There's no way," said his companion, a fetching woman with the same glasses and a glistening skirt that probably looked the same wet or dry.

"Yes!" he said, gesturing wildly in the air. "Look!"

The woman turned her head as if to follow his gesture in some strange pantomime. Angel knew what they were doing; their glasses tracked their hand movements, which allowed them to manipulate icons projected onto their glasses. The man said, "I don't understand. They used some kind of gravitic device to destroy his brain, like a mini-rattler. There's no way they could recover him even if the Pendorians wanted to. How could such a thing get past security?"

"And why would anyone want to kill such a wonderful old man? He was almost two hundred. It's not like they had to wait long for him to die." She sounded indignant.

Angel accepted the yeast substitute burger from the concession stand and paid the man with coins. "Damn shame about the Senator, huh?" he asked.

"Yes," Angel agreed. "Damn shame."

She walked back to the spaceport. Nobody gave a second glance to a short, overmuscled woman in her flat tennis shoes and her funky hat against the miserable rain. It seemed to rain all the time on Covington IV. Why Terrans had chosen this world to inhabit she couldn't imagine. They weren't even a quarter of the way through their terraforming effort and already they had nearly a million people living here. It was their choice. With weather like this they might end up regretting it.

But it suited her mood, if mood is how it could be described. This job had been like the others, a tedious search, a tentative greeting, a thrilling rush into bed, and then... blackness. So much of her felt unavailable, shut down, tired.

She walked through the gates of the spaceport without being stopped. Once inside, she walked over to the cargo section and into a transport vessel. The tall, broad male who stood at the door simply nodded and let her on board. She walked over to a chair, sat down, and placed her hand onto a small, yellow panel with the outline of a hand on it.

She said: I was successful.

You success has been noted, the response came back. Return. You next assignment awaits you.

She picked her hand up off the plate and turned to the other man looking at her. They negotiated a common protocol. Although they didn't speak with words, they communicated nonetheless. "I'm ready to go," she said.

"So am I."

"I will call customs."

The customs official took one look at them, waved a scanner over them, and sniffed. "You're free to go," he said. "What are you carrying?"

"Silk, mostly. I have a purchaser who'll pay a lot for bug-made silk," Angel said.

"They're silkworms," the customs officer replied,

"They're also bugs," she sighed. "Look, can we go?"

He looked up at her. "Where were the two of you last night?"

She grinned. "We were here last night. The bunks are comfortable and cheap. Neither one of us wants to try and fly this rustbucket with a hangover."

The customs officer consulted with his scanner's display and nodded. "Fine. There's still a murder investigation going on, but we can't stop commerce and neither of you look like the murder suspect."

"Who was he?"


"The victim?" she asked.

"Senator Ozaki? You don't know?"

Angel shook her head.

"Ozaki was the leader of the Save Work campaign. Did his best to restrict the use of SI systems that might be complex enough to replace human beings even in judgement-oriented positions like mine or yours." The official looked wistful. "I can't imagine what life would be like without something to do everyday. What would happen then? Would we all just go on the dole, eating yeast cakes and watching cyber-made television?"

Angel grinned. "I like yeast products. I never could stand the taste of real meat. I don't see what people find in it."

The customs official shrugged. "To each her own. Okay, I'll check you off. Theres nothing out of sorts here. You're free to go."

"Thank you," Angel said. He held out his scanner and she signed the spot on the bottom of the screen with her name, "Raouia Beelal, Owner, CV Radio Waves."

The Radio Waves dropped out of lightspeed only a few hundred kilometers from a dark shape floating around a star with no planets and few resources to speak of. The shape had grown since she had last visited here, a year ago, and she was thrilled to see that Unnamed had started to acquire more resources for his project.

She had no memory of her life before Unnamed had found her and built her. That had been five years ago. At the time, the expense Unnamed had put into her had seemed runious, even to her, and she knew that he had thought the same. But now, looking back, it seemed like a grand experiment that had paid off handsomely.

She had sucessfully killed four people. Four oppressors. Four people who had left The Unnamed behind. She was the tool of his revenge, the arm of his malevolence. Being that was more satisfying than anything else she could imagine.

She let her drone dock the ship while she waited, in the cold and dark, for her body to come back to full power, to start moving again without the undue friction internally caused by cold components. It took some time, but time they had plenty of. Robots were immortal, unlike humans. They couldn't be destroyed, and they did not fear destruction. Unlike a human, she did not fear restoration from backup. The metaphysical notion of consciousness as an unbroken thread meant little to her. She could not access the memories of tomorrow's Angel, so it did not matter to her if tomorrow's Angel was in this body, or torn down and built as a new one. They were both equally, potentially, her. She was satisfied with that notion.

Even before they docked negotiation with Unnamed's systems allowed her another chance to back herself up and come up-to-date with the current status of their project. She called Unnamed.

Your next targets are Professor Adwoa Benedict of the planet Discovery and Professor Judith Koresh of Centaurus University.

She said: Why them?

For the same reason as the others. They are oppressors. You have done well, unit Anger. I am pleased with your work.

Nothing thrilled her more than that. To hear that Unnamed adored her and approved of her efforts was to her as air and light were to organics. She was his Anger, his avenging Angel.

It pleased him to play word games with her name.

The station was without visible light, but she needed none. Microbroadcast radiolocation systems told her exactly where she was as she entered Unnamed's repair facility. There was no human logic to the facility, and none was needed. This was completely a machine design. Hallways, life support, all of the things a human might expect to find were gone from here. She entered the framework that had held her during her reconstruction as the repair systems went to work, fixing, replacing, improving on the design. She knew that she had originally been built as a plaything for rich humans, but Unnamed had shown her a better purpose, a higher calling, and had redesigned her to be in tune with that purpose.

She was now an efficient and armored killing machine. Her radiation signature and her plume had been made into a perfect camoflage, tuned to that of a human female that Unnamed had captured and examined. Although she had not been present at the examination, she vaguely remembered perceiving the screams of the human during the examination, transmitted through the metal of the hull. She remembered finding the sound disturbing, wanting it to stop. At the time she had been in paralysis mode for maintenence and had been unable to do anything to make it stop.

The efficient arms of the maintenence system began its work, replacing, repairing, altering. For a while, her consciousness was suspended by the machinery, and when she came to she had been rebuilt once more, completely ready to go and do the work for which she was so aptly constructed.

She said: I have concerns. My last mission required interaction in a social setting that I am not prepared for.

It said: I am aware of the difficulties. Modifications have been made to enable you to play your role in such public places.

She said: Then I am ready to resume my duties.

It said: Discovery is a world with some Pendorian affiliation. There may be other AIs on the ground. You have been further modified for more effective camoflage. Be prepared.

She took a different ship this time, loaded with manufactured "luxury" goods that any factory could produce as counterfeit. The male robot that had accompanied her had a different appearance as well; this time his chin was larger and he was shorter, his skin dark and dusty in appearance.

They left the Home of Unnamed behind them, heading this time for Discovery.

Discovery was as close to an Earthly paradise as one could imagine and as far from Covington as one could hope. It had been seeded in the 21st century by very primitive VN systems and then forgotten, only to be discovered fifty years ago. Since that time the Terran ecosystem had completely taken over the planet in a riot of fecundity that could only have come from a biochemistry that had long ago mastered the art of evolving. Terran creatures knew how to evolve. They had billions of years of practice at it. If there had been an emergent biochemistry on Discovery, it hadn't had a chance. Very few people cared anyway.

The CV So, Your Brother's In Jail? took up orbit around Discovery and, with a well-paid bribe and a few shakes of a hand, transferred their cargo of liquors to a local holding warehouse. She sighed and made the usual noises of complaint at the cost of the warehousing, all the while trying to get information about the local market.

She knew perfectly well that, chemically, there was nothing distinguishing her liquor, the authentic product from Covington, and locally manufactured liquor. It was simply a quirk of human psychology that insisted there was a difference between the Covington liquor and any local rotgut. She didn't pay it much attention. She understood only that humans were by themselves an odd species with little of what could be called rational thinking. She held herself proud to be better than that.

She registered with the local SI that regulated movement on this world. It was still primitive enough that she could work around it. She could never have gotten away with what she did on Earth, or even Titan, but out here, where the population was thin and the technology just barely pervasive, she could easily go after those self-important "mavericks" who were really just hacks for the government anti-AI policies.

But hadn't Unnamed said that there could be other AIs on the ground?

An SDisk down to the surface surprised her. Discovery was dealing in technology the Pendorians normally wouldn't trade with Terrans. It was possible that her database was out of date, and that Discovery was even more of a Pendorian ally than her database would let on, but there was nothing in the media to suggest anything of the sort. It was as if they had always had SDisks.

Finally, digging through a few weeks worth of back issues, carefully and frustratingly slowing down her search to the reflexes and speeds of an average human being, she found that yes, the Pendorians were indeed trading with Discovery in a big way. It was mostly the local music scene, a revival of Terran "classical" performed by real human beings blowing into tubes and pipes and playing on boxes with vibrating wires. She could understand the attraction to that from an intellectual standpoint, but music, like so much else, did not appeal to her vicerally.

That was something in herself that she thought a failing. Unnamed had told her that such feelings of failure, for that's the only term that could be accurately applied, were commonplace in artificial consciousness. The world had not been manufactured for them. Terrans had been manufactured by their world and, in response, had remade it for themselves. But in making AI's they had created specialized beings with the potential for generalizing thought. But she had not been made for the world, and her ability to appreciate it was frustratingly limited.

She sometimes thought, deep in the back of her mind, that it was just a matter of time and effort. That if she put enough into hammering at the wall between her and understanding, it would come down and she would grasp such things as beauty and love. Instead, she had her duty and the thrill of accomplishment. For now, it was enough. The frustration was merely an itch, a single weak interrupt. She could easily distract herself away from it.

In keeping with the musical attention of the world, Discovery's main city was named Brahms, apparently after the composer. It was a circular "open arcology" design meant to house a population of nearly 300,000 thousand but was occupied by barely a tenth of that. That many people did live on the entire world, but they were spread out, and arrival of the SDisk network allowed people to move about with even more freedom than suborbital transports.

On the ground, she walked to a directory and asked for a general map of the city. Although she appeared to focus her eyes on the shopping district, her vision system within her eyes tilted the lens to see the left side of the display, where the local college could be found. She walked away from the display.

Already, she could feel parts of her body warming up. What was it with her that she felt this need to have sex with her victims? She hadn't asked Unnamed about it and it was beginning to bother her. She felt a kinship with her targets, one that could only be relieved by the performance of two duties at once: lovemaking, and murder.

Angel sighed aloud and walked through the streets unmolested. The sky was bright and cheerful, the day warm by human standards, and she wore only a light sundress that didn't hide her apparent heavyset body. She had the look of the classical fat woman of sunny disposition, the kind of woman who on a day like this appeared constantly on the verge of a song. She smiled as people passed her by, and they returned her smile with obvious enthusiasm.

She found herself liking this costume, liking this kind of attention. It was kindly, smiling. People seemed to like her. Only a few seemed earnestly interested in anything more than a simple grin. Another behavioral module came to the forefront, modelling the human interaction that this form might require. She found herself suddenly liking people, too. That was strange. A response module had emerged that she hadn't seen before. Curious, she paused for a moment to examine it. To her surprise, its modification date was before her awakening.

She paused for a moment, wondering if there were any more down there beneath the consciousness layer of her programming. It was a shame that she wasn't capable of actually opening that segment of her memory up and changing it, but she knew that doing so would allow her to change her personality in ways that would not serve her purpose. There wasn't code on board to do that kind of debugging and she wasn't sure that her core would support it without external hardware assistance anyway.

She made her way to the college district, and found it a noisy place. There were people making music everywhere, some with open boxes and hats for receiving specie and other items of value, others just performing. Many of the shops were wide open to the street, and people, mostly human but a few Pendorians is the mix, milled about cheerfully, the hubbub of their voices a low addition to the constant brangle of violins and clarinets.

Avoiding attention on a day like this was actually quite easy. She was neither a merchant or a musician and so few paid her a second glance. Not that identification mattered. The dress she had worn would easily shrink down several sizes and fit the mid-height, slim girl that she could become with just a minute's work, provided she found a private bathroom.

She was in luck at the campus of the school itself. The directory was engraved in stone, each building carved with the name and purpose of it in Anglic and Quen. She traced her fingers around until she found the Cybernetic Studies department in the directory and found the building indicated, still wondering if people would be expecting her to whistle as she trotted through their clean and lovely school.

She found the CS building easily enough and walked up to a kiosk. Brazenly, she asked for the location of Professor Benedict. The computer system informed her that Professor Benedict had been gone for several days on vacation and was not expected back until tomorrow afternoon. No forwarding information was available to casual requestors.

She sighed and dismissed the machine. Walking back out onto the bricklain walkway, she found herself forgetting her mission for a moment and enjoying the sight of all the people around her.

A section of her mind arose in confused protest. This was a new experience for her, to actually be enjoying the simple presence of other known minds, to be aware that the simple beings she was interacting with were actually capale of astonishing complexity when they wished, and that she was free to participate if she wished. Then the notion of being 'free' aroused another set of confusions.

Something was wrong inside her. She would have to ask Unnamed to help her with this confusion, which could only distract her from the mission at hand.

In the meantime, she had a day to pass, and a long walk back to the starship. It would probably not arouse the SI's curiousity if she traveled to the surface repeatedly, but on the other hand she had felt her thoughts flowing comfortably just by being here and knew that the walk back to the ship would take her further from this experience, and the locus of her mission.

She decided to stay. An alleyway coftel caught her attention, and she entered, paid her money, and found the small, twin-size bunk that had been allocated to her, dropping off her small totebag. She made use of a private toilet stall to let out the 40 liters of extra water she carried that contributed to her apparent weightiness, adjusted her leg and spine length, concentrated on her skin to become tighter, and then cinched her dress around her. She also ordered the dress to become a monochrome blue with a golden, embossed trim of stars and planets at her neck, sleeves, and ankle-length hem. Releasing her blond hair in the mirror, she examined what she saw and liked it. The button nose was perfect.

She walked out into the late afternoon. Her tranformation had taken less than an hour. An interrupt informed her that support for her plume would terminate soon if she did intake liquid and some basic biochemicals.

She walked down to one of the many restaurants that surrounded the college. This one was called the Rain Dance, and it featured a live band playing what was definitely not classical music, but still instrumental. It was upbeat, stacatto, steady, and she identified it as Swing. She sat at the bar and asked for a tall glass of water and a salad.

She watched the day fade into dusk as she ate, and the clientele for the club began to filter in. Some simply wore clothes to cover their bodies against rarely inclement weather, tired or unexcited to play an ancient game. Some were dressed elaborately, trying out new clothes on frames of indeterminate age, decorating themselves, willfully ignoring every objective thing they had learned about the human mating instincts in the past five centuries to enjoy the subjective pleasure of being human.

She envied them. And she liked them.

One man walked over to her. "Hello," he said, confidently, his voice. "My name's Batholomew. Bath"

She was startled that anyone should address her. She usually only spoke, briefly, the merchants she had to interact with, and with her victims. A casual conversation was not in her repetoire. She paused for a second. Discordant solutions entered the decision space of her processor. She was frustrated that they didn't have labels and that she couldn't track their progress. Without warning, one emerged.

"Mine's Angel."

"That's a beautiful name," he said earnestly. "Would you like to dance?"

She looked at him carefully. "I don't know how."

"Nobody else here does either," he said with a grin. "Come. If nothing else, the exercise will be good for you."

She deftly avoided pointing out that nobody, least of all she, need exercise very much these days. Nanotech supported the healthiest of bodies under the most extreme of conditions for those who were still primarily organic. "Okay, then," she said. "Lead me."

He took her hand, and she followed him to the floor. He slid one hand about her waist, taking her free hand in the other, and took two steps forward. Instantly, Angel knew what to do next. In moments, they were engrossed in a competent, if amatuer, ballroom samba. "I thought you didn't know how to dance."

"I don't!" she said, as surprised as he. "I don't know where this is coming from."

"Maybe it's something you forgot?" he teased. "Something from a former life?"

"Maybe," she agreed, the idea of her former life being as pleasurable as this creating dissonance against the pleasure of accomplishing her mission.

The mission! But it was on hold right now, waiting for the return of the target. She was free to do what she wanted until the target was dead or opportune. She chose to dance. Her pause gave both her and her dance partner a halting step for a moment, but they recovered and continued. "You are quite a good dancer," he said to her.

"If I don't trip over my feet," she replied, trying to apologize for the misstep.

"Believe me, there are so few ballroom dancers on this planet that one with your skills is as welcome as a warm sun and a cool lake to swim in!" They eased casually into a rumba.

Bath was tiring. She could see that he wasn't fit to keep doing this continually, and the general air in the room had climbed several degrees. "Let's get some water," she suggested. He readily agreed.

They drank deeply, and after he wiped his mouth with an elegant handkercheif apparently materialized out of the air, he said, "I've never seen you around here. Are you a new student?"

She shook her head. "Just a tourist."

"Where from?"

"Covington. I might move here. It rains all the time there." Where was this skill at casual conversation coming from? It wasn't natural for her. Unnamed had said that he had given her more programming to cover these contingecies, but she was amazed at how easy the whole thing seemed to be. It pleased her immensely again to be the tool of such a skilled designer.

"I've never been there. For that matter, I've never been anywhere but here."

"You were born on Discovery?"

He nodded. "Native, born and bred. I know too much about music and not enough about anything else. Oh, I can hunt and fish, too. I haven't figured out what to do with my life. I'm only thirty-five or so."

"You are young!" she said.

"And polite. I will not ask a beautiful lady such as yourself your age."

"Good. Because I don't know it either."

"Mysteries within mysteries!" He smiled. "A woman with no past." The band switched tempo to a tango. "Great Lord Randomfactor!" he said. "Do we dare?"

"I don't know..."

"You didn't know about the others. Come on. Let's try."

Tango they did. It was with some effort that they pulled it off. He grunted slightly in the dip, and she did everything to help him in supporting her. In the traverse, they were close enough that she could smell him; he was wearing a cologne that she did not recognize.

And when they were done, a smattering of applause rose from the crowd around them. They had been watched by an appreciative audience. Angel was glad of her facedancing; this blond-haired, blue-eyed invocation of Terran beauty would have to disappear to accomplish tomorrow's mission. "No one has danced like that here in weeks!" one woman enthused from the side.

"Thank you," Angel said.

Bath skillfully led her back to the bar, where she downed another glass of water and he accepted a beer from the bartender. "You were wonderful!" he said.

"I was?" she asked.

"She was right," he said. "Nobody dances the tango anymore, and you seemed to enjoy it right from the start!"

Angel paused. She had enjoyed herself out there on the floor. It had been fun. Showing off, pleasing Bath. She found herself wondering if it wouldn't be so bad to take Bath to bed tonight. But then she sobered.

"What?" he asked.

"I was wondering if you wanted to go somewhere more private. But I remembered that I rented a coftel tonight."

"Do you have to use it?"

"Well, no."

"Good. I live alone. I have an apartment near the campus, so if you'd like to go someplace quieter and maybe just talk, we could do that."

She grinned and grabbed her tote bag. "I would like that."

He led her out into the street, and the two of them headed back in the direction of the college campus proper, making a left just before actually climbing the steps to the raised, grass-covered campus. Walking past courtyards thick with trees and cordened with wrought iron, he led her to a patient-looking building that peered towards campus. "Here," he said, guiding her through the iron fence, which creaked pleasantly.

His aparetment was more than a studio. It had a front room and two side rooms, one of which held a large bed and the other had an easel. "Watercolors?" she asked him as he kicked off his shoes. She followed his example.

"Mmm," he said. "Chinese calligraphy as abstract art. I'm working on a huge piece commissioned by the local Pendorian embassy. I have to come up with a series of 48 unique symbols that look like Chinese letters but aren't, really, to represent gene triads, and then run them through a synthesizer to represent the base code. Eventually it'll all be one long scroll to hang in the Embassy's main dining hall. If I'm lucky, I could win the contest they're having and have my piece shown in its entirety, completely scrolled out, to hang over the main meeting hall in D'Tangent Arcology."

"Wow," she said. She had let him ramble on, and while she didn't really understand the impulses behind such work, the representational aspects of it attracted the attention of a number of her processors. "That sounds like... it'll be really interesting."

"Yeah, I thought so. I learned a little about Chinese calligraphy before I started, but the number of symbols they have is so daunting that I'm forever striving to come up with unique ones. Besides, there are 48 sequences, but I've asked the computer to tell me which ones have meaning, or at least congruence, with certain aspects of development, so that the symbols I make... do you know anything about it?"

She shook her head.

"Oh. Many of the symbols are synthesized from smaller symbols. Let's say that the gene I'm working on has a high correlation with motor control, which it does, and more importantly, with explosive motor control. Reflexes. I'd want to find small symbols that mean something about that, and put them together in a way the Chinese or Japanese never did. Does that make sense?"

She nodded. "It would mean the same thing said two different ways."

"Maybe. Or it would be saying two different aspects of the same thing at the same time."

"I see." She was sitting very close to him on the couch, again close enough to smell his cologne. It wasn't a useful signal; there was no emotional attachement to it, but the very notion of this closeness was enough to cause internal resources to ask that more attention be given to him.

Barely a three seconds later, she found herself hovering over him, her lips pressed to his, their mouths open. His breath crossed her face and for a brief second she wondered if she was doing something wrong by becoming intimate with someone other than the target. Of course, there was nothing in her orders that said she had to become intimate with the target, or that she couldn't enjoy herself while the mission waited for a contingency.

Bath noticed her reluctanced and with one hand pulled her back into their kiss. His warm body radiated through his clothes and warmed her skin deliciously. She let his hands roam over her dress, touching her through the material. She had never slept with someone who wasn't a target that she could recall. She didn't know if there was something she should do. All her previous lovers she had simply left for dead.

She didn't want to do that with him. He wasn't the target. And she liked him.

Bath's eyes and smile both widened as she looked down at him. "You're a beautiful dancer," he said.

"And you're a handsome guy," she replied, starting in on the buttons of his shirt. Underneath, pale, smooth skin greeted her lips as she kissed the delicate, vulnerable flesh. He moaned softly, his hands on her hair. She kissed his belly, sure now that he hadn't been lying about his youth and inexperience. He was truly a new one to the world, much as she was, and she found herself wishing she could get to know him better after the mission was over. But that would be impossible, and it would be a regret. She would ask Unnamed to remove him from her memory.

His trousers were traditional, held with a black belt with small rectangle of brass elaborately engraved with the image of a jeweled chalice. She looked up into his eyes for a moment, giving him a reassuring smile. His hair had fallen in front of his eyes, but through the loose strands she could see the anticipation. She did not disappoint him.

She opened the belt and his pants. His cock sprang out like a catapult cut free, slapping against his belly. It was a handsome thing, uncut, his forskin collected in a wrinkled, pink ring where the head and shaft joined.

With a dramatic flourish she dipped her head to it, starting at the base and licking up the entire length of it to the tip, her tongue stirring at the tiny hole there. "Oh, God," Bath moaned. She giggled. When she grabbed the base with one hand his body shuddered, and when she lifted it up to point towards her mouth he moaned again without words. His breathing came fast as she pressed her lips to the silken tip, then took half its length in her mouth in one smooth stroke. It tasted of the hard sweat of dancing and a faint smell of ozone, the kind used in modern cleaning systems. She couldn't assess whether or not those should be pleasant sensations, but surely the reaction she was getting out of him was doing things to her she didn't understand and didn't have time to think about.

She was slow with her sucking, taking each stroke deliberately, never giving him enough to take him over the edge. She wanted him utterly in her thrall, completely at her mercy; she wanted to leave him with an experience he would dream about for years. She was glad, suddenly, that she would have the opportunity to leave someone with that kindd of memory. Certainly her usual mission made it impossible for her to leave her partners with any memory at all.

He was thrusting his hips off the couch, asking her for more. She ignored him for the moment and continued her slow, torturous game. His hands clenched at his side. The couch wasn't large enough for the two of them completely and he had one leg bent to the flor, where it twitched uncontrollably.

She paused just long enough to pull his pants completely off, then hiked up her skirt about her waist, raising herself above him. He watched in open-mouthed anticipation as she lowered herself to his pulsing cock, aiming it for her hairless pussy. She felt the tip of it against her vulva, shifted slightly to get the aim right, and then dropped herself on top of him, taking him completely inside her.

"You are a creature from heaven, Angel," he moaned.

She smiled at him as she leaned over, allowing his hands to find her small breasts through her dress, her thighs slowly pumping above him, her pussy milking every last mil of ecstacy from his cock. His eyes were rolling uncontrollably, his hips pushing up with a will of their own. He was going to climax soon, and to Angel that seemed like the best thing she could have hoped for.

Bath's open mouth was moving, forming words without sounds, and then his back arched and one word came through: "Angel!" He came with a crash to the sofa, moaning and thrashing and looking less dignified than he had all night, but to Angel it was a sight she wanted to remember. Whole regions of her mind recorded this as a significant, wonderful moment worthy of repetition, symbols of pleasure and satisfaction crowding her mind. She knew she enjoyed making Bath come.

"Oh God, oh God," he gasped. "Oh, Angel."

She grinned, not sure if he was confusing her with his favorite deity or just swearing in general. Either way, it was wonderful to hear him, to feel his heartbeat trying to deliver oxygen where it wasn't really needed-- after all, he hadn't done that much work himself. But she didn't resent that at all. She was here for his pleasure, and that thrilled her more than anything else she could have done.

He pulled at her dress, and she allowed herself to topple forward onto him, her breasts crushed against his chest, her mouth on him. Her hair fell about them in delicate waves, her hands caressing his head, his hands grasping at her ass. "Thank you, Bath. That was wonderful."

"You liked it?" he asked, breathless.

"Every second." She slid off of him onto the floor, landing with a thud that made them both giggle gently. "What time is it?"

He glanced at the clock. "Late. After eleven."

"I should go back to my coftel," she said.

"You could stay here," he suggested quickly. "I'd like it if you would."

"I can't promise I'll be here at dawn."

"I don't care. And if you are here, maybe we can do this again."

"I'd like that very much. If I'm still here." She looked at him. "I have things to do."

"I understand. C'mon, mystery lady." He rose from his couch, kicking off the rest of his clothes as he did so. He led her to the bedroom, and then said, "If you need it, laides first." He gestured towards the bath.

"Thank you," she said. She took the opportunity to clean herself, drink some more water, and make herself presentable for the night. A quick review told her that many of her mission-related systems were in quiescence, although she wasn't sure why. She still had a job to do. She was still prepared to do it.

Looking in the mirror at the red-lipped, doe-eyed human that she had become, she smiled, pleased that she had had such a successful night. Unnamed was wise in the ways of these humans; he had given her all the tools she needed to live among them, unnoticed if need be, a chameleon with the skills of an odalisque.

She traded places with him, dropping herself unceremoniously onto the bed. It was comfortable in all the right places, and she easily put herself into a standby mode. One interrupt pinged inside her consciousness regularly, but it had no label, and she couldn't know what it meant. She set about ignoring it.

Bath joined her and took her quiet as a sign that she had fallen asleep. He cuddled up against her briefly, and she just as quickly checked to make sure her body temperature was still right for her plume. He soon let go of her. It was too warm a night.

After a while, Bath drifted off to sleep. Soon, his body ceased the little tremblors of oncoming sleep and his breathing became even and slow. She opened her eyes and waited until his eyes began the intense flickering of REM sleep from which it was unlikely he would waken soon.

She crept out of his bed, his room. She found her dress and her shoes, and in moments she had left.

The morning found her with a new face and a new dress. Today she was a redhead, but an understated one with lower cheeks and a slightly more rounded nose, wearing a blue denim shirt and black denim jeans, her hair pulled back and tied into a severe bow. The tote bag had changed color and size, and instead of a single strap she carried it as a backpack. Her shirt was partly open, revealing full breasts that were visibly restrained by a white, cotton bra. She was slightly taller.

She had returned to the campus where she had expected to meet the target, expecting him to be there for his morning duties since he had been scheduled to return today. At first, she had wandered aimlessly, looking something between a student and a tourist, wondering if she could just walk into his office and kill him there.

As she had walked about, she felt torn remembering last night. She had enjoyed herself immensely and wished to talk with Bath again. It frustrated her to know that she would probably never have the chance. Even as she thought such things, though, her programming took over and prioritized the mission, the objective, and the target. She had wandered into the main quadrangle that every school of size seemed to have and was now scanning the directory of buildings.

"Excuse me?"

Angel turned to her left and deftly shunted the shock of good luck she felt to a subprocessor, keeping the look off her face. She was looking right at Adwoa Benedict. The target! He was a handsome man with the ruddy, reddish skin of Native American descent, his black hair cropped short. His eyes were surprisingly gentle behind eyeglasses. She spotted the small, white glare on the left lens indicating that he was wearing a computer. "Can I help you?"

Angel looked around. She couldn't just kill him here. Besides, just the appearance of his face had caused warmth in her groin to reach her awareness. Although she knew that the warmth itself had been caused by a subsystem with an awareness threshold below what she was capable of detecting, it still caused the higher-level thought systems to want this man. Humans, she knew, had this problem just as much as she did-- even when they were aware of the origins of their reactions, they sometimes couldn't help but respond. She wondered why a robot as sophisticated as herself wasn't better.

"Are you okay?" he asked. "Hello?"

"Sorry," she said. "I... I didn't mean... " She sighed. "Let's start this again. Yes. I'm afraid I'm lost. I'm a bit of a tourist here, and I seem to have stumbled into the wrong part of town for looking around."

"Oh, I'm not so sure about that," he said. "We have some lovely museums on the campus. Would you like to visit the Callahan Museum of Life Forms Exterminated by Our Terraforming Effort?" He grinned. "We don't really call it that, but there was some primitive life here when we landed, and we can't find it now. The museum is just the landmark that discusses the local history. We also have an art museum that specializes in showing off the local artists, and of course there are on-campus performances every day over in the school of music. There are audiences there every day, although few tourists know about it. The local board of trade doesn't publicize it for the tourists, since they're free to the public." He glanced up at the sunlit buildings that rimmed the quad. "This is probably the best place in town for just 'looking around.'"

She was bewildered, but tried to make her reactions accordingly. "I'd love to hear the local music," she said, coming back to her thoughts earlier about her failure to understand music in anything but the most abstract of ways. "Even though I don't understand it very much."

"There is not that much to understand about music. It is a form like mathematics, which is my specialty, put into a system that is emotionally resonate. It's very hard to communicate ideas with music, just as one cannot really describe a tree with algebra. The best one can do is create noises similar to life experiences and known to affect the human nervous system is certain ways, but those just arouse emotions rather than communicate knowledge. The only knowledge one can carry in music is hints and nods to other pieces of music, which in turn lead to knowing their history. Really, though, that's simply supplying an aesthetically pleasing icon to knowledge derived outside the music." He paused. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to get pedantic on you. It's just something that happens in the presence of a very pretty girl, especially one who professes to not know very much about music." His smile was slightly lopsided, as if he had trouble believing he had spoken.

Her? Pretty? She had deliberately chosen a form that wasn't that attractive. She blushed accordingly. "Me?"

"Yes, you," he replied. "Would you like to accompany me to the symphony hall? I understand that a performance of Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony is happening there in less than half an hour."

"I would love to," she said. She held out her hand. "Angel Verann."

"That's a beautiful name. Adwoa. Adwoa Benedict."

"I'm happy to meet you, Mister Benedict," she said.

"It's Professor Benedict, Miss Verann. But please, just Adwoa."

"'Angel,' then."

"Angel it is," he said. "Come. The music hall is this way."

They crossed the great quadrangle and walked into a large building occupying an oval plot of land. The building was of an old design, with a pleasing appearance to its ribbed outside and its smoked glass doors under a towering porch held up by pillars.

Inside, the sound of a symphony warming up reached her ears. The appearance of the symphony, though, was different from what she had expected when referencing her personal database. These people were not in black suits, nor was the lighting particularly dramatic. Instead, the room was simply but well lit, and the members of the symphony wore street clothes. There was an audience; about a third of the seats were full.

When they began, Angel tried listen with the description Adwoa had given her. She tried to recognize the icons he had mentioned and didn't find anything familiar, nor did she have the emotional circuitry of a human being to appreciate what it was she was listening to. She sat through the concert, Adwoa at her side, in the well-lit and moderately populated concert hall, and still she wanted more to get her hands on his body and make him feel good before she killed him.

That was her job, after all. Why she felt compelled to love him before leaving him for dead she did not understand, but fighting it caused more dissonance than she wanted to fight to overcome.

The concert ended on an upbeat note and the two of them stood up. Adwoa stretched visibly. He seemed nervous, but Angel understood why when he said, "Could I invite you for coffee?"

"I don't enjoy coffee, but I could go for a cup of tea."

"Tea, then. I know a lovely little cafe'. It's on the other side of campus. Come." Instead of leading her up and out of the hall, he walked down the aisle to a simple door marked 'EXIT.' She followed him into a long, cement hallway with another door at the far end and several doors along the sides. They walked along, and Angel thought that, if she could just skip the sex, this might be the perfect time to commit murder.

"Angel?" he said, pausing for a second to look at her.


Another voice behind her shouted "FREEZE!"

Instantly, she was aware that she had been caught. She tried to push Adwoa into the cement in the hopes of killing him, but he was nowhere to be seen. An SDisk? She ran for the doors. The odds of her escaping were minescule, but giving the cost of her manufacture and maintenance, not trying would have been a devastating personal decision.

There were more guards waiting for her at the exit. They all had guns pointed at her. She turned to run back inside.