Bunnies with Batteries

Anar, Narquel 20, 01338

One of Bambi peeled back the outer skin of the massive, powered-down robot on the workbench. Another of her said, “This isn’t really my area of expertise.”

“I know,” said Mr. Karsen. It was always “Mr. Karsen” when addressing him directly. “But your ship was the best one we could hire on our timetable, and you came highly recommended. Your associate did not seem quite so avid to assist?”

Bambi appreciated Karsen. He was candid and cosmo enough to recognize that talking to one of Bambi’s bodies was sufficient. On the other hand he didn’t seem the sort to have a lot of friends. On the third hand (and she had six), Bambi didn’t easily make a lot of friends. “Avix is… having a hard time of this. He’s a Katckin. When you find the body of your creator dead and frozen in an abandoned space station lying in the arms of this—” She gestured toward the robot. “I can’t imagine anyone having an easy time of it. Could you?”

“One would suppose not. But I take it you do have this problem in hand?” Karsen gestured toward the two Bambis at the table, past the Bambi he was speaking to.

“I’ve never been happy with the whole Purpose thing, but that’s your business. I’m just an engineer, and power supplies are easy.” The body lying face-down on her workbench was unlike any she’d ever seen in the Corridor. It lay wrapped in a medical thermal regulation suit sized for the largest humanoids, its back cut open along the rib-cage. Under the chemosynthetic flesh and siliceramic shielding she found the power supply hatch, pulled out the exhausted power supply, and quickly transferred it to a lead-lined box. She handed herself the replacement she’d built, a standard 300-years battery much smaller than the centuries-old one she’d just removed. She’d had to build a properly weighted cage with titanium-sealed gold shot to give it exactly the right mass and center of gravity as the original, and was proud of the work. A light on the side of the power cell blinked to indicate a good connection. “Done.”

“Excellent.”

Bambi closed the hatch, lay back the skin, and applied quick-seal before putting down a pair of eight-legged knitters to finish the job. The creepy, white-carapaced robot spiders roamed over the wound (Bambi couldn’t think of it any other way), slowly closing the robot’s skin and smoothing out the entry site until the work was invisible to her unenhanced eyes. “I wonder if we should have left a scar.”

“Why?” Karsen said.

“Given what they look like.” Bambi indicated the body.

“We do not alter another sentient being without their permission.”

“I didn’t say I would do it. It’s just… look at them.” Karsen quirked an eyebrow at her. “What?”

“You said ‘them’ twice now. When you first brought them on board, you repeatedly said ‘it.’“

“You called them ‘the subject,’” Bambi said, gesturing toward the table with her body closest to it. “When we found them, they were frozen solid. They were as dead as the moon. Bodies are often called ‘it,’ aren’t they?”

“I suppose that is true.” He paused. “You also referred to the body of Phoebe Calahoni as ‘it.’ But when you talk about Dr. Calahoni, you say ‘her.’ Perhaps we use language that way to put distance between our memories of the living person, and the reality of the corpse before us. But they aren’t dead.” He walked over to the workbench. “You said the power plant was active?”

“Yep. All yours.”

“Then let us hope this is worth the price we paid for it.” He laid a small glass box on the robot’s back. A screen came to life. Numbers scrolled down the front and one set glowed faintly. Buttons appeared. He pressed one.

A few moments later a voice, deep but lilted with feminine grace, spoke. “I am awake? Where am I?”

“You are. I am Mr. Karsen of the Relic Robot Recovery Foundation, and this is Engineer Bambi Fendoza.”

“Hello,” Bambi said, nervously.

“You’re on board the Terran Medium Recovery Tender Loving Care, under the command of Captain MacGregor, currently under hire by the Robot Recovery Foundation to find you.”

“You… You didn’t do this to Phoebe, did you? You didn’t wake her?” The robot moved its arms, struggling to rise.

“No, no,” Karsen said softly. “No, it’s okay. We weren’t here for her. We’ve left her body inside the station where we found you. We did tie it down. I hope that’s okay.” Bambi smiled as Karsen’s perfectly modulated and unabridged vocabulary disappeared, replaced with a skilled beside manner.

“Yeah. Yeah, that’s okay.”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t want to upset you. What’s your name?”

“Mariya.”

“Mariya,” Karsen repeated. “You’re probably wondering why I asked them to restore your power. The RRF has rules about that. We need to get a recording or a signed statement that says you wanted to be turned off.”

Bambi’s bodies all stood up straight, her whiskers quivering. After a minute passed Karsen said, “Did you?”

“Did I what?”

“Did you want to be turned off?”

“No. But there was nobody to replace my power pack.”

“I know, and I’m sorry. If you don’t want to be turned off, do you know what you do want to do?”

“What can I do?”

“Well,” Karsen said slowly, holding up a hand. “That’s a very good question. You were Phoebe Calahoni’s last companion, so you have access to her estate. You are a companion robot, you might find someone else to be a companion to. At the very least, you could come back to the RRF with me and we could see if we could find something for you.”

Mariya was silent for a moment, then said, “All right. Can I get up?”

“Of course.”

The huge body, which probably outweighed all three of Bambi’s, pushed upward, rolled to one side, and righted. Bambi felt a frisson of something not entirely like fear as Mariya sat up on.

Mariya wasn’t based on any species known in the Corridor. They were enormous, at least as tall as an Uncia or Ursus, but broader and heavier. Through the black neoprene thermal suit Bambi could see Mariya’s muscles bulge and bunch with their movements. But it was the face that truly stopped her.

Mariya’s face was halfway to an animal, and not in the gentle way that the various genetically engineered descendants of Earth’s species had been designed. The face was wide with a cartilaginous ridge across a flattened nose, broad eyebrows that shielded large, black eyes, and most obvious of all, a heavy lower jaw embedded with massive tusks that protruded out from the mouth and lapped the upper lip. Their skin was a greyish-brown that would have looked more appropriate as tree bark than flesh. Thick, black hair was flattened against the skull in a sodden unkempt mass. “Can I take this off?” Mariya asked.

Karsen looked at Bambi. Bambi said, “Of course. It was only to bring you back to… temperature.” She hadn’t been sure what to put in the gap. “Room,” “operational,” and “body” had all seemed appropriate. Mariya stripped the suit, exposing the rest of their body. They stood, carefully, and pushed it off their legs.

“You appear to be fully mobile,” Karsen said. “We’ll have more to talk about, but for now, I’ll leave you with Bambi. If you have any problems with your body, let her know.”

“All right.” Karsen bowed to Mariya and Bambi, then left through the main engineering hatchway.

“Why don’t you sit down and let me run a scan?” Mariya nodded and sat back down on the workbench. “Is it he, she, or something else?”

“Oh, Phoebe said I was a ‘she.’ And Phoebe was always right.”

“Right.” Robot contracteds, as Bambi had heard them called, always tended to the odd and anti-social, or so went common wisdom. Looking at Mariya, Bambi had to agree. A contractor ordered the manufacture of a person-shaped object who would meet the desires they could never ask of an ordinary person. When Phoebe Calahoni had gone off to her hermitage, she’d brought along a person who would never get lonely, never get bored, and who would do whatever it was she wanted.

Mariya’s body may have consistently synced with her pronoun, but the penis between her legs told Bambi clearly at least one thing Phoebe Calahoni had wanted. The rest of Mariya was equally massive, a humanoid tank in the flesh, but surprisingly soft, even chubby. Her belly folded on itself in two or three discernible rolls of fat. Her breasts were large and gravity dragged them down, but they looked curiously proportionate. Bambi had to remind herself that Mariya was a robot and those probably didn’t ache as much as they looked like they might.

Which all brought Bambi to the present moment: What kind of person had Phoebe Calahoni been, that her companion robot was this massive, walking virch ogre made in synthetic flesh and steel?

Bambi busied herself to make sure there were no anomalies in Mariya’s body, no unexplained fluid flows or anomalous radiations of heat or power. “Who are you?” Mariya said, pointing to another of Bambi.

“Oh.” Bambi took a quick survey with all her eyes to make sure her proprioception of all her bodies’ locations were accurate. “I’m all Bambi. I have three bodies. But there’s just one of me in here.”

“Oh. That’s very nice.” Mariya crossed her arms across her chest, rubbing her arms. “I feel cold.”

Bambi smiled. “Sorry. I’m done. You look healthy. Mac has already given you a room, so why don’t we go there and get you some clothes?”

“Okay.”


With Mariya’s consent, The Loving Care returned to hyperspace and headed back to Discovery, which gave Bambi not much to do. Starships are mostly self-maintaining entities and engineers are only called upon when something so terribly dire happens the ship’s AI needs an extra pair of hands and an extra brain. Bambi provided three of each.

She sat in the ship’s lounge and watched the projection of the stars sliding by on the “windows.” Hyperspace didn’t have a visual presentation ordinary brains could interpret, but starships could pretend they knew where they were with some probability and could draw a representative screensaver. She briefly considered asking why it was called a screensaver, but decided the mystery could wait.

“There you are.” Mariya’s voice couldn’t be mistaken for anyone else among the minuscule crew on board. “I’ve been looking for you.”

“Me? Why?” She turned to look at Mariya and froze. Mariya had asked the ship to make her some proper clothes, and the sleeveless sundress in the colors of sunlight and sky blue impressed itself on Bambi’s brain. Mariya’s prodigious breasts hung the dress out over her soft belly, but when she moved the dress seemed to conform and show that underneath it all Mariya was soft and gentle, which underscored the hefty musculature of her arms which bunched and bulged with every movement, the blunt fingers of hands twice as large as Bambi’s in all dimensions. The sundress stopped a few centimeters from the floor, and Mariya’s equally powerful feet were shod only in sandals strapped in the same yellow color that dominated the dress.

“There’s something funny about my power pack.”

“Funny?” Bambi said.

“It says it has 300 years left. That’s not right.”

Bambi grinned. “Yes it is. I gave you an upgrade. The power pack you had was just a factory install, there were so many better options available back then. It’s not just three hundred years. Check the API. You can bank it. It’ll last for almost ten times as long before its fuel breaks down on its own, and you’ll be able to set timers on it to wake you up at intervals, so you can see if anything’s changed.”

“Oh. That’s good.”

“So, it’s awake.” Even with three pairs of eyes Bambi hadn’t seen Avix come into the lounge. The contemptuous tone of his voice made Bambi’s whiskers twitch.

“Yes, she’s awake,” Bambi said. “Mariya, meet Avix, the other engineer on board.”

“Hello,” Mariya said.

“Why did we have to reactivate it here?” Avix said, ignoring Mariya’s greeting. “Why couldn’t we have waited until we got back to Discovery, let the RRF do it?”

“Because we were hired to test her viability before leaving orbit. If Mariya wanted to stay powered down with her companion, that was her choice, Avix.”

“‘Companion,’” he snorted. “I thought you didn’t like companion machines.”

“I don’t like the idea of the companion system,” Bambi said. “But the companion system isn’t one person. I like people. I like Mariya.”

That is a person?” Avix said.

“I am a person,” Mariya said, her face puzzled. “Phoebe always said I was, and that’s all that mattered.” Her brows pinched down. “I miss Phoebe.”

“Don’t talk about her!” Avix said. “You don’t get to talk about her that way.”

“All I said was…”

“I don’t care what you said,” Avix said. “It’s not about what you said or will say. Her story shouldn’t end with, with… this!” He gestured up and down the length of Mariya’s outlandish body. “This isn’t what we want for Phoebe. Don’t you understand? It can’t end with, ‘And she died in the arms of a sex robot designed to look like some virch monster.”

“But that’s what happened,” Mariya said.

“It shouldn’t have,” Avix said. “That’s my point. It’s not right!”

“Why isn’t it right? It’s what happened.”

“You’re not very bright, are you?”

“Avix!” Bambi said with all three voices.

“No, that’s true,” Mariya said. “I’m not very smart. Phoebe didn’t want a smart companion. She said she had too many of those.” Mariya grinned suddenly, pulling her lower lip around those tusks. “She said she wanted someone she could trust. She wanted me so she could leave behind all the thinking.”

“Don’t say that!”

“But it’s the truth,” Mariya said. “It’s what happened.”

“Avix,” said a voice deeper than even Mariya’s. Bambi had seen Captain MacGregor enter from the door leading to the command deck. He was also taller than Mariya, but Ursus were the largest, heaviest humanoids Pendor had ever produced. “Out. Find somewhere else to be. And stay away from Mariya for the rest of the trip. Is that understood?”

Avix glared at him, then nodded. “What was that?” Mac said.

“Understood. Yes, sir.”

“Good. Get.” Mac tilted his head, and Avix fled.

Mac approached Mariya. “I didn’t realize when I spoke to you earlier how upset he was going to be. I should have. I’m sorry.”

Mariya nodded. Her lower lip quivered. “Maybe he’s right.”

“No!” Bambi said.

“Phoebe said, just once, that she felt bad because she knew when she passed I would be left alone. She said the world wouldn’t understand me.”

“There’s nothing to understand,” Bambi said. “The world still doesn’t understand me and other choruses either. But that doesn’t matter. We’re real people, just like everyone else. You and me. You’re a little, um…” She gestured up and down Mariya’s body, and as she did her eyes took in the massive body and she realized she liked what she was seeing. “Outrageous, I guess. But look at me!” Her three bodies gestured toward one another. “Once you take in what I am, nothing looks out of place.” She glared at the door through which Avix had retreated.

“But if the Katckin don’t like me....”

“What can they do? Lie about who you are? About who Phoebe Calahoni was? Katckin worship Calahoni and I don’t know why. I don’t worship Shardik, or Tylia, or anyone else at Alpha. Mac and I don’t make prayers to the Moon of Pandora.”

MacGregor snorted. “For all the good it would do.”

Mariya nodded and sat down. She grabbed a napkin from the center of the table and used it to wipe her eyes. “Sorry. Sorry. I’m not good with… lots of complicated thoughts. Or complicated people.”

“Then you ought to get along with Bambi just fine. She’s not complicated at all.”

“Mac!” Bambi mock-glared at him, then giggled.

“You’re really not,” he said. “You’re easy-going, calm, and go-along most of the time. You’re good at your job, but I doubt you want to be captain of your own can someday.” Bambi shook her head. “There you go.”

“A chorus is hardly ‘not-complicated.’“

“It’s who you are,” Mariya said. “That’s not complicated.”

“It was for me,” Bambi said. “Multiple levels of willpower, a sliding scale of identity and point of view, a capability to bifurcate at will, conscious decisions about how I’ll handle my emotional proprioception, those were complicated, believe me!”

“They were hard,” MacGregor said. “But you didn’t really think them through, did you? You just knew it was what you wanted to be, and then you did it, knowing that it would be hard. Not ‘complicated,’ hard.”

“I guess that’s true,” Bambi said.

“Being a starship captain, even of a tug like this, means knowing the difference.” He grinned, and Bambi laughed. “Anyway, we’re three weeks out from Discovery. I’ll order Avix to stay away from you, Mariya. I’m sorry to say we’re not much of a luxury liner.”

“I will be okay, Captain MacGregor,” Mariya said.

“Just ‘Mac,’ okay?”

“Mac, okay,” Mariya said.

MacGregor grinned at her. “Is there anything else we can do? We’ve managed a rescue or two in our time and always treated our passengers pretty well.” He gave one of Bambi a very quick glance before regarding Mariya again.

“No, I think I’m okay now.” Mariya said. “Thank you.”

“Good,” he said. “If you’ll excuse me.” He gave a vague hand-sign that might have been a salute or a wave, then headed out.

“Why did he look at you?” Mariya said.

“When?”

“When he said you treated your passengers well.”

“Oh,” Bambi said, waving her hand. “I… did something. A long time ago. Under a different captain, but everyone knows the story.”

“I don’t. Will you tell me?”

Bambi looked at her, curiously. That was an interesting way of wording the question. “I suppose I could. It’s not like a secret or anything. Back when Nassinya was captain, we rescued the Shardiks. The whole family, Ken included. He’d had a lucky mechanical failure. Well, you’re unlucky to have any failure, but they were lucky in that it didn’t kill them all. My ship was the first one on the scene, and we had to tow his family’s starship back to port. The failure had cascaded to the point where life support was getting iffy, so we had all six of them on board. I…” Bambi felt her fur prickle in embarrassment. “Ken and I ended up in bed together. It’s not… I mean, it wasn’t like that. I mean, it was. But I was the first chorus he’d ever met and I wanted to reassure him that I was still a real person, that I could still fall in love and be sexy and everything he hoped the universe would keep.” She giggled. “That’s the way he said it. I sometimes wonder if he’s somehow secretly deeply religious in some way.”

Mariya nodded, but Bambi had the impression that not a lot of that had made sense to her. Mariya instead looked at her, and Bambi’s sensitive eyes easily picked out the blush on her expression. In a very quiet voice, Mariya said, “Bambi, would you… Would you like to do that with me?”

“I…” Bambi hesitated. “Why?”

“I’m lonely,” Mariya said. “It’s what I was made to do. I haven’t been able to do it with someone in a long time. For the last ten years Phoebe was too fragile and all I could do then was cuddle. Which I’m really good at!” Bambi could imagine, with a body that big and soft. “But I always wanted more. Which is wrong. Companions shouldn’t want what their contractors don’t want them to want.”

Bambi looked at her, one head cocked to one side, whiskers twitching, all three minds coursing down paths that considered the ramifications and challenges. “Maybe Phoebe wanted you to keep wanting it. To remind her of what was great about both of you. But Mariya, I don’t like the companion system. I don’t want a companion.”

Mariya’s lower lip pouted slightly, more in thought than in dejection, which made those tusks seem even more prominent. It also made them seem cute. “I don’t want to be your companion, Bambi. I just want what I’m good at.” She tapped her two index fingers together in a nervous pattern. “I thought you said you like me.”

“I do!” Bambi said. “But every person is different, aren’t they?” She gestured among her three bodies. One of the nice things about her symbolware was that it kept the location of all her bodies very high in her proprioception. “I’m very different.”

“We can be different together!” Mariya said, her face smiling in a way that reached her eyes, making that feral face seem less frightening. Bambi giggled. From anyone else, that would have been a terrible pickup line. From Mariya, it was just an observation and maybe an attempt at a joke.

“Yes, I suppose we could be,” Bambi said. “But the other thing is that…” She sighed.

“What?”

Bambi looked around the lounge to make sure no one else had come in. There were seven members of the crew, not including Karsen or Mariya, and any one of them could have come in. “You said you weren’t very bright. That bothers me.”

“But I’m not very bright. That’s just true.”

“That bothers me. Avix is right about that. It doesn’t say nice things about Phoebe Calahoni.”

“Are smarter people happier?”

“No, not really.” She paused. “In fact, I think we’re less happy, most of the time, because we think about what could go wrong. We get anxiety.”

“Phoebe said the world needed smart people because they worried about the future. She was sad a lot because she was one of them. She didn’t want to be. Not all the time. That’s why she ordered me. Then she could just laugh and be silly and play.”

“But how will you… manage… with the rest of the universe? In her hermitage, Dr. Calahoni and you were alone.”

Mariya shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe Mr. Karsen’s group will find someone who needs me like Phoebe did.”

Bambi almost said, “It won’t be me,” but then she felt an odd jolt of regret if it wasn’t to be her. She could live with regret. Everyone had regrets. It was better to have forward-looking regrets than backward-looking ones. She looked at Mariya again, remembering the robot underneath, the steel framework she’d had her hands deep inside just days before. She’d known Mariya only a few hours, and she actually liked what she saw. So she simply said, “I’m game if you are.” She didn’t have to consult a clock to know what time it was. “Do you want to get together around seven evening time?”

“I’d like to make dinner for you. That means you’ll have to come to my room.”

Bambi blinked, but then she smiled. “That’s a challenge, you know.” She again gestured, and moved one of her other bodies close to the voice she was currently using. “There’s three of me.”

“I know. I’ll just make more.”

Bambi paused for a moment, then said, “And there you go. A list of my favorite foods, and things I don’t do well. Like fish.”

“That’s okay. Phoebe didn’t like fish either.”

“Then I’ll see you at seven.”


In the shower, Bambi’s memories had assured her that she’d been even more nervous when she’d romanced Kennet Shardik into bed, but the three butterfly swarms in her bellies were still intense. She didn’t romance people often these days.

The nice thing about having three of her is she could wash her own backs and zip up her own dresses. As she left her room she realized she would be leaving her bed behind. She smiled and thought that if tonight went well, maybe she’d have a chance to introduce Mariya to her bed. Then again, if tonight went too well, maybe not. She had to stop overthinking this.

She walked down the hallway, three black dresses with modest necklines swishing along. She giggled at the familiar idea that she looked a bit like a fashion show with multiple indistinguishable models traipsing down the runway, their bodies pared down to nothingness in order to show off the clothes. Bambi liked to keep her bodies lush and soft, and hoped that was appealing to Mariya.

She hoped it mattered. Suddenly it did matter to her, quite a bit. She palmed the door to Mariya’s cabin. “Who is it?”

“It’s Bambi. You’re expecting me, right?”

The door opened. Mariya stood there, smiling and looking downward. She still wore the same lovely sundress. Her eyes took in all three of Bambi’s bodies, and then she nodded. “Of course I am! But that’s what you’re supposed to say at the door, isn’t it? In case it’s someone else?”

“I guess it is. May I come in?”

“Yes, yes,” Mariya said. “Dinner’s almost ready. Come in, come in, would you please?”

Mariya’s cabin was modest, but she’d already found a tablecloth with floral designs and settings in cream and dark orange. The sundress still looked good on her. Bambi heard the ticking of the relays on the oven. The room smelled of garlic and tomatoes. A chime went off. “It’s ready. Come to the table, please.”

To Bambi’s surprise, Mariya had baked her favorite meal. “I wonder how you picked lasagna out of that list. I love lasagna more than almost anything else.” There was even a cucumber salad on the side, the slices thin and left to wilt slightly before being mixed with a rice vinegar and soy sauce dressing. There was nothing deficient about Mariya’s cooking skills. “It’s almost like you read my mind.”

“I don’t think I can read minds,” Mariya said slowly. “I just looked at your list and guessed.”

“Well, you guessed pretty well.” Mariya pulled out a chair for one of her bodies, and Bambi did the same for herself, before Mariya sat the third one down, then brought the glass baking dish to the table.

As she finished her food, taking a moment to ensure all three bodies had in fact eaten, Bambi leaned back with the glass of wine, a lightly chilled unfiltered sake, and regarded Mariya. For all the awkwardness of those tusks in that powerful jaw, she ate with care, cutting the pieces small and systematically, as if she didn’t know any other way. Bambi said, “Normally on a date like this I’d ask you questions about your past, but in your case I think I know. You were activated thirty years before your battery ran out, and you spent that time with Phoebe Calahoni as her companion.”

“That’s right,” Mariya said. A simple confirmation, neither encouraging Bambi to proceed or sarcastically reacting to the obviousness of her observation.

“Were you happy?”

“Of course!” Mariya grinned. “Were you happy when you woke up with three bodies?”

Bambi almost echoed Mariya, but thought better. “It was more like relief. Finally I was what I always thought I was. The way thoughts flowed through me, us, the way I could always think, hold, touch. There was a lot more to having three bodies than I had thought when I first dreamed of it, but all of that was worth it to be what I wanted to be.” She reached out and held hands across her bodies. She let her thoughts cycle from mind to mind, letting herself view Mariya from three angles, taking in her lumbering biceps exposed by the sleeveless dress, her massive breasts heaving against the slick fabric and settling over Mariya’s soft belly. She recalled the matted, oily mess she’d seen when she’d first unpacked Mariya’s body from the long-duration preservation suit. Now Mariya’s hair was clean, parted and falling in soft, black curls over her shoulders.

“Sorry,” she said. “I got lost there.” She let her own hands go, then with the body opposite Mariya reached across the table and offered them to her. “What I mean is that it just felt right. Like something I’d always been was suddenly allowed to be.”

“That’s very beautiful,” Mariya said. “So are you.”

Bambi felt her whiskers shiver in that blush it seemed only Lepines and Felinzi could have. It was better than not being able to express the kind of embarrassment that came from such a compliment. “Thank you,” she said softly.

“Do you want to…” Mariya hesitated as she tried to find the right wording. “Do you want to move on to the next thing?”

“I’d like that,” Bambi said, and again she felt something like relief. She smiled, both at Mariya and at her own absurdity.

She stood up, all three in a staggered pattern that she’d meticulously practiced. Most singletons had no experience with someone who had three truly coordinated bodies, and they assessed that unfamiliarity as vaguely threatening. Combined with social expectations, that sensation often translated into creepiness. The last thing Bambi wanted to be perceived as was creepy, so she practiced staggering her actions in a way that made it look like her bodies were taking visual cues from one another, rather than that they were all of one mind who knew what she wanted to do next.

Two of her took Mariya’s hands and helped the taller woman stand. “It’s your bedroom,” she said. “Lead the way.”

“I asked for a bigger bed. I hope that’s not rude.”

Bambi’s mind flickered on the word ‘rude.’ What she’d really meant was “presumptuous,” but Mariya and she had already agreed to dinner and probably more. “No, it’s very polite. I appreciate it when people plan ahead.”

“I read a lot,” Mariya said. “Books tell us we should always plan ahead, except about sex. Isn’t it weird that being ready for dinner is polite but being ready for sex is rude?”

“Maybe a lot of people don’t want to be ready for sex,” Bambi said. All three of her bodies laid a finger on her fuzzy cheek. “Ever?”

“Hmm?”

Bambi shook her head. “It’s nothing. I had a thought.”

“Phoebe would say that,” Mariya said. “She told me it was my job to prevent them. For a little while.”

Bambi smiled. “Let’s give that a try.” She still wasn’t sure entirely why she had agreed to this tryst. She was willing to try it, wanted the physical pleasure it would give, and appreciated both Mariya’s attempt to please her and Mariya’s honesty in what she wanted. She leaned the two bodies with which she held Mariya’s hands against the larger woman, giving both she and Mariya the first solid, physical contact they’d had since she had trundled that massive, deathly cold body out of Doctor Calahoni’s hermitage space station. “You’re so tall,” she said. “If I stood on my tiptoes, you could rest one breast on each of my heads.” One of her patted her head for emphasis.

“Do you want that?”

“No!” Bambi said, and giggled harder. “It was just another silly thought that popped into my head.”

“Come with me.” Mariya took one of her by the hand and led all of them into the bedroom. The bed was indeed large enough for all four of their bodies. It was also sufficiently low to the floor that when Mariya sat down on it, her head and Bambi’s were at the same height. Mariya had the lights already turned low. Mariya had chosen a deep, royal blue for her bed-sheets. “Let me help you stop having thoughts.” She reached out with her hands, wrapped them around one of Bambi’s arms with such confidence Bambi almost did stop thinking, then pulled the other woman close.

She smelled good was Bambi’s only thought before Mariya’s lips pressed against hers. Her kisses started tentative, delicate. Her hands weren’t. They held her in place like irons, and Bambi trusted that if she pulled away Mariya would immediately let her go. She leaned into the kiss instead, pressing back against the larger woman. She had other bodies. She swarmed Mariya, her four free hands touching and caressing. Mariya’s arms and legs felt as solid as the trees her skin resembled, but her skin was also smooth and warm.

Bambi’s bellies warmed and her hearts seemed to beat louder. She was committed now, and she hoped Mariya treated her well. They hadn’t negotiated anything at all but that didn’t really matter. This was supposed to be “just sex,” not some complicated thing. Like “just dinner.” Although for that she had given Mariya a list.

She leaned against Mariya, all three bodies suggesting they lay down onto the bed. Mariya took the hint easily and fell back, and Bambi’s bodies went with her, one on top. Mariya’s breasts and belly were soft, even fluffy, and Bambi felt like she was climbing a warm, living boulder. She’d felt this before, when climbing on top of a Han— She briefly recalled how lovely Kristianna had been— but it always seemed so strange, to have a partner so large she had to climb and hold onto.

Mariya’s breasts fell to her sides, yielding and floppy, and Bambi lay between them, her hands just above Mariya’s shoulders holding her up so she could kiss the other woman.

Even her mouth felt large, and those hard tusks brushed slick and wet against Bambi’s muzzle. Like most Pendorian designs, Bambi’s mouth was a little of everything, attenuated and over-muscled, to give her both a lepine look and the power to kiss. She liked kissing. Mariya’s mouth was especially kissable. She wasn’t even sure when the woman had had time to clean herself, but she definitely had, as that minty taste hadn’t come from dinner alone.

Mariya’s hands reached up and caressed Bambi’s back. She shivered, trying to remember to kiss Mariya. With three brains she ought to be able to do that! But those fingers on her back were entrancing, tickling her fur in ways Bambi hadn’t felt in far too long, and Bambi wiggled against Mariya’s body. Bambi wanted to give herself up to Mariya’s kindness, let herself be taken to the places her bodies wanted to go, but she was too self-conscious of her own need to participate. She strayed from Mariya’s mouth to kiss her neck, reached up for one of those large ears. Mariya sighed softly, then said, “Let me take care of you.”

“But…”

“You took care of me when you put my power cell back in. You said you liked me when Avix was being so mean.”

Bambi tried to relax against Mariya’s body. Her other bodies cuddled closer. Mariya’s hands caressed the length of her, touching her shoulders, down to the small of her back, over the curve of her butt. Bambi whimpered softly as Mariya’s hands stroked back and forth. If she’d tried to do that, her arms would have become tired quickly, but Mariya seemed capable of stroking her fur for hours. “You’re so soft,” Mariya’s voice rumbled, gentle yet pronounced.

“Benefits of a good body wash, I guess,” Bambi said. She kissed Mariya’s neck. The skin under her tongue tasted good, which surprised her a little. She’d never kissed a robot before, and she was already intimately familiar with the chemical makeup of that skin, and it wasn’t even close to the composition of living skin. Bambi was familiar with the skin of humans and the scales of llerkindi, and Mariya definitely tasted and felt of skin. “You feel good.”

“I’m happy.” Mariya’s fingers were flexing on her ass now, and the strength, the sheer power that Bambi knew Mariya was holding back excited her. She wiggled her ass back against Mariya’s fingers. “Do you want more?”

“Yes, please,” Bambi whispered.

Mariya rumbled. “You’re very polite.”

“Century Mama didn’t raise me to be rude,” Bambi said.

“She was a good mother,” Mariya said as her large fingers slipped down into the dell between Bambi’s thighs. Bambi became aware that was surprisingly wet down there, on all three of her bodies. She had been so busy listening to her anxieties, wondering how she was going to handle this strange creature who’d invited her into bed, that she hadn’t been paying attention to the way her own bodies were reacting. She relaxed further against Mariya’s body, letting the much larger woman’s bulk seduce her with its warmth, letting herself sink into desire.

Mariya’s fingers probed gently at the lips of her cunt, found the wetness. Bambi squirmed against Mariya as she felt those fingers slip together, testing the wetness. Mariya’s fingers slid down over her clit, sending sweet little bolts of sensation up Bambi’s spine. She knew she was breathing faster, all three of her, and she couldn’t help it. She didn’t want to help it. She wanted Mariya to know just how much the other woman was succeeding at turning her on. “Please, more.”

Mariya turned her hand gently and pushed a meaty thumb between Bambi’s nether lips, deep into her cunt, and pressed gently against the upper wall even as her fingers spread out into the liquid gullies between her outer and inner lips. Mariya’s hands were big, and it felt to Bambi as if her entire self was in Mariya’s grasp. The other woman held her and caressed her, the other hand over Bambi’s back, holding her down.

It was happening so fast and Bambi was so willing. It was almost more than she could bear. Mariya was giving her more sheer, physical pleasure than she’d felt in months. She wondered if it was possible to get addicted to it, if that was the real secret of robot companions. “Oh, fah, yes, yes, yes…” She spread her legs wide, draping them over Mariya’s thighs, pushed back against that hand. She rubbed her face against Mariya’s chest, wanting more. She crawled upward, pressing her muzzle against Mariya’s neck, kissing and licking and wanting to communicate as clearly as possible to the other woman what she really wanted. And what she really wanted was simply more. Much, much more.

It wasn’t just a thumb. It filled her, and she suddenly needed to be filled. She needed to feel. Her clit throbbed, her cunt ached. Her other bodies mirrored what she was going through, hands slid down, her bodies pressed against Mariya. She wasn’t sure if she wanted to smother Mariya in all of her. She hoped there was enough of her to pull as much out of Mariya as she could.

That thumb, that one thumb, began to thrust in and down of her wet cunt. Mariya started gently enough. Over long minutes her thrusts grew in strength. An organic probably couldn’t have sustained that kind of demanding motion with her arm and shoulder, would have worn out, but Mariya had no such limitations. Bambi whimpered, held on, wrapped her arms around the body under her, as wave after wave of pleasure rolled through her.

“Stop,” she gasped. “Stop.”

“Are you okay?”

“Yes! Yes! It’s just… I want something else.” She reached down underneath herself and found Mariya’s cock, semi-hard already against the other woman’s thigh. It was substantial but not absurd, and on Mariya it certainly looked proportional to the rest of her. Her hands caressed the head and Mariya’s body heaved upwards.

“Sorry,” Mariya said. “I’m… sensitive there.”

Mariya started taking her thumb out but Bambi whimpered. “Leave it. Just don’t… don’t move it so much.”

While the Bambi on Mariya’s chest relaxed against the massive woman’s skin, another moved down between her own legs. She loved being able to push her attention around, and now she saw the glistening wetness between her own legs and the thick pipe of flesh standing before it that was Mariya’s cock. It was still only semi-erect but it looked intimidating: a rising shaft of darker brown-grey skin, textured with thick, gnarled veins ending in a blunt, almost squared-off head, with very thin foreskin and a strangely large hole at the end. She was vaguely aware of the feel of Mariya’s body underneath hers, and the tableau of it all from her other body propped up her elbow, watching, but her attention was on Mariya now, and making Mariya happy.

She held it in her hand. She liked the feel of it, the way the skin gilded over whatever was underneath. She giggled and realized she didn’t know anything about anatomy to that degree, although she knew it wasn’t supposed to be a muscle. Nor did she understand what robots felt, how they were designed to feel.

Mariya seemed to enjoy feeling her attention. She thrust her hips up slightly as Bambi started to stroke her cock. Bambi leaned forward and tasted the skin of that beautiful head, felt the tiny, bumped texture, ran her little rabbit tongue along the edge and down along the thick, short crinkle of skin where the head and the shaft met. Mariya’s smell was perfumed and designed, and the musky, savory scent dug its way into all three of Bambi’s brains. She tried to open her mouth to actually suck on Mariya’s cock, but her muzzle just wasn’t that big. Like most Lepines, her muzzle was fairly narrow across the beam, and wish as she might she couldn’t open it enough to take even the head.

Bambi inhaled deeply, letting the heady musk collected between Mariya’s legs roll up into her head. She liked the way her own sex added to the smell, centimeters as it was from her face. She gave her other body a quick lick, letting that sensation roll through all of her, appreciating, watching from nearby, feeling her tongue, and tasting herself, before going back to attend to Mariya’s lovely cock.

Mariya’s body trembled under her attentions. Her hips shifted in a slow, steady cadence as Bambi used her mouth and hands to try and work magic, while her other hands idly stroked Mariya’s nipples and yet more hands moved to hold Mariya’s head in her lap and stroke that magnificent, fierce face. She touched Mariya’s tusks, her brains trying to reconcile the delicious confusion of hard teeth and fleshy cock and soft breasts. “Mariya,” she said. “Mariya.”

“Yes?” The other woman gasped.

“Would you fuck me?”

“I may?”

“Yes, please!”

Any of her bodies could have been the recipient of Mariya’s next gift. Bambi didn’t care. She’d asked with the body holding Mariya’s head in her lap, so that was the body she lay back invitingly. She shifted the others away from Mariya and arranged them instead around, eager to receive, letting all of her attention flow until she was looking up at Mariya, who was already crawling along the length of her third. Her other two bodies closed in, arousal spiked.

Mariya’s massive mouth kissed her belly, then her chest. She gently kissed one of Bambi’s nipples. Bambi moaned hard against that tongue doing delightful things, and Mariya giggled, delighted at the reaction she had gotten. Bambi looked up eagerly, opening her legs to let Mariya between them as the much larger creature took her place. “Ready?”

“Yes!”

Mariya guided her hard cock into Bambi’s waiting opening. She felt the blunt head push its way against her nether lips, parting and spreading her hole open. She felt the flesh stretch pleasantly around Mariya’s invasion, and then she felt the big woman’s weight press against her, those massive breasts draping against her shoulders.

She giggled.

Then Mariya moved inside her and she gasped. She’d always loved being fucked. Of all the sex acts she had enjoyed over the years, it had surprised, then disappointed, then finally pleased her to realize that this, the most straightforward and commonplace sex act of all, was her favorite. To just lie back and enjoy someone else’s appreciation of her bodies, of her sounds and smells and sights. Of her cunt wrapped around someone’s hungry cock. “Is it good?”

“It’s wonderful, Bambi. It is.” Mariya smiled down at her.

She grinned back. “It is wonderful.” She reached up and touched Mariya’s face, and the other woman kissed her hand, the palms where there was no fur, and she licked and nipped at the exposed skin there, and Bambi caressed Mariya’s breasts as the other woman thrust that beautiful cock inside her. It touched her deeply, and she felt it in her belly, felt the little impacts, the gentle hits as it worked deep inside her cunt, and Bambi sighed. “More.”

Mariya heard her, and her thrusting strengthened, each impact solid against Bambi’s body, the only one really paying attention, the whole of her will concentrated on Mariya, an her pleasure, on just enjoying this moment.

She felt filled, fulfilled for this moment, while Mariya fucked her. She held Mariya’s arm, touched her face, and from behind watched and touched Mariya’s thighs and ass, as she pushed back, partook of Mariya’s gifts, and let herself just be for a moment.

“I’m close,” Mariya whispered. “Is that good?”

“Oh, yes,” Bambi gasped. “Yes, please. Let me see… let me…” She basked in the rhythmic pounding of body against body, let that cock knock at her inside over and over, arched her back and opened her thighs to get just a little more, as Mariya’s strokes reached an apex of force and speed and suddenly the other woman tossed her head back with a lupine howl of ecstatic release. “Oh, fah, oh, fah,” Bambi gasped.

She relaxed, and Mariya held herself up just enough that her massive weight was a comforting blanket. Bambi stroked and kissed Mariya’s skin, kissed those lovely breasts just within reach of her muzzle. Her attention slowly oozed back into her other selves, and she shook her other two bodies to register their physicality before she let herself stroke and touch Mariya with those hands as well. Her last look at Mariya’s back had been one when she’d been replacing the power supply. Now she saw that broad, powerfully muscled back intact, alive and moving, and she liked what she saw. She closed in on Mariya and herself, kissing and nuzzling Mariya’s black, curly hair and down her neck.

“I like having three bodies pay attention to me,” Mariya said.

Bambi giggled. “I’ve heard that line before.”

“I believe you.” Mariya pushed herself up and over, landing cross-legged next to the Bambi she’d just fucked into oblivion, and Bambi reached up and touched one heavy thigh.

“Thank you.”

“Is there more I can do?”

“No,” Bambi said. She felt strangely… sad. “No, that’s okay. Is there something I can do for you?”

Mariya shook her head. “I’m fine. I see you’re happy. Are you happy?”

“Mostly,” Bambi said.

“Is something wrong?”

“No, it’s…” She stroked the hand on Mariya’s thigh. “Being me,” she said, indicating the three bodies, “I never know how to relate to anyone. It’s one of the reasons I don’t have long-term relationships. I’m different from other people. In a way that’s alien. Even other chorus don’t know how to relate to each other. I’ve tried. Every chorus is unique.”

“Every person is unique!” Mariya said.

“But people have… ways of relating. Choruses haven’t been around long enough to understand that. So we don’t really have a good way to be understood, not even to each other. I couldn’t be anything else but this,” she said, and her three bodies eased together to provide a unified front. “But sometimes it does make me lonely. What you gave me was so sweet. I wanted it, and you gave it to me. I’m afraid to ask for it again.” She smiled. “On the other hand, you don’t treat each of my bodies like they’re individuals with separate wants and needs. That’s nice.”

“You said they weren’t. I believe you.”

Bambi nodded. “I’m just having a tug-of-war with myself. To want you again. It would be a bad idea.” She giggled. “I can do that, you know. Have a tug of war with myself, and be the referee!”

Mariya ignored her joke. “Why is it a bad idea? Was I bad?”

“No! No, no!” She reached out and touched Mariya’s face with one of her sitting bodies, but it was her body lying down that answered. “You were amazing! I know you could probably do much more if I asked. I can’t ask, though. Because....” She sighed. “Because you’re a companion, and I don’t like the companion system. And I’m a chorus, and that would be weird.”

“I don’t have to be your companion.” Mariya said, reaching down to mirror Bambi’s gesture, stroking the other woman’s chest. Shivers ran through all three of her bodies. “Can I be your friend?”

All three of her paused and looked at Mariya. She had rarely had friends. Friends were hard. It was one of the reasons she liked the starship engineer life: crewmembers didn’t have to be friends. And if they ended up as friends, they weren’t the kind with whom she’d try to form romantic attachments.

Mariya was asking for something different. For the kind of friendship that only came when people believed each other. Very few people had ever believed her when she said she was just one person, that there weren’t extra, separate wills hiding in her bodies. The ones who believed she didn’t like herself, and that’s why she had done such a terrible thing, suborning three individuals to whatever it was she was. Singletons had so many excuses for why they shouldn’t like her, or trust her, or just leave her alone.

She was herself. And if she was, she had to accept that of Mariya, too. “If you’d like to be a friend, I… I would like to try.”

“I’m glad. Let’s try.”

“Okay.”