Anar, Urim 08, 03262
Honest Impulses 02: Working Woman
Misuko made her way through the swirl of Associate, Respected and even Honored Professors, feeling every millimeter of her recently acquired Associate status ablating away with the full force of lithobraking. She grimaced at her own imagination. She'd risen to her position after recovering artifacts and relics from the sixth-century starship Second Chances. It had lain half-buried on the seafloor beneath a deep ocean on a beautiful but obscure and uninhabited world rendered human-habitable by early robotic terraforming seedships.
Too many bodies inhabited the large ballroom for her comfort. She'd been to the Corral before as a third-year teaching assistant, but this was her first time attending the annual pre-class social gathering as a full professor, if only an associate, to get in some last-minute deal making and horse trading. Faculty members could easily be distinguished from benefactors, politicians and functionaries by their rumpled clothing and hounded eyes. She supposed she would look like that herself someday. She gave her apologies to each body she collided with as she made her way through the crowded room looking for her girlfriend.
She needn't have worried too much. Linia stood in a knot of mels and fems, mostly human, who were all looking at her with the unabashed attention of gynophiles everywhere. She returned their attention with beautiful glances, vivacious banter, and sublime kindness. Linia never sought to be the center of attention but attention often seemed to center on her. She held her own in conversation with the assurance of a woman who knew her place in the universe. Her own attention was on keeping her audience entertained and amused, yet when she noticed Misuko approaching she acted as if she'd been waiting for the other woman all evening. "Excuse me," she said. "I believe I see my owner."
Several of those gathered gasped. One man managed to find his voice long enough to choke out the word. "Owner?"
"I'm a companion robot," Linia said sweetly. "You should understand what that means."
"You don't act anything like a companion," said a woman.
Linia broke free of the knot without replying to rescue the wineglass from Misuko's grip. "Why do you do that?" Misuko said low as Linia turned the two of them around and led her away.
"Because it sets ground," Linia said, resting her head comfortably on Misuko's arm. "You're going to be working among these people for years, Misuko. You were a TA once not too long ago. TAs are still young, still students, and still horny. They have to understand that I'm really unavailable."
"But why 'owner?'"
"Oh, that sounds final, don't you think?" She pushed up on her toes to reach Misuko's ear. "Hmm, Master?"
Misuko quivered momentarily with conflicted pleasure. "You are a cruel, shameless woman."
"So you've told me," Linia said brightly as she settled. "I don't know how the other robots do it. Nobody's bothering Brom, Saia or Gazelle." She gestured around the wineglass in her hand with a pinkie finger, pointing out the tall woman across the room, the last name she'd mentioned. Misuko appreciated elegant women, but Gazelle Moor was in a category all her own. Gazelle had an almost superheroine design, slim, muscular, close to two meters tall, pale white skin and platinum blond hair tightly braided to her head in complex geometric patterns. Next to her stood a short, stocky man with tired eyes and splayed legs surrounded by well-wishers, hangers-on and other operatives, including what looked like two llerkin naval officers in the uniform of the lTP Pact Defense Force. Misuko recognized him: University Governor The Honorable Geroma Moor, like his companion, wore a dark suit of exquisite tailoring. None of his various solicitors so much as glanced at Gazelle.
"Maybe Governor Moor is so scintillating she, um, pales in comparison?" Misuko said.
"Misuko," Linia said while ignoring Misuko's pun, "Gazelle Moor is beyond a doubt the most beautiful human woman in this room. And look at the other companions. Saia Mertum is almost as beautiful, but she covers her head in a cloak that shades her eyes and wards off anyone who might talk to her. Brom is an exceptional brick of a man, but maybe the rules are different for men. No, it's me. I'm the one who get surrounded."
"You're new here," Misuko offered. "Maybe they don't know that you're a companion robot. Like that woman said, you certainly don't act like one."
"Saia's new," Linia said. "Besides, you would hate it if I acted the way they do."
"Yes," Misuko said, sliding her hand under the other woman's arm to gently tug her closer. "But you're wrong about one thing, honey. To my eyes, you are undeniably the most beautiful woman in this room."
"Ah, Professor Ffanci! Allow me to extend my congratulations on your tenure." Misuko had wanted to say more, especially when she felt Linia's soft shiver against her hand, but when she found herself interrupted by her boss she decided that conversation could wait for a more appropriate moment. Provost Anastin Culpepper was a tall human man with a perpetual fringe of beard, bright blue eyes in an astonishingly dark face, and a deep voice, despite its ascetic wheeze, that projected a consistent sense of authority and confidence. He raised that voice slightly to say, "And also let me congratulate you on getting that funding for your next expedition!"
Misuko grinned, relieved that someone else had brought it up in such dense company. She disliked the game of academic one-upsmanship. Culpepper relished it, and being the bearer, or at least the crier, of the good news gave him obvious pleasure. "Thank you, sir," she said. She glanced over where Moor stood with his pack. "I hope the University has received its share of funding and reputation."
"Of course, of course! The reputation you've earned is marvelous." Culpepper fiddled with his hands, interlocking his fingers together. "Speaking of which, have you received that additional funding you wanted?"
"Not yet, sir, but I have some excellent leads. Professor Kapardin has been very helpful."
"Good, good." He looked at Linia with his eyes sparkling. "And Linia Hunda! I'm so glad Miss Ffanci chose to bring you as a guest. I've been looking forward to meeting you all night. I suppose I could have just invited you to my office but this opportunity will do just as well. I have a request to make of you."
"Me, sir?" Culpepper had the undivided attention of both women.
"I don't know if you follow the school's goings on very closely, but chef Tezozomoctzinxo left us at the end of Spring quarter to return to his homeworld. We are without a teaching chef for our Life Skills Cooking elective. Now, I have it on the unimpeachable authority of two starship captains, both with very different tastes, that you happen to have excellent skills both culinary and pedagogical. It would be quite unusual to offer a person of your status a position like this, but they also tell me you're quite an unusual person of your status." Misuko felt her eyebrows rise. "The elective is only once a week, three hours in the late afternoon to early evening, not too difficult. I understand you have other responsibilities, both to your companion and to the Isabelle Mannheim Recovery Project, and it would be mostly freshfen who can be a handful. Are you up for the challenge?"
"I... I don't know what to say. My first inclination is, I think I would like to, but I must ask my companion." She turned. "Would it challenge you greatly, Misuko, if I said yes? At least until they find a real teacher for the position?"
"Do you think you can handle it? Even with the Project?"
Linia's eyes were momentarily distant. She said, "I'm a board member, not an employee, not that we have any of those. I'm only doing interviews right now, and most of them are about the process. The real details are with Jinny's team. Decanting state will be the week after finals, and there really isn't anything to do before then. I can handle it. It's only three hours a week, right?" She glanced at Culpepper.
"Correct. Plus prep time, and whatever you feel is appropriate."
"Double it. At least," Misuko said. "Six hours. Probably more."
"Even that's not too much," Linia said.
Misuko thought for a moment, but then a thought struck her. She grinned hugely. "If you want the job, you take it, honey."
"Just like that? Why?"
Misuko started to speak, paused, then smiled and said, "Ask me later."
"I hate when you say stuff like that," Linia said. "The suspense will kill me."
Misuko leaned over and murmured into the shorter woman's ear, "Maybe I'll make you get it out of me."
"Oooh," Linia said softly. She whipped around to face Provost Culpepper so quickly her hair flew out to brush against Misuko's cheek. "It's decided. I accept."
"Excellent. Hiroshi has already told me that you have the requisite first aid skills, so it's settled. You start the Thursday after registration. I've reviewed Tezozomoctzinxo's notes, and they seem to be clear and comprehensive, but I'm most certainly not a cook. Still, I believe they'll help you through your first year."
"Thank you, sir," Linia said. "Thank you very much."
"It's my pleasure." Culpepper turned to Misuko. She was still pondering Linia having a job. Another job. After her first. Earning LIU. More LIU. At this rate, Linia might end up wealthier than she was. "You have a most interesting companion, Professor Ffanci. Do try to keep her out of trouble."
"I try, sir. But she says I'm the trouble-maker."
Culpepper regarded the two of them with a smile. He glanced at the buffet table. Misuko saw Professor Geddouda Pikna leaning away from Raij Mertum, the new director of the Vocational Robotics and Drones Program, who was gesturing sharply toward her with his hands. Both of them had robot companions: Saia ap Mertum stood behind him, silent, head down, cowl hiding her face, while behind Pikna the large, hulking figure of Brom ap Pikna stood with arms crossed. "We have our troublemakers, Professor Ffanci, and then we have those who make life interesting. Please, enjoy the party." He patted Misuko on the arm before disappearing into the crowd in pursuit of his next duty.
"You're going to teach? Here?" Misuko said, turning to her beloved, putting the mystery of Raij Mertum out of her head.
"It's cooking, Misuko. Surely you think I can handle that." She grew silent, putting her thoughts into order. "I can arrange it so they'll have to make something to eat or they'll go hungry that night. I've got the course outline already. Knife skills, applying heat, salt, sugar, all the basics. I can do that." She sighed dramatically. "It does mean we'll have to skip our meals together that night. I'll make sure to prepare something for you the night before." Her eyes caught Misuko's. "I don't want to hear you were eating out of vending machines again."
"Once a week wouldn't kill me." Misuko stepped closer, kissed Linia's neck softly. "I'm starting to feel a little possessive. It feels like everyone wants you more than they do me tonight. You would be perfect for the job, though." On the last two expeditions they been through together, Linia had turned culinary barbarians into beer and barbecue snobs. She'd taught anyone willing to listen to come down to the galley and make fantastic omelets, hot sandwiches, even baked bread. Linia liked people. "Maybe that's how Gazelle does it."
"Keep other people at bay. She likes her person. But she doesn't have much to say to other people."
"You'd hate it if I didn't like other people."
"That's true," Misuko said, straightening up. This was a conversation they'd had often, identifying what it was about Misuko that made Linia be Linia. Linia's programming as a companion robot inclined her to be the best kind of person her person needed in her life. "I guess I'm a terrible owner."
Linia smiled up and then leaned against Misuko. She knew Misuko was joking as she didn't, and couldn't, legally own anyone else. Linia came from an earlier time and had been programmed to be purposed to someone. She could, theoretically, have been purposed to herself. "You're a terrific owner! I'm glad I'm purposed to you. Better than I deserve. I love you."
"I love you too," Misuko said, and she meant it. "Have we done our duty here?"
"Yes," Linia said, glancing around the room. "We've made our appearances and talked to those that matter. If anyone wants to talk to you, they can find you later. I want to go home and get you out of those clothes."
Misuko trusted Linia's instincts. "That sounds like a wonderful idea." Misuko took Linia by the arm and led her out of the ballroom.
Home was a fifteen minute walk. They tried not to run in the hot night, but Misuko could barely keep her hand from squirming in their shared grip to touch more than just Linia's hand. Home was a squat two-floor apartment complex with four flats on each floor, built out of native brick and modern mortar, crowned with three layers of windsails block as much direct sunlight and capture as much moisture from the air as it could. Hiroshi wasn't desperate for water-- the moisture farms provided more than enough for everyone on the inhabitable plateau-- but every building was build to shield the sun while gathering moisture and power from the wind. From above the city looked like a massive phalanx of kites all flying in formation.
Misuko paused to look up at the windsails lazily flapping in the soft breeze before Linia was dragging her inside, up the wide staircase lined with plasticene faux-wood and into their flat in the northeast corner. Home was where she was barely through the door before the other woman, the crown of her head barely level with Misuko's nose, was standing on her tiptoes, pressing Misuko against the wall and kissing her hard.
Misuko moaned into Linia's mouth, but her hands were already eagerly grabbing Linia's sides, pulling her closer. She pressed back against Linia, as if the two of them were trying to get inside each other's skin. "I want you," Misuko said softly.
Linia grabbed her hand and guided her into the bedroom. Misuko turned and said, "Unzip me?"
Linia pulled at the little tab. Misuko felt the whisper of the cool air against her skin for just a moment before Linia's lips pressed to one shoulder, then down, and further down, following the zipper. Misuko sighed but kept her balance as Linia's mouth went down with the dress, the soft texture of her lips as warming as the silken protection of fabric. Linia's mouth left her as she reached the curve of Misuko's ass, then those hands were pushing the dress down to the floor until Misuko was left only in her underthings. She kicked her shoes off.
Linia's deft fingers unhooked the bra, and in a move so practiced it was almost ritualistic she hooked the sides of Misuko's underwear to drag it downward until Misuko could step out, fully naked.
When she turned, Linia was already naked. "How did you... ?" Linia had been wearing trousers, a blouse and jacket, all precisely cut to her richly curved frame. It must have been quite a dance to wriggle out of all that while so smoothly undressing her lover. Linia cocked her head to one side with an amused look, took Misuko's hand again, and led her to the bed.
Misuko crawled onto the bed and Linia cuddled up beside her. "I love you," Linia said softly.
"I love you too. This really has become my favorite part of the day, being with you."
"I'm glad," Linia said.
For Misuko, the miracle wasn't that she felt desire for Linia as strongly as their second time together (that first, awkward time didn't count, no matter how significant it may have been), it was that Linia responded just as eagerly and wonderfully now as she did three year ago. Her other lovers had all started out like that: hot, beautiful, capable of arousing and satisfying her desire for touch, affection, and attention, but they'd all lasted two years or less, and the heat had always faded away as the incompatibilities stacked up and the harmonies faded away.
She tilted her head down and brushed her lips against Linia's forehead. Linia looked up and their first, tentative kiss was accompanied by a soft, whispering moan from Linia. Misuko giggled softly. If Misuko had been the sort of woman who needed attention five times a day, she knew Linia would have been there for her. "Just once a day, thanks."
"Hmm?" Linia said. "Are you distracted?"
"No," Misuko said. Her hands caressed Linia's flanks upward until her nails trailed over the skin on the side of Linia's breast, her nipple obscured my Misuko's chest, sadly inaccessible. Misuko surged upward and turned the two of them over until she was on top, kissing Linia harder, tongues touching and sliding against one another. They made each other's face wet with spit. Linia's hands were free to caress Misuko's sides and belly, slide down to the upended horizon of Misuko's pussy, then inward, finding the wet, folded flesh and hidden secrets of Misuko's body. Hidden, but very familiar. "Ohh," Misuko said. "Is that what you want?"
"Yes," Linia said. "Yes."
Misuko rose and considered the space between her and her lover's smile. Linia's large breasts had drooped into healthy, defined mounds at the sides of her chest, the nipples standing and pointing away. Linia's brown, straight, shiny hair decorated her shoulders in fans of strands. "Lucky girl," Misuko sighed, shifting forward until her crotch hovered over Misuko's lips. "I'm so lucky to have you."
Linia grinned, lifting her head to lick Misuko's pussy. Her kiss sent a wave of pleasure up Misuko's spine. Misuko lowered herself down fully onto Linia's mouth, nearly smothering her. Linia's tongue invaded Misuko's folds, pressed around but not directly onto Misuko's clitoris, and sent Misuko's mind whirling away into a flesh-drenched universe of passion and satisfaction. Linia's tongue was maddeningly slow, maddeningly light, and then she tilted her head up and stopped. "Wha?" Misuko gasped.
"What?" Misuko's chest heaved as she tried to get enough oxygen to understand Linia's request. All the blood in her body seemed to have flowed into her pelvis and it felt as if there were none left to operate her brain.
Linia's hands stroked Misuko's strong thighs, her eyes looking up into her lover's confused face. "Tell me, why did you let me take the job?"
"Because... because you aren't Esther."
"You'd better unpack that, lover."
"Because you're willing to be more than a parasite," Misuko said, her head whirling.
"You won't let me."
"No," Misuko said, and tears came to her eyes. She struggled to find the words, to get across to Linia the magnitude of her revelation, what she had learned in that moment when Linia had said she wanted to be more than just Misuko's companion robot, to teach and lead and love others the way Misuko did. "No. It's not that. I just want you have the freedom to be a... to have a way of yourself that is worthy of both of us."
Linia's eyes widened, her mouth fell open. "Oh," she said. "Oh, oh, oh, Misuko." She grabbed Misuko's ass and pulled the two of them back together. Her mouth plunged down into the wet folds of Misuko's pussy, found Misuko's clit and sent fresh waves of ecstasy up into Misuko's whirling brain. Misuko bent forward, holding onto the wrought iron headboard, momentarily hesitating as her arms made contact with the cool metal. She couldn't think anymore, only breathe, only hold on as Linia's tongue flickered, spun, slid and pushed her closer and closer.
She climaxed with a long, powerful shudder, as if she were being filled with joy until she overflowed. It went on and on, Linia's tongue keeping her there, surge after surge until she pushed back against the headboard, pulling her pussy away from Linia. "Enough, enough!" She stared down at Linia's grinning face, swung one leg over her body, and settled down, now her turn to do the cuddling. "God, lover, how do you do that?"
"I just know you so well." Linia kissed her. Linia's face was covered in Misuko's rich, sweet fluids, and Misuko didn't care at all. Even when she had masturbated she'd tried the taste of her own juices and decided she liked them. She loved them when they were smeared all over Linia. Linia said, "Thank you, beloved. For everything. For loving me. For understanding me. And for..." She hesitated.
"For what?" Misuko said.
"For letting me practice my favorite thing." Linia giggled, and Misuko giggled right along with her, her head against Linia's shoulder, the familiar, muzzy end of lovemaking sweeping into her brain. "Mmmm..."
"Passing out on me again?"
"Mmm," Misuko agreed. They still hadn't had that sleep-induced narcolepsy looked at. Then she slept.