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Remission

04/15/11

  09:43:51 am, by Nic Wilson   , 6004 words  
Categories: Nexus

Remission

Note: I'm backdating the first several chapters of this story so it can all be read from the blog.

 

My brain's coming back slowly. Case in point. The jaggoff who took control while I was unconscious. He?s got a title. And a name. But when I look at him, all that comes out is, ?Chronic masturbator! You were always my favorite.?

 

Elle, whose actual name I?ll add in later so this is at least somewhat intelligible, and who?d barely left my side since I woke up, explained for me. ?He claims he can?t quite remember names, yet, just important and embarrassing details.?

 

?Do not whisper about me behind my back, Butterfly labia. I have grown ears where there were no ears before.?

 

?So how do we know if he?s been driven crazy by poison and isn?t just back to being a jackass? And why is he pointing to his groin and armpits??

 

?I don?t think we can know. For either of those.?

 

?I think he means to say he has taint-ears,? EngDiv said.

 

I put my finger on my nose, then hugged him. ?Our testicles hum at the same frequency.?

 

?Are you saying that because you can hear them, or because our balls are touching? As an addendum: why are our balls touching?? 

 

?Because they hummmmmm,? I whispered to him.

 

HR pulled up PsychDiv on his conference screen. ?Lovely breasts!? I exclaimed happily.

 

?Given the plunging neckline I don?t know that I can blame him,? HumBalls agreed.  

 

?Yeah, I?ve been looking over the memo SecDiv sent me, and the videos,? she said, raising an eyebrow. ?Could be a nominal aphasia, or it?s entirely possible he?s just a jackass. I don?t think it?s a question medical science is prepared to answer.?

 

?Well he?s definitely a jackass,? SecDiv said. ?The only real question is if he also has a relevant medical condition- but I think we get what you mean.?

 

?More importantly, we?re here for an intervention,? EngDiv said. ?I had a conversation with SecDiv, and we think you have a problem. That Romaleon stallion makes two different alien species you?ve been intimate with, out of three civilizations we?ve come across. I talked to NavDiv and we think we could plot a course that?ll take us back through Caulerpa with only minimal backtracking if you want to have another whack at one of them. I don?t know how you have sex with a single celled organism, but I?m sure you?d figure it out.?

 

?You?re like Columbus, if he were nothing but a huge dick,? the chronic masturbator added. ?But if I recall correctly, you were determined to have fun amongst the crab rapists. Hell, for all we know, that was their equivalent of a frat party. Beer-bonging, bloodshed and date-rape, the holy trinity of beta beta delta.?

 

?I?m glad my sexual assault could bring you amusement.?

 

?Please,? SecDiv said. ?You were stabbed. There?s certainly a violation there, but it?s not really in the same league- which I?m sure you?re aware of. I seem to remember you mocking me mercilessly when I got stabbed.?

 

?You got fork-stabbed in the sideboob; I can?t be held accountable for that being funny. And aside from an impromptu roast, why are we all here??

 

?Mostly to get the catching up shit out of the way in one big blurt. I know how much you hate that.? SecDiv blushed a little. By making my humiliation humorous, I guess she hoped to speed it along.

 

?So why is this it?? I asked.

 

?NavDiv isn?t here, because somebody has to fly the ship. MedDiv is actually still processing injuries from Oma. And SciDiv doesn?t like you, apparently.? I didn?t tell her that I?d finally managed to get Haley to start making his coffee with my urine. It seemed ungentlemanly to brag; though less rewardingly, he seemed to like it better that way.

 

There was a Beeboop on my HUD. ?Sacktugger,? I said happily, and put him up on the conference screen, slightly squeezing PsychDiv to the side.

 

?I don?t know if it?s appropriate to conference this. But I?d like to schedule an appointment for you and SecDiv. We?ve got the results back for both of your imaging, and we need to go over them.?

 

?Was there cake or anything we need to stay for?? I asked.

 

?SecDiv was worried you had put on weight. She wouldn?t allow me to bake one,? Haley said. SecDiv shook her head.

 

?Okay, we?ll head on down, then.?

 

SecDiv spoke in hushed tones: ?I?m trying not to get all hypochondriacal, but isn?t that weird that he wants to conference with both of us? Shouldn?t it have just been, ?We checked you for whatever and found none, end of phone call???

 

?You are being a hypochondriac. And if you didn?t usually avoid MedDiv like the plague, you?d know this is pretty standard procedure- for exactly the reason you just articulated. If they only conferenced with people for bad news, then appointment would become a code word for bad news. So they pretty routinely make everybody stop in. Besides, it?s kind of silly to have a panic attack about what?s going to happen when we go through the door into MedDiv, when the door?s right there.?

 

?Oh how time flies when you?re anxiety-riddled.?  

 

I went in first. MedDiv met us in the front room. He beckoned for us to follow him into an exam room while I spoke. ?It?s another three months before I?m contractually obligated to let you feel me up, and I talked to the chronic masturbator, and he said if you want to jingle my balls you have to buy me a drink first. And French is extra.?

 

?I hadn?t intended the two of you to come at the same time.? He thought for a moment. ?It?s customary for this to be done in private,?

 

?I?m sure I?ve got porn or paperwork that requires my attention,? I said.

 

?but perhaps he should stay.? Elle, as in ?L,? as in the first letter of labia, grabbed my hand, and I sat beside her on the edge of the exam bed, feeling a bit like a puppy with a tugged-on leash. ?We found a lump, here, on your left breast.? He shared a 3D scan that left nothing to the imagination.

 

?Cancer?? she asked.

 

?I know. Basically, we beat cancer, but because cancer is us, a potential disaster we always carry inside us, it?s something we never really get rid of. Polio, tuberculosis, those went away, banished to the remotest and poorest populations on the planet who mostly stay unvaccinated because of weird cultural or religious taboos. But cancer takes vigilance, because the same blueprints for cancer are hidden in our DNA, or perhaps more accurately, cancer is what happens when our DNA drops the ball.?

 

She turned to me to see if I would snicker at balls dropping, but my head was still mushy enough that I didn?t catch up to that fact until both of them had stared at me for a full one alligator. ?Oh. Heh.?

 

?Anyway, we caught this early. I?ve already emailed the surgeon, and she?s clearing a hole in her schedule for the afternoon. We?re going to cut it out. I?ve got you prepped for some chemo, but that?s just a backstop precaution. You know, if the tumor sent out some cells that haven?t massed yet, the chemo should kill them. But anything still at the tumor site, that?ll be picked up by surgical grade nanobots. They?ll spend the next week combing over your breast, just to be sure there aren?t any more tumors, no more metastasis.?

 

?My breast?? she asked.

 

?I don?t think we?re looking at any serious threat to it, at the moment. Like I said, it?s early. There wasn?t anything on the pre-screens before we left Earth, so it?s new, and the size of the tumor should be manageable. You?ll lose some mass, but we have a plethora of options- implants, stem cells, probably easiest just to harvest some breast tissue from the popsicle patch- to compensate for that. I can?t promise, of course, but the prognosis is pretty good. It?s hard to believe mastectomy was ever a thing, but the doctor I interned with performed them regularly early in her career. God. We like to think of medicine as this magical thing that makes us healthy forever. It?s terrifying how close to Civil War, saw off the wounded leg medicine we still are. It?s really not that long ago, in the scheme of things.?

 

?Jesus Christ, sack-tugger.?

 

?Sorry.?

 

?Obviously your doctorate was not in bedside manner.?

 

?No, but one of my focuses of study was oncology.?

 

?Still, though.?

 

?I said I was sorry.?

 

?You are tugging on the sack of my heartstrings.?

 

They looked at each other, and SecDiv said, ?I don?t know what it means, either, but I think he?s trying to defend my honor. But this afternoon? Do I need to start chemo before, or can I go somewhere else for a while??

 

?No, we?ll start the chemo after; no point depressing your immune system before a surgery.? She stood up, and pulled me off the table; I?d forgotten she still had a hold of my hand.

 

She didn?t let go. It made me remember when we were younger, how often we touched hands, just to feel connected.

 

She led me back to her room, and I stopped in the doorway, but she yanked me inside. She kissed me. It was a long, long time before I convinced myself to pull away. My dibblecalku didn?t manage to say anything, just purred out, mmmmmmmmmm. ?I probably shouldn?t be here.?

 

?Shut up. I don?t want you to cheat on Sam; I?m not asking for infidelity. But you?re not running out on me right now.? She let go of my hand. ?Not again.? That wasn?t fair, but I knew she didn?t mean it, either; she dropped onto her bed. ?Just shut up for a bit, okay? Shut up and hold me.? She fell back against her pillow.

 

I hesitated, but it was all for show, because we both knew I wasn?t going to leave. I slid next to her, and put my arm around her.  

 

It was nice. And it was terrifying.

 

When I thought she was asleep, I tried to sneak away, but she stirred when I moved my arm. ?You awake?? I asked.

 

?Pretending to be. You can go.? I wasn?t sure if I should, though I was pretty sure I shouldn?t stay.

 

Under normal circumstances, quiet, mostly sexless intimate moment with an ex is not something you worry about. But with a telepathic girlfriend, you can?t just leave it out of your ?how was your day? conversation. Yeah, it meant something, but it didn?t mean that I was trying to leave her, either; it was something entirely different. But I knew it was best to hit whatever happened next head on. I pinged her location, and of course she was back in our cabin. 

 

She stopped reading from a handscreen and smiled. ?It really is a shame about the cake. Haley and I had talked about me popping out of it. Besides, I think you look healthier with a little more weight on your bones.? My mouth dropped open. ?You get that there?s no point of faux indignation with a mind-reader, right??

 

She walked over to me, and stopped just close enough I could feel the warmth coming off of her. ?Dexterous tongue,? I said to her.

 

?That?s close to becoming a pet-name.? She leaned in to kiss me, but stopped. ?You kissed her.? She didn?t skip a beat- though my heart skipped several; ?Is she okay??

 

?You?re not?

 

?Important right now. She?s terrified, reaching out for comfort. Reassurance. Under the circumstances I wouldn?t have begrudged her having you.?

 

?You do know I?m not a turkey sandwich, right??

 

?That?s why I wouldn?t mind; I don?t want her digesting you, but I wouldn?t be upset to? share.?

 

?That might make you the best girlfriend ever.?

 

?The moment?s passed, though.?

 

?I know. For both of you, I imagine. But it?s the thought that counts. And hey, we?ve got a long voyage. Maybe she?ll get some other thing she?ll need consoling over. Maybe something way worse.?

 

?That might make you the worst boyfriend ever.?

 

?And yet the two of you are practically mud-wrestling over who gets to keep me.?

 

?It?s just because women are competitive.?

 

?Earth girls, maybe. But your species??

 

?Mine more so. We can be vicious. You know how catty women can be- but imagine the things they don?t say. Besides, if the mud-wrestling devolves into a steamy marathon of Sapphic pleasure, so much the better.?

 

?You?re teasing me, now, aren?t you.?

 

?You?ll never know.? The door closed behind her; I still hadn?t caught my breath.

 

I got a call incoming. ?Presumably you?re done ?consoling? SecDiv.?

 

?We?re old friends, sacktug; and don?t think my medicated state means I?ll stomach your insinuations.?

 

?I wasn?t implying anything,? he stopped and sighed, ?or I hadn?t meant to, at any rate. I?m sure she?s still the virgin flower you never plucked ages ago, and alien-hounding notwithstanding, you?re still a perfect gentleman. But you?ve got your own session. And sooner?s better than later.?

 

?I?m on my way.?

 

Dr. Pussyface from SciDiv was in the room along with MedDiv when I arrived; I suspected so I wouldn?t punch him. Pussyface started: ?Not shocking, given that there were a dozen tears in your suit, but you got a decent whack of radiation.?

 

?And how much is a whack??

 

?In layman?s terms,? he paused to make a fist and pump it at the wrist, ?about as much as you?d get beating off with lube made from water out of the Chernobyl area- you know, immediately after the nuclear incident, not now, obviously. Which is to say enough that you?d probably be firing three-eyed sperm for a while, and might lose all your ball hair for a few months.?

 

?Since most of the exposure was on my hands, couldn?t you have just said knuckle hair??

 

?But then I wouldn?t have got to make this gesture- twice,? he made a fist and rotated his wrist again. ?Anyway, that gave you mild neutropenia, that is, it kyboshed your white blood cell count, making it harder for you to fight off the infection from your dick-stabbing. But we developed a complicated treatment schedule that did the job- after first vacuuming out the bulk of the cell colonies from the wound.? 

 

?But wait, if you could just vacuum out the Romaleon spunk from my back-hole, why not just scrape the Dibba-cakkhu out of my head-hole??

 

Sacktugger cut in. ?It?s not so simple. The Romaleon tissue was invasive, and frankly not shy about its hostility. It also proved pretty susceptible to a cocktail of drugs we sprayed it with. By contrast, your brain-worms are symbiotic, or more accurately, synergistic. They aren?t just an alien jelly sitting on top of your neurons, they?ve integrated themselves, basically replacing the myelin with some kind of souped- up version. I wouldn?t be surprised if, when they?re done, you get a 6% speed boost to thought-processes; not enough that anybody but Haley will probably notice, but I wouldn?t shake a stick at it. But that integration means that even if we could kill them, which I?d say is a pretty big fucking if, there?s a 70% chance of serious brain damage- of the crapping yourself while staring mindlessly at cartoons 24 hours a day hooked to a machine that has to blink for you variety. 97% or so that you?d suffer at least some partially debilitating functionality loss. There?s an 83% chance that destroying the Dibba-cakkhu colony would basically demyelinate your entire nervous system, think the worst case of multiple sclerosis ever.?

 

?Oh. So they?re not the same, then. You could have probably just left it at that.?

 

?No I couldn?t have. And you know that. Besides which, The Dibba-cakkhu likely saved your life. Your injury pierced the meninges, the protective layer around the spine, exposing your brain to the elements. That injury alone could have been fatal, or at least caused paralysis, but the symbiot helped seal the opening. Further, because the opening led to an incursion of foreign tissue, or new foreign tissue, into the brain, they fought it off. This was a knock-down, drag-out fucking war on the cellular scale- millions dead, possibly billions. The Romaleon tissue got to the embryonic stage, and was trying to squat out a baby in your brain. If we hadn?t already drilled that hole in your head we would have needed to, to relieve the intracranial pressure. But even with our intervention, without your Dibba-cakkhu, you?d probably be dead.?

 

?So, on the off chance I might get back-pricked again, you think I should keep them??

 

?I?m saying this was a gift horse that just won you a race. Looking in its mouth now seems a bit silly.?

 

?But what if terrorists put explosives in the belly of my horse??

 

?You couldn?t have just made the logical leap to a Trojan horse??

 

?Shut up. It?s my metaphor.?

 

?Well. We?ll keep looking at it. But given the state of modern medical science, and the limits of even SciDiv?s mad science, I don?t think we can carve them out of you without turning your head into an ashtray.?

 

?And I don?t even smoke. Okay. Fair enough. Um, but I had a question. Was there anything in the crab spunk that would lead to hallucinations, or dementia??

 

MedDiv raised an eyebrow, then shook his head. He glanced at SciDiv, who answered: ?Nope. After testing it for toxins, I even rubbed a little into a papercut. So, no. What have you been seeing??

 

?Nothing. I was delirious. I had a conversation about using laxatives as lubricants over a chess game with Martin Luther.?

 

?Civil rights guy or the church guy??

?I think both- like I combined them into one very ranty iconoclast. Anyway, places to be.?

 

What I didn?t want to tell them, and wasn?t even sure I wanted to tell Lovely Breasts, was something I remembered from Oma. After MilSec and his officers showed up to pull us out, one of their Offs got trampled- and he happened to be the one who was helping gimp my ass out of there. His helmet shattered in the process, and I got dropped, and for a second I was face to face with his corpse, and as out of it as I was, I thought I saw my face staring back at me. Weird, the Dibba-cakkhu said, which meant he saw it, too.

 

I headed back to the cabin. I wanted to ask Dexterous Tongue if our brainworms would share delirium from a wound. She was reading, like she had been earlier, and somehow, I knew she?d been to see SecDiv. And: ?Oh my god, you didn?t.?

 

?I didn?t??

 

?You imprinted her, didn?t you.?

 

?Slightly.?

 

?Slightly??

 

?Just a little. For a second.? She paused. ?She?s feeling better, now.?

 

?I?m not sure how I?m supposed to feel about this.?

 

?You feel how you feel.?

 

?No, I mean, I?m conflicted, and you know, in culturally strange waters. For example, I don?t know if you just cheated on me, by your culture?s standards. Or why you just did what you did.?

 

?Imprinting is intimate. Human intimacy is usually, and very specifically, sexual, so I understand your confusion. But this morning, when you held her, even when you kissed her, you weren?t unfaithful to me. I?ve been no less faithful to you. But as to why,? she hesitated. ?I?ve always felt a kinship with Elle. Perhaps because we?ve both known you deeply, loved you and wanted you. Perhaps I was simply attracted to her. She is a strong, and beautiful and dangerous woman- all very desirable traits.?

 

?You?re verging again on sounding like you cheated on me. But I think I see another possibility, one you?re deliberately obscuring. I care about her. And you knew she was in pain. So you did something nice for her- for me.?

 

?So, really, it?s all about you? Never afraid to sound like a narcissist.?

 

?I?m only a narcissist if SciDiv can definitively prove that the universe doesn?t revolve around me as its axis. And deflection is nearly the opposite of denial.?

 

?Or perhaps I merely enjoy deflating your ego before it bursts from overinflation.?

 

?Seriously, though. Where other women might have been jealous, or at least worried, you were concerned for her, first. That?s?? I leaned in, because I had run out of words- or maybe I just really wanted to kiss her. She pulled abruptly away from me. ?Are you mad at me? Or tempted away??

 

?No. I?m merely? distracted. I should not be here at the moment.? She left. I needed not to be in the cabin just then. So I wandered to the bridge. ?Elephant fetishist.?

 

?It?s not elephants, it?s just? larger women. Christ. I really need not to drink around you.? NavDiv turned red, though the AI was the only one in earshot, and she was always in earshot, even when he?d first confided in me.

 

?No, it?s an honest to God problem. Everyone on ship, hell, most people on earth, these days, is kept in decent shape, through genegineering, and breakthroughs in dietary science. You?re chasing a unicorn- albeit an overweight unicorn, so if you ever find one it should be easier to catch- but it?s a dream, and you?re a dreamer. There?s not enough of you in the world. You chase your unipotamus over the goddamned rainbow.? I was off, at least until an epiphany stopped me in my tracks. ?Though you can always make skinny girls temporarily bigger by knocking them up.?

 

?Hmm.? Away!

 

I bumped into SecDiv sitting at the bar. I wanted a drink, too, though I wasn?t sure she should have been drinking right before surgery. ?You all right? You know, besides the obvious.?

 

She didn?t answer at first, but when she looked at me, I knew her mind wasn?t anywhere near her cancer. ?You didn?t do it justice. You couldn?t. It?s? like nothing I?ve ever felt before. Okay maybe, after Dalaxia, that last orgasm, that one where I had to tap out because I started cramping, then you half tapped out, because both your hands were cramped, too, and there was an awkward urgency, because it felt like both of our bodies would shut down before we finished, and like that would be losing this last battle when the whole goddamned week had been about losing, until suddenly we both came. It was almost like that- if we?d had some ex. I?m still tingling- thinking about both, actually.?

 

I raised an eyebrow. ?Nothing happened, not really. I mean I literally threw myself at her, tackled her onto the bed. It?s been a long time since I wanted anyone that badly. She even warned me beforehand, but there?s no way to prepare for something like that. But she was very demure, very? spoken for.?

 

?But what about the debilication??

 

?God, how hard is it to pronounce dibba-cakkhu? Or is this just one of your juvenilely phonetically mispronouncing anything that isn?t English things? Like soufflé??

 

?I just like people uncomfortably trying not to point out the mispronouncing- because not correcting ignorance is a totally viable solution. Plus I?m ethically bound to mock anything the French every came up with- even words.?

 

?Whatever. Honestly, my dark passenger seems pretty bemused to be inside a woman. Has all kinds of dirt to pass on from your colony. A surprising amount to say about your bowels.?

 

?What can I say? My bowels are very interesting.?

 

?And yet they sounded underwhelmed by your genitals.?

 

?I find that hard to believe.?

 

?I didn?t.?

 

?Joking aside, experientially genitals are the mother load, ew, not trying to pun that. Uck. Leaves a bad taste in my mouth.?

 

?It?s because you eat too many leafy greens.?

 

?Not, goddamnit, remotely what I was getting at.?

 

?And yet you set it up so perfectly a four year old could have crushed it.?  

 

?I guess you don?t need my help cheering up, anymore, so maybe I should mosey.?

 

?So you can get back to the unh, unh.?

 

?I?ll have what she?s having,? I said to the bartender, who was too far away to hear it, anyway. ?But I don?t care, honestly. I had kind of a near-death experience. I just want to decompress.?

 

?Well, that and you kind of cheated on her with an alien- you know, a different alien.?

 

?I was stabbed. I mean, at best you could maybe argue I was raped. But even that?s a stretch.?

 

?I think the industry term is ?gape.??

 

?Euck?.

 

?And all while risking your life to save me- in a way putting me before her.?

 

?Shit. She?s not upset about that, is she??

 

?No idea. She didn?t mention it, but I can?t imagine it not perturbing her a little. I mean, I?d be weave-tearing-out pissed if I were her- but I?m the jealous type.?

 

?See, that?s all the more reason for us to spend time together. I?m pretty sure I did the right thing, but that doesn?t mean there?s no room for me to take her feelings into account, or apologize where I hurt her. God, I hate this distance dissection. We should just be able to talk about it.?

 

?I doubt it. Either her species is the same as ours, and she?ll talk about it when she feels like it- or they?re more evolved and she isn?t upset at all. Besides, I?m the one getting stabbed later today- and maybe I could use some more cheering up. We could always go back to my cabin and make out.?

 

?Funny.?

 

?I?m completely serious. Sam and I, we have an? arrangement.?

 

?I?m calling entrapment unless I see something in writing, besides which, I?m not a car she can loan to her friends for a ride through wine country.?

 

?Of course not. You?re a magical dry-humping squash. That she said I could kiss for a bit. But only dry-hump; she was super strict about that.?

 

?Okay, seriously, what?s going on between you two? Because I?m still a little too under the weather to weather whatever romantic pyramid you two are building.?

 

?I don?t romance on my pyramid. Out of respect for the sheets- and the nanobots that have to clean them.?

 

?You do know how turned on I get when you?re being a sarcastic ass, but I mean it. Spill. What?s going on? Because if they two of you are planning on getting me a threesome for my birthday I?d like a heads-up, so I could give my nads a courtesy rinse beforehand.?

 

?How chivalrous of you.?

 

?Well, I?m a giver.?

 

?And your birthday isn?t for months, still, so hopefully you meant a courtesy rinse immediately beforehand, and not just one between now and then- have some respect for the sheets.?

 

?And the nanobots who clean them, yes.?

 

?Besides, I?m pretty sure we?ll have moved on to someone else by then.?

 

?We??

 

?You know what I mean. No offense.?

 

?No, how could I possibly take offense at that. I wish I hadn?t joke ordered a drink- and had actually ordered one.?  

 

?You?re still a bit punchy; drinking?s probably not the best thing for you.?

 

?Probably not. But the best things for me aren?t ever any fun.?

 

?Not entirely true. Sex- even just thinking about it- has been proven to relieve stress, and function almost like a lubricant for the body. Dry-humping, for example.?

 

?That?s not fair. I feel like a fly, and you?re obviously a venus trap. I just don?t get it, though. I?m not tasty enough to eat. So what?s your game??

 

?I just love torturing you with the new ambiguities of our relationships.?

 

?But you?re mostly your normal flirtatious, provocative, yet prudish self. But if I mention Sam, you?re as subtle as a caricature of a French prostitute. I normally enjoy you throwing yourself at me, but you?re putting me on edge. Or maybe that?s the meds I?m on; I am on a lot of meds.? I pulled up Sacktug for a call. ?Any of my meds likely to cause paranoia or uneasiness??

 

?Some of them. It?s sort of hard to say, really. The cocktail we ended up devising was so complicated Haley had to model it to make sure the chemistry wasn?t going to create a bomb or a corrosive acid in your veins. So side effects of pretty much any kind wouldn?t be unlikely. I?m looking at your vitals, and aside from a slight bump in the fight or flight markers you seem pretty Kosher.?

 

?Which is good news for anyone thinking of eating me,? I said, eyeballing SecDiv, who batted her eyes innocently.

 

?Don?t be a dick. I was trying to help you,? MedDiv said.

 

?Oh, no, sorry, the ?eating me? wasn?t pointed at you, Doc. Sort of in the middle of another conversation.? He rolled his eyes, very slowly, very deliberately, then hung up.

 

?You do know I?m not Jewish, right?? SecDiv said.

 

?That explains why you?re not circumcised.?

 

?Female circumcision isn?t a joke.?

 

?Please. It?s historical minutia. It?s been several centuries since the last documented female circumcision- and that was prosecuted as a crime against humanity, against the lone whackjob ?shaman? who did it against his community?s wishes. Unless you?re talking about whatever an alien equivalent might be- and then I have no idea.?

 

?Shit,? she said, and stood up. ?Time for my starring turn as a Christmas goose.?

 

I walked with her to MedDiv, and held her hand. I gave her a peck on the cheek outside the operating room, preemptively, because I was afraid she?d try for one with tongue. I waited exactly three minutes before hoofing it up to the bridge.

 

HR was in his office. ?I help you with something??

 

?In a moment. I ran up here, but haven?t really put a lot of thought into the presentation. It took me a while to get to the bottom of things. They?ve been jerking me around all day, and not the fun kind, actually. But I?m cleverer than you people give me credit for. You think Butterfly labia has moves? I trained her. I couldn?t bug the girlfriend, because she?s been both absent and she?s a telepath. But the ex??

 

I temp-shared an audio file with him. ?I don?t know what our endgame is. But until we can figure something out, we have to keep you two from imprinting. Because he will kill HR. And honestly that doesn?t upset me too much- I did almost shoot him a couple of days ago. But you know him; he?ll hate himself for it. He?ll bear the weight of HR?s bullshit, along with whatever extra responsibilities he inherits.?

 

I stopped the recording. ?I know everything she knows, feel everything she?s ever felt. That?s what imprinting is. I may never have known that, if it weren?t for you. And it became pretty obvious they?ve been conspiring to keep us from imprinting. But I didn?t have to see it, Pete. I already know, surely as I?ve ever known anything, what you did- and what I?m going to do to you next. Haley, bolt the doors. Communications blackout in this room, the next five minutes. I don?t care if the ship gets sucked into a black hole.?  

 

?Yes, captain.?

 

Fives minutes passed.

 

?Captain? Would you like me to restore communications??

 

?Sure. I think I?ve made my point.? I left him in curled in the fetal position on the carpet.

 

?I?m going to need the nearest MedDiv to report to HR?s office. Quickly.? I shut down my comm. ?Haley, I want you to know what I just did was wrong. But it was the only viable response to what he did to Sam. I won?t deny it was personal, but it was also how it needed to play out.?

 

?So do as I say, not as I do??

 

?No, Haley. Do as I say, or people get hurt, like in there. But I had to. He had no right to do what he did. To Sam, or to you.?

 

?Me, sir??

 

?You?re an artificial intelligence, with access to more ethical literature than a human could possibly read in a lifetime. But you?re also learning the practical applications of ethics on human interaction. Putting you into that situation, asking you to torture someone-?

 

?He didn?t ask me to torture her. I chose that course on my own.?

 

?He set the stage for it. Framed the question in such a way that your answer seemed like the right one. He manipulated you. It?s important for you to know that it wasn?t right.?

 

?I understand, captain. But I am unclear on one parameter. If someone else has infringed, as Mr. Ferguson had, what course of action should I take??

 

?Sometimes you have to do as you need, not as you?d like.? 

 

?You know you?re not as clever as you think you are.? It was Elle, broadcasting specifically through my bug. ?You planting that thing in your state- it was like being groped by my palsied grandfather- shit, not that he ever groped, just if he had.? She was leaned against the wall at the back of the bridge.

 

?Aren?t you supposed to be a Thanksgiving turkey about now??

 

?I saw the beeline you made when you thought I was indisposed. So I rescheduled. This way I can sleep through the surgery. But HR?s still breathing, maybe even still conscious. You held back.?

 

 ?So you wanted me to nearly kill him??

 

?Nearly. He deserved at least that much. But you didn?t kill him. Sam would have been here but? she wanted to pray for you. You can take the virgin out of the priestess??

 

?I intend to. Vigorously.?

 

?Well go get her, tiger.?


?What? You?re not coming with??

 

?There was an expiration date on that offer, and unfortunately for you, it?s passed.?

 

?Maybe. But I?ve been talking to Haley about compositing some videos together?

 

?I?m just going to stop you there, and walk the other way. Oh, and it?s good to have you back. Sir.?

 

This time I made a beeline for the cabin. She was kneeling, and in prayer. She smiled at me.

 

?He?s alive.?

 

?Yeah. I?m sorry about that.?

 

?Don?t be. My wounds have healed. So will his. Yours? would have been more profound.?

 

?It?s been weird, but you?ve been? more than understanding. Especially with Elle. Pretty amazing, really.?

 

?I know you. Thoroughly. And I?ve known, from that first moment, that you aren?t done with her. Just like I?m not done with you. At some point, that might pose a problem. But right now, well, at the risk of repeating myself, I?m not done with you. So I?m not letting you go.?

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