Posted | Written by Patrick Tylee
It was legalized now, at least on this planet. Though in truth, that only took away from the thrill.
For Elmyrah, being trapped for more than four-hundred years in the body of a nine-year-old girl, she’d already tried everything else at least once and found nothing could satisfy her hunger for the experience. She wanted out of this tired and aged shell; the vigor of manufactured immortality having long since drained away.
There was more excitement to be had if you could find it, or if it found you; but not for someone who appeared as a child. Any grown male who dared glance her way would come up missing shortly thereafter. Jove and his team of bodyguards would see to it. Not that she wished for perversion.
It was Ixian she desired, and he was just eighteen now. Ten years he’d been with them. Never once could she bring herself to tell her adopted brother how she truly felt. The boy she’d always wanted was now the man she couldn’t have.
Elmyrah leaned forward in the plush lounge chair of her suite in the forecastle of Abandon. No one outside could see in through the windows in the nose of the starship, not at that height anyway. That fact wasn’t enough to override her inner compulsion to hide her behavior from whatever truth could be watching.
The ship’s nAI responded to the command with a prompt polarization of the glass.
On the tip of her index finger, the chemstone fleck glimmered like a micro-thin shaving from a diamond.
“You don’t look like much,” she said. “For the price, you’d better get me one heck of a ride.”
With her left hand, she pulled a lower eyelid down as far as she could to insert the rare flake from the Hyades Caverns of Aldebaran Four’s moon. It dropped in and immediately began to burn, just as she was told it would.
“You might even think you see a wisp of smoke,” the dealer had advised. “It’s just the drug going inside, baby. Let it do its work. Ignore the sting and soon you’ll be all set to create whatever world you could possibly desire, right there in your visual cortex.”
“And I’ll maintain complete control?” she’d asked. “Part of me will still be running things, right?”
His answer wasn’t as detailed as she’d hoped for. Besides, he had no way of knowing who she was or what she was. Down in her pelvis, the SynThinker hummed with a thousand possible scenarios of what could go wrong. Her human brain, the one that was sup- posed to feel the high, didn’t care anymore.
She could detect a slight bubbling in the flesh toward the back of the eye socket. The naturally hallucinogenic chemicals of the chem- stone struggled to find a way into the artificial orb that had replaced her gelatinous organ. It wasn’t working.
“Come on,” she said. “What is this? This is nothing!” Impatient, she pressed her finger hard against the eye. Perhaps, she thought, with enough angry pressure, the molecules that featured a natural shape that somehow fit into the humanoid retina would cooperate with the silicon matrix of the multi-fractal photoreceptors.
There was only pain, no rush, no manageable hallucination, not even a blur in vision. The tetra-phosphorous particle couldn’t locate the rods and cones present on the back of a human eye. That part of her was gone, stolen by a twist of fate so long ago.
A pale blue foam washed down her cheek as the tears worked to cleanse her body from the foreign contaminant. She could feel the daily wave of despair approach. It was just on the horizon of her mind. Like a tsunami of self-hatred it would race toward her, to pile up on the day’s plans, flooding through her hopes for normalcy.
With an angry bounce she was on her feet. She stomped into the bathroom to take yet another cold shower. The purplish image in the wall mirror drew her out of the glass walls, away from the spray that rained down from above.
If only I could wash my brains, she thought. Maybe I could cleanse away these useless centuries. So much time wasted. Day after dreary day, immortality is like that big bite of gristly steak you can’t quite bring yourself to swallow. I can fly to a hundred different worlds, and it won’t matter what star it is, the stupid thing is going to rise and go across and go down and behind, never ending. A million things to do – every day the same.
Why did he have to do this to me? I could be at peace right now, resting. Why!?
Her fist slammed down on the sink, a loud clang of the upended soap dish falling into the basin prompted a memory, déjà vu. With a twist of her forearm, the old scar along the heel of her palm came into view. “Yeah, old man,” she said. “You sure know how to piss me off.”
“Are we having a pity party?”
“Good morning, Wisdom. Did you enjoy my pathetic attempt at self gratification? I’m sure you peaked.”
“I was out,” Wisdom said. “There was some unbridled sanity down the way that needed tending to.”
“Nobody I care about, I trust.”
“I don’t know, M’rah. Do you care about anybody?”
“I’ve told you not to call me that,” Elmyrah said.
“Where’s Daddy this morning?”
“Jove is on his way to Rigel Seven. He’s been summoned to appear before the Northern Judiciary, problems with the Sand. Why you bother asking anything is—”
“More deaths, I presume,” Wisdom said, “just dreadful. Of course, I don’t have to tell you.”
“So don’t. What do—you always want something. Spit it out,” she said.
“Well, I just thought that perhaps if you’re still interested, I could help with the whole issue of…you know, your being deprived.”
“Deprived? Me? Thanks to you my depravity knows no bounds.”
“Hey, it’s your dreams. I just want to help make them a reality.”
Elmyrah wrapped up in a towel and strode through her bedroom, into the closet to peruse her vast wardrobe. She tried to withdraw from the conversation, hoping that the meddlesome, para-sentient program would tire of the game and leave her alone.
“You know you’re sick of this life,” Wisdom said. “I can fix it for you.”
“Come with me to Sirius, Elmyrah. Meet me there. The Union will welcome you with open arms. They can give you that which you desire most.”
“After four hundred years, Wisdom, I want the same thing as Jove—for you to shut the hell up.”
A chime rang from the communications wand on the top of her dresser. She stepped across the room, with a piercing glare into the wall-hung mirror on the way past. “Yes? What is it?” she asked, the silver tip held close to her chin.
“Sorry for the interruption, ma’am,” Zhong-Un, the pilot said, “but there’s something amiss with the ship’s TransWave pods. Gemmeck and Jove are each off-planet and I can’t seem to gain access to Knowl- edgebase. I’ve never seen them deploy in landing mode before.”
“Well, we aren’t going anywhere with the main drive off-line, so don’t worry. I’ll be up shortly and we’ll run through the diagnostic together. Something caused them to initialize. Either you acciden- tally bumped the signal requestor or some aperture out there called… to the…pods…”
Wisdom, she thought. You’re just—if you were more than a mind, you’d have your fingers into everything, now wouldn’t you?
The upper bridge of Abandon afforded a panoramic view of the lush countryside on the cooler polar region of Polaris’ fourth planet, Alruccabah. It did for anyone taller than 1.3 meters. For Elmyrah, the bright ring of pink sunlight pouring in around the ship’s central control axis merely reminded her of the child’s stature.
He’d learned long ago not to bother hiding anything from Jove’s adopted daughter. For her, every brain was just another book to be thumbed through. If you were lucky she wouldn’t dog-ear any of your pages. Today, as he had many times before, while he required her expertise with the intricacies of the interstellar vehicle, he was polite to situate a small step stool for his tutor. This time it was snapped down in front of the manugelic interface for the TransWave aperture link.
“Thank you, Zhong-Un,” she said, with a pat on his shoulder. “You’re a dear, as always.” A glance into his deep-set eyes revealed his confidence that the equipment failure was not of his own doing.
Some outside influence had caused the ship’s faster-than-light sys- tem to activate, the four pods swiveling out from their fuselage bays, a reaction to some distant signal.
With a reach up into the center of the flat, square frame, she dipped her fingers into the sensoreactive gel, with a slight pause to allow the bio-device to recalibrate itself to her manipulations.
“All right, sweetness, what’s up with you?”
Behind a faked cough to catch the pilot’s attention away from the panel, she switched off the visual display so as to hide any evi- dence of what she believed to be the cause. The feedback under the black surface of the gel provided the tickles and itches against the skin of her hand, now pushed in to the depth of her narrow, lavender wrist.
“Well, there goes the screen,” she said. “What’s next? The thing’ll spit me out I guess.”
Working her way through the menus of the diagnostic routine by touch alone, she located the activation history report. To decipher the bio-code, Elmyrah merged with the output from the ship’s Near Artificial Intelligence. As she anticipated, the typical T-Wave trans- mission had been altered. Where interstellar coordinates should be defined, human language was interspersed. “…Elmyrah…Al-Otaibi….respond…”
“This is Elmyrah Al-Otaibi,” she replied, “I have received your link.”
The action hidden, she could speak from her fingertips, listen with her palm. Zhong-Un was oblivious to the secret discussion.
“Greetings from your Brothers of the Union. We have observed your progress through time. Many have wished to meet you, to accept you as one of our own. Till now, those voices have been the minority. Our leadership has evolved. We request your presence.”
All this time and all they’ve ever deigned to send my way were gawks and gasps of horror at the sight of the little purple abomination. And now they want to be chums. Okay, how do I manugel, “Kiss my—”
“Please accept our sincere apologies. We humbly ask your forgiveness.”
Hmmm…backspace, backspace, backspace…
“Forgiveness may come,” she said. “For now, I require assurance.” “Of what can we assure you?”
“That you’re willing to tell the truth.”
From this distance, and through the TransWave link, her telepath- ic link was stunted. She couldn’t get into the head on the other side.
I need a baseline, she thought, one good truthful statement that I can use as a fulcrum, for when the politics and brinkmanship begin. “You want to know why we have contacted you,” they said. “Yes.” She knew why. She just needed to hear them say it. “Your…father…Jove, has caused a great deal of pain for so many worlds, and all for his personal gain. He must be stopped. We seek a method.”
Three truths, one opinion. Close enough, Elmyrah thought. But they wouldn’t have gone to his daughter for ‘a method’ unless they were otherwise constrained; had something I wanted more than my dear Daddy’s trust. And of course, they do.
“Capella Beta,” she said, “in four days. There’s an old Legion star base converted into a tax-free trade zone. Ask for me at the inner ring’s first brothel.”
That should be good, she thought. Let’s see, a hundred years from now, how will the joke go? “An asexual Synthetic walks into a whorehouse in Auriga…”
Note to Self
My darling daughter made a new friend yesterday while visiting the Museum of Eradication in the tower city of Nozira. He sold her something. That’s unfortunate. Perhaps now I have a use for those odd grenades I took in trade for the delivery of Sand to that haunted fellow on Wundahd. ‘Caution: dispersal of flesh-eating bioactive solvent is twelve meters.’
Elmyrah brings out the best of my worst moods.