SUNSWEPT CH7


Bee3 managed the spoon to xer lips and slurped at the strange milk soup that xer new body required to sustain itself. Xe'd only spilled a small bit of it this time and xer eating companion gave xer an enthusiastic thumbs up from across the galley table. Something so routine for xer companion had been all but impossible for xer to master; on more than one occasion xe'd almost broken down to ask for a gyro-balanced version of the utensil like xe'd seen some recovering soldiers use. Xe was determined to fit in as a digital sapient and so only the real implement would do. Xe prepared for xer next bite and began reviewing xer memory files concerning the past few days.

Xe'd awoken to the strange input sensation of being wrapped in some sort of full body cloth restraint and a needle inserted into xer forearm. Xe felt warmer but the pain in xer abdomen was still there. It was, however, autonomic subroutine C that was sending warning signs of failing. Xe recalled xer memory files and found instructions on proper liquid excretion. Luckily the cabin had had an on-suite or xe would never have been able to communicate the need other than clawing xer way free of the restraints (later discovered to be blankets) and crawling over to the chamber, which is what xe attempted. Jemmie, who had also received medical attention but refused to leave Bee3, woke up at about that moment and hurried to assist. Autonomic subroutine C failed halfway across the room and even as Bee3 prepared for what xe assumed would be a horrendous mess Jemmie quickly snatched some sort of pouch from where it was tethering Bee3 to the bed. Jemmie's quick thinking prevented both mess and additional pain as Bee3 was introduced to the incredibly awkward sensation of discovering that xe was catheterized. Of all the experiences thus far, that one would remain foremost on the 'strange' list for some time.

Once free of the infernal medical unit and its blankets and catheters, the past several days had been all learning; how to eat, how to maneuver better, and of course how to talk. Human vocalizations seemed so strange to xer. Clearly they communicated more honestly with their physicality and stance but seemed to have absolutely no awareness that they were doing so. So speech it was. Xe was now acceptably fluent in conversational basic with a vocabulary that was outstripping xer teachers. It was Phedrick who had given xer some archaic Caldari text from which xe had obtained and accepted the challenge of expanding xer linguistic skills into learning as many cultures as possible.

Meeting H'Aki, who was also teaching xer a sub-variant of Matari, had been more educational than any database. She was so very different than any other human Bee3 had encountered. It was also her suggestion that Bee3, who had proudly declared xer name to be "Beethree" upon introductions, could also go by just "Bee" which was more efficient. 'Besides, all friends need nick-names.' Bee3 couldn't find any sort of rule in any database when xe checked later that evening but xe decided that it must be another obscure rule that never got written down. Humans were fond of that sort of thing.

Xer attention returned to H'Aki who sat just across from xer. She had finished her own breakfast and was already cycling rapidly through whatever list she had found on one of the public access broadcast channels. She was moving way too fast for a human to absorb all of the information and so Bee deduced that H'Aki was again bored. Xe'd already tried sending out queries from the few data access points xe'd located only to find some of the most invasive firewalls xe'd ever encountered. They could get some of the basic news articles, maybe some music too but that was it. To a digitally-minded being such as xerself, it was essentially no better than a prison.

"Why do you suppose we are here?" H'Aki's boredom coping tactic had changed to asking questions Bee could hardly know the answer to.

"To be protected." It was about the only answer Bee had for anything about their current situation. Xe knew that They were still after xer. Xe knew that Jemmie honestly believed xer safer here. Therefore xe concluded that they were here for their safety.

H'Aki, on the other hand, took this deduction with stoic derision. "You might be, I suppose, but I am not that important. No, they want something from us... only explanation. Or it's all a trick and are going to kill us.

Bee couldn't even begin to assimilate H'Aki's reasoning and the screwed up look on xer face as xe tried to first deduce how her companion had come to this conclusion, decide that if Ha'Aki sensed danger perhaps she had picked up on something Bee had missed, and then began desperately trying to intuit a way xe might surpass the firewalls must have been something to see.

H'Aki couldn't take it anymore and desperately tried to restrain the harsh laugh that nearly exploded from her at the look on Bee's face. "Bee, I was totally joking."

"Joking?" Bee was too far into high alert, looking about as if to find some physical escape that they might make. Xer logic circuits decided that there was no processing room to inquire as to the definition of 'joking'.

H'Aki's hand went to her forehead both for the density of her companion as well as herself for not realizing the effect her attempts at humor might cause the digital sapient. "A Joke, I wasn't serious."

"But, your shoulders... and pulse of 83.9, your pupils didn't dilate. You were telling the truth." Bee had paused in xer frantic search but only for a moment, still unable to fully arrest the flight response.

"Humor Bee, it was funny!"

"It wasn't funny."

H'Aki snickered as her friend began to come back to normal about half way out of xer seat and to one of the only two doors into the room. "It was a little."

Bee leveled just about the most human glare yet across at xer companion.

It was at this moment that the door opened and in walked Agent Kamella and a freshly rested KipTop.

*******


Meyan stepped back from the mirror and gave herself a slow swirl which ended with a gentle swish of her dress. She'd been pleased to discover a new pre-programmed setting to her nano-furniture which allowed her to confirm it into a full length three-ply mirror. When would little 'ole her ever have thought to need one? Well, she needed it now. Her little splurge and the mirror it had resulted in now reflected yet another splurge of hers; this gorgeous summer dress.

She gave it yet another swirl and giggled slightly to herself at just how 'silly girl' she looked. Her dad would have been proud, her mom? Well, she would have to settle for being proud of the excellent high level job that had paid for the dress. She had been thinking of them lately, back home and far, far from her. So much had changed; so much of her had changed she wondered if they'd even recognize their quiet bookish daughter anymore. Her eyes fell on the pale emerald of her bare shoulders and then to her hands where that same green had taken hold of all but her most resolute callouses. The transformation and growth of new green skin cells had all but filled her face as well. The itching had gone, thank Bob that had only been a temporary thing. Her new dress was also a departure from the norms of that daughter of theirs; flowing, silky, and with a prominence of teals, blues, and accents of greys and soft oranges arrayed in a strange feathered pattern. She was beginning to enjoy shopping and to do so with her implant was an entirely new experience. She could even try on dresses using a third-party point of view of her body. She tried to conceive of how the implant had captured her own brain's self-image and adjusted for personal bias to represent an actual moving model onto which Meyan had spent countless minutes, a few hours even, trying on different outfits. Most color pallets just didn't seem to work anymore and she was forced to reject all choices of what used to have been her favorite color to dress in. Shades of blues, golds, maroons and even silvers suddenly filled her newer shopping cart options. Pinks had looked good as well but she still couldn't bring herself to even consider them despite the fact that they no longer washed out her skin. It wasn't that she had a thing against wearing pink in particular... but after a childhood of betrayal and washed out features from the color it seemed she had acquired a deep seated distrust for it. All those popular girls of her youth could just keep on wearin' it; she liked the new teals and blues.

Her admiration for the dress was interrupted by a chime at the door. She started at the sudden noise but quickly commanded her stately mirror back into its usual sitting room table form. As the nanites rearranged and solidified behind her she sent a mental command to the room to admit Delyyn.

"Wow..."

"You like it?" She gave him yet another quick half-spin as he stepping into her apartment wearing a rather smart set of trousers and a nice shirt. He did clean up pretty good didn't he...

"I really do." His view paused on her a moment longer before he swept it around to include all of her small apartment. It was the first time he'd actually been inside and she suddenly felt rather exposed. "All of it really. Hey, is that NanoGram's new centerpiece?" His eyes had caught the unassuming table just as it had solidified and the tech nerd, voracious for all things new, took over.

She just rolled her eyes and smiled, not the least bit surprised that her shiny new table had won over her shiny new dress in his eyes. She stepped over into the suite's only other room and up to the nightstand to grab two earrings she'd also gotten to match the dress. As she reemerged into the entry/kitchen/sitting room portion of her apartment Delyyn was already pacing about the table as if trying to visually capture every aspect of it; he was like a jungle beast cornering his prey. At least he wasn't arse up on his hands and knees under it as she was sure Petrian would have been. She busied herself fastening the earrings to the upper cuff of her ears and snuck a quick look at the standard mirror beside the door. Two small strings of colored beads swept down along the curve of her inner ear, held by some magic tensile but invisible fiber, while a flare of deep green, orange, and blue in a feathered pattern to match her dress blossomed from behind the ear itself. A bit ostentatious for her former self maybe, but when she'd seen them suggested to her by the automated shopper, and how they had been in the same rare feather pattern as her dress... well, she reminded herself that her dad told her to spoil herself once in awhile. She grabbed her clutch from the bar and turned to her date for the afternoon. "Well, shall I leave you two alone then?"

"Wha.. huh? Oh. No, I think we're a bit late." He left his quarry and joined her at the door.

She soured just a little. "We aren't late, yet" His tone had implied that it had been her actions which had delayed them and despite the fact that she was well aware that they had plenty of time to make it up to the restaurant, she hadn't quite gotten over yesterday's tardiness at the lab.

He stepped through the door and, in typical Delyyn fashion, extended his elbow in a play to smooth her over with the trappings of chivalry. She acquiesced with a grin and took his arm. After all, the cut of the shirt and pants really did look good on him and she was pretty sure he hadn't meant his comment to be accusing; likely just her seeing trouble where it wasn't.

This was edging closer to a proper date too. During a decidedly lighter night of drinks last night, Tezra had invited them both to an adoption shower for her and her partner Iralis. They'd finally been approved official adoption of an adorably cute little girl named Ellie. The process had apparently been ongoing for a few months with most of the resistance attributed to the dangerous nature of one applicant being a capsuleer and the other crew in the most dangerous bit of space known to sapience. Sufficient considerations had to be made for nanny services, and even then the agencies had baulked at the amount of time both parents were expecting to spend away from home on patrol and in ship oversight alone. Ultimately it had taken more than a little nudging from some of Tez's contacts in the upper echelons of Alexylva Paradox and in turn their contacts within the agencies directorate to finally smooth the matter out. Tez had recounted the story a few nights ago, prefaced with the excitement that they were finally making some progress. Ellie, for her part, was already no stranger to loss it seemed. A young orphan, she'd lost her father in a refugee brawl on some forlorn station. Tez had broken up the fight some years ago but had been unable to save the father. With no birth-mother evident, and with the child clinging so to her rescuer, Tez did the only decent thing she could think to do; she brought the child back to live with her own parents while she went off to pursue her dreams of exploring space as crew to various ships heading off to adventure.

There had been more to the story, Meyan could tell there were parts unsaid, but Tez had skipped forward to when she and Iralis decided to send for the child. An agency had stepped in during Tez's absence from the world outside of Origin and while offering her parents some financial assistance for the care of the child, now held legal guardianship for Ellie. It had always been unclear as to what that agency had hoped to gain out of the arrangement but they had backing from the philanthropic auspices of the Sisters of EvE and the legal labyrinths of the Gallente Federation enough to make any hope of official adoption a challenge at best.

This party had been a long time coming and as she considered all of the history that had gone into Ellie's awaited arrival into Origin she suddenly found a whole new respect for an event she had always previously dismissed as just some excuse for a bunch of women to get all girly about kids. Her thoughts had carried them onto the tram and off again, through the pleasure commons, and even right up to the restaurant door. They stepped inside and found that the entire venue had been bought out for the party alone. Several guests had arrived early ahead of them but it seemed that most were yet to arrive. They moved in further from the entrance and began looking for a table at which to deposit their belongings in claim of seats. Through the miracles of modern technology, both of their gifts had already been delivered to the table in the corner pre-wrapped and as they next looked about for Tez and Iralis, only her clutch and his sun-lenses marked their chosen spots.

Tez and Iralis were both caught up in separate animated conversations so Delyyn steered them over to a separate group of friends she had never met to make introductions. As one round of small talk drifted into another Meyan stuck closely to Delyyn and said little, preferring instead to just listen and try to keep up with the absolute incessant stream of backgrounds and public files which her implant seemed determined to provide. She really did need to make some settings adjustments to that thing but each time she found herself with a few moments free her mild streak of laziness got the better of her or she simply forgot. Her implant pinged a notice of time set aside tomorrow on her personal schedule to adjust the settings. Somehow that only seemed to frustrate her further and she returned her attention to the party.


The party had wound up into full swing and following a late luncheon both Tez and Iralis retired to the corner of the room to begin the time-honored tradition of being overly excited about every single gift they could open in rapid succession. Meyan excused herself from the crowd of onlookers and returned to her place at the table which had already been cleared of the lunch detritus. She took a sip from the water glass which remained and retrieved a small mirror from her clutch. A quick angle of the mirror showed the shoulder straps beneath the dress to be behaving and as she was returning the view up over her shoulder to check her hair she noticed Delyyn coming to join her.

"I know this isn't much of a date but well, I figured we were both coming anyway." He smiled sheepishly as she finished turning toward him and stashing her mirror back into the clutch.

"No... it's a wonderful date. They really do look so excited." She glanced over at the proud parents to be and then back at Delyyn who had come over to say more than just that.

"I've been kinda thinking..." His confident smile seemed at odds with the nervous nature of his phrasing but he continued, "What do ya think, call us a couple?" He stuck his hand out, palm up in a clearly physical manifestation of his question.

She had to admit that 'yes' she did enjoy spending time with him and generally it felt nice having him around in these really intensely social situations. It was almost as if he was a sort of buffer to their overwhelming nature. Besides, he was kinda cute. She smiled back at him and swiftly stuck her hand out to meet his, palm down. "I'm in."

His smile lit up the room at her response. "Tell ya what; come over to my place for dinner? I'll cook."

Her first response was to wonder if he was offering dinner, or asking for dinner and maybe something more but she caught herself and firmly stomped down on that old Meyan naysayer attitude. She managed a covering smile to match her reply. "That sounds wonderful."

"Excellent, we better get back over to the gift opening though, don't want to be rude."

She shook her head and walked with him back to the crowd. She was quite sure he had a new and distinct buoyancy to his step as they returned.

*******