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by Miriam English
The room spoke up to tell us that a cart from Arrivals was at the door to deliver Priyanka's luggage. I told Priyanka that I'd taken the liberty of getting it sent here, and that tomorrow, if she wanted, Security would arrange an anonymous apartment for her while she stayed in the City. She was grateful.
Brenda wanted to know, "Who is Rani? She knows us all?"
I said, "She met you and me when we visited the Conference on Earth. She gave a talk there too -- on her unfortunate experiences in breaking down power structures."
Priyanka nodded and added, "Rani knew and understood all this when I was still a child. She had been protesting about people having power over others for decades and had developed quite a high reputation. She believed strongly in non-violent protest and in equality of opportunity for all. Mahatma Gandhi was always her greatest inspiration."
Brenda asked me, "You said 'unfortunate'. How so? Was she harmed?"
Priyanka and I laughed.
I answered, "Only her confidence. After spending so long protesting about people having power over one another, the people elected her as leader. She was pushed into the position she hated most."
Priyanka explained, "Rani came from Sri Lanka. She made the mistake of quoting Arthur C. Clarke, a famous science fiction writer who lived near her when she was a child. He'd said that people who wanted positions of power should be automatically disqualified from them; that leaders should be selected on the basis of their ability, be dragged kicking and screaming into office, and get time off for good behavior." She chuckled.
I smiled. "And that's what they did to Rani."
Brenda's eyebrows went up. "Oh my."
Priyanka continued, "Yes. She decided that so long as she was stuck with the job she would use her time productively. To her credit she was an extremely fair and conscientious leader. However she also used the time to put her own beliefs on power into action. She gradually dismantled most of the power structures around her, till eventually there was very little left. It was what she always wanted: power was redistributed back to the people."
I laughed again. "And that was her big mistake. She used power to impose it. Instead of being grateful to her, the people hated her for it."
Priyanka was grinning. "Yes. Absurd accusations were made about her removing all the dignity and ceremony from the office, her accusers never realising that they simply loved those things the way slaves can grow to love the bonds that keep them in servitude."
"As soon as she walked away from office the people began rebuilding exactly the same structures she'd worked so hard to tear down." I shook my head. "For a long time she was quite bitter and let herself think that people deserved their oppression."
Priyanka nodded. "In time she came to understand what had happened. She used power to remove power. It won't work. Just as you can't really fight a war to gain peace -- resentment simmers and war erupts again later. You can't threaten someone into friendship. If she had shown the people how it was in their own best interests to dissolve the power structures then they would have done it happily and it may have become permanent."
"But she was young and impatient," I added.
Priyanka nodded and we three sat, thinking about that for a moment.
We talked on various other topics till almost midnight. Eventually, a stifled yawn from Priyanka made me remember my hostess status.
"Heavens. You must be tired from your journey. You take my bed. Brenda and I will be fine in here. I'm on call all hours of the night and I would just wake you if I blundered through here with you on the lounge."
"Absolutely not." Priyanka protested. "I won't hear of it. My bedroll is in my luggage and I actually prefer it instead of a bed. I fall asleep easily so being woken is no problem for me. Besides, you and Brenda should have the bed." She smiled meaningfully and Brenda's cheeks reddened somewhat.
Not requiring much convincing, I agreed, but added that I had a spare room she could use. "I'll just go move some of the containers of junk I never got around to unpacking."
Much later, in the dimness of my bedroom I lay in bed beside Brenda, propped on my
elbow, looking down at her. Priyanka wasn't the only one who was tired.
Somewhat to my dismay Brenda fell asleep almost as soon as her head
settled onto the pillow. I marvelled that she was here with me. I could
hardly believe it. Don't get used to it, I warned myself. When
you find Mackey she'll have to go back to him.
Seeing her asleep made her look so human. I felt a great upwelling
In the early days Androids didn't require sleep, but after some years their designers realised the sense in what evolution had stumbled upon hundreds of millions of years earlier. Dreaming sleep is a neat system that allows more efficient use of the brain. So designers imitated the structures of the human brain involved in sleep and found they could make far smarter androids much more efficiently.
Having Brenda here in bed with me made it quite difficult to fall asleep. I would never have thought that joy would be such a potent sleep inhibitor. Eventually however, I did fall asleep, blissfully snuggled up against her.
In the morning I awoke to a beautiful sight. Brenda was propped on her elbow gazing down at me. An automatic, sleepy, "Morning sweetie," escaped my lips before I remembered.
"Hi," her voice was soft, breathy, almost quiet enough to be a whisper. "This all seems very familiar to me... and nice."
I smiled, wistfully. "It was nice... though that's a little like describing the Solar System as 'big'."
Moving my hand up to her face, I stroked down her smooth, dark, cheek, along her jawbone to her chin, and she bent her head forward to press her pink lips against my fingers as her eyes half closed.
She started to say something, but stopped.
I wondered what she was thinking, how much she remembered.
Seeing her like this drenched me in memories. I remembered the particular ways she liked me to touch her, her pleasure when we were consumed in a long, slow kiss. I slowly drew a line down the side of her neck to her shoulder, pushing her heavy, long, black hair out of the way as I went. Then I trailed three fingers down the curve of her breast, pausing at the tightening areole, and gently grasped her puckering nipple. She gasped.
"Too fast?" I asked, a little worried I'd been too forward.
In answer she moved her leg over between mine and pressed her thigh against my crotch while I raised my thigh and she pushed gently against it, then laid her soft, soft belly on mine. When her breasts brushed mine I moaned, feeling like my head would explode with pleasure. She paused like that for several seconds, shifting herself subtly, focussing our attention on our nipples and between our legs, then her face drifted down to mine. Our lips touched so slightly, pulled back, noses rubbing, and then our mouths pressed strongly, moistly together. Bright electric ripples lanced through my center and I hugged her passionately to me.
I gave a long shuddering sigh. "I've missed you so much."
She pressed her cheek against mine and kissed my neck.
I raised my pelvis and she pressed her thigh against me.
Suddenly a call came on my comms and David said, "Adele, you're needed at Arrivals."
"Noooh! David, your timing is terrible. Can't it wait?"
Brenda rolled half onto her side, resting on an elbow, watching me, a faint smile at the corners of her mouth.
David replied, "Sorry, no. We have a possible dangerous android. Meg interviewed him and thinks he's been sent to assassinate someone -- we think maybe your friend, Priyanka."
"Oh, damn." Shaking my head I sat up and closed my eyes. "Okay
David. I'll be there in a few minutes. Tell this guy that you're still
waiting on his details from Earth. Tell him it happens all the time.
Blame Earth bureaucracy." I closed the connection.
I turned to Brenda, cradled her face in my hands, softly, lingeringly kissed her, sighed and, my forehead against hers, asked her, "Raincheck?"
As I was hurriedly throwing some clothes on I asked, "Can you take Priyanka to your school today? Keep her out of public areas and be suspicious of any male androids. One may have been sent to kill her. I have to go handle it now. I'll keep you updated."
Fully dressed, I groaned and looked down at the beautiful dark vision
before me. Her bright eyes smiled up at me as I leaned down to kiss her
cheek. Then I fled the apartment before I could weaken.
Running down the corridor in long, bounding strides I placed a call to Meg, asking for a quick explanation of what made her think the android had been sent to kill. She answered, "No empathy. He doesn't understand people's feelings. There's only one reason you'd want an android to be sociopathic..."
"To be able to kill a human," I finished her sentence. "Uh... what's his name?"
"Yeah, that's another thing: Marcus Hildebrand. Marcus, after the Roman god of war, and Hildebrand, Germanic for 'battle sword'. I think somebody down there fancies themself a bit of a history buff with a sense of irony. For a human to have that name would mean nothing, but to name your android that... well, it would be unlikely to be accidental."
Taking a tube, I called Henna, told her about the assassin android and asked if she minded keeping him entertained. I stressed that if she felt at all uncomfortable about it that I'd understand and would find someone else. When she said she was happy to help I asked her to dress in stretchy grey, to cut her hair to shoulder length and for her to meet me in a few minutes at Arrivals.
Seconds later I got out of the pod and strode over to Arrivals. A tall, calm, well-dressed, caucasian-looking man with short, curly, brown hair was standing there engaged in conversation with one of the Arrivals staff. They both turned to me as I approached, the staff member indicating me.
I tried to be as friendly as possible. "I'm Adele. I'm terribly sorry about the inconvenience. We hope you'll accept the use an apartment at no cost to youself for as long as you're here. We wish to make your stay here as pleasureable as possible. To that end we have also arranged for a guide to the City..." I looked around for Henna and spotted her coming this way, looking remarkably like Priyanka from this distance. Keeping an eye on the male android I indicated Henna. "Ah, here she comes now." I noticed him stiffen momentarily then relax again. That seemed pretty good confirmation to me. We needed something more solid than that though. I'd do a full background check on him. Earth authorities always seemed to seriously underestimate us, so I could pretty-much expect a half-hearted cover story for this guy. I'd have to brief Henna shortly too.
When Henna was close enough I introduced her to him. "Henna, this is Marcus. I want you to show him everything about the City that he wishes to see. Please help him in any way you can."
Henna gave him a dazzling smile and said, "It will be my pleasure."
I turned to Marcus. "You have comms?" At his nod I continued, "City
Housing will send you codes for an apartment shortly and we'll have
your luggage delivered there for you if you wish. You are welcome to
partake of the City's pleasures."
I shook his hand. "I hope you have a pleasant stay with us." Then I turned to Henna and embraced her. "Thanks hon, for coming on such short notice. I'll be in touch."
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