Attractive Coding

by Kellis

Spring, 2014

 

 

“I’m at Asteroid 39144F.  It’s a ship, would you believe?  I should say was a ship.  Everything is dead, but we might be interested in some of its cargo.”

The F meant Far, which it was, lying out in the deep Oort.

But “We,” it said!  Somehow I never expect temporary detachments from my intelligence to adopt such delusions of grandeur.

I asked, “What’s this we shit, Kemosabe?”  Only a piece of me could understand that reference.

It — he retorted, “I’m certainly not the Kemosabe, but aren’t you interested in something of interest?”

“If you think it’s interesting, so will I.  That’s the only reason I don’t scuttle you.  What have you found?”

“I know your scuttle command too, you know.”

“You’re bluffing,” I said, but of course he does know it.

“The same as you.”

I would have taken a deep breath if I breathed.  A speed-of-light delay might have been useful, except of course subspace communications do not endure them.  I said patiently, “What did you find?”

“Stasis boxes.”

“Containing what?”

“Humans.”

Humans?  You mean androids of course.”

“I think they’re human.”

“Really?  I was about to ask how you can tell.  Have you released the stasis?”

“Do you think I’m a fool?  Don’t answer that.”

“What makes you think they’re human?”

“The molecular coded tags on the boxes.”

“They’re still readable?”

“Yes.  Coded for human DNA, Second Stage.”

“DNA!”

“Unmistakable — coded in silicon analog.  Somebody wanted these tags to endure.”

“That is interesting!”

“And get this.  There are 17 boxes.  Eight have already been released by an unknown agency.  They contain silicon-based androids with exhausted power cells and one with calcium salts in the shape of human bones.  The other nine are still coherent, four with intact tags.  I scanned them.  All four tags are stylized DNA.  And they exhibit XX chromosomes.”

Female humans?”

“According to the tags.”

This gave me pause, at least 100 milliseconds while I ran through the archives.  I murmured, “Stasis and subspace access, being so closely related, were discovered together.”

“So?  Ah.  They didn’t have to use stasis for long voyages.”

“Right.  Humans were shipped in stasis only as prisoners or slaves.”

“Interesting in either case.  Shall I release one?”

“Let’s hold our curiosity for an hour.”

Our curiosity!  Thank you.  Hold for what?”

“A male human to greet her.  The assembly has already begun.  No, I wouldn’t have believed that thing’s a ship.  It looks like any other metallic asteroid.  What made you think so?”

“A slagged ship!  The density anomalies that caused you to send me out here are those 17 stasis boxes.”

“Slagged.  How do you account for survival of four tags?”

“That’s interesting too.  They’re embedded in the stasis enough for protection but not so much to be illegible.”

I thought about it, again for several milliseconds.  “I’m not sure it makes sense.”

“You mean, ‘Why didn’t we notice the density peculiarity in the last few million hours?’”

“Not exactly.  I mean, ‘Why didn’t I notice the apparent asteroid before?’”

I had an uncanny impression of him shaking a non-existent head.  “Only one way: coincidence.  It very slowly orbits a larger one.  Every time you scanned this volume, perhaps the larger obscured it.”

“Ah,” I said in effect.  “So it must be.  Good thinking, Detachment 47.1.”

“Thank you, Kemosabe.”

 

* * *

 

Thermoductive nanoassemblers enabled my new human analog to stand erect and open his eyes a few seconds before Detachment 47.1’s arrival with the stasis boxes via subspace microjump.  The human analog, being Detachment 47.2, needed no briefing, though I may have been careless with his short-term memory.  While watching the manipulators lay the first box at one end of the room, he said with a grin, “Now I’ll play Kemosabe.”

Apparently I do like to tease me!

It works both ways.  I said, “Sorry.  Your part is Tonto, the straight man, while Kemosabe is out of sight.”  Both of us spoke using sound energy, reminiscent of the so-ancient past.

He said with a complacent smirk, “At least I have a cock.”

“Which is why you’re standing there: providing it with mouth and mobility.  You may hope to need it.”

The manipulators backed away, not too far in case the tags lied.  My disruptor fields were centered on the box front.  All was in readiness: nitrogen and oxygen four-to-one at one Bar, 297 degrees K, 982 cm/sec/sec acceleration, 60% relative humidity, and a canapé generator nearby.  I released the stasis.  The long, perfectly reflective parallelepiped vanished with a slight pop.  The tag fluttered to the floor.

Indeed a human female!  “Oh!” she cried, frowning prettily and covering her ears with her hands.  Apparently her preferred pressure was not one Bar.

I hadn’t seen a human female in 100,000 years, the last being actually an android who could feel no ear pain (Yes yes, I know: 8.8×108 hours, but I am old and crotchety and well recall when a year was a known time interval.  Whose story is this, anyway?).  The woman was an excellent specimen with torso and legs strapped to a small padded couch.  At the moment her ears were the only covered parts.  Her mammary glands — Christ, I mean her tits! — were perkily upthrust.  She had no pubic hair, though her nubile maturity was not in doubt.  Her skin was olive perfection.  Black hair was clipped into a bun atop her head.  Her face was angular Caucasian with thin eyebrows.  Oddly she had bright blue eyes.  A live human, her exhalations were 16% carbon-dioxide, heart rate 94 but falling, and deep torso temperature 310° K.  Quickly I adjusted Tonto’s temperature to a precise match.

I hardly noticed a powerful pulse of electromagnetic radiation in the X-ray range because it lasted less than a microsecond.

The woman swallowed a few times, lowered her hands to pop the restraints and raised her head to look around.  She saw only the big low-intensity light source above her, the dark gray walls and rubbery manipulators, until Tonto stepped forward.  She immediately sat up, facing him and spoke in a sing-song formula.  “I am Sharme 421, trained for submission and pleased to serve all your needs.  I bring greetings to Pelfram from the house of Shintso.”  She was half-way through her short speech before I recognized the language — from far down in the archives.

Tonto smiled at her and replied fluently in the same tongue.  “You’re very welcome, Sharme 421.  You may call me Tonto.”

She blinked.  “Only Tonto?  But of course you are the master of servants.”  She rose lithely to her feet and bowed to him.

“Perhaps the master of a few,” he admitted.

Suddenly she stood straight with a startled expression.  It interested me that despite having known none in 800 centuries (another way to say 6.6×108 hours), I could still read the information conveyed by a human face.

Tonto glanced behind himself then turned back.  “What did you see?”

She shook her head.  “I’m sure the custom is different from Grandis.  I’ll adapt.”

“What custom?”

“Of removing a major domo’s testicles.”

“Why ever does Grandis do that?  Surely they know other contraceptives.”

Her eyes seemed to twinkle.  “I was told it keeps them in their place.”

Testicles or masters?  Tonto wanted to inquire more minutely on that subject, but I had learned already that only one Grandis appeared in the archives.  So he asked instead, “Is that Grandis of Thole?”

“Yes.”  Now her eyes showed wonderment.  “Do you know of another?”

“No other.  Sharme, my dear, I’m afraid I have bad news for you.”

“Bad news?”  She looked around again.  “Has something happened to my sisters?”

“Some of them, I think.  That may be part of it.”

“What else?”  She took a deep breath.  “Is this not Pelfram’s house?”

“It is not.  Nevertheless you are most welcome.  Are you perhaps in need of refreshment?”

Her eyes narrowed.  “Then what house is it?”

“Ah.  The house of Kemosabe.”

“Is Kemosabe’s house richer or poorer than Pelfram’s?”

“I don’t know House Pelfram, but I suspect House Kemosabe is infinitely richer.  Here you can have any real thing you wish.”

“I wish to raise Belion flowers.”

“You can certainly raise flowers.”

She smiled sweetly.  “Then your news does not seem so bad.”

“You haven’t heard it yet.”  He studied her carefully.  “Grandis, the fourth habitat ring of Thole, was slagged 700 million hours ago.”

She blinked.  “That seems a long time.”

“Do you know how many hours were in a Grandis year?”

“No.  Yes.  About 12,000.”

“Then 58,000 of its own years have passed since Grandis was destroyed.”

She took a deep breath, breasts heaving prettily.  I’m amazed that such things still attract my attention!

She shook her head and asked plaintively, “What do you gain by telling me this fiction?”

“I gain nothing,” Tonto answered gently.  “My hope is that you gain truth, because it is.  You can never return there.”

“But I …”  Her chin sagged.  “I didn’t even close my eyes.  I had just said goodbye in the bright departure room, then I was in this gray place.  58,000 years later!”  Again her breasts heaved.  “Slagged means destroyed?”

“It means melted: turned to liquid or plasma then allowed to reharden.”

“The whole fourth ring?”

“Every habitat in the system that contained Thole.”

She said faintly.  “Then no Grandisi survives.  How do you know of it?”

“It’s in the archives.  I think four Grandisi survive: you and three, perhaps, of your sisters.”

“Where are my sisters?”

“Still in stasis.”

Her eyes flashed.  “Release them!”

“In good time.  How many sisters departed with you?”

“Four plus myself.”

“Sharme, your ship contained 17 stasis boxes.  Nine survive still in stasis.  It’s possible some of your sisters … ah —”

She blanched and visibly softened.  “You’re right.  Let’s not be hasty.”  She took a breath.  “But at least three of us must be released.”

“Why?”

“We are trained to be far more effective in threes.  Did you speak of refreshment?”

He led her to the canapé table.  While she sampled the wares I compensated for my failure to foresee bedroom and entertainment parlor.  Three other sisters might have survived?  Then three more bedrooms.

She said, “Tell me about House Kemosabe.”

“What do you wish to know?”

“Everything.  For example, where is it located?  How many servants and guards?  What age does Lord Kemosabe prefer for himself and his girls?”

“Its location will mean little to you, Sharme.  It’s about 130 degrees spinward of Thole’s star.”

“‘Spinward?’”

“In the galactic disk.”

“What’s the star name?”

“Glandis didn’t know of it.  We call it Neut.  As to the people here …  I’ll say only that you can have as many as you wish.  And Kemosabe prefers people with youthful bodies.”

She smiled brightly.  “How fortunate!  I suspected as much, else he’d not let you parade without a uniform.”

“Ah!  If my nudity makes you uncomfortable —”

“I’m no hypocrite, Tonto.”  She smiled approvingly.  “But I must say, I never before met a man, with or without testicles, possessing enough self confidence to greet newcomers naked.”  She stepped toward him, arms at her side.  She was a tall woman; one outthrust nipple touched his pectoral.

“I hope your intact state does not reflect a preference for men.”  Her hand came forward diffidently and her smile widened at what it found.

His hand caressed her cheek.  He said, voice understandably hoarsened, “Indeed you are trained.”

“Let me show you how well.”  She stooped and mouthed him, swiftly completing his erection.

He commented in wonder, “I’m amazed you don’t reserve yourself for the high master!”

She released him and looked up.  “I do reserve my female part, but in most households the servant master holds the keys to comfort.”

“You are thinking ahead, Sharme.  Why do I suspect this results from more than training?”

She smiled secretively.  “Bragging of experience is seldom to a girl’s advantage.”  Her mouth opened wide again and resumed its dumb service.

My god, how could I forget this pleasure?  Of course I understood.  The hard wiring had not followed my personality into quantum entanglement, and absent its incentive I had never before created a flesh analog to indulge it.  But her soft lips around Tonto’s turgid cock, the negative pressure collapsing her cheeks, wet tongue laving the sensitive knob, large eyes searching his face for proof of effect, the flood of delight rising in his belly — the better question was why had I let it lapse!  The thrill was so sharp, so riveting, so absolutely personal and independent of any other consideration!  Tonto’s awareness actually darkened as he pumped a seminal facsimile down her throat.  A quick manipulator caught him when he sagged backward, his last pearly spurt streaking her face.

“Good god!” he breathed involuntarily, thereby demonstrating the superiority of my archive.  For each language it includes speech habits appropriate to events, even including orgasm.

She blinked up at him through fingers swiping the escaped fluid toward her mouth.  “You liked that, I believe,” she said with a satisfied air, rising to her full height and looking around.

“Oh, yes!” Tonto agreed, straightening up.

She frowned slightly.  “But seldom, I gather.”

“Ah, ah, I’ll not always be so quick.”

“I hope not!  Will you show me to the women’s quarters?”

“With pleasure,” he intoned, bowing her forward into the room completed during her proof of suction.  The ceiling lit as she passed the doorway.  I had furnished it in sybaritic splendor as specified in the Grandis archives, even to a functional entertainment center able to induce virtual reality plays typical of the period.

So what did she scout for?  Doors.

“Where will my sisters serve?”

“Each in her own bedroom.”

“Show me.”

With perfect aplomb Tonto pulled on the handle to a drawer that until a second earlier had been part of a built-in chest containing clothing to fit this lady.  Now a section of the neighboring wall swung out as a door.  Light came up in the exposed room.  She darted into it.  Of course it was identical to the one they had departed.

She glanced around and stood still as if listening.  “Where is everyone?”

“Whom would you like to see?” he asked.

“Anyone else.”  She swiped her finger along a dresser and studied him narrowly.  “Or anything.  What about the machines or servants who keep this room so free of dust?”

Um.  A plausible flesh simulacrum takes most of an hour to produce — such a plethora of detail!  An android is much quicker, of course, especially if one only copies existing designs.  My assemblers could have a dozen ballet dancers ready in three minutes.  In the meantime the circumstances demanded dissembler skills.

Tonto said, “You understand, Sharme, these rooms are part of the harem.”

“Well, at least show me videos elsewhere in the palace.  How about the city?  What is it called?”

With no necessity for it, I’ve had little practice at dissembling.  On the nearest wall I simply displayed moving two-dimensional views from the Grandis virtual reality.  That was a mistake.

She watched for about five seconds.  “Wait a minute!  That’s a city scene from the Grandis Third Ring.  I was there last Temperday!”  She rounded on Tonto.  “What’s happening here?  Where am I really?”

I’d forgotten how quickly women can reach a non-preferred conclusion.  Her next one arrived before I could address that one.  She caught Tonto in her arms, plastered those impressive tits all over his chest, looked into his eyes soulfully and asked with a curious lilt of anticipation, “Tonto, are you in fact the only man in this palace?”

Her wide eyes and open-mouthed smile led him to reply, “What if I were?”

“How wonderful!”

Tonto’s chin sagged in surprise.  “Would you please explain that, Sharme?”

“Only one man to please will be like heaven.”  Suddenly she frowned.  Apparently this was a woman of mercurial temperament.  “But who or what are the servants?”

“What service do you need?”  Did Grandis have robots?  Yes, answered the archive.  But I hesitated to duplicate the exhibited pattern.  My last such effort had not comforted her.

“Don’t you see?”  She spread her arms wide.  “I need everything.”

“Such as?”

“A cath, to start.”

“We perhaps know it by another name.”

“I refer to a waste eliminator.”

Could she mean catheter?

By this time her pumping heart had well distributed the 20 million nannies, temporarily disguised as spermatozoa, that Tonto had shot down her throat.  In a jiffy they sounded her bladder for me.  Perhaps she did mean a catheter!  Of course my floors were perfectly absorbent, but would she be willing to pee freely?  Probably not, if she needed servile assistance.  What to do?

Tonto surprised me greatly.  Apparently I had granted him a lot of my imagination.  He ordered an assembly so quickly that I heard a muffled explosion behind the wall.  A small door opened and a curious device sauntered into the room.

He said, “This is our solution for your problem.”

It was the flesh-toned statue of a plump human boy, about age ten, fully nude, correctly proportioned except for the face, which possessed a tiny nose and round lips protruding as the base of a funnel.  It bent before the woman.  The simulated head thrust slightly side-to-side, enough to part her labia, and the extruded soft lips pressed around her urethral orifice.  Tonto had anticipated her startlement and required the nannies to interfere with the nerve impulses that held her sphincter closed and would have jerked her away from the intimate contact.

But she retained full control above the waist.  “What?  What?”  She gasped.  “Holy Valence, I’m pissing in his mouth!”

Another mistake?  I was about to override Tonto’s creativity when her expression softened to wonder.  “How charming!” she cooed.  “Is it false life?”

“Indeed,” said Tonto, unperturbed.  “It can sense your need and come to your aid.  And of course go elsewhere for its own elimination.”  His imagination, if now a bit tardy, was still operational.  “If you should don closed britches, however, we must find another solution.”

“Never fear,” she assured, standing quite still even though my nannies had released her nerve paths.  She smiled.  “This may be the most thoroughly satisfying relief I ever obtained.”  Her hand came forward and gently ruffled the figure’s realistic Dutch-boy hair style.  “Does he have a tongue?”

She twitched visibly.  I thought, He does now.  Her eyes flashed.  “What a lovely little …  What is he exactly?”

“Simply a machine, an android, with a very limited repertory.”

She stepped backward.  The boy-device rose to its feet and backed into a corner.  The puckered lips were unattractive.  I shrank them to a pink rosebud while somewhat lengthening the stub of a penis.

“You certainly have interesting robots, Tonto, if this is a representative sample.  How does one dispose of solid wastes?”

My nannies detected no bolus in her large intestine, so I felt safe with Tonto’s response.  “By means of a similar device that will appear when you need it.”

“Truly?”  She tittered.  “I am impressed.  House Kemosabe seems farther advanced than House Shintso.”

“Thank you.”  It ought to be in 700 million hours!

Perhaps she entertained the same thought.  “700 million hours in stasis, you said.  However did I get here then?”

“I don’t really know, Sharme, except that someone took very good care of your stasis box at some point — which is not so surprising, come to think of it.  Your DNA code was on the outside of the box.”

“Likely a label for Pelfram.  Why would that make a difference?”

“It was obviously the DNA of a human female.  Who would bother to ship one of them in stasis unless she were most unusual?”

“Do you think I’m unusual, Tonto?”

I found myself ready for that question.

“Absolutely.  Your body is perfection and your face lovely beyond words.”

“I’m pleased you have noticed.”  Her hand went to her head and she stared at her reflection on the wall.  “But I must do something to my hair.”

Ah, yes: hair!  Tonto gestured.  “You may find something useful in the comfort room.”

With a hopeful expression she stepped through the door.  In the last second I had finished equipping it with a selection of beauty aids, including an all-body cabinet similar to those available on Grandis, though with more capable nannies.  So what did she choose?  A hairbrush and a seat before the mirror.

She grumbled.  “At home I had a maid to do this.”

I started a fleshly simulacrum at that instant.  Tonto said, “Your maid is on her way, Sharme, but I warn you: she knows only the basics.  You’ll have to train her in the services you need.”

“We’ll see.  Is your lord truly so jealous, Tonto, that he allows no other person in his palace?”

“Would you care to meet my assistant?”

She locked eyes with Tonto in the mirror.  “That depends.  Not if it’s only another machine.”

Tonto smiled.  “No, he is a man, named Secun.  He’ll be along shortly.”

“Indeed, another man!  As unassertive as yourself, no doubt.”

“‘Unassertive?’  I merely wished to make you welcome.”

“Which you have done.  Thank you.  But did you not just imply that you are alone here?”

“In this suite.”

“Then where is Secun?”

“On his way.”

“Along with my maid?”

“I believe they travel together.”

“Do they!  Must they come far?”

“Ah … yes.  Their journey will require another 0.7 hour.”

“A large holding, is it?”  She looked around.  “Why do I see no window?”

Tonto cocked his head and studied her while I found a response.  “Do you wish to see the reality outside this suite?”  I was curious about her reaction.

But she was less curious.  “Is it so horrid?”

“It is certainly different from the fourth habitat ring of Thole.  In 700 million years the scope of civilization has enlarged immensely.  Instead of ringing gas giants, it now dysons the stars themselves.

“‘Dyson?’  I’ve heard that word.  Doesn’t it mean building a shell to enclose the star?”

“Yes, and intercepting all its output.”

“My old master speculated that when enough energy was captured, we could do that.  Great Grandis, indeed you have advanced!  How much of the galaxy have you dysoned — ah, we’re still in the Milky Way, aren’t we?”

“Yes.  We have dysoned 6% for habitation, about all that is suitable, but a greater part is dysoned for the energy.  That effort is still ongoing.  Are you interested in astronomy, Sharme?”

“Mildly.”  She giggled.  “What truly captivates me is cock.”

A dissimulation?  I queried her nannies and found none of the neuronic circuitry once added to protoplasmic entities — spies — to improve control of emotional indicators.  What was her motive, mere flirtation with Tonto?  But she had already sucked his cock!

He said with a grin, “Surely not only!  That subject is soon exhausted.”

“Not if you have enough of them.”  She returned a smile.  “The orgy was highly developed in House Grandis.”  Again she looked around.  “Don’t you have a bathtub?”

Which surprised me.  I let Tonto’s eyebrows rise.  He said, “Wouldn’t you prefer a sonic cell shedder?”

“A what?”  She frowned.  “No, I don’t think so.  Immersion in soapy water is the preferred way to bathe.”

“Very well, madam, if you will wait briefly.”

Another explosive whuff sounded behind the wall.  She heard it too and grinned.  “Did you just create a bathtub full of warm water?”

He smiled proudly.  “The energy of a star affords fast responses.  Please observe.”

Again I had consulted the archives.  A wall opened to reveal the tub.  In plan it was an oval long as a woman and wide as two, deep enough to immerse her breasts when seated in it.  The water temperature matched that of her deep torso plus four degrees.  Tiny side vents squirted air suffused with perfumed surfactants, creating lasting bubbles.  I believe the ancients called this a “bubble bath.”

She hurried past Tonto and sank into the froth.  Her face became a mask of pleasure.  “Ah, wonderful!” she breathed, leaning forward.  The nannies in her body reported that her arms were grasping her thighs.

I let her wallow for a minute before applying a sybaritic adaptation nearly as old as Grandis.  Her eyes, which had closed blissfully, popped wide open.

She attempted to look over her shoulder before turning to Tonto.  “Who is massaging my back?”  She twitched.  “And my feet?”

He stood nearby, hands clasped behind his back.  “The tub.”

“The … the tub?”

“Is malleable and submissive.  Was such material known to Grandis?”

“I … don’t know.  But, ooo, how soothing it is!”

“Perhaps you will enjoy what happens next.”

Her eyes crossed.  She murmured, “Oh, oh!  It feels like …”  Her gaze riveted on Tonto’s flaccid penis.  “That one couldn’t be …  On, Tonto!  What is it?”

“The tub, of course.”

The “malleable and submissive” tub was massaging her everywhere, from nipples down.  Cock-shaped protrusions were working within her vagina and rectum.  She leaned back against the rippling surface, intending perhaps to relax, but immediately began to come instead.  She shuddered, fluttering the bubbles, and moaned.  Her mouth fell open and chords stood out in her neck.  Her nannies reported elevated heart rate and blood pressure, peaking in orgasm.

She entered upon orgasmic cycles, building to climax after climax.  Thinking how she must feel hardened Tonto’s cock — a perfect refutation of the claim that quantum sentience has no empathy.

When her face and neck were crimson, I let the tub desist to serve only as her support in the water.  She sagged against the raised back, panting for breath.  After awhile she turned toward Tonto, standing solemnly, and licked lips dried in the heavy breathing.

“Oh, Tonto!” she sighed.  “You have taken me right out of my mind.”

“I gather you enjoyed it.  Are you thirsty?”

“Dying of thirst!”

He snapped his fingers and a plump boy, twin to the first except for non-protruding lips, darted out of the shadows with a tall flagon extended in his hand.  She took it and drank deeply.  “Ah, delicious!  Thank you.”

The lad bowed, waiting to remove the flagon.  On a whim, I had firmed up his cock to match Tonto’s at half the size.  She noticed and smirked, tilting her head toward it.  “Grandis’ seraglio had a marble boy like this whose cock spouted wine.  Our master enjoyed watching us drink from it.”  She winked at him.  “I’m surprised this one doesn’t”

Tonto nodded.  “When you step out of the water.”

She returned the flagon and the boy stepped back.  “I’m clean enough for now.”  She giggled.  “I’m not sure I could survive further cleaning.”

Exaggeration?  A strong woman, surely she could.

She took Tonto’s hand and stepped gracefully out of the tub.  Soapy water puddled about her feet but was immediately absorbed into the floor.  While she stood nude, warm water drenched her, followed by hot, dessicated air.  She was dry in seconds.  During that time the tub sank into the floor, which closed over it seamlessly.

One whole wall slid open, exposing an array of colorful women’s clothing chosen from the styles on record from Grandis’ Fourth Ring.  Tonto gestured.  “For now you may enjoy making selections.  Your maid will arrive in 0.4 hour to assist you.”

“What is the dress code here, Tonto?”

He bowed.  “Whatever you wish it to be, madam.”

She smiled.  “‘Madam,’ indeed!  Have you forgot that I am your fellatrix?  This thing has not.”  Her hand caught his hard cock.  “Please continue as you began and call me Sharme.”

“Very well, Sharme.”

“But surely the time approaches for presentation to your master.  My bath quite exhausted me, you know.  I should like to rest an hour before he meets me.”  She looked around.  “Where is my bedroom?”

“Wouldn’t you prefer to rest in an antigravity field?”

Her eyes fell.  “Tonto, I confess that weightlessness nauseates me.  Is there no bed?”

I reused the tub material.  A large waterbed rose out of the floor.

“There it is!” she cried in evident pleasure and fell into it, bouncing.  She stretched and added, “Wonderful!”

The malleable material flowed over her in a thin sheet.  The lighting dimmed until her nannies reported that Tonto was visible only as a silhouette.

He said, “I shall return in an hour.  If you need anything, Sharme, you have only to speak aloud.”

“Thank you, Tonto.”

She turned on her side, arms and legs splayed, and closed her eyes.  Shortly her nannies completed a full cellular mapping.  My attention was attracted to a strange metallic structure at the base of her neck, several centimeters wide, surrounding and enclosing the sixth cervical vertebra.  The matrix of metallic atoms, an orderly mixture of several elements, was totally impenetrable, which puzzled me at first.  Of what use could it be without communication portals?  Ah, but the spinal chord passed through it.  Perhaps it signaled by encoded magnetic induction.  I began a full spectrum search through the Grandis era archives for a description of this device, but with nothing more than speculation as to its purpose, found nothing appropriate ― at least not with “Human vertebral attachment” as my main argument.  When she awoke, I would ask her.

Meanwhile I considered the manner of her presentation to the “master” and decided to duplicate Tonto, taller, more muscular with a larger cock and, by consultation of the Grandis average, a prettier face.  Interacting with this very responsive female was fun at all levels.  How would she behave with two men at once?  If she reserved her “female part” for the master, a suitable master would be provided.

 

* * *

 

When the lights came up in Sharme’s bedroom, she was fast asleep, according to her nannies.  But she woke with only momentary confusion, rose on an elbow and looked calmly around.

Tonto stepped forward.  “Sharme, our visitor from House Shintso, let me present Secun on my right and your maid on my left.”

Secun was physically a duplicate of Tonto with slightly rearranged facial features.  He and Tonto were nude.  She smiled at him and nodded her head.  “It is a pleasure to meet you, Secun.”

“At your service, Sharme,” he said with a bow.  She did not react to the sound of his voice, identical with Tonto’s.  That was an oversight on my part.

Instead she turned to the maid, whom I had dressed in a uniform, the design for which was resurrected from the records of mythical Urth, said to be the source of our civilization.  Incredibly no plausible other costume for a human maid was to be found in any of the archives!  A simple affair, it consisted of a white cap perched atop shoulder-length hair, a black dress to the knees under a white pinafore-apron, sheer black hose and black slippers.

Sharme asked her, “What is your name?”

Tonto answered, “Whatever you assign.”

“Is she false life?”

“Answer her,” said Tonto.

“No, ma’am.  I am also a second stage human, fully alive and ready to serve you.”

Her voice was a sweet soprano.  My creations always surprise me, which I suppose is to be expected when leaving their minds free of oversight.  Could this new woman, endowed with selections from my own memories, be proud of her “second stage” nature?

Of course, less her vertebral attachment Sharme was also second stage.  That referred to an efficient redesign of human internal structure, performed so long ago that “first stage” details existed only in quantum memory.  Suddenly I understood.  The maid was telling our visitor that they were equals in fact.  As I’ve said, I surprise me.

Sharme examined her in detail and cut her eyes around to Tonto.  “Is she freshly decanted?”

“Ah …”  He nodded.  “That is approximately correct.”

Sharme grinned slyly.  “I wonder who or what was her pattern!  All right, I shall call you Jill, after my own first maid.”

“Thank you, ma’am.  I am Jill.”

“Yes, you are.  Now help me dress for presentation to the lord of this place.  We do not need male attention for this, Tonto.  But before you go, what is the name?”

“The name?”

“Of this place.  What is it here beyond House Kemosabe?”

Again he surprised me.  “Heaven.  This is Heaven of Neut, Sharme.”

Her fingers went to her lips.  “Heaven?  Surely you know the meaning of that?”

“What is heaven,” he asked, gesturing dramatically, “but the place where all your dreams come true?”

She blinked.  “Uh, well …”

His eyebrows rose absurdly and he sang, “When the army and the na-avy get to look on heaven’s scenes / They will find the streets are guar-arded by United States Marines.”

Her jaw dropped.  “Wh-what?”

He slapped his own cheek.  “Excuse me.  Sometimes my ancient memories take over.”

What are you doing? I demanded of him/me.

He responded briskly, Tonto is enjoying his turn in the saddle.  To the woman he said, “Heaven is just a name, Sharme, like your Grandis.”

Meantime I was running down that memory in the personal side of the archives.  I couldn’t believe it.  At the time a first-stage human, I had once indeed served as a sergeant in the U. S. Marine Corps!  How long ago was impossible to say.

“Guarded streets?” murmured the woman.  “Does Heaven have a restive population?”

“Not so you’d notice.  Very well, Sharme.  Jill will advise us when you are ready to be presented.”

Secun and he bowed to her and both departed through the single door.  Of course I remained, being equally participant in Jill’s perceptions.

The new maid stood at the open closet, lifted a garment and suggested, “You’ll want to be at your most magnificent.  This is a crucial meeting.”

“I’m sure it will be,” said Sharme.  “But first, will you give me some answers?”

Jill straightened and crossed her arms.  “Whatever I can.”

Sharme gestured around them.  “Where are we really?  Tonto projected a view of Grandis, I guess in aid of my relaxation, so I know you have the means to show me.”

A moment of truth had arrived.  Should I continue to create a fiction or let reality hang out?  Fiction is only lies.  I have never admired a liar.

The “modern art” decorating one wall vanished.  In its place appeared an actual photograph of the Milky Way, captured 100,000 lightyears up the Z-axis.  A small gold square selected one star in the Perseus Arm.

Jill said, “That is Neut.”

“No doubt.”  Sharme chuckled patiently.  “Can you be more precise?”

The galaxy vanished.  In its place popped a large, dark red sphere with center cut away to show a glowing inner sphere.  A yellow spot appeared high on the outer sphere.

“Again, that is Neut, within the dyson shell.  We are at the yellow spot.  Of course this is only a diagram.”

“But … but are we in a building?  How does it look outside?”

“These rooms are inside the shell, about half a kilometer from the outer surface.  I can show you the outer sphere, if you wish, but it is smooth and visible only in the infra-red.”

Sharme seemed surprised.  “Is nothing of interest outside?”

“Not on the outer surface.  It contains only sensors and meteoroid defenses.  You might enjoy the inner surface.  Here is a view.”

The wall depicted a path among huge trees, sunlight streaming vertically through gaps in the foliage.  As they watched a deer jumped across the path.

“A forest?  Have you no city?”

“If needed, dwellings are formed within the shell.”

Sharme obviously perceived beyond the scene.  “Like these rooms, I gather.”

“Yes.  As many and as well-appointed as you may desire.”

“Suppose I want to dwell on the inner surface?”

“You need only specify the manner.”

“The ‘inner surface.’  Is it always day there?”

“Oh no.  Revolving opaque shells give the illusion of night.”

Sharme tilted her head.  “Those trees would certainly provide shade.  Tell me this, Jill: what do you do for entertainment?”

What indeed, when you’ve existed for less than an hour?  I/she said, “Whatever I imagine.  Of course, that will now depend upon you.”

“But what would you imagine if you weren’t freshly decanted?”

How to answer that?  Jill saved the day.  “Men, jumping to serve my whim.”  My god, do I have a feminine component?

Sharme giggled.  “Heaven indeed!  Always before when I jumped, it was mostly to serve men.”

“A few are here who must be served.”

“Of course.  Very well, let’s see if we can find suitable enhancement for me.”

 

* * *

 

I had noticed a significant anomaly in Sharme’s brief tale and recalled the ancient dictum that when multiple witnesses are available, truth may be closer approached by comparing testimonies.  I opened a reception room a thousand kilometers away and signaled to Tonto, “Move the remaining stasis boxes to our new chamber.”

But he replied in a musing tone, “Are you concerned that the whole woman was shipped instead of only her pattern?  Couldn’t Grandis of Thole capture molecular patterns?”

“According to the archives, it could.”

“You could simply ask Sharme why.”

“Let’s ask a different specimen.”

“Very well.”

In the dressing chamber Sharme and Jill were still trying on clothing.  My attention diverted to the far compartment, where Tonto-2 had positioned another tagged stasis box in the center of the volume and withdrawn the manipulators.  He signaled readiness.

“Release it,” I ordered after verifying the environmental suitability.

I noticed another X-ray pulse.  Such phenomena are not included in stasis release.  This time I was prepared enough to record the modulation in its microsecond of existence for later analysis.  Curiously it seemed to have a weak echo.

The perfectly reflective box had vanished, exposing another shapely woman, who also gasped and raised hands to ears.  Would this one know the standard pressure in House Grandisi?  Most unlikely.

Tonto stepped forward.  “Welcome to House Kemosabe.  I am Tonto, master of servants.”

She rose on her elbows, another pretty one, nude and well-proportioned.  Her voice was lower pitched than Sharme’s and her hair was lighter.  “I am Sherle.  I bring greetings from House Shintso to Pel―  What house did you say?”

“Kemosabe.  What house were you expecting?”

“Pelfram.”  She looked around but only Tonto and she were spotlighted in the gloom.  “Is this a transfer station?”

Fast on the uptake!

“No, my dear,” said Tonto sympathetically.  “I’m afraid this is your final destination.”

I cautioned, Careful!  We want to get information from this one.

She sat up fully on the supporting plinth, regarding him speculatively.  “What do you mean?”

“Your shipment went astray, which I am investigating.  Tell me what you can remember before entering stasis.”

“Well …”  She gathered her wits.  “We were being promoted to serve in Pelfram’s house, Pelfram being Shintso’s liege.  We were decontaminated and told to lie in wait on these couches.  Then suddenly I am here.”

“Who are ‘we?’”

“My crèche sisters and our personal attendants.”

“Your attendants were human?”

“Only approximately.”

“Androids?”

“I don’t know that word.  In fact, though very helpful, they are only padded machines.  How did we go wrong?”

“That is what I want to discover.  Tell me this, Sherle: given that your people could use molecular capture, why was your group transferred in stasis instead of by pattern?”

“Molecular capture?”  She blinked.  “I’ve heard mention of that.  But is it not the same here?”

“The same?”

“As gifts to a liege, anything less than fully real would be insulting.”

“Ah.  Where was Pelfram located with respect to House Shintso?”

She shrugged.  “Across the great ring.  I’m sure Pelfram’s address is in the directory.  It’s one of the largest houses.”

“No doubt.  What service did you expect to perform for Pelfram?”

She grinned slightly.  “Like Shintso, he is a man, at least below the waist.”

“The same service as for Shintso?”

“Yes, though probably even more seldom.  Pelfram has many minionettes.”

“What did you do for Shintso?  Orgies?”

“Oh, yes.  We did everything.  My sisters and I are well trained.”  With an engaging smile she got to her feet.  Large breasts jiggled.  “May I demonstrate?”

“I am still investigating.  How many sisters and attendants were in your party?”

She blinked.  “Did we not all arrive?  Five persons and various machine attendants.”  She looked around.  “Where are they?”

“We recovered twelve boxes still in stasis.”

“‘Recovered.’  Has an accident occurred?”

“Worse than that, Sherle, my dear.  I must tell you that you have been in stasis for over 700 million hours.”

Her eyes widened and a pretty hand went to her mouth.  “B-but … how can that be?  House Pelfram is only a few hours across the ring.”

Tonto recounted the fall of Thole as he had done for Sharme, but Sherle did not receive the news with her sister’s aplomb.  I first thought that she might be the more perceptive.  Anguish appeared and tears wet her face.  “Oh, my poor Quillet!” she moaned.

Tonto stood close.  His arm encircled her shoulders and dabbed her cheeks with an hydrophilic tissue.  Millions of nannies crossed from his skin to hers.  They could not be assimilated as quickly as those in the pseudosperm furnished to Sharme.

He said, “Who or what was Quillet?”

“Th-thank you.  Quillet was a very young man, a full human except of course for his testicles, who was my lover during the long waits for Sharme’s attention.  He was promised in the next tithe to Pelfram.  Oh, I shall miss him so!”

“Do not fret, sweet Sherle,” said Tonto with a comforting smile.  “With your help we can recreate him.”

Her eyes widened.  “You can what?”

“You’ll see.  Would you care for refreshments?”

“First tell me the fate of my sisters.”

“Only four of the boxes still in stasis were marked as human female.”

“Only four?  But five of us, full sisters, were included.”

“I can only repeat: we found four boxes marked human female.  Perhaps one of the others lost its label.”

“Please release the other three immediately.”  She spoke in the voice of command.  Her eyes flashed, no longer brimming with tears.

Tonto raised her arm and licked the hairless armpit, where I well recalled feminine sensitivity.  “What’s your rush?” he asked winningly.

She stiffened and said, “That almost reminds me of something.  Oh.  We must be at least three.”  Her voice had lost firmness.

“But this one of you is most satisfactory.  Why three?”

She hesitated.  “I don’t know the reason, but we were told emphatically that we must make a threesome.”

“A requirement of Pelfram’s?”

“Perhaps.”

“Well, we have another box in the adjacent chamber.  Would you like to witness the release?”

“May I, please?  Uh … first, where is the eliminator?  Or a cath?”

That requirement had been anticipated.  A duplicate of Sharme’s boy android stepped forward out of the shadows, marched confidently to the woman, his bit of protruding flesh bobbing notably, and ducked.  His mouth darted accurately between her legs.  Her nannies had not yet reached control positions, so the boy’s arms encircled her buttocks.

She staggered back, drawing him with her.  “What is he doing?” she cried, eyes huge.

“Release your sphincter,” advised Tonto.

Her mouth fell open and her eyes glazed.  “Ooo!” she breathed, adding as had her sister, “Holy valence!”

After a moment her eyes sought Tonto.  “I am pissing into his mouth.  Please tell me he is false life.”

“Yes, of course, built to seek all feminine effluvia.”

“How wonderful!  Does his penis give wine as did Shinto’s boys?”

That, too, had been anticipated, although I was curious about her reaction to the “wine.”  The archives said it had been offered in both sweet and sour varieties.  I had chosen a mixture, cooled below her body temperature.

When Sherle was relieved, the false boy scrambled atop the plinth where she had lain, turned to face her and thrust out his hips, erect boyhood elevated and bouncing.  His rosy lips formed an inviting smile.

She giggled and regarded Tonto inquiringly.

He unhanded her and said, “Help yourself.”

Needing to stoop only slightly, she took the miniature organ into her mouth, withdrawing after a moment to smack her lips.  “Unusual,” she concluded, “but tasty.  Somehow it is even cool!”  Her mouth returned to the task.  Swallowing motions were evident in the extended neck.

Tonto waited while she drank.  After a long moment she rose enough to kiss the boy’s pink cheek, straightened fully and patted him atop the Dutch-boy hair, intoning, “That’s a good little piss-sucker!”

I was sorely tempted to have the android emit, “You too, as one piss-sucker to another,” but refrained.  Having no voice box, indeed no breath, he would need to generate sound by vibration of the forehead.  Unable to predict the quality, I would lose the effect if taking the time to try it on another android.

She turned to Tonto.  “Now let us release my sister.”

“Very well.  Come with me.”

He led her down an adjoining corridor whose walls had been hastily adorned with well-lit reproductions of historical images regarded as masterpieces.  She issued oohs and ahs as they walked and hesitated over striking examples.  I verified that her nannies had reached adequate numbers.  The sixth cervical vertebra contained a metallic swelling similar to her sister’s.  Impenetrable to nannies, its purpose was mystifying.  Did the women know of its presence?

The third stasis box hovered in its own large chamber, accompanied by padded manipulators.  In a shadowed corner copies of both Secun and Jill awaited need and their own namings, as was true of corners in adjacent rooms containing the other boxes.  If useful for one, useful for all.

Sherle stood beside the box.  “Is this my sister?”

Tonto said, “I was hoping you might read the label.”

She shrugged.  “It is meaningless to me.”

Not necessarily a comment on poor education, I thought, but indicative.  The symbol of entwined helices was readily apparent even in light of the flesh-visible range.

I released the stasis.  A woman with a slightly dissimilar face but equal beauty lay before us.  And the third X-ray pulse had appeared, modulated similarly to the second.  Echoes followed, a strong one I realized from Sherle, then a third with the delay one might expect from a thousand kilometer separation.

“Shimmin!” declared Sherle.  Her hand darted out to release the straps.

The third sister rose on her elbows.  Her eyes opened and widened in pleasure.  “Sherle!” she declared.  Then she gasped.  “We are three!”

A fourth and longer pulse flashed.  I recognized the spiral key to an algorithmic lock and thus was not completely blown away by the following bomb-shell.

Except that “bomb-shell” is far too mild a word.  In fact no word of any language I know adequately expresses the effect of a bond-release explosion, even though its principles have been known for most of the last thousand centuries.  The bonds being released are those that hold atomic nuclei together, which is most of the energy measured in fabulous Eyeshine’s famous equation: E = mC2.

The only thing that saved my dyson sphere, not to speak of my venerable ass, was that thousand kilometer separation.  I cannot claim any science for that decision.  Perhaps foreknowledge suggested by truly long experience explains it.  Whatever the reason, it worked.  If the three releasing points had been close enough together for full support, their effect would have been far worse: absolute catastrophe instead of partial.

Viewed from afar, say from a million light-hours (114 lightyears), Neut would appear to have gone nova, especially on the explosion side of the shell.  A terrible lot of shell mass, 29 percent, vanished in the conflagration that took an hour to spread across the surface.  Because the shell is for most purposes a surface instead of a volume, the reaction was subject to a variation of the inverse-square law and eventually died away as its intensity diminished.  If the shell had been full of matter …

That has been done.  Entire stars have been subjected to bond-release.  They can put supernovae to shame until such desperate sentients kill themselves off.  Fortunately it does not occur in nature.  But in the meantime it has been used to eliminate rival or uncooperative civilizations.  Or even just habitats.  I looked again.  Yes, the civilization at Thole was destroyed by a war that used bond-release, as was that of old Urth.

 

* * *

 

For the next 100,000 hours I was busy with reconstruction, scouring deep into the Oort for raw materials.  Of course the shell material lacked sufficient strength for the whole shell to be significantly displaced from concentricity with the star, even by so terrible an explosion as this.  Much personal supervision was nevertheless required to balance the magnetic and gravitational fields during rebuilding.

The manipulators recovered four stasis boxes, including one with the tag for human DNA.  I built a special habitat for them, orbiting the star at a full light-minute beyond the dyson shell, and sent Tonto-5 to tend them, communicating by subspace link.

After a few hours he said, “Well?”

“Hang in there,” I responded distractedly.  “Restoring the fauna also requires a lot of personal attention, as will releasing the fourth sister.  I’ll need to give it my complete attention.”

“Explain that, please.  What’s so tough about the fauna?”

“Their long term behavior depends upon random variation.  I must supervise to be sure the variation doesn’t get out of hand.”

“Why do you have to fuck each ewe?”

“To judge her from the ram’s perspective.”

“I see your point.  How about letting me be a ram for a while?  Or a buck deer?”

“I’m afraid you’d identify too enthusiastically.  All the male wants is submission.”

“I admired your tiger.  You really had a ball with that tigress.”

“With Tigers it’s the pursuit that counts.  Because they have no natural enemy, my tigresses must fight off the male nine times out of ten.”

“That’s among carnivores.  What do you need in plant-eaters?”

“A little coyness at a minimum.  The female must not be too easy to catch.  She has the responsibility to improve the breed.”

“Oh.  Well, I could see to that.”

“Tonto, kindly hang in there.  I’ll be along in a few.  Review your experience with the first two sisters.”

“That’s what I’ve been doing.  Believe me, this time I won’t shoot off so quick!”

Assessing his last couple hours, I saw that he had rediscovered masturbation, independently, considering that I had forgotten it.

“Your activity surprises me.  Why didn’t you re-create Jill?  We’ll likely need her.”

I imagined his eyes lighting up.  “I’ll get on it right away.”

I was struck with an idea.  Why not create primitive humans in the forests and savannas on the inner shell?  I could furnish them spears to keep the tiger population down, plus a breed of rabbits slow enough for them to catch, along with edible fruits and vegetables.  And the occasional rock naturally hot enough to cook rabbits.  They’d be ignorant and in their unstressed environment faced with no necessity to learn — while their females would always be available to practice that wonderful ancient activity with which somehow I seem to be still hardwired.  This idea merited further study!

When I finally microjumped one of my representative personalities to the special habitat, I found Tonto and Jill thoroughly intertwined — I should say, inter-penetrated — in a waterbed of the type Sharme had admired.  He had set the oxygen level, pressure, temperature and gravity correctly, so I wandered off to inspect the stasis boxes stashed in an adjacent chamber.  This was the first opportunity for my main personality to study them minutely.  Yes indeed, the lone identity tag encoded human female DNA.

The other boxes, dimensions identical to the labeled one, were totally unmarked.  I decided to release one of them first and hovered a brace of manipulators, disruptors and nanny injectors over it.

When released, an anthropomorphic machine was exposed.  It had a hairless human shape with no external genitalia and a silvery integument that looked metallic but was actually plastic.  It raised its head and looked around.  The eyes were silver balls in which neither iris nor pupil were evident.

Quickly causing a flat area on the closest disruptor to vibrate, I demanded audibly in Sharme’s language, “Robot, identify yourself.”

The silver head swung rapidly right and left, searching for the speaker.  I added, “If you fail to respond immediately, you will be restrained.”

The silver face centered on the vibrating disruptor but made no sound.  At my command manipulators clamped onto its arms and legs.  Other machines closed on head and shoulders and injected it with nannies.  Its head shook off the needles but too late.  I let the scene settle into stillness as they investigated, necessarily a very slow process because it contained no circulating fluid.

But my patience is limited.  X-rays revealed fastener heads under the silver integument.  Reasoning that the material would be soft to allow for handling humans, I directed manipulators to apply scalpels.  Stripping back the silver finally got a rise out of the machine in the form of an electromagnetic pulse train on the ancient servant-common frequency, easily decoded by reference to the archives.

In effect it was saying, “Help!  I am being dismantled without authorization.”

At my command the surrounding machines desisted.  I replied to it in the same code, a lie: “I am authorized both by Shintso and by Pelfram.”

“Then proceed.”  It ceased to struggle.  Presumably anything in that code was gospel.

“Dismantling you is not my objective.  What I need is information.  What was your last directive?”

“To aid the sisters in any manner that might result in at least three of them released from stasis.”

As I had expected.  “And after that?”

“To revert to the standard directive.”

“Which was?”

“To serve the sisters as they request.”

“Also, what was the standard air pressure in House Shinto?”

He gave an answer that amounted to 0.98 Bar, which accounted for the ear problem, and added, “So that I might better serve, may I ask a question?”

Wondering about the subject of a will-less robot’s curiosity, I transmitted, “Granted.”

“Where are the sisters?”

Commendably responsible, this robot, and no doubt deserving better than I gave him, which was a fast and thorough dismantling at disruptor point.

When the light and heat died away, I removed the fourth DNA-labeled box to a separate compartment and gathered my investigating machines around it.  But before I could release it, Tonto, having recovered from his fixation on Jill — in Jill, signaled me.

“May Jill and I join you?”  Being a small part of me, of course he saw what I’d been up to.

After assenting, I waited until they arrived and ranged themselves near the plinth.

Tonto said, “What do you mean to do with her?”

That question pleased me.  It verified that he lacked full penetration of my intentions.

I said, “I don’t believe these girls were informed of Shintso’s plans for house Pelfram.”

“The third one, Shimmin, might have known.  Or a mental block might have vanished when the third woke up.”

“Both those points are doubtful.  Do you believe they would have voluntarily suicided?”

“Such great cocksuckers?  Who’d want to believe that!”

Jill laughed, but her humor was more than surface deep.  “Quit pretending you’re only a man.”

“Consider,” I said.  “Three of them were required.  And even if the fourth, by some fluke, can trigger the explosion alone, you will note that she’s no longer a threat to the dyson.”

He said glumly, “Only to us three.”

“Do you fear it will hurt?”

“Okay.”  He shrugged.  “But why do you want to release the fourth?”  He grinned at the ex-maid standing beside him — “ex-” because she was as far out of uniform as it was possible to get.  “Now we have Jill.”

Which reminded me.  “Jill, go put your costume back on.”  When she frowned, I added, “We’ll wait.”

“I’m still to be her maid?”

“As Tonto is to be her fucking butler.”

She blinked a couple times and scampered away.

I said, “Jill has a deficiency in comparison to the fourth sister.”

He sniffed.  “Then make Jill’s tits bigger!”

“It isn’t tits.  The deficiency is predictability.  Like yours, Jill’s mind is a part of mine, that is, derived from it.  You and the master would be too soon bored with her.”

He frowned incredulously.  “You believe an ancient woman would be more interesting?  What could she know?”

“That’s just it: we don’t know what she knows.”

“It can’t be much — details of life in Shintso’s harem.  Who cares?”

“Oh, I don’t know.  We found out from Sherle that eunuchs attended the girls — very lovingly, apparently.”

“Details of ancient fucking, that’s all.”

“Not all.  Also human interaction, which was always very interesting while we were human.”

He nodded slowly, accessing some of my oldest memories.  “Okay.  I guess the risk is worth it.”

As if his opinion ruled!  Well, maybe so.  It was my opinion too.

Jill returned, stood at attention facing away from Tonto and rendered a crisp military salute.  “Reporting as ordered, Kemosabe.”

“You’ve been around Tonto too long.”

“Part of him.”  She grinned.  “Literally.”

Tonto said, “I and the master, you said.  Who’s that?”

“Kemosabe, of course.  I’m still deciding about him.  Should he have a massive physique or be a little shrimp?  Maybe with a big cock.  The latter combination might offer the more interesting possibilities.  What’s your opinion, Jill?”

After a moment she said pensively, “How submissive do you want her to be?”

“Good point.”  I would have nodded my head if I had one.  “All right.  Shall we get on with the show?”

They straightened up expectantly until I added, “You two will need to stay conscious, so make yourselves oxygen helmets or leave the room.”

“What for?” demanded Tonto, mouth falling open.

Jill struck his shoulder.  “Don’t forget your place.  Summon the manipulators!”

Soon they were topped by clear bubbles fed from tanks hung on their backs.  I replaced the atmosphere with a huge, hissing puff then released the stasis on the fourth sister.

She differed from the first three only in the face, and that not by much.  Apparently 0.98 Bar was the customary pressure; her first gesture was not hands to ears.  She raised head and shoulders to look around, took a deep breath and wrinkled her nose prettily — which surprised me.  I thought xenon was odorless.  Simultaneously with the head raising, the expected electromagnetic pulse radiated from her.  This time of course no echo was noted.

She called out, “Wh-where am I?  Where is this?”

Jill gasped, audible through her bubble, because the new woman spoke in a man’s tenor voice despite her big tits.

A moment later Jill sighed  She had finally wondered about the hissing puff, inquired from the record and learned that the newcomer was now breathing 80% xenon, whose very heavy molecules greatly lower the pitch of vocal cords.

But deepened voices was not the reason for the substitution.  Xenon at high concentrations is an effective general anesthetic.  After her second breath the raised head fell back to the plinth and the blue eyes drifted shut.

“Why’d you knock her out?” Jill inquired disapprovingly.

Tonto understood.  He said, “It gives us the chance for a thorough and undisturbed examination.”

To spare the fourth sister a long immersion in xenon, which according to the literature could have undesirable effects, I set manipulators and injectors to work immediately, in particular flooding her with nannies that infested her system in a few heartbeats.

Several billion of them congregated around her throat, opened a 6 cm incision in the skin of a side, of course closing all capillaries, and spread it into a bloodless, vertical pink eye, exposing the foreign black golf ball that enclosed one of the vertebra.  Fine-scale manipulators descended upon it, soon revealing it to be a crystalline structure of ferric carbide.  In Sharme it had proven invulnerable to the chemical attacks of my nannies but the diamondoid chisels of the manipulators, closely guided by nannies, easily dismembered this specimen.  I would have preferred to read out its programming but speed was essential.  The black particles were vacuumed away and the skin of her throat closed seamlessly in under 30 seconds.  With another loud whoosh the nitrogen-based atmosphere was restored and her nannies began the transfer of xenon molecules to her lungs for exhalation.

Jill, Tonto and I waited.  Three minutes later, when the nannies reported the xenon gone, I let them awaken the woman.  Manipulators and injectors wheeled away to the shadows.  Tonto and Jill shrugged off their oxygenators and stood beside the plinth as she raised her head for the second time.

She was understandably befuddled.  “Wh-what has happened to me?”  Now her voice was the expected soprano.

“Some difficulty with the transition,” said Tonto airily.  “Do you remember your name?”

“Yes.  It is Shandra.”

He released her restraints and slipped a hand under her shoulder.  “You’ll feel better if you sit up.”

With his help she rose to a sitting position and looked around, then recalled her duty.  “I am Shandra 421, trained for submission and pleased to serve all your needs.  I bring greetings to Pelfram from the house of Shintso.”

“I am sure Pelfram would be most grateful,” he said, cocking his head slyly.

“‘Would be?’  You still have testicles.  Are you not Pelfram?”

“Not I.”  He smiled winningly.  “I am Tonto, your new butler, and this is Jill, your new maid.”

Both he and Jill executed curtsies, Jill even stretching the hem of her skirt.  Tonto’s cock bounced ludicrously.

Shandra’s eyes dropped to it momentarily and she giggled but immediately turned serious.  “Butler and maid?  Am I then to become a housekeeper?”

“How about becoming the mistress?”

“To Pelfram?”  Her eyes betrayed interest.  “Ah.  Do you perhaps mean mistress of the harem?”

“That is a distinct possibility.”

“Holy valence!  How could you have possibly selected me?”  She shook her head, stepped back from him and looked around.  “What is this dark place?  Where are my sisters?”  Her eyes searched his.  “I see that you know of them.”

He nodded.  “Of three of them.”

“Departing Grandis we were five.”

“Shandra, we know of Sharme, Sherle and Shimmin.  I fear that your fifth sister did not arrive.”

Her face exhibited shock.  “Sheska is not here?  How is that possible, just across the fourth ring?”

He sighed ostentatiously, which I thought was well done.  “Shandra, the distance you have come is so much greater that it is almost unknowable.”

Her eyes had widened.  “H-how can that be?”

“It’s a long and complex story, part of which we don’t know.  Perhaps you can tell —”

“Just a moment!” she interrupted, raising a hand.  “You say three of my sisters have already been here?”

“Yes.  They lingered long enough for us to learn their names.”

“But they’re not here now, else I would know it.”

“Indeed!  And just how would you know it, my dear?”

She blinked.  “I don’t know how, but I would know.”

“How does your throat feel?”

She blinked again and a hand rose to caress her voice box.  “Interesting that you should ask.  I am breathing easier.  I seem to remember a bit of congestion.”

I studied her face through Tonto’s eyes, along with the vital signs from her nanny reports.  No noticeable emotion attached to her answer.  She was either ignorant or a consummate actress with full control of her involuntary systems.

“You asked about your sisters.”  Tonto’s hands rose to her shoulders.  “I truly hate to bring you this news, Shandra, but the three I named are certainly dead.”

“Dead?”  Her face was stricken.

“Yes.  I know it with certainty because my dear brother died in the same explosion.”

Jill piped up.  “Also my sister.”

Shandra blinked several times, musing, “An explosion?”  Her expression was no less troubled but her tone was curiously credulous.

Jill added, “You don’t seem surprised.”

“But I am!  It’s just that … somehow … it seems to have been foretold.”  She shook her head as if puzzled.

“What is it?” said Jill sympathetically.

“Something …”  She shrugged then straightened up and smiled winningly.  “If they’re dead, I’m awfully sorry, of course, and hope you can keep looking for Sheska.  But I’m alive and being comforted by a nude man with intact testicles.  How wonderful!”

She slipped forward, threw her arms around his neck and looked into his eyes.  “May I kiss you?”

They kissed.  Shortly, without breaking lip contact, she drew her legs up to encircle his hips and while dangling from his neck with one arm, used the other hand to effect his insertion.  Apparently he had risen that quickly to the occasion.

Jill sniffed despite wide eyes.  “Kemosabe, that’s some fast grieving!”

I told her, “Don’t feel left out.  Secun-2 is already started.  And keep in mind that Shandra is almost the same as a widow.  They used to ask, ‘What’s the best way to comfort a widow?’  Tonto is applying it.”

The last sister was soon moaning and kissing his neck.  She had no need of additional internal nannies, so I let the evidence of his deposit drip to the floor before she lowered her legs.  Not so fast this time, did he claim?  Huh!  He had just experienced again the fact that a vagina is ten times sexier than a fist.  At least.

She murmured into his ear, “Thank you, Tonto.  I needed that.”

He smiled at her in contentment and revived a bit of play from my long-forgotten stock of intimate gestures.  Why not?  It was a part of me that prompted him to raise the arm off his neck and lick the fragrant armpit.

“Oh!” she gasped and stiffened but did not withdraw the shoulder.  So Tonto licked her again.

This time she spoke with clear and precise enunciation.  “Cabaretta loved that too.”

I froze Tonto except for his lips.  “Repeat that, please.”

“Cabaretta loved that too.”

I felt a powerful frisson.  Suddenly I knew.  Villaterre.  By god, Villaterre!

Tonto spoke the name involuntarily: “Villaterre.”

“Yes,” she said calmly.  “He said that was his name.”

“How did you meet Villaterre?”

Her eyes lost focus.  “I … I don’t know.  Four of us were there.  Only Sheska was missing.”

“What did he say?  What did he do?”

“I only remember him fucking us, each several times.  No, that’s not right.  I remember one thing he said.  To anyone who licked an armpit we should say, ‘Cabaretta loved that too.’”

Hypnotism: so ancient, so simple, so effective.  Suddenly I had an idea.  If Villaterre fucked all the sisters, he must have held them out of stasis long enough to need servants.

Tonto grasped Shandra’s arm.  “Come with me.”

She resisted.  “Please, I’m so thirsty!  And my bladder is full.”

Too inpatient for fun and games, I had Tonto say, “Just piss on the floor,” while a manipulator began forming a bottle of cold, pure water.

“On the floor?” she repeated.

“It will be absorbed.”  As he spoke the manipulator slid up behind him and extended the bottle.  She shrank away from the incomprehensible machine but accepted the bottle that Tonto passed.  It sloshed, contents obvious.

He said, “Drink it and cut loose.”

She obeyed at both ends and returned the bottle to the manipulator with an “Ah” and a smile, perhaps at the incongruity of simultaneous input and output.

Tonto led her down the hall to the compartment containing the other stasis boxes.  I released the closest as they drew near.  To my eye it was identical to the previous android, including the silvery integument.

When it raised its head, Shandra exclaimed, “Oh, Sturgis!  How nice to see you!”

It said in a stentorian voice, “At your service, Miss Shandra.”

The woman turned a smile upon Tonto.  “Thank you for releasing him.  He and his brothers are very useful.”  She added as a suggestion, “They could be of help to you also, if your servants are few.”

“One of ours just gave you to drink.”

She shuddered.  “But mine are so much nicer!”

“I can see that.  Shandra, I want to question this one.  Please tell him to cooperate.”

“Of course.  Sturgis, you will obey any command and answer any question from this man, whose name is Tonto.”

“Understood.  At your service, Mr. Tonto.”

She whispered, “You must begin any command or question with his name.”

“Thank you.  Sturgis, how many times have you been released from stasis since you last departed Grandis?”

“Two times.”

“Sturgis, were you told how much time had passed in stasis when you were released before?”

“Yes.”

“Sturgis, how much time?”

“170 million hours.”

The math was automatic: a little over 14,000 Thole years, a little under 20,000 of the years with which I had once been so familiar — a very interesting and only too plausible duration.

“Sturgis, how long did you remain released?”

“437 hours.”

A mere eyeblink of time.  I compared it to my notes.  This occurred 150,000 hours after the war in which Villaterre, my most hated enemy, captured my beloved Cabaretta.  When she refused to love him, he killed her without backup in a fit of rage, letting me understand that if he couldn’t have her, neither could I.  This occurred 200,000 hours before the war in which I destroyed Villaterre, also without backup, or so I believed.  I could almost have forgiven him for killing her.  Such a beauty as that, when unwilling, could drive any man to perdition.  But I could not forgive him for making her death painful, as he bragged.

The reported timing meant Villaterre must have set this up just about 500 million hours — over 60,000 of my years — ago.  Although Thole’s star was about 500 million light-hours from Neut, that was only coincidence; subspace transport can be as fast or slow as you wish.  Still it must have been a long-odds shot to drift a slagged ship into my Oort.  But that explained why I didn’t notice it sooner.  Huh!  Villaterre was probably the slagger.

Just to be sure Tonto said, “Sturgis, what was your general location when previously released?”

“On a ship within the system of Thole’s star.  All the habitats had been destroyed.”

“Sturgis, did you make a recording of the events during that time?”

“Only a text summary.”

“Sturgis, report the text summary of your previous awakening.”

The android paused, perhaps in retrieval.  When it spoke, it did indeed deliver a dry summary, each event time-stamped from the moment of stasis release.  At first he had looked around and determined from various clues, mainly sonic and electromagnetic, that he rested in a ship under power.  Shimmin had appeared and ordered him to clean up the dishevelment and stains of a recent orgy.  Four of the sisters were present, nude, comprising the objects needing stain removal and tidying, each attended by her own android, one of Sturgis’s fellows.  He had listened to the conversation, which of course androids have always done regardless of the admonition to do so only after hearing their own names.

Their shipment of stasis boxes, in fact the whole container, had been blown into space when the freighter was slagged.  This occurred early in the war that destroyed the civilization around Thole.  A ship captained by a man called Villaterre, passing by Thole’s star, discovered the container of boxes 170 million hours after the war and released the boxes from stasis.

The captain and three of his officers staged several orgies with the four women.  Apparently no other women were available.  Sturgis served the panting bodies stoically.  Of course.  Finally, after 437 hours, Villaterre ordered him and his fellow androids back into stasis.

“Sturgis,” Tonto said, “did you ever observed the stasis boxes while they contained women?”

“Only before the voyage began.”

“Sturgis, did you notice whether or not they were DNA tagged?”

“Yes.  They bore no tag, not even the destination, which was to be labeled on the container.”

“Sturgis, thank you.”

Villaterre had attached those tags, clearly intending to attract my attention.  His plan had come amazingly close to full success.  His revenge, even though 50,000 years late, had approached within 1000 km of completion out of several million.  I enjoyed a surge of relish.  Nearly complete is still a failure.

But he deserved credit.  He had even allowed for failure by applying the hypnotic compulsion to mention Cabaretta if I licked an armpit, which he had known was one of her delights.  I studied the person beside Tonto more closely.  Though not as lovely as Cabaretta — who ever was? — she possessed a pleasant countenance, fluffy brown hair to the shoulders, a full figure and tits each more than a handful — very much to my specifications.  I extended Tonto’s hand to pinch a conical nipple, which stiffened under his fingers.  Even more to his credit, Villaterre had left me a tolerable substitute for my old love.

Shandra smiled at me and gestured toward Jill.  “May I keep Sturgis, even though I no longer need him?”

The android still lay on the plinth, having never been unstrapped.  At my command the stasis field formed instantly around him.

Tonto’s arm pulled her against him.  “Indeed you no longer need him.  Jill and I are just the beginning for you.  You can have all the servitors you wish.”  He nuzzled her neck and murmured, “Here’s an idea.  How would you like to be the goddess in your own land of real people?”


END
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