Embassy Tales: Flags
Elenya, Virta 12, 00100
“Can I ask you a question?” Becky asked.
R’Dam grinned. “That is all you ever do of me. I understand that part of your job is to find out all you can about me but sometimes…”
She kissed his cheek. “I can be a bit too much, can’t I?” She smiled at him. “I’m sorry, sweetheart.”
He touched her cheek with his fingertips. She opened her mouth as they kissed, lingering a little longer than was seemly. The spectacle caught the attention of the surrounding diners attempting to enjoy their lunch in the unseasonably warm end-of-March weather. She enjoyed the attention. “And I’m truly sorry about your job,” he said.
“I’ll live. The chance to work with you is a bit too much to pass up, though.”
He nodded. “What was your question?”
“There isn’t a hint of wind.” She pointed across the street to the Pendorian embassy. “But your flag is flying clearly and calmly. Every other flag is limp as a rag. Is it just an illusion?”
“No, I don’t think so. I never noticed that before. It must be made of Starkcloth.” He glanced over at her, and she was looking at him with open, curious eyes. “It’s a cloth built of microscopic cells. They use magnetism and the interatomic strong force to deform the cells internally, just like muscle cells. But they’re much stronger. Pressed into two-dimensional sheets like that, we can stiffen and flex the cloth at will.”
“Is that all?” she asked.
“Starkcloth is one of our miracles,” he said. “It isn’t a fashion statement, it’s a weapon. Shaped to the body, it can magnify strength manifold, and when attached to a predictive sensory package can protect you against bullets, bombs, and some energy weapons. It’s the standard material of our soldiers and bodyguards.”
“Oh,” she said. “So it’s one of those things I don’t suppose you’d be willing to sell to us?”
“Not readily,” he agreed with a grin. “I thought negotiating trade deals was no longer on your list of tasks.”
She shrugged. “As much as I enjoy your company, Dam, I’m still thinking of my world’s best interests.”
He nodded, eating wholeheartedly from his salad as if it were the finest in the world. She envied his innocence, his expression of openness, his lack of inhibitions when it came to, well, anything. He loved Earth almost as much as he loved Pendor and everything he did revealed that.
And it confounded her more that, with only a few exceptions, the Pendorians seemed willing to give away the store. Their access to raw mineral commodities was astounding to anyone familiar with the commodities market; Dam had revealed that they could dump on the Earth as much gold, platinum, palladium, uranium, and other industrially precious metals as were currently available.
That bothered her. Her speciality in college had been political economics. The Pendorians had basically said that the ships they had come in had been the local equivalent of the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria; there was a crash research program underway on Pendor to make ships that were bigger, faster, and more efficient. If their program was as succesful as the model they had chosen to emulate on Earth, the development of the diesel engine under wartime conditions, then in less than ten years they would be sailing between Earth and Pendor ships that could cross the distance in less than three months, haul a hundred times the capacity of their current ships, and do so with a minimal crew or, perhaps, even no crew at all.
It had been a good day so far. They had met in the morning and visited yet another part of the Smithsonian, this time the Museum of Natural History. Dam had been fascinated by the dinosaurs, but he said that little was known about more than 1% of Pendor’s surface. He said he hoped that he would never meet something quite so monstrous on his world, but that it was also entirely possible that they existed.
That Pendor was an artifical world, one so incredibly massive that its effective landmass was three hundred thousand times that of Earth’s, had shocked everyone. Given Pendor’s population, at this time every ten people could have their own Earth all to themselves. When Dam had admitted that they were broken up into four occupied territories, the largest barely the size of Massachusetts, she had given up trying to wrap her mind around the idea.
Now they were dining in the little French cafe in the Embassy District within view of the Pendorian Embassy. It had become a hangout of sorts for the local alien watchers who spent their days waiting for a glimpse of someone from another planet. It had also become a favorite stop for some of the Pendorians, who seemingly enjoyed the attention. It drove the Secret Service out of their minds. There were also the feline-like bodyguards, the tall, powerful Uncia who accompanied certain members of the Embassy staff. There was a rumor that some of them were actually robots, and the Pendorian admission that they could manufacture robots that were indistinguishable from living creatures, at least on the surface, only helped to inflame the rumor. Becky was convinced that there were no robots among the Pendorian staff.
“Hey, R’Dam,” she said, “What’s the inside of the Embassy like?”
“Are you just curious?” he asked, teasingly.
She returned his grin. “Of course I’m curious. I’m always curious. I’ll probably get grilled about what I see, where they can put microphones, that sort of thing.” That her role’ as a “spy” had always been out in the open hadn’t stopped either one of them from enjoying the time they had together.
“Well, I can show you around the public portions, if you like. It’s not very impressive. We like to do things traditionally.”
“I still want to see it.”
He flagged down the waiter. “Come on, then. I will show you around.” He paid the bill and they left. She gleefully held his hand as he took her through the front gate of the Pendorian Embassy, a single, cubical box of silvered windows. Unlike many of the other embassies in the area this one lacked the forest of antennas on the roof. Instead, there was a simple quad of white boxes, each on an independent gimble mount, that tracked unseen and undetectable objects in the sky. There was consensus among the Pendor watchers, professional and otherwise, that the boxes were lasers, bouncing signals off stealthy satellites that kept the Pendorians in touch with their teams planetwide. The most common number cited for the satellites was twelve, given that there were four lasers and line of sight could only provide coverage of at most a third of the world at any given time. That the U.S. Air Force said they couldn’t find any such satellites, while at the same time they were tracking a lost glove still in orbit from the Gemini missions, did nothing to lift the rumors.
Inside the walls, there was the usual courtyard, this one with some sort of modern sculpture in the front, an unrecognizable mass of marble that reflected the Springtime sun. “I don’t understand it either,” he confessed to her as she puzzled over it. What was striking about the front yard was the lack of guards. It was something much-commented on by the pundits, but the Pendorians had thus far steadfastly refused to comment on it. Every nation had representatives of its military within the grounds of its embassy. Every nation except Pendor.
Did Pendor qualify as a “nation?” The most common description of it, even from the Pendorians, was “a well-run anarchy supported by an automated industrial base that satisfies the basic needs of the individual. Luxury goods are hand-made goods.” When asked how Pendorians organized to do things like research projects and starships to Earth, Dam had said, “The way the human body knows to fix an injury. It’s not hierarchal. An idea is proposed, argued about, and so on. If it’s good enough to get the industrial attention needed, it’s started. We work on it until we’re done.”
“That doesn’t make sense,” she argued. “How is it paid for?”
“It just is,” Dam said.
“How are the people paid for?”
“They pay themselves. Or they wouldn’t be there.”
Becky had given up.
They entered the embassy, only to encounter a human woman sitting behind a circular desk. To Becky’s eye, something was distinctly amiss with the desk and the receptionist. It took her a few seconds to realize that there were no telephones, keyboards, typewriters, displays, monitors, or intercomms. The desk was bare except for a nameplaque loose on top of the dark blue marble ring in which she sat. The nameplaque was in both English and the delicate Pendorian script, and the English read “A.I. Athena.”
Becky looked up, startled. The woman behind the desk smiled, but her appearance could best be described as a generic receptionist, unremarkable and only averagely attractive. Her age was somewhere in the late 30’s to early 40’s. “I thought…”
“I thought you were a computer.”
Athena grinned. “It’s nice to meet you too, Rebecca. Lean over the desk and look closely.”
Becky stood up on her toes and did as Athena suggested. She saw a human torso emerging from a platform mounted to the floor; there was nothing below the waist but machinery. “You’re a robot?”
“No, this is just an animatronic interface. I’m actually down in the basement. If you want, Dam might even be able to show you what I really look like. Not that I’m much to look at even there.” She grinned and handed up from somewhere behind the desk a very commonplace pass on a necklace, a thick white card with her photograph, name, and a green stripe along the bottom. “This is only necessary for other people in the Embassy. We have a small staff here, less than twenty Pendorians and about a hundred Terrans right now, and everybody knows everybody else. You should get some interested looks, but the fact that I’m here letting you wander around without a couple of hulking security robots will reassure the Pendorians. The Terrans, however, feel more comfortable with something more visible than my tacit permission.”
Becky nodded and pulled the pass over her head. The admission that there were robots inside the embassy, and that they were used for security, she quitely filed away. She adjusted the pass under her hair and let it fall over her blouse. “There.”
“You look just like another member of the staff. The green is for ‘guest,’ of course.”
Becky took a good look at the foyer. “Dam? Where did you get all this darkened hardwood? I thought your people had been insistent about not using woods that came from threatened forests, which I think one of your people said was the entire planet.”
Dam grinned. “Not quite, but close. Actually, the wood you’re seeing came from a building in Detroit that was scheduled to be demolished. Two of the people on our staff are master carpenters and we encouraged them to recycle anything they might find from demolition projects. We’re expert recyclers. We have you as an example of what happens when we fail.”
Becky frowned. She didn’t like the sound of that. “So Earth serves only as a bad example to you?”
“No, no, nothing of the sort. You have a wonderful, dynamic cultural basis here, Becky, the likes of which we on Pendor have never seen. We’ve never known the privations that your people have suffered, and so we don’t really have that mother of invention, necessity. We have only it’s stepparent, curiousity.”
She grinned. “Still, it sounds to me like you’d rather avoid what we go through.”
“I think we would.”
She nodded. “Where to?”
“What do you wish to see? There isn’t much to see, actually. There are a few rooms I could show you, like the astrogation room, or Athena’s home.”
“Then show me those.”
He led her to an elevator. The doors closed behind them and without the press of a button or the speaking of a command the elevator dropped downwards. The doors opened. “Left,” Athena’s voice said as they walked out.
“Blueline, please,” Dam said. A line of blue lit up on the featureless beige carpet, leading them away from the elevator. They followed it around two corners and through a door. Another door stood before them, a sign on it in in six different languages: “WARNING. AI Repository. Tampering with the effects herein constitutes assault and attempted homicide or actual homicide of a Pendorian Citizen, and persons guilty of such will be shot.”
Becky gulped. “That’s serious.”
“Athena is a person in her own right. We mean to keep her as safe as we keep ourselves. Safer, perhaps; she is the glue that keeps us all together.” He opened the door.
Becky wasn’t sure what she had expected. It turned out to be more mundane than she had thought. It was a very clean room, the walls done in the kind of white usually reserved for the insides of microchip manufacturing facilities, which should not have surprised her. In the center was a grey workstation, complete with video screens and a keyboard marked in symbols she didn’t recognize. There was also an outlet of sorts, massive compared to the parallel ports she had seen on her office computers. Next to it was a tall cylinder of a milky-grey color, and it appeared to be moving. “Athena?”
“That’s me, in the flesh, so to speak.”
“What are you?”
“I’m a radical design in modern Pendorian artificial intelligence. I’m made up of billions of almost microscopic units working in parallel that change in accordance with outside data, resulting in massively parallel computing. It’s a design that works at room temperature, making it useful in environments where power and cost would make systems that need to be cooled prohibitive. The system works with nearly 100% efficiency. The tiny failures are due to indeterminate events at the quantumn level and interference from high-energy cosmic rays that prevent the molecules that make up my thinking from interacting completely deterministically. Whether or not this gives rise to a consciousness, as some people claim it does, is a matter of philosophy. In real terms, I’m indistinguishable from you as a conscious being.” There was a distinct sense of pride coming from Athena’s voice.
“Wow. You said ‘radical design?’“
“Yeah. Most Pendorian systems are based on interatomic interactions. Harder to track, but easier to initialize and can be compressed to much smaller sizes. Liquid intermolecular systems like myself are easier to design up front and we can be scaled to incredible sizes without much loss of parallel processing efficiency. And the cryooptical systems, which are the original Pendorian AIs, tend to be less introspective, more mechanistic. We’re still trying to figure out why. Anyway, thanks for visiting. I hope this information is useful to the guys at the Agency.”
Dam laughed, and Becky managed a smile. They were so casual about her being coopted by her own government to report on people she liked, and yet she found herself resenting those very people that she was reporting to. The whole project stank, she thought, and she wanted to get out of it.
Dam interrupted her thoughts. “Come on, I’ll show you the astrogation chamber.” He led her into another room. This one was an eggshell white in color, with rounded corners. “Okay, Athena, give us the tour.”
Becky gasped as she found herself plunged into darkness. “This is the universe that we know,” Athena said as stars appeared all around Becky, even in the space between her and Dam. “Here is Earth, and here, Pendor.” Small arrows appeared to float in midair, pointing at two stars. “We have sent several small, automated probes out to the more promising looking stars, but there isn’t much to go on and many of the systems we’ve explored have had only a few gas giants and airless rocks. To date, nothing like the Earth or Pendor has been found within the eight light year sphere that Pendor has explored.
“The pace of our exploration is slowed by the need for manned ships. AIs, it seems, do not do well alone, although there are a few exceptions and there is now a crash course in discovering what it is about interstellar travel that makes AIs susceptible to erratic behavior. Pendor does not as yet have many manned vessels, but we’re building new and better ones even today.”
The world seemed to tilt and whirl as she watched the approach of the Pendorian vessels to Earth. She saw them slow down as they approached the Earth, shedding their velocity with incredible efficiency, dropping off parts of their ships that would make a six-month run around the sun, collecting as much energy as they could and using it to make tritium before they came back to Earth, fully refueled, ready to take the Pendorians home.
The lights came back up slowly, as they would in a planetarium. Becky had found it all fascinating. “It’s not really meant for this,” Dam said. “Our intention when we installed it was to make this a useful navigation tool fifty years from now when we need to go places other than the Earth. But for now, it’s a good projector. And we miscalculated its utility. Athena, please load Arctangent One.”
The lights brightened momentarily, and suddenly Becky found herself standing… outdoors? She looked around. There was no wind, nor was there any sound. “Athena surprised us when she showed us that she could produce this scene so accurately. One of our carpenters is considering installing speakers to add to the effect so that will probably happen soon. Wind machines might be a bit much.”
Becky looked around. Overhead the sun (the sun? A sun, she decided) blazed down upon… she was standing on what must have been the roof of an incredibly large building. A glance behind her told that it might be some kind of aircraft carrier. There were two white, gleaming aircraft, military by their look although they had no obvious missiles installed. They were handsome looking machines, rakish in profile. She watched as the rear nozzles on one extended back, then rotated to almost 45 degrees, then executed a perfect circle. In concert, they promised a craft that could perform almost any maneuver.
She looked past the planes and realized that this must be an image from Pendor itself. The land shot out in front of her, straight on forever until it curved upwards into a milky haze where the clouds blocked her view of the land. Looking even further up she saw the land clearly again, now with a good view of the clouds soaring over that landscape as if she were above it. She realized that her eyes were looking at the land across millions of miles. The implications staggered her. “Turn it off, Dam.”
The vision went away. “Are you okay?”
“It was… too much to take in. How… how much of Pendor could I see there?”
“About a third. A hundred thousand terrs, or Terran surface areas. A lot of it.”
Becky gasped. “A hundred thousand times the surface area of the Earth?” Dam nodded. “And you have less than three million people?” Dam nodded again. “My God, no wonder you people are so different. You have the playground to yourself and the power to defend it.”
“That’s what we’re afraid of,” Dam said. “Complaceny. Jealousy. Misunderstanding. We want to be more like you, Becky, not less, but we don’t want all the other things that come with being like you.”
“I know, Dam, but… God. You people. I can’t help it.”
Dam smiled. “Come on. It’s been a busy day. I’ll show you to my office.”
They spent a short time in Dam’s office. Becky enjoyed the view, looking out across the Embassy District, and enjoyed talking to Dam as he plowed through paperwork without a hint of holding back. Not that he told her anything at all about what he was working on. It was all in a squarish form of the Pendorian script anyway, which she couldn’t read. She had the strangest feeling, though, watching him, that he was somehow doing more than merely shuffling paper. There was something else going on, something in the way he seemed to be grinding his teeth as he worked.
“Done,” he finally announced. “Nothing terribly important, although I have to go to France next week. Would you like to come?”
Becky was flattered. “I’d like to, Dam, but you know I can’t afford something like that.”
“I can. I’m permitted one companion on my budget. You could be that person. Better you than someone from the staff, someone whose very air I shared for six months while trapped in a spinning steel ball.”
Becky smiled. “Merci’, then,” she said. “I accept.”
“Got it,” a voice said from out of nowhere. Athena had been listening the whole time and Dam had never once mentioned it. That was what it was like, living with the Pendorians. Becky thought she could get used to it. She also thought that she would like to get out of there, get Dam someplace a little more private, and have her way with him. Or let him have his way with her. Something like that.
Becky took Dam’s hand as he led her out of the Embassy. With eager smiles they walked back to her aparment, keeping the late- afternoon habit they had fallen into so very quickly and easily. Becky had come to appreciate just how casual Dam was about sex. With her. He made it seem easy, and for her that was a first.
Inside the door, he drew her into his arms and kissed her. She gave a little sigh of pleasure at the touch of his arms around hers and the press of his knee against her thigh. There was nothing at all threatening about this half-man, half-cat. There was just strength. Becky surrendered to it, betrayed her upbringing to it, allowed herself to be swept away by R’Dam’s welcome touch. There was nothing to stop her, now, not work, not family, not even the pressures of her future. This would end someday but she hoped in would not be ending too soon. She liked the priveleges of it, the pleasure of him.
Dam took her hand and led her to her bed. What had been tentative two months ago was now passionate. He kissed her throat, his fingers expertly at work on the buttons of her blouse. In seconds he had her chest exposed. The fur that covered his arms, usually hidden by the tailored suits he wore, now stroked at her breasts.
And she was permitted by his very freedom to participate, to respond to his needs with her own. His own moan greeted her as her hands slipped inside the belt of his trousers, sliding along the fur of his belly until she found his semi-erect cock and its furred, completely retractable prepuce.
Releasing him, Becky lay back on the bed and let Dam do the work of removing his clothes. She watched him as he stripped, warm assurance in every gesture, an indescribable grin of anticipation on his lips. He had never said he loved her and she didn’t care. She didn’t think she loved him either. Instead, she liked him. They were immune to each other; he couldn’t impregnate her, they couldn’t share diseases. There was nothing to hold them back from giving one another pleasure, and so they did, as much as they could.
As he removed his clothes and put them aside, he exposed his chest, furred white with a ring of orange at the sides and across the shoulders. He lowered his pants and then his undershorts– boxers, of course– revealing his erection to her. She was always fascinated by it, almost completely human in appearance, the thin fur at the base thickening as it deepend into his belly and thighs.
Dam crawled onto the bed, covering her body with his as he stepped, hands and knees, over the sheets, over her. She reached up to caress the fur on his chest. It was like petting a cat, a cat with a hard-on, intelligence, and desire for her. His face was human, though, and even his eyes were rounded, although he had said that there were Satryls with slitted eyes. He kissed her neck, her breasts. She liked the way he plastered her body with kisses, covering her in little circles of coolness that faded with the summer heat.
Her hands were on his body, stroking his cock. “Oh, yes,” he moaned as she wrapped her hands around it. “Yes, Becky, wow.” She looked into his eyes and felt connected to him. He was just warming up and already they were getting into that groove.
He turned, peppering her belly with his kisses, his mouth lingering longer below her navel, kissing his way into the thicket of hair she had around her pussy. He kissed the mound at the top, then dipped his head between her thighs and kissed at her lips. She felt a surge of warmth right where his lips touched, and a tiny trickle of fluid between her legs.
Her hand stroked his cock and balls almost absently. She took her time examining the lightly-furred scrotum and bare cock of pale skin. She liked the way he looked, and although she had never had an uncircumsized lover she had quickly come to love what he could do with his cock. She stroked it, touched it, loved the loose skin around the head.
She shifted her shoulders to get underneath him, struggling to fit her head under his legs, to reach that incredible cock with her mouth. The smell of him– musty, feline, not at all like a man– was something she had grown to love in the short time they had had together. She reached up with her mouth and kissed the head of his cock. His moan, muffled by her sex, told her that she was doing well. She licked at the head, teased the underside. Her tounge played with the small stretch of skin that seemed to anchor his foreskin.
She wrapped her lips around his cock, sucking him down. He responded with a playful nip of her vulva. She squealed. “Cheater!”
His laugh was light and as wonderful as always. She returned to his cock, sucking him into her mouth, playing with the head. A pearl of precome hovered at the tip of his cock and she licked it playfully. In was salty and sweet. She sucked down hard on him, wanting more. The sounds coming from between her legn told her she was doing well.
And reminded her that he was hard at play down there. Distracted for a moment, she let herself be swept away by pleasures that must have been building for quite a while. She wondered how she could not have noticed them as they stormed into her, occupying her attention. She made an half-hearted attempt to wrench her attention back to him but it was too late; he had her, as he always had her by now, her orgasm coming on strong, thundering through to her soul.
She was spent from that but stil she wanted even more from him. “Dam, get inside me. Please?”
With a grin he turned around in bed, lifting her legs until her feet were pressed against his shoulders, and in one swift motion thrust himself completely inside her. Becky rolled her head from side to side, unable to control herself as the thrill of his thrusting cock within her kept sending wave after wave of pleasure through her.
Dam was a true cocksman. She had read stories about men who, by their cocks alone, could give incredible pleasure, and she had never believed it. Dam had proven it to her. His cock was an amazing instrument, backed by a hard body that could go on without pause, and he liked it that way. He could go fast, then slow, hard, and soft, that beatuiful smile on his lips, his eyes glazed like someone in the throes of his own religious ecstacy, communing with her lust. They pressed against each other, each thrust forceful and loving.
“My God, Dam, you’re… more…” She was whimpering, begging to feel that shaft keep thrusting within her, in and out, in and out. “More,” she whispered until her voice was gone and then, “more,” her lips would form without breath. Between gasps her body would act, her legs around his hips, pulling him into her, tilting her hips to him.
She could tell when he got closer. His whole body would start to quiver like a harpstring, holding back the energies that he had created with his lovemaking. She could feel it inside him, feeding him, and feeding her, as it built incontrollably towards his climax. He came with a shout of joy in a language she didn’t even know and didn’t need to. She knew “yes!” when she heard it.
Dam held himself up, a tiny bead of sweat just about to fall off the tip of his nose. He looked down at her and smiled. She smiled back. He let go a laugh of pure joy, and she joined him in a final celebration of their adventure together. “Oh, Becky,” he sighed. “And it is only getting better.”
“Yeah,” she said. “You are getting better.”
He chuckled gently. “Magnificent.” He turned over and collapsed onto the bed, his demeanor confessing that, for once, he was spent.
Becky sighed, profoundly content. This was one part of their relationship that she had no questions or qualms about, although it was certainly the part of her relationship that confounded her “handlers” the most. They had agreed on that; she had told them that he was completely, and like all Pendorian species deliberately, built to be compatible, and that it was none of their business what she did with him in the privacy of her bedroom. They had reluctantly agreed to take her word that she would faithfully report anything he said that was of interest to national security.
“Mmmm…” she moaned. “What is it with you? I’ve never felt anything like what you drive me to.” She felt between her legs, running her fingers over her pubic hair. It was sticky, predictably, but it also felt warm, there. Fulfilled.
“I don’t know,” he answered, sounding honestly bewildered. “There’s something special about you, too, Becky. I can’t put it into words but when I’m making love with you I feel… content. Happy.”
She turned over and rested her head on his shoulder. “I love the fact that you don’t hold back, Dam. When you want to make love, you do it like it’s the most important thing in the world.”
He smiled. “It is.”
“I know. Lots of people say that. But it’s not. Not really. They’re afraid that the other person will think bad of them, think they’re a whore or something because they cut loose. The way you do.”
“Is that why you’re sometimes so quiet? Because you’re afraid I will think less of you? Or is it because of the people recording us?”
“Your people, they put microphones in this room. I assumed you knew.”
Becky’s outrage kept her from putting together a coherent sentence for a moment. “They’re listening? Right now?”
“Yes, right now. I assumed you knew.”
“No, I did not know. In fact, I explicitly told them not to listen in here, and I wanted my privacy respected!” She seethed angrily.
“Just a moment them.” Dam went curiously quiet, his eyes losing their focus for a moment. “There,” he said as his eyes retrained on Becky. “The listening devices have been disabled.”
“What did you do?”
“I asked Athena to turn on the masking devices our people put with the listening devices. We wanted to make sure that we could turn them off at any time. Although Pendorians are used to being part of a mutual exchange environment all the time, Terrans are not part of our system and we’re not about to treat them the same way.”
Becky felt a strange chill run up her back. She sat up straight. “What is a mutual exchange system?”
“I thought I explained. From anywhere on Pendor you can find and read any book, see any movie, hear any story being told. The AIs make this possible. And they respond to our requests because they are listening all the time. Athena is part of that.”
“You mean to tell me that Athena is listening to us now?” she asked.
Becky shivered. “Big Brother for real.”
“You may look at it that way. Look at your own culture. What I imagine is important to you– what you read, what you wear, what you eat– is all knowledge stored in the records of your credit cards, records anyone with enough time and money has access to. Your neighbor could know everything important about you, if he cared to dedicate time to finding out– whether you read pornography, or the Communist Manifesto, or the Bible. But he would probably not know if someone were brandishing a knife on you one night. This difference distinguishes the AIs on Pendor. They keep private when it is not our business to inquire, and raise the alarm when it is in our best interests to make knowledge public.”
“So, how did you ask her?”
“I just spoke it quietly, subvocally.” He pointed to his throat. “I have small implants in my jaw and ear that make it posible for me to talk to and hear her whenever I want to. She can also hear everything going on around me.”
Becky felt her mouth fall open. She hadn’t realized that the man– mel, she habitually reminded herself– who she had cuddled up to so often in the past two months had been allowing his supercomputer to listen in on their every word, every act, and recorded it all. And that the radio itself was inside his body; it couldn’t be taken out, couldn’t be turned off.
Growning colder by the moment, she got out of bed and grabbed her clothes, pulling her pants on in a hurry. All of the wonders of the past hour forgotten, she ignored his protests as she buttoned her shirt and, without her socks, stepped into her shoes and fled. In a fast but controlled walk she left his residence, fled down the stairs and out into the street. She continued walking until she saw a bus going by. She boarded it and allowed it to take her away from R’Dam.
Becky groaned as she rolled over and stared up at the ceiling. “Another day,” she sighed. Another day to enjoy a healthy income without actually doing anything and without anything to do. The CIA had agreed to pay her through the year, and then she would be free to pursue whatever career she wanted, although probably not one in government. Still, she had had a good career in the State Departement; as long as her private life stayed out of her resume’ (as if that were possible) almost any company in the world would want her as an international customer contact. Financially, she was set for life as long as she found something to do.
But her body ached for R’Dam’s patient hands. She couldn’t help but close her eyes and wish for his loving mouth against her lips. She dreamed of his strong body against hers. Her fingers strayed down between her thighs even as she thought of him. “Oh, Dam,” she sighed. Finally, she knew that nobody was listening to her, because there was no part of her life that anyone cared about. Not anymore, not now. Her fingertips pressed against the swell of her vulva, touching between her lips. Her body was already rehearsing where it would go if Dam were to mysteriously show up on her doorstep. It encouraged her, asked more of her. She bent her knees and drew her feet up, allowing the flower of her vulva to open. Fingers, her fingers, brushed her already liquifying pearl. Small and obscene shudders flowed through her thighs.
R’Dam’s phantom mouth touched her breasts, his hands upon the outsides of her hips. As her own fingers began to circle in on her pearl she dreamed of his cock, average in size but so talented in action, entering her, knowing where it should go, knowing what inside her it should touch. Her insides began to melt at the intensity of the memories, at the strength of her own caresses of her inflamed pearl. A hard moan filled the room with her climax.
Even before the tremors completely subsided, Becky sat up. Kneeling, she turned around and lifted the venetian blinds over her bed. She looked out onto the narrow, brownstown-lined street that had been her home for the past six years. She would be leaving it all soon. She would go someplace where nobody listened. She wanted it that way.
She turned away from the window and wept silently.