DATE: Sat 17 Jul 2021 17:35 By: HexDSL@Posteo.net

Denouement // Part 3.

Part 1. (web)
Part 2. (web)

Before anyone e-mails me I should day. YES. is wordy and slow. Its like that on purpose. Its a slow wordy, wordy slow thing. I have a lot of world building to do before I can get things really rolling. :D I know!

Aliens.

I didn’t recall much of my life and the few moments that I did recall were fractured shards from a time-line that it would seem never happened but I don’t imagine I ever thought I would find myself sitting casually at a table with the man who was essentially the president of space. I was also suddenly aware that I was drastically under dressed for the occasion.

Ba’an Ty, Libby and I were sitting at the big round table in the large official room. I felt myself fade into the background as Libby talked effortlessly about politics and science with this man. I had no understanding of anything that was being said. I felt out of my depth and I decided staying quiet was a better option than highlighting it.

After a few minutes that felt like hours. Ba’an Ty turned to me and asked “Will you be returning to your work Doctor?” I was startled for a moment. I had not actually been referred to by my title before. I went to speak but instead was frozen by a sudden flash of memory that took all my attention.

The vision was an echo of something new to me. I was standing at a table in some kind of library, I had hand written charts and maps. I was deep into an idea of some sort and I recalled turning to someone. It was a woman, I tried to rationalise the memory and assumed it was Libby, it wasn’t her. It was someone else. Tall and striking with a long flowing coat. She seemed somehow ethereal. I told her that I needed more information about the effects… Something. I couldn’t place the words. She told me to stop worrying. There were some drips of information in that memory that seemed to fill my mind. I blinked.

“From what I understand I have never stopped.” I said with a sudden burst of confidence. “Two months in a coma and now some kind of amnesia though? Are you going to be okay to continue?” Ba’an Ty asked with genuine concern, not just the posturing of a politician. “Jon has had a rough time that’s true Ba’an, but the information we gathered when the storm struck him, the medical data from monitoring him and now the new memories he may hold. It’s all good work.” Libby said in my defence. “Ah, I know, I know. I just worry that its all for nothing I suppose” Ba’an said again with more honesty than I would have expected. “They don’t send ‘Correctionist’ hit squads to Central Prime for people who are chasing ghosts” I said with a resolved bluff. Ba’an considered my works with steely eyes “Indeed! Carry on then.” He said and excused him self from the conversation. Libby waited until he had walked to the other side of the room before turning to me “That was a good point but how do you know about Correctionist?” She asked surprised. “It was on the news.” I shrugged. “sounded like a big deal so I rolled the dice”. Libby gave me look that seemed familiar yet it was the first time she had pointed it at me “Maybe there’s more of the old you left in there than you realise.” she said cheerfully.

Joanne walked up behind us and then sat down at the table right next to me. She was wearing a very ornate black dress that made her look like she was going to a ball, in the middle ages. I almost didn’t recognise her. She looked lovely. Though the corset didn’t look comfortable at all. The dress was made from heavy looking fabric and had a lot more lace around the edges than I would expect Joanne to wear from the brief time I had spent with her. I moved my chair back a little so that the three of us had a better view of each other. “Why are you dressed like that?” I asked as I adjusted my position, “Also why is he dressed like that” I followed up pointing at Ba’an Ty across the room. “Ugh! Official government meeting in half hour” Joanne replied. “Its a long held tradition to dress classically, ornately for government business.” Libby quickly said to clear the matter up for me. “Yeah, Its a Vampire thing. We just inherited it.” Joanne added. I had heard the word ‘Vampire’ too many times now and decided that I would add it to my more urgent list of questions for Libby.

“I have to go in a second. I have arranged for your lab to be unlocked and your personal shuttle is now in service again dad. Your back in business if you want to be.” Joanne said. “Also Libby, because of the attack I’ve had you cleared for ‘carry’ ship wide AND on Central.” Joanne was talking fast at seemed to be checking the time repeatedly on her bracelet. “From the ships position I assumed we were leaving Central?” queried Libby. “No, we positioned for an exit after the Correctionist attack on your building. Looks like we can smooth everything over now though. We will drop back into high orbit after this damned meeting.” With that said Joanne opened her medieval looking bag and took out two cards and a Silver square. “I’ll see you both later.” She put the square and the cards on the table and left. I watched her walk across the room, a few of the other people in the room were watching her too but for different reasons I suspect. She really did look very nice. She met up with Ba’an Ty and they left through an elevator door.

Libby passed me one of the cards, It was a thin white circuit board with blue tracks on it, I flipped it over and on the other side it had the word ‘MERCIA’ with a picture of a blue shield that sported a yellow cross. “Pass. Opens doors. You only have to have in in your pocket and it will work.” Libby said. I stood up and added it to my wallet. What’s that? I asked as she attached the silver square to her shirt. I realised it was a silver metallic version of the shield on the card I had just seen. It appeared to stick to her shirt without any clip. “Carry authorisation.” She said as she positioned it to be as visible as possible. “Tells security staff that I am, or may be armed. As in ‘carrying’ a weapon.” I nodded in understanding but didn’t relish the idea of weapons “You need a weapon?” I asked. “No. I am a weapon. This badge gives me permission to activate this bodies combat systems… If required.” she replied, glancing up at me to see if my face was giving away my opinion on this. It wasn’t but Something about her delivery of the words “combat systems” made her sound incredibly dangerous.

We left the large room through the elevator that we came in through. The guards were still there. We politely nodded as we passed. “So Vampires?” I asked? Libby chuckled. “Other than you Humans there are four elder races in known space. Elves, Thinkers, Bricks and Vampires.” Libby said. She took my hand as we strolled through the corridor, this time in no great rush “After whatever happened in nineteen hundred, ‘The Event’, humans were suddenly a space faring race. They had been for a while in this time-line. They had already met the Vampires. They met the others later though. The Thinkers at knew all about Humans when we met them.” she was trying to be a good teacher.

I noticed her phrasing “You don’t think of yourself as human?” I asked. “Well I’m not.” She shrugged. “You described yourself as a NOLF to the guard, what is that?”

“N-O-L-F, Non Organic Life Form. It’s specifically a descriptor used for those of a digital persuasion. Technically the Thinker race are non-organic but its fuzzy” We walked up a flight of stairs that took us to a much busier level of the ship. It seemed like some kind of market area. It wasn’t totally different to the vague memories of old nineties malls that I had some echo of.

“You have already encountered Vampires you know. The pale people with the red eyes. Some of them have wings.” She added. “Like Ba’an Ty?” I asked. She nodded. “An alien is president of Earth?” I followed up.

Libby laughed. “I mean he’s been a citizen since nineteen twenty three. Oh, and as it turns out he’s the most popular leader in human history!” Libby shot back laughing at my antiquated questions of citizenship no doubt.

“So how old is he?”

“Slightly older than you, Or at least older than we think you are.” Libby replied. I stopped walking. I wanted line up my facts. “I thought I was the only one that was alive when The Event happened?”

“Oh. Yes. I should clarify that I guess. You were the only person on EARTH when it happened. And you are the only human from The Event who is still alive. All of the elder races, other than humans are all functionally immortal.” Libby said, seemingly apologetic for accidentally misinforming me. “All of them?” I asked. “Yes. I mean, they are not Bio-Static like you but they live basically forever, if they don’t get sick or have an accident.” Our conversation dried up as I thought about what this meant.

The ‘commerce area’ as it was signposted to be, was vast. There were shops selling all kinds of everyday things. Eventually as we passed the third Taco vendor I asked Libby why a military ship like this even had such an area. It seemed out of place and far more normal than a battleship should have. She explained to me that the ship was so big that a side effect was the vast numbers of people that were required to keep it operational. Engineers, dock workers, scientist and military staff. Given than there wasn’t actually much fighting in known space it was also very safe so people eventually brought their families and with families came schools and social areas, eateries and churches. It even resulted in at least one theme park on the ship. But, she reminded me, it was still the most powerful battleship the galaxy had ever seen. She was proud of the accomplishment. She didn’t identify as a human but I could tell from the way she spoke about them that she was one in her heart wether she cared to admit it or not was her own business.

We strolled through the commerce area for a few more minutes before we came to a large window into space. The viewing area had a large rail for those who got dizzy looking at the vastness (I assumed) and some benches arranged to let you sit and bask in it. There was even some fake grass around it to give the impression of a park complete with an old gas lamppost. It really was beautiful but it felt incredibly forced and out of place. We stood by the rail and looked out at the void. The stars were drifting by slowly as the ship drifted lazily. I could see Small ships around us and a bright light occasionally shone in the distance, a little more regular than the stars “What is that” I asked, pointing at the light flickered again. “Its the Warp” She said, “There are these doors or holes in space. They take you from one sector to another. Its how we travel between the capitol worlds.”

I lent forwards trying to make out more. I noticed Libby watching me again. She seemed fascinated with everything I did. I think she was waiting for signs that her husband was still inside me somewhere. I wasn’t sure he was.

“The flash of light comes when the Warp lines up with the star on the other side” she said. “What’s on the other side from here?” I asked. “Brick home world” she replied casually. “So there’s just a hole on space that goes to another world?” I asked “yes. Well no. Central is a hub world. There are four holes in space. One to each Home world.” Libby said, it seemed like she wanted to continue our walk. I pretended I didn’t notice. I liked the space window. “You mean five?” I returned. “You said there were five races”

“Perceptive. But flawed” she said with refreshed interest. “Earth is different. Like Central, its a hub system. From any system you can go to any hub. But you can’t go from hub to hub or system to system.”

“Is there like, a manual for all this?” I asked with a laugh “You have to be getting sick of explaining every little thing to me!”

She shrugged and we carried on walking. I went quiet again. I was thinking about the yet more information that I now had. I was overwhelmed when I first woke up; and now I was just tired of learning things. I was pretty sure that I should have been told all this slowly or in a more controlled way. It seemed like the worst possible was to impart information. Everyone seemed to just expect me to carry on with my life like it was little more than a blip. I guess I was but it didn’t feel like it.

The commerce area seemed to be coming to an end. I had enjoyed all the sights and people in the area. I had even seen the odd thing that I intended to investigate later. Like the Tacos for a start. I was struck by just how popular feel vendors seemed to be. There was also a place that was selling some kind of robot pets. I wanted to know more about them but would have been very nervous about asking Libby about that topic. For, obvious reasons.

We came to a wall with lots of elevators. Libby called one, it arrived in moments. She pressed a button on the wall panel. “Security required” came a robotic voice, a difference one to the last time “Elizabeth Michaels” Libby barked. “Security required” came the voice again. Libby looked at me expectantly “Security required” came the voice again. “Jonathan Michaels?” I said, realising that I said it like almost asking. The Elevator moved. “Joanne was asked for ‘security’ when we arrived. It didn’t ask me then” I said a little absently. I was looking at the panel. “You were with the Vice president!” Libby exclaimed with a raised eyebrow. I nodded, realising the obvious difference in their security clearance.

The doors opened and we were on a very different floor. The corridor was massive I felt like the shuttle could have flown down it. The walls were a blue wash and there was a well scuffed floor. We walked a few paces and the fist door on our left opened. “Welcome to your lab” Libby said proudly gesturing to the open doorway.

The door was oversized like the corridor. The room was large and filled with books across every wall from floor to ceiling. Actual books not little rectangles or floating screens. It looked like an arcane library. It was very dimly lit and there was a large white board with writing on and a large horseshoe desk that sloped in the middle. I cautiously stepped in, as I did the lights brightened up and the desk came to life. Screens appeared above it floating in the air and the surface had images, notes and diagrams all across it. I heard a sound and was suddenly startled as a figure walked in. It was a figure made of a pipe like body “Doors?” I asked. “No. This is Dex, as in ‘Index’ Its not a alive like Doors. Its just an AI. It knows a lot and can cross reference information for you.” Libby explained as she poked it in its holographic eye-like head. “General rule to remember, Green eyes alive. Orange eyes AI. Red eyes run.” Libby said. “Green alive, Orange Robot and Red?” I asked. “Red is AI who’s safety is off. Like combat drones.” I nodded, making mental note of red.

“So that a reliable guide?” I said trying to make sure I had the green and orange the right way around in my head.

“Its literally a law.” Libby said sternly. Pointing at her green eyes.

Dex stood next to the desk without saying anything. “How do I make him work?” I asked “Dex” Libby said in a commanding tone. “How may I assist you?” he said in an interesting almost Australian accent with a smooth as silk voice. “Can you show me a map of space?” I asked. Dex nodded and waved his hand The screen in front of the desk lit up with a huge floating picture of the galaxy. He tilted his head at me waiting for more instructions. “Where are we now?” I asked. A small blue shield logo flashed on the map and then in a smooth motion shrank down to a little pea size as it positioned it self at the north most edge. “He can help you with anything, don’t be afraid to ask him things. He’s literally a database with a useful body.” Libby said, now leaning against Dex like he was a wall. “Useful body?” I asked. “He knows where all the books are, what pages you may want to see and has a catalogue of artefacts you have in storage. Also he can bring you lunch” Libby said as she pointed at various things. “So this is your lab. You do your research here usually. But I figured you could use it to ask questions and learn about, well everything I guess.”

“Thank you!” I said with a sincere gratitude.

“I’m glad you like it. I mean, it is your own lab.” Libby smiled back. “And its quite convenient. Given that I have to to work for a few hours”

“Work?” I asked surprise.

“Yeah, I felt the ship move a few minutes ago. Were heading back to Central. I was supposed to be giving a lecture at one of the universities. I thought I would have to cancel but it seems we are back on track now.” She explained.

“You lecture? What do you lecture on?” I asked excited, for her.

“I’m a philosophy teacher. Sort of. I specialise in… Well its complicated but I give talks on Life. What it is, how to recognise it. Why its important. In Non-organics that is.” She said seemingly a touch embarrassed.

“Wow!” I actually wowed. I didn’t know I wowed. “Can I come and listen?” I asked.

“No. Its not safe. We won’t want another Correctionist attack on you do we?” she barked.

“But you’re going!” I fired back impetuously.

“Yes but if they attack me. I’ll simply stop syncing this body and get a new one.” She parried.

“How does that even work?” I asked. “Ask Dex. I have to go.” she replied. She stepped towards me and gave me a kiss on the cheek. “Stay out of trouble. Screen me if you get in trouble. See you in a few hours” she said and then left. The massive door closed behind her and I suddenly felt incredibly alone.

“Dex. What the hell does ‘screen me mean?’” I asked. “Screen is a slang term for video and voice communication via a Circlet” He gestured to his arm and a video of a bracelet like the ones had seen Joanne and Kay use appeared in front of his wrist. “Why is mine different?” I asked holding my wrist up for him. He leaned forward to see “The larger units also contain AI cores and are widely used by professions that require instant access to large volumes of data.”

I looked at my Circlet. Pleased with myself for knowing what it was called. I Knew the slider let out the thread that generated the screen (and then I realised why it was called ‘screening’ people) I pressed the other button. Nothing happened. I tapped it a few times. “What do you require?” asked Dex. “I’m trying to figure out how to use he AI in the Circlet” I said. “You are using it correctly. What do you require?” he asked. I looked at him suspiciously. I tapped the button. “yes?” he said. I walked out of the room in the corridor and pressed the button “yes” came through my ears in Dex’s voice. I walked back into the room “The AI in the Circlet is you?” I asked. “Yes” he replied. “I pressed this button a few times yesterday when I put it on. How come you didn’t answer?” I queried. “This lab and all associated equipment was in lock-down. Access was restored by vice president Joanne Michaels two hours ago.” He replied. I sighed. That made sense.

“Okay Dex. Lets do some learning.” I said as I waved a hand over the desk, the screens all lit up as I did. I felt like a wizard and we quite entertained for a moment.

I spent the next two hours, maybe more asking Dex endless mundane questions about the world, or universe I suppose. Dex really did have all the answers I wanted and had he was good at sharing his information. He almost seemed alive at times when he was talking in depth about a subject. I asked him about it, he said he drew from well documented communication sources. He was very useful but quite dry. I was starting to see the difference between him and the one like him called Doors that I had met. Doors was a little sassy and while he seemed quite subservient he was obviously a personality. Dex was like more like a tool or interface. There was nothing else going on with him.

An alarm suddenly sounded. It was a sharp and rhythmic sound. “Dex, what is that?” I demanded. “Possible intruder” He said calmly. “Show me!” I barked. The screen above the desk showed me the interior of the corridor with a woman standing by the door to the lab She had red hair and was wearing a long yellow dress. The angle made it hard to see but it looked like she was carrying some kind of thin box. “Dex let me talk to her” Dex tilted his head and I suddenly heard the alarm louder, and the ambient hum of the corridor. “Who are you?” I asked. “What? I can’t hear you! There’s an alarm!” the woman shouted. She was struggling to hold her box straight as she was fishing around her pocket. She pulled out a wallet of some sort and flipped it with one hand to show her ID to the camera. “Dex, show me what she has there” The screen zoomed in to the card. It was a picture of the woman at the door and the words ‘Lea Ra-kay. Flight lieutenant first class’ along with some other military numbers and emblems. “Oh! Its Lea from the shuttle. Turn off the Alarm. Let her in Dex” I ordered. The noise stopped instantly and the doors opened. “What the hell was that about Michaels?” She asked as she stepped in. She stopped dead the moment she looked over at me, frozen on the spot. “I didn’t recognise you without the helmet and the uniform” I replied with a friendly tone. She looked at me terrified. I was quite confused for a moment, I turned to Dex. He was standing with both arms stretched out and in the shotgun configuration I had seen Doors use. His floating eye was a blood red “Oh shit! NO! Dex, calm down, I know her, she’s a friend.” I almost stumbled over my words trying to be as clear as possible. “DO NOT SHOOT” I barked to add clarity. “Understood” Dex replied and his barrels transformed back to hands and his eye faded back to a healthy orange. “That’s Dex?” Lea said feeling a little less threatened.

“Yeah, I’m sorry I didn’t know he did that.” I replied apologetically.

“You didn’t know your destroyer unit could destroy things?” She said shaking a little.

“He’s a librarian” I replied.

“No. He’s not. He’s an Elven Destroyer unit. You don’t see them outside of Elf territory usually.” Lea added. “They are real scary.”

“Dex is this true?” I asked, not so much doubting Lea’s words as wanting to know more about him.

“I was assigned to you at President Ba’an Ty’s order. My mission is to serve as your assistant and protect your research. I am authorised to use maximum force to do so.” He replied in his silky Australian voice.

“I had no idea” I said to Lea, again with an apologetic tone.

“These things, they can take ships out of orbit with those neck cannons.” she said. “Other than the NOLF one at your apartment on Central I didn’t know there were any more outside of Elf space.”

She then remembered why she had come and presented me with the box. “Libby messaged me. Said I should remind you to eat.” I took the box. It was a large and thin square. It was warm. I put on the Desk next to me and opened it. “Pizza!” I exclaimed taking a slice excitedly. I gestured for Lea to take a slice too. She shook her head in disgust “Oh no. You are welcome to that grease plate”

She was looking around the lab with great interest. Her yellow sun dress made her look delicate and innocent. Not at all like the seasoned pilot I had been introduced to be when I first met her. “You not been here before?” I said with a mouth full of cheese crust. “No, honestly I don’t really think have the security clearance for this deck but Libby wanted me to make sure you were staying out of trouble.” her eyes were darting around the room with great interest. She looked as excited as I did to be here. “What’s through there?” she asked as she wondered through a doorway “Toilet, Sink. Oh and one of those lights that cleans you” I replied loudly and she wondered through the door. I had explored the lab thoroughly as soon as Libby had gone, there was another larger room that had rows and rows of boxes containing all sorts of seemingly random items that I didn’t quite understand yet.

Lea appeared back at the doorway looking quite amused “you call it a ‘Light that cleans you’ for real?” she said with an actually adorable grin. “Yeah, because… It’s a light that cleans you” I replied as I covered my pizza filled mouth with my hand.

“Just in-case it comes up again its called a ‘Hygiene field’” She said.

“There is no way anyone calls it that” I replied.

“No, most humans just call it as shower.” She laughed.

I realised the slightly odd way she phrased that. “Humans?” I asked. “Yeah. You know. From Sol system. Own the ship were on. The race of which you are a member.” She was quite sarcastic.

“You’re not human?” I asked with shock through another mouthful of pizza.

“No! I’m a Brick.” She said. Still amused by all the things I didn’t know.

The first thing I had studied with Dex was the races. I knew that the Brick race as the closest allies with Sol. They all had a natural physical fitness and sharper vision than humans but took over sixty Earth years to reach adulthood. They were outwardly indistinguishable from humans but were genetically skewed towards physical perfection. They were considered to be a race of beautiful people. And like all the elder races they were functionally immortal.

“I think you maybe the first Brick I have met!” I said.

“It’s so strange Jon” she said leaning against the open doorway. “Two months ago you were a force of nature. A constant stream of ideas. Confident like no other.” she stopped talking and stepped towards me. She put a hand on my shoulder “and now your like this odd empty version of who you was… Your still you but…” I could see her trying to carefully choose her words “You’re a faded version of you. I miss the old you.” I shrugged. “I don’t know if I’ll get my memories back. I need to go visit Kay later. She wants to run more test” I said apologetically." Lea smiled and shook of her moment of melancholy. “Work is boring. Lets go get drunk.” she exclaimed.

I didn’t want to leave my lab but when someone who you are told is your ‘best friend’ looks at you with those sad eyes and tells you its time to drink you are honour bound to agree. We left the lab. I checked with Dex that I didn’t need to lock up or set an alarm. Lea assured me that even if anyone else knew where my lab was and happened to have door access, having an Elven destroyer as a guard dog would suitably discourage any intruders.

She took me up to the commerce area and then to a floor above. This seemed to be the more ‘adult’ commerce. There were bars, there were fights breaking out as we walked and more than a few armed soldiers just hanging out. There were even a large open area where people were playing basketball. The whole area was lit a little dimmer than the lower deck, it was parallel to the top half of the viewing window that showed space unlike below it wasn’t being revered by people parring by it was covered in posters for music venues. Someone had affixed a basket ball hoop to it with a large gloop of foam like glue. There were scuffs next to the hoop where the ball had repeatedly hit it.

Lea walked fast, looking massively out of place in her yellow sun dress but regardless she carried her self with a supreme confidence. We weaved through some people playing guitar who casually called greetings to her as we passed. She stopped outside of a big window to a bar. The bar had no door and the inside looked seedy to say the least. “Were here!” she said and walked in with a purposeful stride. The bar was quieter than most of the ones we had passed and a lot more run down. There was a long counter running down most of the length of the room and the bartender was made of some kind of metal cubes. I knew from my talk with Dex that this was not a robot. It was a ‘Thinker’ they were a race of beings who are made of energy. They inhabit solid objects and animate them with a type of tactile telekinesis. Essentially turning inanimate objects into space suits for themselves. They had no faces to speak of but they fluctuated light energy around their head to give the impressions of features. This one was cleaning the bar as we entered “Lea! Didn’t expect to you you this early” The thinker said in a strong male voice with a northern accent. “Hi Vent! Jon’s been working too hard so I broke him out of his lab.” She said. Vent looked at me and placed two glasses on the counter. “Jon, rumour is that you went and got your head blanked, that true?” he asked as he pulled out a bottle of some strong brown spirit “Yeah, that rumour seems pretty spot on” I replied not really seeing he point in lying to him. “Well in that case. I’m VentTanaLomoGiovaliaSionoth and I’ll be the man taking your drink money for the rest of the day.”

“Nice to meet you VentTanaaaaaaaaalo… ?” I tried and gave up trying to say his name with little smile as I realised that it had left my head. “Vent. People call me Vent.” he barked “Now give me pay card or get out.” His words were harsh but his tone was friendly.

I looked at Lea. “Don’t ask me, you’re the one with all the money. I’m just a broke-ass pilot” she said innocently as she reached for a glass. I pulled out my wallet and found the card that I assumed was for paying for things. Vent tapped the bar and a rectangle square outline appeared in front of him. He took my card off me and placed in on the square. It floated above it, “hand” he barked as hand shape appeared in front of my side of the bar I placed my hand on the print and it flashed. He passed my card back. “Welcome to ‘The Wing’. Drink and be merry for tomorrow you maybe dead.” he said and slid the glass over to me. I swallowed the contents of the glass like it was water and it burned on the way down. It tasted great. I slid he glass back. Vent waved it away and handed me the bottle.

The other customers mostly ignored us and talked to each other. One or two glanced over at Lea attractive form but no one bothered us. All of the people in the bar seemed to be in uniforms that were in various states of casual. This bar seemed like it was for pilots. All of them seemed to know Lea.

Lea had somehow made it to the other side of the bar before I had even realised she had gone. She was standing by a large metal table. I wondered over with my bottle. She pressed some buttons and the table went green. Balls appeared along with two stick “You remember who to shoot Pool right?” she asked. I grinned. “I honestly do!” I replied with a very pleased tone. One of the few memories I had was being in a bar and with it was the certainty that I did actually know how to play.

The next few hours were great. We played pool and Lea told me about her adventures a pilot. She had been flying ships for twenty years. I had to keep reminding myself that she was was way older than she looked not in her twenties like she appeared to be. As the afternoon went on she got slowly more drunk and worse at pool. I was enjoying the tastes of the things that she kept bringing over for us to drink but nothing so much as made me light headed. Eventually she decided she was too drunk to play pool and pressed some buttons on the table. The solid appearing pool table faded away to show the silver table for a moment. So sooner had it reset and a scene of a little space ship appeared in front of me. There was a floating stick and a throttle on the table. I flicked the stick and the camera moved to show me the inside of the ship. “Come shooooots me Jon” she slurred. The game was amazing. I really did feel like I was flying a ship. I assumed it was simplified to make it more of a game and less of an actual training simulation but for the half hour we played I almost forgot that I was standing in a now quite busy bar. Eventually after destroying my little ship almost as often as I had beaten her at Pool Lea literally passed on her projected controls and her little ship span out wildly. I walked around the table and switched it off. The space game vanished and Lea slumped down even more without the controls in her way. “great” I said to myself. “Now what do I do?”

I decided to get another bottle and take a seat at the game table. I put my feet up on the table and slumped down in a comfy padded arm chair I had pulled over in close. No one seemed to mind and I didn’t want to abandon Lea. I also decided that I wasn’t going to try and move her either. I flicked the screen on my Circlet on and took my first real look at the menu. There was a lot of options. It seemed to be constantly connected to some kind of data feed that allowed me to browse news and search for things. I browsed the feed for a little bit and then tapped the button to speak to Dex I was a little concerned he wouldn’t hear me over the music and ambient chatter of the bar “Yes?” came his voice as if it was directly into my ears. “Can you send information to my Circlet screen?” I asked. “Yes” he replied. “Good I want to see information about Bio-Stasis. Specifically its meaning and limits.” The truth was, I wanted to be very drunk and happy like Lea but if I couldn’t be I should at least find out why not. I was absorbed in the documents that Dex had sent over. Eventually Lea gained something close to lucidness and dragged her own armchair over to mine. She passed out in it next to me. I gave her an entertained glance and went back to screen. I was pleased that no one had bothered us. My memory of what happened to attractive women who got pass-out-drunk in bars came with a lot more inappropriate attention than the reality I was now experiencing. This world was far better than the one I remembered, seemingly in every way.

A shadow appeared in front of me. I flicked away my screen and looked up. There stood Libby looking quite confused at me “Really? I leave you alone for a few hours and you some-how find your way to a Brick bar in the worst part of the ship?” Lea grunted and opened her eyes. “Oh, Lea! Right! Now it makes sense!” she said with thinned eyes. I was suddenly quite concerned that it may not have been appropriate to go to a bar with another (very attractive) woman the first time my wife had left me alone.

Libby picked up Lea carefully and put her over her shoulder. “Come on, we can’t leave her here all night” she said with a good natured smile. We walked out of the bar “Hi Vent” Libby said as she passed him. “Thanks” I called as I followed after Libby. Vent waved as I left, he didn’t have a face as such but I got the impression he was laughing at us. It seemed odd to see someone as demure looking as Libby carrying someone at least the same size as her so effortlessly. I thought back to her throwing a tank out of the window the night before and realised that I shouldn’t be surprised at anything she did.

We took an elevator and a few different corridors and eventually got to where Lea lived. I expected some sort of bunks or group living space but she had a small apartment of her own. The door opened as Libby approached and we walked right in. The apartment was very small with a tiny living room and kitchen area combined. There didn’t appear to be any other rooms. I assumed the ‘Shower’ was attached to the bedroom. I didn’t follow Libby through there. I waited in the living room. I felt sort of intrusive being there alone. It was very tidy and not very personalised. The only sign that someone actually lived there was a pile of flight manuals on the bench in the kitchen like area. I wondered if Lea was a happy person. Libby came back into the room, now alone. We left the apartment. Libby pressed some buttons that appeared to properly lock the door as we left.

“Oh my gosh, she was trashed!” Libby said the moment the door was closed. “Yeah. We played a lot of pool and some shuttle fighting game. I don’t think she stopped drinking from the moment we walked in until she passed out.” I said a little worried that Libby was going to be mad at me. “Yeah, Sorry I ended up leaving you so long. The post lecture questions went on longer than I expected then there was this interview and before I knew it I had missed the last scheduled shuttle back. Had to get Jo’s buddy Kieran to come pick me up. For some reason Lea wasn’t answering.”

She told me about her day as we made our way back to our assigned apartment. I realised how much nicer it was than Lea’s and we were only temporarily staying there. Lea seemed to live on Mercia and her apartment was tiny. I felt a little bad for her.

We walked into the living room of our apartment and Libby did her little kick to rid herself of her shoes. She sat down on the sofa and looked actually sort of sleepy. “Libby, I hope it wasn’t inappropriate for me to go drinking with another woman the way I did. I hadn’t really thought about how it may look until you walked into the bar.” I decided that I would be as honest as I could be with Libby. It felt right.

Libby looked up and me and patted the sofa seat next to her. I sat down. “Jon. We have know Lea for literally as long as we have known each other. There is not way I would think for a moment that you are cheating on me with her.” She said seriously “Besides, she’s out of your league!” she added with a smile.

..