DATE: Sat 04 Sep 2021 20:42 By: HexDSL@Posteo.net

Denouement // Part 7.

Part 1. (web)
Part 2. (web)
Part 3. (web)
Part 4. (web)
Part 5. (Web)
Part 6. (Web)

Formation.

I entered the room with Lea on my arm. Partly because we saw some people in front of us walk in like that and partly because we were both nervous. The protocol for formal presidential parties was part of my research or Lea’s training.

Lea was wearing a beautiful strapless blue evening dress with sparkling gems around her chest and hem. It was a Human tradition for military personal to wear their dress uniform to these events but. It was a Brick tradition to not. Wit the blessing of the presidential office she straddled both worlds. Her necklace had the symbol of her ship, Mercia as a pendent and she wore her rank as a silver and blue brooch that showed her wings, the symbol oh her rank. I had known that she, like all of her people was genetically predisposed to beauty and grace but she was stunning. Even those accustomed to Brick women turned their heads as she walked by. While it was nice to enter such a place with such company there was only one woman I wanted to see this evening.

We walked down large ornate stairs that curved into the large hall in a way that was designed to make sure no one missed those who were entering. It was more like a palace than a government venue. We had made it to the small landing at the half way mark before I spotted Libby. She walk talking with a group of well dressed people. They were laughing and enjoying her company, one man tried to pass her a drink about three times in the few seconds I was watching. She wore her blonde hair in a styled bun upon her perfect head to expose the elegance of her neck. Her dress was black and carefully underrated. There was a split down one side exposing her perfect leg that was tipped with pointed heels. She wore a silver circlet and matching hair pin. Her ears and neck ware not bejewelled but instead she wore shined metal disks on her ears and what looked from a distance to be polished military dog-tags around her neck.

She looked up and saw me. A Grin spread across her face and she radiated with welcoming eyes. “She looks wonderful” said Lea noticing me stunned by my wife’s beauty. “Yeah. I can’t believe she wants to keep me.” I said without a hint of irony. “You’re pretty easy on the eyes yourself you know Jon.” I didn’t. I wondered around insecure of how I looked for the most part. Tonight though I was wearing a dark blue eighties style suit complete with shoulder pads and waistcoat. I would have been nervous about the choice but it was the suit that Libby had told me to wear.

We slowly made out way down the rest of the stairs. I never took my eyes off of her for fear that I would somehow lose her forever. She excused herself from the group she was talking with and strolled towards me. While I was sure that the room was very busy I had no idea who else was there. We approached each other with laser like intensity. I had considered how I should complement her. How to best express my thoughts of her beauty and poise. As soon as she was close enough I kissed her. It was no polite high society kiss either. It was loaded with feelings. As we separated she bit her lip. “So you got arrested. On earth? Really?” she said with a smile. “Detained.” I took her hand. “Give me the short version” she said without breaking eye contact.

Lea, who I had already forgotten was standing next to me grabbed to tall thin glasses from a passing waiter and put one in front of my face, breaking the moment Libby and I were content to live in. I took the glass. Lea injected herself into the conversation, mostly to just get things moving. “He had a tiny bit of data and an idea. Next thing I know were in an ancient underground facility with all the doors locked and no Circlet connection.” She swallowed the contents of her flute in one go. “How did you get out?” Libby asked with an interested half smile but with all her attention still on me. “We used a rocket ship.” I said tasting my drink. It was terrible. Champagne isn’t nice, as it turns out. “A rocket ship?” She asked. Lea noticed my expression at the drink and took it from me, glad to give it a more appreciative home, “Yes! It had flames coming out of the back of it” Lea added with great enthusiasm. “And they arrested you for this?” I shook my head “Detained.” I corrected. “Fine! They detained you for this?” I smiled widely “The rocket found its way into the side of a building.” “It was all the fire in the street that attracted the drones, then the police” Lea paused for a moment “and the upside down buggy thing we used to follow it out. I think at one point that was on fire too.” Libby was now less focused one me. “What’s an upside down buggy?” She asked. I laughed “A buggy that we flipped into its roof.”

“Oh. I see.” Libby smiled. “It all makes perfect sense now then.”

I thought for a moment. Still not quite taking my eyes from Libby. “Anyway, how did you know I was arrested?”

“News feeds” She replied.

“I thought you was busy all day with academia.”

“Jon. I’m literally always in two placed at once.”

I shrugged at her. “well. As promised we made it here on time.” I then realised that we were about half hour later than we were expected and hoped I had gotten away with it.

She began asking me how we had actually made it to the event when we were all suddenly distracted by Kay’s voice. We turned to see her making her way towards us from the staircase. We had some how managed to miss her entrance. She was wearing barely formal red dress that was a little too hugging and low cut for the event. It was also a little too short for the event too. Her hair was in pig tails, again not quite appropriate. I had no doubt that all of this was an intentional rebellion to her presence being demanded. As was her company. Her date was a tall and muscular man with little points to his ears and stars in his eyes. He looked more like a wall than a man, made especially hard to ignore by his suit that fitted him a little too snugly. “Kay!” Exclaimed both Libby and Lea in unison. They walked over to her as fast as they could. It was more of a shimmy actually given the dresses they were wearing. She hugged us all as a group. “You look lovely!” said Lea, “You both look like princesses.” Kay replied with excitement and sincerity. “Who’s your date?” Libby asked. “Oh. Yes! Meet Kar-al. He’s a friend I met at work.” she said ‘friend’ in a slightly sultry way that made its point clear. I stuck out a hand for him to shake “Jon” I said. I don’t know why but I liked Elves. They seems the most fantastical of the races and they were the ones I had seen the least of. “It’s nice to meet you Karl.” He shook my hard. “Kar-al. Kar is fine.” He corrected. It sounded like ‘Karl’ when Kay had said it.

Introductions were made, I was pointed out as Kay’s grandfather which made me feel old, which wasn’t fair as physically I didn’t look much older than she did. Then Libby as her ‘sort of sister’ which confused poor Kar and made my introduction as ‘grandfather’ even more irksome. Lea was then introduced as ‘her favourite Brick’, which seemed a strange way to introduce someone even to me. Kar wasn’t much of a talker but he seemed to be friendly.

We found ourselves slowly splitting off and politely mingling with the notable people in the room. It was a large gathering and everyone Libby and I spoke to made a point of congratulating us on our accomplishments and insisting that we tell them the story of how we escaped from a Correctionist stronghold. It was getting boring for us but everyone wanted to hear the story first hand. I began to notice that Libby’s delivery of the story was word for word identical each time she told it. As we politely moved on from talking to an Alliance General who congratulated us on a mission well done I leaned over to her and whispered “Be honest. You’re playing back a script or something aren’t you?” She smiled at me under the cover of kissing me on the cheek she said “I didn’t think anyone would notice.” I laughed “You are going to have to teach me that trick one day” She squeezed my arm. “Sorry your squishy meat brain doesn’t work like that.” I laughed.

We had caught a few glimpses of Joanne across the room who seemed permanently locked into deep conversation with the more important and opulent looking guests. Eventually Libby and I had slowly floated over to her through the vehicle of strategic mingling. As we got close she glanced over to us and then took the arm of a woman she was standing with and made the side step over to us and away from her seemingly tedious interaction. “Oh thank the gods!” She said as she got to us. “I guess this is more of a working event for you then?” I asked. “You wouldn’t believe. Everyone who can’t get a meeting with Ba’an or I is using this as an opportunity to talk about some request for a project, mission or whatever.” She had our sympathies, not that it meant much. She complemented Libby’s outfit, which everyone did. It never got boring to me to see her awkward acknowledgement each time. Jo herself looked classically well dressed. Sweeping silhouette, lose but styled hair and a fresh glow of welcoming joy that she carefully faked with each new person who wanted to talk to her. “Oh! I would like you to meet Ashley. My seldom available yet always welcome girlfriend.” I took her hand politely “It’s a pleasure to meet you Ashley. Seldom available?” The woman was a demure Elf who was the first person I had seen who wore spectacles. She was dressed as classically as Joanne but instead of dark colours she wore a sky blue with tightly arranged blonde-pink hair. She was quite striking even in the company I was in. “Well Doctor. She makes it sound far more nefarious than it actually is. I’m just an artist. I’m not much of a socialite.” I looked at Ashley, then at Jo. They seemed to fit together very well, despite how on-edge Ashley looked. “Ash paints. She paints wonderful things” Jo announced proudly. “I would like to see your work some time” I said, or asked I suppose. Ashley smiled nervously. “Humans don’t usually like my work” She said in a tiny voice. “Why is that?” Libby cut in.

“I have the Pliant Gift. So my art doesn’t really work for non-Elves.” I had no idea what that was. Libby knew and summarized in a natural way for me “Oh, that’s a rare eye disorder isn’t it? You see things as strands of motion not colours and shapes. Is that right?” She knew it was. Ashley nodded. “non-Elves don’t usually know what it is. By modern standards I’m not far away from blind. But to my ancestors it was an amazing blessing. They lived on a woodland moon with endless winds and storms. There was constant motion so those with the gift saw everything. They were superb hunters and almost supernaturally aware of their surroundings.” I realised now why Jo had so carefully took this woman’s arm when she walked over to us. If I was understanding correctly she was unable to see us if we were stationary. “The glasses are refractive. They split my field of vision into smaller sections. Lets me pinpoint things better.” That his woman chose to live on Earth was confusing to me but asking seemed rude. “Looks like a Kaleidoscope” Jo said. “What?” I asked. “Her glasses. Looks like a Kaleidoscope to those without the gift.” Libby tastefully asked something that I was wondering “How does that effect your art?” Ashley smiled widely. “I have no idea. I can’t see it.” Ashley and Jo laughed at a shared joke. “I can only see it while I paint it. Once each stroke is placed its invisible to me.” I was suddenly very interested in her art. “On my moon, my condition is well known. They see my art as a glimpse into something mystical and spiritual. Other races don’t seem to like it though.”

I liked Ashley. She was interesting and her choice to leave her home moon was confusing to me. “Ashley, What did you see when the storm happened a few months ago?” Her colour drained. She looked at me over her glasses, the stars in her eyes were spinning, not static little sparkles like other Elves I had met. “I saw nothing Doctor. Nothing at all.” Her tone was unexpectedly grave. “Please, Call me Jon.” I replied to change topic. I liked her even more now.

I wanted to talk to her more but Jo had a voice communication light up her Circlet. I noticed that Ashley wasn’t wearing one. Which seemed deeply odd to me at this point. “Well… Looks like its time.” Jo said as she ended the very short ‘’Voice’. Her and Ashley left.

“I like her!” Libby announced. “Yes. She seems very interesting.” Libby looked at me suspiciously for a moment “Why do you seem to fall ever so slightly in-love with every woman you meet?” I wasn’t sure what she meant by that “Because I haven’t met many. Besides you have nothing to worry about. There’s no one else like you.” She smiled. If her comment was a criticism she had taken my answer well. She was right though. I did feel a little like that at times. But I was also honest. Now I knew her, there was no other woman I could feel the same way about.

An area of the far wall suddenly lit up with a holographic display of the Sol Alliance insignia. Then a section of the floor raised into a stage. A podium was carried onto it and a small curtained trolley was wheeled next to that. Ba’an walked out and stood at the podium. He was dressed in an expensive looking maroon suit with his large pale wings a little loser than they usual were. “Welcome, all of you! I’m sorry for the delay in starting. I’m sure you all know how stressful running a planetary alliance can be” Everyone chuckled politely. It wasn’t funny. “Today we are here to honour four people who have recently risked their lives in service of Sol. I would like to call to the stage Doctors Elizabeth, Ka’ona and Jonathan Michaels as well as Flight officer Lea Ra-Kay.” Libby and I wondered towards the stage area and up the little steps that literally appeared in front of us. We stood net to the podium facing the crowd we had only moments ago been mingling with. Kay appeared a few seconds later and a moment after that Lea. Ba’an looked at us with a proud smile.

Ba’an waited for the clapping to due down before he began.

“Doctor Ka’ona Michaels. A dedicated pacifist was already a hero, choosing a profession where she saves lives day after day. She stood next to her friends and family when the Correctionists abducted them and both stuck to her principles and kept them safe.” He took a box from the trolley and walked over to her. He handed her the box open and took out a ribbon with a medal attached. “I present to you the Sol Crest. Your bravery is something we should all strive for.” He placed it over her head and the audience clapped enthusiastically. He returned to his podium. Kay looked down at it and then up to the audience and gave an uncomfortable smile. I was sure that we was considering the irony of a pacifist getting a military medal, I was.

“Flight Officer Lea Ra-Kay one of the finest pilots I have ever met. She protected her charges, fought against an unexpected enemy and took great personal injury in this mission.” He walked to her with another box. Placed the ribbon over her head and said “I present to you the Sol Crest. Your bravery is something we should all strive for.” The crowed clapped.

“Doctor Jonathan Michaels, scientist, researcher and historian. Not a man who expected to be fighting for his life but his resolve and dedication to the safety of Sol is nothing less than astonishing.” He gave me a box and took out the ribbon. “I present to you the Sol Crest. Your bravery is something we should all strive for.” The crowed clapped for me and I was moved by it.

“Doctor Elizabeth Michaels is the first Non-Organic Life form to be honoured in this fashion. She is also receiving the most prestigious award that I am able to give to her. She is a teacher and philosopher but when it came time to step up, she fought like Mercia its self in defence of her planet, her friends and her family. She even risked her own life to bring us the valuable intelligence locked away in the Correctionist computer systems.” She walked to her with a slightly larger box. He gave it to her open and looked at it for just a moment. He took out the ribbon and placed it around her neck. “I present to you the highest honour there is, you are now and forever will be a Defender of the Earth. Your bravery is something few can ever compare to.” The crowed did not give an enthusiastic clap but instead a righteous cheer and a thunderous applause.

We turned to leave the stage and Jo appeared from the side, she opened a door at the back of the stage and pointed us out of it. We stepped out into the gardens of the venue. While we knew it should be dark and raining it was instead a wonderful dry night, with a massive twinkling blue box that went the length of the garden. A shield had been erected. An assortment of little twinkling lights on ropes was decorating large flag poles and the fence that surrounded us, fending off the darkness and the blue ambient glow of the shield. The rain fell atop if it silently, the twinkling was the droplets being evaporated by the sparks of the shields electrical power. There were holographic flames on sticks at the centre of every round table, and there were a lot of round tables. There was one larger table slightly raised at the back of the garden, Ashley and Kar were already sat there waiting for us.

We all wondered over joined them. I looked at my medal. It was a shiny disk that had a circle with a smaller circle inside it, the smaller circle had green jade mapping out the land of Earth. I wasn’t sure if I cared about a medal as a symbol but I liked it aesthetically.

Waiting staff seemed to appear as if by magic around us. A bottle of Elix appeared in front of both Kay and I. Wine for Kar, Ashley and Jo. A beer for Lea. “I took the liberty of ordering for you, I hope that’s okay” came the voice of Ba’an as he walked over to us. He sat at the round table in the empty place between Libby and Lea. Lea would be pleased, no doubt.

A few seconds later the back wall of the building was opened, the entire length of it was a series of removable windows that staff whipped away effortlessly. People trickled out and stopped to admire the gardens layout and blue glow. Staff began to point guests to their assigned seats and drinks began appearing. A small band set themselves up by the building as the people moved, they were playing some instruments I had not seen before but the music was gentle and intricate. It reminded me of classical music but it was some how modern feeling.

Conversations began to start between us all. The night became a wonderful blur of good conversations and memorable moments. I may have been given a medal that night but it was the company of this meal that I remembered. I felt like I was home at last. Not that I was sure what that meant really, as I had no memory of being without these wonderful people.

Eventually after dinner was eaten and more drinks were consumed a new conversation emerged Libby leaned over towards the other side of the table a little “Okay, I have to ask Ashley. You have spent the evening trying not to let me notice you staring. I don’t mind at all but what are you seeing?” Ashley looked suddenly embarrassed and hid her face behind her hands for a moment. Jo leaned against her “Are you seriously checking out my stepmother?” She laughed. “I’m sorry Libby. I have been trying not to but to my eyes you are… Well, you’re beautiful” she said going quite red. “How so? I haven’t moved very much, how are you even seeing me right now?” she asked purposely staying quite still. “I can see ever expanding circles coming out from you like ripples in water. You look perfectly clear to me. When you think about something the circles change err, I think the best analogy is what you would call colours” Libby smiled. “I haven’t been described like that before, thank you Ashley.”

“What is it? I hope its okay to ask. Is it okay to ask?” Ashley was transfixed on Libby now she knew that everyone knew she was staring. “I think you are seeing the graviton transmission that connects me with my core AI. My Soul I suppose.” Ashley grinned. “Yes. That makes sense. Thank you for showing it to me.” I found myself wishing I could see the world through Ashley’s eyes for a moment or two.

At the end of the evening people began to request shuttles and slowly leave. Many making a point to come and thank us for our bravery. It was quite strange to me but politically sound to be seen approaching the presidents table I’m sure. Lea was more than a little drunk and was resting a little too closely Ba’an who was close to showing signs of the wines effects too. It was nice to see him relaxed. Despite consuming excessive quantities of alcohol Kay, Jo and I were as sober as ever. The one thing about being Bio-static that we all agreed was less than ideal.

Recounting

The following day I hadn’t managed to get to my lab until late afternoon. Libby and I had spent the morning together without leaving the bed, for the most part. I eventually tore myself way and headed out. When I got to the lab I was surprised to find Jo already there, sitting in my single armchair and drinking tea from my large mug. “Hello vice president. I didn’t know we had a meeting today.” I said with a smile.

Dex was standing silently in his usual place by the desk, waiting for instruction. I was pleased he hadn’t pulled out his defence system when Jo had stopped by without warning. I recalled what he did the first time Lea had stopped by.

“Hi there father. We don’t, technically its my day off. But I want some questions answered.”

“Oh. Sounds serious.” I said as I got myself an Elix from the food despiser.

“Well, I think it may be. I have a feeling you are having a breakthrough. I want to know what you are thinking.”

I considered this for a moment. “Yes, well. No. I mean. I have a pretty crazy theory. I also have a feeling that the evidence required to prove it is in that facility I found on Earth, or one of them at least..”

“Stop being cryptic. You know I don’t have the patience for political posturing.” I raised an eyebrow at her. Considering her profession that seemed like an odd statement.

“Fine. But once you hear this, you’re stuck knowing. Same as me. You sure you want to know?” I asked. Trying not to sound overly dramatic.

“Get on with it. please.

I wished there was something stronger than Elix. I sat on a box of data tablets in front of her. “Okay Jo. This is going to take some unpacking.” I took a deep breath. “The Event that I have apparently been researching for about a century. Well… That actually happened two months ago.” She looked at me and blinked blankly. “What?”

“The Event may have started in what we perceive to be the year nineteen hundred but it didn’t finish until two months ago. Or at least that’s what I think has happened and I should have confirmation as soon as we get into the main area of that facility.” I took another huge gulp of Elix. I couldn’t get drunk but the burning flavour was satisfying.

“Okay, now explain why you think this dad. Because you sound like your making quite a leap here.” She sat back in my armchair and studied me intently.

“Fine. When I had my so-called accident, and the resulting universe wide storm no one seems to want to talk about happened. Well. That was the end of The Event. From our point of view it started about a hundred years ago but in reality it seems to have lasted no more than about twenty minutes, maybe more maybe less but not long. Its hard to measure how long time takes to be re-written when you live inside time… I suppose.” Jo never said a word. She just kept looking at me with that laser like focus.

“My first clue was when the Corectionists attacked me on Central just after I woke up. Why did they suddenly want me? According to every news feed and record I can find they have been a pain in the arse of the galaxy for forty plus years, but they suddenly risk it all to try and get little old me right then, for no reason.” I got another drink.

“I was whisked away to the good ship Mercia. And what a ship it is. My lab is here. I work here. I live here. So does Libby. Its our home away from home, or so I’m told. If that’s the case why did you have to assign a room to Libby and I when we arrived? If I work here, live here. Why didn’t we have a room here?”

Jo ruffled her brow trying to think through her memories. I assumed that those memories would be more apparently messy the more she tried to lock down their minutia. This was what everyone would realise when they tested their assumptions against their recollection.

“After a late night I found myself making sure Lea got home safely. You know Lea. Mine and Libby’s best pal. Good friend of yours too. She has served on Mercia for years, right? Well have you seen her apartment, its bare. She has no trinkets or photos in her room. Nothing, it’s like she just moved in. At first I thought she was a minimalist or something. She isn’t.”

Jo took a sip of tea.

“Then those pesky Correctionists tried to pick me up again. From the embassy, a ballsy move. But why? It makes no sense for an annoying terrorist group to suddenly change their whole tactics and methods. And to get me? That made even less sense.” she made a “hmmmm” sound and I continued.

“The Correctionist that began to interrogate me. He hated me. He hated me passionately but couldn’t kill me. He needed me but why? Made no sense until I finally got the time to ask about the accident I was supposed to have had. I saw the mystical artefact in the video. Artefact that no one has a recollection of. I’ll come back to that.”

“Go on” Jo said, annoyed that I had paused to gather my thoughts.

“When we got to earth, I was in awe of it. As I explored I began noticing the complete lack of cultural influence. Strange given that its a so called ‘hub world’. That’s what made me get Dex to check some things for me. That facility I found. It wasn’t hidden at all. It was a fucking door in the middle of the street. You really think that that shit could have been hanging out there for ninety nine years and no one had wondered where that door went. In all that time, not so much as a curious kid and popped their head into there?”

Jo actually looked scary. Her poker face was impressive. Nothing was being given away and I was getting more and more nervous with every point I made. She thought I was mad, I was sure of it.

“The technology in that facility was never invented in this time-line. I’m expecting once we get access to the main facility that there documents and computer logs dated as recently as two months ago. You don’t get glass fronted computer monitors in the same world that has ships like Mercia. And the only reason I seem to be able to see this clearly this is because I have no memory. I’m looking at things with no context and its, well… It’s fucking obvious to me.”

Jo stood up and went to get more tea from the slot. She sat back down again without saying anything. “Go back to it” She said. “What?” I asked. “The artefact, you said you would get back to it and you didn’t yet.”

“Oh, Yes. That. I’m pretty sure the Correctionists have it and once we retrieve it we will have a far better idea of who is behind all this.”

“You don’t think this is a natural event?” she asked.

“Not for a second. Someone had changed something in time and the reality we are living in is a side effect” I was sure of this.

“The artefact. Could it had done this.” she asked.

“I have some vague idea of what the artefact is about. But regardless of how things seem to stack up, its not got enough power or scope to have caused all of this. If I had to guess, I think its some kind of time capsule. From the Denouement time-line.”

“Denouement?” she asked.

“It means ‘resolution’, sort of. It’s what I’ve been calling the other time-line in my notes. It needed a name, so it was as good as any and I like a little poetry in my notes from time to time”

“Who else knows this theory of yours?” Jo asked.

“No one, well. Dex. I suppose… Though I expect Libby has been forming some suspicions of her own. I expect if she gets to look at the technology in that facility then she will start to put it all together the same as me.”

Jo rubbed her head. “And the facility. You think there are more of them?” I nodded “yes. Its not hard to compare the previous Mercia scans with the current ones. Dex has already identified twenty odd anomalies. Some will literally be scanning errors but I would think most will be artefacts of the other time-line. Like the one we found, or at least similar.”

“Show me everything you have.” She said, not as my daughter or as my friend but with the official commanding voice of the presidential office. I went through all of my note in detail outlining every tiny thing I had noticed. I showed her the scans the protected archive tablets, the dates and the actual time-line of events as I understood it. It took me hours to explain it all to someone else. She asked smart questions and I quickly began to realise that I a lot more information than I realised. Dex had worked for his keep today. He did a great job of picking up on little things that I had missed.

Eventually the story was over. She had examined every document that I had and seen every single scanning anomaly that Dex had found. It felt good to share my theory. Then her bomb shell was dropped.

“The data that Libby extracted from the Correctionists ship. You may have noticed that its not been released to you yet.” I had. She took the drink out of my hand and gulped it “Because its been deemed too dangerous for general release.” I looked at her waiting for more. “Yeah. Other than a few minor details. It lines up with your theory.” I blinked at her for a second.

“YES!” I exclaimed. I let out a little ‘woot’ and punched the air excitedly. “Why are you happy?” She asked with an annoyed face. “Why wouldn’t I be?” I replied. “Because our entire reality may be two months old and that’s terrifying.” She said sternly. “Yes. Its exciting.”

“Then where did all my memories come from?” she asked. “Joanne. Everything you remember is true. Your life happened as you remember it. It just didn’t happen in the original time-line. THIS time-line is where you live, where you were born, where you raised Kay, where you met Ashley. This time-line is still real from the point of view of everyone who lives here. Nothing has changed.” She scrolled through my notes idly. “But was any of it supposed to happen?” She asked quietly. “Who cares? It did and I love that it did. I’ll protect this time-line over all others with my last breathe if I have to.” She smiled and hugged me.

“Ash liked you, you know.”

“I liked her too.”

“You like everyone.”

Eventually after some less serious conversation and a little laughter she made her mind up “Dad, I think you maybe the only person who can actually figure out this whole thing. We need to know if were in danger and we need to know what we need to do. We can’t go to anyone else with this until we have more though.” I agreed. I didn’t even want to share it with her. “I’m putting you in charge of the team that the Earth science foundation is sending to the Facility. I’m also sending a small group of military personal down there to make sure it doesn’t end up on the news again. There’s no way your getting command of people with guns though, I’ll have them defer to Libby.” She said, back in Vice President mode now. “And a bunch of soldiers will be happy taking orders from Libby, a civilian?” I asked. “That civilian is a ‘Defender of the Earth’ now. That’s not JUST a shiny medal its a rank.” I didn’t know that. “Do I have a rank?” I asked. “No. YOU have a shiny medal” she smiled.

“Oh, and I’m assigning Lea to you officially. Everyone thinks of her as your personal taxi driver anyway, I’ll make it official, cuts down on administration nonsense.” I was pleased. I trusted Lea.

I strolled back to the apartment to find it in darkness. Libby wasn’t home. I was a little sad to find myself alone. I took my jacket off and sat on the sofa in front of the large wall-screen. I turned it on and realised that I had no idea how to get to the thing I wanted to see to play. I clicked the AI button on my Circlet. “Dex, Can you interface with this damned TV?” I asked. “Yes.” Came the expected reply. “I want you to queue up every public appearance on record of Libby. Start with the most recent and work backwards please.”

The most recent video was the academic interview form yesterday. She was sat in a leather armchair on a well lit stage. There was a happy middle aged gentleman in an ugly suit sitting on a chair opposite her. There as a little table between them with two glasses of water on it, one of them was going to be wasted. The camera spun to show the lecture hall filled with the interested faces of young minds.

The interviewer asked her many a loaded question, ‘did she think a robot should be getting the highest honours that Sol could bestow’ and ‘what was the difference between an AI faking life and actual life’ Libby did an amazing job of turning the questions around and using them as spring boards for bigger ideas. After a while the nasty little man interviewing her seemed more like a well planned ally who was pretending to pull no punches to allow her to get to the big topics fast. I was captivated by her answers.

The evening rolled on and so did the videos. The clips ranged from a few seconds of her having a sassy and smart back and fourth with a student on a clip feed to full lectures. I was learning a lot about the philosophical debate of life vs simulation. It probably helped that I was in love with the teacher.

According to the omnipresent clock on the corner of the screen it was three in the morning when the door zipped open and Libby came wondering in with her shoes in on hand. “Jon! You’re still up?” she said with a surprise as she strolled in. She sat down heavily on the sofa. She was wearing a formal looking outfit that looked like it meant business not social. “What are you watching? Wait! I’ve seen this.” She said without stopping. “Why are you watching my lectures?” she asked. “Because I wanted to know more about what you do, my love.” I smiled. “Well. Given that you married me, I’m not sure you have much to learn about our fight for NOLF equality.” She lay on the sofa and put her legs across mine. I rubbed her feet without really realising I was doing it. “I’ve actually really enjoyed watching. You’re great at this.” She grinned at me “What have you been up to anyway?” I asked “Paying the bills.” she said. “As much as teaching is my calling I don’t bill for appearances. Anyone can come see my lectures. Its the robotics and chip patents that keep us in the luxury we are used to.” I still didn’t really understand how the money worked. “Due to Earth having traditional time zones and me not needing to sleep I scheduled in-person meetings at five different cities. I just sold the rights to manufacture an AI core I designed to the Vampire home-world. We can keep the lights on for about two million years now if you want” I think this was a good thing. “Congratulations… I guess.” Even if I did understand, the only actual purchase I had made way my new jacket. I had a feeling no matter how much money we had, it wouldn’t really matter to me. “That reminds me, you want me to get you a better assistant? That Dex unit seems a little long in the tooth.” “NO! I barked. He’s my buddy!” She smiled at me. “Can I at least upgrade him then?” I shrugged “If you think it would be useful… But you had better not break him.”

We went to bed. To sleep. Both of us. She looked exhausted and apparently needed some down time. I have no idea why she wouldn’t just call it ‘sleep’.

..