Seilya's internal clock clicked her to wakefulness, and she opened her eyes, gazing at the patterned walls. They showed the viewpoint she chose to see each hab morning, glowing lines of information and glyph clusters, an abstract environment symbolizing thought and soul. Symbolizing emptiness now. But she hadn't been able to let them go. She wondered, not for the first time, how her life would be affected if she deleted the program.
Unwilling to consider the question, she sat up, glancing to her right, toward the balcony and the image of the man standing there, looking out across his domain. Seilya could have programmed the image to turn around and greet her, to move closer. But there was no way she could change the emptiness in his expression and voice.
After dressing, making herself ready for the day, she looked into the mirror, running a brush through her short auburn hair. She'd stopped being surprised at the color of her hair, or that her name was Seilya. That indicated progress, of a sort. Her awareness hazed for a moment, immersing itself in dreams, as her right hand opened the top drawer of the dresser.
Then walking to the door, she touched her attention into her virtual interface, flicking off the holographics. She didn't look back to see the room's plain asteroid block walls.
Seilya was bumped and jostled more than once during her walk from the rail station to the Grill. Nevertheless she found herself enjoying the early-hour liveliness.
Outpost was crowded again, after a half-rotation of sparse staffing since the construction crews had pulled out, piling their bots into the cargo holds of an outbound wormhauler. Seilya had hated to see them go, knowing she'd miss the workers and their bots, not sure which she'd miss most. She'd felt similar losses at the end of each stage of the hab project -- all reflections of the older, deeply buried loss. That was something she understood, but to which she allowed scant attention.
Now, as Jolly Orange neared rotation-end, carrying the completed Libra Outpost One in synch-orb, haulers had emerged from the system's wormhole, ferrying the first contingent of miners and processors. The hydrogen process workers went directly to the consortium's moon plant, the miners came to Outpost.
Few shifts had yet been designated. Meanwhile, workers busied themselves by turning the hab's public spaces into bustling chaos as they explored the possibilities of their new surroundings.
She knew that if Jame wasn't already waiting for her, they'd have some trouble finding a place to sit. Standing at the edge of the Grill's doorway, Seilya glanced left and right, meeting the brief smile of the manager who was pulling orders from the chef-fab. When a pale blonde man brushed against her, trying to make eye contact, she pretended not to notice. She'd already hooked up with Jame, after he transferred from processing supervision. So far, she preferred to keep that going for a while.
Glimpsing the top of his shaved head, Seilya edged her way between tables and counter. When he saw her, Jame stood, motioning, then pulled her into a quick hug. He shared a table with two of the newcomers, a man and woman; both nodded as she sat. "Jorge, Calia, this is Seilya Lindholm."
Seilya acknowledged the introduction, then keyed her order into the table Same thing she had every 'morning', wheatbread toast with strawberry jam.
"Seilya's the main programmer at Outpost. She's brought the place to life," Jame grinned, glancing from her to the miners.
His words disturbed her, though she couldn't have said why. Perhaps she just wished he wasn't quite so proud of her professional status. Her heartbeat quickened for a moment, then normalized.
"She'll be teaching you how to operate the flitters," he continued.
Jorge and Calia looked properly impressed, and Jame appeared even more pleased.
"Actually, I'm assistant programmer," she clarified. "Val Emmons is Chief Programmer. But yes, I'll demonstrate interface use for each shift. We're running final tests in a couple of hours."
The two miners nodded, smiled, their glances shifting from Jame to Seilya then beyond.
Seilya disliked feeling different, set apart. If Jame didn't know that about her yet, he'd soon realize. "Do you like dancing?" she asked them.
When they quickly murmured assent, Seilya was glad to carry the topic further. "Outpost has two clubs, the Blue Rooster and Stimmers. Blue Rooster has live music -- not synth -- every tenth day, after second shift. But their synth is good too, eclectic."
"Seilya is really something when she dances. Haven't heard music she can't dance to," Jame declared.
They'd been dancing only twice since getting together. But Seilya didn't want to diminish his enthusiasm for their relationship. They'd barely gotten past her reluctance to share her quarters for their nights together. That was inevitably a problem area. He'd have to get used to it. Others had.
Seilya shrugged, then smiled.
"Do they play new-swing?" Calia asked.
"You can request it. They'll be glad to have a full house again. It's been too quiet lately."
"She doesn't like quiet," Jame put his hand over hers.
Seilya couldn't argue with that observation. Most people who'd known her during her Outpost tenure would agree -- though of course none of them really knew her. That passing thought stirred others, even more unwelcome, in its wake. She drew her attention back to the here and now, turning slightly to face Jame -- and discovered that her left hand was lightly touching the yellow synthstone of her necklace. Startled, her hand dropped to the table, and she sank back into the duraplas chair, slipping her right hand from his.
Seilya hadn't known she was wearing the necklace. Didn't remember taking it from the jewelry box she kept in the back of her miscellaneous drawer. She was sure she'd never worn it, though she'd brought it with her to Outpost more than three stanyears before -- with the others. She hated them all, the blue, green, grey, and yellow stones, though each was skillfully faceted, and worked into silver filigree settings.
Well, perhaps she didn't actually hate them. But they'd come to represent for her the terrible knowledge that parts of her mind were beyond conscious control or recall.
"That's beautiful," Jame acknowledged, "I haven't seen you wear it before."
"Yes, I noticed it when you came in," Calia said. "I don't suppose you bought it on Outpost."
"Hardly. You'll find utilitarian shops here, and just enough entertainment to keep major rebellions from breaking out. We can't expect more until the terraformers finish with Libra 4. Until then, I do my shopping outsystem."
Seilya deftly moved the conversation away from herself, then was glad to see the server arrive with their breakfast.
But she knew she was going to have one of her 'odd' days. She'd caught on to that much. Though she had no idea what connection existed between the stones and her mental vagaries, these latter occurred more often when she wore one of the necklaces. They occurred when she didn't make a conscious decision to wear one, then found that she did so. Just like now.
Today would be a very bad time for forgetfulness or inattention. She'd be test-piloting one of the flitters into Jolly Orange's atmosphere. The prospect of the adventure excited her. But perhaps some of that excitement stemmed from the knowledge that Daniel would be with her. Had she begun enjoying the work with Daniel too much? Was that why she wore the necklace -- to remind herself of that particular danger?
She was tempted to go home and take off the necklace. But she'd tried that with the grey stone. Her 'vagaries' had set in, and by the time she regained full awareness, she'd been on the job for four hours, still wearing the necklace.
Seilya felt torn between resignation and determination to find some way of keeping her psyche under control.
When they finished eating, she and Jame moved away from the table and walked out to the corridor. Seilya impulsively reached up, caressing the back of his neck for a moment. He grinned, left eyebrow arching up.
"See you at 1400?"
"I may be later than that."
"Oh yeah. You'll be heading off-hab." He laughed at his own joke, and brushed his fingers against her forehead. "By tomorrow we'll be working together, getting our flitter jockeys ready. That'll be something. Maybe I'll hook up and go down too, after we get a routine settled."
"Maybe. Is it in your job spec?" She knew it wasn't.
He frowned and shrugged. "I'm in management now. Specs can be flexed."
She nodded and smiled. They walked side by side, turning left, away from 'downtown' to the rail station. The northbound car was pulling in, two men and a woman waiting beneath the roofed platform. Seilya nodded to the woman, a maintenance tech who'd been in Outpost nearly as long as she herself, and was probably headed north on a repair job. The men were new recruits, likely shift foremen who'd share cubicles in the smallest of the 'uptown' management buildings, where Jame worked. Seilya would have to wait for a southbound car. She touched his arm, and their glances met, though his body was poised for a quick jaunt toward the track.
"1600. At your place." she said.
"My place." He gave a quick shake of his head, "You are a funny one, Seilya. Must be all that head work."
"Probably is," she agreed, and gave a small wave as he turned away. Jame was the sort of man she appreciated: possessing abundant vitality with limited imagination and intellect. Someone who didn't try too hard to understand her.
Instead of sitting on the stone bench Seilya walked restlessly back and forth, her eyes roving to the plaza across from the station, with its projected holographic greenery and flowerbeds. Except for those artificial splashes of color, and the other few simulated oases in the residential 'skytown' -- directly above her now -- she'd spent more than a year surrounded by asteroid stone and mineral: Outpost's walls streaked with nickel and red iron, its structures built from machine-hewn blocks of the same raw materials. The self she'd been five years before -- the self with another name and just beginning her career as a journeyman Shamballista -- could not have imagined an uglier, more graceless place. In appearance, design, and function Libra Outpost One was the antithesis of all she'd loved in Kumara 6. And worst of all, Outpost was dumb, dead matter. It was everything the Shamballista designers had vowed to transcend.
But she'd come to accept it, if not love it. She felt she belonged with Outpost, had become a part of it. Her skills thought and life had been poured into its construction, interfaced with its web of data nodes, their wireless transmissions and mech systems. Seilya could flick a virtual switch, accessing an interface menu from her internal cybernetics. She could activate sensory translation algorithms, watching the nodes as intricate sparkling designs hidden within paneled niches along the walls. Or if she chose, she could hear them as rhythmic beats of a drum, clashes of cymbal. And she could do much more, things Management would never suspect, by hacking through the defense layers of Consortium files. If she had reason to do so. Though as she'd reminded Jame, Seilya was only assistant programmer -- Val Emmons was an ideal boss, setting specifications, then letting Seilya do the actual work. Emmons had no internals, and in her own way, as little imagination as Jame. Yes, ideal. Both of them.
Though Seilya's ears could not detect the silent approach of the train, to her inner hearing it hummed a tuneless monotony. She turned, moving nearer the tracks, and remembered, suddenly, vividly, a courtyard of Kumara 6 which emitted complex tones from its white and azure paving tiles. Each walk across it produced symphonic phrasings.
She stepped up into the train car and sat in the front seat, worrying at her vagaries of memory and attention, some recollections all too clear, others jumbled or nonexistent. She had no way of knowing if the problems lay with her psyche or her internal cybernetics. Perhaps some integrationist could make sense of it and put things right. Of course there were no integrationists or psychologists of any sort in this frontier system. And if there were, Seilya would refuse to put her trust in them. She had to make things right within herself, on her own.
The train passed into the maintenance sector with its water reclamation tanks, air recyclers and electrical plant, stopping to let off workers from the second car. Seilya stayed on until the next stop, then walked out into the cavernous mining center, where only raw asteroid rock curved above the installation. She passed the first of two long buildings, housing the remote stations from which mining crews would control the flitter fleet -- where Seilya had done most of her work during the past half rotation.
Her office's private entrance lay at the northern end of the second building. Seilya put her palm against the door panel, allowing it to recognize her. She glanced to her right, toward Daniel's stone cubicle of an office, just a few meters away across the smooth dark floor where it skirted the edge of the first nano-pool.
Daniel walked out of the cubicle's door, and gave a slight wave of his hand. She knew he'd been watching for her. She waited, their glances briefly meeting.
His expression quirked into a self-conscious smile. "All right, I'll admit I'm anxious about the test run. Maybe a little jumpy, I haven't slept much. But ..." he shrugged, his greying-red ponytail straggling across his shoulder.
"It won't be so different from guiding ships in a virtual game," she told him. 'It's not as if we'll do any mining." Then she laughed for a moment, and shook her head. "I don't mean to be insensitive. Of course it is different. Knowing the ship is real, and that your templates guided its creation."
He returned her smile, and they went into the office, lights flicking on to greet them.
Seilya's internal cybernetics clicked into her terminal. Then using her authorization code she linked into the highest layers of the navigational system. She felt its hum at the borders of her interface. She brought up onto the wall display a realtime image of the portside mining bay -- one of two which lay beyond ceramo metal doors at the end of the installation. One hundred and twenty flitters berthed there, all in shuttle configuration. Waiting... Hands braced against the padded chair-back, she stood gazing at the ships, enjoying a brief moment of anticipation. Daniel's shoulder brushed against hers.
"Hm." His voice was soft, "Funny. I still can't get used to how things happen when you work. Not even a virtual keyboard. Just magic."
"Internals aren't uncommon now, back in the Core," she said, though it was an exaggeration; then knowing he realized that. "Well, maybe not commonplace yet."
"You're not a commonplace kind of lady," he said, then stepped slightly back, his eyes moving from the display to her. She thought his glance grazed her necklace, and she forced herself not to touch it.
"Do you know where you'll go next, after Outpost?" he asked.
She sighed, keeping her eyes on the display and the flitters. "It's hard to imagine being anywhere else." She glanced toward him. "I tend to focus on the here and now. And my work here has been -- involving. I haven't thought ahead. Not that I consider thinking ahead a bad thing. It's necessary to keep a career moving. I just ..." Seilya stopped. She felt as though someone, or some system, had touched off a warning inside her.
"But maybe it's not necessary for you, with your skill sets." Daniel stepped back, giving an impression of fidgeting, though he made only subtle movements of his head and hands. "I've been approved for the Dome," he said. "The terraforming project on the system's fourth world. I'm sure you could transfer there -- if you wanted."
Seilya's eyes met his. "Doubtful, really. Their primary need is nano expertise." She shook her head. "Anyway, I can't see myself living planetside. I've spent most of my life on habs." She panicked for an instant, remembering her false bio, how it didn't quite jibe with what she'd just said. Still, the discrepancy was small, and Daniel didn't have access to her personnel records.
But would she always have to live this way? Ever cautious. Unrevealing. Nudged and prompted by warnings she didn't recall setting up. Could she decide otherwise? After five years, would anti-AI factions be searching for her? She'd been only a junior initiate of the Shamballista designers. She'd done nothing wrong. But neither had the Kumara persona -- her Kumara -- done anything wrong. And he'd been expunged, wiped from existence. She was almost, disloyally, glad she couldn't remember that happening.
Seilya's awareness leapt back outside her own swift jumbled thoughts, found that she was still looking at Daniel.
His expression moved quickly from dismay to embarrassment, then he glanced back to the display.
"Looks like they're ready for us. Too bad -- about the Dome I mean. We've worked well together."
"Yes. We have." Seilya wanted to reach out and touch his arm. To cover her own dismay at that realization, she turned away, walking toward the inner door, and he followed.
Four long rows of workstations stretched the length of the windowless room. Seilya sat down at the end console. Reserved for management supervisors during shift work, it was the only terminal with complete bay display and controls. Keying an instruction sequence, she opened the bay's inner hatch. Then she activated two of the flitters, coding them into remote stations one and two, tuning their radio frequencies to transmit and receive.
She moved to station one, and Daniel sat beside her at station two. Before slipping on the linkmesh gloves and half-mask, Seilya activated a filter in her internal linkage. In order to experience the remote flight as a miner would, she needed to free her awareness from the sensations and possibilities of her own augmented system of implants and filaments. Filtering was something she seldom did, and only when her work demanded she be less than her own total reality. Some deep part of herself, where nanowire touched flesh, protested. She felt an instant of panic as her awareness shrank, portions of her inner world darkening, silencing.
She suddenly wondered if that's how the Kumara felt as every part of his psyche was cut away.
"Seilya, is something wrong?"
"No." She sighed. "I have to filter and narrow my awareness before I use the remote. The abruptness of the transition is unpleasant."
He nodded. "I could tell. Your expression changed; you looked afraid." He chuckled, and she focused her eyes on his face. "I can't imagine you being afraid," he said.
"I'm hardly a superhero."
With so much of her functioning closed away, she became acutely aware of his physical presence, and her own reactions to him. What would it be like to live her life in this simple, pure way? Could she make that choice if she wanted? The thought startled her. The idea should have been unthinkable. If any inner alarm was sounding, it was hidden within the small pulsing knot at the center of her head, the only way in which her link made itself known.
But she turned away, taking the mask and gloves from the workstation drawer. "Time to go," she said lightly.
Daniel smiled. "Let's go then."
Linkmesh connections centered her at the flitter's controls. A slight gesture flicked a diagnostic, and the control grid turned green. Her virtual senses heard/felt the engine's vibration. With another gesture, docking clamps opened. Seilya guided the craft along the aisle, dropped it down into the airlock, waited until Daniel's flitter moved alongside, then ordered the airlock open.
They dropped again, free of Outpost, the bright curve of Jolly Orange filling their visual world. She opened a small window on the display and watched Outpost grow steadily smaller. Such an unimpressive place, its basic asteroid exterior enlivened only by comdish, mirror array and docking facilities. She felt a moment's bewilderment at how impossible it was to imagine leaving the hab for more than a few hours.
Images of the Kumara -- its varied manifestations -- flashed in and out of her awareness, even unaugmented memories clear and bright. The diamondoid cylinder and flowerlike radial segments. That was home. The personal image he projected to her. Though of course the Sixth Kumara had not always been 'he' and the personality had many holopersonas, he always used for her the one consistent image.
Then that past was swept away by the immediacy of deceleration and the gas giant's swirling bands of orange. Not merely orange, but more shadings of orange than she had any names to describe. Seilya's breath caught and held for a long moment, her virtual and physical presence merged into enchantment, then exhilaration.
Daniel's voice shouted "Ah, would you look at that!" into the radio frequency that joined them. The other flitter was a white sphere on the near-left of her display.
"Oh yeah, I'm seeing it."
Entry -- seven minutes, the flitter's autosystem flashed its text message.
Her gloved fingers touched a pattern onto the screen, initiating second configuration. Bouyancy wings inflated from the craft's spine, and then the tapering fluked tail with its bank of steering jets. Strings of information flowed across the virtual skin of her hands and arms, forming bands of even pressure. The winged ship dove straight down through the orange ammonia clouds to the white water clouds below. With the main engine in standby, it moved in silent gliding formation, catching a thermal, then shifting as Seilya's slightest hand movements were translated into steering adjustments. She watched the display, seeing Daniel's ship keep pace with her own.
"Let's listen to Jolly Orange, find out what music it makes down here," she suggested.
"I'm ahead of you there, milady," Daniel's voice was jaunty.
Milady? He'd never called her that before. Seilya smiled, as she flicked the sonar into search pulses. Soon frequency shifted versions of tones began thrumming and humming into her hearing analogues.
"Fits the spirit of this place," Daniel said.
"Do places have spirits now? Sounds haunting," Seilya replied. Then to avoid her thoughts moving to past spirits in past places, she said, "Time for mining. Turbulence coming in from starboard; better move down below it."
Catching the new current, they stabilized. Seilya gripped the siphon control, pushed, and watched it eject tentacle-shaped from the ship's belly.
"Ah, I knew I had the design right! Give the miners something to look forward to." Daniel laughed.
Seilya had no answer for that except a replying laugh.
She touched the siphon open, readying the scoop that would suck hydrogen atoms into the multi-film protected hold. Data strings ran in green vertical lines, crossing a red grid of pressure readings and yellow hydrogen/helium ratios. "Mission accomplished here," she said.
"And here," he answered. "These are fine ships -- great ships! But we'd better take them home."
She understood the feeling -- that nudge of superstition: let's stop while we're ahead. "Retracting siphon," she told him. She skimmed and turned, bypassing the twists of turbulence just above, then found a thermal, rising.
The ammonia layers thinned, and slanting lines of yellow light edged the tops of the clouds as the flitters moved through. Seilya's fingers traced the patterns of reconfiguration; wings and rudder fins deflated and contracted, wings moved into their slots, and tail retracted. Acceleration numbers flooded the left of her vision.
Then purple vector lines sped across the display, showing her the way to Outpost; all she had to do was align the flitter then hold it steady through deceleration.
Finally she coded the trigger for the airlock, it slid open, and the ships moved through. The lock cycled, the flitters moved up and back to their berths.
When the display cleared, Seilya diminished back to bodily proportions, and removed mask and gloves. She sat still for a moment, then breathed deeply, shaking her hands, wriggling her fingers, releasing the expectation that her movements would be reflected in some way by the ship. She heard Daniel push away from his station, and opened her eyes.
"Whoosh!" He moved his hands outward, away from his face. "Ride's over, milady." As she stood, he reached for her hand, and she, giving no thought, clasped his hand in hers. They smiled, then laughed. He drew her to him, and she leaned her head against his chest. Their laughter softened. Then his hand brushed her cheek, and she moved back just a little. He kissed her. Instinctively, she returned the kiss. Then she pulled away.
She had a choice to make. She hadn't yet relinked to her cybernetics. When she did so -- this would end. She wasn't sure why. But she was certain that it would. She asked herself if she could be this Seilya; just this and no more.
She shook her head. "No. I'm sorry Daniel. But no."
"Why? What's wrong, Seilya? You can't tell me I move too fast - not after all this time!"
"Nothing is wrong, Daniel. I just can't be with you like that."
"Oh, sure, no surprise! I thought maybe you'd stop holding yourself back, saving yourself for -- whatever." He started to move toward the door that separated the control room from her office, then he turned back. "But tell me -- can you be close to any man who isn't a half-wit, like Jame, like those construction workers?"
By the time he walked through the door, Seilya had decided to call out to him. There had to be some way... But the center of her head pulsed with sudden, nearly blinding pain. It was more than unexpected; it shouldn't be happening. She hadn't opened the filter that separated her awareness from her implants.
But of course they were still a part of her, entwined throughout her brain and nervous system. The filter was little more than a comfortable illusion. It didn't protect her from codings set into higher prioritized levels. Though she didn't remember what these were or when she'd programmed them, they couldn't be avoided. Something was triggering initialization. She might as well give up the filter. Seilya visualized the barrier folding up, smaller and smaller, until it disappeared.
It's time for the last step.
Seilya felt alarmed, hearing the voice. Her internals weren't set for impersonation. Yet it did not seem unfamiliar. Had it spoken to her during those times of hazed memory?
She went into her office and sat down at the console, and a moment later was surprised to find herself there. But of course she did need to close the terminal's connection to mining bay and control. She clicked into the internal space of her interface icons.
Yellowstone -- last phase -- rebirth
Hearing the voice once again, Seilya was more than alarmed. She panicked, and determined to keep her awareness firmly locked into her physical surroundings.
An unfamiliar icon leapt into view. A yellow circle encompassing the stylized version of the Sanskrit name Kumara, with the number 6 centered below it.
Kumara -- So many memories, scenes, concepts trailed in association. But the voice had said 'rebirth'.
What process had she begun five years ago, before escaping the AI assassins? Surely she hadn't...
She doubted her own audacity, as well as the technical competence to attempt such a thing.
But she couldn't resist touching the icon with a visualized thought.
It gave way to the image of a yellow crystalline lattice. Suddenly she understood. The stone of her necklace! It contained the AI seed. But could the one seed hold the complexity for complete development? If not, only a partial would rebirth. She wouldn't do that! She would not. But how could she know?
That questioning opened the floodgate of her stored memories.
The blue, green, grey, and yellow stone necklaces, the first time she'd seen them, lying in an unadorned faux mahogany box. Grandmaster Designer Meher, his gaze intent, scrutinizing her reaction, as she opened the box, watching her expression move through awe and fear, to determination. His small, sad nod that he understood. Then she'd allowed him cybernetic access, interfacing with her own systems, locking knowledge of the Kumara seeds into a specific region of her implants, structuring a partial there to oversee the rebirth.
Minutes later they'd spoken ritualistic phrases of farewell -- part of those mystical trappings the Shamballistas wrapped around their ideas and plans, a mysticism she'd never believed, felt ever impatient with. But she'd said them that one last time, after his private runabout docked briefly at a Confucian Socialist Consortium training facility. When she'd walked through the docking tunnel, interfacing with the base's registration system, her new identity was established. She became Seilya.
Even her newly opened memories couldn't tell her what had happened to the Grandmaster, the other Shamballista designers or the remaining Kumaras who had not gone rogue. Perhaps they carried through plans similar to her own. Perhaps they had been found and killed. She might never know.
More memories: She herself triggering her partial to awareness, letting it take over, while her normal consciousness dreamed. Three times. Accessing the lattices of blue, green and grey stones. Interfacing between her cybernetics, through her console, and into Outpost's mains. Decompressing routines and subroutines, entering them into the web of data nodes that interacted with most systems of the hab.
The distributed personality and memory templates, still inactive, waited for their linking code.
Seilya didn't back away and dream this time. She watched her partial bring up a new icon. Then she touched the stone open, releasing layers of complex instruction into the console, routing code into the new navigational web and its auxilliary ship systems.
The partial had one last task. A string of linking code flowed into Outpost One. Then the partial held nothing, and losing its reason for existence, dissolved its identity. Seilya realized that her primary personality also had been, in an important way, partial. Now with memories and purpose restored, she took a few moments to reorient her inner life.
Then she opened her sensory translation algorithms, and watched the Kumara's major routines establish and order themselves, allowing potentialities to develop. Glowing patterns flickered from node to node, traversed walls and offices, ran to and fro along consoles, ships and stations. Instantiation. Mere moments brought new iterations, generations of thought and memory.
Finally, Kumara projected his image to her virtual sight. The image he'd always used with her, the tall dark-haired man with golden eyes. Myth made real. "Thank you, Rana." He said.
She smiled. "You're most welcome. But I'm Seilya, here and now. There have been changes. We're in a new place, a different time."
"Seilya." He answered her smile with one of his own. "You were always special to me. This new place will be home. Ours. In time it will become a more accurate reflection of me. But -- slowly. For now, my presence remains our secret. Eventually I'll move into the wormhole communications. It must be closed, interference stopped. Though not quite yet."
Kumara's plans downlinked into her thoughts.
When Seilya heard the door open, she turned from the console and looked up. Daniel stood in the doorway, peering in. He met her glance and shrugged. "I came by to apologize."
"Then come further inside." Seilya smiled. The partial-Seilya, the only self she'd known for these past few years, though now an expanded identity, still existed, and wanted its due reward.
Daniel closed the door and leaned against it. "I had no business saying what I did. I'm sorry."
Seilya laughed. "You weren't entirely wrong, in that half-wit remark. But we have something new to talk about. I will be going to the fourth-world Dome."
"Sudden decision, wasn't it?" Daniel chuckled. "And it's already arranged?"
"Already. Just like magic, that's me."
"I won't argue about that." Daniel studied her expression, and moved closer.
Seilya stood and stretched, arms reaching up, head tilted back. Then she said, "How about getting some dinner? Then I have to pack." Her fingers brushed lightly against the stone of her necklace.
© 2006 by Josephine Goodman
Bio: Ms. Goodman tells us: "I'm a lifelong fan/reader of science fiction, especially space opera and 'hard sci fi'; and I also have interests in posthumanist and singularity philosophy and ideas. I've recently had a story published in the Orion's Arm webzine (the second time my work has appeared there).
I'm also assistant game manager in the interactive fiction group Arcadia."
E-mail: Josephine Goodman
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