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"Oh I find fiction to be a great guide." August says as he meanders back to the table, retaking his place at Leng's side. "Life imitates art. We all fulfill subconscious character archetypes, the monomythic stories are just reinterpretations of the greatest truisms in intelligent experience. 'All the world's a stage, men and women are players. They have their cues and their exits.'" August placed an arm around Leng's shoulders.
"You are the host my lady. It is your scene." He leaned in just a tad closer. "I'll know my exit, you just have to know," a bit closer ", your cue . . ."
Your passion is power. Focus it.
Your body is a tool. Hone it.
Transhummanity is a pantheon. Exalt it!
She murmurs, "When in Rome..." before leaning closer for a very inexpert kiss, her skin is warm from her blush and her lips have a citrus flavor accented by green tea.
In local virtual space a tiny cartoon pony blinks in surprise and then punches the air with a triumphant, *Yes!*
At least with Lovecraft, nobody pretends the gods are nice. And wherever you end up, there is guaranteed to be tentacles.
*Which is followed by a jumping high five from a small purple dragon*
August allowed Leng to ease into the experience. It was clearly her fist kiss. After a few moments, he broke off. He was smiling with the warmth of a sun. He took her hand in his and kissed it softly.
"Thank you. As much as I hope that meant to you, it also meant a great deal to me."
There's a soft blush accenting her face, the white line of the knife scar all the more visible from that. Her hand is soft and smooth, without a swordsman's calluses.
"More possibly. Is it impolite to say that you taste nice?"
"Not at all." August said as he reached up to her face. He cradled her jaw in his meaty paw deftly, and ran his thumb along her scar tenderly, as not to possibly cause her pain. "Is it rude to ask how you got this?"
She cocks her head to press her face against August's hand, "On Phobos when we woke up from the first sim into here. It wasn't planned at all, more spontaneous reality failure. One minute burning school building, the next labs on Phobos... a girl in my class came after me with a knife. I pulled back enough to keep my eye and introduced her to a fire extinguisher."
"Not the best memory... you should kiss me again."
"Granted." August nodded. He leaned in again, but this time prefaced his move with a kiss upon her scar. He then rejoined their lips. August took the lead this time, adding a bit more passion but still going slow and tender.
When she comes up for air, "It took you a while to get here but... well worth the wait. How do you feel?"
"I feel wonderful. How do you feel my lady?" He asked, concern just as much as jubilation flashing across his mind. Deeper probing would reveal he wants to bring her a sense of solace after the torments she's been put through.
She gives a slightly quirked smile, "Good actually. You're a very good kisser... erm... not that I've got any personal context for that but still. Nice."
"I'm having a very good evening so far. Even if Sparkle keeps trying to be extra helpful."
August rolls his eyes. "Tell me about it. Spike keeps trying to get my attentio-" He looks off to the side.
"Hey! You're not supposed to be on those kinds of sites!"
She blushes brightly, "Muses, right? Can't live without them can't..."
She covers her eyes and starts giggling, "Evidently you can't apply parental controls to them."
"Well, with that. I think it's time this character made his exit." August rose and offered his hand to Leng for her to stand with him. "I hope I'm not presuming too much in saying we should do this again sometime."
Leng takes the offered hand and gets up, "We should definitely do this again. Just message me and let me know when's good and what you'd like to do."
She gives him a kiss on the cheek before showing August out.
Once the door is shut she sighs and runs a hand through her hair,
*Sparkle? Run a hot shower, no set duration.*
*No problem boss!*
August departs with an accompanying hand kiss.
"Definitely." Grabbing his weapon by the door, he leaves.
*Spike, take a letter.
*Spike pops out a quill and parchment.
"Tell Leng I had a wonderful time and post to her automatically when our ship is near Mars again."
*Spike rolls up the scroll and fire breaths it into thin air. An AR tag appears at Leng's door with the attached ship alerting app.
Both of Leng sat up in the sterile environment of the Morph brokerage and reflexively looked at their own hands before turning to look at each other, both feeling the shape of a familiar mind from the outside.
"Ms Plateau, the body sculpting and transfer were well inside parameters though there were some anomalies..."
One of her cut him off, "Those I know about. Slight damage from the Fall."
The other continued, "Now don't tell us which is the original, it would undermine this."
The doctor continued as if uninterrupted, "If that is all, the two of you are good to go."
They nodded and the doctor departed.
"So, I'll go out with the dashing pirate and you go to the society event."
"And we can compare notes later. I like it."
*Sparkle Pony? If you could send a letter?*
*August, I had a lovely time. I believe you spoke about hosting at your place next? I hope to here from you soon. End letter and send.*
"Has the movement responded to my message yet Jiminy?"
"No Captain, your primate display of dominance has been resisted thus far." The Raven said.
"Hey! It's a test of character. Literally! He's the leader of a movement on Mars and his name is Carter. As a loyal fan of Burroughs, I MUST ensure that his character is not being misrepresented in reality's closest approximation."
"You did get a call back from that chick you picked up though."
"Oh Leng! Thank you my friend, I'll send her a correspondence from my quarters. See What May? Please bring us around the Martian orbit and dock at the New Shanghai port." The octo-pilot gave the response that August knew was the equivalent of a nod and walked off to tell his friend he was on his way.
Sparkle Pony pings Spike
*Hello Spike, I see from air traffic control that you're coming back to New Shanghai. Is that good news?*
"Totally! August wants to bring Leng aboard for a tour.
Uhhhh . . . this may sound weird, but you ever get the feeling you've met somepony before?"
*I'll let her know. When would be good for your human?*
Sparkle Pony transmits the emote of a smile
*I know what you mean. There's a definite "I know you from somewhere" vibe. I don't think we share source code, so that's not it.*
*He says whenever she's ready, she's welcome.*
*Uhhhh maybe we should ask August and Leng about this? Maybe they'd know.*
*She says she's free this evening.*
*She also directed me to this huuuuge cartoon archive from the early 21st. Busy later?*
August prepared himself, this time wearing an oriental kamishimo, and tying his mane back into a top knot. He was hosting after all.
*Okay, now she says we need to watch this in real time using a simuspace*
A virtual living room rezzes into being with a comfy couch, an old fashioned flat screen, and a supply of virtual popcorn.
Meanwhile in the real, Leng, dressed in a white blouse, long black velvet skirt, scarf, and hat attempts to find her way through the busy spaceport to the ship she's supposed to meet.
"Ms. Peng?" A raven uplift called from a perched sign.
Leng stops at the call, "If you mean Leng. Then yes. Hello?"
"Right, Leng! Whatever, look your boyfriend is this way. AR tag me and follow the cookie crumbs." He then took off to the docking port where the Accelerating Returns was.
She follows the trail left by the bird's AR trace, looking forward to the first look at August's home while she turns over the word boyfriend in her head to see how she feels about it.
There August stood in his Japanese finery.
"Jiminyyyyy were you nice?"
"I got her okay? You don't pay me for pleasantries."
"Your my first mate. It's expected."
"Not in my contract."
"You don't have a contract!" At Leng's approach, August waved his hand to dismiss Jiminy. "Shoo, you buzzard."
"That's racist AND inaccurate." He said as he flew off.
"My lady." He greeted Leng with a kiss upon her hand. "How are you?"
Smiles, "So that was your first mate? Was the breakup difficult?"
Wait, did she just actually manage to make a joke?
August just rolls his eyes and smiles. He guides Leng into the interior of the ship, still holding her hand.
"He's all right, not a people person, but he's my best friend. I wouldn't trust him with the position if I didn't feel like he could do the job. He has remarkable leadership capability and gives good advice." August then spreads an arm out wide. "Welcome to the Accelerating Returns, specifically the hangar bay."
The hangar was what one would expect of a mid size ship, large enough to carry cargo and perhaps one small ship. Various unthinking bots and thinking workers around at various places doing their employed tasks.
"This isn't what people meant by a mobile home once upon a time, but you seem to have done very well by yourself. It can't be cheap to keep something like this in operation, especially if its idle. Is there much business around Mars?"
Somewhere in the backs of their heads Sparkle Pony and Spike sing along with the theme of an ancient cartoon show.
"Well I've been trying to get in contact with the Barsoomian Movement, but they haven't returned my messages. The ship itself was actually sold to me. The old Captain was retiring and he thought the ship would be best served under my command. Hey, since our muses will be busy, what do you want to do first? We could go up to the bridge and meet my crew or we could just go to my quarters?"
"Er... yes, I'm sorry about that. I gave them several terabytes of cartoons to watch. In the meantime I'd enjoy meeting your crew."
August holds up a hand.
"No please! I sent Spike to enjoy it. I just hope to two make the connection of their shared origin. Come." August took her hand and guided Leng over to an elevator. "Speaking of which, did you purposefully design your muse that way?"
Leng blushes slightly, "I did, yes. When I was about five. But I don't know, she kind've stuck with me and I never had the heart to change her. I know she's not real but then she's never pretended to be real and that too is comforting."
"Hey I don't blame you." He said as the elevator ascended. "I only ask because Spike became who he is by sensing my need for him, not because I made him that way. It was . . . during the Fall." August rubbed the back of his neck. "I watched a lot of the show then. One day he just, appeared. I knew the technical reason why, but to have my muse just take on this appearance and personality. To go from an emotionless voice to this comforting friend . . ."
August looked off to the side, an AR window showed Spike laughing at something on screen. August smiled.
She nods, "It's odd... I know the pain and fear that the Fall caused but it never touched me personally. But every day I can see the pain in people, all of humanity is the walking wounded and they don't even see the awful lie of it all."
There's a pause and she looks at August, "Our muses though, they really do mean a lot to us."
"Well they are in our heads. They know us better then we know ourselves."
"Oh we're here! Come, let me introduce you." He offered his hand to her as he exited to the hallway that leads to the bridge.
Leng nods and follows along, enjoying the tour of the spaceship.
"Captain on deck." Said an AGI. The crew turned and extended lazy salutes of various kinds.
"At ease. Everyone, this is Leng Plateau, she's a private investigator here in New Shanghai. My lady, this is my crew."
He gestured to a mist-like eidolon with a brightly glowing center atop an emitter platform with spider-like legs.
"That's Fae-3, she's our technician and resident scientist."
He looked to an octomorph, suspended in a floor to ceiling tube of water that also included his console.
"That's See What May our pilot and navigator."
"Although most of us call him, Mary." Jiminy squawked. See What May returned with a tentacle gesture. "Flipping the bird? That's so funny I forgot to laugh."
"You've . . . already met Jiminy, my first mate." With a loud, clanking, step, a heavy synth approached the two.
"Weapons have been calibrated, Captain. May I punch out and return to my true form?"
"In a moment. Leng, this is Baldev, he's our artillery officer."
Leng extends various greetings to the crew.
"It's nice to meet you all since August speaks so well of you. I'll admit I'm a bit overwhelmed, I've never actually been on a spaceship bridge.... somehow I thought it would be larger and with more lens flare."
Laughter goes up all around.
"I would say this is pretty large. Not as much to Baldev's taste, but few places can fit his natural morph at all. Speaking of which, yes, you may resleeve Baldev, we won't have need to blow this city up." Baldev nodded then slumped with a power down noise.
The synth then got up, but the ego piloting it wasn't there anymore. It just plodded over to sit by it's console. A sort of rumbling could be heard below.
"I'm not sure how comfortable I'd be with so casually resleeving." she shrugs and then smiles, "Shall we continue the tour?"
"As you mentioned. Most of us aren't bothered by it, but as you can tell from the presence of a ship in the first place, we'd rather transport ourselves wholesale.
Well where else would you like to see? There isn't much beyond the passenger dorms, batteries, and well my quarters."
August shot a "don't you dare" glance to Jiminy.
Leng cocks her head and looks at the first mate, she already got her shot in earlier.
"Well there is another place, the mess hall! You hungry my lady?"
"Hmmm... it does appear that I haven't eaten yet. So that sounds like a great stop as long as we're not talking about protein paste and reconstituted soya discs. Lead on."
"Nonsense! We have one of the chef's from the Noodle, the culinary district of Extropia. She can make practically anything your pallet desires." August lightly wrapped his hand around Leng's waist and lead her to the elevator.
He wondered if this contact was perhaps inappropriate for Leng.
She looks down and then up, with a momentarily puzzled look. Then August feels a cold pressure inside his head for a moment, like someone opening a door and letting a breeze in while rifling through his desk.
"Oh my. Yes, that's fine August, really."
There's a practiced little smile, "I'm unused to being touched in a positive context. But it is something I'm learning to enjoy."