Wednesday, February 12, 2014

3 - A Common Human Trait

Hara stood up inside Mom and waved through her open door at Terry, who was just settling his silly hat firmly upon his head once more. He waved back.

“Mom, is there anyone else who needs my help, or yours?”

“No, princess...”


There was an almost metallic chuckle in Mom's voice. “The last of our patients left a while ago, as much as it grieves me to use such imprecise human terms.”

“You'll want to be exchanging data with One then.” Her eyes twinkled over her veil. “Though why you cannot do that just as easily when you are apart, like the bees do...”

“One is an extremely polite machine for a violent war-ironmonger that he is.” Mom said almost primly, as Terry entered.

“Gasp!” He said and threw his hand up over his forehead as if something had just nearly knocked his hat askew. “Did I just hear our prim and proper Mom use a human 'play on words'?”

“You did. Excuse me, Terry.” The voice of the emergency vehicle shut itself off with a human audible click. Very pointedly.

“Hello Haraklez, everyone's patched up? Oh, sorry, siwion. Or whatever you Milar call the daughters of the warmaster...” he was blushing, she could just hear it in his voice, as he looked around the inside of Mom's cabin as if he could find her Keeper hiding in the bunks.

That was one of the nastier things that he'd grown up with, having to talk only to other men. It was even difficult for the Xanadu men to speak to their own mothers and grandmothers directly. It made her wonder about what had happened to Prime that he decreed women to be mindless baby machines who needed a Keeper to follow them about and speak for them.

“Don't be silly, Terence. Just call me by name.”

“Hara-klez,” he stammered as if they hadn't been 'Hara' and
'Terry' in the middle of the last and latest battle. He looked around a little like he was looking for spike mice in the electricals. “That great, hulking brute of a boy isn't around... is he?”

“You mean Kyrus? No... he's busy with his disconcerting mother.”

“You find her... disconcerting too?”

It was Hara's turn to look for oyucks in the wiring, or the flooring... even though Mom would certainly not allow anything like that into her cabin. He sat down on the flooring next to her. “Well, I didn't spend years sick and wandering in code. I think it made her a little strange.”

“I wanted to ask... how is it that she came back from being so close to death?”

“That Kyrus thought she was going to die? Well, that was all Nadian's doing when he was trying to slaughter his way to the throne. He'd set all those badly made programs that randomly attacked his kin close to his bloodline. He had no idea he was attacking his sisters and brothers as well. Or didn't care.”

“She's doing so much with the new flock... she's wasted there, I think,” he said. A tremendous acknowledgement from a Xanadu man. Of course Zon Elemfias had pulled him aside last week and sat him down and talked to him for a good hour or two. Hara had even seen her manifest her staff to make her point, smacking it into the rock in front of them. She hadn't had the nerve to ask what they'd talked about though, knowing her teacher, she could guess.

That reminded her. She'd been promising herself a work-out when the last patient left. “Come on outside.” He looked startled as she rose up and brushed past him.

“Mom, could you do me a favour and rise up and give me some shade, please?”, she said.

“Yes dear. Terence come out now before I have to create stairs.”

Mom wasn't running the climate controls, except for the fans so it wasn't a brutal shock when Hara stepped outside and turned back as Terry followed her.

"Thank you, Mom,” she said, as the apparent boulder began to rise up over the sand, supported by Mom's carefully extending legs. In camouflage mode she merely took the appearance of the terrain beneath her and extended it over her top side.

“You're welcome, Hara. Is that high enough?”

“It should be. I'm only going to be manifesting a short staff, not a long spear.”

“You work out in a cross-over mode, pulling code functions into the real world? I shall be interested in recording that.”

Terry leaned against one of Mom's legs and just watched, arms crossed, one booted foot crossing his other ankle. He didn't say anything, obviously not sure what to expect.

“I'd like that to work on my form if I could see it afterwards,” Hara said.

“Of course you can.”

Hara took her time warming up. She'd not been training in the physical world for a while and her muscles needed it. After the third or fourth time her veil fell into her eyes she pulled it off and dropped it in the sand next to Terry, who did his best not to stare. She poured water from her drinking bottle over her head and then ran a few times around the edge of Mom's shadow, before she stopped and apparently out of thin air, pulled a light wooden staff and set it buzzing around her as she moved.

As if drawn by the sound, bees came in, and circled around her, making her pause. “Little sisters, how can I train surrounded by the Hive?”

The bees clumped into a swarming mass in the air and then unfolded a target in the air. She laughed. “All right. Thank you!”

Terence had all he could do not to have his mouth hanging open all the way down against his knees. He could see, that she was actually blurring the lines between code and physical with what she was doing, and dashed if he could follow her coding to see how she did it and did it so quickly. He tried but lost his way so that all he could see was a blur of instructions, that seemed timed to her breathing, her heartbeat... perhaps her nervous system, flickering by as fast as machine code.

The ends of her stick began rapping into the target, that showed a mark for a moment before it faded clear, but she was hitting so fast that the red marks began overlapping. She took four steps back and used the stick to vault over the target, smacking it with her heel as the bees raised it to attempt a trip. She hit the back four times before her feet hit the ground on the other side, running.

He could see her all the way out from under Mom's shadow and she started a tumbling run toward the target. Every time her hands came up off the ground, she flung something into the target; metal spikes, two kinds of hand axes, a dart longer than an arrow, a round shot, more darts and stopped, lunged out with a sword in her hand. As she stood up, every weapon vanished back into code. “Ancestors,” she said ruefully, panting. “Did you see that? I am so out of shape...”

“You hit the target ever time with that wild assortment of things. I... am not trained myself, siwion, but I certainly thought it was impressive.”

“I hit it but its as tall as I am, across and not one bull’s eye did I get, not even when I was in arm's length.”

“And you are not counted a Zon by your people, yet, hmmm? I found it impressive enough that I'm intimidated by you.”

She grinned at him panting and wiped her sweating face with one hand. “I didn't do that to impress you, you know.”

“You could have fooled me. How on the planet am I going to come up with the kind of coding to even keep up with you?” He frowned down at his boots. “But its not as if this war is going to need warriors of your sort,” he said sourly. “Unless you can manifest all the way to Xanadu.”

Her smile disappeared. “Not even my father or step father can do that.”

Siwion,” he said and swept her a grand bow, his hat nearly brushing the sand, and turned away, stomping back toward the bridge. The bees had pulled apart the target into its molecular components and settled on her head and shoulders as she stared after him.

“Mom, what did I say? What did I do?”

“Nothing, my dear,” Mom said. “He's a good boy and will certainly apologize once he realizes he's been acting like a boor. He's lonely, shocked and startled by your cultures, jealous of Kyrus, attracted to you and wanting very much to be impressive.”

“That's...” she sighed. “I can't just sigh and say 'boys' can I?”

“From all my emotional emulation programming I believe it is a common human trait, whatever gender they are.”

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