A good two days: even with the icepick, by drinking iced tea all morning until around 1230, followed by a switch-over to wine, I can up with 1900 word like this. I’ve lots of careful groundwork I need to lay down before… well…
Make haste slowly.
She had been a bit surprised that Gil had become amorous again around 0500. After, he rolled off her and fell back to sleep. At 0630 she quietly slid out of his bed and moved to the shower. With just cold water she rinsed herself off, pleased to use his towel, the only one there. She sniffed deeply, first, logging any new scents of him outside of her rapidly growing database. Getting dry she detected a new smell: coffee.
Nichole walked out of the bathroom, naked but for the towel over her shoulders.
“Good morning, Gil!” He stood in the kitchenette with yesterday’s briefs on.
“’Morning, Ni –” He turned left from the small counter where he poured coffee into a black mug. Seeing her perched on the edge of his bed, fingertips just touching her knees pressed together, he remembered to lift the pot just in time.
“You’re up early! Again!”
She just couldn’t ever stop.
“I heard the shower; figured I’d see you back to your place.”
“That’s so nice! As a reward you may watch me get dressed!”
“Sheesh!” He took a drink and set his mug down before moving around her as she picked up her clothes scattered about the floor. Things had happened quickly last night. From a dresser he pulled some jeans and a tee shirt out.
“Aww! You’re not watching!”
“What didn’t I see of you last night?”
“True!” She slid into her flats and stood by the door with her small purse. She waited while he laced his boots on.
“You never know when the Militia is going to get called up these days.” He walked up to her and reached past with his right. He unclipped the pistol holster from one belt and put it onto the one he wore now.
“You didn’t use to carry all the time,” she observed as he opened the door for her.
“I never had something to protect before.”
She said nothing but took his left once he had finished locking the door. On the stoop out front three young men had already gathered at this early hour. It was obvious that two of them had just returned from a run. Seeing their housemate come out with Nichole, they all broke into applause.
“Screw you guys!” Gil muttered through his teeth, pulling Nichole after him.
“As if you’d the strength this morning!” one of them yelled back in laughter.
It was only a block and a half to her dorm, the Stratford. She used the first part of their walk to consider what they had said.
“Gil? Was I too loud last night?”
He stopped suddenly.
“The howling was over the top…”
“I stopped as soon as you told me…!”
“But everything else?” He resumed walking.
“Do… people like you,” he gripped her hand, “go into heat or something? I was starting to fear for my life around midnight!”
“I… had been made older about physical love.” She tilted her head a little right, onto his arm. “I am happy that you are happy!”
They stopped once more at the base of the four stairs that led up into her building. Nichole wondered about the sigh he gave.
“Nichole? Did you feel… I mean… did you enjoy…?” He raised his right hand to his head. “What I mean is – ”
“Do I have tactile receptors down there? Yes, but the data is very new. Do I have a biologic’s imperative for sex? No.”
She slid around his front to hug him, stopping just before she cracked anything.
“Seeing you as you were… it made – and makes – me very happy! Bye-eee!”
With a head bump against his chest she turned about and bounced up the steps. A little wave and she was gone.
Gil turned his face to his home.
“What am I doing?”
“…which is one of the many strengths of quantum computing in that it allows for both backward and forward chaining at the same time!” Nichole knew she was eight minutes over. “That’s a good place to stop for today!”
She could tell from the looks of her three students that might not be the case.
“Dammit!” John said, tossing his pen. “Just when it was getting good!”
“If all of you don’t make me pay for it, how about an unofficial tutoring session at Zom’s around…” she considered her other obligations, “eighteen hundred?”
The aura in the classroom seemed to go from red to blue. Nichole stowed what few things she had out back into her bag.
“You seemed perkier than usual,” Teresa said, “even for you. Sumthin’ good happen?”
Nichole smiled at the only other girl in the class, the mutt who was both her student and her friend. And the daughter of the dictator-in-all-but-name of Portland, Mayor Johnson.
“I had the most amazing sex with my boyfriend last night! And this morning, too!”
The two guys froze in mid-stand. Sanjay Shah turned scarlet. Teresa’s head fell.
“Not again…” Nichole heard her mutter. Teresa stood.
“You guys, shoo!” She waved her right hand at them. She went to the window and waited until they were gone.
“Not really; but don’t think those guys will not have that far and wide by nightfall.”
“Given all the noise I made in Gil’s room I think that might already be the case.”
Teresa whirled about.
“And you don’t care?! A TA, visiting student, already shrouded in rumors and myths…!”
Nichole turned back to the eraser board, looking at such basics that had lead to Model One.
“I was given a gift… to make someone I love very happy.” She let her fingers linger on the words ‘forward chaining.’ “How could I not use that gift?”
A sigh from Teresa and steps toward her. She grabbed Nichole’s left shoulder and gently spun her about.
“Look, as your friend, I’m really happy for you,” she began. “As your student? That was very inappropriate! Your public and private life is two separate things!”
Nichole considered this, looking into the eyes of the multi-mixed race girl who’d grown up in a political household.
“I am older, friend,” Nichole lowered her head and bent slightly from her waist. “I promise to do better!”
“Good!” Teresa glanced at her watch. “See ya’ in a few hours! You going back to the Miller for those dusty old books?”
Nichole knew that someone growing up with much of the world’s knowledge available in a handheld could not possibly appreciate the desire to seek out non-digital data: a treasure trove to people such as her.
“Yes.” She allowed herself to touch Teresa’s light mocha cheek. “Princess.”
“Stop it with that! I told you!” she hissed through the smile tugging at the edges of her mouth.
Alone now, Nichole took a moment to update herself with what she’d just learned. She picked up her bag and made for the stairs down.
Having talked, well, bullied, she admitted to herself, her way into the Archives some months back, Nichole tore her eyes from the Latin-covered parchments and gently closed the codex. She carefully removed her non-woven, lintless gloves and made her way up to the ground floor.
An early spring mist was about. The forty degrees F didn’t bother her but she hoped they’d a table inside. She’d long ago ceased bothering to let Nike know she was coming. She wiped the cold mist from her face every few dozen yards, considering that odd man.
He’s not like me but neither is he quite human. His smell is wrong and he knew things he’d no business knowing. His friendly but aloof exterior – and his homosexual manners – both set customers at ease and on the edge of their seats all at once. The two times Nichole had access to a satellite uplink since the battle at The Dallas Dam had yielded exactly nothing about him.
A known unknown. I must be cautious.
Older from Teresa that a woman should be a little late, she leapt the two steps to the deck that surrounded Zom’s in a bound – there was no one outside today – and let herself in the front door.
“Ma’am, you are expected,” the white-haired young man in a black shirt and pants said to her. A part of Nike’s staff, you could only tell them apart if you looked very closely. “This way, please.”
He led her to a set of stairs and up. Never been on the upper floor, before. A table in the northeast corner already had John and Sanjay seated. They each had a pint of ale. A bottle of wine awaited Teresa’s arrival and a thin, fluted glass was before she was to sit by the window.
Nike seems to know what I am and the bother it is to clean my interior. But how does he know?
She sat and was about to take some papers out of her bag when another of Nike’s men set a one by two foot eraser board against the windowsill.
“Ma’am?” He proffered two colored erasable markers to her.
She opened the black market and quickly drew mathematical symbols and wrote their definition next to them.
“We’ll start here; these notations will allow me to convey information faster…yes?”
John was setting his ale down with his left after waving with his right.
“The symbols I get… are those words Latin?”
She looked. Well, dang. Nichole wiped them away with the back of right hand.
“My fault! Had that in mind just now!” she beamed at them. “Let me try again before Teresa – ”
“Before Teresa does what?” her friend asked, coming up the steps.
“ – gets too drunk to understand.” She continued smoothly.
Nichole’s friend strode to the table and pulled the cork the rest of the way out of the bottle. Pouring at least ten ounces into the overly large wine glass, she tossed it back all at once.
“Ah!” She set the glass back down with a solid thump. “Clock’s running, genius! Best you get a move on!”
Thirty minutes talk of chaining segued into pruning. The two men nursed their single ales while the bottle before Teresa got lower and lower. After fifty minutes Nichole found a place to stop. One of Nike’s men took their payment and John and Sanjay left, knowing those two would talk ‘girl stuff’ once they were gone.
Teresa poured that last of the bottle into her glass.
“Getting another?” Nichole asked.
“Nope. Gotta be up and coherent for classes tomorrow!” She took a drink. “You banging the daylights out of that hot guy of yours, again?”
“No.” That seemed to surprise her friend. “I’ve read that if we do it too often, it will pall.”
Teresa squinted left at her.
“When did you get so wise?”
“Perhaps,” Nichole said, moving her right hand to just touch her friend’s left, “from listening to my wiser friends?”
Teresa laughed as she downed the last of her wine and easily made her way to the steps and out. Nichole pushed her chair back and followed a minute later. She paused at the door to the outside. It was cold, wet; forboding.
“You should leave.” Nike’s voice behind her, in the shadows of his place.
“I am. I am going home now.”
“No.” His contradiction was complete. “This city. You should leave.”
No matter what he might be she could tell he was telling the truth: warning her.
“No. I shall not leave my friends and allies.”
There was a silence followed by the absence of his presence. She opened the door and went to her home.