At the end of another long week. I’m almost beginning to hope I get let go from my DayJob. Now that my wife has a full-time job with health benefits for when her lymphoma comes back, I’m just working to pay my bar bill.
After upsetting her boyfriend’s mother, Ryland takes a moment to fill in some historical gaps Allen didn’t know, even if it had to do with family. I’ve seen that often in meatspace, esp with Millennials and GenZ who don’t even know who their grandparents are. As someone who can trace my family back over 300 years, it is almost impossible for me to grasp such ignorance. Your family, after Christ, is everything.
And then Ryland gets all nice with Alan. Clever girl. And, as this is the future history of Machine Civilization, it is about time I drop that into the story.
“Ry,” Allen began, using the familiar he’d come up with only a few days before, while picking up his glass from the deck, “what the fu- excuse me, what the hell is everyone talking about? I know a little history and that Dad was briefly working for ExComm, but you talk like – ”
“Were you not listening to your father?” she asked, pouring more for them both, ignoring the woman’s sobs from just inside. “Clive Barrett was the father of Lily Barrett, my mother. And of Callie Barrett, the mother of the empress. This is not history you read, dear Allen…”
She set her glass down and turned to face him.
“You are living it. Right now. Your mother’s sister, Sylvia, was Deputy Director of the Third Chief Directorate, one of Barrett’s inner circle.” Finally, some human sadness seemed to creep into her black eyes. “She created the legal justification for what they did.”
“My aunt…?” His breathing was getting a little ragged. “But Mom said she was just a bureaucrat who was later killed by ExComm…”
“Your family and its lore are yours. I will tell you nothing not public knowledge without your parent’s permission.” She leaned to him to put her forehead onto his. “Until you marry me, your family is the second center of your world, Allen.”
She drew back at the sound of shoes back onto the deck and turned about.
“Odd time to be kissing my son,” his father said sourly.
“We’ve never kissed, Mister Rupert,” she replied with her thin smile. “But many of the machinists already spread lies about us. Jealousy, I’m sure.”
“Over your looks?”
She looked honestly surprised.
“Your son is an accomplished mechanic. Do you not know that?”
“Well,” Alan paused, off track, “I knew he was a tinkerer… That’s not the point. If you can behave yourself, we’d like you to stay for dinner.”
“Thank you, Mister Rupert,” she said standing away from the bench and bowing. “And, I have informed your son I shall divulge nothing more of your family history unless allow to by you and your wife.”
“That is appreciated…” She saw his face change to when he had his uniform on. “Son? Your mother was just going to throw some things together. If you would, pop in there and help her.”
“Yes, Father.” He stood quickly but was arrested in his forward motion by Ryland, who seized his dirty left hand and lifted it to just shy of her lips.
“Clean up properly, first, Allen,” she purred, letting him go.
With him gone, his father waved at the barn.
“May I see what y’all have done?” he asked.
“Of course!” she replied, proceeding him down the few steps.
Looking into the tractor’s engine with flashlights, she gave an outline then answered what questions he had. With a grunt, he stepped back.
“I hope your specialization will be mechanical engineering,” Alan admitted. “Any navy could use someone with your native ability. And, is my son really as good as you say?”
“To answer in reverse order? Yes, dear Allen is something of a genius: he has a three-dimensional grasp of technical issues I have only seen in my other family. I am, again, surprised, you missed that. I wonder if that’s one of the reasons he loathes life here?” Ryland rolled her shoulders and kept on. “I’ve been mechanically inclined since I could crawl. Early on, my parents were afraid the Machines had toyed with my nervous system, like the Hartmann kids, but that wasn’t the case. Perhaps just hybrid-vigor between my folk’s very different bloodlines? I’ve no idea. I am who I am.”
Over the years, Rupert had been in interrogations where a tearful suspect emptied their entire lives onto him in an hour. And interrogations where a guilty but closed-mouth son-of-a-bitch would only talk through his lawyer took days, pulverizing his story, piece by piece. What this girl just dumped onto him… he wasn’t sure where to begin.
“We… we’ve known for some time he hates it here. First, we thought it was us, but hell, he couldn’t even fit into one of the local gangs, he was such as jerk. The final straw was the assault and battery charge which got the Ranger Division involved and he a choice of the military or jail…” he trailed off for a moment, then shook his head, looking out the barn door. “I wish we’d known sooner.”
“You know now. That is a start,” Ryland said, indicating where he was looking with her hand. “Shall we go back?”
They took a few steps, but he touched her shoulder as they stepped into the waning sunlight.
“Miss Rigó? Do y’all love each other?” he had to ask.
Her sad sigh surprised him. Did she not?
“I philia your son, very much, in fact,” she said, eyes straight ahead. “So much that I want to know if it can lead first to eros, but more importantly, agape.”
“That,” she said, now looking up to him with a nearly human smile, “was a lot of Greek to say we’re good friends, even in just two weeks. He’s cute, so maybe banging him would be fun? I don’t know, being a virgin. But if it is, I’ll marry him and obey him.”
“You… you’ve…” he coughed once. “You’ve already planned that far ahead?”
“Growing up with my other family – my mother’s friends – I’ve learned that planning is overrated. But, I do know lots. More than most of you humans.” She paused to look to see if he’d lift his hand off her shoulder, which he did.
“Wait… you… you’re not…” Thinking Machines, androids, and what the imperial family called themselves, “demi-human,” was all a part of the post-Breakup world. Was this girl…!
“I am fully human, Mister Rupert. I apologize for the confusion.” She smiled and the low sun made white teeth light up. “Let’s see what those we love have made for dinner!”