Ceres, part 3

About the only way I write exposition is to have one character explain something to another. To have a character think or talk about what has happened or what might be coming next is just a cheap way for a writer to tell the story. If something is really complicated, then, yes, I’ll have to fall back upon that trope, but I try to avoid it.

To wit, below the fold, we learn a little more about Somi Corporation’s Model 12 androids; they are sort of reverse-cyborgs. Like the Terminators (from movies one and two, back when I went to see movies; a lifetime ago) Model 12’s are fundamentally machines but with biologic additions. A writer could have a lot of fun exploring that…

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At that, there was a thunk as she dropped back through the upper deck to the bridge.  Still naked.  Built to look like Reina’s form in her construct in the Void, Minerva appeared to be a girl about twenty.  Her chest he’d just seen and the little tuft of hair above her cleft was the same black-scarlet as that on her head; a head with a face of her usual neutral expression.  Cream-white skin and not particularly muscled.  Les knew to not be fooled by that:  as an android, she could tear him to pieces or punch a hole through the ship’s hull if she wanted to.

“Finished your snack?” he asked.

“Yes.  Thank you for asking.” As she walked around him to her chair, he felt the fingers of her right hand just slide across the back of his neck.  She sat and, like Laszlo, opened her mind to Lionheart.

Androids were very uncommon in Faustina’s imperium.  If work needed doing, she wanted her subjects doing it, not imported labor, even if it was intellectual work that would benefit from the speed and computational power of a mobile machine.  Because of that, Laszlo knew little to nothing about them.  When told Reina’s form would be coming with them to Mars, he spent nearly six hours rectifying his ignorance.  He knew the stories of his mother’s and uncle’s interaction with Nichole, a Model 5, but here he found this new one was a Model 12.  Parts of it are actually biologically alive, its skin, for example.  And, to keep those modules alive, they needed nutrition.

“Minerva?” he asked.

“Yes, Captain?”

“May I ask you a very personal question?  You are at leave to not answer.”

“’To love someone is to want to know more about them,’ Ai, from tribe Tohsaka once declared.  I am happy you wish to know more about me.” She turned her head to him but still didn’t smile.

“I noted those six one-liter bags in the refrigerator on the observation deck; several different colors.  You told me that was the food for parts of you.” He stopped to take a breath.  “So, they are like a TPN for a human?  Someone sick enough to be unable to eat?”

“That is correct.”

“I don’t recall seeing any on our trip to Mars,” Les noted.

“Reina had two stowed below.  She did not want you to know, thinking it might give you influence over her.”

Oh.

“So, why so many this time?  It’s not as if we’ll be out for weeks?” He asked.

“Why so much food for you, captain?” she shot right back.

“Ah, I get it.  And, since you pointed out you’re off duty right now, it’s Les,” he allowed.  “Like my provisions, if something goes wrong, you’ll still have enough until we’re rescued.”

“Exactly.” Now she turned her entire chair to him.  He was able to keep his eyes off of the rest of her.  “It is, though, a conceit of mine.  Without food for my skin and other organs, my core will survive.  The smell of rotting flesh would disgust you, so I would remove it and toss it out.  Once back home I could earn enough money to return to Somi Corporation in Japan for replacements, Les.”

“I…” she continued before he did.  “I do not want to disgust you.  I want you to think me pretty and like me.  Les.”

“Then, if you also don’t mind,” he wanted to go technical before this fell into a romantic conversation, alone together, millions of miles from anyone else, “how to you, ah, administer your TPN?  I see nothing like a port or picc line.”

“Here.” She stood and walked to only a foot away and raised her right arm.  A small patch of skin in her armpit was slightly darker than the rest of her.  With her left hand, she pulled that part back.  Les saw what looked like a small luer-lok connector there.

“I have one on the other side, as a backup, but this is how I feed my flesh.” She closed the patch, lowered her arm, and leaned down to kiss his mouth.  “Thank you for asking about me, Laszlo.”

Expecting her to straddle him in his chair as she did once, he was a little surprised when she turned about and returned to her own.

“You are welcome, Minerva.”

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