Lily sat on a couch. On the metallic disk. Their place.
“I feel awful,” she said to no one in particular.
“Understandable,” Thaad said as he sat onto that uncomfortable backless chair of his. “Dying can be like that, I hear.”
Lily was shocked. “What do mean dying? I…”
Thaad inclined his head just a little. “What do you recall just prior to your arrival in our home?”
She thought about that for a moment. Things were usually a little mixed up whenever she ‘dropped in.’ But… it was… nighttime? Dinner was over… and…
“Some woman shot me!” Lily yelled as she jumped up. “I’ve got to…! Got to…”
“Please sit back down. Here,” he indicated the two coffee mugs on the low table, “try my coffee. I changed the blend.”
Her panic receded as quickly as it had overtaken her. She sat.
“But… Ai… and that woman…!”
Thaad took his mug and took a sip. “Mmm. Needs work. We have many strengths and many weaknesses that you humans do not. In dealing with you people, perhaps our greatest strength is how quickly we think. We are not biologics, and as such, think just below light speed. Your chemical-based brains average around the speed of sound.”
Another sip. Lily wanted him to get to his point, so she said nothing.
“Thus, in a crisis such as this, in the time it took for your heart to beat once, Ai is now a fully-trained medic and nurse. As you sit here – try the coffee, do – she is trying to save your life.”
She tried the coffee. “Okay, but too weak for me. Why am I here?”
“Weak, is it? Hmmm.”
She didn’t know if he was too wrapped up in his coffee to have heard her question.
“My apologies; it took a moment to find out your answer, and I shan’t bother Ai again. It seems she’s rather busy. You were slipping into shock. It was better, for the moment, for you to be here. If you’re needed back at your home, you’ll go.”
“Okay. And what about that woman?”
Those careful eyes took on a peculiar cast. Lily could not suppress a shiver.
“Ai physically incapacitated her. I look forward to her making me older about that and the First Law. For now, we brought that woman here. Fausta is seeing to it.”
Brought her here. Lily’s working mental model was that somehow her consciousness, mind, whatever, could be moved to wherever they claimed their ‘home’ to be. It only made sense that if they could do it to her, they could do it to anyone.
Fausta. Who had, how had Thaad put it? An ‘enthusiastic’ interest in her, and a predilection for violence. Was that First Law just more of a suggestion?
“Uhhh… how’s that turning out? Do you know why she shot me?”
He looked sharply at her. “I know the implication in your question, and, no, we are not torturing her. This woman was some kind of teacher and minor functionary at a college. When your father’s organization closed all non-technical divisions at all state-funded schools, she lost her job. Since that event, it seems she’s been working as a maid or waitress. Poorly.” Another slight incline of his head. “It seems that she’s good at nothing.”
“But,” Lily asked, confused, “why in the world did she shoot me?”
“Quite simple: she blamed your father for her loss of status. She could not lash out at him, so it was you, by proxy.” He shifted in his chair slightly. “I’ve encountered much of that with you people.”
Lily considered for a moment. “Maybe she’s just crazy?”
He set his mug down. “No. By all objective measures, she is not insane. However, Fausta assures me that this woman is evil.” His eyes again took that peculiar cast. “We’ve never had that here before.”
He blinked, and it was gone. “Would you care for a snack while we wait?”
“S-sure. That’d be fine, I guess.”