Tom Purdom




It had been the last time they would ever make love-- and in their case making love was a precise use of language, not a euphemism.  Francesca had rolled on her side when Jason had finally broken the bond and he had wrapped himself around her with his arm stretched along the swell of her hip and the long line of her thigh.  The heft of her vibrant, competent body was, in its way, just as satisfying as everything that had gone before.

I was a real mouse when I was a girl, Francesca had told him when they had been sharing their memories of the people they had been.  I couldn’t hit a ball.  Boys thought I looked dull.  Nothing changed when I got older.  So one day I let myself spend a little time poking around the tucfra recruiting site.  And ended up running around in this.

Jason had found it harder to tell the truth about himself.  He still felt like a fraud-- like his body was just a façade and the real Jason Jardanell was still a helpless dependent whose muscles had been almost completely useless since they had been devastated by the slackbody virus just after his sixth birthday.  He had picked up Francesca once, and tossed her on the bed, just for the sheer joy of knowing he controlled two functioning, professionally developed arms.

“Would you like to play something?” Francesca murmured.  “One more time?  We’ve still got a few minutes.”

“Is that what you want?”

“If it’s all right with you.  This is nice but--“

“Then let’s do it.  It might make Byron and the Colonel feel better if they happened to hear any of it.  They could tell themselves we’ve been in here making music.”

Francesca giggled.  She rolled out of bed and he watched her walk across the bedroom to her dressing room.  Her husband had outfitted his mansion with one of the pleasanter luxuries of the rich-- a mammoth bedroom with oversized dressing rooms on each side.  Each dressing room contained its own bathroom, enormous walk-in closets, a full wall entertainment screen, and all the furniture and appliances a well heeled husband or wife needed when they wanted to lounge in privacy just a few steps from the conjugal bed.

Michael Gratzhausen had been a shy child, according to Francesca, and he had compensated by working out with personal trainers.  Jason eyed the image in his dressing screen every time he passed by the camera and saw himself wrapped in the duplicate of Michael’s body the tucfra had given him.  He succumbed to the temptation twice this time, once while he was still naked, but he was nagged by the same emotions that had pecked at the moments he had just shared with Francesca.  What would the tucfra do with him when this assignment ended?  Would he ever walk around in anything this splendid again?  Or love a woman as magnificent as Francesca?

They were both wearing businesslike turtlenecks and slacks when they emerged from the dressing rooms.  Jason picked up a cello and Francesca sat down at the bedroom fortepiano-- the lightly strung early version of the piano that Mozart and Haydn had actually had in mind when they composed.

“Can we give the Shui romance another try?” Jason said.  It was a twenty-first century composition but Tang Shui had written it for the gentler sound of the older instruments.  Francesca had never played it before he had encouraged her to run through it with him.

“Whatever you want.”

Jason picked up the bow and drew it along the strings of the cello with Michael’s knowledgeable, experienced hands.  He spent a minute with his ear to the strings, making his final meticulous adjustments to the tuning.  Then he nodded at Francesca and started to ride the long, slow arc of the opening cello part.

“You have a call from Dr. Mineaux,” the house said.  “Priority minus one.”

Francesca stopped playing in mid phrase.  “Le métier tristesse de le regimente Dillon.”

The system responded to the password they had been given for the day and placed the image of a dapper, bearded man on the bedroom screen.

“I take it you’re both primed for the evening’s adventure,” the man said.

“We’ll be leaving at twenty-two hundred,” Francesca said.  “As scheduled.”

She had turned away from the piano and placed her palms on her knees, as if she needed to brace herself.  She always seemed to lose some of her poise when she talked to the de facto rulers of Earth-- even when they clothed themselves in the bodies of amiable sophisticates.

Copyright 2007 by Tom Purdom. All rights reserved. This document may be printed out and archived for personal use. All other use is strictly prohibited.

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