Tom Purdom





I knew there was something wrong as soon as I took my eyes off Ganmei's face and looked at her clothes. She was wearing the loose shirt-and-shorts combination she usually wore when she went about her everyday business on the ship. In the past, she had always put on something special when she had activated my baseline personality-- my normal personality as my old fashioned brain still thought of it. The last time she had brought me back she had been wearing a black form-fitting gown that sheathed her in the glitter of the High Cold War period.

I stared at her while her litany of disaster flowed across my brain. Our ship had been taken over....twenty robots of unknown origin now occupied the outside of the hull...the robot invaders had destroyed every long range antenna on the had been almost three tendays since she had received any incoming messages...or sent any messages out.

It was a disorienting moment. Ganmei had started firing information at me as soon as she had turned off the music-obsessed secondary personality I had chosen when we had left the asteroid belt six years earlier. One minute I had been standing in my music bower, completely absorbed in my interactions with the shadows who were playing the flute and harp parts in Claude Debussy's sonata for flute, viola, and harp. Then I had heard Ganmei's voice repeating the trigger words over the intercom. And all the feelings she aroused had flooded through my consciousness.

She waved her hand at the wheeled boxes positioned near an emergency hatch. "I've fabricated forty-two armed robots. They're standing by all over the ship. I'm going to launch an attack as soon as we get settled into the control room."

She studied my face. "You do understand, don't you? I'm not going too fast for you."

I shook my head. "The only problem I'm having now is a perfectly reasonable difficulty adjusting my emotions. I had assumed you returned me to my baseline state so we could enjoy another few days together. It's been almost twelve tendays since our last interlude. Instead, I'm listening to you tell me we've become the captives of some mysterious aggressor. I take it you thought I'd be better off if I went on fiddling while you prepared to wage war."

"I felt I had to bring you back to baseline before I actually started the combat phase. You obviously have to be functioning at your optimal level if anything goes wrong. But I didn't see any point in bringing you back earlier."

We had been talking in a high speed synthetic language called CM-- a Latin-based, very compressed language the members of Ganmei's genetic cohort had developed for their own use. Ganmei had developed a learning program and an auxiliary intelligence file especially for me and I had gritted my teeth and applied myself. We used CM whenever we were discussing practical matters or anything that didn't require a lot of emotional communication. Now she rested her hand on my shoulder and switched to ordinary, day to day Techno-Mandarin.

"I'm sorry if it was the wrong thing to do. It was a hard judgement to make. I could have used some company."

She really was a magnificent creature. You couldn't spend an hour with her without realizing that big leaps in intelligence affected the entire human personality. She was still only in her forties, but she had mapped out most of my emotional makeup before we had spent two tendays together. Her fingers were pressing on my shoulder with a grip that managed to be comradely and suggestive at the same time.

Her parents had opted for gracefulness rather than strength and endurance when they had planned her. She had spent most of her childhood in the asteroid belt, but she had been born on Earth and she had a rangy sturdiness that reflected the influence of both her youthful environments. She was a head taller than me, in spite of the extra length I had added to my legs. A lot of the women I've courted have lived a little closer to the ceiling than I do. My lack of height can be an advantage. I don't make them feel dominated or overpowered.

Her intelligence and her physical attributes were an important part of her appeal. I wouldn't have sought her out if she hadn't possessed them. But they weren't the primary reason I had decided to spend fifteen years of my life span on a trip to the outer edge of the solar system. She had beguiled me before I had even seen her picture. I had been exploring the databanks and I had stumbled on an interview transcript in which she had described her Kuiper Belt project.

Copyright 2003 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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