Thursday, January 27, 2011

Not Alone

It wasn’t until Alex was halfway down the passageway that the fact their lives were no longer in grave danger hit him square in the chest. It was a strange feeling, the weight of being unable to control a situation was lifted from his shoulders, his heart suddenly that much lighter.

He collapsed onto the couch in the mess, sprawled out across it with a stupid grin on his face. They had made it. They were alive and the Ehom were not going to come kill them, and he could hardly be happier. The stress he’d been stuffing away for the past few months came spilling out in a brief, half-sane fit of giggling.

Carbon had been dialing up food, but glanced over her shoulder at the unusual sound that Alex was making. Her eyebrows and antennae went up with curiosity as he tried to stifle it, only to end up laughing at himself in a much more healthy manner. At the very least, he looked like he was having a good time.

Finished with programming the dispenser, she looked Alex over before crawling on top of him, eliciting a surprised grunt. Carbon nestled down with her face buried in his neck. She sounded so happy when she spoke, “I have missed gravity.”

Alex nodded in agreement. How could someone so small weigh so much? “You know, you’re a lot more hea-uh... Dense. Physically dense. Much more physically dense than I expected. I didn’t expect-”

“You may stop any time you please.” At the very least she was still amused.

“Yeah, I’m going to do that.”

Carbon slid her arms under his, squeezing them together. “You are really much taller than I remember. So very, very tall. As a measure of height.” She teased, a smile in her voice.

Alex chuckled, “I know. The weather is terrible up here.”

She laughed quietly as she pushed herself up and looked down at him, eyes warm with mirth but still serious. “Would you mind if we linked, Alex? It has been a stressful day.”

“I would love to.”

Carbon flipped her antennae over her head and rested the soft tips on his temples. He sank down into the shared space easily this time, the action almost natural now. Alex’s view of their shared space was much more refined now, he had taken to this much more quickly than he had expected to.

The Carbon part was placid but frayed around the edges, composed and disturbed all at once. She seemed embarrassed by this. I have never allowed a machine to use me like that before.

You did well. Alex had never had any problems with letting AI’s use his brain, but the way Carbon put it did make it sound... invasive. Regret radiated from the Alex part, I’m sorry that you had to.

Carbon smoothed out a little and warmed, drawing closer to Alex carefully. It was not as bad as I had feared, though I do not wish to do it again.

You shouldn’t have to. He felt like he smiled, glad to see that she was feeling better.

Her part of the shared space rippled with ease, the frayed edges gone. For the first time in the Alex-Carbon space, she touched him. A smokey, velvety caress that wrapped up him up and held him delicately. It was, in its own way, exhilarating. She seemed to be particularly pleased by that reaction.

She let him go but stayed close, a wash of disappointment hastily hidden though quite obvious on her. What’s wrong?

It is nothing.

Alex let the feeling of skepticism speak for him.

Carbon relented after a moment of deliberation. I had expected you to reciprocate...

I can do that. I’d like to do that. He was very emphatic about this.

She withdrew a little bit, flattered and frustrated. No, you cannot.

Why not? Alex pressed forward, following the Carbon part closely.

She carved a snippet of information from her memory and pressed it into him. That particular action was one-way only, whoever was doing it had to have antennae. Alex found himself disappointed and rather upset. Carbon eased away from him. I should not have done that.

Alex’s reply was hasty but honest. It was wonderful.

She burned with conflicted emotions for a moment, painful for Alex to witness. It all collapsed, leaving Carbon worn down but bemused. I do not know how you can do that.

Do what?

Something that felt a lot like a smirk crossed her presence. Be like that all the time.

Oh, It was hard at first. I got used to it after awhi-

The shipboard alarm went off. It was not loud enough to cause permanent hearing damage, but it was loud enough to wake the dead.

Carbon’s antennae snapped up in surprise, breaking the connection with a sharp metallic pang through both of their heads. She had shifted about and situated herself straddling Alex’s lap, hands on the arm rest on either side of his head, her body arched over his. Very convenient for the link.

Alex’s first reaction was to sit up, smashing his face into hers.

They sat there dazed, alarm blaring about something bad about to happen, clutching their faces in pain.

This is not what freedom was supposed to be like.

1 comment:

  1. I'm catching up. Terrible place for me to have to leave, but I'll get back to it as soon as I can. I thoroughly enjoy this story.