Monday, April 21, 2014

Dangerous friends drinking

As a Docking Station, McLan has more bars and drinking places than it does establishments to buy food at. Home isn’t much, but it is invite-only, often littered with officers who prefer peace and quiet and by unspoken consent a place where station politics are left far outside. You come to drink problems away and it is as simple as that. My problem is an old one: when over sixty percent of your body is replaced by cybernetics, it is hard to find drinks that get you drunk without disrupting your systems entirely. So I drink boost, which sends a buzz of energy through my entire body, shuts minor systems down. Rinse. Repeat. It’s like a continual series of random spasms at once good and scary because you never know what will be shut down.

It’s not illegal, not quite, and I am a medic. That makes it safe, if anyone asks. The person who slips into the seat beside me isn’t the sort to ask, mostly because they seldom have to. Adjudicators aren’t quite as reviled as true psychs (there are reasons people prefer dealing with psychbots to someone trained in taking apart the psyche) but knowing someone might sit in judgement on you tends to strain any friendship. Jaci is no exception to that rule, and gets themself spiced water.

“Boost?” Pale eyebrows raise. “Was your vacation that bad, then?”

“Ask Dar.” I take another sip of my drink.

“I did. He said it had been ‘nice’ and refused to talk about it further, saying he had two weeks of updates in the infoweb to catch up on.”

“And you let it go?”

“He turned off his projection and viewscreen and ignored me.”


Jaci smiles at that. “Probably wise as well. Transfers are hard to read at the best of times, and he’s old enough to know how to use that to his advantage.”

I grunt. A lot of what a psych does relies on body language and mannerisms as much as profiles. The dark days of psyches using apps to ‘read’ memories are long past but not forgotten at all. Transfers circumvent a lot of that and Dar has to know it drives Jaci up the wall. I would call it a dangerous game to play; Dar would just consider it practical to survival. He’s survived longer than any other transfer into a non-human body – the only kind of transfer of the mind that lasts – and more than one psych would love to get into his head and learn why.

“So, your turn. Two weeks on Garnet IV. With Dar. Talk to me.”

I feel a flush creep up my cheeks. I could prevent it, but not without Jaci noticing that. “Go away, Adjudicator.”

“Orien.” Jaci doesn’t raise their voice, but there is an edge under the words. Jaci knows me of old, long before I was a medic. When we both had other lives and did things neither of us are proud of. That is the the cost of our lives in this era: we can live long, if we are careful, and have at least two or three lives to our name. It doesn’t mean we should be proud of some of them.

“Jaci. Go away.”

Jaci pauses at something in my voice. Blinks. “I’m not asking as an Adjudicator, Orien. We know each other of old and Dar interests me. You know that.”

“Yes. which is why I said to go away.”

Jaci blinks, sits back, and their eyes widen a little, jaw dropping. Jaci hasn’t changed their body in all the years I’ve known them: thin, the kind of body that can pass as male or female, preferring to be addressed as a singular they or them and not caring at all that it’s outdated. I’ve seen Jaci do many things with their body, some of them quite distressing. I’ve never seen them stunned to silence.

Jaci calls up a privacy baffle about us. “You’re embarrassed. You, Orien? I remember how you held the Inkul Gulf. Hero and butcher, we called you at the trial, and you didn’t back down from either claim.”

I say nothing. It had been an ugly war, and if the Gulf had fallen at least one planet might have beyond it. I’d meshed an entire corps of soldiers together, linked us into weapon systems on craft. We fought. we even won, though few survived the experience. I’d given them no choice about joining the gestalt, abused the legal oaths to fight in the war into areas that had been made illegal since. I’d won, but no one wanted me on their side after that. Bounty hunting had led to drifting and eventually being a medic. It happens. We change or we die.

Sometimes we even surprise ourselves.

“It was a nice two weeks,” I say softly. Jaci twitches, but doesn’t throw her drink in my face. I grin. “Garnet IV is one of the only vacation worlds that actually had rooms and systems catering to transfers. He was happy and that alone made the trip worth it, until I pushed things. Between us.”

Jaci goes still a moment. I can almost see things coming together even they didn’t want it to. Even Adjudicators have limits; I don’t know if I should be pleased at finding one of Jaci’s. “As more than friends. With a transfer.”

“We did go on a vacation together,” I say dryly.

“Yes, but. Transfer.” Jaci drums the table with a finger. “How did Dar take it?”

“Dar was mostly confused and didn’t get it until near the end. He’s mostly been quiet since. I don’t think he knows what to think.”

“He won’t be the only one. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, but –.” Jaci pauses. “It is mostly storylines uses in bad drama, isn’t it”

“I think love usually is. I don’t even know if it is love, or what it is. Or what Dar will let us be.” I consider another drink, cancel the order and stand.

“Orien.” I pause, wait. “You will need to do something about your blush reflex, given what people will say.”

Only that, nothing more. I smile, then, and not to Jaci, leaving the bar and heading to my quarters. I consider checking on Dar. Feel my face flushing again, and decide to leave whatever might happen next to him.

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