Sierra awoke early, in her hotel room. They’d be leaving Paris today. After dinner, Ms. Luxe had told her she probably needed some space after such a stressful day, and that Dr. Hoffman was in contact if Sierra needed her. The maid put a hand to her forehead, attempting to soothe a dull thrumming sensation. She could no longer recall the reason for her breakdown at dinner -- come to think of it, she thought, she couldn’t seem to keep track of anything in her mind recently. At some point in the night memories had wandered back into her head, and Sierra wasn’t sure if they’d ever left.
She could at least bask in the glory of...the...thing. The meeting or whatever. She’d done something there. Something good? Something they’d wanted her to do. She’d been told she’d done a good job. But these memories Sierra had on loan from other people.
“What is wrong with me?” Regardless, she still had things to do. The maid got ready for the day, gathered her things, and tried to leave her hotel room cleaner than when she’d arrived. If only for personal satisfaction.
Ms. Mueller saw them off at the train station.
“I’m remaining here for now, but I hope everyone had a wonderful trip!” The diplomat waved from the entrance of the gilded hall.
“Like hell. I mean, you did great, Sierra. It was a complete success. But I wanted to go shopping,” Amelie lamented.
“Come back on your own time,” Ms. Luxe said flatly.
“Oh yeah? Well when I do, I’m taking Sierra here with me~” Amelie had wrapped both arms around the maid’s abdomen.
“Oh for sure! Me too!” Morgan joined in on the impromptu group hug.
“Leave the poor girl alone, can’t you see her turning blue?” Ms. Capet asked, with a smirk.
“Hey. Be careful what you say to me, I practically *am* blue,” Amelie retorted, but she and Morgan released Sierra from the warm prison of arms. The maid had a tentative plan forming. She wanted to see how Elaine was doing.
Sierra watched the capital get smaller behind her, as the train sped away. She realized what was off about this version of Paris -- she’d realized it as they were walking back to the station. There was no Eiffel Tower -- that structure which crowned the city in the version of Paris she’d known in her -- or at least Soren’s -- youth. Sierra supposed there were any number of reasons the famed lattice spire was absent. Perhaps it had never been built in the first place. Or, perhaps, it was destroyed in the war she kept hearing about.
It didn’t matter anyhow. Sierra’s priority was figuring out just what had gone wrong with her -- why she’d burst into tears at her own celebration…
Oh well. It was her party and she could cry if she wanted to. No, that wasn’t true. She’d caused distress to her friends. The whole situation made her uneasy. She needed to be able to trust her emotions.
Amelie looked at the pensive girl with concern in her eyes.
“Do you, um...would you like to talk about what happened last night?” She asked. Her infernal features displayed genuine concern.
“I don’t know, Ms. Amelie. I seem to be unable to trust my thoughts, or my memories. They seem inconsistent from one moment to the next. Just today...I realized I had no idea what had happened behind the closed doors at that meeting. What I’d done, or what I’d said. I know I should be happy, because whatever I did seemed to have achieved our goal. But I just don’t know. My reality today might be unrecognizable tomorrow. Something about all this...I seem to be losing my m-mind.” The girl put her hands on her head, trying to keep anything else from falling out.
“I’m sorry. I can’t imagine what you’re feeling, but it sounds terrible. I think you’ll pull through in the end. You’re remarkably resilient, or at least that’s how it seems to me.” Amelie’s features contorted abruptly into anger. “Ms. Mueller. She’ll probably get a medal for this. A raise, too. But it’s pretty common fucking knowledge,” the succubus quavered, “how The Words will fuck a maid up. And they’re obviously still having an effect on you. So you know what --”
“Settle down, Ms. Rose,” Ms. Luxe broke in.
“N-no...she needs to be behind bars for what she did to Sierra. I don’t know how or why she planned it, but she’s the only person on this Earth that knows what happened at that meeting. I mean sure...she’ll give a report to her superiors, of course. But she can say whatever the HELL she wants! There’s one whole person in the world out there who could benefit from Sierra’s memory loss, and that’s Alexandra Fucking Mueller!”
“MS. ROSE, if you would stop spinning baseless conspiracy theories, that would be appreciated. She will provide the video feed to the Diplomatic Corps, not just a word of mouth report,” Ms. Luxe said. “Just because we’re not allowed to know, doesn’t mean we’re being deceived. It’s simply not our department. We all want Ms. Stinson to feel better, but insubordination on your part will not help in that regard! Do you understand?”
“Yes, ma’am,” Amelie spat, avoiding her commanding officer’s gaze. Sierra stared at the floor, feeling no confidence in her ability to defuse the conflict. She privately hoped people would stop getting in trouble on her account.
Sierra once more detached herself from the conversation, and searched through her mind. There was one good thing -- her memories of her past life had been recovered, now that there was no mission they could interfere with. If she could remember the mission itself, she’d be in a better position than she was yesterday. Perhaps there was no reason to worry. Her thoughts were interrupted by a ping from her holo, which she dug out of her purse. There was a message from Amelie. Sierra looked up at the girl herself, who held a finger up to her lips and nodded in the direction of Ms. Luxe and Ms. Capet, who were back in their own conversation. Sierra snuck a glance at the message, which contained nothing more than a website domain name -- UnfitForSlaveryFMF. Once Sierra looked at the message it deleted itself. Amelie leaned in and whispered something into Sierra’s ear:
“Maid’s liberation people. They can help you with your memories if no one else can. Just be warned, they’ve been on the wrong side of the law more than a couple of times. Approach them with caution. You didn’t hear about them from me.”
Sierra nodded at Amelie, who leaned back and began speaking.
“So, Sierra, what’d you think of Paris?”
“It was quite beautiful. I would like to come back here, I think.”
“Gonna bring a friend?” Amelie teased. Sierra smiled, cheeks reddening slightly.
“You could say that, Ms. Amelie.”
They had arrived back at the Bundeshalle, at long last. The next day, Sierra was approached by Ms. Luxe.
“Payment for your services rendered to the state, dear,” Ms. Luxe said, handing Sierra an envelope. Inside was a slip of paper, and some sort of card. Sierra glanced at the paper, eyes widening. What was she going to do with all this money? She did have an idea for some of it.
“T-thank you! Ms. Luxe! Everyone!” Sierra had trouble controlling herself as she shivered with glee.
“Take this next week off, dear. If you decide to stick around, we’ll discuss a long term work contract for you when you come back. Otherwise, Sierra...good luck. In all your endeavors --eagh?” The maid engulfed the customs officer in a sudden embrace.
“I’m so lucky to have met all of you. I would love to stay on as...whatever you may have planned for me,” Sierra said, sincerely.
“Not gonna even consider Ms. Mueller’s proposal, huh? It’ll probably pay a lot more. Anyway, have yourself a nice vacation before making any decisions,” Ms. Capet said, having entered the room.
“All my friends are already right here,” Sierra said.
“It doesn’t hurt to go out and see the world, you know. But Sierra...we’re happy to have you. Now, I’d imagine you have vacation plans?” Ms. Capet winked.
Sierra knocked on the door, waiting. She had no idea who would be home. Luckily, however, she could hear the hum of scales on wood and carpet. Elaine opened the door.
“Yo Kat! Pizza’s here! Nah, I’m just kidding, she’s not here right now. You’re just going to stand there if I let you, huh? Well, come on in, Sierra,” Elaine said, smiling warmly. Sierra curtsied before coming inside. She paid tribute to Kiku in the form of scritches behind the ears.
“Now I’m sure you have something important you want to tell me -- I could see it in how you were practically skipping up the sidewalk,” Elaine said. Her expression suddenly became more somber. “I...owe you an apology, don’t I? Yeah, I do. I’m sorry, Sierra. I panicked seeing you like that but all I ended up doing was kicking you while you were down. I wanted to help, and I still don’t know what the hell they were subjecting you to, but...I really was a little bitch in how I went about it. Sorry.”
“I hold nothing against you, Ms. Elaine. It’s sweet...how you were so protective of me. I’m sorry I yelled.” Both girls blushed at each other. Sierra looked at Elaine, eyes twinkling.
“Now, I can recognize that look in your eye, Sierra. What would you like to tell me?” Sierra cleared her throat several times. She thought of what she’d say When she was ready, she began:
“Please accompany me to Paris for a vacation, Ms. Elaine! I want nothing more than to see it with you!” Elaine was caught completely by surprise.
“Holy shit...I can tell you’re not kidding. Again, you’ve got this look in your eye. But...I can’t, Sierra. I don’t have any money. And I can’t just spend yours.”
“I had a feeling you would say that, Ms. Elaine. That is why I would like you to consider a trip like this as a government expense.” Sierra showed Elaine the slip of paper Ms. Luxe gave her.
“Holy fuck, Sierra. That is a big fucking number.” Elaine considered for a moment. “And the prospect of using tax dollars to fund the two of us fucking around in the City of Light does sound mighty appealing...but that’s still your money, Sierra. I can read -- so I know it’s something they paid out to you, for something you did for them.”
“I *insist*, Ms. Elaine.” Elaine scratched at something on her arm, and considered the girl looking at her intently.
“But why? Why...me? You’d spend so much time and money on a nobody. I dropped out of college to work at fucking Wonderkebab. Not to mention how much of a creep I was when I first met you. I mean really! I waited outside while you went to the bathroom to avoid me! What the hell was I doing, waiting in ambush? Sierra...everyone you meet likes you immediately! You can do so much better!”
“I like you, Ms. Elaine.” The snake girl almost caught fire, it looked like. Sierra imagined she could hear the sweat droplets sizzling as they beaded on Elaine’s brow.
“I...ahaha!” Elaine caught her breath before she continued. “I g-gotta see if I can get out of work for the next few days...shit, this might be happening. It’s been so long since I’ve gone anywhere….” Elaine cleared her breath before grabbing her pocket holo. Hitting a button, two silver beads popped out of the side. Elaine put them in her ears. The serpent’s hands were a flurry of activity as she pulled up contacts.
“Hey, boss. I’ve got some bad news, um, cough. I’ve come down with a severe case of deathitis. Cough. I’m going to need the next few days off to, um, get well. What? I can’t believe you’d say I was lying about something so serious! Well, fine then. I stubbed my toe. And I’m dying. Ok, ok fine! Yes, it’s a girl! Look, I...really? Yes, yes, fine! I’ll never get sick again! Never ever! Oh my goddess thank you so much!” Elaine hung up, hyperventilating as she looked at Sierra with a frenzy in her eyes.
“I...this is fucking happening. Ok, let me start over. Ahem. Sierra….I would be honored to accompany you to Paris!” Elaine’s expression was frozen in a silly grin. “Holy fuck! I’m the luckiest girl in the fucking world!”
“Would you like to leave immediately, Ms. Elaine?” Sierra asked, showing the snake with stars in her eyes a potential itinerary.
“My goddess, yes! Let’s fucking goooooo! I, um, just so you know I suck at trains. They’re just kind of uncomfortable when you’re me but...let’s fucking do this!”
Sierra boarded the same train, leaving from the same platform. The attendant who’d shown them to the platform on the first trip gave her a strange look. The two made their way to one of the special cars for travellers with unusual body types; this amounted to Elaine’s seat being an oddly shaped couch. Sierra was across the aisle, which had normal seats.
“Have you seen what the slime girls get for seats?” Elaine asked. “They’re basically giant cups. I tried to sit in one as a joke once.” Sierra gave her a quizzical look, before the snake girl continued. “That was a mistake,” Elaine chuckled. “Damn near broke my spine.”
The train car was relatively crowded, which gave Sierra an idea. The girl stood up and beckoned a stranger who was standing to sit down.
“Very altruistic. But you didn’t have to do that, Sierra. It’s not like they asked,” Elaine suggested. Sierra said nothing, instead opting to plant herself on Elaine’s couch. “Oh. Huh. Weeeeeellllll, I suppose I can allow it. So what do you want to see in the city, anyway? Did you make any plans?”
“What would you like to see, Ms. Elaine?” Sierra answered Elaine’s question with a question.
“So that’s a no, then. Fine with me. Plans are stupid. Wandering around aimlessly and gradually becoming drunk is the superior tourist activity anyway,” Elaine smirked.
“If it pleases you, Ms. Elaine. I would be happy to accompany you in your directionless ambling.” The serpent put an arm around Sierra, drawing her in close.
“You are the most sarcastic maid I’ve ever encountered. I’m still very much open to suggestion,” Elaine said, grinning at her.
“If you wish to get drunk, Ms. Elaine, I can remember this trip so you don’t have to,” Sierra replied, winking.
“I’m recording everything we do and you can’t stop me! Oh yeah, and we better exchange contact info just in case *you* wander off for some reason.”
“I will remain glued to you until I am asked to stop. But, very well.” Sierra pulled out her pocketholo and went into contacts. The restrictions had been lifted, she noticed.
“I still can’t believe you use that ancient thing. It’s hilarious.”
“I have a better model, but it is in my ship,” Sierra lamented.
“Oh shit, yeah, you’ve got one of those. You’re gonna have to tell me all about your adventures at some point. Anyway, here’s my contact.” Elaine flicked her wrist over her holo and towards Sierra’s; a message landed in the maid’s holo to notify that Elaine’s contact info had been logged.
“So where’s this hotel you picked for us?” Elaine asked. They exited the Gare du Nord, and headed into the city.
“It is a high rise building in the La Defense district. It shall offer us a commanding view of the city.”
“A commanding view of the city,” Elaine repeated in a teasing voice.
“Make fun of my manner of speaking all you like, Ms. Elaine, I don’t mind,” Sierra said.
“A commmmanding view of the city!”
“Indeed, Ms. Elaine.”
“A commanding...view...of the city?”
“We’re beginning to receive strange looks, Ms. Elaine.”
“I would like to break your kneecaps, Ms. Elaine.”
“Joke’s on you, I don’t have kneecaps!” Elaine said, rubbing her elbow. “D’you know how close we are?”
“I believe we are about a tenth of the way there.”
“A tenth? Lemme see those directions you have pulled up,” Elaine said slightly annoyed.
“Certainly,” Sierra said, handing Elaine her holo.
“Uh. Sierra,” Elaine deadpanned. “Maybe you enjoy taking two hour long walks, but that’s not something I generally consider to be fun. Especially while we carry all the crap we brought along.”
“We will pass by the Arc de Triomphe about two thirds of the way there, Ms. Elaine.”
“You’re killing me here, Sierra. We’ve been over this — remember when I told you about all the exciting methods people have invented to get from point A to point B? Look at that! A metro station. Right. There. Shall we?”
“Very well, Elaine.” Sierra smiled at her.
The hotel Sierra picked out was less fancy than the one she’d stayed in during the first trip. They headed to the elevator after checking in.
“Oh thank the Goddess, I thought you were going to insist on taking the stairs after that nonsense on the way here.”
“We could still take the stairs if you’d like,” Sierra grinned.
Elaine’s coils wriggled. “Fuck that. Stairs are racist.”
“I suppose you’re right, Ms. Elaine.”
Their room was pretty basic, but it did have the view Sierra had promised. The maid looked out at the cityscape before her; mostly older, shorter buildings, but other patches of skyscrapers were visible in the distance.
“Heard there was a pretty massive restoration effort after the old war,” Elaine commented. “Did you know that some Frenchies really hate these big gleaming towers?”
“Where’s the Eiffel Tower?” Sierra wondered aloud.
“It’s something from my...home planet, I guess it would be. That version of Paris has had it for centuries. Was it never built here?” Sierra pulled her holo back out. “I shall find a photo for you, Ms. Elaine.”
“You do that. But no, never heard of anything like that. Ain’t that strange.” Sierra tried what Elaine did with her contact, and flicked her wrist over her holo and towards Elaine’s. The picture landed, and the snake girl puzzled over it.
“Looks pretty strange. Like, I don’t know what it’s supposed to be.”
“A cultural landmark, where I came from. I guess I’ll never see my Earth again, hmm?” Sierra pondered while gazing at the skyline.
“Ah, yeah...guess not.” Elaine put her arm around the maid. “But they WISH they had what we got! Yup! We’re not feared and hated across the multiverse or anything like that!” Elaine chuckled uncomfortably.
“I was lonely back home. I have not had that problem, here.” Sierra looked at her serpentine companion, who blushed. “Shall we go and see the city, Ms. Elaine?”
“You mean we’re not doing that right now?” Elaine chuckled. “And here I thought we went to Paris to stand around in a hotel room for four days.”
“Not at all, Ms. Elaine. We have come here to wander aimlessly for hours until we pass out on the street.”
“A-and get drunk! Don’t forget that part!” Elaine added, smirking.
“I have a plan for tomorrow; we can walk along the Axe Historique, which has many of Paris’ landmarks. If you like,” Sierra suggested. “But what would you like to do today?”
“Getting lunch sounds like a good first step,” Elaine stated. Sierra’s belly rumbled in agreement. “Guess that’s settled, then!”
Sierra and Elaine strolled about in the urban landscape.
“Is that a massive fucking mall?” Elaine asked, gesturing at a massive fucking mall large, modern-looking building.
“Shall we check it out?”
“I mean, it’ll have food. Why not?”
Entering the mall, the two were greeted to a large, brightly lit atrium. The atmosphere was decidedly opulent.
“Goddess, everything here must cost a fortune...tell you what, Sierra. I’ll blindfold myself and you can lead me around so we don’t buy anything.”
“You place far too much confidence in my own self control, Ms. Elaine.”
“Oh nooooooo...this was a mistake. We’re going to die here,” Elaine moaned.
“We shall survive with a little luck and a lot of determination.”
“You are far too optimistic. Everyone here looks rich. I mean, you look fine, but I’m basically just wearing a sheet. My Snake Smock, if you will.”
“You look lovely, Ms. Elaine. I look the way I always do, such is what I am. Your outfit conveys a simple elegance and confidence in how you carry yourself.”
“Ah, yes. Confidence. As in, ‘that broad must be pretty confident to wear that bedsheet in the middle of fucking Paris’. These people are going to eat me aliiiiiive…”
“Just west of the city limit, actually, if memory serves. If anyone insults your outfit, I will bite their ear off, Ms. Elaine.” The serpent chortled at that.
“That’s...really fucking specific!”
“I think it’s because I am hungry, if I’m being honest.”
“Oh. Yeah. The whole reason we came here. Uh, let’s go.”
“After you,” Sierra confirmed.
Nestled between two fast food places, they found a cute little deli.
“Always forget that the French will slap an egg on otherwise normal food,” Elaine said, watching her companion dig into a fried egg-topped sandwich.
“I must confess I never realized how much I like eggs,” Sierra replied. Elaine put on an imaginary pair of glasses.
“Zat vood suggest a strain in your relatzionship wit your mother, Frau Sierra. Vere you two distant?” Sierra laughed aloud as the pseudo psychoanalyst gave her diagnosis.
“You may be right, Dr. Claire. I think you might have broken my autotranslator with that flawless impression, however.”
“Guess Ms. Fancy-tech Future Foreigner will just have to learn how to speak and listen like the rest of us, hmmmmm?” Elaine said, pointing at the maid with a french fry.
“I am unsure how I will be able to manage, Ms. Elaine. You will simply have to translate for me yourself.” Sierra impaled two french fries of her own with a fork, directing them towards a dollop of aioli on the edge of her plate.
“Joke’s on you, Sierra. That wasn’t an impression, that’s just what my English sounds like...how the hell does your translator work, anyhow? Does everyone just sound really awkward and stilted? I don’t know if that sort of tech has fallen out of the sky yet.”
“The scientists in the Bundeshalle got a good look at it when they ran their tests,” Sierra explained. Elaine raised an eyebrow at the word ‘tests’. “It is hard to describe exactly. It is something of a neural implant that reads a speaker’s impulse and intention to preserve mannerisms and slang, I believe, while also doing the same in reverse to an extent. Or I may have spontaneously learned some new languages when the transformation occurred. I am unsure.”
“Sorry, I’m still trying to process the part where you said you have a thing in your head that’ll Read My Mind,” Elaine stated, staring. “What am I thinking of right now?”
“The ten kilometres we’ll be walking tomorrow, Ms. Elaine?” The maid grinned evilly.
“Someone help. I’ve been taken against my will. This woman is going to kill me,” Elaine deadpanned. “That being said...holy fuck, Sierra. I expected some fancy dinner dates, maybe catching a match or something...but a four day trip to fucking Paris is next fucking level,” Elaine exclaimed, enunciating the last three words. “You really go all out.”
Sierra’s eyes widened involuntarily as that phrase drilled through and bounced around her skull. A memory started to surface, uninvited. It was joined by many similar memories, which launched a coordinated assault on the poor maid’s mind.
“Um...Sierra? Did I say something wrong?” Elaine looked genuinely worried, but Sierra was unaware as she was dragged into recollection.
“You really go all out,” the girl said, a wine glass in her hand as they watched the city below. Was it Paris? That detail was decidedly unimportant. It could’ve been Shanghai for all she knew. Maybe it wasn’t Earth at all.
“What can I say, besides the fact you’re worth it?” Soren replied. He put an arm around the girl. They were both dressed in date night finery.
“A trip to the city, nice restaurants, a room with a view -- I must be the luckiest girl alive,” she purred, looking into Soren’s eyes.
“Sometimes it’s a good thing I’m such a damn miser,” Soren chuckled. “Means I can shell out for moments like these. I’m so glad I met you, baby….”
Sierra looked at Elaine. She’d fallen for her same old tricks and would likely suffer for them like everyone else had. The maid stood up abruptly, tears flowing as they often did.
“I’m s-sorry, Ms. Elaine...you d-deserve better than me,” she said, hurrying off and sobbing.
“What the fuck, Sierra!?” Elaine yelled, beginning pursuit.
Sierra retreated to the hotel room. If Elaine wanted to talk, they’d at least have some privacy. And if Elaine wanted her to leave afterwards, she could go home. Sierra dabbed at her face with a tissue. She heard the door open.
“Ya mind telling me what’s up? Elaine asked, with a mixture of annoyance and concern.
“I’ve rushed this along, Ms. Elaine. I hope you can forgive me for my reckless haste.” Sierra sat on the far bed, facing away.
“There’s kind of a lot that doesn’t explain!” Elaine’s voice softened. “You’re worrying me…”
“Relationships were fleeting and hollow in my old life. I’d find a girl, woo them, have my way with them, and leave them the same night. I’d spend lavishly so they’d feel guilty if they tried to reject me. It was all a game to me, back then…” Sierra started sobbing once more. “A-and now I’m doing it again...with you. I’m sorry I tried to deceive you. The setting has changed, but I’m...s-still the same. I realized when you told me...I was going a-all out, Ms. Elaine.”
“Maybe you’re right that we’re rushing this. I was always a live-fast-die-young motherfucker. But if you were using me for sex, I’d know. There are many people out there who see me only as the embodiment of their fetish. But you...you’re not one of them, Sierra. You’re sweet, and honest --”
“I’ve played you like a fiddle, Ms. Elaine! Playing the same...damn...game I always have!”
“Swearing sounds weird when you do it. But...it sounds like you have some baggage. Sierra, everyone does. And I can assure you yours isn’t as bad as mine...but we can work through it together! I truly believe that!”
“NO!” Sierra shot back. “You can’t throw your life away trying to be my therapist!” She looked out the window. The sun was beginning to cast long shadows. “This trip was a mistake...I’m sorry.”
“Sierra. You are not going to back out now. You’re...stronger than that. If you want me to leave, I can, but you paid for this trip. You should be able to enjoy it.”
“I could never forgive myself if I made you leave, Ms. Elaine,” Sierra said, attempting to wipe away the tears again. Elaine shimmied up to her, putting a hand on her shoulder.
“Sounds like we’ll just have to suffer through this together, then. Look...there’s no commitment if you don’t want there to be. If you don’t feel up to it, Sierra....” Elaine shed a tear of her own. “T-then we can each go our own merry way once this is over. But I, for one, am glad I could meet you, and I’d like to enjoy this trip with you as a friend, if nothing else.”
Sierra twirled abruptly, and yanked Elaine into a hug. The maid shuddered and heaved into Elaine, who patiently held her.
“I don’t want to do to you what I’ve done to others in the past, Ms. Elaine.”
“Then...don’t. Seems pretty simple, really.” Elaine patted Sierra on the head. The maid had the vague realization her head was at chest level with the serpent. Elaine didn’t seem to mind -- if anything, she pulled her in closer. Sierra’s breathing gradually steadied as they held their embrace.
“Thank you for your trust, Ms. Elaine,” she said with a muffled voice. “I will try my very hardest...not to betray it like I have in the past.”
“You’ll do fine.”
The two had a quiet night, watching light-hearted movies and ordering room service for dinner. Elaine draped herself on one of the beds, and Sierra settled in among her coils. The snake girl broached the topic during a movie neither of them were really paying attention to.
“So...uh...you want to do anything *more* than snuggle, tonight?” Elaine looked at Sierra, giving a tentative grin. Sierra was silent, pondering, for a long moment.
“N-not tonight, if that’s okay.” To her surprise, Elaine’s entire body relaxed as the serpentine woman gave an emphatic sigh of relief. “Eh?”
“The fact that you can say no to that question takes a huge fuckin’ load off my mind, Sierra.”
“I’ll be honest...I’ve been afraid to ask. I was afraid you would automatically say yes, to be polite. The line between consent and coercion is...terrifyingly thin, when a maid is involved. And that’s not supposed to be a casually racist remark or anything like that...there have been entire studies done on how you court a maid without it becoming accidental...y'know. Kind of absurd, isn’t it?”
“I suppose it is, Ms. Elaine. The reason I said no is because the memories of...the old me loving and leaving are still fresh in my mind.”
“Yeah, I kind of picked a really stupid time to ask, heh. Guess I got caught up in the moment.”
“It is not out of the question that we perform some...exploratory maneuvers before this trip is over, Ms. Elaine.” Sierra grinned lasciviously at her companion, who returned the look.
“I keep forgetting...you’re still technically a virgin. Not that that...um...matters all that much. Y'know, it doesn’t change your value or anything. But if you like, I can introduce you to the wonders and joys of womanhood, if you know what I mean.”
“You know I know what you mean, Ms. Elaine,” Sierra winked. Elaine turned towards the display which had been running all the while.
“What even is this? I’m going to search for something else, if you don’t mind.” The girl who had spread out among the dull verdant tangle that was Elaine shrugged.
“Not at all.” Sierra’s attention drifted towards the tv holo as Elaine motioned with a free arm. She drew back slowly, gradually opening her fingers. The display responded by exploding into a thousand different moving images.
“Hmmm. Still kind of funny how much Fed TV we get down here. Big movies with *interplanetary* budgets! Shitty soaps from other worlds! The news! If you like anxiety...” Elaine muttered, pouring over the options. “Ooooh, does this make you *nostalgic*, Sierra?” The channel they landed on showed sleek-looking fighter jets dancing in the air. A caption read:
“AIRSHOW IN COLOGNE”, rendered in English once Sierra’s universal translator had its way.
“Hey that’s practically local!”
“To answer your question, Ms. Elaine, I was never that practiced in sub-atmospheric flight. I’d surely stall immediately, if I were to try these maneuvers,” Sierra chuckled. “I’m somewhat out of practice in regards to any sort of piloting, I’m afraid.” Two pilots were being interviewed, and varieties in the transformations continued to surprise. One of the pilots was a robotic humanoid — Sierra wasn’t sure how that worked. Probably magic, she figured, as the pilot gestured a ball-jointed arm towards her craft. The other pilot was, if anything, stranger. A normal human, aside from the glowing markings on exposed parts of her skin, and her hair, which glowed the same vibrant red-pink and seemed to be partially levitating. Chatter between the pilots and an interviewer revealed they were a duo from Japan who toured, doing shows.
“Would be cool to travel the world like that, huh?” Elaine stated, offhand. “One day I’ll take you to Istanbul. It’s been fuckin ages...I’ve got family there. Been too long since I ruined their day by just showing up.”
“Are you...estranged from them, Ms. Elaine?”
“It’s kind of a fucking mess. One of my mothers, bless her, moved to Westrhein after meeting the love of her life there. I’ve lived mostly in Aachen, but I also spent a few years with my other relatives in...well not Istanbul, but Edirne, which is close to it. Anyway, those close-minded fucks weren’t too keen on my transformation, y’see. Everyone else in my family has legs...normal human legs. I guess that made me an aberration. And...they’re kind of religious, so the snake motif didn’t mix too well with that. But fuck ‘em. My mother from their side is pretty devout, but she still loves me...so excuses excuses, I guess.”
“Are you close with your parents?”
“Ugggh. They keep asking me when I’m going to go back to college.” Sierra giggled when Elaine grinned at her. “You put a hand up to your mouth when you do that. It’s *offensively* adorable. You have relatives? Somewhere out there?”
“My father was a smuggler. He died when I was a teen. My mother was absolutely horrified when I decided to follow in his footsteps, I’m afraid. I guess that’s been fixed, in a manner of speaking.” Elaine looked uncomfortable. “We can discuss something else, if you like.”
“Eeesh...sorry. It was a thoughtless thing to ask.”
“It’s no trouble, Ms. Elaine.”