Chapter Twenty Six: With You, I Am Home
Katie stood facing a plain door set into a plain wall, alone. To the left the nearest similar door was adorned with sloppy artwork and photographs of smiling faces. To the right, it was sculptures, mostly, and a curated garden of colours that sent sparks down Katie’s spine just from the sight of them.
Between them stood flat white walls meeting the grass at a perfect angle. No identity at all, not even identifying marks. Was this hers? The thought was almost overwhelming. How could she possibly match up to the wonders around her?
Katie clung to the soft petals of her communicator, working up the courage to figure out how to open the door. She reached to the side almost on instinct but there was nobody there. She had to do this on her own.
Okay. Okay. Legally speaking, she was an independent sophont. Katie glanced around. Her surroundings were much the same as they had been in the other arc—which was to say, everywhere was unique and detailed and she felt like she could spend a lifetime admiring the wonders that stood around her without ever needing to leave the path. She wasn’t alone, but it was quiet. A few pairs or groups wandered around in the unhurried, casual way that most seemed to move around here. Katie returned a wave to one of the passing pairs. If she didn’t start moving soon, somebody would assume she needed help and come along to assist, so… Katie should move.
“Uh, open?” Katie asked. “Door, open. Door?”
The door remained firmly closed.
This was ridiculous. This was the correct address, wasn’t it? Katie checked the map and it did claim that she was standing right outside of the right place. She didn’t know what the symbols meant, but they matched what had been in Erica’s message. Yet she couldn’t get in. It was hardly a promising start.
“Hello?” she called, raising her voice in the hope that somebody inside would hear. After a few seconds the door slid open, revealing some human who greeted her with a hazy smile and eyes that didn’t quite focus all the way.
“Hey! Right on time, we were just finishing up a few details while we waited. Mistress is a little too big to fit inside without getting in the way, so she’s supervising from afar. Wanna come in?” The human stepped back, gesturing for Katie to follow.
“Sorry, I’m pretty bad with names, were you one of—” Katie checked the message— “June or Sarah?”
“June! Sarah’s still inside fiddling with something, but we’re done, really. I’ve gotta say, this was a lot of fun, thank you.” June grinned. Like the other humans Katie had seen, June moved with a kind of hesitation, as though her body was always running a quarter second behind her mind. Her eyes seemed to not wholly focus, as though she was looking a little past Katie instead of directly at her. Her smile was a little too wide. For all that, she did seem very present and her movements weren’t sloppy, just slow.
But she was property. A thing. Practically an object. How was Katie meant to interact with her? She obviously couldn’t act like June was a regular human, because half of human social convention was pretending to care about the problems of strangers, and Katie suspected that this one had very few relatable issues.
What had Thatch done back at the cafe? Affirmation, clear instruction, and checking in at the end to make sure everything was okay? Acting as if she were above the poor girl? Legally speaking she very much was, but it felt slimy. It was still a better guess than nothing.
“Uh, good. Thank you. I couldn’t figure out how to open the door, be a… dear and tell me?” Katie wanted to cringe, but the human’s smile only widened. She nodded rapidly and skipped out of the doorway, letting the door seal up behind her.
“Of course, Miss Sahas! Please watch what I do carefully and I’m sure you’ll get it in no time.” June skipped over to the door, grabbed the handle, and pulled it open. Katie’s cheeks burned as she watched the door sliding open. “Did you get that? I’d love to show you again if you—”
“No, no, that’s fine I got it thank you,” Katie interjected, hurrying along inside before anybody saw her. For a brief moment she was almost glad that Thatch wasn’t here, though of course that didn’t last. Thatch wouldn’t have made her feel bad about it.
Katie was a little worried for her affini. She’d hurried off at quite the speed and she’d been seeming a little off all day. Katie hoped that nothing was wrong. She could handle this, give Thatch the space she needed, and then check in later. It was fine. Katie could do this.
Katie’s eyes took a moment to adapt to the gloom. She squinted into the darkness for a moment before happening to glance upwards. She took in a sharp breath. The building was bigger on the inside and contained the entire sky. Her eyes flicked across the stars and she recognised them all. This was Dirt’s night sky, but it couldn’t possibly be. It extended far beyond the plausible dimensions of the space she’d entered.
In fact, if Katie looked behind her, the forest seemed to go on endlessly. The door was set into open air. She took a careful step towards it and moved her fingers towards the position that the wall must be in, halfway convinced that they would go straight through, as if the door had been a portal to some mysterious realm.
Thankfully, Katie’s sanity was maintained. As she neared the wall, it started whiting out, displaying a thick hexagonal grid that revealed the real dimensions of the room. Katie took a few steps back and the door slid closed, sealing them inside something that Katie would have sworn was the planet Dirt at night. There was even a canopy of trees a few meters to one side, though they couldn’t possibly be real.
“Uh…” Katie couldn’t think of any better words to emit. She just turned to June with bafflement. How was this possible, never mind hers?
The floret clapped her hands. “Mistress, could we get the day/night cycle matched up with ship time again?”
A disembodied voice rumbled through the area. It was a voice deep enough to buzz the air in Katie’s lungs, but at this point she was getting used to things like that. The dragon from earlier. “Of course you can, pet. I’ll do it this time, but be sure to get Miss Sahas here put in charge, hmn?” It certainly seemed like Erica would fit inside the vast expanse that the room claimed to be, though Katie’s rational mind understood that the real dimensions were much more constrained.
The sun rose in fast forward, casting moving shadows from everything in the room. The illusion was no less convincing in daylight. June looked back towards her with a smile and a bounce, and held out her hand. “May I see your pad, miss?”
Katie handed it over, and June spent a moment fussing over it before handing it back. “You’re all registered! You should be able to control most of the fancy stuff by voice, and there’s a new section for habitation preferences if you prefer that. Think about what you use often! If you want us to come and add any switches or buttons or make any other kinds of changes, please just ask and we’ll be right with you!”
The disembodied voice of the dragoness rumbled through the room again. It literally shook the trees, though Katie suspected that was a special effect. “While you are, of course, free to get anybody to make any alterations you wish, I am free to devour you whole for denying me the opportunity to improve my art.”
Katie squinted into the distance, where she imagined the voice was coming from. “Is that actually true?”
The other floret—Sarah?—rolled her eyes from across the room. “Yes, but only if you look at it sideways. Mistress is flirting because she finds you cute. She won’t eat you unless you ask nicely, but we really would appreciate the chance to make any changes here that you can’t make yourself. We take pride in our art!” She seemed unusually level-headed for a human around these parts, fiddling with the side of a tree using something that looked like a paintbrush.
The disembodied voice rumbled with discontent. “Pet! Don’t you know it’s rude to play with my food?”
Sarah’s blush was immediately visible. Ah. Maybe not that level-headed, then. “I suppose you’ll just have to go hungry, then, won’t y—”
The door opened, and a stream of vines shot across the room, curled around Sarah’s body, and pulled her back out at rapid speed. Katie stepped back in alarm, but June didn’t even react.
“Is that normal?” Katie asked. Was this just how things were around here? Katie looked around at the impossible opulence that was apparently just being given to her, no questions asked, because she happened to exist, and tried to make it match up with the creatures that seemed incapable of behaving reasonably. A growing collection of giggles and laughs, one so low in pitch that the ground shook and the other unmistakably more human, drifted through the air until Sarah’s voice managed to pull together enough words to ask the computer to stop transmitting.
June nodded, with a soft smile. “We’ve been watching each other work for hours and it tends to get us a little worked up. I volunteered to actually walk you through the hab, though! I love getting to show this stuff off. It’s amazing how much better the affini are at building things than we were. Is this your first hab unit?”
Katie wrinkled a little at the ‘we’. It was hardly inaccurate, but if Katie was going to get a fresh start, she wanted it to be real. “Would you mind avoiding… human words with me? It’s kind of a sore point.”
Was she going to have to explain that to everyone she met? June agreed easily enough, with a quick smile and no sign of judgement, but ugh. Regardless, Katie nodded. “Thank you. This is my first day on any affini ship, assume I know nothing.”
June’s eyes went wide, and she spent a moment doing some kind of little dance with her hands before grabbing something out of a pocket that seemed analogous to Katie’s own communicator. She tapped a few buttons, then stared at the screen for a moment before glancing back up.
“So okay! We got into this a couple years ago after Mistress picked us up and started teaching us more about art, because it’s so much fun for us all to get to work on these little projects. Or, kinda big actually with yours, but that just made it more fun.” She looked back towards the screen. “So, okay, um. The standard Affini Habitation Unit is one of those things that just seems stupidly obvious in hindsight.”
She flipped the screen around to show Katie some kind of diagram. A hexagon, about as tall as it was wide, with a whole bunch of annotated symbols dotted around it. “The outside shell is part of the, uh, the Elettarium, but the hab itself is an independent construction that’s partially self-sufficient and partially relies on the ship for like, power and stuff. With the door closed we’re actually totally separate from the outside! That’s super cool, because it means that so long as we build something the right shape and size with the connectors in all the right places we can do whatever we want inside!”
She tapped the screen and it played a little animation of a kind of cutaway effect, showing the insides of the hexagon being a cozy little apartment.
“Because we didn’t have all that long, we had the atomic compilers put together a pretty standard shell with all the usual options. Don’t try to take it into space alone for more than a couple hours because the batteries will run dry, and there was only mounting space for one residential atomic compiler, but honestly the default option is about as good as it gets unless you’re looking for something super specialised! If you wanna let ship noise in then that’s all configurable, but for the moment we’re pretty isolated from the outside world. No noise, uh, separate life support so you can put whatever you want into the air, and all of the water’ll get recycled. That kind of thing.”
June spoke at a rapid pace, almost stumbling over herself with clear enthusiasm that, as far as Katie could tell, was shying away from the important stuff.
Katie blinked rapidly and interrupted. “I’m sorry, I think I’m misunderstanding. I was… kind of expecting a room or something in a shared area or a communal bunk. How many people live in this?”
June tilted her head to the side. “That’s your decision! I assume at least one—you—but if you want to live with others then, like… it’s your hab, right?”
Katie looked around. She literally couldn’t even tell how large it was because the walls were magic. “All of it? Or is there a room in here that’s mine?”
“Wow, this really is your first day, huh? You don’t mean that you used to live on one of the colony worlds, you’re actually totally new here?” June raised her eyebrows. “How did you even get here, aren’t we… there was a space thing, I think, aren’t we really far away?”
A space thing? It seemed almost unbelievable to Katie that anybody on board a spaceship couldn’t be constantly aware of what was going on, never mind not aware of what surely must have been an emergency. “Yeah, I kind of got us pulled out here, sorry. I didn’t mean to cause any kind of emergency, or… I guess I did, actually, but…”
Katie looked down at the apparently literal dirt under her feet. She’d wanted to destroy this ship. She’d wanted to kill everybody aboard. Thatch. Glochi. Rosaceae. Erica. Angel. Zona, Xylem, and Lily. June and Sarah, too. How many more? Hundreds? Thousands? People who had done nothing to her. She’d imagined this ship as a military vessel filled with weapons and soldiers and somehow it had been easier to rationalise wanting it destroyed then, as if those soldiers wouldn’t have been real people too. As if it somehow became right to end the lives of creatures older than her civilisation because they were trying to give her something like this.
Katie took a deep breath and blinked away a tear. “I’m sorry,” she said, looking back up at June’s blurry face. “I didn’t know what you were like. I… I was desperate and I thought that if I could just make the tiniest bit of difference then maybe it’d all have been worth it, but I didn’t know what you were like, I promise.”
June looked taken aback for a moment, but quickly hurried over and began to gently pull Katie across the room. They wandered past a couple of trees towards some kind of artificial cave. It evoked a natural aesthetic, but was clearly something constructed, with a little wooden staircase leading to a raised platform that seemed to contain seating and some things much like tables or raised platforms.
They didn’t head up that staircase, though. Instead, they walked past it and entered the cave itself, where the lighting was dim and the seating was much more cozy. Katie could feel herself relaxing just from being there, cut off from the rest of the universe apparently as literally as it could be. June sat her down on what seemed to be literally a beanbag chair, then pushed a second over and sat alongside. She leaned against Katie’s side in a way that would have felt overly familiar, were they not so far beyond Terran society that Katie wasn’t sure whether those boundaries even applied any more.
“Capitalism was a bitch, huh?” June asked, with a grin. “The war, too, but like… none of us knew why we were fighting. The propaganda was really good and we were all so desperate already that it was easy to fall prey to it. Don’t worry, I get it. We all did shitty things and they understand and don’t hold it against us. If it helps, I don’t think you actually caused much of an emergency. I don’t really follow along with ship news but the only reason I even knew about it before today was because we’re having to wait a bit longer for Rinan memes. We did have a busy hour or so this morning making sure everything was tied down ready for us to do real gravity for a bit, but most of that was just Eri complaining that she didn’t have time to swap out whatever lets her fly for something that would work in real gravity and she’s feeling a little grounded.”
Katie groaned. “Yeah, I’ve had the whole speech, I guess. There was never any chance that I’d hurt you. Didn’t even scratch the paint, probably. I still tried? It feels shitty. If I could’ve, I’d have killed you for no good reason.”
June nodded. For a moment, it seemed like her joyous veneer might slip, and reveal the trick beneath, that she was human after all. Her smile never faltered. “No big deal, I forgive you. Goddess, yeah, I get it! It’s been a couple years for me but I only stopped having nightmares about putting screws into big guns when Mistress banned me from thinking about them for a while.”
June nodded, solemnly. “Before Eri rescued me, yeah. The, uh, what was it… Terran Cosmic Navy Screw Fab 851. Specifically, uh…” She paused, and then her grin grew twice as wide. “I can’t remember what kind of screw any more! Take that, Capitalism!”
“Huh. I think I had a box of those nestled away next to the drive core on the Indomitable. Thanks, I guess?” Katie shrugged. June shrugged too, and laughed, which proved contagious. The pair of them giggled for long moments before finally falling silent.
June broke the silence with a happy sigh. “Most things around here are grown, compiled, or totally handmade. I don’t think there’s a mass-produced screw in the entire ship. We might actually be the furthest from a screw any ex-Terran Accord citizens have ever been because of how far out you took us. Thanks!”
“You’re welcome?” Katie laughed. It wasn’t easy to forget that she was speaking to property, but somewhat uncomfortably Katie was finding it easier to talk to a possession than she ever had a full, independent human being. “Was this, uh, ‘hab’ grown or compiled?”
The object shook her head. “Handmade! Which, I guess to get back on topic for a moment, uh, you’re just gonna get given everything. Get used to it. The sooner you stop asking questions the better, honestly, unless you’re feeling cuddly. Most of the people around here love explaining how impressive they are, but not like, in a bad way? It isn’t egotism, they’re just… really enthusiastic about helping out.”
Katie knew that she should hold it in. It was rude to bring it up, wasn’t it? To burst the perfect little picture that June was painting. “Except one of them owns you, June.”
June nodded rapidly. “Yeah! It’s grea— waaaait no you’re new here, you mean that as a bad thing, don’t you?” Katie nodded. “It’s… nice? I’m sure you’ll get along just fine even if you don’t have an owner, but for me, it’s… I don’t have to worry about anything any more? I know that if I wanted new clothes then they’d just give them to me, but this way I don’t even have to think about it. Mistress picks my wardrobe, makes sure I get enough sleep and that I eat properly, makes sure I’m keeping up with my hobbies but also that I’m not doing them too much and not giving myself the time to rest I need. She helps me pick out new ones, too, so that I don’t get bored, and makes sure I have goals and stuff to work towards.”
June sighed happily, leaning over to rest her head on Katie’s shoulder. “I’m happy. Truly, honestly happy. If there’s even the slightest thing in my life that isn’t fulfilling and wonderful, all I have to do is say and she fixes it, but most of the time I don’t even need to do that because she made sure it wasn’t a problem before I even noticed. I’m sitting in a cave that I modeled off of some cool photographs I took on an alien planet that I got to build into an awesome home together with those I love, and we just get to give it to you, and I literally don’t have a worry in the world. It’s not even right to say that the last couple of years have been the happiest of my life because I don’t really even feel like my life started until I met her. I guess the old me would have said that being hers was a small price to pay, but it isn’t. I’m lucky to be Erica’s. If I could keep everything else while becoming independent, I wouldn’t.”
Katie might have thought that the speech had been rehearsed, but it was given with a breathless enthusiasm with plenty of pauses where June’s tongue outran her head and she had to scramble to catch up. If it wasn’t completely off the cuff, then June was the best actor Katie had ever seen.
“Also, the sex is amazing, and no I will not elaborate. You have to see it for yourself to understand.” The floret winked at her. Was this a proposition? Was this flirting? Katie’s blush did a terrible job at helping her act like she was any better than the blushing mess beside her at all.
“I’ll, uh, I’ll pass,” Katie admitted. “Not that I don’t appreciate it! I’ve just never really been into all that physical stuff.”
June nodded rapidly. “I get! You’re always welcome to come hang out or whatever, too!”
Maybe everyone around here was full on, affini and human both. Probably the non-humans, too. Katie gave a slightly strained laugh. “You don’t even know me, June.”
“Hanging out is how we’d fix that! Sorry, I forget what it’s like to be, uh… sober, am I being too much?”
Katie shrugged. “It’s been a long day, is all. You’re fine, I’m tired. Maybe let’s finish the tour and hang out some other time?”
“Sure! Uh, you can find all the specifications for the hab shell if you’re interested, but it shouldn’t really matter unless you want to move to a different part of the ship, or a different ship entirely. This is yours now, but you’ve been assigned an address based on making sure you’re close to any registered friends and in walking distance to any essential services you’ll need access to, but it’s your hab, do what you want with it. You might have to organise a swap if you want a specific address, but people around here are pretty easygoing, I think.”
June shrugged, scratching the back of her neck. “Making decisions isn’t really my area, but they seem easygoing to me, anyway. Wow, I’m rambling a lot. Okay! We got a scout drone sent down to the surface so we could make sure to get the details right. The dirt isn’t actually dirt, but it should look and behave almost identically, except it won’t get stuck in things and get tracked everywhere and you won’t have to do anything to keep it soft. The trees are really trees, though, we got samples taken and called in some favours in the botanical gardens to get them flash-cloned in time. Same deal, though, the hab should broadly take care of itself. If you plant anything else then you’ll either need to water it or go into the preferences and add them to the auto-maintenance list, depending on whether you like watering plants.”
June raised to her feet and offered a hand to help Katie up. “We were working from some new standards we got a little while back, so please do tell us if anything doesn’t work right, but I think you should find everything very usable! Stuff is scaled so it’s okay for ex-Terran Accord folk, but if you have any affini friends over they should be fine too. They won’t fit inside the cave without compressing, but that’s okay, it’s meant to be a cozy little retreat.”
Katie was guided out into the larger open space. “The main area here is just a big open space for you to do whatever with, really. The platform on top of the cave there should put you nearly at head level with most affini, save you straining your neck. The walls and ceiling are just us showing off, I don’t know if you’ll actually want to keep them like this.”
June spent a moment tapping her pad, and the hexagonal grid reappeared over the true bounds of the room. She tapped again, and the effect faded entirely. Katie could see that the cave was built partially into one wall, leaving the regular bounds of the room, and that there were actually several doors leading out of what she’d already considered an unreasonably massive space. The ‘real’ walls of the room were a pleasant cream with a soft texture. The external door to the unit was large and looked quite imposing, but the internal doors seemed to be in two parts. One small section about Katie’s size, and then another, much larger outer section that would fit anything smaller than Erica herself.
“Obviously feel free to do whatever you want with any of this. Most simple pattern or texture stuff the walls will just do, and anything more complicated you should still be able to get done. Over on the other side here we have the kitchen-y bit. We weren’t sure how hard to go on the theme, so if you don’t like it then just say and we’ll come swap it out with something more usual!”
June was gesturing over to something that on first inspection had seemed just like a pile of rocks, but with the walls no longer complicating the illusion it was fairly easy to pick out what was going on. Flat rocks made for a wide kitchen surface set around something that seemed to look like a fireplace, but was really some kind of combination oven/hob, for if anything needed heating. A large boulder simply opened up to reveal something that bore superficial resemblance to a refrigerator, except that it wasn’t cold.
“Stasis unit,” June explained. “Literally the best thing in this room, if you cook, I think. Keeps things as they are when you put them in. Cold stuff stays cold, hot stuff stays hot. It’ll still do temperature changes if you want, but that doesn’t really come up much. Probably use that or the fireplace to heat stuff up, I don’t think you’d be able to set any actual fires in here, there’s a… thingy about that. I dunno, I don’t start many fires.”
June skipped over to the kitchen wall and flicked a few of the switches. They moved with a sharp, satisfying snap. “The switches are all reprogrammable, but they should do about what you expect, I think. Except this one.” June pressed her finger against the rightmost switch in a bank of three, by the stasis unit. “This one doesn’t do anything. They’re way too satisfying to press not to have one you can click whenever.”
Next, she pointed towards a little recessed box set into the kitchen wall. “Atomic Compiler. I don’t know how it works, please don’t ask, just tell it to make you something and it’ll make it. If it’s food or drink it’ll usually come with plates or glasses or whatever and you can configure what type you like if you want. Stick them back in when you’re done and it’ll decompile what’s left over. It’s whatever.”
Katie could feel her eyes bulging. “It’s whatever? June, I think you’ve just described the most ridiculously useful thing I’ve ever heard of.”
The girl shrugged. “I guess? I don’t think anyone really uses them unless they’re in a rush. Half the units we’ve made people specifically asked not to have one.”
“Oh, because of the rationing? The captain mentioned you were short on supplies.” Katie sighed. There always had to be a catch. Get access to a magic box that could create anything, but she couldn’t use it.
June, however, only frowned. “What? No, there’s just no romance in atomically perfect sandwiches or whatever. You can get fresh ingredients brought in from the gardens where they actually grow them and every one tastes a little bit different, or go ask the registry who’s cooking for folks that day, I guess? I dunno, do I look like I get to decide what to eat?” She laughed, then raised a finger to her throat and snapped her cloth choker against her neck. “I just know that we only do compiled stuff if we’re in a really big rush.”
Katie let out a whimper. They had access to perfect replication and they didn’t even use it? Just one of those machines would have revolutionised all of Terran culture. Certainly it would also have started a series of bitter and pointless wars over who got to control it, so maybe it was good that this wasn’t technology humanity had ever reached.
June continued on, skipping over to one of the internal doors. As she went, she pointed out seating and sofas dotted around the room. “I know this is probably more than you need, but just tell us which ones you like and if you’d like the others swapped out or removed. There’s like, twenty different combinations of textures here, from things that feel like Terran standbys to modern alien stuff, so just find whatever you like best and tell us about it.”
She paused and pointed out the river. Katie blinked. She’d assumed that that was part of the illusion, but a river a couple feet wide did actually separate off about a fifth of the floor space and one of the doors. “Eri wasn’t sure about this one, but we convinced her. The water’ll be good for your fish, and it’s constantly getting cycled around and kept clean and healthy. Drinkable, I guess, if that’s your thing. We can take it out if you like, and there’s a lot of sound dampening stuff so you can make the, like, flowing water noise louder or quieter. Uh, it’ll drain pretty quick if you fall in, though not so far your fish will have trouble, but you’ll still get wet, so try not to fall in?”
She reached the door at the far side of the room and pulled it open by the handle, which was equally as prominent on the internal doors as it had been on the external ones. “Bathroom! It’s a bathroom. I think you know what to expect.” She closed the door and moved on. “Bedroom! We only had space for two of these, so I’m afraid if you don’t like the texture you’ll have to change your own sheets. I mean, I guess you could ask us to do it, but…”
June kept talking, but Katie didn’t hear it. She walked into the room, where tasteful lighting gently rose to meet her. She didn’t look at that, either. She sat on the bed and looked out the window as Dirt’s local star rose over the horizon, casting long shadows with deep orange light over the tops of the trees far below. The glass, or whatever it was, was so clear that Katie could have been looking out of a hole straight through the hull. June eventually seemed to realise Katie wasn’t listening, and just moved to sit beside her.
“Actually, do you mind if I get a photograph? I don’t have my good camera, but this is beautiful.” Katie glanced over to find the human almost as entranced as she was. It was beautiful. She gestured for June to go ahead and she raised her own little handheld communicator to snap a few pictures before sitting back down.
“One of the other doors is storage space, if you need it. There’s a spare bedroom if you want guests. The last room is just empty, do whatever you like with it. All the walls are movable, though probably you’ll want us involved for that, there’s quite a lot going on behind the scenes here. But, uh, yeah. Wow, I’ve been talking for a while, huh?”
Katie smiled. She wasn’t sure what to make of June, but as far as first impressions for a human possession went, it was unexpectedly positive. This wasn’t a toy kept around for novelty, or an ego-stroking tool for the plant who owned her. June seemed just as alive and vibrant as anybody she’d ever met. More, even.
“I appreciate the tour, thank you. If it’s okay, I think I’d like some time to settle in. I’ll… message you later, I guess?” Katie gave June a slightly wider, slightly tighter, smile.
June nodded a few times. “Probably message Mistress, though? What I spend my time doing isn’t really any of my business, is it?” She grinned, then made her way to the exit. The external door slid open, momentarily allowing in gentle sounds of life from the outside world before they were cut off again by the gentle whoosh of a closing door.
Katie spent a moment with her communicator. She was this habitat’s registered owner now and it was a matter of moments to engage a privacy mode. Sound dampening in both directions, external door locked to all, excepting if there was an emergency that required it be otherwise. The cameras, microphones, and speakers that Erica had called into were already set to require permission to turn back on, but in privacy mode Katie wouldn’t even get asked for that permission unless the caller indicated it was important.
She sat. For the first time in a very, very long while, Katie was alone. She’d made it. Katie suspected that she could stay inside without unlocking the door for a long time before anybody would get pushy. It was everything she’d wanted for years on end and more besides. This was luxury that would have been unimaginable mere weeks ago.
Katie spent a few minutes aimlessly poking around the habitat preferences section of her communicator. There was a lot she could change, but nothing that really seemed to need changing. She looked elsewhere. She could do everything from play music, movies, or documentaries; she could read books, or play games; she could access scientific knowledge, philosophy, history, and art; and all from a thousand thousand civilisations. It was riches without compare. Resources that many in the Terran Accord would have gladly died for just a chance at touching were simply given to her without question or restriction, beyond that only a fraction of the library had been translated into English.
Katie stared blankly at a list of things she could do that may literally have been infinitely long for several long moments before falling backwards onto the bed.
This was everything she’d always wanted? Why did it feel so empty?
Katie looked back to her communicator and investigated the messaging section. She deliberately ignored the growing number next to the ‘recieved’ tab and opened a new session. After a few attempts at correctly spelling “Aquae”, Katie had a message window open with Thatch.
Before she could send a message, it asked her for a display name. Finally, something she didn’t need make a decision for.
katieflower: hey, how r u? u seemed a little frazzled earlier, u good?
katieflower: ive had the whole tour from june and now im just kind of here
katieflower: wanna come over after ur thing? there are so many things here & i’d love to know how they work lol
katieflower: june was nice but she didn’t know much about the details
katieflower: also wow the view from these windows is amazing, u should come see!!
katieflower: also the whole hab is like, youve gotta see this!!
Katie set down the device and stared out of the window. Occasionally, she checked back to see if she’d gotten a response. She hadn’t. After a little while, it became Elettarium night. The hab lighting dimmed, the window attenuated, and Katie very soon fell into a light and faltering sleep.