“…it is, how you say? Quite stimulating! I admit, I was worried. I had heard from my family it could be a quite dangerous job. But I have had no complaints so far. And my service is quite fast, yes?”
You’ve arrived early to class, so you waste no time in getting another opportunity to talk to the pale Nordic cutie Irma once again. (E-er, maybe you shouldn’t think of her like that!) She’s as easy to get along with as ever~
“You haven’t had any trouble with speed cameras?” you joke.
“Driving is in the blood, Cibele!” Irma gets a proud, almost smug look on her face – it seems this is a talent she’s quite proud of! “I may now drive a mere scooter, but the city streets are no match for my skills. Ah, but I was wondering…why are there no orders from the Electric City? I pass by and through it frequently, yet no one seems interested…”
“Oh, that’s easy! That part of town’s separated itself from Sunset’s service network. They’ll have their own courier systems and drones, completely apart from the one you’re using.”
“I see…” Irma nods in thought – it’s only natural someone who just arrived wouldn’t necessarily know all the local politics. “That explains why I was told to avoid that place, yes? Oh…who are you texting, by the way, Cibele?”
“Uh…friend of mine,” you say, vaguely – you’re talking to Stella right now, actually! She’s still pretty curt, but that’s understandable; you’re still not totally clear on what her relationship to you is right now. “Just booking a study date with her, is all!”
Irma blinks, and gets a cute little smile, but also a playful and teasing one…”A ‘study date’, you say? Ah, but does not ‘date’ refer to a romantic entanglement, Cibele?”
“I-it’s completely innocent, probably! Mouuu…” Irma keeps teasing you! She seems all soft and shy, but she does like to push your buttons. “I’m trying to help with her Psychology grades.”
“Ah…are you a student of psychology, Cibele?”
“It’s just a sixth form class.” You wave it off, putting your phone back in your purse once the details are confirmed. Korri’s given you a spot that should be good for the date, which won’t be romantic, you’re certain…
“Mmmmm. My degree was in history, actually. I was considering going for a doctorate, but I decided I wanted to spend more time in the countryside. Between racing and hunting, my passions felt like something a city couldn’t provide, yes?”
…wait, what? Hunting? Mouuu, that’s –
and before you can finish that thought, the door slams right open.
“Sorry I’m late.”
High heels click on the floor as your eyes turn to the entrance.
A girl in a Pedersen College uniform, sans jacket, black tie loose, top blouse buttons open. Protected by an absolute territory, black skirt and black thigh-highs with that barest hint of skin upon her legs.
Shimmering silver hair, streaming down her back, with just the faintest hint of lavender; long and straight with curls right at the tips, tied in place with a big burgundy bow on the left side of her head, glints of golden hairpins barely peeking from beneath. Flashing and dangling from her ear is some kind of glowing purple earring, and as she turns toward you – not simply the class, but you – you gaze along her moonlight-like skin, her deep violet eyes, and realize just as you breathe deep some kind of shockingly pleasant perfume…
(“uuuwooooaaaahhhh!” goes the crowd…)
It is! It’s Rita Sternbach, in the flesh!
And with her violet gaze firmly locked upon you behind those thick glasses of hers, Rita tosses back her hair with her left hand in a single, smooth, perfect motion, shimmering silver cascading behind her like the mist from a waterfall…
“Welcome back, everyone. Shall we begin today’s lesson?”
you breathe deep, and wonder, knowing without needing a hint of telepathy that this was for you, how such a simple makeover can completely transform a person.
“…I think I might be gay,” you whisper.
“But Cibele,” says Irma, sounding utterly flabbergasted before Rita, “you are already gay!”
“I think I might be double gay.”
“…of course, in the late Reiwa era, especially in cities like Southern Sun, a lot of these attitudes have fallen by the wayside,” Rita explains in her lecture, as she tosses off her tie, adjusting her blouse to expose just the faintest hint of décolletage; her eyes, of course, are still flitting right toward you. It’s another tangent, but…
“If I look out at the class…” Rita smiles to herself, removing her glasses and wiping them down with a cloth from her front blouse pocket. “Well, I won’t cast aspersions on anyone’s gender identity – besides to say, ‘you can be a girl too!’ – but at a glance it seems much more balanced than I’d expect of a class from even twenty years earlier.”
it’s a substantially more relevant one, at least? You think. It’s kind of hard to focus, or perhaps it’s all too easy to focus – just on the wrong thing. (You two seem to be having most of the trouble, actually; everyone else is nodding and observing the truth of Rita’s words.)
“But it still crops up from time to time. I used to hang out with the kind of people who assumed that biological sex was an automatic determinant of one’s capacities in STEM fields, and equally inextricable with gender identity – and believe me, I do not miss them one bit. But we also face stereotype threat, too, and fear our own inability to compete. With this in mind, I thought I’d address such things directly before we get into the practical lessons of today’s class.”
All this is to say…well. You and Irma are, uh, having a bit of trouble looking away.
You’ve been rather flustered this whole time, and it’s hard to concentrate on anything but how pretty she is.
Irma? She looks like this is the first woman she’s ever seen. Her jaw seems like it’s going to drop off her face any second.
“In previous eras, gender was inextricable from labour. Societies strictly separated labour on gender lines – almost always to the detriment of women, particularly in Western nations. So what happens when you invent an entirely new class of labour, with no precedent for its place in society?”
Are you staring too much? You’re not a little kid anymore! Seriously, the only woman who gets you like this is Seul-ki, and you’re pretty sure your teacher’s not doing it on purpose.
But there’s no way, there’s just no way Rita Sternbach isn’t doing it just for you.
“Certainly, women have played important roles in the emergence of new methods of transportation, particularly personal transportation. Bicycles, automobiles…this can be seen most famously in the early history of aviation, with people like Amelia Earhart or Katherine Sui Fun Cheung becoming involved in such a novel field. First- and second-wave feminism is inextricably linked with such acts of autonomy.”
Rita taps her phone – which she apparently kept in her cleavage aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa – and a comic shows up, apparently showing Katherine Sui Fun Cheung playing beach volleyball with the guys from Top Gun. (You’re pretty sure they’re old Canadian comics, Aunt Junon showed you – er, wait.)
m-maybe you should focus more on Rita – er, wait, no, the lesson! This is completely backwards!
“In the following decades, the field of ‘computer science’ was effectively invented whole cloth from nowhere. I mean, that’s an oversimplification, but it’s good enough for our purposes. The theory of computing and the hardware was glamorous work, but the actual grunt work of programming? That was seen as secretarial work – to be handed off to women, no matter how much these women might be doing to advance the field in their own right.”
How can a single makeover do so much to transform a woman? Rita’s still got the same face – she’s not wearing any makeup, you note, but she still looks utterly flawless, as if she were an airbrushed photo come to life – and nothing’s changed about her body, or her outfit. Just the hair, really…she didn’t even take off her glasses, so that old Heisei movie trick can’t even explain it. Sure, the LED earring is pretty, but it’s not hypnotic or anything, and even if it were, that’d just be impossible.
You breathe in that lovely scent, and as her eyes meet yours…in just a moment, just a fleeting moment, you get the chance to use your telepathy –
…seems like my ‘makeover’ has worked. Cibele has definitely noticed. So has everyone else, but I can deal with that. Besides, Irma might come in handy…
– and yes, just as you thought, she did it just for you aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa
Another tap from Rita, and the smartboard behind her shows a black and white picture of two women next to a primitive, Showa-era mainframe computer. “This is Betty Jean Jennings, on the left…and Fran Bilas, on the right. Two of the six primary programmers of the ENIAC, one of the very first computers in existence; this particular picture was taken sometime in between Showa 20 and Showa 22. Working without precedent, without programming languages of any kind, through manual rewiring to create new problems for the ENIAC to solve…they performed their task brilliantly, developing a powerful understanding of the machine’s workings that surpassed even its engineers. But said engineers were recognized as the ‘true’ brains behind ENIAC, with the women considered to be doing work that was best left to them – work that was not worth recognition.” Her face curls in disgust at the misogyny, and even that seems appealing, somehow…
It doesn’t help that the way she moves just exudes beauty. Step by perfect step, flawless and smooth, as if she could simply tap into an inherent power of womanhood to attract lesbians to her. Irma’s honestly babbling a bit, between deep and heavy breaths (oh no, is she anxious?); her notes are all in Finnish, but the amount of times she writes ‘Rita’ in smooth, flowing handwriting with that mechanical pencil, let alone how her hands shake, suggests she’s not even remotely thinking of the lesson right now.
(Honestly, she might have heart eyes, if you could see them clearly right next to her…oh, wait, wait, she’s writing down Cibele too aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa)
“Of course, computers became the field in the coming decades.” Rita tosses her shoulders and shakes her head. “And thus, such an important field couldn’t be left to women, obviously. Even today, the names that come to mind in the history of computing are men – Bill Gates, Steve Wozniak, John Carmack – and of course I don’t diminish their contributions, except Carmack because fuck ‘im, but many of the greatest programmers of all time, working on the most important projects of their day, were women. Let’s talk about a few, shall we?”
Like this, you can see Rita’s got a necklace on, what you think might be a tiny pocketwatch on a silvery chain, and every so often she moves and fidgets with it in a way that draws the eye toward it. Right down her shirt. Your eyes latch on like a magnet when she does.
Another tap, and a new photo, this time in color, of a distinguished old American woman with a proud smile in a military uniform. “Grace Hopper, Rear Admiral of the United States Navy. In a time when the entire concept of a ‘programming language’ was nonexistent, she created some of the very first – making programming a computer a task that virtually anyone could learn. Her work led to the creation of COBOL, one of the world’s most widespread languages in the days of the mainframe and minicomputer; legends say that even a century after its creation, there are still machines running COBOL code out there in the world, maintained by those few who still know that archaic, but infinitely important, programming language.”
You hope that your enhanced Intelligence and Adaptability will allow you to actually retain this information, since it sounds quite interesting, and yet you can’t help but wonder – was Rita’s blouse always this tight? Is there a faint hint of transparency about it, or are you just imagining what must lie underneath?
The next picture returns to black and white; another American (does Rita have some pride for her ancestral home?), with messy hair and big round glasses, grinning brightly as she stands next to a pile of papers and binders as tall as she is. “Margaret Hamilton. A lead programmer on one of the most important computing tasks of the Showa era and the First Cold War – the Apollo 11 mission.”
(Despite yourself, you look toward Nazakawa-kun – but apparently even he wouldn’t deny the moon landing.)
“With computing power only a tiny fraction of what we have even in our watches today, using the most primitive space launch technologies, Hamilton’s programs helped us reach the surface of the moon, keep astronauts in a space station in Skylab…and begin our journey, slow as it might be, into the high frontier.”
The high frontier, where souls don’t need to be bound by gravity…and neither do breasts…
Seriously. Rita’s breasts are unfair. They practically defy gravity already!
“And finally…” Rita grins, baring her gleaming teeth – she looks excited, and not just because of you. “My personal favorite.”
The next photo is not a photo, but a painting; a portrait of a fair-skinned woman with coiffed brown locks, rosy cheeks, and an alluring gaze. Both her hair and her clothes are adorned with yellow and black flowers, her dress a gorgeous purple, her white-gloved fingers daintily holding what looks like a fan in both hands.
“Augusta Ada King, née Byron, Countess of Lovelace – or Ada Lovelace, as you would more likely know her. A correspondent of Charles Babbage in the late Edo period, whose mind Babbage considered the most brilliant he’d ever known. Her insight – one might consider it uniquely feminine, if one believed in such things! – was what opened up the idea that computers could do more than simple arithmetic. She saw potential in Babbage’s plans for his Analytical Engine even he could not, and she developed the first algorithm meant to be calculated by a computer…effectively, she was the first computer programmer, long before even the earliest of true computers were built.”
It’s obvious just from looking at Rita that this woman has deeply inspired her. Her eyes light up so wonderfully as she continues: “So what is it about her insight might be considered uniquely ‘feminine’, you might ask? Well, many of the reasons men dominated computing was this idea that they were inherently superior at logical and rational thinking, and fields like mathematics. The kind of work that required hard and manly stoicism and automation, not fussy female emotions.
“But, Countess Lovelace didn’t consider mathematics in that way. A quote, if I may…
“‘I may remark that the curious transformations many formulae can undergo, the unsuspected and to a beginner apparently impossible identity of forms exceedingly dissimilar at first sight, is I think one of the chief difficulties in the early part of mathematical studies. I am often reminded of certain sprites and fairies one reads of, who are at one’s elbows in one shape now, and the next minute in a form most dissimilar…’
“I knew a lot of friends – former friends, that is – who truly believed that humans, and women, driven by ‘emotion’ and ‘the social sciences’, women who couldn’t understand true vision while they argued for equal pay or respect or not being sexually harassed, could never achieve the true potential of humanity’s future. That each person’s place – and they would never admit it outright, but this is the implication – was defined rigidly by biology and culture. If women weren’t as interested in technology…why, it’s because they don’t want to be, and they’re not suited to it! Not even going to get into something like choosing to be a woman…
“But, if it’s me…I always found beauty, in such a statement. Maybe not in a literal sense, but I do believe something like, ‘magic and miracles do exist’.” …she’s looking at you, right? She’s definitely looking at you aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa “With that in mind, I quite agree with Ada’s view of things. The magic, the grandeur of computers and of technology is a beauty all its own, as great as any woman might have.”
Rita’s eyes are pointed right at you, and you can just feel the attraction and desire emanating from that dense and vast singularity, like a beam of Hawking radiation made exclusively of love, and you hope you’re using that term correctly, you wouldn’t want to disappoint her –
Oh. Oh no. That’s Nazakawa-kun’s hand, isn’t it.
“…um, but,” he mutters, not waiting to be told, “uh, surely you can’t consider someone a computer programmer if they had no computers to run it and it was all theoretical, right?”
The whole class, despite having only met Nazakawa-kun last week, all know what’s coming. It’s a mere fact of the universe: you can’t move faster than light, every action has an equal and opposite reaction…
and Nazakawa-kun is always wrong.
Rita shakes her head, clearly having no time for this shit. “In every era, particularly in the so-called ‘Victorian era’ of nationalist zeal and imperialistic hubris, historians have tried to diminish the contributions of women, minorities, commoners, and really anyone not properly accepted by the zeitgeist. Even when they are not erased outright, parts of their lives are erased nonetheless, like Alan Turing’s sexuality – because obviously, chemically castrating and driving to suicide the man who practically won the war against Nazi fucking Germany is a sensible thing to do if he’s gay, right?
“To claim that Countess Lovelace’s contributions are somehow diminished for such arbitrary reasons when Charles Babbage himself considered her one of the most brilliant people he’d ever known is a lot like saying, ‘What? No, she can’t be, she’s just a girl, right?’”
…somehow, you get the sense that Rita isn’t giving the full story.
And yet –
something about her absolute conviction, her passion, her willingness to push as far as she can go for what she wants…
(you can’t help but be a little jealous.)
(she’s so confident in her own womanhood…)
“What about evidence in Babbage’s notes –”
“Be that as it may, and you’d have to get into an argument about the definitions of ‘program’, since you’re going to need to address whether an algorithm is intended for a computer or not and then you have to go much, much earlier into previous models of automata and algorithms, not to mention that those notes were never published to begin with, you are diminishing her contributions and the potential she realized what others saw as mere machines, mere replacements for the human ‘computer’, could accomplish!
“The potential for the computer as more than a tool for the calculation of numbers is the very underpinning of modern society! The idea that mathematical calculations within an analytical engine could encompass a far greater purpose than it was ever intended to have is the one she had first! Indeed, despite her stance on artificial minds and artificial intelligence, she still believed that the brain could be modeled in mathematical form, that she could model how the physical model of the brain and the nerves turned to thoughts, and then to feelings, a calculus of the nervous system! This kind of modeling is what underpins the neural network and theories of artificial intelligence! Her statements on how the Engine could model music are reflected in the mathematical coding of audio that would, well over fifty years later, become realized with the advent of pulse-code modulation, the very same model we use to reproduce audio two centuries after her death!
“To focus on the mere shibboleth of whether she literally first came up with an algorithm made for a computer misses the forest for the trees. Babbage himself called her ‘the Enchantress of Number’; he designed the Difference and Analytical Engines, why should we try to belittle her accomplishments if he himself was suitably impressed? Unless you believe that obviously, a man couldn’t be impressed by a woman without sexual overtones? Perhaps she never had the chance to realize any of this, but the greatest talents in the field are recognized as ingenuity. In fact, let’s turn that around – Carmack. Binary space partitioning. First described in Showa 44. Guess he’s not so much a genius after all, is he?!”
…yeah, it would be flippant to say ‘do you want to have sex with Ada Lovelace’, wouldn’t it?
But, despite the cavalcade of opinionated data, undoubtedly tinged with bias and an agenda that seems blatantly obvious even to you…well, there’s something attractive about all that passion, isn’t there? It’s as if, someone who is quiet and withdrawn can only bloom when challenged, and their passionate feelings explode out uncontrollably, just waiting to be released and daring to be answered. It’s a lot like Aunt Vesta, really; even when you disagree, there is just something to be loved about it, isn’t there…?
(Besides. It’s Nazakawa-kun. Honestly, with how often he gets bullied by girls, you’re starting to wonder if he might be doing it on purpose.)
I-in any case, now is the time to impress Rita! You remember doing a report on Ada Lovelace five years ago or so…and you failed that paper, but never mind that! “Ada Lovelace didn’t believe that artificial intelligence was a valid concept, though. You obviously disagree with her in that case, right?”
“This is true! I’d say it’s a matter of the design concepts of the engines Babbage designed being automata; ultimately, though Ada had many insights, she could not have anticipated the implications of all of them. Her conception of ‘artificial intelligence’ was precluded by the deterministic nature of the Analytical Engine; the underpinnings of what we now understand as AI would require a theoretical underpinning that didn’t exist in her era. That said, it follows that if you could model the brain to the degree she desires, you could simulate it as well…perhaps, then, the brain model was itself seen as deterministic? You’ve given me something to think about, Cibele!
“But I can admire someone without necessarily agreeing with all of their views, you know?” Rita smoothly tosses her hair back again, gaze firmly locked upon you once more – her target. “Though, I think compatibility is important, too…”
…your ears are burning. T-this is…she’s flirting, right? She’s flirting. With you. T-this is the first time, and it’s just, an intoxicating feeling that you wonder how you’ll ever get tired of…
Double gay. Triple gay. There might not be enough times you can be turned gay to explain the feeling pounding through your chest…
and if Rita is a black hole, you’ve already crossed the event horizon.
As it turns out, this test was of typing speed. Yours topped the list of the class (thanks, Dexterity!), and those who didn’t meet the threshold (which turned out to be maybe half the class – you think the threshold was a bit high) were told to use typing tutor software to help them catch up.
This is what Irma’s doing now, while you perform some mildly interesting programming task on your own screen. (Which, uh, you’re done. Maybe you remembered more of those classes than you thought?) And Irma, to her credit, is making incredibly rapid progress – once she’s figured out the concept behind touch typing, she’s able to very quickly go through the various exercises and memorize the keyboard layout.
Seems like she’s just a bit tech-deprived, but darn if she isn’t quick on the uptake. As such, the two of you have started talking again, over the clack of your keys…
“I do pride myself on my marksmanship, you know,” says Irma. “I trained as a paratrooper during my service.”
“Ah, you know, my fencing teacher Calvina is in the militia here!” On a reserve basis, but still! “Apparently, she’s a pretty good markswoman herself?” Not that you’ve seen it firsthand or anything…
“I do hope I’ll have the chance to practice! It’s a skill that requires constant maintenance, yes?” Irma giggles – ah, jeez, her laugh is so cute.
“Yeah! Um, you were saying earlier about, um…hunting?” You kinda don’t know if you wanna talk about it, but it’s best if you show interest, right?
“Ah! I see, yes, growing up here you would have little understanding…” Irma giggles. “I assure you, I would not poach. Wildlife management has grown much more difficult in the past few decades, yes? I lived in the countryside, it is a far different environment than here.”
“E-ehe. I wouldn’t know…” You rub the back of your head, trying not to think too much about it. “I’ve only eaten meat a handful of times. Usually I avoid it.” Play it cool, Cibs, as your brother might say!
“Not to worry! I am not planning to eat meat anytime soon. Too expensive. Though, I will miss it…”
…it’s a bit awkward, huh.
“But, this place really is something else…” Irma spaces out a bit, eyes flitting toward Rita…then back toward you. “I am, ah, afraid I won’t stand out –”
“N-no, it’s not like that! Um, well, m-maybe standing out is a bit dangerous, but at the same time…” With Rita’s perfume and her gaze elsewhere, it’s much easier to focus on things other than her. “W-well –”
“Relax!” Irma giggles more – ah, was this some kind of dirty trick?! “I am not so worried about you, Cibele. Though, I must say, you dazzled me last week as much as our teacher is this week, yes?”
O-oh…ah, your telepathy says Irma isn’t lying, either – well, you did pop your Charisma gain, but Rita could match that…even so, you can’t help but turn red from pride, really…
“…I’m happy with how well you’re doing, Irma,” Rita says, having snuck up on the two of you, looming over you with her heels. (They aren’t very long at all, yet it makes it easier for her to overwhelm you with her presence, her pleasant scent hitting you…)
And…completely, utterly brazenly, Rita leans in, looking at Irma’s monitor, her chest pressing into her back.
“I’ve never seen someone improve their typing so quickly!” says Rita, a-as if she has no idea what she’s doing!
“I-i-i-i-it is not so difficult, m-my teacher!” Irma replies, flustered as she is – wait, ‘my teacher’? Guess Irma can’t entirely hide her interest! Not like this, not with Rita so close…”I, how to say…I simply have to see the computer like a mechanical device you learn to operate, rather than an intimidating machine you’re at the mercy at…”
…interesting way of looking at it. But it makes sense, for someone who prides herself on her driving skills –
w-wait, that’s not the issue here, Rita’s just, pressing into your friend-slash-crush with her perfect breasts, and Irma looks like she’s going to blow steam from her ears from the simulation…
“Keep up the good work,” Rita whispers to Irma – in about the same tone you’d expect her to say ‘good girl’, and with the same ‘404 brain not found’ face you’d expect on Irma from that – and then her gaze falls upon you, with a big grin, like showing your teeth to prey – er, are you prey? “Cibele…”
And then she does the exact same thing to you.
You can feel it, the way her chest pushes against you, so perfectly soft, and your brain turns into just a pile of mush within Rita’s pleasant scent, the line of code you were writing turning into little more than gibberish. (What’s that old joke, about how lesbians can’t spell?) Her hand even smoothly reaches to yours, and…
She grasps your hand, and manipulates your fingers directly, having your hand erase the pile of bottom-gibberish you typed, and replacing it with a nice, clean curly brace instead.
“You’re doing wonderfully as well.” Ah…
ah, it feels the same as when Seul-ki praises you…
O-okay, you don’t think you’re much of an M, you’re pretty sure you’re an S, but if it’s Seul-ki or Rita, maybe there’s an exception?
Rita chuckles to herself, even as Irma steals glances at the two of you. You wonder, how it is it got like this…”Could we talk a bit in the office?”
“Uh, uh…sure!” you say, managing to compose a complete sentence, as Rita pulls away…
Irma giggles a bit at you, even as she still blushes. “I think she likes us…or, rather, I think she especially likes you, yes?” Ah, jeez, even Irma’s teasing you now, and yet – and yet, the look on her face, it makes you want to whisper in her ear, to hypnotise her, and you wonder, if it’s Irma, if she’d accept it so readily…
B-but Rita asked you to come. Er, come to her, you mean, it’s not like you’re a bit turned on by this or anything, it’s completely innocent, despite all evidence to the contrary –
Hastily locking your terminal and leaving your chair, Irma waves to you as you find yourself in Rita’s small office in the back. It’s obvious it’s not actually hers, but just what she’s using to monitor the class, but even so, i-it’s very intimate, especially with how small it is, once you close that door behind you…
Rita sits down on the comfy office chair like she owns the place, completely suited to being in control of this class…and you settle into the less comfy student chair, amply feeling the distance between you, smiling sweetly as you fidget with your clothes. You’re so nervous, but…she’s been actively seducing you, and you’re not quite as dumb as you used to be, so it’ll be fine. Right?
“So, Cibele,” Rita says, as she languidly shifts herself to lean toward you, like her glasses can stare down at you. For some reason, she’s even hotter like this…you really can’t put your finger on why, though. “I’m really quite impressed. You finished the exercise far ahead of schedule – an exercise I had planned for the tail-end of the course.”
“O-oh, I didn’t notice…” It seemed easy enough to you. But, Rita’s noticed? Your increasing Intelligence must be helping…though it gives you the faint sense that this conversation is about more than just the class. “Ehe. Maybe I remembered more about my old classes than I thought?” you say, trying to play it cool. “I’m not ruining things for the other students, am I?”
“No, not at all!” Rita shakes her head, and even through your telepathy you’re not totally certain of her thought processes – besides the flirting, at least. “I’m just amazed by your potential, and how quickly you’re adjusting! Have you had programming classes before?”
“Only a couple! I wasn’t ever very good at it, so…” You decide to try flirting a bit in return, fluttering your lashes. “Maybe it’s because I have such a good teacher?”
“Somehow, I have my doubts.” Rita laughs, curling some of her silver hair in a finger. “I mean, I did set up this class to test some educational theories I was having, but it’s more just to keep myself busy on my gap year.”
“Ah, right, the top Sunset scholarships force you into one…” Apparently it’s to ‘foster innovation’ or something. Since a lot of the scholarships go to inventors and other STEM types, it makes a certain amount of sense. “Educational theories, though?”
“Heh. Are you surprised I’m interested?” asks Rita.
“No, but…” Korri mentions sometimes that some of her STEM friends are disdainful toward social science, so maybe Rita thought you’d be surprised?
“Mmmmm.” Rita smiles, the glint of gold hairpins showing as she brushes hair back, and your eyes flit between that and her chest, trying hard to look at her face and missing every dang time. “You remember earlier, Cibele? When I was talking about my ‘old friends’? They were the kind of people who would dismiss the ‘soft sciences’ in their entirety. For instance, they lament the way ‘memetics’ has become diluted by its combination and complementary evolution with ideas once said to supercede or preclude it – as if it were ‘hard science’ to begin with, pft. You might catch some people arguing in favor of evolutionary psychology, and every so often something like ‘human biodiversity’…”
“Gross,” you say, on reflex. Yeah, you remember Seul-ki dealing with students who insisted on such things, on the idea of ‘race’ and intelligence obviously being intertwined.
“Yeaaah, see, I don’t get why we have to go back to Silicon Valley – even if my parents were born there, I have little use for rejecting the social sciences.” Rita grins. “I admit, they’re still not my strong suit…but I think I’m getting better at it, thanks to you.”
…what an odd way of putting it. Well, Skimming her shows that Hawking radiation of love, but…
…Cibele’s downplaying things. But, she’s still such an outlier. And I swear she got more attractive by the time class ended compared to where it started…there’s just something about her…
Oh…oh my. It’s nothing dangerous, but she’s noticed…and you can’t help but feel flattered, that her noticing made her go to this kind of effort…
“Are you referring to your makeover?” you ask, mustering up your strength and confidence to say it with a straight face.
“…nothing gets past you, huh?” Rita laughs – it’s almost an evil laugh, and you admit, it’s just, so sexy…her voice is clear and resonant and lovely, she’d make a wonderful hypnotist…”What can I say? You could be a movie star, if you wanted.”
“My cousin was a big time movie star a decade or two ago!” you joke. (Circe really is pretty, though, even after retiring from acting!) “But, thank you. This is more effort than any girl’s taken to get close to me, ever…or, maybe I should say it like, ‘Miss Sternbach, are you trying to seduce me?’”
“Hee hee hee…” Rita bares her teeth. “I won’t lie, Cibele – I’m very attracted to you.” A-ah, so brazen…to just say it like that, it’s embarrassing, you feel so hot, and you find yourself breathing deeper…”So I thought, ‘I need her to notice me!’ If that turns out as ‘seducing’, well…you said it, not me.”
“I-I mean, I noticed you a lot last week, too! Me and Irma, I mean…both of us…I don’t think you needed to go to all this trouble just to get me to notice you, y’know?” You almost want her to start whispering in your ear, and yet, that same desire is paired equally with the desire to whisper in hers…you’re sure, you’d both look so wonderful in trance, or even, with a cutie in between you, Irma faced with both your –
wait, bad thoughts, bad thoughts! Don’t get too ahead of yourself –
Heh. But the insurance doesn’t hurt, Rita thinks, as she grins even wider. (A-and she’s right, it’s not like you dislike this makeover or anything, and it made a huge impression!)
“I admit I checked out your social media a little. You’re a student at the Verwest Academy, right? Honestly, I think I’d have preferred that over Pedersen – even if I appreciate the ‘absolute territory’.” (Your eyes flit to Rita’s legs without thinking, before heading back to her face.) “I’ll send you an invite to mine, later. Feel free to pass my mobile to Irma, too; she’d probably benefit from a bit of extra attention.”
“S-sure!” you say, as you gaze into Rita’s eyes, and feel her singularity drawing you in…
Okay. Delving Korri didn’t go so well, but you weren’t prepared for the wellspring of negative emotion. You dove too deep, too fast. You’re certain you can control it better this time, though the nature of Rita’s mind feels like it’d be easy to get lost in…
Even so. Your hand, your light, a soul tinged in gold, pushes its way into that inescapable darkness. Filled with echoes of Rita’s thoughts, and the noise that fills your own, echoing as you dive beyond her event horizon:
Cibele Epeli Imanis.
If you want another, say you need another.
Have you ever wanted something so badly, you would do anything to get it?
I’m sure you’ve at least said so. It’s only human to lie when the stakes aren’t right in front of you. If it’s anything, really anything, I don’t know if even I’d go that far.
But I’m starting to understand –
Breathe, don’t speak.
It was like I’d seen her before.
It was like I’d met her before –
I should think you still have dreams?
There’s just something about her.
Like we met somewhere in a dream, or something.
Cibele Epeli Imanis.
Her name is beautiful. The kind of thing you could say again and again, and never get tired of. Almost a mantra, really –
P̴e̷o̵p̶l̴e̶ ̷c̴a̷n̷n̴o̶t̷ ̴l̵i̸v̶e̷ ̷w̶i̵t̷h̴o̴u̷t̵ ̶o̸r̶d̷e̴r̸,̵ ̵e̸v̵e̷n̴ ̶i̸f̸ ̷i̷t̷ ̶i̴s̶ ̸a̵ ̴l̴i̸e̷.̷
I’ve done so much research on human attraction already –
just another no-man
I can see something that’ll give me the chance I want –
just another no-man
I’m not very good with people. In fact, I despise most of them –
strong red lines
I could do that now, if I wanted. I can see it! It’s so obvious!
will come and cover you up
H̶o̶n̷e̴s̴t̴l̵y̶,̵ ̷d̸o̸ ̷p̷e̴o̸p̶l̵e̵ ̵j̵u̷s̷t̴ ̴n̵e̵v̵e̸r̸ ̷t̴h̵i̷n̸k̸?̴
j̵u̴s̶t̶ ̷a̷n̶o̸t̸h̵e̷r̶ ̸n̸o̶-̴m̷a̸n̶ ̷–̷
When you finally pull yourself out of Rita’s gravity well, your head is in her lap, surrounded by her exceptionally pleasant scent, with her staring down on you over her chest. Smiling…you think, it’s hard to tell with her boobs in the way.
Your head hurts, but…you don’t feel the same emotional feedback as you did before. Her thoughts are fragmented, but that seems to simply be your difficulty delving into such a beautiful mind, such a perfect mind, that you feel so at home next to. You think you’re improving…but maybe next time, someone you trust more? You really hope you’ll get used to it…
“Are you okay, Cibele?” says Rita, as she gently strokes and runs her fingers through your hair. “You just fainted…”
And she put you in her lap…you’d do the same thing, though!
“I’m okay…mm.” You smile, inside Rita’s hands. It’s somehow comforting…could you really have known her, in your previous life? “I almost wanna stay here, though…”
“Funny, since we just met and all.” Rita laughs. “You really were into me all along, huh?”
“Mmmmm…” You grin goofily, under Rita’s wonderful touch, her wonderful scent. “Have you…have you ever seen somebody, even if it’s for the first time, and it’s just this feeling like…like they have a star marked right on them, and you’re just sure somehow, ‘I have to know this person’?”
“…I might be familiar,” Rita jokes.
“It’s something like that. And, you proved me right, didn’t you?”
“I guess I did.” A brief, evil chuckle has you all tingly. “Much as I’d like to keep you here, I should probably get back to the class. But, I think you and I should meet together sometime in the next couple of days – I want to see just what kind of potential you have, Cibele.” Ah, she taps your phone to yours, and your addresses are exchanged…
“S-sure! I don’t know exactly when…tomorrow, I’m busy, and I’ve set Saturday aside to do homework…I’m sure I can squeeze in something!“ You slowly, hesitantly, lift yourself away from Rita’s lap, still in a daze from how lovely she truly is. And you definitely can find the time.
Yeah, it’s not like you’re going on a proper date with Stella, or will soon find yourself entangled with her in a romantic way! There’s nothing that’ll get in the way, like a girl falling for you, or anything. Right?
Even so, you want her to be bolder. Rita going so far for you makes you want to ask for more…and this time, you don’t resist the way your voice is empowered: “Do I get a kiss on the cheek from my favorite teacher?”
Your grasp, your light, squeezes the black hole into shape – no real resistance, since she obviously wanted to, but it still feels amazing when it’s her, even more than Korri – and Rita’s eyes unfocus for the briefest of moments, before her lips land so easily on your cheek, hidden behind a frosted window…and the sensation is turning you on, you’re starting to understand future-past-you again, just a little –
“…I want to know everything about your brain, Cibele. Remember that.” Rita licks her lips, and half-lidded, seductive violet eyes give you one good last look before she pops out of the office, and you…
Besides trying to ignore that, in that moment, after you used your Suggestion on Rita, that she was turned on, even if she didn’t know the cause…
You can’t help but feel like you’ve met someone important.
You don’t really know Rita well enough to say whether her talents are the genuine article. Whether she could create an AGI with her own two hands, if ever given the opportunity. Your system, your librarian, keeper of hypnotic knowledge, seems to like her, but more than that…
if someone can draw you in with the way they speak, the way they look, the way they move…and do so deliberately, you think, as you breathe in, watching Rita move around the class, watching her take step by sexy step…
if they can set their mind on something – someone – they want, and then get it…
someone like that, you could definitely call a ‘genius’, right?
Eventually, it’s time for the class to end. Everyone seems pretty satisfied; despite obviously having you as a favorite, everyone got useful one-on-one instruction. Seems like Rita goes the extra mile with individual students – not to mention the individualized lessons! – to make up for her tangents during lecture time.
She kinda reminds you of Seul-ki, actually. (Only a little bit, though.) Though, Seul-ki’s lectures tend to be a bit more focused than Rita’s…
But with Rita still checking things off after the end of her class, Irma catches the opening, her big blue eyes looking toward you. “Ah, Cibele…may I ask you something?”
“Of course!” You flash Irma a peace sign! “I’m always ready to help out a friend!”
“A friend, yes…” (She seems a bit disappointed, even without telepathic aid; you just didn’t want to be presumptuous, is all! So, she’s really…) “I was wondering…” She swallows, trying to push past her nerves. “I was wondering, if you might accompany me through the Capital District this weekend? There are cafes I was wishing to try, and places I’d love to hear the history of from someone who knows them well…”
“Oh…um, if Sunday is alright, of course! I’ll be around there anyway, so once I work the time out, we can go visit, sure~”
Irma swallows again, and…smiles, to steel herself. “You may consider it a date, if you wish.”
…despite her friendly tone, you can sense determination behind Irma’s gaze. Even if she understands love doesn’t have to be a competition, she still thinks she should make a case for herself after Rita…
There’s no reason not to, right? It’s not like things with Stella are going to progress that fast, and you’ve got time to spare. Besides, you remember Aunt Vesta’s advice she told you on her first wedding day…
“The trick is to get all the girls to love each other as much as they love you,” Aunt Vesta said, to those bewildered parts of the family that didn’t get the memo this was a poly wedding.
(…no shock that’s one of your very first memories, huh.)
“And if you ever travel back in time, Cibele, don’t step on anything!” said Aunt Percy. “Because even the tiniest change can alter the future in ways you can’t imagine!”
(Oh, right, that too. Well, uh, you’re kind of already far past that point!)
So it makes sense, to try and form a social network, weave a web of Girls. Even if things with Rita or Irma don’t work out individually, the possibility exists that they could be wonderful together.
Besides. Maybe, if spending time around cuties is what makes you stronger, a date like this would help…
ah, heck, as if you need a reason like that! Irma’s a cute girl, that’s all the reason you need!
“Then, it’ll be a date!” You assent to Irma’s plan – and Rita doesn’t seem the least bit bothered, either. Ehe, this Charisma stuff really is helping, isn’t it? You even lean in to kiss Irma on the cheek~
“O-oh…ah, of course! Um, I should probably go get ready, I need to get home soon, or my family will worry…” Irma doesn’t seem to know how to handle this, so she quickly flees the scene after she retrieves her riding jacket. “I shall talk to you more about it later than sooner, yes?” All stumbling over her words, you can’t help but want to whisper in her ear and keep her on a leash, especially when she runs off like this –
uh, eheh. Maybe later. You don’t even know what Irma likes, or if you’re compatible, or anything like that! Mouuu, what if she’s bothered by you being a vegetarian? Figure out the basics before deciding to keep a girl as a pet, Cibby!
“…you really are something,” Rita says, over the desks, voice full of adoration. “All the effort I put in, and you can match it without even trying!” Rita almost looks like she’s got that ‘yandere trance’ face going on…ehe. She’s kind of noticed the Charisma gain, though you’re sure no one could figure out the nature of the Gamer System based on that alone. “Take care of Irma, too…as for us, I’ll be in touch.”
“S-sure!” You flash that peace sign again, and Rita waves at you as she packs up to go, her pleasant scent trailing behind her…
Oh, Nazakawa-kun is still here, and he even waves before heading out…so he saw all of that, too.
S-so much for secrecy. You wonder what people will think, at Verwest, when they hear him talk about all of this…
But hey, maybe it’s a good thing.
If nothing else, it might give Stella something to think about, too.~
Hypnosis Branch: Induction
Psychology T1: Cold Reading. Your ability to understand the psyche of others is greatly increased. Within a relatively short period of time, you learn their general demeanor and personality; with at least an hour, you may learn details of their life they unwittingly revealed to you through your manipulations (in the manner of ‘psychics’ and other illusionists).
You may also ask leading questions which allow a target to reveal information to you unwittingly. You may ask questions it would be unreasonable for you to ask normally, and the target will generally answer, or at least not be offended by the question.
Requires Instant Hypnotherapist.
Psychology T2: Natural Language Processing. You may speak to a person and convince them of your expertise, particularly in the field of psychology. By reflecting their responses back at them or telling them what you want to hear, you may have all but the most skeptical of people convinced you’re a genius. This also extends to people thinking of you as wise in social matters or giving good advice, even if you provide only empty platitudes.
Actual expertise in relevant fields amplifies this effect. This may be used as social engineering; ie, to get into locations, get passwords and encryption keys, and otherwise exploit the credulity of others for your own gain.
Particularly outlandish claims (ie, that you’re a qualified surgeon despite no medical experience) will be rebuffed, and if actual evidence is checked for, the effect will be broken. This will also completely fail to fool anyone with real expertise in the field in question, to the point of breaking the effect even for others around them.
Requires Cold Reading.
Psychology T3: Subliminal Messaging. You are able to speak in ways that impart a subliminal idea or command to others. This is a simplistic idea that cannot create drastic or instant changes, but may be used to condition others and prime them slowly for further induction. Even if the effect fails, it cannot be detected except through machine analysis. You may affect any number of targets you wish who can hear you, and exclude anyone you wish as well.
Basic subliminals (ie, ‘I feel hungry’) are much more effective and may work with a single application. For more extensive effects (ie, ‘Cibele is my mistress’), you may repeatedly apply them until the effect is provided. Subliminals may be added to voice or musical recordings, as well.
If you have You’ll Love Me (Memetics T2), this effect is enhanced. Any subliminal messages you make impart sexual feelings to the other (if you wish to do so). They will feel pleasure for doing as the subliminal command asks them, slowly conditioning them for you.
In addition, any use of Subliminal Messaging also spreads your Memetics effects, even if the target is not immersed in your social circles.
Requires Natural Language Processing and You’ll Trust Me (Memetics T1).