Chapter XXXVI: Bold

An excerpt from
Diary of the Bold
Entry 15: 150
Date 77 of 7499 SC

Anxious is spending a lot of time with me. I think she likes me as more than just a friend. She'd follow me everywhere if I let her. But since the two of us have failed to leave The Colony, following me isn't so dramatic.

My attention has been diverted of late. I've spent my time in my room, in front of my System Access Unit. Courteous was so concerned that she sent me to a therapy session with Intuitive. Too much SAUing, apparently.

That's not what Intuitive was concerned with, even before I told her what I had been doing. She had something else in mind.

Her dark brown hair was cut short, and her face was masked in skin grafts grown in the Genelab. It was etched with wisdom now. Yet she no longer looked human.

Motherpresence was locked on. It was the least we could do, since she had been purged from half the Colony. They say Pious did it singlehandedly. Wherever he went, there was a flash of light and a burst of sparks. Mother's artifices were left smoldering.

Eyes. Ears. Mouths. Singed and useless.

People changed quarters of their own free will. We now had the colony divided. Half under Mother, and half under Pious.

Somehow, though, we maintained order. With and without her.

The Worship Hall was, of course, in what we called Piety Territory.

I lived in Mother Territory, as I always had. Not because I liked Mother. But because I disdained Pious more than Mother. As far as I was concerned, a man shooting lightning out of his hands with angry fervour was more dangerous than a deceptive gynoid with knives for fingers. But it was a close call. Maybe I was just lazy?

Eyes. Ears. Mouth. Intuitive's were healing. Mother's would never heal. No engineer in her or his right mind would fix Mother.

"I am going to prescribe a water additive, and give you a medflask," she told me. It was the first thing she had said. The issue hadn't even been discussed.

"Isn't that a bit extreme, Int? I mean, does Mother approve?"

"Mother approves," she said, and then dropped to a whisper, "because Mother thinks I'm giving you a mild behaviour stabilizer."

"That I do," put in Mother.

"That's good," I answered. The words were meaningless. The smile on her face told me she knew that. I hissed, "What are you really giving me?"

"I'm glad you think so, Bold." Intuitive paused. And her lips barely moved as she continued. "An enzyme to break down a substance known as Inhibiquel."

"Is there anything else I can do to adjust my behaviour?" I asked. We were having two conversations. One for the sensors, and one for ourselves. "I have heard the rumours. Are they true?"

"Get some exercise. Keep getting regular sleep, and eating healthy. It's all rather straight-forward." With a deft movement of her hands, Intuitive lifted herself off her armchair as if she were weightless.

I struggled not to react.

The vase in the center of the large foot-rest in the middle of the room began to float as well.

"Some of them are true, while others are inaccurate or entirely fictitious," she whispered. "Capricious, once Shy, was not giving out steroids before her disappearance. Mother is not slowly killing us. Electrolysis cannot get it out of the water, that's just Pious being pretentious with his powers. And the missing Children are, as far as I know, not invisibly standing among us."

"I know that one," I confided in her, if only to stifle my amusement. "They have contacted me."

The flowers stopped dancing, the water in the vase stopped splashing around, and the whole thing fell neatly back onto the foot-rest.

"I also suggest that you take up a new hobby. Is there anything you can do together with your new friends?"

Her small-talk was giving me something to think about, and I'm no good with multiple trains of thought.

Back in her armchair, she folded her legs upon the rest. And she continued in whisper, "I can, in actuality, do more than fly. What you just saw is telekinesis, a gift that will not likely come to a mind such as yours. You're no dreamer."

"I'll try and think of something." I told her. I didn't like my new friends. They were Anxious's friends, more than mine. That's why I spent my time helping my missing friends. But I have a feeling she's been messaged by Capricious. That must be why she's changed the topic.

We were avoiding the real issues.

Father would come back online, with adjusted programming, imminently, if Pious didn't get in the way.

My friends were somewhere in the wilderness near The Core. That meant they were safe within the Mountain Wall, and probably not far beyond the Inner Wall. They had spotted Sister's insectoids twice, and been unable to communicate with her. It was as if she wasn't built to interact with humans. She treated them like wild animals, they said. To be ignored, in favour of harvesting meat grown in Genelabs.

I had been sending them survival information I had been able to get from the System with Mother's help. It was hard work, but they had Tender with them to do the heavy lifting. However, he wasn't keen on hunting the gazelles. In the end, they got their protein when Tender had to kill a red bear in self-defense.

Meanwhile, Anxious and I were left with the absence of my brother. Speaking of which, Brother had stopped us from leaving the Colony five days ago. Had Forsaken left before or after Brother was assigned to military duty to substitute for Father?

And there were other missing Children. Anxious's twin sister was among them. She was frought with worry. It had been eight days.

Intuitive's voice brought me back.

"You seem worried," she observed. "I want you to go just beyond the border of Mother Territory and share your water where she can't see." Fierce eye contact. "Do this often, and consistently, with the same people. And tell them to make sure that they always leave some of your special water in their flask, so that there is almost always enough of the enzyme."

I knew that would cause chaos.

"That's all the time I have today," Intuitive told me.

I smiled.

"Just follow me, and I will get you a medflask."

No more drinking from the fountains for me.

I followed her out of the room, and there was a flask waiting for me on the side table in the hall. I had used it before when I was sick two years ago. It was the same one, the same scratch marks from when I dropped it from the fifth floor of a tower to see if it would break. Tender won that bet.

Footsteps down the hallway.

A woman cloaked in gray. Her voice was hoarse, "Come with me, Intuitive. I will bring you to him."

Intuitive scowled, "I've told you twice already, I do not want this romantic appointment. I am flattered, but please, leave me be! I am nothing to look at in my present state."

"Do not be modest," said the woman, her accent raw and intimidating.

"She said no!" I put in, my fingers forming fists.

The woman brought down her hood. I recognized her.

"Anxious!" I exclaimed.

She smiled.

"What are you doing here? I love what you've done with your hair!" I ran forward to give her a hug.

"Don't, Nadina!" cautioned Intuitive.

"Yaaa!"

The woman moved in a blur. Faster than anything I knew. Faster than Father.

"Ugh!" The sound was forced from me by a blow from her knee.

I was pinned to the floor, the wind knocked out of me.

"Anxious," said Anxious? "So that's the other girl's name." She turned to Intuitive. "Come with me. You have no choice."

I closed my eyes. When I woke up, I was in my respective Quarters. It didn't feel like much time had passed. The Sysclock confirmed that.

Anxious was there, in my room. So was her sister. They came to my bedside as I woke.

"W-what did you do that for?" I asked, assuming one of them was responsible.

Anxious frowned, "Do what, Bold?"

Demure was equally confused, "What are you talking about?"

I looked from one to the other, "Which one of you was wearing braids earlier today?"

They looked at each other. Identical faces. Identical expressions. It made no sense to me.

"I could have sworn holy shivers that one of you knocked me out," I said, as I grabbed my medflask. "Wait, have you heard from Intuitive?"

"When you missed lunch," said Anxious, "I came to get you. She's been missing since your appointment."

Appointment. Intuitive had an appointment with someone. Charl? Then I realized what was different. "Demure, where have you been for the last eight days?"

Demure looked away from me. "I don't remember."

"I'm sure it will come to you," said Anxious, "at least, I hope."

Demure nodded. "Let's go report Intuitive's disappearance. Mother should know. Bold, you stay here and eat this tray of food that was sent up for you."

I nodded, compliantly and hungrily.

"Courteous will be up to check on you, no doubt," said Anxious.

Demure always supported Mother. It gave her a sense of safety. And it may be the very reason why she's not as anxious as her identical twin: trust.

Yet as soon as they were gone from my room, I stopped eating and signed into my SAU. Before I wrote this entry, I made sure to let Clever and Ethereal know what had happened.

The End

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