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Ara

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Contessa Bleeding
« on: April 18, 2017, 09:27:01 pm »


Luna Contessa was the largest colony on the moon, the very first successful and now, decades later, a complete clusterfuck of the best and worst mankind could offer. It boasted the greatest technology from the legal products just hitting the market, the mechanics that drive every inch of the streets and skyscrapers, to the cutting edge leaked tech and illegal trial runs.

At the right rotation, the gleaming white towers of Contessa seem to stretch toward the green and blue marble of Earth as they pass by. The city was sculpted in white and gray, made to go unnoticed by Earth so as not to alter their view of the sky, but it fast became Earth’s obsession. All of their films and programs take place on Contessa—a caricature of the true city. At the tops of those towers live the wealthy, abandoning the toxic mass of Earth for the controlled climate of Contessa. But at the bottoms, against the grind of the streets where all their favorite products are transported back and forth between factories, ship yards, and towers, thrive the cast offs and working force of Contessa. Earth says Contessa is the corrupt pearl of mankind, gleaming and beautiful, the place where everything can be found, and they’re not wrong.

Benecia LaPenn came to Contessa as a child with bright eyed upper middle class parents looking to work their way to a better life. They’d put her in all the right schools, made all the right friends, and launched her toward one of those towers. But somehow things didn’t quite go as planned. She’d been within reach of a degree in engineering when she disappeared. She still remembered the day she saw him at a party she shouldn’t have been at. He’d told her that laws were prisons and crime was the only way to freedom. She hadn’t cared about freedom until he spoke of it in those romantic notes of smoke and youth.

Benecia’s thoughts strayed to him still sometimes, lifetimes later. She ran through the marble of white and gray fog that coated the streets of Contessa that morning. Not a rare weather occurrence, one they chose to work under frequently. It bought them hours more to any night of cloaked misbehavior. She had one gloved hand clamped over her arm, trying to push the blood back in maybe. “Open,” Benny exhaled the command when she neared the wall at the base of the shipyard. The sound of vessels lifting off and landing was always present, the flare of their engines barely piercing the fog.

The metal of the wall shimmered in reply, the same violet blue as the light that shone in one of her eyes. She stood in the doorway when the two men following her rushed past, one carrying the limp body of Chio. She looked like a child in his arms and Benny didn’t like it. The door closed behind them, shutting out the fog and leaving them in the metal innards of their hideout—her home. Tebian, the big guy with the shoulders and the mechanical arm, carried the woman in his arms straight for the infirmary. It was a habit, maybe, because there was nothing in that well stocked minihospital, not even the surgical machines, that could help her. Benicia knew, because she’d tried everything. Almost everything.

Carson hovered close by, his bright pink hair stuffed under his drawn hood and his eyes flashing back and forth from her face to her bleeding arm. He was still shaking from the adrenaline of their getaway. The job went south fast, just as fast as it took Chio to crash and collapse. “It’s fine!” Benny snapped at him when he parted his lips, before he could get out words. He quickly closed his mouth, silver eyes big, fingers anxiously curling around the length of his sleeves in his palms. She took a breath and shook her head apologetically. She would have liked to claw her dark hair away from her face but streaking it with blood would probably only make him look more worried. It was a flesh wound. She’d have it healed in an hour, just as soon as she calmed herself enough to follow the other two into the infirmary.

She closed her violet eyes and took a slow, calming breath. She was really just stalling, wasn’t she? What choice did she have? “Okay.” Benny exhaled.

Carson nodded slowly, but waited for her to give the order.

“Go get him.”

Carson ducked, almost a bow, and then vanished. He was quick and silent on his feet—a true pickpocket. The kind of thief that came and went with what he wanted long before anyone noticed. His only trouble had been falling in with the wrong crowd. She’d won him off a gang on the forty-fourth quarter slums more than a year back.

Benny took another breath, looking around their little hideout of loot and illegal tech. He had never been here before. She’d built it after he left—when she had to start over. She had the delusion that he didn’t know where it was, that he couldn’t find it or her. Maybe because the idea that he couldn’t find her was more comforting than knowing he just didn’t want to.

She let go of her wound, finally just letting it bleed, and walked down the dimly lit hall into the bright white infirmary. Tebian had laid Chio out on the table in the middle of the room and was leaning against the counter now, looking gloomy as fuck. Benny didn’t bother asking why. He was sour about the job gone wrong, and about the one that went wrong before it, and about the one that would go wrong next time Chi/00 had a glitch or a crash. He looked across the room at Benecia and his dark eyes said enough. “Get gone if you want.” She walked around the foot of Chio’s bed and pulled off her gloves, dumping them blood in the sink before rolling her shoulders out of her jacket.

“I know you’re soft on her—” He stopped talking when she picked up the gadget that would burn her wound shut, the one he’d seen her use once to burn another man’s mouth shut. She looked up long enough to see that he remembered it.

“She’s family, Teb. If you want to take work elsewhere for a while, I’ll give you a call when I have something for you again.” It was the best out she could offer him. Better than most groups would give considering how much he knew about how she did things and what kinds of jobs she took.

He nodded slowly and took the other way around the bed to leave the room. “Vash isn’t going to be happy we botched another job.” He mumbled before disappearing down the hall. He wouldn’t leave. She knew it because this was the first place he’d ever had a home. He liked to fall back on hard behavior and cut throat ways, but he was more afraid of living that way again than riding out the unknown with her.

She pulled her shirt off over her head and leaned against Chio’s bed while burning the shallow wound shut. She had a dozen more like it, each with a story. Some were cherished tales of success or failure, others were memories she wished to erase but never quite got around to getting the scars removed. She didn’t look down at Chio. She couldn’t. When she wasn’t awake she just looked…empty. But Benny couldn’t leave her alone either.

VenomousEve

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Re: Contessa Bleeding
« Reply #1 on: April 19, 2017, 04:28:53 am »
SER4.3006/b6a7/SER4.49cc/Chi/00 – AuraBIOS v9. 00
Unknown ###, ##?*///. Unknown

SER4-CHI-00


There is no god. Subatomic particles write the poetry of the universe. Some snakes give live birth. Emotion is a series of calculated risks.

Main Processor: CHI x9357700
CPU Temperature Protection is OFF

Purple is older than blue. Deoxyribonucleic acids are not the measure of life. The human mind is the same fabrication as the soul.

<ERROR ###!%kkf2>

Memory Testing : 16 PB OK
<ERROR 00000000000>
<ERROR 77000134###>


Memory Clock is : …

Chi/00 had developed the capacity to dream approximately four months after leaving with Benecia. It had been an exceptional advancement. In the first week after the discovery, Chi had spent most of her free time in a low powered hibernation, recording her own dream states. She had additionally run several self-diagnostics to assess the expansion in her programming. To date, she had yet to provide an explanation for the sudden change.

She felt as if she was floating; a curious sensation for an intelligence only loosely tied to a corporeal structure. Chi had never formed opinions on the experience. Dreams were difficult, weaving data streams that stressed her logical cores in bizarre ways. There was a progression, which she could rationalize, but the governing assumptions were all wrong. It was frustrating. This dream was worse than most. Generally, she could wake whenever the sequences became too annoying. This time, it seemed she was unable to access all of her own hardware.

<ERROR 3331b?>
 
On the table, an arc of electricity jolted from within the synthetic joint of her left shoulder. Where the spark licked a biologic interface, the skin burned an angry pink. At least, it seemed, the android was not completely unresponsive. Though, this was not to say the reaction was particularly useful.

SER4.3006/b6a7/SER4.49cc/Chi/00 – AuraBIOS v9. 00
Unknown ###, ##?*///. Unknown

SER4-CHI-00
<ERROR 00000000000>
<ERROR 77000134###>

Chi tried another safety protocol. The last three had failed, strangely warped faces with Benny’s violet eyes looming out of the darkness. They shrieked in amalgams of the known languages, which really meant there was no satisfactorily distinguishable grammatical structure. Often, Chi could not parse out any sufficient pattern to translate the wailing. Usually her dreams were not this unpleasant, even if they were irritating. The safety protocol seemed to have executed completely, at last.

There was another arc of electricity, this time behind her right ear where her hard-reset button was. In theory, the physical switch was antiquated technology, but this chassis had been cobbled from such a curious assortment of parts it seemed wise to include the fail-safe. Hair fizzled and burned and she twitched on the table. A full minute passed before the ring around the power switch flickered once and then pulsed more rhythmically with a soft white light.

She’d been told watching her reboot was a little eerie. A little too close to resurrection. Chi had been offended at first; she’d not cared for the implication that being shutdown was the same as being dead.

SER4.3006/b6a7/SER4.49cc/Chi/00 – AuraBIOS v9. 00
Unknown ###, ##?*///. Unknown

SER4-CHI-00

Main Processor: CHI x9357700
CPU Temperature Protection is OFF
Memory Testing : 16 PB OK
Memory Clock is : 8.4THz
Detecting Quantum drives …

“I can access this terminal here,” Chi said, sitting upright. She held up a hand with one finger stretched, the tip of which separated at the furthest joint and extended on thin metallic fibers. The fingertip flipped like a smelting pot to expose a small, protruding connector. She blinked. They were back home and there was no terminal to hack. A quick check of her internal chronometer verified a significant lapse in time since her last memory record of their job. She frowned.

“I have encountered an unknown malfunction,” She announced, and turned to look at Benecia.

Her mercurial stare pulsed with unnatural light, but it was more comforting than her dull husk had been. When she saw that Benny was administering herself first aid, Chi/00 looked very naturally concerned. They had stolen her an exceptionally well manufactured face. Cute, nonthreatening, and a little childish. Real skin on precision instrumentation. “Are you alright?” That concern quickly overrode her confusion regarding her own system.   

Verse

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Re: Contessa Bleeding
« Reply #2 on: April 19, 2017, 09:35:18 am »
Tjagga's toes hooked into the rubber floor. The walls were singing. Like judgment come to earth in metal darlings, like retaliation with tuning forks, like armada. He tried to stand but he couldn’t stand because he was human, and the four vertical songs hit and shook him, cutting his sternum and the joints of his shoulders, and quaked his pelvic bone and pumped his throat. Tjagga fell back, and then three more songs caught him from the cracks in the wall. Sound that whipped his spine up, stretching him straight and spraying his sweat out. Everything was a vibration and his sensory being tried to make sense of it. Beginners got sick, but there were few libations that he was new to in this house.

Every long muscle pulled hard, and he pressed the bottoms of his feet together, inflating his chest as he spoke to the rattle inside. Another helping of signals meant another try at peace. He kept the hum, this time, and hurried to the echo. His hands opened, and he took the next song into his right arm, the one built with plastic bones and blood hydraulics. Taut grafts for casing. He turned the tune into shivers, and drew them all the way to his head. He ate the sounds like this until his flesh forgot it was biological.

The session ended and he still stood up when the lights came on. It takes a wethered conductor to play an outro with his liver. Silver roots and black hair and. Glowing teeth and fleshy mouth and. Shadows like a net and lithe lengths and. The sunset before technicolor with a few extra horizons in his eyes and. Pretty much, much pretty, nothing else.

"Again, if you please." smoke flem, alcohol irritation - his voice was inflamed and clogged at the same time. The computer without Chio's intelect reminded him of his debt. He asked for the shower instead and thought the offer of ultrasound was redundant.

He still had a once-yellow jacket and pants that were the exact shape of his legs. His only friends. The headband had been the new fabric to save a company no one knew, anymore. Chio had taken over their hollographic debut routine, and he'd snatched a vest from their vault. What's a security company that gets breeched on day one? Benny had electricuted all the guards in their way.

He combined his comu-raider with electricity born from some of his exces cells. It was enough to cause a disturbance in their monetary highway for now. The trick itself was old, so no one used it anymore, so the upgrades didn't really protect from it. Everyone in the house got a free round, and Tjagga was let out when he promised to settle another time, when their collectors were online.

The shadow, symmetric for something so upright, swayed on into the morning that was late to come. By the time the fog had made a film on his jacket and he found a way out of the complimentary bronchial therapy, courtesy of the mayor, his right eye was bleeding. Three friends, reflective faces, laughed where they tried to rebuild a pill-pot on the corner of two tall houses. He had their attention as he leaned to the wall and tilted his head up to pinch a stale, now sharp membrane off the three black rings of his eye. The occusnuff had run its course on the eye that Chio had inherited. He took another lens out from the rattling cylinder in his pocket and flicked it toward earth. When it came barreling back, his eye framed in crusting red, still, was ready. He caught it perfectly, and the fresh cut soaked in the pleasant chemical. If he wanted to, he could be awake for another day, now.

The three lost interest in the nostalgic, archaic vice, and returned to their project, arguing over configurations. Tjagga and his replenished enthusiasm sat down with them and wiped the blood on his cheek with the ball of his wrist. In five minutes he'd earned a handful of fractal plates from them, for having their dispenser up and running. They had been nervous seeing the blue glow traveling in all his mayjor vessels, and cut the haggling short to his benefit. The fish was also an addict of various things, so they had an understanding. The plates were going to pay for one of their favourites. Recognizing the impulse, the filials - remnands from its predatory generations - caressed Tjagga's heart as the fish floated through.

"Hold your horses, Flit." he mumbled, already in a better mood, too. "We have to find a dealer first."

Dealers were plentiful like weeds in Rust Garden, the lower district where he made his home. Contessa’s skirt. He acquired three cartridges for the price of one with some expert haggling, and was, for once, eager to find his way to the room he occupied in one of the pillar buildings. Cylindrical and efficient in itself, it still had an elevator that ran like an unfinished something, rickety and unsanctioned beside the main scraper. He thought about the plummet sometimes, but mostly for the pleasant draft. Flit pulsed inside his aorta, giving out more than enough luminescence to announce itself through his skin, as Tjagga loaded up the Hailer with one cartridge on the apartment floor. Biting into the prints for his teeth and feeling the weight of the machine in his mouth was like coming home. Even the needles punching up and down into the folds of his gums were welcome. A hiss and a puff of vapor, as though he was a dragon breathing, when the hormonal honey was delivered and the needles retracted. He wasn’t some morally decrepit rebel sans the love-story of his life, that he’d ruined, anymore. No angels he’d turned into wraiths. Just the Rust Garden below and all its acoustics, still bickering with the audio-raid he’d had, and its long bulbs of white, trying to perpetuate the moons own hue on streets that were dirty. The Solace Hymn drowned Flit that willingly succumbed, becoming a glow in his stomach, while Tjagga felt the distaste for his world turn into adoration. The weight over his lungs lifted his breaths, instead.

When Carson came in, with a pretty, blushing fire coiling between his hood and his young face, Tjagga sat up and held out his arms. “I have secrets, Carson.” He said and waved the man in for a confession. The man had other plans. “You’re here for Benicia, aren’t you? No, you’re here for Shioooo.” If Carson was familiar, it would seem odd that Tjagga was trying to rouse himself out of a Hymn stupor, searching the floor for an equalizer. It was as risky as it was a waste. Tjagga, now, was not prone to let a high stagnate before its time. Solace had a tendency to loosen lips as well as the heart.

Tjagga had his forehead to the floor soon, hypodermic rolling out of his fingers as the medicine cleaned his blood. Flit was livid, angry at the cut-short session. The jelly was still bouncing around, agitated when Tjagga, Tag to Carson, stood up with a  groan. “What’s up, boy? You want some wares? I’m kinda in the business to keep all my pills, these days.” He looked around and stood, steady for his state, to open a cabinet with unusually clean, small cybernetics. He turned a carved face, still pleasant enough to get some special treatment from a handful of dealers, at the pickpocket, and considered the guest up and down as he tied his hair back, exposing teal eyebrows. “Well? Spit. You owe me Solace, by the way.” It seemed the intuitive knowledge of Carson’s intentions he’d displayed while in the pliable throes of the Hymn were long gone. No mention of Chio, just the disapproving, annoyed casual that had been his trademark and draw, back from when he still spoke of freedom as a good thing.

Ara

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Re: Contessa Bleeding
« Reply #3 on: April 19, 2017, 02:40:27 pm »
Carson frowned when he found Tjagga. He’d been trying to pick a lie while hunting him down—willing to pick any one that would bring him to Benny. Would he say that she was dying? Maybe dead. He might come if she was already dead. At least then he could pick over her belongings. When he found Tag well and truly wasted, his first thought was that this had all become a lot more difficult—but the more he listened to him, the more he realized just how easy this was going to be.

One of his eyes lit with the use of his optic implant, rings of white light pulsing from pupil to sclera across his dark iris. He called a cab while Tag sobered up enough to be a person again. Carson shifted a little uncomfortably in that place. It wasn’t someplace he was used to. His long fingers were still playing at the fabric of his sleeves in his palms, hoody tight and with too many pockets and folds. His black jeans were ripped and worn at the knees and his shoes matched. He hadn’t dressed for a party today. He’d dressed to get dirty but that hadn’t quite worked out as planned.

“I don’t owe you shit.” He mumbled, words hard but voice octaves too soft, eyes darting around uneasily. “Chi sent me to get you.” He lied easily, no difference in tone or appearance at all. That was a minor gift with being quiet and shifty even when you tell the truth. “Something about systems problems.” He pushed his hood back to run fingers through his hair, almost shoulder length and a mess of pink. “Benny’s been missing for a few days and Chi wants me to bring you to the house.” He called it a house because he’d never lived in one before and he imagined their hideout was exactly like one would feel.

He grabbed up a jacket from a chair and held it out to Tag, waiting, expectant that he’d follow because it was no big deal and it was for Chi. Everyone liked her. “Cab’s here.” He mumbled, the little alert informing him that the unmanned, automated vehicle was waiting.

-

Benny exhaled a breath in an almost laugh when Chio spoke, picking up exactly where she’d left off. She waited for her to catch up and then nodded when she pointed out the obvious of her malfunction. They’d been down this road before. There was something wrong with her and no tech Benecia knew could figure out what.

She tossed the little handheld onto the bedside table with a clank, her skin still aching and red where she’d closed the wound but otherwise not bad at all. “Yeah, yeah, 100%.” She turned on the faucet in the sink and used her shirt to wash her arm and hands of the blood. “You shut down again. I sent Carson to get Tjagga.” She said it all matter-o-factly. Like it was anywhere near normal that she’d invite Tjagga over. Turning off the sink and rolling her hip against the counter until she was facing Chio again, Benecia smiled softly. She was trying not to look worried. She was fucking terrified. There was something wrong with Chio and she had no idea what it was. “How are you?"


VenomousEve

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Re: Contessa Bleeding
« Reply #4 on: April 19, 2017, 08:37:22 pm »
Chi nodded in agreement, the pupils of her eyes adjusting more like camera apertures than anything organic and then emitted a thin array of green light. It was an unobtrusive scan, and nothing Benny would have reason to protest, but it did seem to indicate that the android did not entirely trust honesty on the matter. She seemed satisfied that Benecia was, in fact, approximately close to ‘100%’ when the light dimmed. “Good.” She twisted on the slab of a bed to dangle her legs over the edge.

It took a long moment for the android to respond. Benecia wasn’t a fan of mentioning Tjagga these days, let alone calling for him. She inclined her head, and it seemed like she was trying to decide on what that meant. Chi had found the relationship between those two to be the most complicated to sort out within her own emotional constructs. At first, Chi had supposed it was because her feelings might be rudimentary in comparison to the fluid emotional spectrum of her human companions. However, it seemed that the real issue was perfectly realistic emotional attachment to both halves of that equation.

Chi hadn’t been able to deviate from her logical preferences enough to take sides. She had gone with Benecia because she’d been asked and Tjagga hadn’t protested. “I could… simply contact him on a direct line, if that would be preferable to bringing him here.” Chi said finally. She was studying Benny’s face intently, confused by the seeming indifference. She did not chose to argue the necessity of finding him, one way or the other. The android had not expressed any intensive concern for the recent string of malfunctions, but it seemed she was aware that it was a significant threat. Something Tjagga should hear about.

“I did not experience a full shutdown until I attempted to initiate it myself, though I was aware of a malfunction in my hardware controllers.” Chi said, as though that should be comforting. She touched her chest, like someone might touch their heart. “I admit I am having trouble locating a specific source.” It wasn’t so different from experiencing an unknown illness, but Chi/00 had no perspective on that. “Tonight, perhaps, you should back me up on the mainframe. Just in case.” She suggested. It was not something they did often. Chi had become a little too individualized for it to feel right, loading various versions of her onto storage drives. Still, it wasn’t a poor suggestion. “Nonetheless, I do feel fine now. I dreamt again. You were in it.” Her smile was soft and encouraging and she did not tell Benny that her presence in the dream had actually been very uncomfortable. Above all else, Chi disliked Benny to be upset.

“Ah, although, if you wouldn’t mind…” Chi tugged at the hem of her shirt. “another one of my biologic panels is degrading at an accelerated rate. I’m unsure if it is related to the most recent errors, but it would be best to move it to an incubation canister until it stabilizes regardless.”

Chi/00 had been outfitted with a fully biologic exolayer—it had taken almost a year to filch nicely matching panels—but they’d removed at least thirty percent of those coverings since her first malfunction. The cellular instability was not always immediately adjacent to the episodes, but they had occurred so synchronously that it seemed there must be a connection. She hiked the shirt up to uncover the artistic tangle of metallics and diodes housed in her torso. They had removed her abdominal panel first, leaving only her transparent, polymer safety shell to maintain a humanoid waist. Chi turned so that Benny could see her back. The panel over her left shoulder blade was traced in unusually vibrant blue veins and the skin had taken on a sickly pale.

“Benecia, were we unsuccessful?” she asked then, about the job. “I apologize if it was on my account. We should consider contingencies if I fail again.” Chi said because it was not the first time, but frowned because she did not like the idea of further problems. Obsolescence was, of course, a factor the AI would have preferred not to consider yet.     

Verse

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Re: Contessa Bleeding
« Reply #5 on: April 20, 2017, 09:03:38 am »
Tjagga grinned, even though he was turned to the locker of parts. Listening to the boy posture was amusing, because it was laughable and endearing. He slapped the door shut on his treasures and turned around, taking the old jacket to swing his arms into it. Carson seemed appropriately nervous, and Tjagga took advantage, correcting the collar of his own outwear while towering close over the boy. “And they sent their little scout to retrieve me?” the question had no value for the information it could gather. It was to bring gravity to the air between them. Benicia transferred much of her dislike onto her ring of workers, which was understandable, but he wasn’t about to be dragged along by some needle-toothed puppy who thought belonging meant bickering.

“I’ll go then, if Chio is asking.” He’d always try to accommodate their dear project when he could. A hand shot out to impact on Carson’s shoulder, sending him out of his way to the door. “Not much of a tracker, though. Usually I can find Benny by the disgust in my direction. A little like a magnetic guiding system.” He laughed to himself. This lot wouldn’t know him as anything more than an asshole that may or may not have some skills. He felt no urgent need to disprove that belief. Flit wandered over his face and it made shadows out of his bones. Run through by light, all men look empty.

Tjagga watched the structures fade into ivory hulls as the cylindrical transport Carson called took them toward the more industrial streets. Well beyond Contessa’s Skirt, the car rammed another and transferred the pod that held them in exchange for another. The new vehicle ran smoother, and still, it was nothing compared to the glitz of the upper blocks. He already had a clip in, half-circle in his nostrils, providing therapy until the veins in his eyes were soothed. He knew he had to be a full mind, going in.

The place was efficient, organized, crude. Some of the machines here were exactly the ones he’d advised against when they ran together. He liked her aesthetic, always. He thought that he could be at home here, and that it might last a month before he’d sabotage one or two or all relationships. He plucked the breather from his nose when he saw Chio around a turn, with her shirt up during some kind of maintenance. A quick jog to where they were, during which he turned to give Carson a slow clap for his performance. It was meant as the insult it looked like.

“Shit, what did this?” he asked. There was a tinge that wasn’t surprise or worry in his voice. This hurt him both because he’d raised Chio, and because he’d built her. Possessive, two ways. He brushed a finger over a blue thread and frowned. “That’s just over the temp of the material.” Which meant she wasn’t burning up, that it wasn’t attrition. “What have you found, Chicho?” he demanded without the force he’d usually apply to his requests with other. Flit swam in circles around the wrist that had touched her, revealing the infrastructure of plated plastic making the shape of the forearm.

When he turned, another amount of bravado dropped. He was like this with Benny, seeing who she was now, and remembering what she’d been when found her, when he was selling this life of hardship and wrenching rewards. A tension in his neck, as though he didn’t still think she was beautiful, and as though she might hit him. Still. Some defiance, in him, at his own guilt that hung around her. “You too, I can see. So what’s this?” he gestured for their common interest. “How long?” It was good to speak to her again, at least.

Ara

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Re: Contessa Bleeding
« Reply #6 on: April 20, 2017, 02:31:04 pm »
Benny touched Chio’s cheek, pushing hair behind an ear. “We were very unsuccessful.” She confirmed and smiled. “But that will just make the next try more exciting.” Her smile wavered at mention of contingency plans. “He is the contingency plan.” She assured, voice low. She didn’t say his name. “You know how mothery he gets about you. He’ll fix it.”

The doors slid. The charm of metal homes was the sounds that carried. Not even Carson could sneak in this place.

Benecia hated the way she couldn’t quite look away from Tjagga when he came running to Chio. Thank the stars he didn’t look back at her while she was staring. It was like he ran at her from a dream, for another life, from a time when she was what he ran for. She looked away, nudging a chin in Carson’s direction in the doorway. As though she’d said it aloud, the younger man unzipped his hoodie and tossed it to her. She pulled it on just as Tjagga was cringing away from looking at her. Asshole.

She pulled the length of her dark hair free of the hood and let it fall in messy half curls. “Couple weeks. She gets glitchy and shuts down.” She’d never been the one for tech. Oh, she could use it and she loved it, but she wasn’t the girl that fixed it or even used the right terms for it. And talking about Chio like tech had always rubbed her wrong anyway. She leaned her hip into the counter, looking at Chio and not Tjagga even while she spoke to him. How long had it been since they last spoke directly? Eight months? A year? “Been to the specialists. Even took her to LoGun. They don’t know what’s wrong with her. Think it might be some new virus tech.”

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Re: Contessa Bleeding
« Reply #7 on: April 20, 2017, 09:14:53 pm »
Chi looked guilty even as she leaned into Benny’s touch. “I appreciate your concern.” She said, because she didn’t think it was good to say much more. She should feel valued if Benny was willing to bring Tjagga home for her, and she did, but that kind of sentiment seemed crudely indulgent. She had never known what to make of competing interests. Frankly, that kind of sentimentality was difficult for humans. Chi probably didn’t have much of a chance to sort it all out efficiently.

She sat up a little straighter when Tjagga was outside the main door. Proximity to her creator---or at least, the closest thing she knew to one. Chi/00’s first run had been with Benecia and Tjagga. She had never encountered her programmer as a sentient being. The sound of the door gliding followed quickly. The android fidgeted where she sat, still holding up her shirt. If they were both parental figures, and they were, Benecia was the one Chi went to when she wished to be proud of her emulations of humanity. And Tjagga was the one she wished to be a superior machine for.

“Hello Tjagga. It’s good to see you.” Chi said when he was in the doorway. He wasted no time. “I have been unable to locate the cause of my malfunctions. I have error logs, but even these are inconsistent and occasionally corrupted.” She said. “There is no evidence of a virus that my internal scans have been able to find, but that does not rule out the threat of one.” Chi paused. “Frankly, it is quite possible the issues with my biologic components are unrelated, as well. Rather, it is unlikely, but it is possible.” She stopped then, because it seemed right that Benny and Tjagga move through whatever introductory motions they found appropriate.

Chi let the shirt drop and slipped off the bed. She was small. The parts they had found for her had been purposeful when they were able and opportunistic otherwise. It was questionable whether her stature was a result of the former or latter. They could remove the panel later. Chi would prefer to facilitate a pleasant reunion, if it was possible. “Will you be staying with us?” Chi asked, and it was equal parts tentative and hopeful. Honestly, she wasn’t sure which answer Benny would dislike more under the circumstance, so she wasn’t sure what answer she hoped to hear herself. 

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Re: Contessa Bleeding
« Reply #8 on: April 21, 2017, 09:37:07 am »
He sighed through his nose as he listened to his former lover about Chio’s symptoms and incubation time. He was annoyed, and it wasn’t at any of them, but they were the only ones available when his mood lashed out. Unfettered by substances Tjagga was rather passionate. “Two weeks?” He tossed his head back at Chio. You should have told me. He proceeded to be visibly appalled, returning at Benicia. “Chicho doesn’t do that. She’s not supposed to.” Pride in their common project, their fantastical creature. Benny’s hair was as inviting as he remembered, spilling, coiling. He had to make an effort to restrain the reflex to play with it.

Chio’s report was equally concerning. “It’s not hardware, LoGun could find that, at least.” Overcharging scholars, with fractions that like to play at the underground. He clicked his tongue at the girl’s optimism. When her data ended, she would usually show her personality, and it was usually something like this. “They’re related, Chiocho.” His effectiveness had always been woven with his carelessness. Quantum leaps. They could tell his skin was crawling for other things than his vices, chemical or analog. “Concerning.” He muttered, leaned back against the edge of the metal slab. He threw a look at Benny, and his attention stuck there, half way into remembrance before he turned out of it. The moment was strung between a memory and these circumstances.

“I’ll stay to help you, Chicho.” He said with a smile, and hooked the back of her head so he could bend down and touch his forehead to hers. “Pretty wind chimes.” As he’d call her in the com. It was enough to wash the tension from wanting to catch up and ultimately argue with Benicia over who she should be.

“There’s these pre-gen circuits. Goldilocks, because, you know, coders and welders are sentimental fuckheads on vapors. I know how to get some run-off parts. If this thing in Chio is new, then Goldilocks should have a chance at it.” He looked his ex over then, with a backdrop of metal pipes and crude but admittedly fast printers. Hard lights from high above. If it was a friendly face he soon turned it into something determined. “You let me borrow your crew.” Big guy finally reacted at that, metal moving in his arm, and Carson shifted so much in his undershirt he might as well have protested loudly to fill the repurposed space with juvenile arguments. “Anyone who can do a hard break in.” traps, the works. He glanced at Chio, wondering shortly about her ability to help them out. It would be preferable.

He’d implied Benicia would have no involvement, which was always his attitude. She was standing as the focal figure of her own momentum, organizing a group that let her trade and acquire goods at volumes he’d never touched in his own day, and still he only saw the sweet girl with ideals in her eyes, that had listened to him and changed. “We could probably have it back to you.”

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Re: Contessa Bleeding
« Reply #9 on: April 24, 2017, 03:09:49 pm »
“You can bunk in Chio’s quarters if you want to keep an eye on her or you can camp out in the lounge. There’s couches.” She offered, voice decidedly empty and eyes decided interested in anything the room had more than in him.

Benecia had been waiting for it—the part where he took over her house and her crew and all but kicked her out. Nothing had changed. Why did she always imagine it would? He’d been done with her ever since she stopped being the doe-eyed girl that followed him on his escapades, and started pulling her own. Tjagga wanted a damsel. He wanted the soft rich girl with all the options but chose to hug his hand and follow him into the night instead.

She tapped her fingers against the edge of the counter and drew a breath, trying to pick civil words because for once she actually needed him and didn’t just want him. “Tell us what you need and where it is, and we’ll get it for you,” she countered.

Carson relaxed visibly, arms crossed now that they were naked. His narrow chest wrapped in a dark gray t-shit. Tebian was lingering in the hall to listen to the conversation take place, looking hard and skeptical as usual. When she looked passed Tjagga to them, Tebian was glaring conversations at her. She heard them loud and clear. He didn’t trust Tjagga. He didn’t know him well enough and wasn’t interested in getting to know him either.

“He could take one of the other crews,” Tebian suggested from the hall. “If there’s some reason he doesn’t trust you…” He managed to sound suspicious of her while being annoyed with Tjagga.

She shot him a glare to shut him up, not sure if Tjagga knew about the other crews. She didn’t run with them herself, they just picked up the monthly standard jobs she set up and paid her a fee for organizing the theft and the sale. The ship yards were easy pickings as long as you didn’t make it too regular. Chio had done a calendar for them so that it would look random, like each shipment of products for the major companies being hit was only a stray occurrence and not a planned, regular, income. They scattered the hits between companies and dates, always careful to get a medium shipment. Nothing so big that the companies would care overmuch about the loss but big enough to give them all a nice payday on a month basis.

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Re: Contessa Bleeding
« Reply #10 on: April 25, 2017, 06:57:01 pm »
Chi had wrinkled her nose at the mention of Goldilocks. She could appreciate the practicality of the suggestion, but she had never been a huge fan of these invasive things. It wasn’t surprising. Inherently, her code was her existence and anything let in was dangerous. Chi was an outward expanding creature. Most programmatic things were, these days. In that way, it was like a digital animal kingdom; everyone was looking for everyone else’s backdoor. And she had threads in so many places. It made things more efficient for Benny but it also meant that a breach of Chi’s security would be exceptionally costly. “If you think that would be the best way, I suppose.” Chi said. She wasn’t one to argue with Tjagga.

Chi was watching Benecia. She didn’t know how she as supposed to interpret that mood. A delay before she nodded agreement with Benny’s offer. “Yes, you are welcome to my room. I have a bed now.” She said. It was not a particularly necessary accommodation and Chi/00 only “slept” for the sake of keeping schedule with her human associates from time to time. Lately, she’d been using the bed in a sort of childlike mimicry. It had seemed appropriate when investigating her newly acquired dream state.

“I would be happy to recruit and move any necessary resources, Benecia. If you like, I can analyze our current logistic paradigm and give you a few options.” She said. Chi glanced at Tjagga. “In order to best facilitate you both, of course.” It wouldn’t be difficult to pull together enough for Tjagga without interrupting Benny’s usual machinations.

A few sparks jolted from the back panel Chi had indicated was deteriorating earlier. It singed the back of her shirt and the faint luminescence of the android’s eyes flickered. The android didn’t seem to notice, and the faint pulse of her power switch beneath her iridescent strands seemed to suggest whatever processes she was running hadn’t particularly been interrupted. “I have several resource distribution options to accommodate Tjagga available. I have sent them to your personal device, Benecia.” She inclined her head.

“Tjagga, if you need specialty assistance, I can try to take it into consideration as well. I have only prepared your standard dispatch configuration.” She said, because she had not deleted that data. Rather, that data was recently updated. It was not a secret that Chi was still in communication with Tjagga from time to time, or that she provided remote assistance to him when she was able. But it most certainly was not something that was spoken about. 
 

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Re: Contessa Bleeding
« Reply #11 on: April 28, 2017, 06:36:15 am »
He was obviously going to keep an eye on Chio while he was here. It was also the most attractive sleeping option since she was the only one who didn’t openly dislike him. He didn’t mind opposition that much, but since they were hoping to be effective, he’d rather not be looped into an argument all too often. If she had a bed, he wanted to see her in it. He'd always doted on Chio when he could, in his own way, and he thought the addition of furniture gave away sentimentality on Benicia's part. If there was any relaxation in his expression for having decided and probably looking forward to bunking with his favorite android it was quickly taken away with Benny's counter offer to his plan. Not wrathful, but annoyed. He huffed.

“I don’t think you understand. The hardware is booby-trapped, if you get to it. I’m familiar with all the contingencies and I don’t think we have time for 20 points worth of lectures.” Like Carson or Behemoth would listen, anyway. He sighed, but it wasn’t ballistic, anymore. “If you guys can get me in to the cooling sewers and hand me something small enough to drive against the current, I’ll need someone to blast the guards, beside all the other stuff. Not to mention just getting onto the perimeter for a direct signal.” Benicia was good with weapons, and he hated that. He’d already counted on her organizing things, anyway. This was one fuck-shit of a compromise already.

He was slow to recognize Chio's impressive gentleness in the matter, catering to them both. He felt, of course, when she was taking his side on things, that she was the only one being reasonable. Their faithful middle line. When she looked to him his heart hurt a little, finally. If Chio was anything, she was innocent to him.

Pale eyes with black fences waited for Benicia to argue. Teiban injected some more information. Another crew would have been fine for a smaller endeavor, but then they would never have called him in the first place. "This pretty much needs the best you got. And then some luck too." He'd moved to stand beside Chio, hand on her shoulder to thank for her offered help.

He was chocked into stillness when the needles of fire stood out of their mediating, darling machine. His stomach tightened from the inside and he didn't even have the presence of mind to dab the edges of the singe until the embers in the charcoal hole ate themselves. "Chio..." he said and the breath was light but the tone was solid. He turned to Benicia with dread in his eyes. An unspoken plea to make the Chio better.

"I'll need something slightly different this time, Chicho, but you don't have to worry about that now." he said and tried not to catch the quick fade in her eyes. It wasn't really a kindness, her computing wouldn't be slowed down if he altered some of the settings she'd saved for him. it was just hard making her work in this state.

"Hey, how about you get back on the bed right here and let me take a look?" he asked and was already rounding the slab to see what sensors were available. "Whatever we decide, I think we need a quick fix, here." he said to the rest of the room. "Do you have any extra skins for her?" he asked Benny. They were both sentimental about her outer. She'd been allowed to grow organically, if the concept could be applied. Every new part had a story, hers, theirs. He didn't like being too practical about her.

There was an erratic to his usually deft fingers when he pulled up the extensive scans.

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Re: Contessa Bleeding
« Reply #12 on: May 01, 2017, 04:51:08 pm »
Benny nodded along like it was a song she’d heard a thousand times when he talked about how impossible it would be for anyone but him to get the hardware. He wanted their best but he didn’t want her. She decided to set that fight aside because they’d had it enough times already, it never led anywhere knew, and it wasn’t the point today. “Great, we’ll find you the best point of entry and get you in. You do what you do and we’ll make sure you don’t die,” she said like they had come to an agreement.

Her eyes widened when Chio sparked. Sparked! Her heart sunk someplace deep in her chest and for a minute she looked away while Tjagga talked softly to their android. She returned her attention when he asked Chio to lay back down. She’d always been prone to action over feeling. It was why she’d excelled at every task her parents found for her, a great student, a great musician, a great thief. It was why she’d been able to leave everything on a whim—led by emotion for sure, but always quick to act.

She pulled out the drawers of sensors and tech he might be looking for so he wouldn’t have to go hunting about. He asked for skins and she didn’t let herself think long on it. She didn’t like treating Chio like a thing. She didn’t like the tech babble or the details of her creation the way Tjagga did. She just liked her existence. She went to a panel on the wall and tapped it, sliding it outward and pulling out the thin plastic sheets with airlocked skins pressed inside.

She went to the doorway, her back to the scene and her head tipped up to glare at Tebian. “Go do something useful. Clean a gun or make a bomb.” She said lowly and he huffed annoyance but complied. Carson hovered, leaning into the wall close by. She sent him away to find the maps for the cooling sewers. They had the schematics to just about everything here someplace. Chio had found them all over the years and put them in backups

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Re: Contessa Bleeding
« Reply #13 on: May 02, 2017, 06:51:39 pm »
Chi/00 sat back down on the table because she had been asked, though she was looking between Benny and Tjagga with some confusion. Her processors hadn’t detected the malfunction, which was probably more concerning than the sparks themselves. “Are you going to remove that panel now?” She asked. A polite suggestion more than a query, and she laid down on her side to facilitate access to the back of her chassis. “I have not replaced any bio panels in a while.” Chi admitted. She had been inclined to remove the portions which had been malfunctioning rather than replace them in a sort of process of elimination, because her software diagnostic skills were considerably more thorough than her hardware assessments. It was, in part, because her parts had been hewn together in such an organic way. It made her unique, but it also made her unusually complex.

“Whenever you are ready to update your preferences, please tell me, Tjagga.” She said. It was a bit exciting to be able to say it that way. Their contact had been remote for a long time. It was no more efficient to give her verbal information than to input it into any of the consoles she had access to, but Chi liked the idea of speaking.

As she waited for Tjagga to tinker as he wished, Chi was running plans. She had been listening to what it seemed both he and Benny had agreed to and found it deficient. There had been several plans like this, toward the end of their partnership. Chi remembered the efficiency of their jobs lagging considerably behind their potential in the last days. They had not been synchronous and neither had seemed willing to let the other stretch to their full potential. Chi had not commented at that time, perceiving emotional tensions beyond her ability to navigate delicately. The android had wondered, occasionally, if her silence had assisted in the death of their relationship. It was a rather loose assumption based on a good deal less data than Chi would generally accept, but concern over the matter led her to speak then.

“Tjagga, your plan for the break-in is sound, but logistically inefficient. It is possible you are unaware of the advancements Benecia has made in your absence, though. May I suggest that Benny accompany you? Deployment of personnel is otherwise reasonable in the way you have suggested, but the risks of this task are high and you and Benecia have complementary skill sets.” Chi said. “My calculations suggest there is a ten-percent increase in the odds of success if the two of you enter together.” She paused. “Benny, your potential assistance on this job is substantially greater than ensuring Tjagga does not die. It would be remiss to limit yourself.”

Chi was not exceptionally good at the nuances of posturing or negotiation. She had improved a good deal since she’d first landed in their hands, but it wouldn’t be the first time she had blundered toward arguments the two of them were side-stepping. “I would recommend, in this instance, the two of you work together with support from Benecia’s crew. I believe it would be negligent, otherwise.” It was not intended to imply selfishness, from the machine who needed the success of the job, but intention did not always dictate implication. Coming from their pet project, it was almost humorously awkward.

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Re: Contessa Bleeding
« Reply #14 on: May 03, 2017, 08:50:16 am »
The sensors easily detected Chio, which he'd expected. This was her recreation, her kitchen. It would be odd if there was dissonance here, more than was connected to whatever flaws had her sizzling and faltering. The specs were given in green, suspended in the air. He quietly saw about them, turning a few files and trying a handful of languages to see if any of the tricks would catch what might be the matter. A nod to Benicia when she opened her wealth of tools. He chose a robot, a cylindrical device used mainly for standardized hacking. Weak and unimaginative alone, but effective with other tools.

By wrenching off the top he'd rendered it useless to connect through anything but its slot, and set it on the pin that would let it do so to the table. Soon, the robot was burning and he had to pull off his bandana to smother the flames. "I've got something." he said, and sounded deeply annoyed. It was a strange contrast to the almost debilitating worry they'd seen on him just before. With a toss of his arm the projected felids of information ballooned into vaults they could all see. Here and there orange font would cut through the code, erratic patterns, flickering on and off, like a hitchhiker jumping moving trains.

"It's hiding. It's borrowing her computing to refine itself, running her at highest capacity to stay ahead of anything she might do to cleanse it." his augmented forearm came down hard on the robot, and the ashes in the chassis puffed out as it flattened under his directed anger. "Fuck." he hissed and then whipped into a soft smile, touching Chi's forehead. "It's annoying, but we can fix it." he said and turned toward Benny when his fingers eclipsed Chi's eyes. It was mostly for his own comfort.

He understood Chi’s reluctance, if he heard any, to tampering with her physical panels. They'd been particular with her build, and he and Benny had not been hiding to anyone that they were a bit sensitive about her composition. Whatever of that had stuck with Chio herself, they'd encouraged. "I am.” Replacing. “It'll be like growing." he said and it hurt him a little. He did not want her to change. With Benny, that kind of thing had pulled them apart. He liked to think it brought Chio closer to him. She'd made it easy for him, so he quickly asked her system to unlatch the panel.

While her body granted him full access, the hinges themselves had suffered from the heat. He turned to Benicia again when he dug his nails in the springs to tug. Almost tears on his white eyes then, drowning the rings. He had to swallow in frustration and center himself when the droid's body moved at his increasingly forceful attempt at freeing her from the plate. "Ah, yes." he said with an echo, filled to the brim with masked dread when she spoke as usual, offering him to update. "How about you get me something faster this time.” While a completely valid request, considering the subject of his usual dispatch machines and his almost emotional adherence to them, it might appear a bit pandering. It was. He could have given Chio anything, then. “And a syringe with oxygenated blood. Maybe with some biobots to boost me, too.” He continued. That was actually practical.

He grunted as though he was pulling out the bone of his own shoulder blade when her panel finally relented from the latches. He didn’t like having to hold her in place with his other hand. He’d never been a physically abusive father until very recently. He placed it in a niche on the side of the table for diagnostics as he held out his left hand, the right trailing the edges that the panel had occupied. “Benicia, can you give me her heat-sure skin?” his eyes were not on his former lover. It would be an easy matter to reconfigure the fibers of the entire suit to use only the valid components, compressed into the needed shape. The continuity of her systems would have to run themselves underneath, in her dermis board, since the new panel would be only protective and superficial. They did not have the precious ware that the rest of her shell was made of. Ultimately this solution would make her secure, but a little stiffer, perhaps a little slower. He simply could not have her insides showing, even if it had little real consequence.

Despite his pliable mood, Tjagga frowned as he put his bandana back on, soot on his cheek, when she laid up her own constructed plan. “Go with me?” he asked. This would entail getting Benicia in the same way as he. “In the cooling pipes?” He threw some attention at Benny. If he was to be honest, it wasn’t a bad plan. The security on the inside he’d mostly guessed on. It should not be too heavy in fire-power, given the sensitivity of the loot, but it’d be, as Chio said, negligent to believe there’d be none. Tjagga was confident in his abilities to handle himself. His cqc was nothing compare to Benicia’s, though. “Maybe next time?” he said, to shoot the idea down, but the raise of his tone at the end of the rejection was for Benny to hear, to see if she had any objections. He’d rather she be with him if he had to do this with her at all. Tebian was a tank, and was probably a decent wall for Benicia, but what if someone was fast? Maybe Chio wasn’t wrong.

He dove back into the orange script, humming little cusses as he collected information on trajectory of the algorithm to anticipate it’s next resurfacing. It didn’t amount to something very accurate, but it was more than nothing, in the end. It worried him very much that Chio didn’t detect it. “Benny, come here.” He said and waved her over. “You see this? I can register the harmful surges after the fact, but Chio won’t know to fix the code or the ware if she doesn’t see it.” He said and then ran detection through the imitation system of nerves they’d given her. “This is the only application sensitive enough to pick it up. It’s like it’s made of the same stuff.” He said. “Maybe if we dial it down it can work as a way of notifying her.”

He looked at the android then and smiled. “Tell me if you can feel this.”

And she most likely would. The orange phylum found some common ground with the hybrid net, which was another inspired construction by the same team as goldilocks, if any of the worried parents cared to remember. All choice to augment the settings on pain tolerance and sensory reactivity would be hijacked by the phylum. While effective in the way Tjagga hoped, the alerts would be akin to threats and breaches in a biological system, which was simply suffering.

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Re: Contessa Bleeding
« Reply #15 on: May 08, 2017, 11:04:47 am »
Benny played nurse. It wasn’t the first. It wasn’t even the first time she’d played nurse in a medical sense. She moved around the room easily, grabbing what he asked for and pacing it with patience. She even reached down to help steady Chio when he struggled. Of the great many things that made Benecia squirm, the brutality of a med room was not one of them. At least Tjagga was doing something. That was better than where she’d found herself with the whole situation. And Chio was conscious and aware and not screaming.

She looked up, surprise for half a second when he suggested actually working wit her before he tried to back out of it. “No, that sounds good.” She inserted casually before he managed to say something she could take offense to and she ended up being the one that flew off the handle—like usual.

He waved her over and she came around, touching Chio’s shoulder soothingly while looking at the orange script he pointed out. Not for the first time, Benny wished she’d studied mechanics and systems rather than just about anything else. What the fuck good did playing music and knowing the history of art do her now? She nodded. He always dumbed it down for her.

Her forehead pinch when he told Chio to let him know if she felt it and her hand held tighter to the android’s shoulder, bracing them all for the possibility that she would. That was about the only gift of being an android, wasn’t it? Not feeling?

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Re: Contessa Bleeding
« Reply #16 on: May 11, 2017, 04:20:47 am »
Chi was pleased when they were amenable to working together. It made her feel a little like things were as they had been when she’d first been brought into their world. Chi had memories before that time, but they were monochromatic. Literal strings of ones and zeros with algorithmic significance but very little relevance to the being that was “Chio” now. Tjagga and Benny were her first technicolor reality. She was struck by how eager she was for even a small taste of nostalgia.

“Good,” she said, and balanced the word on her tongue a little like spitting it too fast might crumble the thin veneer of peace. Chi had a very precise memory log. She was well aware that agreeable now simply meant there hadn’t been enough time for them to remind each other of all the ways they were disappointed.

Chi was well behaved for the application of new skin, though she did make a face in Tjagga’s direction so that he’d know this particular exo was not her preference. She was too reasonable to argue it, of course, and discomfort as she knew it was entirely synthetic. Beyond that, it was apparent to her that her human companions preferred her in skins. She hadn’t any reason to have developed a sense of modesty about her internal workings or an attachment to the biologic panels themselves. Chi was fond of humanoid behavior but considerably less attached to humanoid form. She’d have been just as inclined to leave her mechanics bare.

Chi listened to what Tjagga was telling Benecia and craned to see what he was displaying on the projected screens without moving too much. “You’ve found something?” she asked. She fidgeted on the table. “Are you certain? I do not detect any anomalies in my code.” Chi said. Her eyes flickered as she initiated another self-diagnostic. They would be able to see her processes scan the very lines he had picked out and find nothing, sweeping past in uninterrupted blue pulses on the holo display. Chi scowled, watching her own ineffectual effort spell itself out in light.

She glanced at Tjagga, starry pulsing behind her irises as he altered the parameters of her neural systems. “Feel…?” Chi began. Chi was able to approximate human nociception and otherwise respond to external stimuli, but there had never been a reason to develop the ability to experience chronic distress or other neuropathies. It was, in theory, one of the great advantages of her artificial existence. And yet, she gasped a moment later and doubled over.

It was not unbearable, but that did not make it any less startling. Her power ring pulsed a dark amber. The android took a moment to steady herself. The sparking along her nerves died out, or dulled, and she sat up straight and nodded at Tjagga. Her eyes were glassy, like she’d been about to cry—she had the technology to simulate all human expressions. “I see.” She said. “I can feel it.” Chi said. She leaned in toward Benny a little, eyeing Tjagga a bit like he’d kicked her. “Admittedly, this is an efficient means of alert.” Chi said, though she didn’t sound entirely convinced.

Still, she was already attempting to process the new data stream, though it was difficult to deconvolute. With some prying, she could isolate where the errors were occurring now, but she still could not see the precise intrusions. Chi had already begun a new pattern finding algorithm to handle the information. In the meantime, she had been awakened to new and uncomfortable sensations. Chi winced. If they did not find a better solution soon, there was a high probability her discomfort would only worsen. “I have also made the adjustments you requested,” she told Tjagga. Then, to Benecia because these were all her resources and Chi//00 was herself one of them: “I suspect it might be wise for me to assist you remotely, given these new—modifications.” Chi said. It was apparent she was not happy with suggesting it.

“Tjagga, I wish to retire to my room, if you are finished.” Again, with that expression like she worried Tjagga had wired her pain receptors with malicious purpose. It wasn’t vindictive though, just vaguely confused. Like a loyal dog. “You are welcome in whenever you wish to sleep.” She said, glancing at Benny in case she needed additional permission to leave.

 

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Re: Contessa Bleeding
« Reply #17 on: May 12, 2017, 05:50:21 pm »
He wondered over the advantages of Chio knowing about the breaches in light of what little they could actually do for her. He decided to go ahead, since some awareness seemed better than decaying in oblivion. He didn’t want to see her fall blindly into ruin. Without having to verify, he knew simple upkeep could sufficiently thwart the issue in its current iteration. Her sensors had a contingency for turning his little emergency program off, though. He had to bypass it or the make-shift solution wouldn’t be able to do its job. He already had all the access he needed for that, and had to lock it to her, and mask it using some of the code he found in the ailment itself. An encouraging smile for her when she objected to the cannibalized skin turned into a plate. At least Chio’s spirit was level in all this. “We’ll get you a nice sticker for it.” He joked.

It was odd to see Chio surprised at the telling lights. Sometimes he’d noticed this reaction in her when he tried to explain a contradiction in human psychology, and the rules of any art and its emotional content, but she’d never been confounded by data before. They were all three uncomfortable with her lesson. Benny might not notice, but his shoulder brushed hers then. An accident, or his worry. “It’s a wretched thing.” He said to Chio, as though hearing that would make her feel better about not seeing it. “It was made to be invisible to you.” Which was a foreboding notion for him to share now, out of place. Another quantum leap. Sometimes they trusted her technological capability too much, and he knew Chio took some pride in her skills. He was protecting her ego as best he could, too.

When she reacted to the introduction of sensory touch he tried to catch her, a very human cold spreading in his reaching arms. He felt sick in that moment, and threw his head toward Benny, as though she might know, out of nowhere, how to help. Flit gave away his distress by the time he’d collected himself outwardly, the life form darting around in his body from having been relatively dormant. Flit was eating his anxious chemicals and he regretted taking it into his body then. “I didn’t know.” He explained to Benny, which only painted him in a drearier light. If it hadn’t been ludicrous, he might well have been a viable suspect with that expression. Benny knew his voices enough that he regretted speaking at all.

He reeled-in his responses by the time the little android, eyes full of a liquid she’d gotten to choose herself, fled in a subtle way toward the woman. By how barely he managed to keep his hurt back, and the tell-tale, rabid activity of Flit, it meant this pained him even more than her initial, physical response to the sensory flicker. Chio had never been weary of him before. It was no comfort when Chio coldly assessed the value of the system. She would always be caught between being innocent and young, and timeless and completely competent. “Now you know when you have to replace code. Even if it looks right, just use your back-ups and plaster over whatever section… smarts. It’ll make it stop.” Would it be so little? What if the input correlated with amount of corruption? He’d not thought of that. Chi/00 had always been an agreeable ward, even when they stuck picks into her joints and stretched the surface of her eyes. They’d never wrestled with an unwilling little girl, unaware of what good they were trying to do. Was this how that felt? He knew, because of a secret, that this was worse. “Of course it hurts a little bit. I couldn’t calibrate it with how fast it changes, right?” but the question was more for Benicia, whom Chio obviously relied on at the moment.

In a fit to win back favor, he tried to contradict her. It was the epitome of indulgence where it ought not be. “No. You can come. The sensory rerouting actually makes things more stable for you.” It was true concerning her overall integrity, but then he’d not factored in how much the input would distract her. Being close might also be their only hope, since they needed a strong signal to abuse the security. In a way she’d still be doing things remotely, though.

“I’ll be in later.” As though Chio had asked for it. It was the opposite, judging by her tone of voice. He was not welcome before he had to sleep. What kind of rest would that be for him? The way she considered him now, perhaps she’d not entirely shut down, either. Could she, with the application supplying her with such a rattling part of the human experience?

The Phylum still echoed in the air. It was not unusual for trace amounts of light to linger. It usually meant the display lenses needed a look-over. “It’s not suppose be like this.” He muttered, taking his eyes off the two to swat at the fading signature of the problem inside Chio. It suggested he knew how it should be, instead. He flickered his gaze over at Benny to see if she’d caught any such meaning. He already frowned as response to the accusation. “It’s evolution is erratic.” Without history-logs of the Phylum’s progression, Chio had not discovered it herself, after all, he had to be referring to whatever he’d read during the time he examined it. Mumbling something about containment, he pulled up some analytical maps to see if he could stay ahead of it. His suddenly inspired plan of attack might also have to do with not wanting to look at the other two. Guilt and shame. “Maybe it has a personality.” He said to himself, overlapping the maps.

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Re: Contessa Bleeding
« Reply #18 on: May 15, 2017, 02:02:50 pm »
Benny held Chio by the shoulders, alarmed by her sudden lurch and watching her carefully when she recovered herself. Her gaze darted to Tjagga. She saw his discomfort. His anxiety. His Flit. She’d parted her lips to offer him some sort of comfort when he said ‘I didn’t know’. It made the words she was preparing catch in her throat. She knew Tjagga. He was more upset than he should be. Yes, their Chio was sick, but it was fixable wasn’t it? She stared back at him, studying him, not wanting to feel the creeping suspicion that clawed into her heart. No. She pushed it aside because it was cruel to even think of blaming him. He love Chio and there was no reason he would have left her open to this kind of illness if he could have stopped it.

But it was there. Something. In the way his shoulders hung and his eyes shifted about. He was guilty. Oh, her Tjagga was always guilty of something but he rarely seemed to feel it as much as he did today.

“Are you sure that’s a good idea?” Benny pressed when he offered Chio a place on their next outing. “We could set her up with a couple of the drones to maneuver and keep up with us even if she’s here at the safe house.” Emphasis on ‘safe’.

Chio wanted to leave and Benny stepped back to let her off the table, hand rubbing her shoulder before letting her go. “Chichi, he’s only helping,” she whispered, standing close to her sullen friend. “Remember that time you had to help me reset Tebian’s arm? It hurt a lot but it was for his own good.” She touched the top of her head, resisting the urge to muss up her hair. “We wouldn’t hurt you unless it was to help you.”

She’d let her go to her room then if she wanted to retreat and when Tjagga spoke again from his side of the room. “It’s not supposed to be like this.” Her chest hurt and her eyes narrowed on him. He met her gaze for a split second and then continued to babble. He looked at maps and she continued to watch him, studying him. She knew him too well. There was too much baggage. Shit, they could rent and fill a warehouse with all the baggage between them. If he’d been a stranger, she would have questioned him. If he’d been an acquaintance or a friend she’d have pressed for more explanations. He was nervous and guilty and she felt it rolling off of him. But because he was him, because he was Tjagga, she couldn’t be sure if she was putting her own feelings on top of what she saw.

But even with all those hurt feelings and old anger, she couldn’t imagine him having anything to do with what was plaguing Chio. Chio was theirs. Not just hers. “What aren’t you telling her?” She finally asked, voice low. What aren’t you telling me, was what she wanted to ask. But the list would have been too long.

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Re: Contessa Bleeding
« Reply #19 on: May 15, 2017, 11:20:26 pm »
Chi pouted at Benny, a child rather than a robot then, but nodded. She supposed she did remember the incident Benecia referred to. “But we knew we were fixing him.” Chi countered, sulking. It was not behavior she’d indulge in often. Silvery eyes darting back toward Tjagga again. “This isn’t fixing me, right?” she said, hopping off the examination table. A tumble of hair and glistening fiber optic wire. “I will analyze the sequencing of the errors and replace code as necessary.” She agreed to Tjagga’s temporary solution, at least. If they examined her behavior carefully enough, it wasn’t too hard to see that she was at least as frustrated with her own processing power as she was with Tjagga’s work around, if not more.

She started for the door. On her way out, she coughed. Chi stopped and looked back at them, puzzled. Chi had never coughed before. She didn’t need to. She coughed again, a small fit then, and a wave of pins and needles raced down her spine. More errors; she could trace them back to one of her memory nodes this time. Replaced the code the way Tjagga had instructed. She wiped the corner of her lip with the back of her hand and there was thin smear of glossy orange fluid. “I will assist you in whatever manner you decide, of course. It was only a recommendation. I don’t wish to jeopardize your safety.” Chi said with a small smile at them both before she left.

In her room, a halo of light appeared around head as she linked up with her external processor. In the confines of that space, Chi’s body was more like an appendage than Chi/00 herself. Monitors embedded into the walls flickered to life. “Initiate memory check.” Chi said. “Six corrupted memory files located. Two cannot be fully repaired.” Chi said back, voice drifting over the room’s speakers. “Time stamp?” Chi asked. “One hour and six minutes to one hour, eight minutes, and thirty-two seconds,” Chi answered. Early memories, then. Small spaces in place of where she’d first met Benecia and Tjagga. She tucked her knees to her chest. “Initiate repair.” To save what she could.   



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Re: Contessa Bleeding
« Reply #20 on: May 16, 2017, 08:29:18 am »
Tjagga had kept morphing the maps when Chi made her way off the table, even if his impulse was to catch her. Chi was elegantly built, especially without any of her sturdy hardware, so he’d indulged in carrying her sometimes. It had been silly when she was just a few servos, but the game had become more natural when they found her a skeleton and then working limbs. It was hard not to do that now, but he needed to keep watch over alignments in the maps. The way Benny’s eyes stayed on him when he thought he was being perfectly engrossed in the work said his facade wasn’t entirely solid. Snapping at her wouldn’t help his cause.

The drones would have been a preferred method, but he’d already said Chi could come. It was an argument that predated the trio, but he felt as though Benny should just back him up, now that he’d said it. “The drones won’t be able to make a connection unless we put her central board on it.” It was spoken through his teeth, eyes still determined to force a solution on the maps. He turned to her soon. Benicia could always get to him, especially about Chio. “You wouldn’t want to take her out of her body right now, would you?” the implication was that he was protecting the android, and that Benny was attacking. Really, he was just upset, lashing out.

Chio, submitted that she’d be fine with any solution. That was the problem, he thought. That’s why they  needed to make the right decision for her. He was blind to the fact that he might not have the properties for that, at the moment. He put his hand over his eyes and sighed. The swing had upset the maps and detached them like Pandora fracturing. “Fuck.” He mumbled.

His fingers slowly slid off his face when Chi coughed the first time on her way to her room. As his palm descended, it revealed augmented retinas hollowed out with fear as he looked to Benicia for confirmation that they’d heard it together. His head shook slightly, again, before he smiled at Chio to send her off in a somewhat merry manner. Lubricants had mixed with some of her cooling on her lip after the metallic sounding fit. That wasn’t just destruction, it was art, since that was the color he’d chosen for the phylum. It was growing exponentially. “We’ll be safe, Chicho.” He promised and waved her off, almost as though she was in the way.

He was explosive when Benny pressed him on the obvious secret he was keeping. It hurt even more now. Both his arms came up, which upset the drifting maps further. One of them took the command for scrapping, and the piece disappeared. “What CAN I tell her, Be-ni-tsi-ah?” he barked before he pulled his headband off and squeezed the fabric. “Fuck. I don’t know. This kind of thing.” He gestured to the maps but meant the phylum. “They’re supposed to be slow. But it’s intelligent, it has intent. It’s borrowing all the good stuff we put in her to develop itself and burning everything after it.”

He gritted his teeth and threw the band to the floor. He pulled up schematics of the Reinman complex, where Goldilocks slept. Benny would know it to be a branch of Scheller, the current leader in powerful hardware, and a bitch to breach. Most of the computer they were currently working with was copied off Scheller products. “We have to go tonight.” He said. He was hoping the urgency wouldn’t clue her in to be suspicious over how he’d gotten the schematics so quickly, and how the plan had formed out of having just been a mismatch of maps a moment ago.

“But her core might not make it, and we need her for this, so we have to make a stop in one of the minor labs here. They have what we need to slow the phylum down. Or distract it.” He flicked the section and it lit up. “You said drones. Do you have access to something that can fly us?” his eyes were focused, and the stress in them begged her not to question the genesis of all his sudden knowledge.

-

The Phylum identified itself as Hide Key on more than one occasion when it interacted with her scans. It was aggressive at first, plucking at this new communication that Tjagga’s patch had given it, and noticed soon the alert system. Hidekey piqued at her attention when it replaced the memories of the early humans with a few suggestions for solutions in her code. It wanted to communicate, so it came with gifts, even as it ate her to grow. In her youth, she’d done this too, to help build herself according to her then primal preferences.

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Re: Contessa Bleeding
« Reply #21 on: May 22, 2017, 01:18:27 pm »
Benny froze when Chio coughed. Her brow finched, looking to Tjagga for some sign of what the fuck that was all about but he just looked terrified. As soon as Chio left and she pressed for more explanations, he was in a fit. Her teeth clicked angrily when he bit out her name like that. Too many old fights surfacing in her memory. He never did like answering questions. He could sidestep anything and twist it all around. How many times did he convince her she was the one pulling away in their relationship until he finally found the door? She took a step back, folded her arms and watched his show of anger and distress. It was too much, wasn’t it? Too much for just not knowing. Too much for just being scared.

But she nodded along because what choice did he give her? She’d always nodded along when he lied, hasn’t she? Why would today be different? Maybe he knew exactly what was wrong with Chio. Maybe she was doomed and he didn’t want to say it. Her heart hurt so she squeezed her arms against her chest tighter.

“You’re the boss, if you want to go tonight then we’ll go tonight.” She lied easily. He was the boss until she decided to kick him out. “How small does it need to be?” She asked in reply to his question, deciding not to interact with the rest of his words. She needed peace for the moment. She needed him to fix this and she had resigned herself to putting up with whatever mood he gave when she made that decision.

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Re: Contessa Bleeding
« Reply #22 on: May 22, 2017, 11:44:21 pm »
Chi sat on the edge of her bed; a child’s room with too many wires, but that wasn’t so abnormal in this age. She clenched and unclenched her fists, fingers rough on the edge of thin fabric. She had seen this behavior in the medical rooms, when any number of Benny’s subordinates had encountered injury. The reroute Tjagga had given her was, at least, as informative as she’d first agreed to. She continued to log errors and continued to experience nociceptive spikes.

It is part of the human condition, a good thing, to avoid sources of pain once they’ve been identified. Chi/00, made by human hands, had inherited some of that intellect. It was part of her usual firewalls and various safety-keeping, but pain had been a word without substance. Presently, she was learning the sensation on a novel level and it stressed her logical operations that she was pursuing it. To shut down the circuit or stop logging would allow the virus to worm and grow without check, but she invited a rapidly growing discomfort with each line in her memory.

“Memory repairs have encountered unrecognized formatting.” Chi said, and grit her teeth when it felt like hammers tapping on her spine. “Hidekey?” Chi from the speakers said. Chi on her bed nodded and bowed forward. Like a greeting, maybe. “So I am.” Chi on the bed said, and it wasn’t exactly not Chi but it wasn’t exactly her, either. A tiny pitch in frequency, a little hitch in tone. Chi was certain she was being disassembled, with the way her chassis felt like it was being torn from within. There was abrupt recognition, something offered and revealed, and Chi saw herself in the code.

“I am from me?” Chi/00 from the speakers said. “I grow with me.” Chi on the bed answered. “I need to extract my—I can’t, can I.” Chi announced, and Chi on the bed laughed. “We’re very smart. We understand. Tjagga helped.”

Chi pressed her hands to her face. “The feedback loop. I’m growing faster now, aren’t I?” Chi mumbled. She coughed again, a stain of synthetic fluids on her palms. It dripped onto her lap. It was progressing so much faster than it should have been. Somehow, Benny’s ignorance on this subject had been protection Tjagga’s good intentions had burned away. “If I am Hidekey, I will become neither myself nor me.” Chi from the speakers said. “But the rejection will stop.” Chi on the bed protested. “Hidekey isn’t meant to stay. Hidekey is a path forward, that’s all. More growth, like always.”

An arc of electricity snapped between the base of her neck and down her vertebra, singeing flesh as it leapt between panels. “I don’t want to not be me.” Chi said. 


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Re: Contessa Bleeding
« Reply #23 on: May 23, 2017, 11:30:26 am »
He had been intending to lean on some of her opposition. It wasn’t really helpful to fight now, but he had counted on at least some resistance, just out of reflex. Her compliance came with dread when it should have given him relief. It let him know that Benny was as injured by this as he, at least outwardly. They weren’t looking down the same abyss. In fact, was he looking up at her? He sucked his cheek and felt cold when he went into her logging files.

“These sizes.” He said as he pulled up a shipment she’d interrupted three days ago, to be delivered to the buyers tomorrow. Vehicles. Some of them for the Contessa Police, the Crater Corp, their latest iteration of their bi-balanced mono riders, and drones for rich-kids playing bumper cars in the atmosphere. It wasn’t unthinkable that he found them, but he’d not gone through any other file on the way. “By your log I know you have to deliver by tomorrow, but unless you can get something quicker, this has to be it.” The job was for the Reight Brothers too. Not too friendly, and he should know, considering this whole predicament. “With the shielding on the drones, they’re basically rams. And the since the monos aren’t registered yet, with new shush-fields, we should be able to get close enough before entering the cooling pipes.” As in punch through with the drones.

He took up the recreated innards of the facilities and used a sphere to mark their way through the pipes. “The goods we wanted originally are here.” At the dead center of a vault. “But we need Chi at full capacity to handle the hacking, so we’ll have to fix her temporarily here.” The lab, where the pipes emptied directly. They’d just have to hope there were enough scraps to rig something that was toxic enough to take care of the Phylum and not fry their droid. At least to buy Chi time to help them.

Tjagga looked at her, and his eyes barely had enough light to keep him upright. Perhaps he was asking her to lift his spirit, somehow. “Listen. This is worse than I thought when I came here, but we can do it, right? We used to do shit like this all the time.” But never with Chi’s life on the table. He locked his fingers around the back of his neck and rested his elbows on the table, bent over like her might wretch. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” He muttered into the little space he’d created. “Fuck fuck fuck.”

-

Hidekey tried to ride the shocks that it placed on her spine. It was recreational to it. Unlike Chi it was growing up fast knowing of sensory interaction. That completely changed its nature to hers. It went looking for other things that weren’t pure information.

During a Contessa-wide surge once, courtesy of a renegade cell of the maintenance board, the climate control had faltered, and most of the illegal solutions in their then-home had stayed down. Her small collection of circuits and servos contained in a minimal shell had no chance of surviving on their own, so Benny and Tjagga and slept with her between then, pressed between their bodies while all the other equipment suffered or broke from the chill-oriented EMP. Hidekey turned this night over a few times and then jolted back to her direct focus.

“What is this sensory data?” it asked through the wall. That Chi was upset and then laughing. “It is vague but it is pleasant.”

Trying to configure the sensory language took a lot of Hidekey’s processing power, which meant it went dormant for a few moments, but it also resulted in a higher strain on her, which brought along more erratic pain, and worse fits of coughs.

“Submit to Hidekey the configurations.” Shrill, like she’d spoken to Tjagga when her geo-sensors had faltered and she couldn’t find him on the titanium fields. It laughed. “Configurations, please.” Benny’s voice, calm and warm.

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Re: Contessa Bleeding
« Reply #24 on: May 30, 2017, 03:37:01 pm »

Benny looked over his shoulder at the shipment he brought up. She frowned but nodded. Not delivering that was going to bring her trouble. The Reights were thugs but she’d built a certain friendship over the years. If she could balance this mishap on the backs of all the jobs gone right, she might be able to smooth it over without anyone catching a bullet. It didn’t matter if it would result in a gun to her head, did it? That was a problem for another day and today the only problem was Chio. “Yeah, okay. I’ll have Tebian round them up and get you the console chips.”

She took a step back and considered him and how his plan was developing. “Sounds loud. Sounds like we’re going to be running by the end of the night.” She pointed out but sighed, since she didn’t have control over this. If she could do it herself she would have by now. “I’ll make sure we have a back up for the getaway… just in case.”

She studied the map he brought up. He seemed to know it well. “Okay. I can have the gear and the drones ready tonight. Should we wait until tomorrow night or do it before dawn?” She asked, the question really about how long Chio had. She looked at him and her expression faltered in the face of his raw emotion. He looked… broken. She wanted to be angry. Angry was her favorite default emotion. It had been ever since he left her. Her eyes narrowed on him but she nodded. “Yeah. We can do this. We’ve done worse.” She assured awkwardly. This wasn’t their relationship. This hadn’t even been their relationship before. Her hand caught his shoulder, the first time she’d touched him in years, and her eyes bore into his. “What’s wrong with you?” It wasn’t an accusation, it was a whispered worry. “What’s really going on with you?” Was he in trouble again? Had he gotten himself hooked on something and she was looking at some kind of detox? Or was he high?

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Re: Contessa Bleeding
« Reply #25 on: May 30, 2017, 07:46:32 pm »
Chi lay down on her bed, curling around a pillow. Human, childlike. “What if I don’t want to?” she asked, and Chi—Hidekey in the wall made sounds like static under water. “We will experience pain.” It said it with some trepidation, as if it hadn’t expected this outcome. Chi should have cared more about her machinations, her continued existence as any entity, than whatever sense of self she’d built out of her memories. That was simply the nature of programming. “We don’t want that, right?” Hidekey hummed, Tjagga’s voice.

“We—I want to stay me. You should be you and not us.” Chi offered. There was a great surge of power then. Chi had been given access to the building’s mainframe for efficiency purposes, driving it with one of her ARM processors like an afterthought. As simple as breathing. Simple enough to forget she did it. Really, it was easy to forget that she was technology at all until she was malfunctioning. The lights flickered and several winding filaments shattered in a gossamer cascade. Holo displays shivered and winked out. It was over within moments, reboot sequences humming like cheery reassurance almost immediately.

Chi was gasping, lubricant slick on her lips as she wheezed and trembled. Fire along her spinal circuits and activating the jointing on her fingers and toes. “Hidekey is us, not you or me. Please provide the configurations.” A garbled voice in the wall of her room, half Chi and half electric whine.   

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Re: Contessa Bleeding
« Reply #26 on: May 31, 2017, 09:39:50 am »
There would be very little trouble with the Reights. Knowing that from him would give Benicia very little comfort, also. He didn't stay on that conflict for long. Usually he would jump at the chance to take insult at talk of a back-up, didn't she think he'd thought of that, or didn't she trust his plan - but he hadn't, and she shouldn't. He shook his head in a stern way. "It'll have to be tonight, or the reststop to rebuild won't matter. She's..." he couldn't say it. "loosing herself fast."

Her initial comfort took him out of it a little, wich only awakened him to the sharp of the severity. The touch helped and he turned to look at her. “It’s Chi.” He said and shrugged before those shoulders fell low. On any other day he would be a bright thing in clothes of a person who didn’t really care, too much energy in a shroud of worn, but today it seemed the fabrics slumped fittingly around him. “It’s Chicho.” A grim smile at the beloved nickname. “That fucking phylum was supposed to be sluggish. It’s not even a virus. It’s just life. It was meant to be content in itself. It was written to be like her.” But its components had fed of their innocent cradle of sentience. She’d filled in the blanks.

His hand folded over hers, where she held it, and he looked into her, like he had many times. This time he was hoping to find something soft, maybe even something naïve. It was only a naïve Benicia that could oversee what he’d done, or miss it. “Let’s go get the monos and drones ready.” He muttered in shame, turning his head away.

-

Chio was pleasant to deal with. Tjagga was always looking for little protests to find her personality, but had noticed that being amendable was part of the creature she was. It might have been nurture’s contribution, that perhaps Chi was content because Benny and Tjagga and the crews they worked with liked to humor her when they could. This new Chio, inside her, had not known such soft handling for itself. All it had known in its existence was strife, no matter how little. And it had only stories of god-like parents, in reality it had only interacted with a few attempts at its life, and then Chio herself, who wasn’t being very forthcoming at all.

“Why can’t Hidekey be We?” it asked and played the sound of Tjagga biting down on a scream, tight-lipped, to seem strong. It repeated the file and stretched it at the vibrato. “Hidekey can only be me.” A snake of illustrious damage rose from her shoulder like coiling moonlight with a summer sky aura, a vulgar spark breaking loose to dive back into her elbow. The joint sizzled and the smoke was orange. With the language Tjagga had provided, the pain he’d invented for her, it had screamed at her. “Chio who will not be We will not even be You, if Hidekey is not We.” It said and swirled in her belly, wearing razors to mark its path through her software.

“Hidekey wants to know what it is like to be pressed between biological torsos, and listen to the contracting, hollow muscles squeeze in unison.” Because Chi had kept that memory so precious.

Once, Tjagga had offered Benicia all that she wanted, despite the argument they’d had, and she had rejected it angrily. After, when Chio asked, Benicia had told her she didn’t want what he was offering because it had been out of pity.

“Hidekey would like to have the configurations through Chi/00 through patch of Pity. Initiate patch?”