Helena enjoys new lovers.
Helena Georgiana Wells has always enjoyed new things. Her father favored her over her brother Charles because she had the mechanical and engineering aptitude that Charles lacked; she helped her father in his laboratory every chance she could, and each new discovery—though many of them new only to her, not the world—thrilled her.
The thrill of new lovers is not quite the same as the thrill of new technological or mathematical marvels, but there is at the root of these novelties the same spark at the base of Helena’s spine, the same flare in her eye. Humanity and its abilities delight her in all ways.
(The delight is tempered with the death of her daughter; the delight dims with the discovery of each betrayal and violent act she witnesses; the delight almost flickers out with the passing decades while she is bronzed; but the delight never truly fades, not quite, not until the day in Warehouse 2 when she imagines seeing Christina once more and Myka pulls her out of the fantasy, shattering it.)
New lovers are like gifts, Helena tells some of them. The challenge of learning a new individual’s likes and dislikes, both mental and physical; the exploration of a new mind and body. Stimulating discussions and debates that range from philosophies of life to the best flavors of tea and when the milk and sugar should be added. There is a joy in learning a new rhythm with a new individual, a new life rhythm and pulse.
And of course, there is the sex. Helena has always enjoyed sex, and she particularly enjoys sex with new lovers, for all the opportunities to explore and test boundaries and stimulations. Some women must have their clitoris stirred for maximum pleasure; some men must have their penises stroked before they will even become properly aroused. Some hate kissing on the lips; some orgasm simply from the scratch of her fingernails along their backs, or the sound of her voice murmuring low in their ears. Helena catalogs each difference and uniqueness in her diary, treasuring the data long after the lover has faded from her life, as they all eventually do.
Sometimes it’s boredom that sets in. Sometimes the life rhythm fails, or fails even to emerge and take hold; sometimes they become frustrated with Helena, with her fierce stubbornness and occasional descent into maddened grief over the loss of her daughter. Sometimes, so rarely, it is an agreeable mutual parting of the ways. The best way for a love to end, Helena thinks sometimes, regretfully.
The last new lover Helena Wells will have is Myka Bering.
When McPherson de-bronzes Helena, she is not looking for or expecting to find a new lover. She has a mission, a personal mission: begin the world anew. It is broken, and it needs fixing, and she is the only person, apparently, with the clarity to see that.
Pete Lattimer does nothing for Helena; he is a buffoon and a hormonal fool, like so many other men that Helena has met, and she is impatient with his sort. Myka Bering, though—at the sight of Myka, Helena feels that spark at the base of her spine and is sure there is a flare in her eye, and despite herself she is intrigued by the woman. Despite herself. She does not want a complication in her life, not now.
Nonetheless, she thinks she detects a mutual spark in Myka, and she plays on that, tries to use it to her advantage. She works on Myka, gives the woman drops of information about her past, gifts the woman her grappler (she can always make another). She is earnest and passionate and almost surprises herself with her own intense need to make Myka understand and trust her. And when she gains that understanding and trust—
It takes some persuading to bring Myka to her bed. It again surprises Helena how much she wants Myka in her bed; it worries her a little too, this ardor and occasional lack of impulse control. But Myka is a delightful and curious bundle of youthful professional insecurity combined with surety and self-confidence, a certain “geekiness” (Lattimer’s word, and Helena must admit it has a certain useful ring to it, once he defines it for her) and an utter lack of self-knowledge about her own beauty. There are so many emotional and intellectual threads to Myka’s makeup that Helena would really prefer not to restrain herself from untangling all of them.
Myka is resistant; Myka insists that they are partners and should not cross boundaries and lines; Myka has lost her own lovers, one of whom was indeed a colleague. Myka is not that experienced with women; Myka does not want to hurt the team, her surrogate family—and Helena is surprised how much of a family the Warehouse team is, much more well-adjusted and cohesive than most of her Warehouse teams had ever been in England. Lattimer is not as much the buffoon he appeared on first meeting, and Claudia’s mind is another delight of computerized wonder. Sometimes Helena finds herself wishing Christina had grown up to be like Claudia, and when that happens, she has a strong need to find something to shoot, or to take apart a contraption completely.
Helena works on Myka; Helena flirts with Myka and leaves her little presents—a new stun weapon here, a miniaturized catapult there—Helena touches Myka more often than necessary and smiles at her more brightly than usual; and finally, one night on a mission away from South Dakota and sharing a hotel room with Myka (Lattimer somewhere else in the hotel and blissfully unaware of what his partner is doing with the untrustworthy Victorian-era agent), Helena finally, finally persuades Myka into her bed.
Myka is slow, languorous; Myka takes her time and teaches Helena a new trick or three involving lips and fingernails and teeth. Myka smiles up at Helena sleepily, sweetly, and giggles when Helena trails her fingers up Myka’s thigh toward her vagina, and gasps when Helena puts a finger and then two inside her. Myka has long legs and flexible muscles and firm breasts, and Helena remembers for the first time in decades the joys and delights of a new lover.
“Oh, god,” she whispers breathlessly into Myka’s neck when Myka licks her nipple, when Myka puts a finger and then two inside her. “Oh god, Myka, Myka—”
They sleep, legs and hair tangled together, and the next day Myka is professional and businesslike and gets the job done, and Helena emulates Myka’s cool authority as well she can, though she catches a glimpse of the hollow in Myka’s throat, or she remembers the feel of Myka’s lips against hers, and she finds herself once again breathless, her thoughts a trifle disordered.
It has, after all, been an awfully long time.
Myka’s life rhythm is very different from any other lover Helena’s had; but then, no other lover had a mobile phone and laptop computer and microwave and television set and post-it notes. Helena is pleased that Myka likes to read in bed before going to sleep; it is, at least, something utterly familiar in the morass of strange and new (wonderful) things constantly surrounding her in the twenty-first century. Myka does not read over her shoulder when Helena writes in her diary; Myka giggles in bed and asks difficult, personal questions that directed from anyone else Helena would walk out the door and not look back.
“Who was Christina’s father?” Myka asks one night when they are holding each other after sex, both too lazy to move. Pete pretends to remain blissfully unaware of the turn their relationship has taken; Leena smiles at them both distantly but kindly and continues to change both beds’ sheets on a regular basis (though they spend far more time in Myka’s room than Helena’s at the boarding house); Claudia alternates between oh-god-older-people-having-sex embarrassment and quietly gleeing at them; and Artie continues to refuse to acknowledge Helena even exists, as much as he can at least.
Helena stiffens at the question, then makes herself relax. “A military man,” she says at last. “My husband—the only one I’ve ever married,” she adds with a trifling smile, “I was terribly young. He went to India soon after we married, soon after I conceived. He didn’t come back.”
Myka has that little frown on her face, that little pucker between her brows, and Helena kisses it, wishing the kiss would be enough to make it go away, to make Myka stop asking her questions. “I’m sorry,” Myka says at last, and strokes a hand up and down Helena’s arm.
“Don’t be,” Helena says, more abruptly than she intended. She forces herself to relax her muscles again, and Myka kisses her shoulder in silent acknowledgement of Helena’s effort. “He was a soldier, destined to die in a war of some kind or other. I hated violence after that, guns especially—I learned Kenpō after I joined the Warehouse; I improved upon Mr. Caturanga’s electronic stunning device to give it more controlled power. I did not come easily to violence.”
It is an uncomfortable thought for her, when she considers it in conjunction with her plans. She has many uncomfortable thoughts in conjunction with her plans these days, many of them involving Myka. Because Myka Bering is vital and passionate and earnest and alive, the way that Helena used to be, the way that Helena sometimes fears she herself still is. Humanity still brings her wonder and delight—she need only look at Claudia or Myka or even Pete Lattimer for that; and when that wonder and delight overtake her, she worries that perhaps the world does not need to begin anew after all.
But when Myka shatters her fantasy of Christina, when Myka pulls her out of the dream world, Helena is once more certain of her course of action.
So it is only right and fair that Myka is the one to pull her back from her course, that Myka Bering is the one to stop her from destroying the world and letting it begin anew. Myka walks into the gun she hands Helena fearlessly—something no other lover has ever, ever done—and Helena is, once again, shattered.
She has no time or opportunity to note this new data in her diary, however.
Myka Bering is Helena Georgiana Wells’ last new lover. Helena has no regrets on this score; she only wishes she had had more time with Myka, that Myka could have become one of Helena’s very rare and very few old lovers. Helena is quite sure she would have enjoyed that.
Helena wishes she could touch Myka again, run a hand through Myka’s hair and down her body. She wishes she could hug the other woman, kiss her good-bye. But that is not an option now—not when Myka is within the protective barrier with Lattimer and Artie, and Helena must perforce remain without—and Helena is content.
Helena is about to die, and she is unsure whether there is such a thing as an afterlife and whether she will be reunited with her daughter, but she has lived long enough in this world and she has seen and caused enough damage and heartache of her own to admit, finally, that she is ready to leave.
Perhaps she will have the opportunity to start anew.
Thank you, she mouths to Myka; Good-bye and I think I love you and I wish you could have met my daughter, she does not try to say to the other woman, but she thinks them, and she cannot help the smile that spreads across her face, even as Myka’s eyes fill with tears.
Myka Bering is H.G. Wells’ last new lover, and Helena is content.