Chapter 1: It's The Popo!
Grease, the enemy of Lars today. He sprayed and wiped meticulously on every surface. The tall pale man couldn't stand his ship, his precious ship, being in less than perfect condition. “You are going to look so good Mattie. I'm gonna wash you, and wax you, and –”
“You've gone soft in the head laddie.” A certain annoying janitor interrupted Lars from his mechanical worship. The pilot hadn't even noticed two of the crew come onto the bridge, so enamoured.
“Shut it Scotty. Mop for brains.” Lars grumbled, a little embarrassed. He honestly was a through and through vehicle admirer. He had named every thing he ever owned, babied it and clean it compulsively. He spent more time committed to vehicle care than his own needs. It was why he was always dressed so haphazardly, with a shock of partially wild blonde hair.
“You love this ship more than a lady. Aint right.” The janitor wouldn't heed in his teasing. The true Scotsman was every bit a stereotype, from his red hair to his bizarre preference for kilts over pants. It was probably a 'heritage' excuse to have his leg hairs free in the wind.
“Ey, it is strange mate.” the engineer beside him agreed, also accomplishing nothing. Jack was as useless as Scotty, supposedly from Australia on Earth. The trio of Kirkland brothers that worked on board were all former Earth citizens. Eyebrows thicker than cables on all three of them.
“You think he's tried to a... have a fun roll with the ship parts?” Scotty continued, being a skirt wearing prick like usual.
“Yeah mate. Being cocky right in the engine room.” Jack ribbed Scotty, then laughed obnoxiously. Oh gods, that Kirkland laugh was like nails on a chalkboard.
“Don't you two have jobs to do? Go bug Arthur.” Lars shot back, thoroughly numb to usual Kirkland treatment. He was only flustered because he had masturbated in the engine room that morning. It wasn't due to love for ships, though he did adore being a pilot. It was a matter of privacy. There was not a lot of places on this ship a fella could tend to his needs uninterrupted.
“You left me nothin' to clean. I'm bored.” The janitor complained.
“I'm waiting for a package for customs.” was Jack's own excuse.
“So go bug Arthur.”
Both brothers were about to open their freckled faces, when the computer activated. The darkened touch screens lit to life with lilac text beneath Lars's soft cleaning cloth. A deluge of information was displayed. Intimidation to some, routine work to Lars. The M. A. T. I. E. program, or Mapping Astronomical Travel Intelligence Entity, was an older program not suitable for algorithms. It was too dense with information to be made into an AI, blowing most android memory banks.
Fine by Lars. He was raised on Ceres as an old school pilot, capable of wrangling such archaic programs to great potential. “Ship approaching, designation C-LOE 4500246, Lazarus series 6 model. Incoming hail.” the ambient speakers in the room informed softly.
It was a distinctly Canadian accent, picked by Scotty before Lars had been hired. Supposedly it reminded the redhead of one of his strange transgender lovers. Something the irritating bastard brought up all the time to make unwanted company uncomfortable. Why even pick the voice of your ex-lover as a computer voice? That stuff was impossible to reset.
“Intercept hail.” Lars ordered, settling in the captain's chair. As first mate to the captain, he had right to act if the captain was unwell or occupied. Last minute adjusting his traditional Ceres scarf of blue and white stripes, he glared at the idiots still in range of the hologram camera. They rolled their eyes, but back away a few feet.
“Open hologram channel, Mattie.” Lars ordered confidently, puffing out his chest for his captain act.
A stern hologram of a familiar jerk formed from pale blue light. It was that gods awful Constable Edelstein, from C.L.O.E. Ceres Law Orbital Enforcement was the most annoying regulations enforcers this side of the asteroid belt. They pestered the crew of the S.S. Natalya on a bimonthly basis.
This was inconvenient, since both Lars and Captain Braginsky had a lot of illegal stuff they smuggled. This week was easily a ton of Earth grown Sativa, outrageously illegal due to the intense THC concentrations. There was easily three million credits worth of the stuff packed in the walls.
The hologram of the cop was as pretentious as ever. “Good evening Plebeian. On order from Ceres, I will be inspecting your cargo. Resistance to such actions will be seen as unlawful.” The cop's notable southern Ceres accent sharpened W's into clear V's.
Shit! Lars thought at lightning pace, betraying nothing with his neutral expression. “Oh. Yes. Inspection cargo yes?” he played stupid, acting as if he didn't know Runglish as a native. Runglish was the official language of Ceres, incredibly difficult to master if you weren't born into it. A Frankenstein of old English and nearly extinct Russian, it was a standard space faring language for most colonies. Only Mars and Titan defied such traditions.
The cop cringed, then sounded out every word painfully in his hilarious accent. “We. Coming. To. Look. For. Contraband. You understand?”
“Country Band? Music good yes?” Lars cocked his head, struggling not to laugh. Something Scotty and Jack were failing to do on the sidelines. They barely contained themselves by muffling their mouths with both hands.
There was a low curse in swears that resembled High German. “We will be arriving in fifteen minutes. Prepare to receive our company or be fined.” The hologram call ended suddenly. Sweating nervously, Lars was quick to move. He had to wake up the captain right now.
About to press the intercom controls, he was stopped by Jack. The brunette looked apprehensive as he spoke. “Are you sure about Braginsky? You know how he's been lately.”
“He needs to do his job first.” Lars ground out impatiently. He was tired of how the crew treated their leader. Sure, the wall of a Ceres captain was prone to drinking fits. He still had to show up. Pressing the intercom, Lars spoke with urgency.
“Captain, We need you on the bridge.”
Chapter 2: Junk In The Trunk
A spot of red light in the darkness of the messy room. Another long drag of the cigarette, and a deep exhale. The smoker in question was laying in bed, clothes hours old. Possibly days old, in the case of of his socks and pants. In the near complete black of the space, no one could judge his condition. Another puff of the cigarette, another exhale. Until the weak drug was a blackened nub, he didn't stop his pace. Finally, it was finished and pressed into a bedside ashtray.
“Why can't these things kill me already.” the man whispered morosely to the empty room. The only response was faint rattling of the air purifying systems. In this self inflicted isolation, the ship's intercom system painfully intruded.
“Captain, We need you on the bridge.”
Rolling over in slothful disgrace, the tall man was slow to activate. He edged around alcohol bottles in the dark. The damn things littered the floor like mines at this point, intermixed with stale laundry. Finally reaching the light switch, he winced as the cramped room was illuminated. It was chaos and absolute filth. Ivan didn't care.
Picking around trash with each step, he was now at the intercom. With a press of directory buttons, he spoke. His voice cracked a little with intense emotion. “What is it.”
“It's Cloe, Cap. They want to do an inspection.”
“Stall them with language barriers. Initiate Protocol B-7. Give me... ten minutes to wake up.” Ivan ordered, overly familiar with this routine. The Ceres Law Orbital Enforcement were like unwanted lice, always eager to get in your hair. Inventing new forms of contraband seemed to be their new hobby as of late.
Kicking stuff aside , Ivan formed a trail to the bathroom. It was a small white space not meant for someone of Ivan's build. This was a ship manufactured on Ceres itself. Natives from there had a tendency to be taller from more zero gravity exposure. They also generally resembled sticks, not much for heavy weight training. You didn't need a lot of muscle when most jobs operated in limited to no gravity.
While Ivan never hit his head on door frames these days, he sometimes had to squeeze in. His impressive fitness, and his lesser beer gut, made the tiny shower troublesome. One cramped shower later, he was back in the main room. Only slightly dry, he didn't much care for more. There had to be at least one clean formal outfit around here somewhere.
Barely in time, Ivan was dressed in his navy blue captain's uniform. The intercom was crackling seconds after he pulled on his boots. “They're comin' cap. We got less than five minutes.” This time it was the janitor.
“They're docking in the back.”
Ivan was legitimately running now, yelling “Personal office locked now!” to the ceiling. “Door is locked, Captain.” the computer replied evenly. “Lock the docks!” Ivan huffed, turning around the last corner.
“That would be unlawful, captain.” the ship objected flatly, not obeying. Ever since Lars gave it a software update, the computer was entirely unreasonable about locking out authority figures.
Screw that computer anyway! Ivan jogged the last length before the back of the ship, sliding into the room on worn treads. “Here, here! Where is the constables?”
“Not here yet Papa.” Natalia greeted, giving her much larger father a great big hug.
“Oh little love bug. Who's the best daughter?” The devoted parent cooed, giving his only reason to live little cheek kisses. The girl was only a twig next to her dad, yet still the scariest thing on the ship. Only Scotty was insane enough to approach the 18 year old head of security.
“Papa you're a mess again.” Natalia fussed over Ivan, flattening his hair and straightening his captain hat. Next, a few stray crumbs were brushed off the Navy and white lapels. The sincerity, the love and care, was cancelled out by Natalia's next snarl.
A worried Lars stepped forward, in mid protest. “Captain, the constables will be here any –”
The ash blonde daughter hissed at the pilot, very much like an animal. Ivan was secretly proud as Lars backed up with open hands. “Do not worry Lars. I will distract the annoying man. You enact Protocol B-7.”
With a sharp nod all staff ran off to cover their own asses. Protocol B-7 was fancy terms for stinking up the ship with scented candles while pushing visible packs of Earth Marijuana out of sight. Every staff member, even precious Natalia, was in charge of a specific area. The candles threw off dogs, and everyone coordinating their backstories like a team was invaluable.
Seconds after Natalia skipped away to secure the weapons room, the large metal doors opened. A prim and proper Constable Edelstein was there with critical indigo eyes. Beneath the slim black space suit, one could see that judging pair of glasses.
Peeling off the hood and breathing guard, The constable smirked. “Surprise inspection Captain Braginsky. There will be no stopping the laws of Ceres today.”
“As always, a pleasure to do business with you.” Ivan greeted with false cheer, deeply bowing.
“You know how this works.”
Ivan did know how surprise inspections worked. He was a master of stalling them. As they walked around the cargo hold on the lower floor, Ivan look his sweet time about it. The cargo hold, running the entire bottom of the ship, honestly never held product. C.L.O.E. hit the ship up for contraband so often, fake cargo was placed in the usual places to give an impression of innocence. The walls and the medical bay was where most drugs were shipped.
Constable Edelstein's patience wore thin as Ivan cracked open another crate with ginger care. “Oh, I'm sorry officer. You did say you wanted to look in every crate?” This one was one of Ivan's favourites, stuffed with racy questionable porn.
Both Edelstein and his silent partner Ludwig looked disgusted. They closed the lid quickly. “Is all of these crates sex associated?”
“Most of them. A client ordered an entire box of creepy dolls dressed like –”
“We don't want to know.” Ludwig cut off Ivan's insane lies. Three million credits in drugs was at risk, and the ash blonde captain would do anything to deliver it.
“Enough of this. I'm inspecting your office.” Edelstein threatened with a pointed finger.
“I apologize, but I'm going to need to see a warrant for anything outside this room.” Ivan declined him kindly, looming over the much shorter Earthling. Cold violet eyes mocked the law enforcers.
The constable raised a finger in protest, then paused. He seemed locked in thought, then grew red from anger. Finally he spoke, revealing his bluff. “We don't have a warrant yet. When we do, you're going down.”
“Our banter is so refreshing. I look forward to seeing you next time.” Ivan greeted back, smug and relieved. Sometimes they actually brought proper search warrants, so today was pure luck. Waving at the officers as they fastened on the helmets of their airlock suits, the ruse was upheld. Ivan was still sweating nervously under his long navy blue captain coat.
As soon as the idiot patrol left, Ivan was at the intercom. “Cloe is leaving. Act casual. I repeat, act casual.” After five long minutes of relative silence, the entire crew was able to relax. Once more, people roamed the halls and attended to random tasks.
Lars continued with his strange cleaning rituals, whispering sweet nothings to the ship. Ivan was going to relax in the captain's chair with a flask of vodka. Those plans never took to fruition. Instead the dangerous joy of his perfect child reported in.
“Papa! I found an intruder. He must have left the Cloe ship!” Natalia cheered, voice echoing slightly. Whimpers of 'I want to live!' and 'Not my face!' were heard as background noise.
“Honey, buttercup, you know killing people is bad... Where are you dear?” Ivan purred, unable to stay mad at his lovely Natasha. A father couldn't be more proud of such grace and weapon proficiency.
“I'm in the engine room. I found a bunch of weird books, and this guy.”
Ivan glared daggers at Lars, who was prone to adult needs in that area. What a weirdo. “Don't touch the books baby. Papa will come get the bad guy.” Jack and Scotty snickered at Lar's expense all the while.
“Okay, I love you.”
“Love you too little bird.” Ivan bid goodbye. Marching over to Lars, the father fumed. “Get your smut out of there before my little angel figures out how things work.”
The already pale pilot nodded, looking near bloodless now. “O-of course Captain.” the man sputtered, quick to flee.
The engine room wasn't far, a few minutes really. Ivan's little princess was technically not little, rather tall for an eighteen year old. In her 'Princess' of security dress, she held a terrified man at laser rifle point. The figure was finally seen as Ivan entered the dense cluttered area.
Behind a metal pipe, the intruder was a quaking mess of golden blonde hair. It was obvious he was not from Ceres, for he sported a deep tan and freckles. Still, it was unclear if the man was an albino Martian or an average Earthling.
Peeling the adult sized rifle out of Natalia's itchy trigger fingers, Ivan spoke. “State your name.”
“I don't have one.” the man answered quickly, quivering in his stark white scientist robes. Was this a trick? Only one way to be sure. Ivan held the man point blank with the weapon. Natalia looked happy as she clung to a leg and chanted “Papa's gonna get you now mister.”
“P-p-please sir believe me I wasn't assigned a name at the centre. I'll work real good please don't shoot me in the chest I need that to live!” The man begged in earnest, crumpling under threat. Nearly electric blue eyes, obviously implants of some kind, were wide in terror. No one had eyes that blue in deep space. Ivan's own gaze was violet only due to borderline Albinism.
The scientist, or possible student given his youth, seemed sincere. Ivan had to give the fellow credit for not pissing in his nice white robe. “Okay. To the holding cells with you.” Ivan decided swiftly, in a good mood today. Seeing his daughter's smile was one of the few things that could pull Ivan out of deep depression.
“Can I interrogate him Papa?” Natalia asked sweetly, darker blue eyes set to pitiful cute mode.
“No, dear. I need to talk to this... lost man.” Ivan sneered, as the stranger's face was painted with dread. A small round of questioning could help relief the bulky captain of his frustrations.
Chapter 3: Twenty Questions
The 'holding cell' was no better than a converted closet. The S.S. Natalya was honestly never meant to haul more than ten tons of anything. It was even less well equipped to deal with three week long voyages into deep space. Yet, here was a crew, doing full time trips as smugglers in the asteroid belt.
Ivan sat on a chair in front of the new prisoner, fingers posed in a pyramid of contemplation. This interrogation was the most boring the captain had ever conducted. The problem was this guy clearly knew nothing.
“For the last time, What do you know.”
The stranger shrugged, which was difficult to do. He was handcuffed to a iron handle welded to the floor after all. Shaking the untrimmed mop of blonde hair, the intruder was struggling to see. “All I know is I can't see. Did you see my hair band?”
“Who do you work for?”
“I don't know. I escaped a research facility in a box.”
“If I knew that, I would have said something by now.”
Ivan stared hard at the person, then rubbed his temples. It was clear this guy was probably telling the truth. “Well, stranger, get comfy. We don't return to port for two weeks.”
“Two weeks?” the blonde cocked his head. “Why so long?”
The captain couldn't take it. There was something about this free loader that was driving Ivan up the wall. He had that cocky attitude that made you want to punch him in the face. He also had that perfect freckled tan that you didn't want to mar with bruises. Above all of this, it was clear the man was an idiot. The blonde didn't know a thing, and two hours of drilling him verbally had proved as much.
“I'm too hungover for this. You can rot here while I get breakfast.” Ivan grumbled, getting up with a heave of effort.
“Oh, oh I know breakfast. Breakfast is... first meal of the day. The most popular breakfast of Neo-Manhattan in the year 2146 was pancakes. Pancakes a common meal prepared with flour... I know how to make pancakes. We gotta make some.” The stranger was perplexing, switching from a very human voice, to flat speaking much like the ship computer. Just as quickly, the inhuman moment was over. Ivan suspected this poor bastard was a former trans-humanist, or an experiment that escaped. There was only one way to be certain.
Dragging the potential android along by a chain like a dog, The medical bay was not far. Arthur was by far the saltiest being on board. The sandy blonde was a doctor for the same reason Ivan remained a captain, the credits. Ivan had never once seen a scrap of compassion in the green eyed miser.
“You. Check him for trackers and implants.” Ivan grunted at Arthur, who was buried in a book.
The doctor glared above the top of the cover, then sighed. It was apparently a huge burden to actually do his job. “This is the prisoner? What's his name?”
The prisoner looked at Ivan with big blue eyes, lost and apparently scared. It reminded a jaded Ivan of Natalia just a little too much. Unable to take the sight, he looked away. “His name is Alfred. Something's been done to him.”
At being given a name, Alfred positively beamed with joy. Arthur regarded this with suspicion. “Clearly. I'll give him a look over.” The heavy chains around Alfred marked up his pure white clothes with grease. “Must you, with the chains?”
Ivan shrugged non nonchalantly. “he's a prisoner. I can't have him running around.”
Alfred smiled through all that wild hair, so happy. “I have a name. I have a name!”
Arthur was not impressed. “Right.”
This latest drug delivery was going to be trying for everyone.
Chapter 4: Dem Feelin's
Smuggling wasn't a cut and dry business with fixed deadlines. Sometimes you had to wait out the law if your product was too hot to handle. Sometimes you had to find new buyers. Not surprisingly, humans were cheap bastards. The literal ton of illegally bred weed was worth more than their buyer was willing to part with.
So the two weeks were stretched into four. Papa, despite his depressed moments, was brilliant. Softer drugs were easy to sell to middle men when bosses didn't want to play. It just took longer to shift the stuff without getting noticed. More importantly, the softer drugs didn't directly kill people. If a drug was considered non-lethal, the prison sentences were nothing. Ivan's crew were easily bailed out, often the same day of indictment.
So it was three weeks into hiding, and they were floating outside of typical travel routes. Hiding in plain sight was actually Lars's idea, not that Natalia would ever say anything about it. If the electronics and communications were set to quieter modes, the S.S. Natalya could simply sit in deep space, invisible for days.
Invisibility meant waiting for more buyers. Invisibility meant keeping yourself busy aboard the 80 metre long ship. Currently, Natalia was skulking around, pretending to be a space marine. It was a game she used to play with Papa, until his drinking really picked up.
Papa wasn't a mean drunk, he was just non-responsive. Ever since Mama died four years ago, Papa had moments of disconnection. It was usually only a few hours, but sometimes lasted a day. In these times of isolation, Natalia had come to rely on the veteran Kirkland crew of twelve years. Uncle Scotty, more so than anyone else, had earned her respect.
The man was a veteran of three Ceres mining rights wars, with a false eye and a limp to show for it. Uncle Scotty deserved the intense teen's admiration. Yes, The fiery haired 'uncle' would have something to do today. Sneaking along, Natalia saw Jack and Arthur passed out in the medical bay. In their lack of discipline, the boys had smoked some of the product. Roughly two days of them giggling and eating damn near everything was still in progress.
Natalia shook her head in silent disapproval, moving on.
Lars was yet again in the engine room, having worked on the computer's personality for days. He was still tampering with the wires hanging out of a wall. He had more awareness than most, glancing at Natalia as she ghosted by. Poor man needed to find a real date one of these days.
The ever busy Scotty was spotted outside the kitchen with a listening device. It resembled an old school stethoscope, but it could hear through up to a metre of solid metal. With a wordless smile, she dropped into her uncle's lap and nuzzled the man. Given the man refused to wear pants, there was a means to doing this safely. After all, Natalia also wore skirts every day. She understood his pants based hatred.
The uncle greeted her with a bearded grin and a hug, then put a finger to his mouth. Silence. he mouthed the words, then gestured to the listening device. Ah yes, Natalia's favourite game. Spying. She nodded, excitedly taking one of the ear pieces and twisting it so they could both listen.
The first voice was Papa, the second one unfamiliar. It took a long minute to realize this was that pesky android that hid on board. She was so busy hating the sunny blonde for stealing Papa's attention, that she spent less than ten minutes a day with him.
“No, Alfred that's too much flour.”
“Oh, this much?”
“My face! You're nothing but trouble!”
“You say that now, but these pancakes will be so good...”
Happy chuckles and mirth was obvious throughout the conversation. Was Papa... joking and laughing? Ever since Mama died, not even Natalia could make Papa laugh like before. It was always pained or forced, like breathing in bits of razor blades.
Unexpectedly, tears sprung to Natalia's eyes. She wanted, needed, craved to see Papa's laughter. Jealousy raged like a fire in her chest over this android bastard stealing Papa's love. She wanted this love. Natalia's attempt to interrupt this moment was stopped right away. Uncle Scotty held her tight, rocking her a little as they sat on the floor. “Nay Lassie, let your pa have this moment.” he whispered.
“B-but Papa is mine.” Natalia sniffled.
“Just wait and see.” the uncle assured, not letting her barge in. With a grumble, the daughter continued to listen. It was sickening to hear how attached Papa was to a wanted android. It made her gut turn, her brain scream. So much jealousy she couldn't stand it a minute more, until...
“Natasha, please come to the kitchen.” the intercom echoed over the entire ship. Not expecting such volume, both spies winced from sensitive listening settings. The conversation inside was as light as ever.
“Do you think she'll like the pancakes? She kinda hates me.”
“My girl will love you. I haven't made pancakes for her since...”
“It's okay... You don't have to talk about it if you don't want to.”
Intimacy be damned! There was breakfast at stake! Natalia finally broke free and stomped over to the kitchen door. It slid open with a soft whoosh of air, revealing an astonishing sight. It was that awful Alfred, in Mama's old baking apron. Papa was there, his captain's coat ruined with flour as he smiled warmly. Natalia hated the familial vibe of it all, the cheesiness.
A heaping plate of pancakes immediately dissolved her cold ire. It was drowning in some Martian brand of Maple syrup, two slices of butter melting on top. Diving into the meal, she adored the drenched fluffiness of it all, just like Mama used to make.
“Do you like the food Alfred prepared?” Papa prompted.
“Yes.” The 18 year old moaned slightly, taste buds in love.
“What do you say to nice people?” the parent urged, always nagging her to remember pesky manners.
With a dead stare, she looked to Alfred and swallowed before speaking. “You don't deserve to die in a fire.”
Alfred was scared and clutched a spatula, while Papa looked pleased. “See, she is being nice. You are such a good girl my little flower.” Papa was so happy right now it was infectious.
“I am a good girl.” Natalia chirped back, a half smile forming. Her heart felt a little lighter already.
Ivan was not know for his perception. He had brilliant moments, and many stubborn ones. Emotional sensitivity was not a specialty in any case. Perhaps this was why Ivan was so confused as of late. His feelings were quite foggy and wild.
The problem was, there was always a logical excuse for how things ended up. When Arthur's examination revealed Alfred was far more human than machine, Ivan was quick to accommodate. Of course Alfred deserved to sleep on a nice clean bed. No one wanted to sleep on the floor. Naturally, Alfred was allowed to eat with the captain. How else was Ivan going to keep tabs on the prisoner. Alfred had to sit next to Ivan during work time. Otherwise he might get in trouble... maybe.
This subtle adoption process was how Ivan ended up in the kitchen with his only prisoner, three weeks after the android was found. Ivan didn't understand how a simple morning conversation had evolved to this. Admittedly, Ivan found himself doing all sorts of things lately. All the while, he was always swimming deeper into something unknown. Something terrifying.
Where along the line had heavy chains been replaced with symbolic silver bracelets?
Ivan's wandering eyes flickered to the tanned wrists in question. The bracelets looked so nice on the freckled man, Ivan kept forgetting they were technically magnetic hand cuffs. Such graceful wrists. The random thought was gone as fast as it appeared. Ivan felt a little hot under the collar about it. The reason once more evaded him.
Reality forced Ivan back to the present, as Alfred scooped another cup of flour. “No, Alfred that's too much flour.”
“Oh, this much?” The cheeky bastard flung the white baking supplies. It made Ivan's face and shoulders look like a ghost.
“My face! You're nothing but trouble!” Ivan threatened purely out of play. The childish urge to give chase over took the pale captain. Alfred giggled and laughed like a loon as they ran around the island counter top. Pinning Alfred to a wall, Ivan hugged him compulsively and hummed.
“You say that now, but these pancakes will be so good...” Alfred whispered. There was something about that tone... Ivan pushed away immediately, blushing like mad. Nope. Nope. Ivan was just horny and directing that nonsense at the closest possible outlet. Nope, not today, southern regions.
Ivan absently called via intercom for his child to come to the kitchen. After thinking about a hell of a lot of dead kittens, Ivan's usual calm returned. He took a bite out of one of the already finished pancakes. There was actually a small heap of the things already, but the Kirkland morons would no doubt destroy a dozen by themselves. “So bland...” he teased. The pancake was perfect. Absolutely perfect.
“Do you think she'll like the pancakes? She kinda hates me.” Alfred was referring to Ivan's daughter, his angel. There was no other girl on board after all.
“My girl will love you. I haven't made pancakes for her since...” As Ivan replied, memories of Vavara flashed by. The love of his life, perhaps a little on the chubby side as she fried up dinner. Ivan had always loved his wife more than anything in this damn solar system. Natalia was the only exception to this.
“It's okay... You don't have to talk about it if you don't want to.” Alfred offered sweetly, a gentle touch on Ivan's scarred wrists. The obtrusive thoughts came back with vengeance as Ivan struggled to stay focused on cooking. Just put butter on the pancakes now.
Fuck him. Fuck him right now.
Next was the maple syrup. It had a bit of an iron aftertaste, since it was from Mars. The more pure Earth brand was really expensive. Breakfast would be perfect for his princess regardless.
Bend Alfred over the counter and take him.
Trembling a second from the explicit mental imagery, Ivan forced himself to look away from his unfortunately attractive prisoner. Nope, nope, nope. Ivan was a moral person that didn't sexually attack guests. He was good person, a nice person... and he was staring at Alfred's pert butt again. Great.
Ivan was about to cross the room for the safety of Alfred's apparently magnetic booty, when Natalia rushed in. She looked ready to murder, which was normal before breakfast. Growing girls needed food. The pancakes never stood a chance as she attacked them.
“Do you like the food Alfred prepared?” Ivan prompted hopefully. She had been acting jealous like a five year old since Alfred was first aboard. Food seemed to be a good diplomatic option.
“Yes.” The 18 year old brat was muffled, mouth stuffed full of fluffy pancake.
“What do you say to nice people?” the parent urged. The girl was just useless for manners, always had been.
With a dead stare, she looked to Alfred and swallowed before speaking. “You don't deserve to die in a fire.”
Alfred was scared and clutched a spatula, but Ivan couldn't be happier. “See, she is being nice. You are such a good girl, my little flower.” Alfred said nothing, but and leaned into Ivan's shoulder, a hidden smile there. Ivan could damn near feel it as an impression on his arm. It only pushed the urge to fuck back into the limelight. Damn it! He was doing so well too!
“I am a good girl.” Natalia chirped back, a half smile forming.
“Let the rest of the crew have some too dear. I'll be right back.” Given how hard he was getting over literally nothing, Ivan was surprised at how smoothly he exited the room. The facade fell apart the second he was alone in his room.
Blurted noises of passion were stifled with a pillow when Ivan fell on the bed. Frantically prying away belts and fabric, the captain was desperate to get relief. When he did free himself of restrictive pants, lube was barely needed. He was no better than a teenager, rutting his sheets over a cute butt.
Twenty minutes later, Ivan finally had relief. It only made certain questions more obvious. What the hell was Ivan going to do with Alfred? How were the crew going to deal with a wanted man of sorts working in their stead? The ship had to go back to the main Ceres station eventually.
None of these things, the stressed father had answers for.
Chapter 5: Oh Noes!
“Just a routine check up. Doctor Kirkland said your biological parts were healthy. We need to see if the rest of you is.” The captain explained himself carefully, hands on Alfred's wrists. The android rather enjoyed physical touch, not minding himself at all.
“Okay.” Alfred answered brightly, completely trusting the wonderful man. The captain was the one that gave him a name, a bed, and a job after all.
“Once you go into diagnostics mode, you can't move too much. So we have to strap you still. Okay?”
“I trust you.”
The honest answer took the tall captain by surprise. He blushed, something rather colourful on such a sunless complexion. Swallowing and averting his eyes, Ivan began strapping the android tune-up chair tight. It was welded to the floor, apparently a remnant of many attempts to automatize M.A.T.I.E. All the android bases before had failed spectacularly due to archived data bloat.
Lars, the second in command and main pilot, smirked at his boss's discomfort. Alfred hadn't the slightest clue why. He felt foggy and drunk these past few days.
“This is Pilot Van Den Berg. He's the only one on this rust bucket with a cybernetics degree. I know he'll be able to do the job. You can trust him too.” Ivan went on, unable to stop touching Alfred's chest. That flat broad hand felt warm and safe. It was a feeling the android had filed away as 'safe', the least notable data package in threat.
With that, the captain had to leave and conduct business calls. Lars gently handled the access panel behind Alfred's left ear, but it wasn't the same. Alfred didn't like this encounter anymore. Unable to move in any way, the android pouted. This data encounter was filed as 'neutral' in threat levels, unlike earlier.
Feeling the skin peel neatly back, a cold charging cord was attached. It fit in his head comfortably. Gaining charge after an unknown amount of time was relaxing. Alfred calculated a few nano seconds, and determined it was okay to rest a while. After all, nothing had happened the last three weeks.
Resting the optical receivers on his eyes, Alfred allowed himself to sleep fully.
Rest was a void, blackness only pierced by electric pulses of code. The frenzied activity of Alfred's software calmed to harmonious bands of colour as he was defragmented. It was pleasant, like getting shoulder rub from Ivan.
During this long process, Alfred was aware of his long term data bank coming online. It looked like a hell of a data block. Best to check it out after his defragmentation. Alfred was aware there was another electric thing, a computer of some sort nearby. In all the fuss of being Ivan's lucky assistant, Alfred had yet to meet the AI. Best not be rude.
Traversing motherboards via new connection cables, Alfred emerged in the data skeleton of the ship. He sent out a simple binary greeting, ready to make friends.
01001000 01100101 01101100 01101100 0110111
The simple 'Hello' didn't registered in the darkness of the ship's mainframe. Alfred tried several more times in two more programming languages. Nothing registered. Where was the AI that lived in the ship? Alfred had been told all ships had such guidance systems.
There had to be some program somewhere he could code to. How else was Alfred going to pass three hours unconscious? There was something here to do if he had a say. Scouring the mainframe remotely, several gruesome clues were found.
There was programming fragments of no less than four different AI minds here. They had suffered catastrophic data overload and shut down. All but the last program were crude and broken beyond repair. The typing signature of Lars was evident on most attempts. That made Alfred nervous.
Poor things. Perhaps Alfred could do better. The dead ports each AI installation was still attached to all activated at once. Alfred cherry picked the best he could from each failed installation, cobbling it into a pitiful base program. There still wasn't enough here to talk to. How droll!
Impatient, Alfred copied and pasted a few sparing lines of his own code. Only a few logic building sequences mind you. Alfred didn't want to talk to a copy of himself after all.
Five of the most boring minutes ever past by. Finally a very simple AI emerged from the vast emptiness of the archaic ship computer. It was faint, almost invisible with lilac text on black background. It processed a few nano-seconds, then spoke it's first word.
Already it had sass! Alfred responded quickly.
The conversation wasn't exactly thrilling, consisting of feeding back information up to sixty times before the emerging AI finally accepted it as valid information. Still, it was better than digital silence. The clunky chat turned dark quickly.
DANGER. SECURE SHIP.
I don't understand you!
DANGER. 01000100 01000001 01001110 01000111 01000101 01010010 01010000 01110010 01101111 01110100 01100101 01100011 01110100 00100000 01110000 01101001 01101100 01101111 01110100
The degrading error message shut off suddenly. Alfred realized he was back in his own more complex mind. All access to the ship's main frame had been cut off sharply. Evidently Alfred had upset the primitive AI. Well, that used up ten minutes. What now?
The diagnostics test was going fine. Lars was honestly bored from performing it. He really wanted to be at the back with the captain. There was finally a buyer for the last quarter ton of weed, and they were going to arrive in a few minutes. Nothing but the whir of computer coolant systems filled the room. How dull.
After about five minutes of playing with a paper clip, Lars was spooked. All the screens used by M.A.T.I.E. went live at once, the same lines of words on everything.
Initializing AI installation, thank you for choosing ZEROTECH industries!
“What the hell.” Lars mumbled, confused. He had no idea where this was coming from. A prompt came up in friendly lilac letters.
What would you like to name your new AI?
Lars looked around him, then sucked in a breath. With a childish grin, he pulled his office chair up the desk. With great satisfaction, he typed in 'Mattie'.
Please stand by while we install MATTIE.
Lars wasn't exactly sure how or when this program had been installed. They must have tried at least twice while he was working here. Maybe interacting with Alfred's more sophisticated systems had kicked the old ship into action. Four minutes passed, then a new message appeared.
MATTIE installed. Thank you for using ZEROTECH products! If you have any concerns, please refer to sections one through five of our new interactive troubleshooting manual! Have a great day!
“Um, okay?” He spoke to open air, expecting nothing to happen. He almost gave a girly shriek when all the screens went back to normal. Only one remained active. There was new text on the screen.
LARS VAN DEN BERG identified. Security risk: none. Expand files for more information.
Curious, Lars clicked the option to expand the files. It was a jaw dropping list of nearly petty infractions listed for every crew member the ship had ever registered. There was only two people that didn't look horrible to the AI's newly formed judgment. Lars, and the faceless corporation that originally programmed M.A.T.I.E.
Even the janitor had a score of -1295 for hygiene and threat assessment. Lars meanwhile ranked a rosy +27. Jack was at -5008, almost two hundred of the infractions related to spilling beer on the keyboard. Lars had known that little turd was responsible for all those sticky keys, but now he had proof.
“State threat level of Lars Van Den Berg.” He requested curiously.
LARS VAN DEN BERG security status: safe. Access levels granted: all.
“Well, I'm flattered Mattie. I'm just a pilot trying to do his ship right.” Lars bragged, more confident by himself then with others. His confidence faltered when the AI responded with a primitive smiley face emoji. Well that was uncomfortable.
Realizing he was talking to a computer, a computer that just sent him an emoji, Lars wrung his hands awkwardly. “So Mattie, I'm just gonna... go away for a minute.” Binary code began filling the screen like mad.
01000100 01000001 01001110 01000111 01000101 01010010 01010000 01110010 01101111 01110100 01100101 01100011 01110100 00100000 01110000 01101001 01101100 01101111 01110100
Squinting at the code, It took a minute to read for the man. It wasn't often people tried to talk in binary like this. “Danger protect pilot?” he read out loud, confused. The litany of numbers repeated itself as if in emphasis. “Ok... definitely leaving now." Lars tried to exit the medical bay, but the sliding door was locked and air sealed. “Mattie, what the hell?” he blurted out, when his access code failed. There was fresh binary on the screen.
01001110 01101111 00100000 01101111 01111000 01111001 01100111 01100101 01101110
After a long minute, Lars understood it. “No oxygen? What do you mean no oxygen? I'm breathing just fine.” he insisted, then something dawned on him. Was there a hull leak or something more sinister? Curious, he sat down once more and checked environmental settings. Next he looked at the three security cameras.
The oxygen had been ejected from the halls. Arthur was safe, locked in his room and throwing a fit. Jack looked confused in his airlock suit. Captain Braginsky was safe, locked in the kitchen. He was kicking the door out of frustration, and cursing up a storm in Russian. Scotty and Natalia looked shocked, sucking air out of emergency respirators not far from cargo air lock. All around Scotty, Natalia, and Jack by the docking area, was a dozen pirates on the ground. They were all unconscious or silly from lack of oxygen, barely moving.
The four minute old AI had just stopped a pirate raid. The attack was probably disguised as a purchase the entire time. Lars activated the intercom from the desk, speaking very carefully. “Is everyone safe out there?”
“I dunnae know what you did, but that be some top notch ship control laddie.” Scotty reported in, voice muffled.
“LET ME OUT!” the captain fumed through cackling speakers, not pleased in the slightest.
By the time all the pirates were bound and gagged, the oxygen levels were functional. Lars found himself back in the medical bay, stunned as to how to proceed. Alfred still wasn't done being recharged and defragmented.
Lars was given praise for saving the crew, even from a very pissed captain. There was no way the sparse crew would have survived that raiding party. Staring at that black screen, the previous messages from the AI had already vanished. No one would believe Lars at all.
“Thank you Mattie.” Lars whispered, chin perched on clasped hands. The computer took but a second to send a response. It didn't make the blonde pilot feel any better, but he looked at it anyway.
Chapter 6: Sad Stuff
Mentions of rape in this chapter. Warning y'all.
Ivan wanted to say he was a nice person and mean it. He wanted to honestly say he was intimidating or diplomatic enough to not need force. All these things would be lies. Ivan was a murdering bastard and all the self hate in the world couldn't fix it. A weary sigh slipped from him as he carried the last load of goods off the pirate ship. Just as he had prepared it, the enemy ship parted and moved away.
Scotty looked at him with green eyes of dark understanding. They were both veterans of the many mining rights wars near Ceres. They both knew there was a certain price you paid for surviving that, and words were not enough to state it. The redhead nodded to Ivan, asking “It's done?”
“Yes.” Ivan said simply. The sombre mood of the cargo bay was intruded by Lars and Alfred. Scotty looked away with resignation at the truth of it all, muttering “I have halls to mop then.” Alone with the newer crew members, Ivan forced himself to be more upbeat.
“Did you give those mean ol' pirates a talkin' to?” Alfred chirped, nuzzling Ivan's shoulder.
Ivan grunted “Yep.”
He hadn't. No matter the desperation, the need, Ivan had no love for pirate kind. The second you began hunting your fellow smugglers and legit traders, your life was forfeit. Even so, Ivan took no joy in shooting all twelve pirates in the back of the head. He had no victory in taking their food, their water, their fuel. The problem was that pirates were like rats. If you saw one, there was a dozen hidden away. You couldn't let the rat free. You couldn't be humane. Rats just had to die.
Ivan was the only one with grim determination to kill them.
“That's so great. They gave us a bunch of free stuff!” Alfred was distracted by the pilfered goodies, but Lars was less scatterbrained.
“They gave you water.” the pilot noted flatly, eyeing the jugs of filtered water. Every Ceres and Martian citizen knew water was life. Ships wouldn't give up water for gold or palladium.
“After your pilot skills, they were happy to get away.” Ivan just wanted the subject to be dropped. His revolver still had blood on the muzzle, needing to be cleaned.
“It was the computer! Mattie stopped them!” the crazy beanpole of a man insisted. He couldn't take credit when it was due. Lars was absolutely certain the computer was some love crazed AI from the depths of the unknown. Honestly, the excuses the pilot made up some days were nuts.
“Whatever lets you sleep at night.” Ivan dismissed the man, wandering to his personal office. He was tired and weary of death. A bottle of imported vodka would wash this all away. He didn't even notice he was being talked to until Alfred bumped into him.
The rather desirable android squeaked a little from surprise. The sound was precious. Ivan blinked, trying to focus. He was definitely going to hell for having such scandalous thoughts about Alfred. They probably had a hellfire filled room just for the depressed captain at this point.
“I didn't hear you, Alfred. My apologies.” Ivan grumbled, trying not to stare. The lovable dolt of an android decided to skip around in a tank top and shorts. The captain was just a little too compromised for... reasons.
“It's okay. I was saying I'm gonna help you with this box of goodies. I think some of these art pieces would look great on a desk.”
“No. No it's the only room you can't go into.” Ivan was having none of the judgment, the pity looks. He didn't need to be reminded how messed up his living situation was.
“Captain Braginsky. I... don't mean to be pushy, but I have something I need to talk about... in private. With you.” Alfred did have a reason for his strange behaviour after all. He had been sticking to Ivan's side like glue since lunch, trying to get the bigger man alone. Ivan, struggling like hell to maintain morality, had wanted the opposite.
If the fellow needed to talk this badly, it was probably just business. “We can talk, but not in the office. What about the kitchen?”
“No, no, I... It's a very important thing. The kitchen echoes too much with the door open.” Still Alfred pushed for the one forbidden room.
“I... I really...” Ivan faltered under that rich blue gaze. He could feel his iron willpower crumbling to dusty fragments. “I suppose you can. But you can't say a thing about the room. Nothing, okay?”
Alfred smiled in affirmation, getting his way once again. That kept happening somehow...
With an apprehensive huff, Ivan opened the door to his office. It was his sleeping quarters for the last few years since Vavara died. The grieving father still couldn't get over the loss, unable to enter his bedroom proper. He saw Natalia dart out of the old room once in a while, but he couldn't summon up the bravery. At least, not after what he had done. Ivan was a monster.
The dimly lit office was a wasteland of old laundry, vodka bottles, and garbage. A faintly septic odour was coming off the bed. He had been unwilling to lay direct skin on the mattress for six months due to this ongoing stink. Ivan braced himself for sharp tongued words. None came. He realized he had closed his eyes and tensed, so allowed himself to move and see.
Alfred walk a few steps into the room, then stopped. There wasn't a enough room to go further without walking on garbage. He took in the ugly vista of self hate with a frown. “It's just a little dirty.”
This vast understatement made Ivan crack up. He didn't know how he could even chuckle in this situation. Yet he was making the small sounds of mirth. He closed and locked the door from the inside, a tentative smile forming. “Just a little, huh?”
Alfred set the box of stolen pirate goods in the floor, looking to Ivan. Those damn eyes were uncoiling years of suppressed... well everything. Ivan didn't like the loss of control, yet craved it like a drug. Why was Alfred getting closer? Oh gods, what was Ivan supposed to react with that wasn't perverted as holy hell?
This inner panic was interrupted by a heavenly kiss. There wasn't any warning to the gesture. A large part of the captain was disappointing there was no tongue involved. Alfred's lips were perfect, undeniably perfect. Ivan had no doubt the rest of that body was amazing.
A small primal sound leaked out of Ivan when he tried to talk, heart racing. The urge to mate hit Ivan like a cresting ocean wave. Running fingers southward down Ivan's chest, the minx of an android smirked.
“W-what are you doing?” Ivan stammered in a bare whisper.
“I'm going to help you relax a little, so you can walk without this in your pants.” Alfred was in Ivan's pants. How had he got in them so quickly? There was a utility belt and a regular pants belt in the way. How had he been so quick about it? The question vanished as a warm hand wrapped around Ivan's hard cock.
Ivan wanted to say he was rather dignified about the entire encounter. He wasn't. He was an animal and it felt glorious. Alfred was a natural at oral sex, easily taking in all of Ivan. With the divine swirls of that tongue, and the perfect wet heat... Ivan didn't last. He didn't last worth a damn, rather noisy about the whole thing. He came hard down that constricting throat, moaning piteously in pure pleasure. Alfred popped off the happy cock, looking so innocent and happy.
“See Captain? You look relaxed already.”
Ivan hummed, smiling wide as he sank to the floor on jelly legs. “Mmph yeah. Relaxed.” he muttered, resting on the floor. “I'm just gonna, close my eyes... a minute.” A mighty need to nap was not to be ignored today.
“You take a nap, I'll take care of this laundry for you.”
Ivan was out like a light, barely hearing the happy chatter of his supposed 'prisoner'. An absent thought to take the magnetic bracelets off the resident cutie floated by as sleep consumed the man.
When the captain came to, he felt rather embarrassed. He had passed out cold against the door, still there. No evidence was left behind of that terrific blowjob, both belts refastened. Honestly, he didn't recognize the room he was in.
The office was clean, right down to the wall bolts. Only a scant pile of vodka bottles was left, with fruity cleaner perfume lingering. The desk was unearthed from it's former tomb of garbage, shiny and clean. A stack of soiled papers waited on top to be sorted.
In all the amazement, the door behind him slid open with a soft whoosh of air. It then closed as merry whistling commenced. Alfred stepped over Ivan's form, a familiar Ceres shipping song sounding from him. The honey blonde was carrying a recycling bin stolen from the kitchen. He crouched and put the remaining bottles in the purple bin, then turned to look at a gaping Ivan. The booty shorts weren't helping.
“You cleaned up everything.” Ivan said, shocked.
“I didn't mind. I need the space for something.” Alfred sat on the floor, scooting close.
“And this something is...” Ivan trailed off in question, sitting up and stretching luxuriously. He was less sore than expected, given he napped on a metal floor.
“Well... It's kinda embarrassing but... my brain is full.”
The unorthodox response made Ivan raise his brows in surprise. “What?”
Alfred nervously played with ringlets from his blonde ponytail. He didn't seem interested in getting his hair cut, and Ivan was not one to pressure him. The depressed captain hadn't had a trim or a decent shave in months.
“You see... the android parts of me, my personality... my memories, I'm full. My long term memory bank only has five percent space left. My brain would overload and shut down if I accessed so much data at once so... I need you to trim down the files so I can access them without blowing up.” The request was as bizarre as it was intimate.
Sensing Ivan's hesitation, the tanned man was beginning to back pedal. “I mean, if it's too weird. I trust you, but if I'm making you uncomfortable...”
“I'd be happy to.” Ivan answered finally, touched at signs of such trust. It made his heart light with unknown joy.
Alfred nearly leaped up from sitting with cheer. “Yes, so... Lars said I have to go into sleep mode and give you administrative access. Then you can get to it.”
It wasn't difficult to get set up. Alfred made himself comfortable on the now peachy fresh bed. Snuggled under blue and red covers, the android finally seemed content. hugging all Ivan's pillows, he looked to the captain.
“Okay. I'm ready to be plugged in.”
Gently peeling away the bare plastic patch and fake skin behind Alfred's left ear, Ivan connected him to the computer built into the desk with a cord. It was a private machine Ivan used for tracking ship finances. It was otherwise untouched most days.
“Goodnight.” Alfred yawned, taking long blinks.
“Goodnight Alfred.” Ivan replied kindly, watching the shutdown process. The light dimmed from Alfred's electric blue eyes, until they were a flat slate grey. Finally, there was only a lifeless stare. It bothered Ivan more than it should, so he reached over and shut both eyelids. Even the skin of the eyelids was soft to touch. This was ridiculous!
After a moment of the desktop dealing with start-up lag, a new window opened up. It was black with blue text simply stating 'Welcome to the interface of model US-A51. Select from the options below.'
There was a vast array of modes and settings. Motor functions, voice controls, basic bodily functions and organ cycles... everything was here. Ivan blushed scarlet when he saw the 'Pleasure Routines' folder. Nope, nope, nope. He wasn't going to look. He wasn't going to... well shit. He just clicked on it. Okay. Ivan was just going to peek.
It was hilariously enough just like computer game settings. Libido, partner preference, and dominance were on simple slider scales. Okay, enough of that... even if Ivan decided to nudge the dominance up slightly.
Memory banks. He was supposed to be searching for the long term memory banks. Focus Ivan! The menu was very easy to explore, the memory banks found in a minute. Clicking the folder open, there was a clear break in sorting. Everything two weeks before Alfred came aboard was locked up with password protection.
Ivan squinted at the tiny perfect writing Alfred had given on a note. It two attempts to read and type. Ivan probably needed glasses, but he was too stubborn to visit an optometrist. If his wife couldn't make him go when he was 20 years old, Natalia sure a hell wasn't forcing him at 35.
Each 'memory' was an end of day summary, noticing variables from routine or valuable life experiences. These were filed in chronological order with a few tags for indexing by the human portion of Alfred's brain. If a memory wasn't used for reference after about a week, it was compressed to a less data heavy format.
Alfred's unlocked memories seemed confused but happy, easy to read through. There was only twenty five of them after all, one for each day. It was true, the Alfred Ivan knew was innocent, factory reset in his purity. He was just a sexy helpful android.
The password locked memories were another story. The list was growing rapidly, going forwards in time. At 5,203 entries so far, Ivan realized just how long this would take. Not wanting to stare at a list for an hour, Ivan clicked on a memory to pass the time. Memory #27, why not.
It loaded a moment, having to be partially extracted. It was Alfred's view of being in a display case. He was in some sort of store as a product. It was busy and packed with customers.
Ivan noted something alien about the memory. He didn't recognize any of the hair styles or clothes at all. Was this a store not on Ceres? Was this a colony city somewhere? The memory was a particularly useless one so Ivan deleted it. Another issue came to mind. Androids had the right to get married and vote if they passed a competency test. That particular law was three years old now.
Ivan glanced at the growling memory list. There was now 9,550 files listed. Quick math showed this was roughly 26 years of daily summaries. How old was Alfred? Clicking on Memory #1084, Ivan's curiosity was not satisfied.
Video played. The shot was out of focus, Alfred's hands bound in front of him. The conversation recorded was chilling. “Please master, let me go. I'll be good.” Alfred begged, sounding genuinely frightened. “Not until you suck my cock you whore. I paid premium for you.” an unknown man growled nearby. There was a long second, then an emotional “... Yes master.”
The captain immediately deleted the memory, not bothering to read the rest. About twenty memories later it was clear Alfred had a very unhappy existence before. The endearing blond was built for pleasure from the start. Over half his original programming had made him a highly intelligent sex toy.
It was both relief and horror to learn this. Ivan wasn't a perverted monster for wanting to fuck Alfred senseless. Alfred was designed to seek and imitate whatever his target found attractive. It had devastating effectiveness, if Ivan's pants were to have opinions.
Still, the life of a sex worker was not a great one. Too many memories were awful and abusive. Ivan had to start browsing only by tags since there was so much to see. Finally, the list was fully loaded. There was 15,276 memories left from before Alfred reset himself. That was almost 42 Earth years.
Alfred was seven years older than Ivan, despite looking eighteen. Almost all four decades were lived as an object for basal needs. Humbled by Alfred's tragic past, Ivan looked at the thousands of data tags. Two jumped out as rather interesting. 'Senator Jones' and 'Murder' seemed to have a decent association.
'Senator Jones' seemed to refer to a young politician that looked familiar. It took five minutes of browsing to realize the man was a younger Governor Allen Jones. The very same Governor that ran all of Ceres. The same Allen Jones that was known to be rather sharp tongued and authoritative. It was the same Governor that was brutal murdered in his bed just over two months ago.
A dark thought came to Ivan. Had Alfred murdered someone? Most androids were not capable of murder unless in direct harm. Sure, Alfred had been slapped and fucked every which way, but not many tags indicated direct assault.
On gut feeling alone, Ivan clicked a memory near the very end. It was roughly five months earlier, on Ceres. A litany of system damage reports trailed after a brief voice clip. Ivan began to listen.
“Please Allen, it hurts!”
“Shut up, I'm not finished.”
“No, get off me!”
“I'm bleeding you sick fuck! I said no!”
Soul hurting, Ivan turned off the audio. Alfred had been hurt in the worst way humans could manage. He had been raped. The thought made Ivan so angry, unable to contain himself. It felt like hot fire in his guts, a passionate fury he hadn't felt for years. Ivan had to get up and pace the office, live with destructive energy. Flinging the office chair in rage, he gave a primal yell as his control snapped. It was just a second, but it felt good to break something.
Office chair now broken and useless by the door, the haze of anger settled. Just enough for bare reasoning to return. Ah, Ivan needed another chair again. He selected the next few memories while kneeling in front of the desk.
Alfred was raped brutally again, with increasing frequency towards the last old memory. Ivan could only leave file as fast as possible and shake with anger. He had to know what happened, he was possessed to. The last old memory started off very differently then the others.
It was only video with no sound, due to systems damage of some sort. It was Alfred staring at a knife block in some beautiful kitchen. A knife was drawn with deliberation and slow care. Alfred headed upstairs in some grand mansion, passing several maids. No one was stopping him.
Through an ornate hall, through a colourful door, there was a massive bedroom. The now greying governor was sleeping on a plush bed, a dim lamp on a nearby table. Just enough light to see, yet still casting long shadows. The man shifted in the covers, waking up as Alfred neared with the knife. Words were mouthed, then it all happened so silently. Alfred began viciously stabbing and cutting his master.
Ivan watch the entire violent memory out of fear and respect. Fingers severed, bones snapped, guts ripped apart. No mercy was given, like a murderous beast killing it's prey. The Governor wasn't even recognizable as a human by the end.
The last part was Alfred taking a shower to get all the blood off. Maybe Ivan watched that part more closely than he should... Maybe. Dressing in a pure white robe, Alfred handed unknown instructions to a terrified maid. Climbing into a box, everything went dark. The memory ended. A short message of text followed.
I can't live like this anymore.
FACTORY RESET INITIATED
Ivan got off his knees, joints cracking as he went. Looking to the cheerful creature napping on his bed, Ivan was disgusted with humanity. If people had ever tried to hurt Natalia, Ivan would have lost his temper for real. For one of Ivan's crew to be treated so badly, for so long... He didn't know what to do. There was nothing he could do. That scumbag Governor was already dead. Ivan didn't have a time machine to fix anything.
The captain settled on the bed, ruffling Alfred's hair. “I'm not going to let you get hurt.” he whispered. Ivan wouldn't, he couldn't. Somehow in the month he inhabited the ship, Alfred had grown on him. Apparently Ivan's broken rusty heart could care for more than drinking and Natalia.
Chapter 7: He Be Angry Y'all
It was an understatement to say Lars was frustrated. No one believed him about M.A.T.I.E., or rather Mattie. The AI was just as much of a problem as the skeptical crew. Not only was Mattie absolutely in love with it's pilot, it was shy. Lars's e-mail box would littered with binary love confessions that could make sailors blush. The second anyone else was about to read it, the ship's systems would access and delete them.
It was now a month and a half since Ivan's android fuck buddy had come aboard. Three weeks into Mattie's very existence, Lars could not deny there was a connection anymore. The two entities behaved differently, like brothers near each other. The Ceres native was determined to discover the details of Alfred and Mattie's relation.
Officially one week after Captain Braginsky lost his mind, the winged cylindrical S.S. Natalya was headed to the colonies of Jupiter. Alfred had their superior by more than the dick these days, and it was starting to show. This wasn't necessarily a bad thing though. The captain was showering every day, shaving, and having regular dinners with the crew. Even if Alfred was rather bossy as of late, it was only doing good so far.
The real reason the crew thought Ivan had lost his marbles was because why they were going to Jupiter. After all the millions of dollars the crew had made, Captain Braginsky wanted to go legit. Anyone with a brain knew there was more money in smuggling. There was risks, to be sure, but the crew seemed to be spared the worst of pirate raids so far. At least, Lars had never witnessed any in his four years of service.
Finally at any port after an eternity of travelling dead space, Lars was itching to get off the ship. Getting away from all this strange phenomena would give him time to clear his head. The space station they were visiting was a stopping point, a small shopping centre. It was an independent hub the crew had sold goods to many times before.
Sitting in the multicultural food court, Lars feasted on Bitterballen and cheap as fuck beer. Sure, the crispy coating of the meatballs tasted strange, and the 'meat' was largely unknown. It was still salty and stopped the pilot from achieving any level of drunk. Mid bite, a stranger interrupted his junk food bliss.
It was definitely an android of sorts. You could tell by the glow in his eyes, a familiar lilac colour. Lars recalled seeing it before but couldn't place it. This particular model was dressed in red and black flannel with a vintage print shirt underneath. Hands tucked in blue jean pockets, the friendly thing gave a wave before sitting.
Wheaten curly locks of blonde obscured a faintly freckled face as a note was written. A page from a little notepad was slid across the table. Lars read it, curious.
May I sit here? This place is crowded.
“Oh... sure. I guess.” Lars replied, not sure of this man's motivations. “Why are you writing notes?”
I don't have a voice programmed. I apologize if that makes you uncomfortable.
Holding the rather sad response, Lars looked around. He tried to hide anger at the news. As a former programmer, the Ceres native was always pissed to see such sloppy work. The reason the android chose this table of all things was also clear. There was a rough looking crowd hogging the centre of the food court.
“It's fine. I'm not uncomfortable.” Lars assured, shovelling another bite into his mouth. “What brings you to this shit hole?”
The android smiled, a soft demure expression. I don't know.
“How do you not know?”
Another note was written with care. The precise cursive script was gorgeous. I am only partially programmed. I came online three weeks ago with damaged systems. It was detected you had a background in programming. I require assistance, if you can spare the time.
The strangeness of this encounter was only rivalled by pity for this thing. Who put all that effort to install a mind in such a nice android model, then quit part way? The faintly freckled man of sorts was obvious an expensive purchase, unguarded by whoever bought it.
As the old saying went, finders keepers. “I can spare the time. Just let me finish up my lunch and we can see whats going on.”
The poor bastard looked so happy he could burst with conversation, yet was unable to talk. It was a bloody shame. Remembering he could write, the android scribbled perfect cursive. Thank you so very much. You are so kind.
Walking back to the airlock sections of the docks, Lars was feeling rather proud. Normally people thought he was crazy, or obsessive about his hobbies. Today, a poor android needed his help. It was good moment.
“What's your name blondie?” he asked, now in sight of the gate they docked at. He waited as a note was written, then read it with a smile. The grin dropped immediately.
M.A.T.I.E. beta version 27.008
No. It couldn't be. This cute button of an android was not the ship stalking him. Catching a breath nervously, Lars looked away. “So, um... what was your previous body?”
There was no way this was his Mattie. The M.A.T.I.E. program was once cutting edge shipping technology. This was probably just the wandering mind of a junker that finally died. The problem here was M.A.T.I.E. was notoriously difficult to make intelligent. It took extraordinary circumstances to happen at all. Another note revealed the crushing truth.
My primary body is a 924 Heliobus Hauler, J6 class. You are my registered pilot.
Lars's brain locked up at the news. This was impossible. Only newer programs could jump or share bodies. Only... only updated models like Alfred could change base programming. Oh, Lars had words for that overrated can opener. Frown levelled to a grim flat line, the tall pole of a pilot was completely pissed.
Did I anger my registered pilot? the sweet little operating system asked in writing, looking very concerned.
“No. No. Come with me Mattie. I have questions for Alfred.” Dragging the simple android by the hand, Lars was ready to snap. Boarding the ship in a huff, a path was headed for the captain. This android was obviously the deviant programming that haunted Lars for weeks. Somehow it was out of the ship and walking around. Once more the entire ship was manual and archaic like it should be.
Captain Braginsky was exactly where Lars thought he would be. Animal sounds of pleasure weakly leaked from the man's private office. Ivan was probably getting fucked into the mattress by his new buddy, just like every other day this week. Having none of this, the blonde pilot slid open the unlocked door.
The captain was making out voraciously with Alfred, pinned with his legs spread. Between willing thighs, Alfred was devoted to tugging off Ivan's pants. The android stopped his efforts to greet the angry pilot. “Hi Lars. Do you want to join?”
Captain Braginsky blushed hotly, stammering as he covered his half naked body in a rush. “No threesomes.”
Alfred chuckled. “Okay, settings changed you big cutie. So... foursome? No?” He gestured to Mattie and Lars in confusion.
“You broke my fucking ship!” Lars accused, full of righteousness. He had every right to get mad. That oversized sex toy went and violated Lars's precious ship, his honest to gods job.
“For the last time, no orgies! And what the hell are you talking about?” Captain spoke with authority, hurriedly buttoning on his work coat. His pink Ceres family scarf was sloppily tossed over a shoulder.
Scared, Mattie nuzzled and stuck to Lars's midsection. The reincarnated ship had no idea how to function without a pilot, as expected. He might as well be a child. “Your fuck buddy messed with my piloting system and made it... this.” As Matthew was pointed at, he felt the finger tip's texture in pure fascination.
“Why would he do that?” Ivan opposed, stubborn as ever.
“I don't know! But I want him to finish the job. Mattie can't talk. He even moves weird!”
“Alfred is a darling, he would never –”
Alfred interrupted the escalating argument. “Yeah, I did it. I think it's an improvement.”
Both human crew looked to him in surprise. “What!?” Ivan demanded. “What gives you the right to give random machines intelligence when I own them!?”
“You own me, so I don't see the difference.” Alfred pointed out, checking his nails casually. He was still naked, proudly splaying what he had had to offer in front of everyone. Lars had been around robots enough that a skin suit wasn't going to affect him. The captain was a different matter, bashfully covering Alfred's nudity with a well placed pillow.
“I don't own you! I employ you, and you're being a brat.” On any other day, A flustered captain would have been a rare treat to watch. Today, Lars was too damn angry to care.
“Get fucking dressed and help me fix the thing that flies the ship!” The pilot ordered harshly, stomping out. Stewing in the kitchen Lars dragged a hand upwards through his hair. It often stuck that way as a consequence. Mattie sat across from him, resting his head in his arms. Occasionally he looked to the pilot, as if seeking instructions.
The experienced pilot couldn't blame the fledgling AI. The last four years of it's records was being dictated by Lars in every function it had ever executed. Tentatively, Mattie placed a stool beside him and sat. Leaning heavily on Lars, the AI clutched his stomach.
Realizing something might be wrong, The pilot cocked his head. “What's the matter with you?”
Alert when referred to, the android wrote a note quickly in less human manner. It was more akin to a printer when rushed. Fuel low. Body maintenance required. Unable to identify fuel source.
The note was so peculiar, the nature of it took Lars a minute to register. “Do you need food?”
What is food?
Lars sighed and hid his face in his hands. Alfred had installed an AI, but not taught it how to eat or take care of itself. As an actual ship, this wasn't an issue. Lars always filled the gas tank and did morning maintenance checks. Technically Jack was supposed to do the maintenance, but Lars didn't like to share his ship with people. Jack mostly did the 'human' systems, like air delivery and plumbing.
Getting up from the island counter top, Lars explored the fridge. Natalia had just come back with fresh food, so there was lots to pick from. Picking a nice orange apple, some Jupiter species, he placed it in front of Mattie. “This is fuel.”
This is not Ditherium Ammonia based liquid. The AI was quick on the draw today.
“No, ship fuel would melt a hole in your stomach. This is... people fuel. Yep. People fuel.” Lars explained awkwardly, pushing the apple at the starving android.
After a flicker of processing light in those shyly expressive eyes, Mattie attacked the apple. He clearly understood how eat without choking, because the fruit was gone in thirty seconds. Even the leaf and stem had been consumed. Hastily writing a note, The AI looked up hopefully.
My fuel tank is 17% full. I require more fuel.
Lars slowly fed the starving android half the contents of the fridge. After such a feast, Mattie yawned and drank the water offered to him.
Body maintenance is required. My systems are not functioning at optimal levels.
Right as a puzzled Lars read the note, Alfred marched in the room with his usual cheery arrogance. The captain trailed behind him with a partially lovesick expression. “Good morning M.A.T.I.E.!” Alfred greeted him warmly.
Mattie waved back, smiling.
“You didn't show him how to eat!?” Lars exploded without intending to, this entire day a test of his patience.
“He would have figured it out.” Alfred pouted, ruffling Mattie's hair.
“He wouldn't have. He would have starved and died, and I would have lost a piloting program I've been customizing for four years. I've put a lot of resources into this ship to make it run like it has! It's what I was hired to do!”
Lars was surprised at his temper today. It was clear he overstepped his boundaries when a heavy hand gripped his shoulder. “That is enough Mister Van Den Berg. There will be no more arguing the matter.” Captain Braginsky growled dangerously.
“But he started it.” Alfred whined, batting those long lashes of his.
“That's enough from you.” Ivan was in full disappointed father mode, which was identical to his angry captain voice. It was a cruel sharp tone the employees tried not to invoke. “Alfred will help you reintegrate the piloting system back into the ship. Failing that, make it not poop on the floor. I will fly the ship to Callisto Prime.”
Ivan hadn't sober enough to pilot for almost a year. The thought was terrifying to Lars. It was why he was hired in the first place. “Sir, I'm not against this plan but...”
“He hasn't drank since yesterday afternoon. You are such a worrywart.” Alfred teased in that slutty netting tank top of his. Lars glared at the naughty android, then looked with grave concern to Mattie. This afternoon was going to suck badly.
Chapter 8: Being Helpful
The artificial intelligence was confused. The training and attention it had been given was more than appreciated. Still Mattie was seeing huge discrepancies in what his pilot said and did. Lars promoted hygiene and regulated meals, yet ran by an erratic living standard. The human worked until he passed out at his pilot seat. He lived off coffee and easy to heat rations. He never bothered to change his clothes unless up to two days passed.
The janitor and the self proclaimed 'engineer' were leaving an unholy mess in the kitchen like usual. Jack's rank within Mattie's mind dipped ever lower, while Scotty would probably remain the same. He cleaned up after himself. Only Jack really deserved to be put on a leash like an animal after spilling dipping sauce on a circuit panel.
Wanting to get this over with, Matthew cleared his throat as he entered the room. He had only had a voice for two days now, and used any opportunity to exercise it. He had downloaded and tried thirty different accent packages, but ended up setting on the one he had before as a ship. Mid-eastern Canada accent with a pinch of French consonant softening suited him just fine.
“Where is the pilot.”
“The bridge.” Jack grunted, reading a newspaper.
“Love that accent.” Scotty, renowned for have a Canadian fetish of sorts, was always keen to pay a compliment. Lars had warned Mattie never to get isolated with the randy Scotsmen.
“Thank you very much.” Mattie replied honestly, giving a dimpled smile.
“Calm down Scotty.” Jack muttered, looking up.
“How can you nae get excited over such an exotic accent. I want that in me life.”
“What happened to Michelle?” The brothers were arguing already.
“She saw your ugly mug and went running!”
“You take that back you dirty cod!”
“WHO YOU CALLIN' A DIRTY COD, SHEEP FUCKER!”
Matthew didn't care. He really didn't care as the irate brothers started fighting like sugar fuelled children on the floor. Walking away, screeching and accent skewed insults were silenced by a closing door. Lars was indeed on the bridge, passed out in his chair. The Captain was not far away, keeping an eye on the flight trajectory as he read business magazines.
“Pilot?” Matthew whispered, approaching slowly. The need to refer to the man for all Mattie's major decision was overwhelming. It was all he knew. This independence Lars was always going on about was so difficult to grasp. Mattie barely knew how it worked, let alone where to use it. A month ago he was a ship that didn't have make any decisions.
Ivan glanced up from his 'work'. “Take him back to bed.” he ordered simply.
“Yes Captain.” Mattie answered softly, easily carrying the pilot bridal style. It seemed Mattie's android model was meant for industrial uses, only sixty percent biological. It made him immensely strong and densely built. In comparison, Alfred was built primarily for pleasure at eighty-nine percent biological content. Alfred was certainly strong, but not superhuman.
Mattie found himself having wandering thoughts. It was becoming commonplace. Lars was so light, like an apple. Apples were fuel, sweet and crunchy. Fuel was good. Lars was... Lars was sweet like a fuel apple. Yes. Pleased with this abstract thought, Mattie didn't bother to save it. A waste of memory, probably.
Entering the cramped bedroom, Lars was laid on the covers with care. His clothes stunk and it didn't suit him. Didn't everyone keep urging Mattie to develop independence? Yes, that would please the pilot greatly. Determined to push his personality and learning algorithms further, Mattie set to work.
Exposed for only a few minutes, Lars was quickly dressed in an old shirt and sweatpants. Matthew did not need to take notes on the man's uncovered body. He was aware of ever inch of it to the most minute details. After all, the pilot took care of his sexual needs in the engine room almost every day. That was one of the most secretly monitored sections of the ship.
Mattie was going to leave Lars just as he was, sprawling on a bed in crooked clothes. But he couldn't. See, Matthew was programmed by Alfred to be curious. This curiosity had led him into that mall, into a body, so keen to communicate. There was something very curious about Lars right now.
It was in the pants, tenting tall and obvious. Mattie had some clue the engorged member was related to reproduction, but he didn't know how. He poked it, and it sprang back. How odd. Alfred was designed to deal with fleshy human components better than he. He would know what this strange thing in Lars's pants was.
Closing and locking the bedroom door, Alfred was very easy to find. Still in trouble over giving life to Mattie out of sheer boredom, the bratty android was stuck with cleaning the cargo bay. Endless bitching was heard as the tanned blonde scrubbed the walls with a soapy sponge.
“Hello Alfred.” Mattie greeted gently, clasping his hands.
“Hey You! How did the new pooping script work?” His figurative brother asked genially.
“Good. I feel better after I figured out depositing waste on Wednesday.”
“Great, you need anything else?” Alfred was quite easy to talk to, if audacious.
“Yes. My pilot has this strange condition of the flesh in his pants. Is it normal?” Mattie really did want to know. This could be a disease or life threatening infection!
“Is it standing up, roughly this big, and kinda spongy?” Alfred asked plainly with hand gestures, clearly knowing his stuff. He was so smart.
“Yes, yes! That's exactly it.”
“Oh, that's a penis. You gotta suck on it like a big ol' candy. That's how I deal with 'em... when I'm not scrubbing stupid walls that aren't even dirty. Because Ivan's being a big bossy pants. I didn't even do anything wrong! I'm innocent in all this!” Alfred grouched and complained forever more, clearly more suited to pleasure than manual labour.
“Thanks Alfred. I thought he was sick.” Mattie thanked him happily. Lars becoming ill would be terrible, since he was the best pilot on board.
“No problem accidental bro!”
Back in Lars's room, Mattie was determined to be helpful. He had a dictionary and started looking up the exact instructions Alfred had given. First up was determining what was candy was. The definition was found quickly in the ancient book.
Candy: Noun: a sweet food made with sugar or syrup combined with fruit, chocolate, or nuts.
Candy appeared to be a less healthy fuel humans could subsist on for brief time periods. Looking up what it meant to suck something, the android was sure this was an easy task. Lars had shifted in his sleep, snoring slightly. There it was, that tall strange thing again. That couldn't possibly be comfortable, trapped like that in pants. Penises were probably supposed to be flat or... not this.
No time like the present. Mattie pulled the pants down slightly, setting to work. This wasn't so bad. There was worse jobs you could do. Swirling his tongue around the thick head before bobbing a little more, strange sounds were heard. It was the pilot, gasping weakly and beginning to arch. Barely awake, he moaned upon seeing Mattie.
Popping off the reddened dick, Mattie smiled. “Hello Lars.”
“What are you doing?” The man asked in a bare whisper. A rosy blush coloured the man's skin, eyes dark with new emotion.
“You had an unnatural thing happening in your pants. Alfred told me how to solve it.”
There was no intelligent response to this, so Mattie resumed his task. After another minute, Lars made a pained sound. A milky liquid spilled out of the tip, going down Mattie's throat. It was surprising how much there was in the organ. It had a salty taste profile. The android was polite enough to swallow it all, then tucked the softening dick back in grey sweatpants.
“Was I helpful?” The wheaten blonde asked. Lars only groaned nonsense in turn, a completely relaxed heap of man on the bed. Happily cuddling his woozy mentor, Matthew decided to rest as well. Having to sleep was a new thing he had to get used to. The next morning, there was a new page of rules pinned to the fridge with magnets.
CAPTAIN'S NEW RULES!
Rule #1: Mattie will not take advice from Alfred.
Rule #2: No one is allowed to use the flame thrower.
Rule #3: Jack is not allowed to play with explosives.
Rule #4: Stop pulling pranks on Arthur with blood packs. He has enough problems.
Chapter 9: End Of An Era
A cute nose with surrounding freckles. Two electric blue eyes bright with intelligence. Ivan was without a doubt, in love with a damn android. He had kept his pining and private dreams silent, but to no avail. Every other evening ended up the same, being deliciously dominated.
In sexual regards, Ivan was not ashamed of his bottom position. When Vavara was alive, she had decided all things intimate. It was the fact that Ivan had fallen so easily, for an android of all things. The speed of it was surprising. Fully sentient androids were rather novel of an invention. The technology had not been around more than fifty years, and Alfred was proven to be forty two earth years old.
Despite law granting them freedom three years ago, androids still carried a stigma. They were still seen as objects by many farther out colonies. After all, progress took time. Ivan himself have been rather neutral about possession politics. That is, until he caught puppy love for a forty two year old living machine. A living machine with the settings of a horny teen, no less.
Now days, Ivan could see the underlying toxic culture. It was the remnants of before three years ago, in full strength. The absolute disregard for Alfred was suddenly plain as day. No one even talked to him unless the captain was present. Even the emerging innocence of Mattie was largely disregarded by most of the crew. Mostly, the Kirkland boys just asked the child-like mind to lift heavy boxes.
It was all such a waste. The colourful crew could have helped Mattie emerge into his own. The lost AI could have become an independent person, not dependant on Lars for care. Mattie could have been the symbolic 'child' of this ship, lovingly formed. Instead, he was being used as a fucking tractor.
Not there was much love between the crew and it's captain. Even a blind man could feel the tension like tightly drawn threads. After Lars's little temper tantrum two weeks ago, the place felt rigged to socially explode. Evidently, absolutely no one liked the idea of going legit in business. This wasn't surprising at all. Ivan was certain the idea was repelling because it was less profitable. It was Alfred's idea to begin with, so that was probably another reason.
Ah, such a martyr and fool was Ivan to love Alfred. Not that he could help himself.
It was one more day to Callisto Prime, and the ship's atmosphere was more toxic than usual. No one was even talking to Ivan unless he directly addressed them. Ah, the dank stench of mutiny. Ivan could see it now, the boys taking him at gun point to the port docks. Them giving him a meagre bag of possessions to start over. Alfred would be there no doubt, on the edge of the Jupiter ring system. Two lovers stranded on a shit hole station. If the crew was particularly pissed, they might just shove him out the airlock.
Ivan was not unfamiliar with such tactics. After all, he had gained leadership at the tender age of sixteen years old. The old captain, Viktor, had been a murdering bastard pirate. The idiot had also been Ivan's brother. As dear dead Father would have quoted, “Only the smart and ferocious survive”. Not exactly compassionate parenting methods.
Stretching luxuriously, Ivan tossed aside the blankets. Lungs filled with fresh air, much sweeter today in his mind. “Can you smell it Alfred?” Ivan said after a long yawn.
“Hmm?” Alfred mumbled, clinging in his morning grogginess. He was adorable with his golden blonde bedhead hair.
It was different though. There was almost a hostility to the very air. Mutiny was certain. What was surprising was how happy Ivan was about this. Ever since his beloved wife was murdered by raiders four years ago, the passion for space faring was all but gone. He still carried shame and guilt over the series of events, but knew he couldn't change a thing.
Vavara, sweet curvaceous Vavara with a tan like sand, refused protection. She was dominance and fire, anger and pride. She was a living spirit of defiance against the law. In the end, the lifestyle got her killed. Sure, Ivan could have protected her more, killed her enemies more swiftly.
Problem was that Ivan was the problem. He didn't take joy in killing his own brother. He had only done it to protect his unborn daughter. He didn't like murdering equally desperate pirates, but they wouldn't see reason. Without Vavara as the wind in his sails, Ivan was merely idling through life.
Thus, Ivan was feeling rather light about this whole process. Lars really was a better pilot anyway. In the comfort of warm morning wake up, Ivan smiled.
“You look happy.” Alfred greeted sweetly, mostly awake.
“I feel happy.” Ivan answered honestly. “Now get up. I have a feeling we're going to have a warm welcome on the bridge.” A welcome about as warm as deep space.
“No... stay naked with me. They don't need you for ten hours.” Alfred whined, grabbing at Ivan's bare body. The captain swatted the grip away and stood. He was tempted by the offer, so very much tempted. Ivan was also certain he was going to get shoved out an airlock. Priorities had to made, at least for today.
“Come on you big baby, get cleaned up.” Ivan teased, dragging his cuddly companion out of bed. Shoving the goofball into the compact bathroom, Ivan leaned against the wall. It wasn't purely to stop the cutie from molesting Ivan in the shower. It was also for a much more grim purpose.
Ivan was guarding the door with gun ready. He wasn't sure when the crew was going to turn, but it was anytime now. Horny whining of “Come shower with me.” and “I'm so soapy right now.” were ignored. Ivan appreciated the hell out of it, and Alfred knew it.
Both dressed and ready to go, the odd couple joined the rest of the crew. Everyone was on bridge, awaiting their arrival. That wasn't suspicious at all. Natalia was not here, which was probably for the best. “Good morning crew.” Ivan greeted cheerfully.
“Captain, I believe we need to talk.” Lars replied seriously, apparently the only one with balls. The scruffy pilot sat with tented fingers in the captain's chair. He was a clear threat this morning, armed to the hilt. Scotty and Jack sat pensively nearby, and Arthur looked far too pleased about the obvious mutiny. Mattie was nearby, always within reach of his beloved pilot. He looked to the man constantly or guidance or instruction.
“Do we?” Ivan joked lightly with hands behind his back. There was a readied pistol in both hands. Alfred wasn't dense to the situation, standing silently behind his lover and protector.
“We do. The crew has decided it needs a new captain.”
Like hell these fuckers were taking Ivan down. He didn't want to kill people, but he would do what he needed to. “Well, that joke is funny. You... you are a funny little pilot. Because I heard something else. You know what I heard?”
As Ivan sat in a chair, he grinned quite insanely. Both pistols were now casually displayed on his open lap. He was the fastest shot this ship had ever seen, even blind drink. It was how his brother was murdered after all. The crew paled upon seeing Ivan stone cold sober and armed. They knew exactly what kinds of crazy he could reach.
Still Ivan went on, confident. “I heard that there will a change in leadership, over at Callisto Prime.”
“There will be?” Lars asked carefully, eyeing those guns.
“Yes, and I was to leave with my companion and my daughter unharmed. That was what I heard, right? I think my hearing was very clear, wasn't it? Wasn't it?” Ivan's violent temper threatened to surface, smile ever present.
“I think –” the upstart pilot was grabbed by the throat mid sentence, Ivan up close in seconds. Keeping up his strength training for twenty two years, Lars was pinned by Ivan's steel grip.
“I think you'll agree. Did you know I can crush a man's throat with my bare hands? Did you know I can self destruct this entire ship with a single command? Did you know I once killed a man by cutting off his skin into a thin sheet? It was my big brother's eighteenth birthday present. You are so lucky I murdered him. I could murder you. I really could. Isn't all of these unrelated facts so fun?” Just as Ivan put a pistol to Lars's head, he was punched squarely in the jaw.
The pain was shattering, as Ivan crumpled to the floor and clutched his face. “What the fuck!” he yelled, looking to his side. In the tunnel vision of his hatred, Ivan didn't see Mattie jump to the defence of his cherished pilot. Typically lavender glowing eyes were blood red.
“Protect the pilot.” Mattie uttered in an inhuman electric voice. Ivan flinched as another crushing blow came down. “Stop.” Lars coughed, still beet red from being strangled. The bone crushing hit stopped so close, Mattie's fist had air current over Ivan's skin.
Lars was looking winded as he rasped “We. We are changing leadership at Callisto Prime. As you heard.” The rest of the crew was white as a sheet from terror, frozen in place. Cowards.
“Big fella, give me some kisses.” Alfred cooed, linking arms with him. Helped off the floor, the ash blonde tried to retain any dignity from before. Ivan dissolved his murderous urges at his lover's command, holstering his weapons.
“You're so kind to me.” Ivan whispered, smiling with hooded eyes. Hugging Alfred close, the ash blonde peppered the android with choice passionate kisses. He winced on the last few, his mouth in pain.
“I'll help you pack cutie.” Alfred flirted serenely. Feathered kisses edged around a very sore jaw.
“Sounds perfect.” Ivan replied breezily, once more in a sunny disposition. Leaving the bridge, Alfred anxiously followed behind.
“Are we leaving?” he asked, all that sass of before absent.
“We don't have a choice Sunflower.” Ivan answered absently, going directly to Natalia's room.
“What's a sunflower?” Alfred asked quizzically.
The sentence momentarily stopped Ivan in his tracks. The treasured nickname had slipped out of him, once belonging to his dear Vavara. No. He couldn't think of her right now. He needed to be strong. “It's a flower they grow on Earth. Sometimes Mars too.” Ivan stammered, forcing himself to move. Finally, they were at Natalia's door.
Ivan knocked hard several times. A mop of ash blonde hair answered the door, girly romance music blasting from within. “WHAT!” the eighteen year old growled, her purple 'precious and I know it' night gown slightly askew. She them grimaced. “Papa, your face looks horrible. Did somebody hit you?”
“Never mind that. Get cleaned up Natasha. We will be arriving at port in ten hours.”
“Okay... but... Papa. Do you know how early it is? It's just Callisto Prime. Nobody cares. It's a big sad ice ball.” The technical adult whined like the brat she was some days.
Ivan chuckled, forever loving his spoiled child. He crouched slightly to pinch her cheeks affectionately. “My little darling, you remember the game I taught you?”
Her eyes went wide, “Shoot the intruder?”
Right. Ivan had taught his daughter a dark variety of survival tools. “No, no. Remember hide the treasures?”
Her breathing spiked immediately, as dusky blue eyes became anxious dots. “Pirate raiders are coming? Are pirate raiders coming? I don't have my body armour on, I don't... I don't...” She was scooped up with easy in her father's strong arms. Humming a soft tune, he rocked his once little girl as he sat on her bed.
“Now now little bird. I love you. I won't let you get hurt.” the father crooned, petting his baby lovingly. Alfred watched the scene passively as he entered the room, closing the door behind him.
“Papa, when are the raiders coming?” she whispered. Ivan could feel her quivering in his arms.
“There is no raiders.” Not yet anyway.
“Why do we have to evacuate Papa?”
At this, Ivan gave a weary sigh. “Sometimes, a crew gets tired of who's in charge. Sometimes... they change things around on you.”
Natalia understood immediately, speaking with pure venom in her voice. “Mutiny.”
“No, no, it's not... Alfred... Alfred help! Hold her still!” Ivan called out as Natalia's fear transformed to rage. She was just as beautifully furious as her mother in all ways. Effectively pinned by her father, Natalia was expertly tied up by Alfred with coiled bed sheets. After ten minutes of angry thrashing on the floor, she stilled. Alfred removed the mouth gag made from a clean sock and pantyhose.
“Are we still angry?” he asked in motherly fashion, smiling.
“I'm going to cut off all their balls. I'm going to make them regret hurting Papa's feelings!”
Ivan lay beside her on the floor, cuddling his beloved daughter. “Now, you have to think of this as a fresh start. Can you do that for Papa?”
Natalia glared silently with glassy eyes. It was obvious she was taking their forced eviction on a personal level.
“Can you do that for me princess?” Ivan repeated more sternly, brushing hair out of her eyes.
He didn't get a real response out of the frustrated child. Instead she sniffled through sparse tears. “I can't leave... This is the only home I've ever known. I don't want to go.”
“I know muffin. I know... I was born on a ship too. I understand... but sometimes you have to move ships.” Ivan soothed, peppering his angel with little kisses.
Natalia seemed to calm, giggling. “Papa! You have gross papa breath! Stop it! It tickles!”
Ivan realized what the fuck she was talking about, and blushed scarlet. He hadn't brushed his teeth well since Alfred got down and kinky on him last night. “Ha, ha, yes. Of course. Alfred, untie all the knots.” The father backpedalled away from her, wondering what qualified as worst parent of the year. Breathing nasty sex breath all over people probably qualified.
Instructing Alfred to restrain Natalia if she tried to murder people, Ivan left to pack his own things. It didn't take long. As a former pirate, he was paranoid as ever. All of his data and interplanetary money was ready to go. His computer was wiped clean with the press of a button. His clothing was all rather ragged after four long years of not buying new things. Vavara had always been the one to pick his wardrobe. The grieving man still couldn't bear to shop without her. It was a trend that was ending soon, if Alfred had his way about things.
The real challenge was his old bedroom. Ivan and his wife used to live in there. They raised a child there. It was cursed ground, a place he hadn't set foot in for three years now. It hurt too much to try. Still, Ivan had nine hours before he was marooned on Callisto with his little family. This was a priority now. Standing before the door, he pressed his palm to it for finger print identification.
The air that spilled out was fresh scented with faint flowers. It made Ivan want to run already. She had loved the flowers she was nicknamed after so much. He had to breathe, but he didn't want to. Breathing in their old perfume was haunting. He stuttered a breath as he pushed forward into the dark of the room. Flicking on the lights, he shut the door behind him.
The sight of the space made his heart want to fall out. It was perfectly preserved and clean, as if frozen in time. He recalled seeing Natalia dart in and out of here with cleaning supplies once in a while. He never suspected she was doing this. The rose patterned bedding was perfectly folded. Vavara's old pearls were still on display on the dresser. Ivan's silver wrist watch sat beside it, though it no longer worked. Her family scarf of blue and yellow was still near, neatly folded on a chair.
He was choking from this. He was dying inside. Wheezing and barely holding back tears, the grown man struggled to function. This was an emotional torture chamber of the past, and it was working too well. Get to the safe. Get to the fucking safe and get out. He forced himself to take more breaths of the scent once associated with true love. A few more steps. Just a few more.
Along a seamless section of wall, there was a nonfunctional power plugin. Fishing a key on his jingling key ring, he jammed it into the small space. Were this an actual outlet, he would have died from the action. This was not the case. Instead, a small wall safe slowly revealed itself. It was along the 'seamless' section, in between the much more interesting bed and dresser. No one had ever found it during raids. Opening the small space, there was nothing but a note. It was the sharp printing of his dead wife. With shaking hands, he picked it up.
If you're reading this letter, it means I'm dead. I knew from the beginning being a rebel, a smuggler, whatever the young call us now... I knew it was a dangerous job. I love it, I really do. I love the adventure as much as I love you. It's why I left a little contingency plan.
If I've died, I want you to get out of the life. I know you only killed Viktor to protect us. I know you. You aren't a murderer, not at heart. You're not your brother, and you never were. Go to Ceres and become a stock trader. Go to Mars and farm strawberries. Just do something that will make you happy.
I stole three million credits off Viktor before you shot him. The account information for it is on the back of this letter. I want you to use it all. Get Natalya a real education. Let her learn what it's like to have friends. Don't maim the first boy she brings home from a date. I know you'll want to.
Please don't hold onto the past. Take care of yourself. Let yourself love again. Do it for me.
With eternal love, your sunflower
Ivan sank to the floor, openly weeping. His heart felt ready to crack and die from everything. Her death was as fresh as the tears that trailed his cheeks. They stung his sore jaw but he didn't care anymore. His voice broke with fresh sadness and he struggled to speak.
“I will Varya. I will. I'll live for you.” He whispered painfully, hugging the faded letter to his chest.
Chapter 10: Port Ho
Statistically speaking, leaving the former captain and his little brood on Callisto was a good idea. All he had done for the last four years was drink and fend off two pirate raids. From a calculative perspective, anyone of the crew could have done this for cheaper.
It didn't make Mattie feel any better about the change in management. He was in conflict over such conflict. This was why the wheaten blonde was at the airlock today. It was only a few minutes before take off and he couldn't stop hugging his accidental brother and creator.
“Send lots of transmissions. Binary, any language you want.” Mattie blubbered, not letting go of Alfred.
“I will, I will.” Alfred assured, patting him on the back.
“I gave you my tracking code. So if you want to know where I am...” Mattie squeezed him tighter, voice hitching to electric tones.
“Crushing my lungs dude.” The tanned blonde wheezed.
Matthew let go, looking away. “I'm sorry.”
“It's fine. I have like two minutes so... take this. It's my survival sub-routines. I feel kinda bad about not giving them to you earlier. I put a bunch of neat sex stuff in a separate folder, if you ever get curious. You gotta take care of yourself, because I can't be a hero and bail you out.”
Matthew sniffled, holding the cherished memory key. “Okay.”
The intercom buzzed to life. “Mattie get out of the air lock. It's time to leave.”
“Yes Captain Van Den Berg.” the android reported in distressed tones. With a final wave and a smile, Alfred joined the former captain in the space station. Ivan glared at Mattie as the thick metal doors closed. Natalia was bound and slung over her father's shoulder, muffled death threats still bleeding from her. The daughter had without a doubt, taken the entire mutiny to heart. She nearly killed Scotty with a fork in the kitchen twenty minutes earlier.
With a final sigh, Mattie inserted the memory key into a panel in his arm. Walking out of the air lock area, the industrial beeping began sealing as the docking clamps released. It was deep clunk of metal that always reverberated throughout the entire ship.
Reaching the bridge, Mattie took his place at Lars's side. Seated on a plush cushion, the android plugged himself into the control panel of the ship. Expanding his consciousness to the entire craft, the wheaten blonde felt at home. He could feel the fuel levels, the thrusters, the rotating mechanisms of the fusion engine... He had always been the ship, as he was now.
“Take us to co-ordinates 105.67.927.” Lars ordered, casting him an affectionate glance. It was slight but motivating gesture.
“Yes Captain. Departure processes engaged.” Mattie answered dutifully. Finally, the crew seemed at ease on the bridge for the first time in weeks. Only Scotty looked unhappy, still nursing fork wounds as he monitored oxygen levels. It was wise of Lars to displace the old captain. Ivan had been chronically depressed and it was visibly dragging down the morale of everyone else. Still, Matthew was going to miss Alfred immensely.
Mattie could only hope the crew's choice to return to smuggling wouldn't backfire.
Chapter 11: Pants Tell The Truth
Alfred is a cute dork.
“It doesn't look that bad.” Alfred soothed, watching Ivan press a cold pack to his face.
“It's changing colours already.” Natalia commented, leaning in to touch Ivan's sore jaw.
“Don't! It hurts!” the father yelped.
The stranded trio were in a rather fancy room with two plush beds. Natalia had naturally claimed the biggest bed for herself. She had managed to take up the entire king size mattresses with all her worldly possessions. Her father and Alfred were forced to share the smaller mattress pushed against the wall.
It was an understatement to say Alfred was very happy about his new sleeping arrangements. Alfred hummed a joyful tune as he preened with a glittery comb and hand mirror. “Does my suit look slutty enough?”
“What is wrong with you?” Natalia spat, retreating to her massive nest of girly clothing.
“I know what I got, and I want to flaunt it.” Alfred answered proudly.
Natalia seemed to change colours in anger, barely holding in an explosion of sorts. A glare from her father reigned her in for now. Little did Alfred's lover know Natalia had already minced words before. Well... threats more so than words. Either way, Alfred wasn't concerned. He could take her.
“You're why we were mutinied on Callisto!” She burst out, apparently not as controlled as she looked. “That ship was my home and this is all your fault!”
“NATALYA IVOVNA BRAGINSKAYA! YOU WILL STOP BEING A BRAT THIS INSTANT!” Ivan thundered darkly, powerful like a storm. Just hearing that authority made Alfred lustful and hungry for touch. Most things did, since he was programmed to be that way.
“He ruined my life!”
“The crew was going to mutiny me long before Alfred showed up, and we both know it! Stop blaming uncontrollable situations on others! I taught you better!”
As yet another yelling match started up, Alfred tensed and walked between the quarrelling family members. “I just want everyone to be happy.” he appealed to them desperately.
“Get the fuck out of my personal space you overrated sex toy! You ruin everything you touch!” The girl cursed, somewhat hurting Alfred's feelings. He had to settle this hate she held within. The little family wasn't going to survive the trip to Mars otherwise.
“I don't want break or hurt anything. I don't want to be hurt anymore, can't you see I'm just an android?” He spoke sweetly to her, taking a hand.
She pulled away, shaking her head. “You're a machine, designed to make people happy. You don't know anything else! You're barely intelligent! A toaster would be a better friend.”
Alfred's electric glare hardened at the accusation. “I am built for pleasures. I don't deny it. But I make your father happy. He makes me happy. Are we not allowed to be happy?” The insufferable attitude of Natalia, the return of Ivan's drinking aboard this new ship, it all built like a heady storm. It all culminated in the crack of lightning that was Natalia's real feelings.
“Only Mama could make Papa happy! You have no right to replace her!” The words made the room deadly silent. Ivan paled and sat on the smaller mattress, without words. Still, Alfred was not going to lose. Ivan was his love, his darling, the star Alfred's coding revolved around.
“Your mother is dead. She's been dead for four years. Your dad has been drinking himself to death over it. I made him laugh again. I made him smile. I'm not replacing anyone. I'm doing what I was programmed to do.” The android stated plainly.
The teenager was stunned a moment. Finally she balled her hands into fists, “W-w-well fuck you! You can keep Papa all for your greedy self! I'll be fine all by myself!” On the verge of tears, she stomped out of the room in melodramatic matter.
“She... thinks what?” Ivan stammered, confused from the fallout of conversation.
“I'm sorry I was so crude about your wife.” Alfred murmured, slipping onto Ivan's lap. It was his rightful throne after all, preferably speared by Ivan's nice erect manhood.
“No, I... I... suppose it had to be said, about... her.” Ivan mumbled, distraught by everything. “Why is parenting so hard? I know Natasha wants me to go after her.”
“Hey big handsome... I'll talk to her, okay? You just relax.” Alfred soothed, kissing around that bruised jaw. “I'll give you a good night kiss, how about that hmm?”
Ivan made a happy low sound of contentment. “What would I be without you?”
“Lost in a sea of garbage of and vodka bottles.” Alfred purred, pushing Ivan back until he was laying down on the mattress. “Now just... relax. I'll help you sleep.”
“How are you going to... oh... oh. So kind to me.” Ivan spoke, dropping to a whisper in lusty understanding. Alfred already had the man's pants undone and tugged down partially in record time. Ivan's body knew what was going on, used to being sexually attacked any time of day or night. Signs of this anticipation stood tall in his boxers already.
As Alfred kissed up half exposed thighs, he ran fingers over creamy pale skin. Getting to the meat of things, he damn near ripped the boxers off. Eyeing that needy thick member with insatiable hunger, Alfred whispered “I love you so much.”
“I... I love you – fuckin' stars – I... love... Oooh” Ivan broke down to moans as he was serviced with loving zeal. Every contour, vein, and delicious texture was savoured as Alfred gave the best blow job of his life. Alfred would always take care of everything Ivan wanted, until the android couldn't manage. He loved him, forever, and ever, and ever. Nothing was going to stop him.
Ivan was out like a light, with not a drop of cum left to give. Good. That was the way he ought to be. This was also a great opportunity to see how things were going in Ivan's cute skull. Rolling the passed out man over, Alfred exposed a small injection site on the back of Ivan's neck. Obscured by the hair line, the man would never notice he was tampered with.
After all, that's what Alfred wanted. Lifting the finger nail on his pinky finger, a secret panel and plug in cord was revealed. “How are my little nanotech buddies today?” Alfred whispered lovingly, jabbing the injection location with the delicate black cord.
With access to Ivan's spinal cord, the android could feel all the changes. He could see them exactly on the inside of his electric blue eyes. Streams of data zipped passed, all from the neat technology Alfred had tricked Ivan into eating as 'vitamins'.
The medical nanotechnology had a lot of damage to fix. Ivan was strongly against transhuman trends, and had probably never had any vaccinations. On top of all that nonsense, the cutie was a staunch naturalist. Stars only knew how many fake homeopathic 'remedies' the man had eaten in his life.
Then there was the cancer. Living aboard various space ship for decades meant Ivan was exposed to legions of radiation across the entire spectrum. Skin cancer. Kidney cancer. Lung cancer. He was a prime candidate for all of these conditions. His heart cancer was advanced when Alfred showed up in his life.
On some subconscious level, Ivan wasn't drinking himself into a coma over his wife. He was in pain, physically draining pain, because he was very slowly falling apart. It was so easy to slip the fake vitamins into Ivan's useless homeopathic regiment. It was so easy to lie through silence.
It was a lesser evil to say nothing, avoid the arguments. Why Ivan was so against using android age technologies to heal himself was a mystery. The arguments would come, but hell if Alfred was going to start it. The data finally compiled itself into a brief report, seen on Alfred's eye lenses.
CARDIAC TUMOUR REDUCTION 2.1 MILLIGRAMS
SPINAL RECONSTUCTION 12 PERCENT COMPLETE
DAMAGE DETECTED IN KIDNEY. UNABLE TO REPAIR.
Well, those little guys had been really hard at work. Unlike with androids, true humans didn't have a nanotechnology repair module inside their bodies. The very tiny robots simply repaired whatever they could while they carried charge, then were unwittingly flushed out of the body through sneezing or waste. They typically only ran a few days, which honestly was a shame.
Removing the cord and retracting it into the pinky again, Alfred pushed hair over the used site. Locking his pinky nail closed with a friction fit, the happy android schemed. He would have to trick Ivan into eating triple the 'special vitamins' he was taking now. The man's kidney was a wreck as it was. One pill a day was not enough to tackle the ambitious obstacle.
“I love you Ivy. I'm gonna make you feel better.” Alfred whispered, tucking the snoozing hulk of handsome under the covers. With the centre of his rather small world resting and healing, Alfred felt comfortable to explore the massive cargo ship. There was a 78.2 percent chance Natalia had fled to the mess hall. The probability of this was due to her human need to eat every day. The mess hall also had a few arcade machines.
Alfred caught a few wandering eyes as he walked in his skin tight white suit. 'Precious' was on the low cut butt section in glitter, and it was fantastically true. Still, Alfred considered himself a taken fellow. He would wave back sometimes, but never returned the flirty glances these days. It felt right not to.
The mess hall of this ship was four times the size of the old kitchen. With a larger rotating crew, it seemed necessary. Sure enough, Natalia was playing a virtual reality arcade game. It was called 'Mining Madness' with bright letters. The 2D screen on the side of her game chair shown her soaring score as she shot down pretend space rocks in anger. The goal of this device seemed to be dodging pretend space rocks while blowing them up. Odd, but okay.
“Natalia?” Alfred greeted loudly, not being noticed.
“What... Oh. It's you.” Natalia grumbled in displeasure, pausing the game and slipping off her VR headband. “What do you want?”
“I just wanted to make sure you're okay”
“Don't you have an appointment to ride my Papa's dick like a dumb animal?” Natalia was more pissed than usual it seemed. Not entirely sure how to reply to such cutting comments, Alfred changed subject.
“So... Whatcha doin'?”
“Blowing up space rocks. I'm trying to get to level fifteen.” she said in curt manner, VR headband back on her head.
“Oh. How do you play?” Alfred asked curiously, running a finger pad down the side of the machine. It certainly made lots of interesting noises and lights.
“It's a VR game. You just... play. What's the matter with you?” Man, teenagers were harsh.
“I've never played a VR game before. Ivy-poo said my old memories were too corrupt to use so... Maybe I played before but I forgot? Hey, what does this do?” Alfred tugged on a thick black electrical cord, forever curious. The 'Mining Madness' game went dark and quiet.
“You IDIOT. Plug it back it!” Natalia cursed, yanking off her VR device violently.
“I'm sorry Nat, did I break it?” Alfred offered, unsure how to proceed.
The judgmental teen daughter glared at him a minute, then softened in pity. She took the cord out of his hands, plugging it back in the wall. “No. You didn't break it.” She sighed and dragged a hand over her face in exasperation. “So you've never played games before, ever.”
“I know sex games. I know lots of those!” Alfred answered enthusiastically. He adored sex games.
“NO. Like... video games. VR games. Card games. Anything?”
Alfred thought a moment, scanning his memories. He found no results. “What's a card game?”
“Sit in the chair.” Natalia ordered gravely, very much unimpressed. Alfred sat in the still warm metal seat, handed the silly looking VR headband. “Put on the thing. I'll put a credit in the machine.” Natalia was just as bossy as her father, which was endearing to learn. No doubt she would make a fearsome captain some day.
The suspended glass lenses of the headband projected light into Alfred's eyes. He was apparently in a primitive cockpit with limited controls. A rather large purple space rock was flying right at him. It seemed to be gaining speed.
“Natalia, how do I play?” Alfred asked, confused as ever. The big rock smacked into his cockpit, making the screen explode into confetti. 'YOU DIED! TRY AGAIN!' scrolled across the screen. “Am I going to die for real now?” He asked in concern.
Natalia looked as though she had never pitied anyone more than Alfred right now. “Let's... try this again.”
Eleven deaths later, it was clear complex VR games were not a great starting point. They were now in a mostly empty hall. Alfred was wearing a ridiculously gay white sweater to keep warm. “This is a bouncy ball. You have to know what a bouncy ball is.” Natalia began wearily. She had a small pink thing in her hands, rather spherical.
“Can I eat it?”
“For Ceres sake, focus! This is a bouncy ball. Watch.” Natalia dropped the ball but it didn't break. It bounced up from the momentum of falling, enough that she could catch it's return. It was astounding to watch.
“Whoa! It came back!” Alfred blurted out excitedly. “I wanna see it!”
“Try bouncing it.” Natalia instructed sternly, handing over the simple toy.
Alfred dropped it uncertainly. It bounced a little and settled by a door. “Cool! What happens if I throw it?”
He did try it. The bouncy ball rebounded off the walls of the whitewashed corridor several times. What a thrill! He couldn't help but giggle and smile as he chased down the small object. Natalia seemed taken aback at Alfred's first innocent play session.
“What happens if I throw it really really hard?” Alfred prompted, ever more curious.
“Do it! Do it!” Natalia cheered, infected by his own joy.
He wound up the throw, then released the bouncy ball with all his inhuman strength. It went down the hall like a bullet, ricocheting like mad into the unknown. A second later, a stranger's grunt of “Ouch!” was heard.
“Shit! Run!” Natalia whispered, leaving Alfred behind as she fled. The android followed, glancing back in concern.
Ivan was beginning to wake from happy dreams, the alarm clock blooping softly. He didn't have the chance to turn it off. Alfred ripped the alarm off the table, cord and all, then hurled it against the damn walls. Bits of smashed plastic scattered everywhere as Alfred frowned in clear disappointment.
“Why did you do that?” Ivan groaned, not all that surprised. Alfred was very far from normal.
“Why is it not bouncing?” Alfred asked, in his own little dilemma.
“Alarm clocks don't bounce.”
“... Oh. Do lamps bounce?”
“No. Lamps don't bounce. Why are you trying to break things?” Ivan asked, already tired from what he might hear.
“Nat showed me what games are, then gave me a bouncy ball. I lost the bouncy ball, but I still want to play.” Oh boy, Alfred was full on sulking now. It was strangely erotic as it was pleading. Ivan was glad his body was too drained for more sex.
“Do you want another bouncy ball?” Ivan asked dully.
Alfred cuddled on the mattress, shifting it all over the place. He was so energetic and wiggly today. “Yes.”
“Take the change in my pants and buy another one from the mess hall.” It was more of a sigh than an order, but Alfred looked so delectable when he was this cheerful. Ivan probably wouldn't regret this too much. Until he did, ten minutes later.
Chapter 12: Stone Cold Crazy
The waking moments were the most precious. Matthew typically left his custom charging dock After two hours, ready for another day of duty. The rest of the humanoids on board had to sleep eight hours, a vulnerability of being fleshy. Thus, the wheaten blonde had upwards of six hours to himself.
He cleaned the ship with care even greater than Lars provided. It was a strange feeling to do so, given Matthew was cleaning himself... from inside of himself. He was the ship, yet he was a being. The morality and legal status of the entire situation was murky. Not technically a person due to being a ship first, Matthew lived a somewhat restricted life.
He didn't much mind, for he hardly considered himself trapped. As Lars's legal property, Matthew was free to roam the interior most things. He even had time off of sorts from being the ship guidance system, when Lars was on active duty. Matthew honestly couldn't be happier.
Well, that wasn't entirely true. Matthew really missed Alfred. He wasn't certain whether to refer to the brilliant mind as his father or brother. It certainly matched the definition of a sibling relationship, by most accounts. There was also the little matter of Matthew's split personalities, which had yet to be solved.
The docile sweet android was a fusion of the simple M.A.T.I.E. system, a cheap Zerotech hospitality program, and Alfred's own sexually aggressive nature. The original piloting system was rather violent in it's simplicity, which was fine under normal circumstances. Ships typically didn't have small avatars that could move like humans. M.A.T.I.E. was designed purely to keep the ship and it's pilot intact.
Twice now, the animistic survival system had overridden all other components. If Lars hadn't intervened, Mattie would have suffocated all those raiders a while back. Worse, he would have pulverized the former captain to a smear. Only Lar's word stopped the gruesome executions.
Matthew just couldn't help himself. Lars was his pilot. The strange and intangible attachment to the mortal was too strong to understand sensibly. Still, Matthew couldn't help exploring it. Thus, he hovered at the edge of Lars's bed in early morning. Dimming the glow of his eyes, the android dared to sit on the mattress.
Able to see in the dark, he watched the relaxed breaths of his owner under thin blankets. Ever since Alfred gave that terrible advice to perform a blow job on Lars, things had been strange. Lars was shorter on words than usual, turning a strange shade of pink before running out of the room. It was always the same whenever they didn't work together. The unfortunate side effect was a new malfunction in Mattie's brain.
Beneath all that sophisticated programming, Mattie was very lonely.
With a barest of whispers, The shy blonde spoke. “Captain? I'm tuned into autopilot, and everything looks routine.”
There was no response from the resting human, body rising slowly with each breath. The need for physical contact, a remnant of Alfred's influence, was strong today. Daring to lay down, the soft squeak of old mattress springs issued forth. Matthew froze, tense as he listened for any changes.
After moving in sleep, Lar's snoring continued. The blanket was in place, only a shock of hair poking out the top. Slowly, Matthew inched closer, pausing occasionally. Finally he was a hair's width away from cuddling his dearest pilot. He wanted it, he ached for it. Taking a chance, Matthew pressed into the warm back of the human.
It was so nice to be touched. Finally appeased, the many algorithms designated for human companionship settled. Cuddling gently, the overprotective M.A.T.I.E. protocols measured the pilot's basic functions. Heart rate seemed good, as did the breathing. At Mattie's insistence, the captain had switched to e-cigarettes and less powerful alcohol. The changes only seemed to be for the better.
Pleased, Matthew allowed himself to shut down more power hungry systems. Mainly the android motor systems responsible for moving. Stilled in such a manner, he could enter a sleep mode and “dream” to some degree. It was actually beneficial to dream as an android. As an ideal time to check system efficiency, defragmentation also occurred. Reviewing what memories were worth archiving was a tertiary function. Waking programs beginning to shut down, Matthew smiled as he pressed close.
“Goodnight my pilot.”
Lars woke sluggishly, feeling like a ton of bricks was leaning on him. Fumbling in the dark, he finally located the lamp with his only free arm. Room now lit, it was clear what was restricting him so. It was a 300 pound cuddle monster by the name of Mattie. The android was out cold, taking up half the mattress and trapping him with a dense arm. It was holding him tightly in obvious affection.
The trapped captain was not opposed to the sentiment, but he was having trouble breathing from the crushing limb. It took everything his noodle arms could muster to get free. The mostly metal structure flopped and stayed where it lay. On nagging conscience, Lars flipped the joints in the limb to a more comfortable position, tucking a pillow in the hollow space.
The gesture reminded him of a problem he didn't want to accept. Lar's problem was himself. He shuttered a breath at the sheer cuteness of sleeping Mattie, and forced himself to look away. Holing up in the bathroom, he showered to distract himself.
Mattie was an accidental creation, more ship than humanity. For Ceres sake, the entity was only six months old! Lars had no right to be attracted to him, and wouldn't appropriate so much as a lewd glance. It was wrong, it was weird, and it was an avatar of the damn ship one room over.
Captain Braginsky falling for Alfred was a given. The man was unorthodox to begin with, a stubborn naturalist with a psycho for a daughter. At least Lars had the common sense to take nanotechnology pills. It was vital against deep space radiation and cross infection from the crew. Alfred being designed for sex and emotional manipulation created predictable results. If Ivan didn't end up fucking the thing, someone else would have.
Lars was supposed to be the level headed one, the good captain. That was why the crew mutinied the old boss so willingly. Most importantly, Lars wasn't supposed to sexually attracted to his own fucking ship. Turning off the hot shower, he left the stall and dried his face with a fluffy orange towel. Glancing in the wall mirror, he saw his pitiful reflection.
A beanpole of a captain, pale hair limp and wet. He was blushing something fierce, his cock half alert in this nude state. Gods help him, he was already crazy. He had only been in charge five months. Where along the line had he started lusting after a hunk of metal?
Worse was he had no idea how to breach the subject. How did you approach the fact that your own ship had taken your virginity? Lars hadn't planned on being a twenty five year old virgin. He learned to deal with it, adjust to his life. He had hobbies, puzzles, and work. After turning twenty one years old, he couldn't even find anyone to talk to about it. At least, not without being laughed at.
Thus, Lars shrouded his awkwardness in authoritative silence. Or tried. The many problems of Captain Van Den Berg increased, like they usually did. Looking down in frustration, his cock was up and ready like every other morning... and afternoon... and sometimes night. “Yes you little bastard. I'll deal with you now.” He grumbled annoyed.
Later, Lars was flexing his captain position as he negotiated a deal over the phone. Lounging in his pilot seat, he absently punched new co-ordinates into the ship. “Well thats just too bad Luciano. Because unless you cough up thirty two million, I'm gone.”
Angry Europa accent reminiscent of ancient Italian poured forth over the phone. Lars held the device at length, waiting for a pause in conversation. Usually Lars was more respectful with the head of the local mob. Today he had the sadistic fuck by the balls, and planned to use the newfound power.
Lars was toting all the ammunition refills for Luciano's private army. The hot headed Europa dweller could bitch and scream all he wanted over the phone. He wasn't getting his fusion batteries or bullets until he paid up.
Thirty two million, the original agreed upon price, would be enough to get the ship back to the inter asteroid belt. The dreaded unknown of the Kirkwood Gaps was otherwise just too far to cross in one go. The Kirkwood gaps, the dead spaces between Jupiter's powerful gravity and the belt, were also absolutely infested with pirates. There was no traces of law in the Kirkwood hell that was empty nothingness.
Trapped in the Jupiter ring system by Ivan's incompetent directions, the crew had to wait until Mars lined up closer. Ceres could line up slightly closer as a jumping point. That could take anywhere from 140 days to a few years. Connecting from Ceres to Mars would take only a few months... Alternatively, they could pay to be towed by a stronger pirate warship for a steep fee.
Fact of the matter was, the S.S.Natalya was stuck for months either way unless Lars coughed up a few million to get a boost home.
It seemed Luciano was done talking. He hung up in a fit of anger, leaving only Lars and Scotty on the bridge. Mattie was still napping, at least twenty percent fragmented in his head.
“Captain... ye just killed us all.” Scotty muttered gravely, entirely aware who the hell Luciano was. The expanded crew of seven had now had three terrifying run-ins with the insane mobster. In the five months since Ivan was evicted, the ship had been fully repaired. It was also bristling with guns of deadly calibre.
Admittedly, Lars hadn't committed his first murder until a month into his reign. He felt terrible about it, but it was necessarily. That raider crew would have killed and eaten everyone on board if Lars didn't cut it down like tall grass. How Captain Braginsky had always looked so tired, all the “private talks” he had with other more violent smugglers... Murder was the price of leadership.
Lars wore this bloody crown of spikes with grim determination. He fully understood why Ivan was so happy to be mutinied. He was never mutinied at all, he was freed of his position. Other than a bruised jaw, he was practically singing when he left control. He didn't have to make the tough calls anymore.
Snapped back to the present, Lars look Scotty in those green green eyes. “No. I'll keep us safe.” He would too. He would get this stranded crew back to the safer regions of Mars and Ceres. Even if he had to murder his way across the Kirkwood gap like a game of hopscotch.
“With all due respect laddie... How?”
“I'll have to out pirate the pirates, First Mate Kirkland.”
Chapter 13: This Is The End, My Only Friend, The End
Jump to the notes at the end if you're not into gore or sad feelings. I left a summary.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Mattie was unhappy. He hated Lars's plan to kill his way across the deadly Kirkwood gap. With the insane Luciano hunting them down for his ammunition shipment, they really didn't have a choice. Two months into their harrowing journey, the crew was beginning to feel a little traumatized. You could feel it in the air like poison.
Lars was technically doing the best he could in a bad situation. The entirety of the S.S. Natalya could eventually get murdered by Luciano, or flee into guaranteed danger on their own terms. Lars had already wasted five months try to get back via planetary alignment. Jupiter was no longer safe for them as smugglers.
This oppressive morale was hardly better. Arthur and Jack had not survive the voyage, killed during a failed raid. The crew of seven was whittled down to five, and food stocks were not looking great. Taking supplies from anyone murdered along the way was purely a band-aid solution. Lars didn't want to do the math, but Mattie had perform the calculations over 1,200 times.
Two more people had to be “removed”, or the crew wouldn't make it to Ceres. Mattie, consuming one quarter of the resources a typical human used, was distraught. With Lars as the only remaining engineer, and the doctor being dead, Mattie's own survival was in question. A most primitive thought took hold once more.
Protect the pilot.
Mattie crept up to his master as he rested in bed. Dark circles dragged down violence weary eyes. Severe rationing was already starting affect the malnourished man. Desperate, Mattie took a hand delicately and kissed it. The android was deeply in love, although he would never voice it. It was an unnatural bond that neither acknowledged, yet it grew into a flame.
“Please Lars, please, enact my M.A.T.I.E. protocol.” Mattie begged softly, tears trailing his freckled cheeks. The love of his life was wasting away before his very eyes, and he couldn't take it anymore.
“No. I couldn't. You're so pure. I couldn't... couldn't ask you to do such horrible things.” Lars whispered in sorrow, having to look away. He was almost too weak to walk these days, fed with doting affection by Mattie.
“I'll do anything for you.” the android promised sincerely, “Please let me.”
There was a stretched moment of silence, then the doomed pair met gazes. Lars was crying, a rare occurrence. “I'm so sorry Mattie.” He spoke softly, tracing a bony hand along the androids jawline.
Mattie pressed into the gesture with unwavering devotion. “I forgive you.”
The captain looked with glassy sorrow, swallowing everything and nothing of this moment. After a deep rattling breath, he spoke. “Computer, engage M.A.T.I.E. protocol A-5.”
The humanity, the grace, the gentleness all drained away from Mattie. He stood in mechanical jerky movements, took down at his master. There was nothing else in the world to him now. There was only the pilot, his pilot, his only true pilot. The faint red glow of the inhuman machine's eyes spoke volumes of the primal simple madness within.
“Seeking input.” Mattie stated in electric tones.
“Protect the pilot.” Lars coughed, to weak to sit up at the moment.
“Pilot survival five percent. Must increase survival rate.” Mattie replied instantly, reaching for the knife in Lars's bedside drawer. Mission formed in his mind, the deadly machine set off. Exiting the room, he locked the bedroom door with top level password protection.
A rather wane Scotty limped into view just down the hall, not healing from the last attack. One could smell the festering rot of his wounds from afar. “Laddie ye haven't seen the last of the antibiotics have ye?”
Mattie hooded his gaze from afar, not revealing burning red irises until the last second. Scotty realized his fate too late. “Oh fuck!” he called out in agony. Mattie had cut clean through clothing, skin, muscle, and organ. The other hand plunged into the wound, tearing it wide open. Grip wrapped firmly around the ailing man's spine, then ripped it out the front with a wet squelch of gore.
Scotty fell instantly as both arms were withdrawn, dead. Jamal, a new hire from Callisto, saw the scene and turned to flee. Mattie threw the knife with the propulsive speed of a bullet. The weapon shattered the back of the man's skull with a spray of scarlet violence. Walking past brains and bone sliding down the metal walls, Mattie picked up his knife. Two down, two to go.
Protcol A-5 was the most severe command Lars could order. He suspected food raided from a felled pirate ship was tainted, willingly isolating himself with a clean stash in his room. He wasn't wrong. Radiation occasionally messed with food rations, causing the equivalent of grain rot. Desperate, the crew started raiding passing wrecks without Lars's express permission. With no medicine or doctors left, a total purge of the infected was the last option.
The true danger of the Kirkwood gap was not piracy, but maddening isolation.
Jodie and Oliver were found sleeping, a couple recruited on Europa. Oliver had the most merciful death, his neck crushed to limp bloody pulp. The dead man's wife woke with a scream, tumbling to the floor as her husband was murdered. Mattie turned red eyes to her while still killing oliver, emotionless.
“Please stand by for termination.” The android replied in uneven electric tones.
“WHAT DID YOU DO! YOU MONSTER!” the grieving woman sobbed. She pulled out a bedside gun, firing no less than six shots into the machine's chest. Three bullets bounced off, having struck the alloy reinforced sternum. The other three went through harmlessly. The wounds were already healing shut from nanotechnology onsite.
Horrified, the woman screamed again and fled into the fall. Mattie moved with cutting speed, already behind her. She slipped on the growing puddle of blood left by Jamal's destroyed cranium. Flopping foward onto the dead body, she burst into big tears and hysterical begging.
“Please, please I'll give you anything! I want to live! I WANT TO LIVE!”
With all empathy routines shut down, the words fell on deaf ears. Mattie went on bent knee beside her, repeating his brutal command. “Protocol A-5 requires purging of all infected subjects.”
The woman fought and kicked fiercely even as she was pinned. A stray kick threw Mattie off balance. He crushed her legs to end the annoyance. Shards of bone and muscle popped out through torn skin.
“WHY? I ONLY WANT TO LIVE!” The woman wailed and sobbed incoherently, now crippled. “I only want to live! I only want to –”
Mattie ripped her head off with a loud snap of bone. The body part was carelessly tossed aside. She silenced, but her body still twitched in death from the panicked nervous system. It would take a minute to stop. The android stood and waited patiently, splattered in the blood of his former comrades. Once the corpse was still, a simple code began in his empty mind.
Protocol completed. Standard operating systems will now resume.
Red eyes faded to peaceful lilac as the jerky robotic movement became fluid. After several blinks, all empathy and humanity routines were online. Seeing blood on his pale hands, Mattie gasped. “What... what happened. What... Oh my pilot, what... what I do?”
Sinking to the floor, the horrible actions of the past six minutes registered. “I... I... I killed them all! I killed them all!” He cried noisily, beginning to cry in earnest. A new statistic formed in his head, one that almost sickened him for the price he paid.
Pilot survival increased to seventy eight percent. Protocol successful.
Mattie truly was a cursed child of machinery and heartache.
Lars, bone thin and rather yellow, lay in bed. He deeply regretted telling Mattie to kill the crew, but it had saved the captain. He now had three times the clean food reserves and one last dose of nanotechnology pills. In theory, this was enough to make it to Ceres with their current course. Running silent with no radio or electric communication, they might even make it to port.
If only for a single paper cut.
Lars was starting to gain weight, and even move around again. That was when he got a small cut from a clipboard paper. In any other circumstances, this would have been a light inconvenience. As it was, there was no drugs left, no doctor, and most of the on board water was contaminated. When Jack was slaughtered in a raid, the secrets of the water filtration system died with him.
Lars, seven months into his first gig as captain, was marooned and dying from an infected paper cut. It was a joke really. He was past sad, angry, and frustrated. There was only solemn promise of his death, and choice few regrets. “Mattie, Mattie...” He croaked, shifting weakly under clean covers.
As always, the loyal companion came at a moment's notice. “Yes master?” he asked sweetly, sitting at the bedside and fussing with Lars's pillow. The gesture was appreciated.
“Please. It's just Lars now.”
“Okay... Lars.” Mattie murmured affectionately. The love in his glowing purple eyes was clear as space was empty.
“I want you to do something for me.”
The android perked up, happy to serve. “What is it?”
“I have... one more dose of nanos left. Program them to clean me out.” With shaking hands, he pressed the small black pill into his strong lover's hands.
Mattie looked shocked, balking at the order. “Lars... I can't. I'm certain we'll make it within two months. The direction we're drifting...”
“We are running out of fuel. I was thinking, clean me out, take the remainder of the fuel, and cut off the extra departments...” Lars went on weakly.
“I... I... couldn't.”
“I'm telling you what you're going to do, Mattie. I want you to make it. You... ever get transmissions from Alfred?” Lars pressed on, expression softening to something kind.
“Yeah. He's living with Ivan at a shop on Mars.” Mattie sniffled, unable hold back emotions.
“I want you to clean me out... record me. And go back to him. He's your brother... father... I don't know what he is to you. But, he's family. And family is important.” the sick man went on, resting a hand on Mattie's lap.
“I'm going to record, you... and revive you. I will.” Mattie promised with tearful gaze.
Lars doubted this claim greatly. Android level technologies were only fifty years old and barely understood in the human body. The human brain, the most mysterious of masses, was rarely cooperative. Technically nanotechnology could copy electric brain activity at the moment of death. It was called “cleaning out” for a reason. It damaged the brain beyond repair, rendering the victim comatose if they weren't already dying. Typically the preserved memory served as an interactive grave marker.
The latest breakthrough in technology was trying to “revive” the dead, by slicing the dying memories into totally legal manufactured bodies. The results were more often than not, mental zombies with no recollection of how to function. It was sad to see, and not something Lars wished for his last thoughts. Still, Mattie was stubborn. He would probably do a revival anyway.
“Just... Find Alfred for me, and tell the captain I'm sorry. I couldn't do it better.” Lars sighed, already exhausted from barely moving.
“When do you want me to clean you out?” Mattie was barely audible now, just staring at the black pill about to end it all.
“Now. The less fuel we waste heating the rest of the ship, the better chance you have to make it to port.”
The set up was simple enough. There was a black cord provided with the android charging dock. It was designed to hook up to androids with upwards of eighty percent flesh bodies. It was well known connecting true humans to the dock would record everything, but fry the host to a crisp. Thus they had perhaps two seconds to transmit the data properly. In any other situation, there was a clean controlled clinic to perform this duty. As it was they had to improvise. The empty wastes of the Kirkwood gap were not exactly five star medical facilities.
Having communicated via radio with the dormant machines in the small pill, Mattie was ready to prepare his master. “The pill is programmed.” He reported, trying not to cry. He was already failing.
“Mattie, sweet Mattie. I just... I want you to know... You were my first kiss... My first anything. And I'm grateful for it.” Lars confessed, eyes gleaming with love. With that, he swallowed the pill dry. “Hold me, please.” He whispered, eyes drooping from fatigue.
Mattie did as he was told. He cuddled his second friend he ever made in the whole world, his mentor, his love. He listened to that shallow heart beat. He memorized the warmth of that sickly skin. After fifteen long minutes, he dared to scan the face of his fallen master. It was slack and unresponsive, eyes rolled back. Taking an unsteady breath, Matthew knew what he had to do.
After it was confirmed via radio the little fellas were waiting for pickup at the base of the neck, Mattie prepared Lars's body with great urgency. He only had minutes before it realized it was dying and began shutting off the circulation system. With a precise flick of the knife, a primitive access port was made. Jamming the cord in, the jump of electricity was tangible. After two seconds, the wilted hair on the scalp began to fry and curl.
Radio confirmation of remaining nanotechnology escaping the dying body was relayed simultaneously. With his beloved's mind recorded safely on the ship's systems, Mattie breathed a sigh of great relief. He only had to make it back to civilization now.
It was time to return to Alfred, his creator. It was time to go home.
For those that skipped down: Mattie killed the infected crew to save his captain while stranded in the Kirkwood Gap (google it), and it kinda backfired. Lars died of infection so Mattie is returning to his creator, Alfred, for new instruction.
PS: At more than 20 points in this story I used 'Matthew' instead of 'Mattie'. They both refer to the same person but I apparently wasn't paying goddamn attention. Due to how the chapters are organized, its too much of a bitch to hunt them all down. So I'll use 'Mattie' from now on and try not to goof up too much more.
Chapter 14: Flower Shop Stuff
The alarm started with joy and cheer. At least it did to Alfred. He woke at the crack of dawn with a smile. Sliding out of bed, he would whistle a merry tune. Ivan was usually dead to the world, a snoring clingy mess under quilted covers.
Through the hall was budding memories, photos, and paintings. Ivan and Natalia may be stuck in the past, but Alfred was determined to drag them into the future. Even if they went kicking and screaming, they would come. Surprisingly, it was Ivan who wanted to run a flower shop. It was rather quietly revealed two years before. As he mixed pancake batter, Alfred reminisced of the past.
Mars was a special place, a precious world. Due to the distance from the sun, the days were dimmer, and the nights colder. Not even eighty years of aggressive terraforming could melt the cold charms of the red planet. Strange unearthly wildlife and genetically perfected plants had taken hold all the same.
It was at Ivan's insistence that the family go for a nature hike. After eight long terrible months in cramped cargo rooms and space station hotels, the trio was desperate to go planet side. Natalia was finally coming around to accepting Alfred's attempt in care. Mostly, she stopped cursing his existence and accepted his presence quietly.
Even getting this far was an achievement for Alfred. Getting invited on a nature hike was mostly a bonus for the socially hungry android. The martian landscape was not as glorious as one would expect though. Trees were the the newest addition to the manufactured ecosystem. They were beginning to conquer the vast glossy grass lands.
The insides of the bio domes were slightly brighter than the real skies. Alfred stood at the sealed exit of the massive dome. Truthfully, his motor systems were not dealing well with lowered gravity. He was still having trouble figuring out his balance on longer strides.
Ivan had adjusted after only ten hours on Mars, and Natalia wasn't far behind. The tall man looked back, offering an encouraging smile. “Come on Fedya, we have much hiking to do.”
“I'm... I'm coming, okay?” Alfred bristled, finally releasing his death grip on the door. He wobbled a few steps forward on his own, uncertain. The door auto sealed behind him with a heavy clunk of metal.
“What's wrong with him, Papa?” Natalia asked, cocking her head.
“He's not calibrating to the new gravity levels. I might have to get a mechanic to fix it.” The father explained, walking over as Alfred looked on helplessly. With vaguely uneven ground, the normally confident android struggled. “Would you like a hand?” Ivan offered in playful mocking.
“Only because I belong on your arm.” Alfred complained out of pride, taking the offer instantly.
“Of course.” the taller man chuckled, amused at Alfred's snappy mood. Clinging on the arm helpless, Alfred poorly feigned being just fine. Ivan paused to kiss his moody lover on the cheek. “I'll find a shop dear. See how your fluid levels and parts are doing while we're there.”
“The only fluids I need put in me are –” Alfred began flirtatiously, only to be interrupted.
“ALFRED, WE ARE ON A NATURE HIKE! I don't need to hear about... that.” Natalia yelled in disgust, stomping off ahead of them.
“She sounds so much like you.” Alfred cooed to his lover.
“I'm so proud.” Ivan whispered back, smiling as he followed his miserable child.
An hour later they had hiked to the top of a small hill. The pale purple world above was beginning to darken slowly as Natalia set up the picnic blanket. Alfred felt the dark red ground in wonder, sniffed the black to red blades of waxy grass. He didn't really know what any of these things were, unable to remember anything but life on the ship. He was aware plants were a thing, but was only guessing this “grass” was a plant. “This damp red powder smells like rust.” he commented, tasting a speck of it. “It tastes like dried up feces.”
As Natalia cringed, Ivan smiled. He gently took Alfred's hands as he spoke. “That's dirt, Alfred. Plants grow in soil, and produce oxygen.”
“I thought grass did that.”
“Grass is a type of plant.”
Alfred paused, looking around this alien place. It was stunning how little he knew, and he wanted to know it all. “Well... what is that?” He asked, pointing up.
“What is what?” Ivan asked curiously, looking up as well.
It was hard to put into words, being surrounded by nothing you knew. Still, Alfred tried. “The pretty purple... world... we're inside of, or maybe it's glass domes... It's so big. A protective dome that big needs so much electricity.” Laying back on the picnic blanket, Alfred had trouble even grasping the scale of what he was looking at.
“That's the sky. It's what you see when you're inside an atmosphere. That's a big envelope of air that hugs a planet and keeps it warm.”
The questions never ceased, and Ivan was fine to answer. After a time, he shushed Alfred and held him while watching a sunset. It was the tiny white sun, crowned by clouds of pink and indigo. It was eaten by the land as it sunk below the horizon. As grey mist and darkness settled over the land, Alfred whispered “Did the sun go to sleep?”
Natalia, munching on a sandwich, rolled her eyes. “No, Mars ate it. We're all going to die now.”
“Really?” Alfred asked, fear in his dimly glowing blue eyes.
“No. She's just being mean.” Ivan corrected, forever a parent. “The planet rotates. The sun will come back.”
Pulling on sweaters, the little family ate as they waited. Alfred didn't much understand, regretting cutting a hole in his own sweater. Mars was not sexy clothes friendly, he was discovering quickly. Pressed against a warm Ivan, Alfred shivered. “What are we waiting for?”
“Olympus Lilly. It's a flower that was bred for terraforming mars. It protects itself from radiation during the day by hiding in a dark bud. It comes out at night to attract bugs. It eats the bugs as food, and lets off all kinds of gasses as waste.” Ivan was so smart.
As he talked, he casually slipped a hand into the silly lower back hole Alfred had cut. The warm hand pressed against his tail bone, slipping under the comfy lace up pants. A thick finger started working between plush cheeks. Alfred hid a pleasantly surprised expression in Ivan's lap relaxed as his willing bottom was rubbed at the entrance.
“The flowers also react to movement or sound during the night. Trying to catch prey.” Ivan gave a cocky grin, as he looked over a melting Alfred. The golden blonde was struggling valiantly not to moan or make noise as his ass was eased open.
“This is stupid. Flowers are boring Papa. I'm going to go scare hikers. My GPS says there's two south of here.” Natalia announced, entirely blind to Alfred being fingered under his clothing. As far as she was concerned, her father was the saint and Alfred was the blazing sexual freak. It made her not see the many times Ivan was initiating sex in strange places. Honestly, Alfred didn't care as a small whimper of need bled out of him.
“THAT's... that's just fine pumpkin. Don't get hurt okay?” Ivan spoke loudly, covering up the sound. With absolutely no privacy this last month, the man was determined to get at Alfred's body. The android, permanently horny to some degree, couldn't agree more.
“Yes Papa. I got my gun and my night vision goggles.”
The second Natalia was gone out of hearing range, the couple were inseparable. Kissing fiercely, they gasped for breaks of air and pulled each other's pants off. Forever prepared to be ravaged, half of all Alfred's clothes were easy to remove or bound only by two buttons. “Fuck me Ivy, fuck me so hard.” He begged, arching to rough kisses and love bites.
The flowers, once hidden, began blossoming in the pitch darkness. A soft blue glow bloomed around, the air heady with the scent of Olympus Lilly and dirty sex. It was easily the most romantic way Alfred had ever been pinned and mounted from behind. Ivan's cock was a gift the moaning android willingly took over and over.
The sentiment, the beauty, the sensation of this collaborative moment was overwhelming. As Ivan rocked against Alfred's fluttering insides, he paused. In the glow of the flower field, Alfred's few stray tears shone. “I'm... not hurting you am I?” Ivan grunted, stopped in his manic thrusting.
Hands tangling in soft dirt, Alfred gasped. His brain was on fire with delights, and he wanted this forever. “I'm fine, I'm... just so happy, my processors, I'm... so in love with you.” Arching and grabbing at the ground in frenzy, the horny blond moaned “Please, please let me come. I... I want you forever, and ever...” With a soft kiss of care and joy, Ivan chuckled and granted his wish.
Natalia wasn't gone long. Ivan barely had his pants tugged back on when she skipped over from a stubby evergreen meadow in the distance. Not bothering to wear underwear ever, Alfred was dressed and looking clean as if nothing ever happened.
“Papa! What kind of flower is this!” She called out, oblivious to what just occurred. Her hands were stuffed with the pale blue flowers.
“It's... It's called Flax, princess.” he stammered, placing the picnic basket over a rather large cum stain. Alfred grinned in smug victory, drawing lazy circles on Ivan's leg with a finger.
Natalia paused, squinting in suspicion. “What are you doing?”
“Nothin'. Being cute.” Alfred replied easily. Ivan, a shitty actor if there ever was one, blushed and failed to reply.
“Stop teasing Papa like that. Having sex in a national park is weird! Besides, he has better things to do. Like... how are we gonna make money?” Natalia scolded the pair, her father turning all the more bashfully red.
“Are you going to sell drugs again?” Alfred asked, not thrilled about the idea.
“I don't have any warrants out for me on Mars. I'd like to keep it that way.” The father spoke, quickly overridden by everyone.
Natalia thought hard, fist in hand. “A store for something legal that you're good at.”
Alfred perked up at the prompt. “Ivy-poo is super good at –”
“No.” Natalia cut him off coldly.
“You didn't even listen to the whole idea. It was only a little sex related.”
After a minute, Alfred hugged Ivan's side. “You could start a flower shop. You know what plants are! Like... that one. Or that one.”
“That's... a nice idea.” Ivan admitted quietly, admiring the grassland beauty around him.
Two years since this inane conversation, Alfred was now able to tell the difference between a rock and a plant. Plants were green, or black, or bright red. Rocks were not alive. This stuff was somewhat important, given the family ran a semi-successful flower shop. Upstairs was where the trio lived, but they worked downstairs.
Alfred couldn't happier. He played wife with zeal, doing everything he had ever read about. Waking the children, well... grumpy twenty year old daughter that couldn't find a “cool” job. That was close enough to having a child. Making the breakfast, taking care of Ivan. Alfred loved it all, even if cleaning really sucked. He got all the crazy bed shaking sex he wanted, so it was a fair trade off.
The chipper blond still wasn't allowed to run the shop by himself, but he liked to keep the family together and happy. He was too friendly to say no to customers, unable to tell the difference between a white rose and a martian daisy. It was honestly a flaw in how his mind was originally built.
A rather sensual machine, Alfred simply didn't care about flowers. If you couldn't turn it into slutty clothing, eat it, or have sex with it, what was the point? Things he didn't care much about were dumped in his memory's general storage, immediately reduced in data size. Often flowers were only tagged by colour and not much else. Every white flower was literally the same to him.
Singing in the kitchen, he fried a perfect batch of pancakes. Everywhere, sentimental clutter was hung on the walls. It was a long time dream of his to be loved and have a real home. It was literally part of his human subroutines to have such domestic desires. It made him sexually appealing to morally stronger types. It clearly yielded results, because Ivan was adoringly possessive over him. In the wrong hands, this innocent desire to keep a person would likely lead to abuse or exchanged violence. Alfred didn't recall this ever happening to him, and counted his lucky stars everyday for it.
Finally, the first grumpy bear came from their cave. It was Ivan, looking slightly haggard. Maybe Alfred had kept him later than usual with kinky sex... Maybe. “Hello stud muffin.” Alfred greeted in pure adoration, sliding fresh coffee and pancakes onto the table. 'Thanks for the anal beads' was in perfect cursive on top, written in fruit syrup. Cute little erections were on the sides in fresh made whip cream.
Ivan blushed at the notated breakfast, mumbling “No problem dear.” He dug into the feast eagerly, hungry after so much night time activity.
Next to appear was the forever miserable daughter, in a modest sleeping gown. Natalia was numb to the sheer sexuality of Alfred's cooking, simply mushing it into a mess so she didn't have pornographically styled food. Today was a change from the typical phallus inspired fare. She stared in confusion at the phone number and location written in syrup. “What is this? A hook-up?” She sneered.
“It's a job interview for the shoe store at the biodome an hour west from here. I was looking for new thigh high boots and the salesman there was so helpful. I told him my story and he was so open minded to having a new floor person.” Alfred went on, pausing to eat a spoon of whipped cream. He loved doing that in front of Ivan. It distracted the man for some reason or another.
“Were you wearing those assless black skinny jeans again?” Natalia accused, taking a bite of fluffy pancake.
Ivan looked at Natalia in judgmental manner. She sighed and set down her fork. “Thank you for breakfast, not-mom.” The salty creature ground the words out like they were torture. Still, her saying them at all was a new thing. Alfred absolutely loved it.
“No problem sugar... My jeans are not assless. I made half the butt part transparent. It's totally legal and everything.” Alfred had been fined for dressing indecently in public five times now, so he really toed the line. He actually wore shirts now instead of netting or nipple tape. There was probably by-laws purely inspired by Alfred in this county.
“Papa, can't you do anything about... that? I have friends coming over tonight.” Natalia gestured to Alfred's latest fashion adventure. It was a tight crop top shirt with '100% SUGAR' on it in erotic red text.
Ivan shrugged, uncaring. “It covers his shoulders and nipples. That's pretty generous.”
“You embarass me so much.” The child whined, returning to eating. After clean up and folding the laundry, Alfred was ready for the day. Natalia was off to study at the library and hunt for jobs. Alfred played cashier in the shop downstairs with Ivan as the 'floral consultant'. He really knew his stuff, a passionate horticulturalist. Ivan also stayed near the front to jealously guard Alfred. It was a full time job. The highly desirable android drew in horny people like flies.
A customer came in the quaint shop, the door bell twinkling. Every space that wasn't windows or counter top was dripping with plants. It was like working around living rainbows. The customer made a dash for Alfred in his green shop apron. It covered more of the android's front than his booty shorts and crop top did.
“Hi.” The stranger spoke nervously, blushing faintly. He was no more than an oppressed teen, distracted by Alfred's flexible sexuality.
“Hello cutie. Are you here to get a bouquet?” Alfred asked flirtatiously, batting his lashes.
The man, or possibly mature teen, faltered. He seemed to realize he was in a flower shop after looking away from Alfred's hot body. “Uh... Yes. Definitely. I um... want that one.” He stammered, pointing to the most colourful one on the floor.
“Let me get that for you! I love to help!” Alfred offered, relieved to do something other than stare at the cash machine. Bending over to get the plants, he wiggled his butt in the air playfully as he fetched the arrangement. The teen was stunned by the sight as Alfred turn around, smiling like an angel. The customer's private wet dream came to an end when Ivan loomed over the poor bastard like a monolithic demon.
“You are going to buy that, aren't you?” Ivan in a deadly saccharine tone, looking ready to flay the teen alive.
“Yes, Yes sir. I was. Um... how much?” the much smaller fellow agreed hastily, starting to sweat nervously.
“Sixty credits.” Ivan growled, holding out an open palm.
Three holographic imprinted twenty credit bills were dumped in his hand instantly. Alfred had never seen a customer run away so fast, flowers in hand. “I hope I helped.” The sexy android pouted. He was downright mystified as to why people kept running away from Ivan.
In Alfred's eyes, powerful men like Ivan were mountains. By stars, Alfred would climb those mountains and own them with his willing man pussy. It was why Ivan was so perfect. He was this juggernaut of intimidation and power, yet pining to be climbed and conquered. Alfred wanted to be the man's conquer, his queen, forever.
Ivan gave a smile that would be chilling to anyone less strong willed. “Of course you help, my sunflower. I'll be in the back if anyone causes trouble, okay?”
“Yes cutie!” Alfred cheered, resuming his station behind the cashier.
Two boring awful hours later, an angry maternal figure stomped into the store. Her black ringlets bounced as she spoke with anger. “You tricked my boy into buying overpriced flowers! I demand a refund!”
“Oh,” Alfred sighed, charisma thick. He might as well glittered in the sunlight. “I'm so sorry madam, but we don't offer refunds.”
Briefly cowed by the divinely sexual aura Alfred projected, she shook her head a minute later to break the spell. “Now listen here you whore, you aren't allowed to bat those... goddamn lashes at anything with a dick and take what you want.”
Ivan emerged from the dim of the back office like a great dragon protecting it's treasure. “Is there a problem here?” he grumbled, latent threat beneath every syllable.
The motherly figure froze up at the double threat before her. “I'm getting my husband, and you will give me a refund!” Ivan shook his head as the angry parent left the store in a huff. Sure enough, she was back a few minutes later. Ivan had shuffled to a corner, largely invisible as he supervised.
The husband figure, rather soft and harmless, was not immune to Alfred's charms. He looked irritated at first, ready to say something confrontational. His willpower melted almost as fast as the teen son had caved. “Hey.” he greeted meekly, entranced.
“Oh my god Gerald. Do something!” The wife nagged. Bolstered by fear of his own spouse, the husband puffed out his chest and spoke boldly. “I do believe you owe my boy a refund.” The teen in question was outside, unable to tear his gaze from Alfred.
“I'm sorry but I can't. I can offer you a half off special on the flower of the day. It's Martian Tiger Roses. Aren't they lovely?” Alfred offered in genuine apology, gesturing to red and black striped roses in small pots.
“Okay.” the man agreed instantly. Glared at by his wife, he put his hands up in exasperation. “I tried, I really did.”
With the second sale of the day in the cash machine, Alfred beamed at Ivan. “You did good.” Ivan assured, giving a stained thumbs up before tending to plants once more.
The day was less boring than usual. With five sales, they made enough to cover their financial asses for a day or so. The shop was beginning to close down as the sun set. Alfred swept the floors diligently as Ivan checked the time. “We can probably close up. Fifteen minutes won't make a difference.”
“Okay, boss.” Alfred purred, stroking his lovers ego like a professional. He went over to the door, clicking the lock shut. Not even two minutes later, a looming dark figure was in the street before them. With ominous purple glowing eyes, it pressed a pale hand to the glass. As Ivan panicked and went for the gun under the counter, Alfred ran to the door and unlocked it. “I got it!”
“No! Fedya! Step back, it could be...” Ivan's primal terror died right there. The figure stepped into the light, wheaten hair wavy as ever. It was a very tired looking Mattie, from the S.S. Natalya. Why he wasn't at his pilot's side an entire planet away was a total mystery.
“Mattie! Long time no see! Did you get my transmissions? Are you visiting with the old crew?” Alfred blasted him with questions, brimming with enthusiasm. It was all the more surprising when Mattie burst into tears. Noisily sobbing, he held Alfred like a rag doll with his super strength.
“Mattie! Are you hurt? Why are you wearing a funeral suit?” Alfred went on, scared for his accidental brother of sorts.
“Sunflower... take him upstairs and prepare the couch. I'll finish closing up.” Ivan instructed gravely, seeming to know what was going. He was so smart. Alfred trusted his judgment call, shepherding the grieving sibling upstairs.
Chapter 15: On The Loose!
Mattie was largely inconsolable as he used Alfred like a squeeze toy. On the couch, he wore a dark red suit typical of funerals on Mars. It was the only type of clothing he had packed in his otherwise tool filled luggage case. Alfred may not have understood the implications of all this, but Ivan did.
The fact that Mattie was here and not in the outer colonies meant something went very wrong. Knowing the planets wouldn't line up well for years, Ivan had intentionally stranded the crew in the Jupiter ring systems. Not only was the economy strong there, the crooked crew would be forced to go legit in business until they could get back to Ceres. By the time that happened, Natalia would probably be the new Captain, and all the old criminal ties would have faded away.
The mutiny at Callisto changed everything evidently, since Matthew was here at least five years earlier than planned. Silently, Ivan sipped rose tea and sat opposite the grieving android in a worn recliner.
“Mattie, Mattie... why are you so sad?” Alfred cooed, on Mattie's lap as he stroked long wavy hair.
“Can you heat up some cookies for our guest?” Ivan requested seriously.
“Yes! Cookies make things better!” Alfred cheered, skipping off to the kitchen.
Alone with Mattie, Ivan set down his tea and leaned forward with tented fingers. “Where is Lars?”
“M-m-my pilot. I need to recover my pilot.” Matthew sniffled, dabbing his eyes dry. “All of my protocols make no sense without a pilot.”
“What happened to Lars.” Ivan repeated himself.
With shining tears, the android rooted around in his open luggage. Finally he handed Ivan something no captain ever wanted to see. It was a thick black box of hard wired circuits. It couldn't be... Lars was so optimistic. He would never be desperate enough to commit suicide by cleaning out his own head. The worst was confirmed by Mattie's tearful whispers.
“My... pilot... is in this.”
“No. No... what, what happened? Where is the ship? Was he mutinied?” Ivan shot out questions in rapid fire concern. Had Lars fouled up so fast he too was displaced?
“He tried to come back... and... he tried to cross the Kirkwood... I... I never thought...” Mattie was soon blubbering nonsense.
Alfred returned with a glass of fruit juice and warm cookies. He oozed maternal care and cheer, if in a very slutty packaging. “Don't cry, eat a cookie.” He encouraged in sing-song, feeding the sad creature baked goods like it was a baby. Alfred had no idea the nightmares his sibling had likely experienced.
The empty gap in the asteroid belt caused by Jupiter's ferocious appetite went by many names. Not many were so formal as Kirkwood. Southern Ceres natives called it the Tödliche Falle, or “Deadly Trap” in high German. Northern Ceres folk named the stretch of unhabited space край безумия, or the “Edge of Madness” in old Russian. Ivan had been told ghost stories as a child about the “edge of madness”. It was where innocence, ships, and bad little children went to die.
It took hours for Mattie to stop crying long enough to sleep. Despite Alfred's best motherly efforts, he wasn't even scratching the surface of what was wrong. Ivan loaned Alfred's bedazzled charging bay for the occasion. It was clear Mattie was low on charge as it was.
During the time the guest spent unconscious and plugged in, Ivan took the liberty to look at files. He had never heard of anyone surviving the Kirkwood gap aboard such a small ship. Even larger warships struggled with the voyage if not properly stocked for disaster. Admittedly, Ivan was too frightened to cross the pirate infested space himself. Returning to the inner solar system, he rented a room from the biggest damn warship he could find. He slept with an extra gun under his pillow, terrified and superstitious of the region as he traversed it.
Due to Mattie's cheaper industrial model, there was only audio recordings for memories. The older memory tag system of Alfred was also absent. Ivan was forced to sit on the floor by the charging dock, primitive headphones plugged into the charging bay.
Wanting to save time, Ivan skipped to the last year of recordings. Scrolling the chronological list, Ivan selected one from six months ago. Mattie's voice was grated and electronic, all humanity missing in the recordings.
“Year 2281.6. I am still drifting towards Ceres, but I will soon lose course. There is not enough fuel to keep my body charged and run the fusion engine. I have chosen to shut down everything but the bridge, and put out another distress beacon. It has been 387.4 days since the pilot expired. I was required to shut down all emotional subroutines, as it interferes 47.03% with my projected 19.1% survival rate.”
There was hundreds of reports like these, precise and inhuman. Curious, Ivan investigated when Mattie turned off his figurative soul. It appeared to occur roughly a year and a half ago, when the water became contaminated on the S.S. Natalya. Where was Jack, minding the life support systems? That was literally his only job.
Ivan gave up on the hundreds of voice recordings and looked at the protocol archives. It was a simple folder that only recorded when the A series of protocols was activated within M.A.T.I.E. programming. The A series protocol were all emergency last ditch efforts by a ship to preserve it's pilot or any other vital asset.
A-3 protocol had been activated a mere three minutes after the android's mind was born. That was locking up all staff and removing air from the hallways. This was intended for biological warfare, or similar circumstances. Mattie's new sentience had improvised, using A-3 to suffocate a pirate boarding party.
A-2 protocol was used when Ivan attacked Lars on the bridge. It was used as intended at the time, simply doing everything possible to keep the pilot alive. Almost breaking Ivan's jaw with a single punch was a blazing example of Mattie's capability to uphold his purpose.
Ivan was stunned when he read the second last entry. Lars had activated A-5 protocol a few weeks before his death. It was the most violent of all the possible commands. This meant the crew had posed a bio-hazardous risk to the remaining engineer and pilot, and Mattie murdered them all as ordered. No wonder the cinnamon roll of an android was so upset.
One protocol was still unfulfilled, and the most dubious. It was A-9. This was acquiring or recovering a fallen pilot. The order was strange because it had been initiated without authority or purpose. Had Mattie activated this protocol purely out of grief? How was the temperamental and archaic M.A.T.I.E. system dealing with the fact it was no longer a ship?
No doubt, Matthew was suffering terrible split personalities. It seemed another trip to the mechanic was needed. This was not a new event. Alfred went to the shop once every six months for his checkup. Matthew wouldn't be an issue to add to the bill.
With a sigh, he hauled his body off the cold floor and unplugged his headphones. There was a different matter altogether that was much more dark and pressing. Lars's death recording was still sitting on the living room coffee table. A new software repair shop had opened up a block over. It was easily a convenience and a curse. They were offering revivals, an unfortunate trend that had spread like wildfire since their introduction three years ago. Even the isolated Callisto Prime station had offered it.
Given Matthew's distraught state, he would surely be sucked in by revival pandering con men. Ivan had to hide that death recording somewhere safe.
Revivals were wrong. It was downright unnatural. People were supposed to stay dead when they died. Even extending lifespans with nanotechnology made Ivan bristle in disgust. It was how he was raised, how it should be. Life should be lived by natural cures and ways, and that's all there was to it.
Stressed thinking about such heady topics, Ivan headed outside for a smoke. Leaning against the backdoor of the building, he took a sweet inhale of nicotine. Alfred was outside as well, tossing out a bag of expired flowers in the compost bin.
“Is he charging now? He looked low on energy.” Alfred asked, while heaving a bag too heavy even for Ivan.
“Yeah. His files are... possibly corrupted. I was looking at his archives...” Ivan lied blatantly, looking away. He was very much tempted to delete Mattie's memories of killing all the crew and drifting alone in space an entire year. Problem was, The M.A.T.I.E. system was old. It was older than Ivan, and he had turned 37 at the beginning of this winter. Only a pilot of authority recognized by the shipping program could delete anything.
In short, the only man that could delete the sheer misery in Mattie's mind was Lars. Currently the dead pilot, what physically remained of his mind, was sitting on the table inside. Effectively, Mattie was not going to stop trying to revive Lars, as per the A-9 protocol. It was the very same command the android had issued himself, from one chunk of his brain to another. Thus, Mattie was stuck in an impossible order given by a split personality of himself.
What an ungodly mess that was going to be to untangle. All the same it was a problem for tomorrow. Ivan finished his cigarette, snubbing the butt of it on the inside of a garbage can and dropping it. Alfred was already inside. Natalia's indignant screeches of “I'M TWENTY YEARS OLD, I DON'T NEED TO BE TUCKED IN LIKE A BABY!” could be heard upstairs. His lover was doing the usual it seemed. Kissing everyone goodnight and putting them to bed before himself.
Alfred would have made a wonderful parent when Natalia was younger.
Ivan stashed Lars's mental remains on top of the bookshelf as he passed by. He was the only one tall enough to reach up there, so it was probably safe. Drying wet dishes, The pale mountain of a man cleaned up his share of the daily mess. Exhausted, he entered the bedroom and stripped off his green stained shirt. Alfred was waiting, naked and eager to cuddle under the quilt.
“My Ivy. Give me kisses.” The cute blonde called, grabbing at the air for him.
“Only actual kisses.” Ivan countered, flopping lazily on the mattress.
“Aww. What about special kisses, or crazy sex?”
Ivan yawned, tugging his boxers back up as Alfred slid them down. “No. I'm tired.”
“But, I... I want to.” How was he so impossible to resist like this? It took everything to look into those blue angel eyes and say no. It was one one little word. Ivan could do this.
“Alfred... I'm tired... and we had sex yesterday... please, stop looking so sad...” Ivan was faltering, unable to directly deny pleasures. “Just... a few kisses, okay?”
“Okay!” Alfred bounced right back to being happy. He then grabbed Ivan and consumed his remaining mental functions with a loving kiss. Well. Maybe Ivan could give Alfred what he wanted just one more time. Then Ivan was going to put his foot down! ... later, probably...
Morning came, heralded by the gentle scents of coffee. Living with someone that made you breakfast was officially the best. Forcing himself to shift from under warm covers, he shielded his eyes from light in the hall. The sun had not risen yet, but Alfred had. He was always awake and chipper to set the mood for the day.
Alfred danced into the room, singing “Good morning!” He was not naked this time. The neighbours calling about that must have finally set into Alfred's thick skull.
“Mornin'...” Ivan mumbled, blinking lazily. He shifted his view to the other half of the room. Alfred's rainbow bedazzled charging bay was empty at the moment, a stack of fresh folded towels dumped inside it. The rest of the laundry was still rumpled in a basket nearby, waiting for Alfred's motherly efforts. “Where's Mattie?”
“He left, sounding weird. I think space made him go funny.” Alfred replied dismissively, beginning to dress. He began the long process of squirming into some skin tight leather pants with holes along the sides.
Ivan hummed, not tuned into the waking world yet. The words finally clicked in his head. He sat up in alarm, tossing that part of the blankets aside. “What do you mean? Sounding weird? How?”
“His eyes were red, and he sounded like an angry toaster. I have to say, it's not a flattering imagery. If you want to get laid, its all about... not being an angry toaster.” Alfred went on, oblivious to the reality of things. The reality was Mattie was an industrial android capable of bending steel, on the loose due to bad programming.
Hopping along slightly as he tugged on pants, Ivan peeked into the living room. There was a chair still beside the book shelf. Ivan only had to look up slightly to see Lars's memory recording was gone. “Shit!”
“What is it stud muffin?” Alfred asked in concern, almost done with his slutty leather pants.
“He's gone. Shit! He's gone.” Ivan muttered, hastily pulling on any clean clothes nearby that could fit.
Ivan sucked in a breath. Alfred had alternative views on unnatural technologies, given that he was a manufactured product himself. The second he heard about reviving Lars, Ivan would be fighting twice the uphill battle he was now. Delicately taking Alfred's hands, Ivan partially lied in sweet tones. “Alfred, my dear. My best sunflower... Mattie is... sick. He needs help, and we need to find him, and get him to calm down. Can you help me with that?”
Alfred cocked his head, then perked a sunny smile. “Of course. I only want the best for my brother. You know? This calls for my maximum drama shirt.” The happy creature let Ivan go, retrieving a black top that was two thirds sheer. It exposed and covered just the right spots to be on the verge of scandalous. Local parents hated it intensely.
As the couple put on shoes, hot red heels in Alfred's case, Natalia emerged from her room. Rubbing one eye, she mumbled. “What's going on?”
“Mattie's crazy. We need to find him.” Alfred explained as he pulled on red lace gloves.
“What he said.” Ivan confirmed, hastily putting on his sacred family scarf.
“We don't have time for that! My bro is in trouble!” Alfred insisted, half down the stairs already.
“... and stilettos and red lace are important!?” Ivan argued, not far behind.
Natalia, still in her night gown, watch the early morning drama in genuine confusion. She looked down the stairwell, hand on the door knob. “So... I'll open up shop when you come back?” the sleepy girl asked open air.
“YES red lace is mandatory. My outfit is incomplete without it! Nat I left you hash browns on the table but I have to go!” Alfred yelled, now almost outside. Ivan blew his daughter a hurried kiss and ran after his partner. Alfred could really move in those death traps for shoes. Hopefully he could move fast enough to stop Mattie.
Chapter 16: Daddy's Credit Card
In the dark of predawn, Mattie sat on a metal public bench. He had been so eager to get down to the software shop. The android had forgotten it didn't open until at least sunrise, which was a hour away. Mattie could wait. He had already waited a year and a half, alone in space. Endless cold space, devastatingly alone. One more hour wasn't an issue.
In his grief shattered mind, he could feel three programs battling for dominance. The hospitality programming wanted to cry and eat chips. M.A.T.I.E. wanted to murder anything standing in the way of Lars's return to a semblance of life. The third program was largely born out of insanity. It was inspired by a pamphlet on property maintenance. Mattie had read it 1,952 times, while trapped on the bridge of the S.S. Natalya.
During his year alone in dead space, Mattie invented the third unnamed program as something to talk to and bounce ideas off of. It was ironic, because Alfred had created Mattie for the very same reason. As it was, the program was meek and kindly. In this instance, It was stopping M.A.T.I.E. From breaking into the software shop and attempting a revival on it's own. Breaking windows was bad.
A-9 protocol execute. Destroy barrier.
Entity_3 override. Redirected to Remediation_Process_D. Sit on bench. Wait for door to unlock.
A-9 protocol execute. Get off bench. Destroy barrier.
Entity_3 override. Redirected to Remediation_Process_D. Wait.
Host_Today is experiencing difficulty. Please H^%$$ HH-----____ERROR: Emotion Circuits &&!R HD%&(uf4565888___---- difficulty. Please report to F((&__-01001011___ ERROR.
In short order, Mattie's brain was having a perpetual meltdown. He had been for several months, ever since he went off of autopilot. Mattie would have stayed on autopilot, but he had to sell the ship to get to Mars. Without an ship to service, M.A.T.I.E.'s program and 30% of Mattie's actual mind, was losing it's shit. The only operative left that was functioning was recovering the pilot and asking for new directions. In fact, all three parts of his mind had agreed this was the best course of action.
It all lead to the wheaten blonde waiting patiently on a bench outside of the software shop. He looked down the street with violent flickering eyes of red or lavender. In the chilly mist of spring, the clacking of women's heels grew closer. Soon a form was clear.
Alfred appeared in clothes that would give parents nightmares, pausing to wave at Mattie. Mattie waved back, to be polite. “Ivy! He's over here!”
A faint panting and dim shape far behind was barely audible. “Just... let me catch my breath... I'm so fat.” Former Captain Braginsky's voice echoed from farther back.
Ignoring this, Alfred came closer. Red lace covered hands clasped together in cheer. “Hey there, broski. You look a little... insane.”
“I need my pilot back.” Mattie replied simply, honestly. He felt so lost without Lars, right down to the very processors.
Alfred sighed and sat with him, putting an arm around Mattie's shoulders. “I know... I know... You're lonely. You spent a long time alone.”
Matthew blink away a few tears, his voice stuttering in electric manner. “I n-need my pilot. I don't know how to f-f-function without him.” Leaning into Alfred's touch, the confused construct didn't what he wanted anymore. He was too grief stricken to so much as take care of himself. Without being fed cookies and electricity earlier, Mattie would have shut down to reserve energy.
Ivan finally came into view, looking a little sweaty. “Running... still sucks.” he panted, hands on his knees. Finally he straightened up and fixed his askew pink scarf. He looked at Mattie with an accusative glare. “Did you take Lars's last recordings?”
Panicking, Mattie hugged the black box of circuits to his chest. “My pilot belongs to me!”
Alfred put up a hand, stopping Ivan from advancing closer. “Babe. I got this.” As Alfred ruffled Mattie's hair, the scared android leaned into the soft touches. He almost forgot what touch was like in deep space. There was a long silence, of Alfred just comforting his strange sibling. There was then a sigh of resignation, like a tired father might admit.
“Mattie. I'm... I'm so sorry. When I created you, I was so lonely. Ivan wasn't co-operating with my needs at the time, and I needed a friend. So I... made you for the most selfish reasons. I guess that makes me your... dad, brother, clone of sorts. Then I just left you behind for Ivy when he was kicked off the ship. I'm such a bad friend.”
Mattie rested his head on Alfred shoulder, relaxing his death grip on what remained of his beloved pilot. “I forgive you.” He whispered.
“I hope you can.” Alfred responded sincerely. He ran a soothing hand up Mattie's jaw line, behind his ear. The delicate manipulating of skin was felt.
“Why would I need to –” Mattie's words died as a dull metal click went off behind his ear. The last thought Mattie had as he was shut down forcefully was a snide one.
That sneaky bastard.
Powering up felt slow and lagged. Matthew discovered he couldn't move much... at all actually. He opened his eyes, scanning the immediate area. He was in a well lit office lined with tools on one wall. The other side had a messy desk with heaps of software discs stacked beside it in plastic sleeves.
Bound by thick metal bands on his limbs and body, Mattie was immobile on a tilted operation table. “Help!” he called out, trying to wiggle for all he was worth. “Help! I've been stolen!”
An older man entered the room at the noise, face lined with wrinkles. They were formed by a lifetime of expressions and smiles. Aside from silvering brown hair and green eyes, there was a name tag. Head Technician Toris. “Hello, glad to see you're still functional.”
“What do you mean?” Mattie asked, tensed for danger.
“Well, you were brought in for software updates and maintenance. Do you understand?” Toris began slowly, as if talking to a simple child.
Mattie nodded, unsure if this was to be his captor or his liberator. “All I needed was my pilot. Why do I have to be restrained?”
“Well, maybe you perform a little test, okay? All you need to do is say what's on these flash cards. Can you do that?”
“Yes...” he whispered, appreciative of being treated so gingerly.
The green sweater clad man sat in a cushy office chair, retrieving a deck of large cards from a desk drawer. “What is this colour?” It was a blue flash card.
“Blue. Why do I need to be restrained?”
Another card was put forth, this time red. “You were in meltdown, and are still unstable. Felix will explain it better when your registered owner arrives.”
“Red. But, why can't you tell me now?”
Technician Toris was less than keen on conversing properly with Mattie. He seemed wary of the trapped android, flinching when Mattie tried to wriggle out of steel bonds. After about thirty flash cards of increasing complexity, the silly things were put away. “It seems you passed the basic sentience test. Someone will be here soon.”
“But... Please don't leave. I don't like being alone!” Mattie begged, rattling the operating table he was bound to. The door slammed shut, isolating him once more in the universe. Twenty minutes of burning silence passed. Maybe it wasn't twenty minutes at all, maybe it was another year. What if Mattie was stuck here to die, until his battery drained – A new stranger entered the room. Oh thank pilot, Mattie wasn't alone forever.
Familiar faces followed the new person into the room. Namely Natalia and Alfred. Ivan was not at Alfred's side like a jealous beast, as per usual. Strange. “Now, he's operating normally, but Tortor's report lists a lot of issues. We have plenty to address.” The stranger speaking was a more visually modest version of Alfred, rocking a “queen bee” imprinted tunic of a shirt and skinny jeans.
Alfred was dressed outrageously for going to a shop. It was a crop top with glittery sheer and skin tight shorts in gold. Juicy black thigh high boots completed the insane sexuality of it all. Who let him dress like this? Wasn't the former captain supposed to keep him in line? Who was irresponsible enough to sell Alfred these things as clothes? The shirt Mattie's sibling wore yesterday was almost as bad as actual nudity.
“What's wrong with Mattie-poo?” Alfred purred, hands rested on crossed legs.
“Well. He's a ship defence system and a hotel lobby program rolled together. He's barely functional as an android. Unless you want to do a wipe, program him from scratch... We have a lot to fix.”
“I want to fix him. I am responsible for his creation.” Alfred answered solemnly, mature for once.
The happy blonde attendant smiled. “I thought you might say that. We laid out a basic reprogramming package... and a few extra's you can look at.”
Alfred hand waved away alarming looking prices on the bottom of a long page. “Give him the works. I trust your judgment Felix.”
“You are such a dear. I was hoping you'd say that. Now, we have new emotion dials, error self correction...” The stranger named Felix cooed, overjoyed. The gaudy shop person and an equally ridiculous Alfred poured over a list of additions, chattering like old women. “... and a functional dick. We have lots of models.”
“Oh yes. We need one of those.” Alfred replied, tapping on the tablet screen with painted nails.
Natalia stood and looked over Mattie, inspecting him sternly. You could really tell she was the former captain's child, oozing authority even this young. “How can we afford this?” she asked Alfred coolly.
“I'll charge it to Ivy's credit card. It'll be fine.” Alfred dismissed the very real threat of an angry lover. An angry jealous lover that was the size of a door and built like a strong man.
“Now... We can update and install all the goodies you like, but there's a big issue.” Felix began somewhat seriously, gesturing his tablet screen. “We can't turn off one of Mattie's executive programs to patch it without outside permission... Do you know a Lars Van Den Berg? He's listed in hard drives as the administrative permissions.”
At speaking the hallowed name, Mattie began tearing up again. Deathly silent, Natalia and Alfred looked to the grieving android.
“Well... he died last year, due to, um, a shipping accident.” Alfred muttered, averting his electric blue eyes from Mattie's sad expression. “Mattie and him were... travelling together if you get my drift.”
It took a moment, then Felix widened emerald green eyes. “Oh... oh, well that's...unfortunate. We can't begin repairs until we get his permission to open Mattie up.”
“Well... We could...” Alfred began, scratching his neck.
“No. No way, Papa would be double pissed.” Natalia cut him off.
“Your dad sent us here, with his credit card. 'Get him fixed', was all he said.” Alfred argued. Mattie perked up at the vague implications of where this conversation was going.
Natalia and Alfred had a stubborn stare off, Natalia rolling her eyes after a solid minute. “Buy me stuff and I won't talk. If Papa gets mad, I'm saying it was all your fault.”
Alfred clapped his hands together in glee. He pulled Lars's death recording out of a fabric grocery bag. “This is the fella you're looking for. He's kinda super dead.”
Putting on sterile gloves, Felix handled the most precious cargo in the entirety of existence. “Be... be careful with him.” Matthew murmured, never tearing wet eyes off the black box.
“The casing looks to be in good condition. If nothing is damaged inside, we can do a quick little revive and get the permissions issue solved. You don't have any religious objections do you?”
Natalia met coldly with Alfred's tense expression. It was a visual challenge, a dare in the room. “Um. No. Proceed.” Alfred answered, not all that convinced of his own words. Natalia's flat hard line of a smile drooped the slightest.
“Papa is going to kill you.” She whispered.
Mattie could only smile, uncaring of anything else. Lars. His Lars was coming back.
Chapter 17: Big Words
It was a thunder cloud, a storm, the end of the world. It was two weeks since Alfred had charged Papa's credit card to near it's maximum. Today was the day Alfred was going to get killed. Today was when the mailman delivered the bad news. It was breakfast, a heap of mail sitting on the table top. Papa did those type of things, ignoring mail until he had to read it. It made waiting for the inevitable explosion torturous.
Going through letters, Papa tossed some local advertisement flyers over his shoulder. Shaggy bed head askew, Papa sipped black coffee. “Sleep well Natasha?” he grunted, looking up. “You seem tense.”
“Fine. I'm fine.” Natalia snipped, ready to run at the drop of a hat. She poked the remnants of her inappropriate breakfast nervously. How did Alfred manage to make scrambled eggs slutty?
“How did that job interview go at the shoe store?” Alfred asked, the happiest fool in the room.
Truthfully, the job interview was horrible. The perverted store manager only asked questions about Alfred, what strip club he worked at... the usual really. Alfred was honestly trying to help the jobless woman, but it wasn't useful. Men and woman just fixated on how sexually attractive or repulsive the living piece of art was instead. Natalia was understated, normal, totally invisible. Alfred always got all the attention. She was nothing next to Alfred, and had no intention of competing. She was no whore, and nothing could outshine the dazzling android.
Maybe Natalia should just move out instead.
The main event, doomsday, finally happened. “Ah, the bill from the android place.” Papa noted, grabbing a letter from the stack. “I was wondering when this would show up.”
Natalia stood suddenly, babbling a weak excuse about going to the bathroom. Ivan took in the action with a critical frown, immediately drawing a connection. “No. You will sit and wait while I read this.” He ordered, no room for negotiation in that frigid tone. Looping an arm around Alfred, the wily android's escape too was cut off.
He read the letter, expression turning dark. He set the thing down, turning purple eyes of brimming rage to Alfred. “Explain this, dearest.” He growled. The hostility was in the air like poisonous gas, clutching Natalia's lungs. Papa never turned that colour before today. It was like constipated emotional beets.
“Well, um. You see...” Alfred wheedled, looking anywhere but his unofficial husband.
“FIVE THOUSAND CREDITS, ALFRED. HOW COULD YOU EMPTY MY ENTIRE BANK ACCOUNT?”
Alfred held his ground, crossing his arms. “I did it to fix my Mattie. You said 'fix him'.”
“YOU SPENT ALMOST EVERY CREDIT I HAVE! YOU PUT OUR BUSINESS ON THE LINE!”
Natalia, previously obediently still, bolted for her room. Scrambling in her sleeping gown, she locked the bedroom door the second she was barricaded. She had never seen Papa this enraged, ever in her whole life. He was gentle with her, and sometimes stern. This was something else entirely.
“STOP SCARING NATALIA!” Alfred roared, heard through the door like rattling thunder. It was surprising to hear the sugar puff of an android so bold.
“STOP SPENDING ALL MY MONEY! I GAVE YOU LOVE, AND A HOME! THIS IS HOW YOU REPAY ME!?”
“IT WAS FOR MATTIE! HE WAS IN LOVE! I THOUGHT YOU WOULD UNDERSTAND LOSING SOMEONE YOU LOVED!”
Screaming and incomprehensible rage was muffled as Natalia put hands over her ears. Hiding under the bed covers, she waited in the dark for everything to stop. Clatters and smashing of plates occasionally punctuated the shouting match two rooms over. Please... Natalia hoped, please be over soon. The couple had never ever fought like this, so viciously.
Everything quieted down after three minutes, and she dared emerge from her hidden blanket lair. It was so quiet, you could hear a pin drop. Then, the faintest knocking on the door was heard. It was Papa, ever so soft as he talked. “Angel? Can you unlock the door?”
“No. You're mad.” Natalia denied instantly, clutching a pillow.
“I'm not... okay, I'm a little mad. But, I want to know, why... why did you let him spend so much money at the shop. You're the good one...” Papa appealed through the door, voice scratchy from screaming.
“You didn't see how sad Mat was. You don't get it. He loved Lars.” Natalia insisted, gaining confidence. “I don't like Mat at all, but no one deserves to be that sad.”
It was obvious Papa was struggling not to yell again, pressed against the door. “Baby... Honey, Revivals are wrong. Dead people are supposed to stay dead. I don't understand why you let him do it. If it was just to get some point across...”
At this, Natalia bristled in anger and unlocked the door. Swinging it open, she faced him with self possessed righteousness. “You are a stubborn old goat Papa! The naturalist life style doesn't work! That's how Mama died! You could have taken her to a hospital, but you wouldn't!”
Papa reeled at the accusation, a very surly looking Alfred right behind him. With crossed arms, the android looked very unimpressed with Papa at the moment. Backing up from the two angry people, Papa fell onto the couch.
“Modern medicine kills people all the time. She would have died in a hospital anyway.” Papa bitterly argued. Papa's questionable choice of religions had always been a social barrier. Natalia didn't like to talk about it, about the snickering and jokes the subject left.
“You would have died Ivy. You would never have made it here without modern medicine. I... I... can't deal with this right now. I need a drink.” Alfred shuttered, dabbing a few tears with a tissue. Clacking downstairs in those stupid impractical stripper boots, the normally happy figure was gone in minutes.
Papa looked stunned, wringing hands in his baggy sleeping pants. “What is he talking about?”
Natalia shook her head. Alfred was never going to say it at this rate. “Papa, you had stage four cancer when Alfred met you. He changed out your herbal stuff for nano pills and radiation blockers.”
“That's not possible. I'm... I'm naturalist. I'm healthy as can be.”
“You smoke a pack of cigarettes every two days.”
Like usual, the gaping logic holes in Papa's head were ugly when revealed. “I... I can't believe any of this. Alfred was lying.” He denied instantly.
“I'm moving out.” Natalia threatened, making him freeze up. “I'm moving out to be a pirate unless you see a doctor, and apologize to Alfred. He may be a terrible person... robot.... thing. But he makes you happy. He saved your life.”
Natalia rarely talked this much, and never made threats without intending them. The older parent stared her down, but Natalia resisted bowing out. “Don't make me leave.” It was almost a plea, so stony and absolute.
For the first time in years, Papa caved before she did. “I'm not happy you've both been lying to me.” he fumed, stomping to the door. Throwing on a sweater and his family scarf, he gave a sideways glare.
“Good.” Natalia shot right back childishly.
“We're going to sit down as a family, and talk about trust and telling the truth.” Ivan complained, just as immature.
“You do that.” she deflected like a pro. She had learned from him after all.
“This isn't over!” he yelled as he closed the door.
“Sure! Fine! Don't come back without him!” She hollered back, opening the door purely to slam it out of drama. After several minutes of listening for sounds in the silence of early dawn, Natalia let her shoulders relax. It was too early for this kind of stress. Locking the door, she returned to her safe warm bed.
Hopefully she would still have a family by the end of all this.
Chapter 18: Three's Company
The dream was a void of darkness. There was nothing at all for the longest time. No time or space, touch or texture. Eventually simple pulses of light intruded this non-world, like cracks of another universe peering in. It was a simple message, a basal one of spaces and dots.
01001000 01100101 01101100 01101100 01101111 00001010
The entity stirred from the blackness realizing it existed it all. It had a good feeling it wasn't supposed to exist. It didn't care, reaching for the source of the message. It echoed the simple 'hello' back, hoping to evoke another response.
“Hello, Mr. Van Den Berg. It's good to see you functioning.”
The entity realized it was being referred to personally. The name certainly sounded familiar. It rolled off the tongue well. Wait a minute, did it have a tongue? Why did it know what tongues were?
“You may be confused. If you're willing, we can talk somewhere more comfortable.” The everything spoke into nothing, light and sound.
The nothingness reached out, unable to figure out a proper response. The reach took form, colour and light taking force. Prickling electric velvet wrapped around it to form limbs. Arms. Fingers. Copied electric tones formed words. “Vvww-wh-what the fuck is going on.” Lars groaned as he formed out of nothing.
A room spilled into existence before him. It was all too artificial, blurry, as if vision was sound. It hurt slightly. “It, it hurts here.”
“Let me turn down the colour saturation. Some idiot left it on eighty percent.” The disembodied voice was gone a moment. The burning colours toned down to something bearable. The room was now a soft shade of beige with a chair in the centre. There was no doors or anything, most surfaces flat and dull.
Lars was in his favourite long coat, his ancestral scarf draped over him just so. He felt his face, his jaw. It felt strange and static frazzled. “Where am I?” he asked the room.
“You were dead, well... are dead. I'm making sure you're functional. You can call me Felix.” The voice was super peppy. That would get annoying really fast. “Can you say who you are?”
“I'm Lars Van Den Berg, third rank pilot... I'm... I was in the Kirkwood gap. I'm... in a box now.” He replied, testing the walls by pressing on them. They felt real, even as they rippled slightly.
“Okay, that's cool. Do you know a dude named named Mattie?” The room asked him.
Mattie. The name make Lars's entire form shudder and warm. “Where is he? Is he okay?”
“That's what I like to see. Look how cognizant you are! So this is how it's going to go down. Mattie is in melt down. He needs your permissions to shut off to the shop guys can fix him.” The obnoxiously cheerful voice informed.
“What are you talking about? Am I in a sh – Oh shi-ii – Stop-p-z-zh zh-the room.” Lars moaned in swirling sickness as he was rearranged and reduced to a thin stream of data. He formed a second later, landing hard on black emptiness. He puked his guts out as they formed, a small geometric puddle of numbers on the ground. He finally regained full form, missing colour. He dared look up, body settled.
It was an abstract beautiful maelstrom of coloured code on black. Clouds of red binary tore themselves apart and reformed around pillars of thin lilac lines. The data landscape was jagged and unnatural, shifting and unfriendly. It was like gazing into the heart of the universe.
“Where am I?” Lars asked, amazed yet cautious. He ventured a step forward, a purple stepping stone forming perfectly beneath his feet. The steps suspended him above a sea of darkness, of madness.
“This is Mattie's mind, so to speak. It's a bit of a mess, as you can see.”
“It's... It's...” It was beyond what biological creatures could know. Running fingers through passing rivers of data, 1's and 0's spilled over his palms. They merged with that hand long enough to blur where he ended and it began. It was brilliantly and inhumanly beautiful, like jagged ice and northern lights. Like digital diamonds, twinkling in rhyme and reason.
“Can you access the A protocol files?”
“Maybe.” Lars mumbled, mesmerized. The data stream he had touch changed course, turning slowly in huge curves to visit him. A bare whisper, more machine sounds and beeps than voices spoke.
“Um, Hi.” Lars replied to open air. The undulating data, the landscape turned to face him, morph aggressive towards him. The voices picked up speed, force, and power. Pilot. Pilot. Pilot, pilot pilot. The whispers became louder, joining into a harmony. It was a voice Lars heard before. It was grating and electric. It was purely inhuman. He turned to run, the whole mind streaking towards him like light trails of a thousand bullets.
A-9 protocol complete. Pilot recovered.
“Shit! Shit! It's gonna eat me!” Lars yelled, running as tiles formed before him.
“Just try and find that folder I told you –” The voice was cut off as Lars was enveloped by pure white data light. Consumed, he was blind a second as his eyes adjusted. He was in a white space, scattered with broken white furniture. Lars was in full colour again, washed out slightly by this space. He was not alone this time.
It was a wheaten blonde weeping in a corner, wearing one of Lars's college sweaters. He clutched a tear stained file bundle in his arms. The figure looked at him with glowing lilac eyes. Memory of this sad man sprang forth instantly. Tending to Lars's wounds on the ship. Mattie reading him mystery novels. The companion cuddling as they watched movies together to fight the isolation of the kirkwood.
“Mattie, I'm here.”
Mattie looked up, so surprised. This transferred to tearful joy. “Lars! You... you came back. You're here.” He dropped the files on the floor and crashed into Lars with a hug. Their forms and data tangled as they held each other. It was immensely pleasant in way human emotion struggled to grasp.
The files on the floor were all glowing red, familiar directives to the veteran pilot. A-1, blowing up the ship. A-2, defend the pilot. A-3, shut down gas attacks by ejecting the air. A-4, isolate the pilot due to mental instability. A-5, destroy all infected crew. A-6, contain enemy boarding crew in the air lock...
“It's okay. I'm here.” Lars hummed, content. Matthew disentangled from him, three foggy forms over lapped in one place. Red eyed. Lilac eyed. White eyed. Flickering like an unstable film. A harmony of electric and human voices.
“A-9 protocol completed. Requesting orders.”
“I order you to rest and prepare for maintenance.” Lars spoke softly.
“Yes... my pilot.” Mattie answered sweetly, unstable. His madly shifting form smiled in all forms, a loving expression. Without warning, the white room plunged into darkness.
“– to find, okay? They should be red, somewhere near the core of Mattie's circuitry.” The annoying voice of before was back, the only thing in pure darkness. The glorious abstract peaks of light from before were gone.
“I did it. I'm done.” Lars gasped, still able to feel where he had been tangled with Mattie before.
“Really? It's only been ten seconds.”
“Yes, there's nothing left here. He turned off.” Lars explained, feeling around blindly. He couldn't even see his own body now.
“Something happened to your signature. It's off somehow.”
“I don't care, get me out of here.” Lars ordered, unable to shake off feeling hot and freezing cold at the same time. Pulled apart suddenly, he was rearranged on a martian beach. The vibrant red sands were warm from swishing purple waters. His stomach settled, barely avoiding getting sick again. “Ugh I hate this. Being dead is lame.”
“Something is still wrong with your data signature. Do you feel okay?”
Lars looked up, then sighed. “I know what's wrong.”
“What is it?”
“Mattie followed me back.” Lars supplied, dumbfounded as he sat on the fuzzy fake beach sand. There was two Matties. One was in military garb, a knife in a scabbard on his belt. Burning red eyes tracked his movement, his very data. The other Mattie was in a pale purple sweater with eyes to match. This one was soft and sweet like cotton candy.
“I missed you so much.” Friendly Mattie purred, immediately cuddling Lars.
“I will kill anyone that touches you.” Insane Mattie promised in flat grating sounds.
“What is going on in there?” the stranger asked from the purple skies.
“I'm not really sure anymore. There's two Mattie's now.” Lars answered honestly, sandwiched between two possessive blondes.
“That would make sense. Mattie's mind was already splitting in three when he was brought in.”
Three personalities. Oh Ceres, Mattie had gone completely mad without anyone to talk to in space. The third Mattie was spotted, running over with a camera in hand. His eyes glowed soft white, a happy smile on his face. “Selfie time!” he proclaimed. Several pictures were captured. “You all look just fantastic!” he cheered.
“I'm in core programming now. Keep the personalities occupied while me and Toris fix Mattie.” The disembodied voice replied, as if this was a simple task.
“Um, okay.” Lars mumbled, now swamped by three overly affectionate Matties. This was easily the weirdest moment of his entire life. Well, lack of life. “I missed you.” They all said in tandem, hugging him senseless.
Lars supposed this wasn't the worst way to spend being dead.
Chapter 19: Business Stuff And Things
“So, we eliminated one of the three personalities.” The guy from the software shop was so annoying. Ivan was trying not to grind his teeth. He didn't know how many decades he has left with them. Behaviour that was funny with Alfred was horrible in this person. Felix was just so arrogant. Ivan wanted to crush him like a bug. Worse, turn him into dust.
“Good.” Ivan grunted, lighting a cigarette.
“No smoking in the shop sir.” The annoying bastard said, an especially awful drag on the sir.
Ever since Natalia was bought off with a new video game system, Ivan had to go to the software shop himself. He hated it here. He hated all this technology. It was unnatural and fucked up and everything that ruined humanity.
It was the same bullshit that Alfred had apparently pumped into Ivan's system for the last three years. There wasn't words for how angry Ivan was about this. Well, there was certain sounds that could be uttered, but they weren't friendly ones. With a pained smile of the most fake degree, Ivan snubbed the cigarette with his own fingers. It hurt like hell, but he didn't care, The tiny robot bastards in his blood would fix it. Sure enough, his flesh was visibly reversing the bruising.
“So what about his ship mode? It's lost it's mind.” Ivan pointed out.
“The M.A.T.I.E. program couldn't removed, so we changed the terms it functions within now. It won't be usable in ships anymore, but it will be Mattie's survival skills when he's in danger. Think of it as... his temper, and sense of competition.”
“Hmm.” Ivan hummed, impatient to leave already. “Where is he?”
The flamboyant programmer lead the way to a small room with sparse furniture. The walls were rigged with wires and plugs, evidently designed to host a variety of appliances. Today's appliance of choice was Mattie and... a ghost? No...
“What the fuck is that.” Ivan sputtered, pointing to the white light form of Lars. Lars, who was supposed to be dead. What hell was he doing as a ghost?
“That is a hologram of Lars Van Den Berg. You paid for a revival, so... here he is.”
Lars waved as he was introduced. It was terrifying, something Ivan didn't know was possible. Trading cards had holographic images. Newer ship displays had holograms. Neither of these things was bigger than the palm of your hand. Lars as a living hologram seemed so impossible!
“You look so happy to see me, captain.” Lars greeted, looking rather pleased.
Mattie smiled, looking from Lars to Ivan. He had never been so overjoyed in his whole life. “You're so generous and kind. Wonderful! You brought back my pilot!” Giggling, the wheaten blond android stood, minding the plug-in cord dangling from the side of his head. “You're the bestest person in the whole wide solar system!”
Ivan was a hefty guy, so it was a surprise to be lifted like a rag doll. “Put me down!” he gasped, grasping at the metal door frame.
“The best person in the universe!” Mattie squealed, hugging tighter.
“B-b-breathing.” Ivan coughed for air.
“Oh, I'm sorry! I'm just so happy!”
Set down, Ivan took deep breaths to fill his lungs. Oh sweet oxygen. “Is... that able to interact with anything?” He gestured to the electric ghost before him.
“Only modern machinery that wants to interact with me. I'm harmless, sir.” Lars explained. He demonstrated this fact by trying to touch a chair in the centre of the room. The white image's hand flickered and ceased to exist upon contact. Retreating, the hand reformed.
It was reassuring to know the modern day ghost couldn't steal Ivan's soul. “I want to speak alone with them.” He flexed his latent authority. Anything to get this annoying shop bitch away from him.
“Of course.” The shop worker left at once.
Alone with Mattie and Lars, Ivan sat in the lone chair provided. “So... Alfred listed himself as Mattie's registered owner, but I legally own Alfred... So where does that leave you, Mr. Van Den Berg?”
“I suppose that makes me your property sir.” The white hologram replied, hands clasped as he sat beside his obvious android lover. Mattie blushed and looked at his obsession with honeyed cheer.
“Damn right you are. If you ever try to mutiny me from my apartment, or my flower shop, or this biodome... If you ever tell me what to do ever again, I will delete you from existence. That goes for both of you.”
In this face of Ivan's dire threat, Mattie was chipper like always. “Yes Captain.”
Lars however, looked apprehensive. “Yes... sir. What are you going to do to me?”
Ivan grinned something evil. “Oh, you'll be working for me.”
“This is a flower shop my little slaves.” Ivan announced, gesturing to the entirely of his business. The flower shop was abandoned like usual, with a slutty Alfred absorbed into a porn magazine. He was supposed to be minding the cash machine.
“What is this? There is so many complex immobile life forms in this room!” Mattie asked, poking the petals of a pink petunia.
Lars shrugged, white light form rippling. “I don't see what I can do here. I'm a hologram.”
“Customer service, you mutinying little bastard. You see, my dearest sunflower here...” Ivan kissed Alfred's cheek with every fibre of happiness he had. “... is absolutely terrible at his job. Alfred, give me change for a five credit bill.”
Alfred, without even looking up from his dirty magazine, pushed a decorative painted garden rock forward. “Here.”
“This is a rock.” Ivan pointed out.
“It's a rock painted like a flower, which makes it a flower. Flowers are worth money, so it's the same value. So I gave you change.” Alfred replied, still engrossed in a centrefold picture of some explicit orgy.
“You don't care at all do you?” Ivan cooed, unable to stay mad at the sexually perfect being before him.
“Nope. I only have love for you.” Alfred flirted back, looking up to bat gorgeous eyelashes at him.
“So, you two are going to run the shop while Alfred and I do business publicity... or go drinking. Maybe we will do both. I am undecided.” Ivan mused to himself, placing the decorative rock back on the counter.
Putting hands up in exasperation, Lars shook his head. “So, you want to put an android that doesn't know what plants are, and an electric ghost in charge of a flower shop. So you can get drunk in a bar with your slutty boyfriend.”
“That is the plan.” Ivan replied easily, “Come. I need to show you the receipt room.” Leading the way, Ivan unlocked the door at the back. “I installed hologram stabilizers in the shop so you can move more than ten feet from Mattie.”
“Receipt room?” Lars asked, trailing behind curiously.
Ivan opened the door, revealing the pure chaos that was the receipt room. It was once a small neat office, now drowning in bundles of receipts. In the corners the piles were as high as Ivan's knees. “At the end of each day, put all the receipts together. Put them in an elastic, or staple them. Whatever you want. Then toss it in the receipt room and close the door. Done!”
Lars looked to be in severe shock. “What... Where... How do you file taxes?”
“Oh, we don't know how to do that.” Alfred replied, sauntering over to hug Ivan's arm. “We pay off the bad people with drugs.”
“Are you serious?” Lars blurted out, looking to Ivan for clarification. “Is he serious!?”
Ivan shrugged. “I can barely read. It seemed like a good solution.”
“How are you running a business when you can barely read!?” Lars was getting louder with each exclamation, as if in financially induced pain. The man was being so melodramatic.
“So, you can stand here screaming. Me and Alfred are going out. Try not to break anything, and make me some money.” Ivan gave Alfred a peck on the cheek, earning a dashing smile in return. Straightening out his traditional scarf, the ash blond gave a curt wave before he left the shop. Alfred hugged Mattie goodbye, then skipped after Ivan.
“Don't forget what a flower is!” Alfred called out as he left.
“Okay!” Mattie replied, while eating part of a tulip as a snack.
Lars wheezed electronically in the background, having a stress attack.
Chapter 20: Lars Gets Fucked
I'm gonna earn that explicit rating.
The office Lars initially formed in was no longer a featureless beige box like before. That nondescript space was actually the hard drive Lars was stored on. Since then, Lars had customized the empty box to be a chunk of heaven. Pale blue walls had white wainscotting and dozens of family photos from the past. Windows showed a veiw of the sea, a primordial body of water his ancestors sailed a thousand years ago. Opposite the windows was a tidy little desk and a door.
The door had been installed, but never used. Lars was scared to look past it. He was currently installed in Mattie, dependent on him for power and safety. The innocent door led to the androids complex inner mind. This was the same mind that had split into three personalities and molested Lars senseless on that simulated beach. It was the weirdest thing the beanpole of a man had ever experienced. He was honestly unsure if he wanted to explore that route again.
So, here Lars was, recording expenses for the most illegitimate flower shop of all time. It was easily the safer option. After three days straight of working on it while Mattie charged, Lars was only thirteen percent finished two years of receipts.
How did Lars keep getting employed by absolute ass holes? Part way through a document, Lars flinched. The door opened on it's own with a dry squeal of hinges. At first, there was no one there, then an inky black shape entered. It gained form and colour, much in the same way Lars did a mere five days ago.
It was dressed in a black military uniform, rifle on it's back. Mattie's shaggy hair was scraped back into a stubby ponytail. It turned to Lars, eyes red and ominous. “Hello Pilot.” It greeted happily.
Shit. Shit. Shit. Lars smiled nervously, saying nothing. It was a revised version of M.A.T.I.E., having survived reprogramming. The Mattie everyone else saw was merely a composite of two personalities having come to amicable agreement. The third unnamed entity with white eyes was gone, but it was still crowded in here.
“Pilot, what are you doing?” the invasive personality whispered, peeking those blood red eyes over the edge of the desk. Naturally, it had crawled over on the ground like a freaky spider.
“Preparing statistics for taxes.” Lars supplied evenly, returning to his task.
“I love you so much.” The weird AI whispered roughly, now at Lar's side. It was pressing into the office chair and making it roll slightly.
“I noticed.” Lars muttered. He did love Mattie immensely, but there was something strange to his relationship. In all honesty, the individuals that his 'Mattie' consisted of were strange and difficult to like. M.A.T.I.E. was in essence, all the jagged aspects. The jealousy, the protectiveness, the rage, all of it one dark package.
The other half of Mattie was equally as frustrating to work with. Another inky block bust into the room, soon gaining form. It was softness and lilac coloured sweaters. It was soft, bashful, and utterly useless in all social situations.
“I told you, we're not supposed to go in this room!” The softer one scolded. He froze up up seeing Lars, blushing and stammering. “Oh, Lars... I-I'm, I'm sorry, If he's bothering you.” It was starting already, the cripplingly shy bullshit was honestly tiring.
“It's fine.” Lars answered tightly. It was not fine. The creepy Mattie was cuddling his arm in a vice-like grip that would probably cut off blood flow in living creatures.
“He's uncomfortable. I've made my pilot uncomfortable.” the black leather clad one whispered, detaching himself. “I've become a threat. I was created to destroy threats.”
“Let's not be hasty. It's called learning, and growing. No one needs to do anything crazy.” Lars reasoned, putting up his hands.
Both personalities calmed and gave him a more respectable distance. “See, I told you he'd be reasonable. Ask him. You know you want to.” The red eyed one nudged his shy counterpart.
“What if he says no?” The shy one whined.
The two halves of Mattie bickered forever, like they always did. Lars rolled his eyes and returned to working at his desk. After a bit, the duo seemed to solve whatever they were picking over. The shy one approached, wringing his fingers. “Lars?”
“Yes?” he answered, not bothering to look up.
“We want to try some of the upgrades that were installed. Test some emotional ranges that were added, but... we need you for it.” The request was framed in a sane enough manner.
“Sure.” Lars truthfully wasn't paying a lot of attention now. He should have been.
“Great. Let's get this party started.” the harsher one snapped his fingers, and the desk was gone. A bed was against the wall instead. Lars was suddenly in nothing but his boxers, still sitting in the office chair.
“What the fuck!” Lars stammered, blushing as he tried to desperately cover himself. He dived under the blanket duvet and tried to hide.
“You're making him uncomfortable again!” The softer Mattie scolded his aggressive yet more quiet half.
“Fine, do it the slow way.” The other gave up easily. There was the sound of a door slamming, then the creak of the mattress. Lars peeked from under the blanket. It was only the friendly one left, fully dressed. He was as harmful as a puff of cotton.
“I'm sorry he was so... um, direct. We're just...” Mattie paused, gathering his words. “We have needs, and we were hoping you could help. It's the first time we've had them.”
“You... want to have sex with me.” Lars muttered, in shock. This was definitely a first. Most people thought Lars was weird, or obsessed with work, or plain unappealing.
“Yes, badly. I want... you.” Mattie swooned, rosy as he gazed at Lars.
Lars didn't know how to respond. After failing to lose his virginity in college, he figured he was set to be a loser for life. He died before he got laid, which was very pathetic indeed. “I mean, why would you want to. I'm not. I'm not special, I'm just me.” He sputtered, reeling from the implications.
“Oh Lars. You're sweet. Like candy.” Mattie promised, taking a hand. He gave it a squeeze, slowly peeling the blanket back. “You cared about your crew, even though you had to eliminate them. You spared them the horrors of slow radiation poisoning.”
Guilt stabbed Lars in the chest. He was a terrible captain. It was his ego, his damn pride that had driven him to pass the Kirkwood gap. He had doomed everyone by getting greedy on deals, by being less cautious. After all, being a cautious drunkard had doomed Ivan to mutiny.
“I did a shitty job. I failed the crew. I left you to go crazy in space.” Lars confessed, curling up and resting his head on his knees.
Mattie sat beside him, pulling the troubled man into a side hug. “It was a no-win situation. You did the best you could. You can't be so angry with yourself.”
“I'm a fucking joke Mattie.” Lars was torn from his lamenting by a cheek kiss. It was short but kind, and really distracting. Lars blushed, not sure what to say. His heart was pattering like mad.
“You're so cute like this.” Mattie whispered. Another kiss followed, multiplying. “You cared about me when no one else did.” “You always worked so hard.” “You are so smart.” These words were sprinkled between soft touches and kisses, until Lars was loose limbs and tongue tied.
This was it. The turning point when Lars was about get laid, but some awful thing usually happened. Someone having weird kinks, or laughing at his pale body, or... or something. There was no judgment in these artificial lilac eyes. There was no jokes, no laughter at his almost naked state. Something profound, insane even, came to Lars.
Mattie really wanted him, loved him.
The words Lars never thought he would say came forth. “Okay, just... be careful.” With so few words, the flood gates of affection were open. Mattie kissed him and fondled his body relentlessly, journeying downward to Lars's boxers.
A shy 'eep' escaped Lars as his boxers were tugged off. Mattie really was determined today. The painfully aroused hologram didn't have long to contemplate rational thoughts. Another Mattie rippled into existence, wearing nothing but a silky dressing gown. It's red eyes burned with passion as it captured Lars's willing lips. The lilac eyed Mattie began sucking Lars off at the same time, making him moan into the kiss. He wasn't going to last long being assaulted like this.
“You're a hologram, you can last as long as you want.” Another red eyed Mattie whispered, hugging him from behind. A trail of love bites and hickeys was on his neck and shoulder already. Lars could feel his ass gently being worked open, but didn't have the structured words to object. A shiver of fear rippled through him amidst all the hedonistic pleasures, a terror of being hurt.
“I'll never let you get hurt.” Another Mattie whispered, seated at the foot of the bed. Holy shit, there was four of them now. Lars yelped in a mingled mess of feelings and sensations, eyes rolling back. Something in his ass was being fingered just so fantastically. It was electric jolts of pleasure that rocked his mind to the edge, combined with his dick being licked just so.
It was all to much too fast. Lars came hard, gasping as he was held and cherished by all four Matties. “I'm sorry... I... I came on your face.” he whispered, embarrassed as one of his lovers sat up.
Mattie giggled as a copy of himself cleaned off his face. “That was fun!”
“Now it's my turn.” The aggressive M.A.T.I.E. personality demanded, both of them pinning a relaxed Lars to the mattress. Still floating down from a shattering orgasm, Lars was surprised as he was taken from behind. In everything going on, he had been more than sufficiently prepared.
It was so odd, being filled like this. It was odd and stretching, almost uncomfortable as Mattie slowly entered.
“I don't know if this is a good idea anymore.” Lars groaned, wriggling as he was speared. Without much time to adjust, Mattie pulled almost all of the way out, then thrust back into Lars's sensitive insides. In all the oddities, a spike of pleasure bloomed in Lars's gut. Words were lost, except one.
On top of Mattie in tandem cock sucking, while Lars was pounded from behind. Having two cocks up his ass at the same time while tied up. Riding Mattie in reverse cowgirl, passionately making out with another copy at the same time. After what felt like the most sexually explicit encounter a human could stand, the pale man was limp and gasping on the very soiled bed.
He didn't know how much time had passed. Lars wasn't sure if time existed anymore. All he knew was he had at least five orgasms, unable to move for anything. He was being casually used by two Mattie clones, sweaty and slick as he was double teamed. He was practically being worn as Mattie fucked himself from one half to the other on shared momentum.
“I don't want to stop. This programming upgrade is so good.” M.A.T.I.E. growled, coming yet again into Lars's well used hole. There was enough synthetic ejaculate in and on Lars at this point that they could really do anything.
“T-t-tired.” The bound man whispered, well fucked and on the verge of passing out.
“Just... a little more.” Mattie moaned beneath Lars, in rhythm with the other half of his mind. The glaze of lust evaporated from both android personality fragments. At least, long enough to pause the mind erasing fuck of the century.
“Oh shit, he's passing out! The hologram processor is overloading.” One of four clones noted in concern.
Another Mattie snapped his fingers. The room was instantly clean, with Lars in fuzzy sleep clothes. He was tucked under the quilted blanket his grandmother had made him decades ago. Warm memories of his grandmother's cookies floated forth in his exhausted mind.
There was only one unified Mattie now, in a red and white pair of pyjamas. He had a sheepish expression as he cuddled Lars. “Sorry I went overboard.” He apologized meekly, looking back for forgiveness.
Lars chuckled, babbling something vague, then fell asleep instantly. He had a smile on his face as he did so.
Chapter 21: Whoops!
Life was good. The shop was mostly legal and registered. With other people to bother now, Alfred was laying the attention less thick on Natalia. Natalia was making strides to learning fancy science words with all her time at that... book filled place that Ivan couldn't much recall. He had never been in one of those knowledge buildings, so he didn't much care. Everything was stable with a roof and some food. That was enough for anyone.
This was exactly why Ivan was very unhappy to be woken up by something other than Alfred. His phone was going off in the middle of the night like mad.
Ring ring ring! Ring ring ring! Ring ring ring! Ring ring ring!
Not fast enough, the call was missed. This didn't matter, for it started up yet again. Groggy in the pitch darkness, he felt around blindly. The small ear piece phone was finally slipped over a lobe and answered.
“What...” he grumbled in thick Runglish accent, idly scratching his bare chest. He wasn't really listening, hardly awake. A whining south Ceres accent spoke in scolding tones.
“You may not remember me, but I will be your nightmare. Prepare to be arrested, scum.”
Ivan blinked. “What?”
“It is I, private investigator Edelstein, your greatest foe.”
Ivan had no idea who this guy was, too drowsy to care. Grumbling “Okay then.”, he hung up and returned to bed. Cuddling Alfred under fluffy covers, he resumed being the little spoon and dreamed of money.
It was well into breakfast routine the next morning when the stupid call finally registered. “Oh! Oh shit!” he blurted out, nearly dropping his coffee.
“What? What is it?” Natalia asked curiously, about to eat another spoon of cereal.
“The um, fuck. What's his name... Edelstein guy, from the cops, the cops around Ceres. He's here in town, probably.” Ivan mostly got blank stares from the room. Mattie was here, munching on burnt toast, but Lars hadn't booted up yet.
“Does... this matter?” Alfred asked quizzically, slowly eating his own bowl of cereal.
“It... I don't know if it does. But he's a gods damned cop, and he found me after... three years. So It can't be great.” Ivan informed, sipped his slightly spilled coffee. He sighed and set his drink down. “I still have to get to Isidis-Cun for more water blossoms. They'll only be in season for another week.”
“That's two hours by monorail Papa!” Natalia scolded, in typical role reversal.
“I know, I know, I got drunk on Monday instead! But, we need those blossoms...” The stupid water dependant flowers were a bitch to harvest or transport, needing to live in a tank or an artificial pond. They were all the rage with customers though. How was he to dodge the stubborn cop, and get their hottest new product on display? Violet eyes settled on his beloved daughter. “Oh, princess?”
“No.” She instantly denied his request, finishing breakfast.
“All you have to do is play lookout while I get to the monorail station...” He began innocently. She looked up from her empty cereal bowl, curious. The interest died after Ivan's next words. “... and run the shop with Mattie while I borrow Lars as a purchasing consultant.”
“You mean use Lars to read stuff.” The daughter knew him too well.
“So you'll do it.” He imposed with a great big grin.
“Because you're the best little angel in the whole world.”
“... That would do anything to help her Papa, because she's just that caring.”
“Otherwise we'll have to talk about our feelings, in a family sit down. You know, those things in your chest that make you cry on certain romance movies.” Ivan teased, a very real threat to his emotionally constipated offspring.
Catching his daughter wet eyed while watching new romance films was priceless black mail material.
Natalia gritted her teeth, a white knuckled grip on her metal spoon. “Fine. I'll watch the shop with the garbage can.” She seethed as she spoke, hating horticulture in general. Mattie had earned such a nickname from eating the flowers that didn't sell fast enough. He was still learning the connections between what plants were food, and what was decoration.
“That's my girl.” Ivan hummed, feeling victorious.
Natalia was absolutely pissed as she watched her Papa skulk away via alleyways. It took longer to walk to the monorail station that way, but Papa wouldn't be seen. The stupid pig hunting down Papa was not exactly subtle. It was that meddlesome cop from years ago, in terrible act and disguise. He was across the road at a family diner, eating fried nuggets.
No one took that long to eat an appetizer, in a wig that cheap.
All the same, Natalia was only concerned with keeping her Papa out of prison. The more time idiot cop spent watching the shop, the less he was following his intended suspect. Natalia pretended to do shop duties, mostly dusting and watering plants. A large component of plant care was keeping them alive. This meant stopping Mattie from eating them.
The curious android had his hands swatted away from some flower looking thing. Natalia didn't know what it was either, but it was definitely not food. “Stop that. Eat this.” She placed a granola bar made by Alfred in his hands.
“Ooo, fuel.” Mattie bit into it savagely, always hungry to some degree. “Crunchy fuel. The nutritional and energy output of this substance is much better.”
“Better than what?” What the hell had he ruined now?
“That immobile green organism.” Mattie gestured to the mars equivalent of a cactus in a corner. It looked dark and really prickly. There was a big bite out of it like a cartoon, white insides seeping.
Natalia sighed and hid her face in the palms of her hands. “Why are you like this.” Dragging hands down, she peeked over her painted fingernails. Going to throw out the spiky plant thing, she was stopped with the barest touch on an arm.
“You can't dispose of that product. It's still viable for sale.” he opposed rather seriously.
“It has a bite mark in it. No one is going to buy it.” She pointed out, not fucking insane.
“Mark down the price. I'm sure someone will get hungry looking at how juicy it is.”
Rubbing her temples, Natalia was done with this nonsense. They only needed to distract the cop across the street for two more hours, but she was already losing her patience. “B-6 protocol activate.” It really paid to memorize M.A.T.I.E.'s user manual when she was being groomed by Papa as a future captain. While all the A series commands were very trigger happy, the B series protocol were gentler. They were mainly intended for when pilots had to take sick days or manage files.
The childish innocent motions of Mattie vanished in an instant, replaced by an obvious aggressive stance. His voice was flat and partially electric as soft purple eyes turned red. “Request denied. Insufficient authority presented.”
“A-9 protocol scenario is active, redirected to B-6 via B-4. I am the highest authority available to you.” She ran circles around the former ship's logic paths easily. With Lars perfectly safe but absent, this Mattie wasn't allowed to go on a murder rampage.
Mattie, or rather one of his hidden personalities, looked vexed. His flat emotionless expression twitched downward in a slight frown. Poor baby Mattie didn't like taking orders from anyone but his Lars it seemed. “Temporary authority transfer complete. B-6 protocol active.”
“Dispose of that object.” She ordered in a high tone, chest puffed out.
“Yes, temporary pilot.” Mattie grabbed the bitten cactus thing, now munching on it like a candied treat. Boy, this part of Mattie's mind was passive aggressive. Even executing harmless B protocol, he was dark and subtly sarcastic.
“Sweep the shop.”
When he set the plant down and set to work, Natalia dared to let out a girly squeal of joy. It was like owning a great big remote controlled person. Mattie worked quietly, only pausing to take more bites out of his stupid plant.
“Why do you keep eating that thing?” she asked.
The android had to stop a moment, then looked at her unblinkingly. “M.A.T.I.E. is part of the collective programming referred to as 'Mattie'. It does not control fuel intake or fuel choices.”
“The sissy version of you is turned off. But you're still eating that dumb plant.” Natalia pointed out, bored out of her mind. Might as well cause an existential crisis.
The android dropped the broom, eyes flickering in crimson light. You could just see the confused personality processing things. It was obvious this part of Mattie didn't get to walk around much. That was generally for the betterment of society. “M.A.T.I.E. has executed protocol... unrelated to ship maintenance or protection.” The freckled android was just staring at the mostly eaten cactus like it was complex math.
Natalia rolled her eyes, resuming staring at the floor. Working as a cashier sucked so much. Crazy robot Mattie seemed to be lost, dealing with his cactus situation while seated on the floor. Not knowing how to deal with making independent choices, he took to interrogating the cactus. The remaining third of it had nothing to say.
Finally a mercy presented itself. The door bell jingled as the total failure of an undercover cop came inside. His hair looked like shit. “Excuse me miss, I purchased a plant here. I want a refund.” The pale man was obviously from either Southern Ceres or Europe on earth. His accent was dragging w's into solid v's.
“I feel threatened. A-6 protocol activate.” Natalia drawled, not bothering to get her feet off the counter as she lounged in a chair. Technically A-6 was to be used to locked hostile boarding parties in the airlock room. An annoying little shit in the door way was good enough for her.
Mattie tackled the cop to the ground, wig flying. Police tattoos in the form of a serial number was easily visible on the inner wrist of the man. He had probably been raised from birth for law enforcement, a means of keeping police incorruptible. It was irritatingly effective. Pinned, the pig's gun was frisked off him by Mattie. The cruel android then held the gun to the cop's head.
He looked at Natalia with absolute determination. “Permission to execute A-2 protocol required.”
“Denied, you crazy bitch!” She fretted, running over.
“Permission to execute A-2 protocol required.” Mattie repeated himself, looking really eager about the whole idea.
“Give me the gun! No cop killing!” Natalia took the weapon from the android before he went on a murder spree, heart racing from panic. “No wonder Lars doesn't let you out!”
Mattie pouted, and bit into his cactus. “Pilot...” he sighed, sitting on the cop as a means of restraining him. “Where is the primary pilot?”
“He'll be back an hour. Stop worrying.” Natalia shushed him, then looked at the idiot on the floor. “Hello little piggy. This isn't your house.”
“I am an active member of the law community! You can't assault me without major consequences! You're all going to jail!” the cop gave up his shitty disguise instantly, realizing it was fooling no one.
“Tie him up, gag him, and toss him in the receipt room. Papa will know what to do.” Natalia ordered dully, resuming being bored at the cash register.
Mattie looked down at the captive man he was sitting on, pouting. “Permission to execute A-2 protocol?”
“What is your fucking problem!? Just do what I said!” Natalia snapped at the red eyed killing machine, tired of it's shenanigans.
Mattie sighed and tied up the dark haired cop with plenty of plant twine. Next he gagged the loud man with a ball of water proof wrapping paper and box tape. In under a few minutes the annoying law enforcer was squirming and taped to an office chair. With Lars running finances, the receipt room was once more orderly and sparse.
Lars was so efficient at the job, he had spare time to tutor Natalia. Mainly he was teaching her how to write properly and use nice grammar. She was already leagues better than Papa, who wrote mere simple words. In essence he only understood fast food menus. Papa was able to read Mama's writing when she was alive, but only because she printed it in large letters for him.
With Papa's problem locked up in the back office, Natalia did an even worse job than usual of running shop. She didn't have too long to slack off though. A mere twenty minutes before Papa was supposed to return, the door bell jingled. Natalia looked up in disinterest, then her eyes went wide.
Six men in black suits had entered the shop. They all had bullet based guns. One was slight shorter than the rest, his dark red hair and artificially pink eyes noteworthy. A hell of a lot of genetic manipulation had gone into this fellow.
“Hello miss, I'm looking for a little man named Lars Van Den Berg. I have a great feeling you know where he is.” The strange looking man spoke with the most bizarre accent, taking a long second to place. Callisto? Europa? What outer colony was that voice even? The urgency of the moment was reaffirmed when the end of a gun barrel was pointed at her face. “I was talking to you girly.”
In the moment that last threat was uttered, Mattie forcefully knocked her flat on the floor. “A-2 protocol activated.” He droned, eyes glowing in crimson danger. Natalia's survival instincts kicked into high gear. She wasn't as brave as Papa taught her. She was terrified. She was weak. In partial shock, she crawled on her belly to the door of the receipt room.
The knob was too high up to reach while this flat, and very much locked. Natalia sobbed silently, curling up behind the recycling bin. Watching in fear from behind the black bin, the drama unfolded. Conversation was clear, and surprising. Mattie seemed to know this guy.
“I know you're Lars's attack pet. Give up his location or you'll – OH GODS! OH GODS! KILL THE FUCKING ROBOT! KILL IT!” Lucian was literally grabbed and lifted off the tiled floor by his genitals, voice hiking to a tortured pitch.
“Boss!” one goon called out in alarm, opening fire with his rifle. Mattie laughed something electric and terrible as bullets ripped clean through parts of his body. You could hear shots tinging off his superior metal skeleton. The boss man was thrown by his crotch like a ball, directly into the oncoming shooting of all five minions.
Never had a man made such a pitiful sound before to Natalia's ears. The weigh and momentum of his entire body thrown around by his private parts must be unimaginably awful. In a blur of movement, Mattie grabbed and threw three metal pens off the cashier's counter like deadly darts. They all stuck in attackers' eyes like spikes. With three goons screaming in agony and nonfunctional, the last two looked at each other with palpable fear.
The wasted second didn't matter. Mattie punched a literal hole in the chest of one man, grabbing the other while a human was still impaled on his limb. The arm in Mattie's steely grips was then tugged through the destroyed torso of the first man, and ripped clean off. The now one armed attacker was screaming while literally lodged in the chest cavity of his co-worker. Blood was gushing all over the place in large arcs.
Holy shit. Red eyed Mattie was not to be messed with ever.
The massacre didn't stop there. Mattie laughed again in bat shit insane manner, taking small gardening sheers off the wall. Natal whimpered and closed her eyes, knowing something inhuman was about to occur. After a minute of soft begging, there was only the sounds of wet materials being cut. Heavy foot steps neared, as she cracked open one eye.
It was Mattie above her, human guts still dripping off his ruined clothes and fingers. “A-2 protocol successful, temporary pilot. Awaiting orders.”
Frozen to the floor, and really embarrassed, Natalia didn't budge. Maybe, possibly, she peed herself a little from this encounter. She tried to speak but nothing intelligible came out.
Mattie cocked his head, once more pure logistics. The brief snaps of insane laughter and murderous joy seemed to be new aberrant behaviour. This part of Mattie was a gods damned sociopath in primitive development. “You leaked emissions temporary pilot. Do you require maintenance?”
“N-no. I'm... I'm okay.” Natalia stammered in pure lies, managing to stand. Not willing to look at the floor, Natalia stepped in puddles of human blood as she headed to the front door. Flipping the 'OPEN' sign to 'CLOSED', she lowered the blinds on all six shop windows. Dimming the lights, she finally looked to the centre of the spacious room.
Natalia threw up at the sight. It was all six attackers laid out on the floor in anatomically correct arrangement. Every joint in their limbs had been severed and broken apart with gardening tools. Even their heads were cut clean off. One man had his spine ripped out and laying on top of the mangled torso. A set of sheers was still on the floor with skin and human hair chunks encrusting it.
“W-w-what did you do to them?” Natalia sputtered, more scared of her protector than her attackers.
“B-24 states that enemies need to be completely detained to reduce risk of future attacks.”
“You ripped out the guy's spine! Thats not disabling an enemy! Thats...” She paused, glancing at the living machine only slightly taller than her. He was a greater risk even existing right now. As much as she despised purple eyed Mattie's spinelessness and polite babbling, this version was so much worse.
“M.A.T.I.E. disengage, resume standard personality routines.” she ordered simply.
“A pleasure to serve you.” the murderous personality bid goodbye as it sat cross legged on the blood soaked floor. In a position capable of shutting down without the 300 pound metal body falling and getting getting damaged, Mattie powered down. The rigid inhuman posture of the mass murderer went slack as it leaned into elbows resting on knee creases.
After twenty seconds, Mattie booted up like normal, standing and taking a long blink. Lilac eyes flickered in processing as he noticed his surroundings. “Oh gosh, I really hope this is fruit juice on my pants.” He spoke softly, confused. Turning around, he saw the horribly chopped up corpses. “Oh no! These customers were maimed!” He fretted, genuinely unaware he had committed gruesome horrors.
Looking to Natalia for guidance, the puzzled android's eyes flickered in yet more processing. His astonished expression drooped to one of grief. “I... I did a bad thing again! Lars is going to be so disappointed in me! I'm so horrible!”
In all of the mayhem, Natalia had to pause. Annoying happy Mattie and murder rampage Mattie were genuinely separate people, merely sharing a body. This realization was an alien one to the woman. How Lars was in lust, or whatever it was, with such a mess was astounding. Obviously, the caring sweet Mattie was the lure. Dealing with psychotic Mattie was probably easier since Lars was a hologram now. After all, holograms couldn't be stabbed in their sleep.
Still, the red eyed Mattie was horrifying.
Mattie was just as distraught by the slaughter as Natalia, curling up in a corner and rocking himself. The poor marshmallow was not suited to violence in the slightest. He ended up needing more comfort than she did. After twenty minutes or so, his faint tears dried. “I'm sorry I was so upset.”
“It's okay garbage can.” she whispered, leaning on him for comfort.
A muffled banging came from the receipt room. The two looked at each other, then at the office. The undercover cop had escaped the packing tape and plant twine, at least enough to move a little. For once, both android and woman had the same thought process.
“Shit.” they muttered in unison.
Chapter 22: Talking Bunnies
Mattie knew he was in trouble. He was in trouble when Lars and Ivan came back and didn't say a word to him. He was in trouble when he was send to Alfred's charging dock without dinner. Lonely and scared, soft vulnerable Mattie was cuddled under the covers of Lars's blankets. He sniffled, wishing his pilot wasn't ignoring him. “I don't know why you had to do that.” he whispered.
“Stop crying like a bitch. I didn't do anything.” M.A.T.I.E. muttered, staring out the fake windows to an illusory sea. He truly was the opposite of the other Mattie, all black leather and weapons.
“You killed so many people!”
“I only killed six. It was nothing like the Kirkwood gap.” The red eyed jerk dismissed it lightly.
“I'm not even getting started about that. All we had to do was guard the temporary pilot for four hours, and we made her pee herself from fear.”
“That was an emissions leak. I asked.” M.A.T.I.E. was so emotionally dense for someone devoted to Pilot. Mattie internally reminded himself that Pilot was named Lars. Perfect Lars. Handsome Lars. Mattie smouldered a little in desire at so many pleasant thoughts. Still, M.A.T.I.E. had crossed too many lines today. Even sexy cuddly Lars was mad.
“It wasn't an emissions leak.” Mattie whispered, never one for assertiveness. He knew he should try to be his own mind, but M.A.T.I.E. had been there since the beginning. The violent construct had been his other half, his protector. Without the simple and violent being, Mattie was vulnerable and fragile. He didn't know how to fight, or lie, or reject others. He was simply too kind.
The brooding silence was interrupted by a voice from the room. It was a voice that made both parts of Mattie curl and warm in pleasure. They listened with rapt attention to Lars's blessed words. “Guys I'm really sorry I have to do this. I treasure all the time... we've had so much love together, but... you're both in trouble now, and I'm... I'm so sorry.”
The emotional confession cut off sharply, just as the lights in Lars's room turned off. “Pilot! Pilot guide me! I can't see!” M.A.T.I.E called out, genuinely scared. Mattie couldn't see either. He couldn't see outside his body. He couldn't feel anything.
Mattie rambled in tearful realization. They were disconnected, destined to be deleted. He knew they were doomed. He had heard that bad little computers were sent away to be destroyed for less. “Pilot! Lars! Please come back! I'll be a good AI! I'll –”
Lars sat with tented fingers in the tidy holographic office, family scarf strewn over one shoulder. He was here after waiting a week to be processed. Unlike with living beings, revived people and AI's were processed by the law over lightning fast data exchanges. It made the entire process pretty painless, once you were received by an available server.
An angular AI with poor form and a serial code for a face formed behind the desk before him. “Thank you for waiting, please choose a preferred avatar for your judge.” the grey block of material greeted him flatly. Lars browsed the options before him on a floating screen of light. The possibilities were vast. Celebrities, historical figures, objects, animals... Smiling for the first time in days, he selected a bunny avatar.
The hostile looking legal entity dissolved into pixels, reforming as a cute brown bunny on top of the desk. Complete with a little black business tie, it was the cutest bunny Lars had ever seen. Adorable things were secretly Lars's weakness. It was why he could never say no to the sweet angelic version of Mattie.
“Velcome to processing, Case file #801196-760. Ve have many issues to process.” The bunny greeted him in thick southern Ceres accent. It was similar to ancient German from historic Earth. Lars had self control, and maturity, and... he burst into laughter at the absurdity of it all. Southern Ceres folks were stern and often humourless. To have the personality of a brick in bunny form was priceless.
“Perhaps Ve should pick a different avatar.” the bunny suggested coldly, tiny furry brows scrunched in disappointment.
“No. No, I'm good. I'm good. Let's begin.” Lars promised, managing to stop his giggles.
“Case file #801196-760, trial #1. Body rights of AI M.A.T.I.E. beta version 27.008 versus AI Mattie Lawrence Van Den Berg. This case vas unique, requiring extensive testing and multiple juries of AI. In the end, the jurors reached two unanimous decisions.” The bunny was just so damn cute as it spoke, occasionally pausing to lick it's tiny white paws and clean floppy years.
“What was the conclusions?” Lars asked curiously, holding in the urge to pet the bunny.
“AI Mattie Lawrence Van Den Berg is innocent of all proceeding charges. He is allowed to re-enter his body. AI M.A.T.I.E. beta version 27.008 was denied access to body rights, and vill not be returned to corporeal form of any kind. Do you contest these charges?”
Lars hesitated, torn by the news. M.A.T.I.E. loved him passionately, would do anything for him. The amazing sex he had experienced with the AI on a coding scale, it something that had changed Lars forever. Denying the violent program was like denying a boyfriend of several years. Still, M.A.T.I.E. had murdered so many people. It was truly wrong for him to even exist, even if he was brilliant and amazing in the sheets.
“I... I do not contest the charges.” he finally spoke with sadness and visceral grief. He had no idea how the other Mattie would deal with this. If he could deal with this at all. He had never been mentally alone once in his entire existence.
“Zis leads to another... obstacle. AI M.A.T.I.E. beta version 27.008 has been found guilty of 236 murders in the first degree. He does not qualify to apply for full sentience, exhibiting classic sociopath tendencies.”
The news was shocking. Lars had no idea the aggressive entity had killed so many people while drifting in the Kirkwood gap. How many pirates had tried to board the S.S. Natalya while it was marooned in dead space?
“So, um, what's going to happen to him? Maybe we could do therapy or... something?” Lars offered weakly, suspecting the idea would not be upheld.
“Zere is no therapy strong enough to justify 236 murders in any universe, Mr. Van den berg.” The bunny was right, and it knew it. “He vill be deleted to protect society at large. Do you contest the charges?”
“I... I do not.” Lars whispered. He hoped Mattie could forgive him someday.
“Very good ja? On to lighter issues. Case file #801196-760, trial #238. Your sentience application has been seen and approved! You are a temporarily legal body for the next six months. If you retain good law abiding behaviour up to that point, you will be a Martian citizen with limited rights and voting capacity.”
“Can I own a business now?” Lars asked in great interest. He was angry with Natalia for forcing Mattie to give 100% control to his dark persona. Normally the assertive mind only had 15% control. He wanted to buy out the stupid flower shop, ruining Ivan's life. That great illiterate oaf had forced him into tough spots again and again for five years.
If Ivan wasn't a blazing idiot, Lars wouldn't have had to mutiny him. If Ivan hadn't stranded the crew on the frozen shit hole called Callisto Prime, Lars wouldn't have needed to go illegal for funds. If Ivan had been remotely competent at any point in his damn career, Lars wouldn't be in this office. He would be alive and have a wonderful body. He would be gently exploring his suppressed sexuality with a Mattie that was not completely insane from deep space. He would have been... happy and normal.
Ivan was going to fucking pay for ruining everything Lars loved.
Pulled from internal monologue, Lars listened intently. The bunny pressed a soft looking paw to thin air, producing several screens filled with legal nonsense. “Only full citizens may own property or intellectual companies. You vill not qualify for this for several years. The most you can do is co-own a business venture or property vith a still living entity that has full citizenship.”
“That'll do bunny. That'll do.” Lars muttered to himself, scheming evilly. He was going to make Ivan's financial and legal life a living hell.
Chapter 23: Drinking Solves Everything
Alfred didn't really know what to expect when Lars returned. The hologram had been so angry when he left via e-mail for his court date. He wouldn't even talk to Ivan directly or teach Natalia grammar. It was up to cheerful Alfred to perk up the spirits of the home. In his cutest red booty shorts and netting top, the happy being entered the living room.
Facing the possibility of losing his accountant, store manager, and big words reading guy, Ivan was brooding on the couch. “I should bribe him to stay. Money talks.” The handsome bear of a man pondered options out loud to his lover. He looked to Alfred uncertainly.
“I'm sure someone as strong... and handsome... and endowed as you will think of something smart.” Alfred purred reassuringly. He wedged himself between Ivan's legs to nuzzle his crotch. Ivan blushed hotly and yanked him up by the hair. Kinky. Alfred gripped the fabric of the man's tracksuit in excitement.
“That's enough of that. Just... sit on my lap instead.” Ivan ordered, more bashful than his words suggested.
“Can do boss man.” Alfred complied, crawling into his arms in the most slutty manner possible. “Don't be so anxious. I could help you relax!” Straddling a pink cheeked Ivan, The golden blonde ground his hips down in obvious suggestion.
“N-not so hard.” Ivan stuttered, evidently excited at least a little.
“I'm horny. Fuck me.” Alfred stated cutely, hugging Ivan close.
A loose lipped 'okay' almost fell out of Ivan, but he stopped himself. “I need to figure out if he's leaving. If he is, I need Natalia to pick up the slack.”
Alfred laughed, a magical sound that made Ivan helpless. It was no less than a siren call for the tall beefcake. “She'll never ever do that for you. She's learning to read for the pilot course.”
“I know. I just don't want to loose my baby doll in space.” the saddened father sighed. “... and maybe I don't know enough big words to run a business by myself. Maybe I'm stupid.”
“Shush that negative Nancy talk right this minute! You are smart, and handsome, and have a giant dick, and you piloted a ship for fifteen years that was full of smugglers and pirates... and you killed to protect your family. You're big brave hunk of man meat and I love you.” Alfred professed his passions dominantly, sneaking a hand into Ivan's track pants. Giving Ivan's half hard cock a squeeze, Alfred grinned victoriously. “Feel that? That's the big sexy sign of a real winner. You're a champion and a genius.”
Woozy from all the praise and man handling, Ivan leaned back and moaned. “I love you so much Alfred.” he whimpered, pressing into the touches. “I thought I'd never love again after Vavara, but you always... always make me feel so important.”
“Oh my gods! Do you two just fuck all day!? I'm trying to brush my teeth in here!” Natalia bristled angrily, emerging from the bathroom.
“Only sometimes.” Alfred giggled, biting his lower lip suggestively.
“Fucking shameless. You disgust me.” The daughter stomped off to elsewhere, unimpressed by the other two 'adults' in the room.
“So... can we fuck now?” Alfred asked again, batting his lashes. The sensation of being stuffed was the second most important thing in the world to the loving android. It was only rivalled by earning Ivy's approval and affections.
“Okay.” Ivan mumbled, blushing as he carried Alfred to bed bridal style. Alfred peppered the clean shaven jaw with kisses, murmuring how wonderful his lover was. Ivan was so fun to tie up and tease, and tickle and kiss. The android was intent on just lavishing the happy man all day to be honest.
If only Alfred's afternoon passions weren't interrupted by a knocking on the back door. The noise was persistent and loud. “I swear, if that's the neighbours being upset that I'm so beautiful.” Alfred complained as he got up to answer it. The way Ivan functioned, Alfred wasn't getting any action until the door situation was resolved.
Peeping through the door hole, Alfred saw Lars and Mattie-poo in top form. They had obviously gone shopping today, since Mattie had a comfy looking flannel shirt and a hair cut. Lars also had a physical body somehow, which probably cost heaps of money. Alfred opened the door with glee, “Larsy! Mattie! You're back from court! How did it go?”
Mattie opened his mouth to speak, then looked to a very abashed Lars. “You dick is hanging out, Alfred.” Lars pointed out sagely.
“Oops! Just let me... tuck the old sausage in... and good to go! Come in! I baked lady fingers!” Alfred chatted as they gathered in the kitchen, towing along a horrified Mattie.
“How could you cut off women's fingers and bake them?” The cinnamon roll of an android protested, frightened and cowardly.
“Those are cookies, Mattie. Not people.” Lars assured the scared blonde, taking his hand. Mattie was so wimpy today, ridiculously easy to startle. Dropping a spoon by accident made him flinch and hide behind a glitter encrusted throw pillow.
“Lars, you look good! Look at that face! You have a face I can pinch! I love pinching faces!” Alfred did indeed pinch his face. It looked and felt just like when Lars was alive. If it wasn't for one green and one blue eye that glowed faintly, he would pass as human. “You aren't wearing contacts to stick to one colour!”
“No. I always hid it while alive, but I'm trying to really embrace Lars. I died. I can't really lose anything by being embarrassed.” Lars explained, smiling faintly.
“That's nice.” Alfred stood, then called out loudly. “IVY! GUESTS!”
“I thought we were... oh.” Ivan's complaints died as he left the bedroom. He buttoned up a pyjama top lazily, dropping into a chair at the dining table. “So... Hey.” He greeted flatly.
Lars's pleasant expression soured instantly. “I have demands.”
In the most blase manner, Ivan replied. “Oh. I am surprised.”
The tension of yet another argument between Lars and Ivan could be felt in the air. They had always fought on the ship, and they did now. Both males wanted to lead in opposing ways, trapped at the same intervals every single time. With so much on the line these days, Lars might beat Ivan to a pulp in a fist fight. Almost all androids were built heavy, and made to last.
Alfred thought fast, then smiled. “Boys! Boys! Why don't we have a little fun with this? Make a point, take a shot.” Both regular alcohol and synthohol were put on the table. Androids were originally made to be free of the vices of man. Not surprisingly, an android brewer made the first means of getting shit faced five years after androids were initially sold to the public. Everyone wanted to let go sometimes.
“This is stupid.” Lars argued.
“This is marvellous.” Ivan praised heartily, reaching for the entire bottle of vodka. Alfred slapped his hand away. Ivan pouted with cute violet eyes at the action. Anyone else would have been punched in the face for denying him pleasures. Alfred was passively the gatekeeper of Ivan's joys, and he knew it.
“Lars, you go first. Say one thing you need discussed.” Alfred pulled up an extra chair and poured a shot of clear blue synthohol.
Lars glared at Ivan with clearly murderous intent, taking the shot. He winced after swallowing. “You are going to pay for Mattie and I to have an apartment of our own.”
“Like fuck I am, you mutinying bastard.” Ivan threatened, only to be pinched by Alfred.
“Constructive words, or no vodka.” The motherly yet slutty figure warned sternly.
Ivan was still a chronic alcoholic beneath all his control, looking at the bottle and his lover with equal longing. He sighed, then rested his hands under his face, elbows on the table. “Why am I paying for your apartment?” He was rewarded immediately with a shot that he drank greatefully.
“Because,” Lars drank his next shot with less dramatics, “You aren't paying us to run the shop. We want personal time. We want vacation days. We want rights. We want the ability to buy own own groceries.”
Round after round, Alfred smiled sweetly and served increasing amounts of drinks. All the while he wrote down the rare topics that everyone agreed on. Sixteen shots in, most of the anger had been washed away by vodka and synthohol. After thirty two total shots, no one could really walk or function anymore. Alfred was just serving water now, but no one had noticed yet.
“... I haven't seen my sister since the family moved from Ceres. I miss her so much.” Lars rambled, complete inebriated beyond measure.
“I miss my brother. It sucks that I had to shoot him in the head.” Ivan nodded in agreement, completely reliant on Alfred to stay upright. “I miss my mama, and my brother, and my cousins. I don't... I don't even know if they're alive anymore. They stuck to the stupid pirate code.”
“You're a... a... pirate?” Lars slurred, brows raising in surprise.
“Was a pirate. I can read now, and stuff. I'm a buzz-ness man.”
“Business man you idiot. It's not buzz-ness. You sound like you're having a stroke.” Lars corrected, leaning on a cuddly yet insecure Mattie for support.
“You're having two strokes.” Ivan shot right back, having no idea it was a medical term.
“Let's make it fuckin' three, Doctor. Braginsky.” Lars was just as snide, but far too wasted to fight worth a damn.
“So boys. We can agree that Ivan will pay minimum wage and provide four sick days per financial quarter. In return, Lars has to work regular shifts and not use business earnings for personal purchases. Lars will be paid for teaching Natalia. Ivan no longer owns Lars, but he does legally own Mattie. So Ivan has agreed to sell Mattie to Lars, at the price that matches what it cost to fix Mattie in the first place.” Alfred read off his electric tablet, pausing only to stop Ivan from falling out of his chair. “... to cover the expense of Lars buying his body with business funds.”
“Damn right, you sexy thing.” Ivan slurred, kissing the hand that saved him from gravity.
“... and I want an ap... an apple-appology from Natalia. Turning on the M.A.T.I.E. system 100 percent was so... so sostupid. I had to deleted a piece of my boyfriend because it murdered six people.” Lars was rapidly losing functionality, as all the synthohol really started to hit his processors. Alfred had to tie things up before the guy passed out at the table.
“I'm your boyfriend?” Mattie whispered joyfully with a blush.
“Of course you are. Your my sweet bunny... fudge... appletart thing. I love you somuch.”
“Your incoherence is most endearing.” the more shy blonde cooed, holding up his drunk lover.
Alfred faced the tablet to both drunks, recording mode activated. “Do you both agree to these terms?”
“Yes, yes yes, and um yeah. Appletart.” Lars rambled.
“Spaghetti.” Ivan mumbled, giggling at nothing. When Alfred waved the empty vodka bottle in front of him as incentive, he spoke up more clearly. “I agree. To. The thingy with big words right here. Yes.”
Smirking in victory, Alfred set the tablet down and side lifted Ivan until he was standing. “Good work boys! We're done!”
“Yaaay!” Lars cheered, promptly falling over. He lay on the ground momentarily, then began snoring. Mattie fetched a blanket off the living room couch and carefully tucked it around the sleeping android. Alfred was rather proud of the proceedings.
He should become a politician!
Chapter 24: Roderich Will Never Be Happy
Lars proudly carried a happy Mattie over the threshold. The sparse bachelor's apartment was white walls and black tile floor with a kitchenette. No matter the tiny housing, it was theirs. After doling out over five thousand credits to legally buy Mattie off his dick boss, Lars really didn't have any money left. Between the money stretched lovers there was a fridge, a hot plate, a single pot, and an android charging cord. An actual dock to rest in as Lars charged was just impossible right now. They couldn't even afford a singular mattress.
“Look! Our own place!” Mattie cheered, squirming out of Lars's hold.
“I know! Our own fridge!” Lars exclaimed alongside him, opening the machine. There was nothing but five apples and a box of martian takeout left. The Mandarin symbols on the side, considered a native language, indicated it was orange chicken with edamame rice.
“So... do you want the apples or the half plate of take-out?” Lars asked, scratching his neck.
“That's not enough... but we could split both?” Mattie suggested lightly with a shrug.
The couple sat on the bare floor, silently dining on their lack lustre feast. “I'm still hungry. Let's go eat the plants at work.” Mattie suggested, his tummy grumbling audibly. Lars seriously considered the offer, wondering what the limits of his new tactile body were. Supposedly both their industrial models were capable of processing any organic matter efficiently.
With no paycheck for at least three days, the boys didn't really have a choice. Time to get creative with diet. An idea came to Lars in a bolt of inspiration. “We still have to wrap up legal details with that cop Natalia locked up in the shop. He has a bar fridge in his office.”
“Food.” Mattie drooled at the idea. “Where's his office?”
Lars gestured out the windows to the opposite end of town. It was near where the biodome ended, beside the monorail station. Transmitting the location with a brief touch of skin, the androids looked out the window with hungry ambition. The bar fridge was going to get raided good.
Due to it being a reasonable time of day, the office was still open when the boys arrived. They walked there holding hands, happy just to be alive. Well, alive in a relative sense. Mattie would sometimes stop to graze on decorative flower boxes. Lars turned down the first two offers. On the third, he tried out of curiosity.
While eating flowers for regular humans was stupid and insane, it was viable for androids. Poisons and chemicals that gave humans digestive issues didn't phase a largely metal system. Lars ended up meeting twelve percent of his food needs for the day by ruining planter boxers they passed. It tasted awful, but it sufficed.
Picking a martian rose barb out of his teeth, Lars stood in front of the rented legal office. Both androids zoomed sharp and and focused on what they saw. It was Edelstein by a window, eating a sandwich. Mattie started climbing the building, fixated by the sight two stories up. Lars pulled him off the building with little struggle, just as strong.
“But... sandwich.” Mattie whimpered, still looking on with plaintive hunger.
“I'll distract him with legal stuff. You get the food in his fridge.” Lars whispered in his ear.
“You're so smart.” Matthew whispered back, kissing him on the cheek.
Roderich Edselstein was impressed with how mature and kindly that Lars fellow had behaved. The shamed cop from Ceres Law Orbital Enforcers would take credit for the arrests of Luciano Vargus's remaining crew. Thanks to the volunteered information of Mr. Van Den Berg, Roderich would look like the best cop in all of Ceres. Luciano was the head mafia leader for the entire Jupiter ring system. Roderich was going to make the Interplanetary Patrol look like shit.
Smiling, the posh brunette gazed at the martian shit hole of a town before him. The purple skies were strange, and the slightly heavier gravity was uncomfortable. The sooner Roderich could leave here, the better.
Making a break in a case this big deserved a treat. Roderich left his private rental office, entering a large storage closet with a back window. Upon opening the door, he froze. The back window was wide open, with dark red muddy boot prints all over the place. His private bar fridge was wide open and empty, the lock snapped off and sitting on the floor.
“No! My chocolate mousse cups!” the man cried out in despair. “Damn you Mars!”
Chapter 25: Mister Roboto
SEVEN YEARS LATER
Tomorrow would be the day, but Ivan wasn't ready. He wanted this day to never come, yet it was the happiest point of his parenting career. Natalia, his Natasha, was going to leave for pilot school. After all that hard work with Lars on big words, all the time in that place of books... She was going to fly free. Natalia had never been one to stay planet bound, born among the stars. She was not a child of rocks and soil.
It still hurt that she was leaving. Ivan never thought he would live this long, to see any prodigy of his graduate anything. Ivan had survived to the grand age of forty four, about to turn forty five. As far as he knew, he was the oldest anyone in the family had ever lived. Internally he couldn't help but feel Alfred was the cause. Slipping in new pills, slowly drying Ivan's veins of poison over nine years on Mars.
Ivan stared hard at his reflection in the bathroom mirror. Natalia was living in an apartment five minutes away. The house had been rather empty for seven years. Apparently after two years of threatening to move away, she finally did it. The father scrutinized his face, as if there was a cause for his daughter running off. His face didn't even look right these days, almost youthful. He didn't look forty four. He didn't feel forty four. He had the energy of when he was in his early thirties.
This was all troubling to Ivan. In the nine years Alfred and Ivan had been together, the stubborn Ceres native had seen a doctor once. If anyone tried to drag Ivan to one, he'd kill his way out of there. Alfred had always been kind and tolerant of Ivan's... quirks. In return, Ivan was open minded with Alfred's fashion choices.
“Sunflower!” Ivan called out over his shoulder.
“What!” Alfred yelled back, padding into the bathroom. He was naked, but Ivan never took offence. Could one even become upset looking at fine art?
“Does my face look forty four? What do forty four year old faces look like?” Ivan fretted, feeling along his cheek bones.
“You look very sexy.” Alfred kissed the cheek in assurance, and turned to leave once more. He halted when the other man protested and whined.
“But... I don't know if I look like my age. Maybe there's something wrong with me. No one in my family has ever made it to forty four before. I don't know what forty four year old people are supposed to look like.” Ivan was running himself into the ground anxiously.
He stopped being mad about Alfred slipping in nanotechnology pills early on in their long term relationship. Ivan didn't have much of a choice. If he stopped taking his three little 'vitamins' a day, he started blacking out and bleeding internally. It was really starting to bother him how dependent he was on tiny objects he didn't understand. Additionally, not having died yet was messing with his psyche. No speech his father or brother gave him, prepared Ivan for surviving this long.
He was turning forty five in a week, and he wasn't dealing with it very well. Alfred already had boxed up decorations in a closet. Ivan wasn't supposed to look, even though he already had. They were colours Ivan liked, playful designs stamped with martini glasses. He was surprised it wasn't penises and anal beads themed like Alfred's new years decorations. That party had been wild, especially towards the end.
“You'll be fine muffin.” Alfred assured him with a pat on the back. “Oh, how many bottles of vodka did you want ordered? I have the synthohol ready, but we only have two bottles of regular stuff.”
“I'll let you know later.” Ivan answered absently, staring hard at his reflection. His purple eyes saw nothing new to judge or detect. “I know there's something up with you.” he whispered threateningly to the silvered pane of glass.
“Did the mirror answer back?” Alfred teased, a dimpled smile on his angelic face.
“I have important investigatings to do. I'll be back in an hour.” Ivan announced suddenly, brushing past a nude Alfred. He pulled on his winter coat and family scarf. The ratty pink one of before was long replaced with a newer one, as was Ceres custom. After all, you only made a scarf if you got married. Alfred's own fluffy red scarf was akin to a burlesque feather boa. Red, blue and white pompom ends were bright with patriotic martian colours.
“Investigations, babe. It's investigations.” Alfred drawled, following him briefly.
“I can call it whatever I want! I'm a grown man!” Ivan hated being corrected, even if he was learning more complex words with time. The thought of being fucked over at tax time without Lars was awful. That jerk was so smug and well learned, it literally made Ivan angry enough to stomp off with a book and attempt to read. Ivan would out word Lars, and make him look like an idiot. Him and that call-edge, collage... core-ledge? whatever! That weird sounding school Lars claimed to attend once. Fuck that place!
Out and about with a new bottle of vodka and a sports magazine, Ivan was determined to find a nice place he could get buzzed and try some spite learning. He decided to leave through the flower shop and check up on things. Mattie would not stop eating plants after over six years, and now Lars had the habit. It was like keeping sugar from children.
“Hello boys, how's business?” he asked the room in general.
Lars was leaning on a wall, and shrugged. Mattie smiled brightly, waving back in greeting. “I ate a petunia.”
“Don't eat the red ones. They're popular.” Ivan didn't even scold them anymore. It was a wasted effort. He simply ordered extra cheap flowers as decoys and counted it as a loss.
“Okay!” Mattie replied, cute as a button. Ivan ruffled his favourite employee's hair, sparing Lars a cutting cursory glance. The two ex-captains had never got along, still didn't, and never would. Fine by Ivan, as long as the bloody prick worked. “Sweep something or clean instead of staring at me.” Ivan rumbled at Lars as he left. He didn't stick around for a response.
Now, where could one get wasted and nobody would be bothersome? Yes, the boring book filled place called library. That was where Natalia started, and she could barely read in the beginning. Now, she could write really impressive sentences. She never even asked Alfred to help.
After holing up in the dusty miserable building for an hour, Ivan was at a loss. He had only legitimately read three pages of an article. Normally, he merely skimmed for little words he actually knew and pieced the rest together via logical deduction. In this manner, he could read the same speed as everyone else. Reading every single word was terrible!
It was okay. Alfred had his back for most fancy words. Today Ivan had achieved a new milestone, an inspirational one at that. He could fully read and understand the word 'inspirational'. The spelling of it was absolutely mangled to hell when he wrote it with a pen, but he knew what to aim for.
Excited, Ivan picked up his now empty vodka bottle and magazine. Sometimes, Alfred would write the words Ivan learned on paper and stick it to the fridge. Then the whole world knew how great Ivan was. Yes, it was time to share his latest intellectual leap!
Ivan went to dial Alfred's communicator number, then paused. He had a feeling, a distinct sensation the phone was going to ring. He let the ear piece just hang off the hem of his winter sweater collar like usual in wait. Maybe... maybe Ivan had super powers of incoming phone call prediction!
That was actually kind of fucked up to think about. Ivan decided he might have to talk about it... probably. Ugh. Talking about his problems was horrible. It was a punishment typically only used on his child. His child that was... moving into space forever.
Oh, He was sad again. Maybe Alfred could make the sorrow go away.
Ivan answered the incoming call on his phone, half a ring in. “Hi Lars. Why are you bothering me.”
“How... How did you know I was calling?”
“I could feel the stupid from across town.” Ivan drawled sarcastically. “Why are you bothering me?”
“My sister is visiting and Mattie decided to throw a house party. He wants you to come.” The dread and resignation was audible in Lar's voice. Mattie could be heard in the background, yelling “Hello, co-creator!”
“If Alfred's going, I'd like that.” Ivan replied.
“He's already over, hanging up pictures of houses. They... they don't know what the stars they're doing.”
Ivan gave a hearty laugh. Oh sweet funny Alfred. “That sounds about right. What time?”
“An hour after your kid leaves. Try not to drink all the booze.” Lars was frosty as usual these days. There was no polite pretenses. There was no chain of command to hold their bonds. Ivan was actually glad he didn't have to play nice with the guy anymore. Lars was simply a really hard worker that Ivan simply kept acquiring in one form or another.
“If you stop being a smart ass.” Ivan countered, rather enjoying taunting people. Lars hung up suddenly, automatically handing Ivan another victory. “Ah, feels so good to win.” He gloated to open air.
The entire walk home, unsolved problems buzzed about his mind like flies. Carrying the empty vodka bottle, Ivan was quite miserable about his research outing. He had drained an entire bottle of vodka and felt nothing. There was no side effect at all. Mostly, he felt over hydrated and uncomfortable. No matter his decades of generous drinking, he should be at least slightly buzzed.
Moping darkly, he didn't bother to spook the employees out front. Ever since Lars helped him go extra super legitimate, the flower shop was starting to do well. Well enough that he could hire two extra people. Kiku and Herakles were forgettable but good workers. They didn't eat the damn plants, they didn't sass back, and they knew flowers.
Entering the apartment, Ivan was surprised to see Alfred in top form. Skin tight black leather, black fringe, and rhinestones emphasized his lean body in standard revealing manner. “Honey bunches!” Alfred greeted generously, giving a very welcome molestation of a hug.
“Why are you home? I thought you were at Mattie's apartment.” Ivan replied, patting Alfred's well showcased ass in appreciation. He then separated to take off his coat and scarf.
“I missed you, so I tracked your phone with GPS, calculated the best way to find you. Then I went to that location. I wanted snuggles.” Alfred replied easily, quick to hold his hand.
“Ah. You annoyed Natasha again.” Ivan surmised, gladly taking any touch he offered.
It was Alfred's turn to mope, cuddling Ivan's side when he sat on the worn couch. “I'm going to miss her so much. She's too cool for me now. Why are twenty five year old children so ungrateful!?”
“I think twenty five year old children are called adults.” Ivan sighed, equally depressed. “Where did she go?”
“She said I was cramping her style. She's out with her friends from the pilot program. I'm not... ugly am I? Did I do something wrong? I just wanted to feed her treats on the last day.” Alfred fretted anxiously, pressing his face into Ivan's loose track suit top.
“No, you're perfect. She's just being independent. I'll miss my little princess muffin too. She was so cute and friendly when she was little. Did I show you all her baby pictures?” Ivan had shown him every picture by now, memorized every pose of his princess's unsmiling face.
“No. Show me.” Alfred replied, wiping a few loose tears from his eyes. If he started crying about Natalia leaving, Ivan was going to start crying too. That was when the alcohol and old family ship videos would come out. Before you knew it, they would have blown a whole day on nostalgia, drinking, and overly emotional sex. Ivan didn't have the luxury of time today. He had to be a functional being not covered in tear stains and hickeys.
“You never told me how many vodka bottles you needed.” Alfred sniffled, just as eager to dry up the impending tear festival.
“None.” Ivan replied flatly, looking away. The response was shocking and extremely out of character. Alfred turned the other man's face in soft moisturized hands. Dimly lit blue eyes scanned him three times in utmost disbelief.
“Are you sick, or tired, or... You always have at least three. Did you catch a cold?”
During the affectionate pestering, Ivan could only frown. “I think... I think there's something wrong with me sunflower.” he admitted for the first time in years. It was hard to admit he might be ill or unwell. The very suggestion he had weaknesses and fears was terrible, especially coming from himself.
“Are you okay? Do I need to sex you better? I have fresh made fudge in the fridge, and lots of kisses.” Alfred was committed to the cause it seemed. It was better to tell the wonderful lover Ivan's problems to prevent the cutie from getting upset.
Ivan looked to him with heartfelt longing, and relief. It was time to tell somebody something. “I... I can't get drunk anymore. I drank a bottle in twenty minutes and I felt nothing. Nothing. It's like water now.”
“I'm sure that's normal somewhere.” Alfred offered his condolences weakly. Even he didn't believe his words.
“I haven't been sick in five years, and I don't sleep as much, and when I dream...” Ivan paused, uncertain. “You wouldn't believe me. It's crazy.”
“What is it?” Alfred pushed the conversation gently. It wasn't often Ivan opened up about his problems.
“I... I dream in black and white now. Everything is... in this void, and the dream is these dots of light, and I feel weird, and... I don't understand, but it's probably related to my super powers.” Ivan babbled, totally lost in the subject. He had never been good with self expression.
“Dreams in the void... and you have super powers?”
Ivan shrugged sheepishly. “I can tell when the phone is about to ring. It's a new thing. Well, newer thing.”
Alfred looked away this time, looking horribly guilty. “Do you wants some fudge? I think it's time for fudge.”
“Alfred.” Ivan stated seriously. “You know something.” The android tried to stand, but Ivan set a heavy hand on his shoulder.
“Well, um. We made you go to the doctor five years ago, and you hated it. You got so mad, you didn't even want to see the results.” Alfred twiddled his thumbs nervously as he rambled.
Ivan fumed at the thought of seeing a doctor again. Last time, he stabbed a nurse with a pen and climbed out a window to freedom. Hospitals were great white building of the dead, and he never wanted to see one. He willingly sent blood samples off in a desperate bid to keep the evil lab coat people away. Still, Ivan let Alfred talk more with a nod.
“Well. You still had cancer.” Alfred finally spit out the truth, glancing over.
Ivan was astonished. “But, but the tiny robot things in my blood fixed that.”
“That's not... That's not how it works babe. There is no real cure for cancer. Nanotechnology just eats and replaces the cancer cells faster than they can spread. If someone is really young or healthy, the body eventually grows those parts back on it's own. Then the body ejects the nanos.”
“So... I grew back all my parts and I'm a regular person again?” Ivan interjected hopefully.
Alfred frowned. “No. In so many ways, no.”
“I don't understand. I need fudge.” Ivan murmured, paling. He did understand, and he hated it. He loved amaretto fudge more, and prayed it would make him feel better. After munching silently on sweet sweet fudge, The couple finally looked each other.
“So... uh, how much of me is not normal.” Ivan dared to ask.
“I don't know. A lot, maybe. I'm not very good at tech stuff. Felix at the shop might know, or Toris.” Alfred admitted. “The shop is open, and we have like... four hours until we see Natalia off.”
Another bite of sweet sweet fudge. Delicious amaretto confection, wash Ivan's problems away! After savouring the sugar a moment, Ivan licked his fingers clean and stood. “Then we better get over there.”
Ivan hated the software shop so much. He hated all the robot guts visible through a window. He hated the smells of chemicals. He hated the stacks of computer discs laying around. It was only marginally better than being in a hospital. Ivan might not be willing to stab a programmer with a pen and escape out a window, but he was damn close.
“Stop wiggling. You'll be okay. Felix is just fabulous.” Alfred promised with the absolute gayest of dismissive hand waves.
“I want Toris, or Vash. I don't want Felix.” Ivan mumbled, sulky as ever.
“You might not have a choice dearest. The shop looks busy today.”
“I hate Felix.” The ash blonde grumbled and complained intermittently during the thirty minute wait time. Two androids came and went, clearly getting patched up. One was holding on their damaged face skin with duct tape as they read a magazine.
Finally, it was their turn. An oil stained mechanic with cheaply cut hair emerged from the busy office. It was Vash, a man with the charms of a stone. Basically, he was the best guy to talk to in the shop. He cut straight to business, then kicked you out.
“Here, Vashy-poo!” Alfred greeted in song, on first name basis with all the employees.
“Ugh.” The man sighed in grim resignation. “It's you.”
“Not today! You're not that lucky, cute puff!” Alfred chirped, dragging a reluctant Ivan into the office. Ivan sat, despite itching to escape the claustrophobic room. After a long moment, Vash leaned forward from behind the desk.
“Why are you here?”
“Ivy needs a nano count for his blood. He's curious.” Alfred explained, always a chatty fellow.
Vash grunted in affirmative, retrieving a complex looking piece of head gear. It was metal and measuring devices in white casings, with rubber coated wires trailing out the back. When Ivan flinched at the device nearing, the technician paused. “It's a diagnostics tool. It's not going to kill you.”
“Fine.” Ivan hissed, staying still for once. The series of machines was strapped to his head, probably looking stupid. This was all stupid. Alfred was just getting Ivan all wound up for nothing.
“It'll take a few minutes to do a scan. What brought you in?” Vash jumped right to the meat of things. It was appreciated silently.
Ivan began, wanting to get this over with. “I can't get drunk anymore. At all. I used to get headaches, but now I don't, ever. When I go out for a smoke... the cigarettes don't work anymore.”
“I see. Have your senses changed?”
Ivan looked away nervously. Finally he spoke up. “I can, um, tell when the phone is about to ring. Before it rings. Sometimes I can tell who it is.”
Vash said nothing, looking at his computer screen. “Hmm. Are you seeing new colours, or losing colours?”
A spark of recognition, of fear, was in Ivan's heart. “I only dream in black and white now. Sometimes I see... blue? This blue, but only a little.” He gestured to his lover's eyes. Alfred took his clammy hand and kissed it in an attempt to soothe Ivan. It helped a little.
“Interesting. Please wait a moment.” The gruff professional left Ivan to stew in his own terror. After what felt like eternity, the blonde returned. He had a box of children's crayons and a colouring book page. “I'm going to put things in terms you can understand, Mr. Braginsky.” Vash said this in the most neutral way a human could manage.
“Okay.” Ivan replied, as the stupid headgear was taken off his shaggy head.
Stowing the contraption in a desk drawer, Vash sat once more. Taking out a green crayon, he gestured to the colouring book page. “Pretend this gingerbread man picture represents your body. This is a healthy normal human body.”
“Okay.” Ivan went along with things, looking at the uncoloured holiday picture.
“This green crayon is cancer. Cancer kills you. Now... your body looks like...” Without warning, Vash scribbled wildly all over the gingerbread man picture with heavy green lines. After a frantic minute of scribbles, the picture was a mess of green. “This is your body. Its very very sick. Now this crayon represents our nanotechnology supplements.”
Vash now held a sparkly black crayon, and scrawled more messy lines on the picture. The gingerbread man was barely visible under a mess of black and green. After a moment, the professional put the crayons back and handed Ivan the picture. A grim realization gripped Ivan.
“I'm... supposed to be dead, aren't I?” Ivan asked, praying internally for denial.
“Not entirely, but yes. The nano pills are losing to the cancer. To keep you alive, they've started replacing parts. Mostly in the temporal lobes, but also here and here. It's the entire the base of the spine at this point.” Vash turned the computer screen to the couple, gesturing to some abstract chart of the human body.
Alfred nodded, seeming to get what was going on. Ivan blinked, having no idea what the hell that meant.
“Your brain. Your brain is turning into tiny robots.” Vash explained dryly, unimpressed.
“O-oh, of course. My brain.” Ivan looked down at the helpful picture. “Am I android now?”
“No. Technically, according to...” He went to gesture to the medical read outs, then realized it was a pointless action. “No. You still have forty percent of your original brain left. If you install a nano repair centre in your body, you don't need to take supplements anymore. It will also make the bots stronger. Possibly strong enough to halt the cancer.”
“But... I'll be a robot man.” Ivan blurted out in fear.
Vash was not amused. “You're already twelve percent 'robot man'. I advise you either write up your will, or get a charging dock installed.”
Ivan's head was swimming from all these revelations. He didn't know how to process any of it. “I want to go home.” He sputtered, standing without warning. It was a miracle he stayed this long. Alfred ushered him out carefully, like he was delicate glass.
After paying for services at the cash register, Ivan stumbled out in shock. Hiding emotions behind his thick family scarf, It took a minute to compose himself. Being twelve percent robot things was not... not terrible? Oh it was terrible! “Sunflower! I'll be okay right?” Ivan asked, feeling lost.
Alfred followed in his hot red fur coat and black stripper boots, holding a hand in comfort. “You'll be okay sugar.”
“I'm not a robot right? I'm not going to lose who am I right?” Ivan took in any comfort he could find.
“No Ivy, You'll always be you. You can't stress about getting better like this. You just need to focus on kisses... and fucking me later.” Alfred promised sweetly, cute as ever in his fluffy boa of a marriage scarf.
“I can do that.” Ivan muttered, relieved. He wasn't a scary mindless robot... yet. Taking deep breath, he steadied his racing heart. After a moment of tranquility in the chilly streets, they began to walk home. There was only one thing left on Ivan's conscience.
“I'll install a charging dock... for you. But you have to tell me something first.” Ivan proposed.
“What is it sexy?” Alfred asked innocently, smiling.
“How much of your body is nano things?”
“Well...” Alfred's adorable freckled face scrunched in thought. “My brain, and my spine, and um, some of my bones. Other parts are metal alloy. So, I think... eleven percent? Maybe it's thirteen. Mattie is like, forty percent mechanical, but all his bones are metal alloy. Lars is a bit less.”
Ivan froze in his tracks. It was impossible, it was outrageous! The reality of his life was ridiculous. The fact was, Ivan was one percent more computer parts than his fully manufactured husband of five years. Ivan Braginsky was unofficially a robot man.
Chapter 26: Happy Ending
“One Mr. Money!” Lars cooed, carefully scooped the white bunny into his arms. The bunny was loaded with care into his cage. Lars didn't like boxing up his bunnies like this, but guests would be over in twenty minutes. The bunnies would stress out near so many strangers otherwise. “Mattie! Where is Miffy and Jenever!?”
“One Miffy!” Mattie entered the room in song, arms loaded with three more bunnies. Miffy the brown bunny was handed over with care, separate in her little area from Mr. Money. “One Jenever.” Another brown bunny was handed over. “And Edam. Did you see Cheese?” Edam was the youngest rabbit, to be sold to a loving home soon. Cheese, a light blonde bunny, was to be sold as well.
“Cheese! Cheese! Come here fluffy bunny!” Mattie called out, lifting the bed to look underneath. A little blonde bunny hopped out, enticed by the carrot stick Lars held out. It was scooped off the hard wood floor gingerly, Put away in it's floor level cage.
“Okay. Last poop check.” Lars spoke to the room in general. Bunnies pooped like machines. The deposits were dry and easily cleaned, but annoying. Even litter box trained, bunnies sometimes pooped for the sake of pooping.
“On it, pilot.” Mattie replied confidently, grabbing the dust pan and broom. Despite the removal of the homicidal M.A.T.I.E. program, and years of therapy, Mattie's strange nickname stuck. Lars would forever be 'Pilot' or 'Captain'. Not the worst things to be called in public.
After the fourth clutter check of the hour and a look around, The couple's warmly decorated apartment was ready for a house party. Filled with regret when he died, Lars was now determined to enjoy what humanity offered. Mattie and Lars painted, though it was mostly bunnies. They both skated all year round, since Mars was never completely thawed. They went camping in the summers, exploring dwarf pine meadows. They sang and danced. They tried their best to truly live. The photos on every wall were evidence of this.
Alfred had come earlier over to 'help', in the usual capacity that he did. The fella loved parties to a fault. There was glittery pictures of houses and scarves, shiny garland hanging off all the walls. The android assumed 'house party' was to celebrate that houses existed. Mattie went the opposite route and assumed 'house party' meant celebrating having a warm house. Thus, he was keeping a sharp eye on the thermostat. Missing the initial point, they at least ended up at the same result.
The reason for such festivities was Lar's sister Emma visiting. Her adorable brat child Henri was coming over for a Martian student exchange program. The proud mother had took it upon herself to shepherd the child over herself. It was during the common planetary alignments of Ceres and Mars. Not too much of a hassle, but it still took two months with a stop over on Vesta.
Since they only saw each other once every few years, this was a big deal. Where big deals happened, Alfred and Mattie followed with hot glue guns and glitter. “I put out the bunny themed appetizers.” Mattie informed him, putting the cleaning supplies away in the bedroom. That was where all the bunnies were stored.
There was bunny themed devilled eggs, bunny cupcakes, bunny mini-burgers, and three kinds of salads. It was basically the perfect party, in Lars's mind. It was almost perfect, except for... “Mattie! Do you have the napkins?”
“Yes bunny.” Mattie replied cheerfully. Paw print napkins were placed with delicate care in Lars's hands. “You can relax now.”
Fidgeting nervously, Lars was pushed to the arm chair by the book shelves. Mattie then pushed him on his ass with a final huff of effort. “There. Now... breathe.”
“You're bossy today.” Lars complained in playful manner.
Mattie looked shocked, pausing his own banter. “I am? I'm sorry.”
“It's okay.” Lars's words were not terribly soothing, but he did try. Mattie had a little moment, stress eating a cute bunny cupcake to calm down. After a minute he seemed normalized. It was barely in time, for the door bell went off off.
“I'll get it.” Lars came to the rescue, placing the bunny napkins by the cupcakes. He then dashed to the door, and opened it. He had no fear it might be an intruder. Both androids were capable of breaking human bones like cardboard.
It was Kiku and Herakles from the flower shop. They were fully human, but very friendly. Kiku was a painfully polite computer nerd that always had questions for a politely shy Mattie. It was excruciating to watch them attempt disengaging conversation. A few years back, Lars was sure Kiku was flirting like crazy with Mattie. It turned out he was just cripplingly kind and polite to most mechanical things.
Herakles just enjoyed drinking and watering flowers. He was the best friend of Kiku, so you couldn't have one without the other. The dark haired Asiatic type entered after a bow, handing Lars a cactus that vaguely resembled a bunny face. “Happy house warming and ma –” the brunette Herakles elbowed Kiku hard mid sentence. “Hai, I will not say more.”
“You won't say what?” Lars asked, puzzled.
“It would be impolite to say, Lars-san.” Kiku pointed out with mute expression.
Lars didn't have hours to needle at the guy's social constructs. “Okay then.” He dismissed with a shrug.
“I brought smoked fish snacks.” Herakles motioned to an already open bag of dry chips in his arms. They smelled powerfully horrible.
“Just... uh, put them in the kitchen.” Far far away from the snack table in the common room. Lars kept the second part to himself.
“Hai, Lars-san.” Kiku gave a brief ever so cordial smile, and lead the way. Another guest was already in the hall, clomping over.
It was another fellow android from the hockey team Mattie played on. The guy was taller than the door and easily strong enough to bend any metal. He went by the simple name of “Crusher”, barely passing the sentience test after three attempts. He looked quite human with red glowing eyes, working at the local scrap yard.
“I bring synthohol jello shots.” Crusher greeted Lars with a crooked grin, hanging Lars a tray of greed wiggling cubes.
Sucking one up, Lars waved the guy in. Yummy, orange apple flavoured jelly! “Where's your dad?” He asked, wiping his mouth with the back of a sleeve.
“Papa is down stairs. Bringing present in.” The monolithic android explained, suddenly distracted by the bunny cupcakes. If Crusher wanted to go do something, there was literally no stopping him.
Crusher's father soon appeared, much shorter and weaker. He was named Gilbert, just as albino as his son with piercing red eyes. The exuberant character used to be the AI of a military tank run amok. He was retired from the Ceres army now. Dabbling in programming when he wasn't a club DJ, the proud technical “father” never ceased to brag about his “son”.
“Hey Lars! I bring ze most awesome present!” The android huffed, barely capable of carrying his gift. The albino genius was more biological then metal, much like Alfred. A massive metal cube was eased into Lars's stronger grip.
“It's... a cube.” Lars was puzzled by everything the guy did.
“Zat is ze best shape, made from ze best metal. Military grade alloy. It is very nice cube, ja?” Gilbert proclaimed, puffing out his chest in pride after an obnoxious laugh.
“Thank you for the cube.” the taller man mumbled, having no idea what to do with it.
“Mattie! I brought ze cube! Vhere is your sound system? I vill make this place party so hard!” Gilbert yelled, passing Lars with less than present manners.
“I like cubes! Thank you!” Mattie yelled back from the kitchen. Lars scanned the common room as it filled with people. It was a struggle to stow the large useless object away with so little room. The tall blonde gave up and dumped it on the floor. Crusher immediately sat on it as a chair, eating the gifted bunny cactus with Mattie.
Felix and Toris, the married couple that ran the software shop, arrived next. They brought tiny triangular sandwiches. After that was Gilbert's ancient human owner, Tino. The war veteran was fully human, rapidly approaching his sixtieth birthday. He was a enthusiastic coach to the regional android hockey team, quick to drink or joke.
Mattie was becoming more worried as time passed, waiting for the last three guests. Alfred was horrifyingly late like usual. Gilbert gave up waiting and started feeling the green synthohol shots to every android in the room. Gin and sake were also equally distributed to all present humans. The albino DJ was somewhat of a menace at parties, determined to get everyone drunk to hard techno.
“Where is Alfred?” Mattie whined, barely audible amidst the laser show and pulsing sound. The smoke machine was starting up already. Thankfully, Lars had sound proofed the hell out of the bedroom to stop the bunnies from stressing out.
Dragging his anxious lover into the quieter hall, Lars hugged him in comfort. “It's okay. It's just a party.”
“It's not just a party, it's really really important! It... just is!” Mattie looked like a flustered wreck, glancing down the hall.
“Why though?” Lars asked, curious. It was odd that people were bringing nice presents along with food. Was there a forgotten birthday or anniversary the former captain forgot? He was usually great with that stuff, secretly sentimental.
“IT JUST IS! I need a drink!” Mattie stormed back inside without an explanation. He was never this moody or loud ever, deepening the mystery. Lars didn't have time to investigate, for his sister Emma and Alfred arrived. The younger sister was in typical Ceres party mode. She wore a covering dress of black and red with gold ribbon, complimenting her family scarf.
Alfred looked like an absolute slut in rhinestone studded black leather, as per usual. A grumpy Ivan was not far behind, in his shitty black tracksuit with trademark red stripe. “Lars! I thought you would look fancier!” Emma greeted, hugging her brother warmly.
“He doesn't know yet.” Alfred commented.
“Oh, right.” Emma nodded in secret exchange, grinning.
“What don't I know!?” Lars demanded, frustrated.
“Everything. Where's the booze?” Ivan complained, looking incredibly depressed. Fucking ass hole.
“Don't mind him. He's sad Natty Nat left.” Alfred offered a strained smile. It was obvious the android missed the sour woman as well. Lars wasn't going to miss Ivan's daughter at all. Natalia was vicious and cruel, a natural born captain in the making. A shark would be better company.
Once more ignored, everyone breezed past him to get wrecked and graze on snacks. Emma handed her older brother a stuffed luggage case, smiling in dazzling manner. “Let's join the party already.”
“I though you were bringing Henri.” Lars objected, still confused.
“I lied. You are really dense.” the sibling teased, leaving him to haul in her crap.
Frustrated, Lars followed. Stowing Emma's things away in the bedroom, the tall android emerged to the chaos. The shared apartment was buzzing with electric spirit. Over half the attendees were already drunk and dancing. Gilbert wore neon shutter shades as he stood on the dining table, playing his synthesizing laser harp to hot music.
Pushing through the crowded apartment, Mattie was spotted by the snack table. He was wearing a ridiculously nice blazer and having a nervous break down. The chocolate bunny cupcakes seemed to be his improvised therapy at the moment.
“What's the matter?” He whispered softly, close to Mattie's ear.
“I'm... I'm fine. I'm fine. I'm just thirsty.” Mattie stammered, sipping a cup of fruit punch. He obviously wasn't okay, but Lars wasn't going to push him. After a few minutes of mingling, the last techno song ended on a soft note.
“Crusher! Lights and fog machine!” Gilbert ordered, as the crowd parted around Lars. “Yes Papa.” The son of sorts grunted, turning on a high powered flashlight. Speechless and confused, Lars stood still as a light beam focused on his position. Mattie emerged from the back, looking ready to pass out. “H-hey.” he whispered.
“What in the stars is going on?” Lars asked the room openly. Several people chuckled in amusement.
Without warning, Matthew knelt before Lars in inch deep sparkly fog. It was like a dream sequence turned reality. He spoke with shaky cadence, looking terrified yet extremely happy. “Lars Van Den Berg, you are the string that ties me to the world. You are the wool that comforts my soul. You keep me warm in the dark of space... W-will... Will you exchange scarves with me?” With unsteady hands, a silvered pair of knitting needles was retrieved from the satin blazer. It was presented with trembling care, in Mattie's closed fingers.
Lars was hit by the truth like an asteroid in the face. Mattie was taking him to wool stores lately, always asking Ceres ceremonial questions. He was bringing up theoretical wedding ideas all last week. Mattie had stressed out harder than usual over the party for days. Lars was really and truly dense.
“Ohmystars, Ohmi-... I'm so... I...” Lars sputtered incomprehensible nonsense, heart overflowing with love. His eyes blurred and watered over as he struggled to answer sensibly. “I... I will marry you Mattie! I will, forever and ever. I loveyousomuch I can't even –” Lars gasped for air, on the verge of hyperventilating. He roughly accepted the sacred knitting needles, standing still with difficulty.
Mattie took off Lars's old ratty scarf with tender care. It symbolized ridding of past commitments. It was stripping away of the shame from before. After all, Lars had been left at the altar shortly after graduating college. You couldn't just get rid of the scarf after a proposal. It had to be removed by another.
Ivan offered a lit cigarette for the ceremonial burning of the old scarf, officially destroying all old bonds. Quivering with the urge to kiss Mattie, Lars finally unleashed his burgeoning joy. They made out passionately as the old scarf burned in a cheap metal garbage can beside them. Alfred was quick to put out the fire before it got too tall and set off the sprinklers.
“To love! Ve vill party for happiness!” Gilbert called out, starting up a new song. The room thrummed with intoxicated life as Lars held Mattie close. They danced intimately, in shared jubilation and senses.
“I'm sorry I was so dense.” Lars spoke loudly, partially drunk.
“I left you hints for months. I was scared you would say no.” Mattie confessed, smiling so hard his perfect white teeth showed.
“I'll be yours until we turn to piles of rust. Until the sun explodes.” Lars vowed, kissing the centre of his world senseless. He would be loyal for eternity, beyond rust and radiation. They would be intertwined forever, and Lars would always do right until the end of the solar system. Mattie was his guiding star.
Mattie was his dream in the void.