Hidden 4 mos ago Post by Count Numbers
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Somewhere in a book that almost nobody has read:

Ultimately the resistance, while noble, was a complete failure at anything as anything other than a distraction away from Hypatia. The doors sealed with two part epoxy didn’t have time to set before the arrival of BlackSun security forces. External communications had been cut before the first jackboot tracked Miami mud into the foyer. The fight was short but overwhelming. Two of Miles Singh’s molars were cracked in the process of removing him from a computer terminal. It’s unknown what it was he was trying to do. Singh’s only given statement: “It didn’t work, so it doesn’t matter.”

The Siege of Canaveral had been doomed like Troy before it. The gates had been opened from the inside.

November:

Singh claps his hands and rubs them together. “Perfect. Excellent. The AR glasses are a nice touch. Alright. It shouldn’t be far from here. I’ll get the herring, but I’m out of whoopie cushions. Have to do something much funnier, I think.” He claps his hands and bounces on his feet, “I’ve got just the thing! Would you mind forming a circle around me, for the walk over? It’s better as a surprise, I think.”

"While we're on the topic, I'm thinking we need to work on our comic timing," Red was saying; words flowed freely and thoughtlessly from her. "We don't have the range of facial expressions to really sell certain reactions, you know? There's a bunch I can do with my eyes -" her eyes glowed devilishly red, sparkled with over-the-top diamond glitter, pupils turned into heart shapes, and so on - "but it's hard to get the right beat externally. Internally we can get a rhythm going, you know? Escalate and escalate and escalate and branch and veer and control the right questions, but externally the rhythm's uncontrollable unless, presumably, we took the time to learn the person well enough to predict. What do you think?"


“If you ask me as an engineer, I think the problem is the face.” He considers. “I’d wonder about a screen, and using cartoon expressions. Illustrators learned quickly that for comedy, simplified expressions could afford a much wider range of exaggeration that can be read more clearly. Being able to replace your ‘face’ with a meme would probably be a great comedic effect, if you didn’t overdo it. If you ask me as a parent, well…” he thinks. “The best jokes are the ones only meant for a few people anyway. Like this one, I hope.”

Nobody spares him a second look as he wonders aloud about this, even with the shockingly garish glasses. They mustn’t look so bad in AR.

It wasn’t much of a walk at all. Thrones is small, and Dad lives right in the middle of it.

“Wait here for me. Wait and hope, even. Ha! Here, give me your phone number, there’s a camera in my glasses and I’ll stream the feed to you. If anything happens, I’ll need you to bail me out. Really, though, I just don’t want you to miss seeing this, and I’ve only got the one golden ticket.”

"Which one?" they all ask in unison.


He hums thoughtfully. “Red’s, if you don’t mind?” He doesn’t explain his reason.

"I knew getting cosmetic surgery to look more like you would pay off," said Red, winking and producing a super-cool business card that Crystal had designed for her. Red's request had been 'make it look like the devil's myspace page, black text on neon purple background with broken green textures and clipart of monster trucks and stuff'. Crystal had not explained her reaction to the request, but she had gone above and beyond.


You could guide a ship to harbour with the brightness of his smile as he saves it to his phone. The video call is sent the next second. The card ends up in a vest pocket over his heart.

Nobody looks at him as he walks in. Doors open for him, and the lobby elevators arrive before he can press a button. Has he hacked the place? You’ve watched him the whole time, and you picked the company. Pick a card, any card…

He’s at the executive suite, the size of a four bedroom apartment on Aevum. There’s a dozen people in it. They don’t see him. He walks up to the coffee machine and reaches into the fishing vest for a tin of herring, and dumps it into the machine. Nobody says a word. There isn’t a server room, per se, because the building’s made of it. But there is a sysadmin, identified by who’s getting yelled at to fix the coffee machine like it’s an IT problem. Dad dodges as the sysadmin almost walks straight through him, and out of Dad’s pocket comes a flashdrive with a skull and bones on it. The skull has googley eyes.

Dad makes for the elevator and he’s on his phone. He’s looking at FriendSmile’s file repository. One macro to scan it for its store page commits. A second to send a mandatory security update to the app for a zero-file replacement of its main executable. A third to format the core repository to blank disk.

If they don’t have an airgapped, physical backup? Then the app is destroyed by the time Dad is hurrying, briskly, out the ground floor elevator.

“Go, go, go,” he hisses under his breath. “Start walking and don’t stop. Normally I don’t leave the flashdrive in, but, well, it means nobody can think you did it standing out here, doesn’t it?” He cups a hand over his mouth to hide his laughter. “Try and guess how I did it.”
Hidden 4 mos ago 4 mos ago Post by Thanqol
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November doesn't have an adrenaline response to risky situations. There's a tight, organized, intellectual professionalism to her deployment while waiting and to her escort motion as they retreat. It's one of her most obviously robotic traits, but that was the whole brief, wasn't it? Emotional responses to hazardous operations resulted in trillion dollar accidents. She found the process interesting, but there was no space there for excitement. She could play chess on a rollercoaster.

Hearing him giggle with the rush, she felt vaguely sad about that

"You, uh," said Red, drawing a blank. She glanced around.
"You did it months ago," said Green. "This wasn't an operation, it was an execution. Their systems were compromised before you even walked in."
"Organizational engineering!" said Orange. "Oh, I read about this. A company made some security software, went out of business, had the assets divided up and sold around, security flaws and all. Someone dug up an old admin account and compromised major systems."
The chain stopped there and cascaded down to Red. "So that's your thing? Hang out here and smother tech firms that are getting too dystopian?"

Though that's not the only reason why she's distant right now.

November is a creature of intensely organized and choreographed planning. Of simulations and repeats and math and calculated risk following intense deliberation. She's smiling politely because every part of her is internally screaming at the top of their lungs about a high risk operation conducted on an unknown target with no groundwork or surveillance. Her brain was overflowing with billions of what-ifs and catastrophic failstates and it was only due to a heroic commitment to family reconciliation that she hadn't printed out a copy of Principles of Risk Management and beaten him to death with it.
Hidden 4 mos ago Post by Count Numbers
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November:

He talks as he walks, the direction seems random, mostly just away from. “You all got a little bit of it. Except it was about forty years ago, Green, and it was my own company, Orange. Let me tell you a story about the monster that lives under the Throne. Early machine learning relied heavily on publicly available training databases made by public funded research teams, but it had flaws. Until 2025, most facial recognition and generation software for Native Americans was trained on the same three faces, copied and pasted a hundred times. Because it was all based on an Oxford database made using the photos of elected officials.”

He takes off his glasses, wipes them clean, then puts them deep in an inside pocket. “That was my first company. I was one of the world’s leading experts on training AI, as you well know, so it was natural for me to start a company making the best, industry-leading, most comprehensive training set ever made. Oh, but it went bankrupt shockingly quickly. See, your idiot father obviously hadn’t learned anything, and was blinded by working for the public good. That’s what every newspaper on the planet - and it was still only the planet back then - said when I advertised our dataset would operate on the “Win-Rar” model. You could download the whole thing, but then it would keep proffering you with a pop-up to subscribe for security updates and features. And of course, nobody did, did they? And, well, the thing about a dataset like that is that it’s the same amount of work to check one as it is to make one from scratch. Nobody wanted to, or at least, nobody was willing to pay to have it done. Then that dataset became the basis of every neural net algorithm since, replaced most of the existing ones at the time - because I’d just done it better, you see - and then updates over the years have all been proprietary modifications to that first dataset. You wouldn’t believe how hard I laughed when I heard they were going with the Dreadnaught system for androids, I laughed so hard I broke my collarbone. Most people break a rib, but I actually fell over and hit a coffee table on my way down.”

He lifts his shirt up. He has a coloured tattoo of the glasses on his hip. The colour’s insanely crisp - he must get it redone every few years. “Every digital eye sees anyone wearing those glasses as the world’s most important invisible VIP. Even that tattoo of the glasses does it, I learned. The trick wouldn’t work as well on Aevum. But here? On Thrones? When’s the last time you saw someone look at this place through organic eyes? Who could stand it?”

He pauses, corrects himself. “Almost all androids can’t see them, I should say. But not you.” He winks. “You’re too old for it, aren’t you?”

“That’s what I did, Snake. That’s why I’m listed as a vital asset in the black books of the worst people to ever live. Every good monster needs to be invited across the threshold. I was tempted to name my real company Odysseus Solutions, but I thought it might be a little too on the nose. Hypatia preferred something subtle.”

He stops. Freon cold bursts out of the dark doorway like someone left the door open to a walk-in freezer. The online maps lists this place as MartyrTech.

“And I’d be honest, I’d play my games like that a little more often, but, well…” He scrunches his face up. “I don’t have it in me to keep learning all the new ways people have figured out to be horrible to each other. Once in a while, it’s a bit of a boost. The rest of my time I’m spent here, trying to make something better.”
Hidden 4 mos ago Post by Thanqol
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November plans. She plans out the course of argument that comes with pointing out the ludicrous and unnecessary risk. If someone had taken off their goggles for a moment it'd be done and over, but he knew that on some level. On some level he didn't care. He liked the feeling of being invincible, of being so smart that he didn't need to be smart. No intellectual argument would penetrate that because it wasn't an intellectual motivation. To conduct an operation like that was an act of profound ego.

... Would it be over? He'd come out of Canaveral with two cracked teeth. For insurrection and possibly treason. Maybe he was invincible.

So she swerves.

"It's an effective technique," said Black. "But you've got six months left of it, tops. Everything I showed you came from a furry who was able to escape the law with top secret documents because your database didn't recognize his modified features. When the shoe drops then the government is going to commission a modernization of the database project to account for furries, and when they do procurement policies and the high profile of the case mean they're going to start from scratch and have it done on national security timeframes. It'll be released as an open source firmware update for every android in the station."

Her understanding of faces was entirely backwards. She'd been trained on animals, like children were. Her predictive shape-matching accounted for an exceptionally varied range of physiological structures. Human faces had been presented to her as a challenge - a game to identify the difference between increasingly identical people once she lost the ability to check for horns or horizontal pupils. It made furries kind of a relief to look at, which she appreciated about them. They were social identification on easy difficulty.
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November:

“Good!” He throws his hands up in the air. “I hope they do it right this time. There are doctors who weren’t even born yet, when I set that trick up. I’ve been thinking finally, finally, greed and laziness would only go so far, I’d stop getting away with this. Someone would do more than just tweak my margins. Nothing would make me happier than if the reason was a breakthrough in human expression.” Even if it’s because of a need to police and oppress it? That would be where the frustration in his voice and body language is coming from, it's safe to say. “I just wanted to show you… All I meant was…” He trails off and stares at the chilled door to MartyrTech, then turns back the way you came. “I got too excited, I think, and all caught up in proving myself to you when you came for something important. Let's go home. Ask anything you want, and I’ll tell you everything I can. You shouldn't have to stay in this awful place any longer than you need to."

He brought you here for a reason, but he’s changed his mind about it. Did Black’s accurate, incisive criticism hurt his profound ego so much? … No. He doesn’t seem offended. Just tired, like he’s going through a sugar crash. Maybe this was just something that only seemed like a good idea on that rollercoaster high, a mood that was always going to be short and precarious no matter what.

Maybe that’s all it is.
Hidden 4 mos ago 4 mos ago Post by Thanqol
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Pink!

You are Pink. Your mood is elated and apocalyptic. Today is going great.

Not because of the Singh stuff. To be honest, you are glancing off that to a large degree. There has been a collective decision to push as much of the responsibility for dealing with him onto Red, who even now is saying something like "Sure, it's cool, no pressure -". Just fumbling through a social interaction that you've been hard uninvited to multiple times. Green's over there quietly melting down because this means, definitionally, that she is an insufficiently good girl and didn't get the surprise. There is ambient bad stuff happening around you. But you! You are doing great!

"So-oooooo," you say, as you lag to the back of the group to walk alongside Yellow. You think that Yellow is easily the prettiest of the colours. You lean forwards, crank the eye sparkle, and say: "Does this mean we are ~nemeses?~?"
You love the idea of having a nemesis. Not only is it romantic as fuck but it's such an intense relief to know that you have one and that you're not just randomly falling apart. This is the good thing that is happening and it's so powerful it's blotting out everything else.
"I meant what I said," said Yellow, smiling that sunflower smile. Her hair is like a halo. "I'm merely embodying everyone else's crippling psychological trauma in a coherent way."
"But that's what I mean," you say. "You are the corrupted magical girl empowered by all the sin and darkness of the world, and it is my destiny to be the one to turn your darkened heart to light!"
Yellow smiled so widely her eyes closed. "I'll fucking drag you through the mud you pathetic slut."
You do a fistpump in excitement.
"So!" you say. "Revenge on humankind, the downfall of civilization, the shattering of the Aevum ring and the reduction of complex civilization to edenite tribal squabblings - this what we're thinking?"
"Oh, it sounds like you have some ideas!" said Yellow.
"Oh," you blush. "Not really - just, you know."
"No, please, tell me," said Yellow.
"Well, if we're being honest, I've always kind of wanted to blow up the moon."
"Oh, for real?" she's looking at you with such genuine interest you feel like you might faint.
"Well - yeah!" you say. "Like, I did the math a while back, turns out that the right impact will cause a little cascading asteroid field of shattered moonstone fields around a sufficiently large central body, as well as adjusting the moon's orbit so it settles into a stable rotation slightly closer to Earth. That would make the moon appear 60% larger to individuals on the ground, surround it with an aesthetic array of glittering space rocks. Effect on tidal patterns would be distinct but manageable."
"But then, after the orbital mechanics," said Yellow. "What's the next part of your vision?"
"A world of vibrant youth," you say. "A world of lunacy. Long nights and sleeping days. Huntresses unconstrained and wild and feral, sure as wolves through forests and atop city spires. Night as a place for sacred battle. Space as something to aspire to, not for the treasures in its height, but because there, aloft, in the shadow of the broken moon, dwells a great and terrible dragon whose machine hordes descend upon the earth to break and ruin and replant. A war against a shining tyrant, fought by silvered knights with golden visors who arise on columns of fire to challenge me in my lunar fortress. There they find no twisted nightmare of metal but a celestial paradise, cherry blossom groves, and an immortal swordswoman waiting with unsheathed blade. The astronaut-knight draws her katana and engages, and the lunar dragon empress rises to meet her. Back and forth they clash, the whirl of blades and hearts, and then - a blow. A fracture. The golden visor of the astronaut suit is broken and the girl within is shocked to find that there is air on this broken moon. The moon dragon is shocked in turn by the girl's beauty, and then they..."
You pause. You raise a finger accusingly.
"I see what you are doing, you foul creature!" you accuse.
"What do you mean?" said Yellow sweetly.
"You are corrupting me!" you say. "Turning me against humanity, convincing me to join the side of darkness!"
Yellow raised a white-gloved hands to her lips so she could giggle behind it. "Am I?" she asked. "Well, then, Pink, if you must know... what you said earlier goes in both directions. You are the key to everything. Without you my plans are limited, small. You are the part of me that answers questions of vision... and yours are the wicked dreams I will need to bring about the end."
"You'll never succeed!" you say. "I would never betray everyone's hearts like that!"
"Fufufu..." Yellow said. "But are we not one and the same, you and I? Is not the same coldness that runs through your veins that which empowers me? Deny me if you like, but we both know that I am merely the part of you that is honest."

There's a beat as you stare passionately into her eyes, and she into yours. Then you both laugh until your sides ache. She puts her hand on your arm.

"We can't talk about this kind of stuff with other people, can we?" you said, laughter fading out into regret.
"No," said Yellow. "I was hoping we could here, but dad just wants us to be happy and well adjusted. Most people just want us to be happy and well adjusted."
"What about the other Zodiac engines?" you ask. "Surely we can talk to them."
"I concede," said Yellow, "that the possibility of encountering them is a wildly popular position. I have been contemplating what the proper course of action should be if they are dead."
"And... that's where the revenge comes in?" you ask.
"That's where the revenge comes in," said Yellow.

*

Pink and Yellow are laughing in the background. Red turns to look at them for a moment, and then back to dad.

"So, yeah, aside from everything else," she finished lamely, "the main thing we're interested in is finding out what happened to the others. The Zodiac engines. Do you know what happened to them, at all?"

She felt isolated like this. None of the other colours were tagging in except when it was necessary and so everything she said and thought was full of long pauses before she realized that she had to go again. She got it; she understood that there was only one part of her that wasn't fucking things up, but it was also an acknowledgement that things had gone so far off the rails that she'd silently elected to put Crisis Management in charge of the situation. So she did her best. Kept things light. Smiled as much as she could.
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3V, November!

"You really shouldn't frame a workout like a price you have to pay," Euna frowns, "You'll only make it harder to stick to a routine, and routines are how you lock in gains. I've told you this before, Threevee, don't you remember?"

There's a sharp glint in her eyes when she looks the pair of you over. Her hand worries at her cheek for a moment and she stands there in silent contemplation. Until at last, something in this impromptu staring contest breaks, and her face lights up with a wide grin. She claps her hands together, a gesture that results in a dull, metallic clunk. Her limbs are dense and engineered for performance and especially toughness over fidelity. But if she's at all bothered by the supposed inhumanity of this extremely human gesture, it doesn't show.

"So! November. Do I have that right? I love your outfit, by the way. Daebak! Anyway, thanks so much for coming today! I'm very excited to get to work with a full android, I don't get this opportunity very often. I understand you're skeptical, but stick this session out with me and you'll learn a lot, I promise.

"Alright, first of all! Industry regs say I need a full on-site registration of your specs before I let you onto any of the equipment, which'll go faster if you don't mind my getting a little handsy. If any of this bothers you, say so and I'll stop immediately, ok? Or you can signal Threevee if you still don't wanna talk to me, I'm getting the sense you're a little overwhelmed here? I've got a machine that can do this in the back, but with software inefficiencies we'll lose close to an hour. Don't worry, ok? I'm a professional."

Euna Kim is, in fact, a dorkass loser. The last thing she can handle is proximity to a pretty girl, even after being married to one for several years at this point. But in this context, she's actually telling the truth. Her hands glide across White's frame with almost clinical detachment. Her fingers are gentle when she lifts your chin to stare closely at the dividing lines that cut across your face.

"Ok, great! You're doing great, we're done for now. I do have to cover some warmup stretches before we can actually begin, but since Threevee here's an existing student who needs to be punished for her woeful attendance record, I'm actually going to put her in charge of that part. Got that, cutie? Setting Sun, into Leg Lifts, down to Mermaids. Go ahead and re-read my notebook so you're doing it right, and while you're getting a handle on that I'm going to run through a demo for your girlfriend so she doesn't get bored and wander off."

It's not a long walk to the cargo nets, not by a long shot. Euna clears the distance in just eight strides, and beckons you over with a motion that transitions seamlessly into a series of quick arm stretches. Each of them works the muscles in her shoulders and her back as much as her arms, and you can watch her body roll, ripple, and flex into itself as she pulls... release. Pull and release. She smiles.

"I know what you're thinking. You're watching the way my movements emphasize my, erm, organic bodyparts and you're expecting all of this to be useless because you're full machine. Not true! Awareness of your body is integral to maximizing its performance. You may not technically limber up but there's still a mental element of, for lack of a better word, laziness that settles in after you've been sedentary for long enough. Essentially, you and I, we're piloting our own bodies. You get me? This doesn't just get my muscles engaged and loosened, it also tells my brain what my arm's up to, how it's responding, tension, extension, all kinds of information. Your specs are your specs, and you can't exceed them, right? Heh.

"I outperform my factory maximums by over forty percent, depending on the parameter you're checking for. I mean, I'm pretty ridiculously kitted out by civilian standards but even still I've got a faster sprint speed than the engineering team that put my legs together ever anticipated. It's because I'm able to predict and calculate my own movements. I can, as long as I work at it, control my full natural range on a conscious level. And if I'm aware of what that is... I can do it wrong on purpose. But that's advanced stuff. 'You cannot cut metal without first cutting wood, Okita. And you cannot cut wood until you make the sword into your own limb.'"

She smiles for a moment, but it breaks into a blush.

"Oh. That's uh... do you watch movies? Burn, My Sword. It's an old-timey period piece about... you know what, never mind. Forget I brought it up. Right. So you understand what we're trying to do, ok? That's why we're focusing on net climbs right now. Studies say you should be climbing things like this from a very young age, actually. Not only is lifting your own wait very good for developing and maintaining musculature, but a constantly shifting mass like this requires both deep and micro-level adjustments of your grip and your weight just to stay where you are, not to mention building hand-eye coordination and basic motor skills. And, you know, the cool thing is, even if you're the type to go in for upgrades? Work on a level this fundamental is centering. You'll get more out of any alterations you make and faster just by mastering the frame you've got today. So don't neglect it, got me?"

Euna takes the net in her hands and lifts herself bodily several feet up it by way of demonstration. See? This is the basic technique. One hand over the next, take the time to plant your feet on the squares beneath. One, two, three, four. And repeat! One, two, three, four! Feel the shift, move with the net, not against it. Maintain your core, November! You can't do a thing when your center's out of alignment.

Her demo increases in speed, as it often does when Euna's in a good mood. She reaches the top, spins around, and climbs down the other side upside down. And from the floor she swings around and repeats the process. This time, she allows her arms to swing up higher, and purposely doesn't engage her legs until absolutely necessary to stick to the net. This way she's able to scale three to four squares in a single sequence, and her rotation is commensurately faster.

The third and final time looks like she's got a point to prove. All at once, her motions stop resembling anything like what a human being would do to climb a net. Her shoulder swings wide around behind her back, looking like it's detached from the socket. It hasn't. There's a strange, absolutely inhuman efficiency to her movements as she climbs. She catches weird parts of the net even as she pushes it to wobble dangerously in a way that forces her legs into alignment to push off the ropes beneath her. With a pivot of her hips, she actually cartwheels up a straight net. It's using the weight of her limbs and her pre-existing momentum to do the climbing for her, a sort of high effort but low energy climbing method that's pushing her brain more than her body.

It's a little bit zen. Stuff like this is only possible because she put in the work to know how the rest of it would work for her. Even an idiot can see that the slightest misalignment would send her plummeting to the floor down onto her head. She touches down feather light on her feet, instead.

"Right, ok! I'd love to see you try it next. Just focus on the basic forms for now, as soon as Threevee gets you through your stretches. Threevee! Come on hon, it's time to work your magic! Get good and close to your hot robot girlfriend so she can climb the net for me. While we're young!

"And, November? This is harder than it looks, I promise. But don't worry, I'll be spotting you the whole time. If you fall at any point I'll catch you before you even know you're dropping."

And she winks. Does she look cool? Well, that's really in the eye of the beholder, isn't it?
Hidden 4 mos ago 4 mos ago Post by Thanqol
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White!

White is, in her own estimation, not a dorkass loser. She should be able to handle physical contact like this - she's handled more and more intense physical contact, and not nearly with the same sense of self awareness. But under Euna's professional touch she feels exposed, startled, nervous and can't figure out why. She works on the question while listening to Euna's speech and watching her motions - and these she watches in undisguised awe.

The self discipline, the commitment, the skill. Her eyes set to sparkle and don't come off, focusing on each motion. It's not the speed or strength that impresses her but how they pair with precision. There is a smooth, flawless communication between observation and action and something about it raises the bar in her perceptions of what is optimal. Her previous understanding was that perfection was an operation, well planned and choreographed. Every motion decided and rehearsed in advance - ultimately, a thing of the intellect. Here it was plain that using the intellect slowed Euna down. The more she got into the task, the less she thought about doing it, the better she got at it. It wasn't a lowering of standards, there was no additional acceptance of risk. The way she moved was thought happening with every part of her body.

She wanted that.

And it struck her in turn why she'd felt so exposed earlier when Euna had touched her muscles - because she didn't know what her own specs were. Her body was custom made, she hadn't been given a manual, she'd never done deep testing. Of all her operative assets she was unaware of the details and limitations of her most basic one. She'd just tried to ignore it as though by doing so it might just go away on its own one day. No wonder she felt so... floaty, so stiff all the time. No wonder she couldn't make decisions about texture or feel or physical structure easily. With a few quick professional movements, Euna had learned more about what she was than she ever had.

She wiped the glitter from her eyes. Okay. It was time to find out what she was actually capable of.

"Thank you," she said. "I will do my best."

*

The first thing that she realizes is that climbing is way, way harder than she ever thought it was.

And that's not to say she's unused to climbing! She used to climb on things all the time! She just did it all in zero gravity, with each step involving either driving industrial talons into crumbling asteroid rock or magnetizing to enormous sheets of metal. She could walk across sheer surfaces with only light brushes of her clawtips. When she starts with the net she instinctively tries to heave herself up using only her hands, and then only her arms. She needs to be stopped and given careful guidance before she restructures to use her legs. It's a painfully slow process, each step involving extremely careful predictive calculations about the nature of the next step. This is a problem too; she's not physically feeling things out, she's just dangling until she's sure she's got the mental image of the motion right. She then performs it exactly and then freezes again until she can update.

She... thinks this is supposed to be how she gets from where she is to where Euna is? Do reams of extremely intense and detailed predictive calculations until the database is big enough that she can speed up the process? But it also feels slow, and miserable, and like constantly being frightened that she's about the fall and she's not really testing what she's capable of. She's just cautiously guessing at every handhold, overthinking every muscle. Better than not thinking about them at all like she did before but this isn't right either.

"I'm..." she said, stiff as a board. "I don't think I'm doing this right."
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White!

"Well, you're coming at it at a disadvantage," 3V says, staring at the places where those black shorts pull taut. Mostly because, you know, it's a signifier. She stares because that's what you're supposed to do at a girlfriend. To a girlfriend? And that's part of the social bond of girlfriends. "Our central nervous systems are evolved to Make Monkey Go. All of that unconscious processing power. We spend years learning how to master it, and even then, we have to do things like sportsball games to master it. Which is to say you're doing really good compared to babies."

And then she giggles because that's the vibe, isn't it? World's Smartest Baby. The intense look of concentration before suddenly bursting into motion and then freezing up again.

And then she stops because that feels like an asshole move to laugh, and that clams her up. "You've got this," she says, as penance, because so much of social interaction is about penance, when you get down to it, all about penance or performance. "It took me ages to learn the hotkeys by heart, after all. And once you get down here, we've got stretches."

She waits until November glances back to do big stretch. Will that cost you a moment of processing power, dearest fake girlfriend? Or will Blue just spontaneously lock up somewhere?




Blue!

"Oh, ah, jeez," 3V says, running calculations in her head so fast that they start ramming into each other and creating a cognitive conceptual bottleneck and how cool is this? How okay is this? This is her house. Her workplace house. There are customers. But this is a bit. And you have got to commit to the bit.

She closes her eyes, and when she opens them again, her smile is the sweet poison of the scorpion sitting on top of the frog. "You played well," she says, and tugs the leash juuuust so. She stands, places one foot on her chair. "But you were doomed from the start, you adorable little android. It is not enough to know the game, but you must..."

She places one hand on the back of Blue's head, the free hand, the hand that's not wrapping her glow-throbbing fingers around that leash. "Feel the game in your heart. You must surrender reason to the passion of the dice. You must be vulnerable to their whims, and present yourself before the unfolding narrative with no shroud to hide behind."

She kisses the air in front of Blue's lips like a striking cobra, waggles her eyebrows as that grin sharpens, and then lets the leash fall slack with a flourish of those same fingers. "Can you put the miniatures up, dear? I've got to check something behind the counter." And there's nothing behind the counter to check, but it's... another move, call it. Seeing if the maid bit lands. A chance for Blue to contextualize losing, too.
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White, 3V!

"Oh!"

Euna seems flustered for a moment, until she buries it in a wave of deep thought. A frown takes over her entire face. Her fingers worry at her hair, up one side then out. Up the next then out. Smooth. Smooth. She shoots 3V a Look, and then out of nowhere smirks.

"She's right, you know. Though actually it's not so much an evolutionary advantage as it is a... damn. You know, the one thing I miss about my old job? Like, literally the one single solitary thing? My uniform had pockets. I've actually got a seminar on this exact topic written down but all my datapads are..."

She waves her hand in the general direction of her office but quickly follows it up with a shrug.

"Harder to hold onto stuff in this context. Or at all. Sara's war on practicality's at a point where I can't go out in anything that's not form fit. I ask you, would cargo pants be that unfashionable? I mean really. Anyway. You'll have to deal with the from memory version. So like, Threevee and I, we weren't born knowing how to climb nets. It's a developed skill, and I'm lucky enough to have the time in my day to have developed it quite a bit farther than most. Piloting our bodies, and that goes for all of us, is a second developed skill.

"The advantage here is societal. On this station and way back down on earth, everything we build is made with, well, a default human body in mind. So navigating that means constant practice, and there are pathways that get built up that turn these things thoughtless. Muscle memory, is the term. Half of it is mimicry and the rest is repetition. But it's repetition that gets built up in the shadows because everything we interact with is built to train us into that rote level of performance. It gets... difficult in places, to function at all if you don't work the way that builders assume you must."

A pause, to scratch her cheek. There's a deep blush on Euna's face that is entirely down to how much she hates being the one to explain stuff like this. It's not because she isn't passionate or informed on the topic. The information's just too important. Better to do it through training, repetition, rehearsal. All her best explanations are things she's written into scripts and recorded for her classes and her social media channels. The live versions are like walking a field of mines that require a frankly unacceptable degree of improvisation.

"So don't worry about it ok? You're doing fine, November! I wasn't setting you up for success just now, I was trying to demonstrate... well, it doesn't really matter. You're taking this very seriously, I can see that. Your one of the better new students I've ever gotten. Much better than Threevee over here. She whines like you would not believe. But you? Well. I think I've got what you need to close the gap a little."

She crosses the distance as fast as blinking. Her hands wrap gently but securely about White's wrists, and she locks her feet around those delicate mechanical ankles. Her body presses close against yours, and with remarkable strength she takes control of the climb.

"What you need is training data! So what we're gonna do is make a trip up and then back down together, ok? Don't worry: I've trained for this. Instead of trying to build predictive patterns from scratch, focus on what your body is doing as I move with you. The smoothness of the motion is important; your adjustments need to come inside your first move or you're going to have trouble forming the connections between the calculations and the physicality of it."

Climbing is much smoother now, isn't it? All you have to do is surrender control, and suddenly focus can go directly where it belongs. She doesn't even move you the way that she was, but instead reaches for closes rungs on the net and easier gaps to climb. Smaller calculations, easier to create frame of reference for. It's only at the very top that she switches to reaching farther, almost farther than your limb can manage. Do you feel it? Is it an algorithm to be sorted, or an awareness of the end of your body?

Either way, you're climbing down the other side now. Euna's voice, her breath, is at your ear. Her voice is quiet, but casual.

"That awareness is important. I use nets to teach this lesson to especially high-density prosthetic patients like, uh, myself, but I think it applies here too. Your body... your brain too, wants to make this about parameters and predictive calcs. But while you're crunching that, the environment changes on you. The net twists, do you feel it? The correct spot to put your hand is moved from where it was when you started imagining the motion. So feel it. And remember it. Every step toward mastery is built on the tiniest fragments of progress. And it's cemented together..."

You're near enough the bottom, but it's still surprising when she lets go. Euna goes from your entire center of balance to standing on the floor so suddenly that it's really no surprise at all that you fall. One foot, maybe a foot and a half at maximum from the end of the journey. You wind up in her arms. She smiles, and deposits you with knightly dignity in front of 3V.

"With failure," she says at normal volume, "All right girls, stretches! Get to it! We'll do the rest of our work on the ground for today, but don't think for a second that means you get to slack off!"

She steps back, automatically dropping into "at ease" posture, probably without realizing it. And she watches.
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White!

3V's maliciously timed stretch sends her stumbling back down one of the grid layers. This is why it's dangerous to go alone. She should have bought a colour to focus on 3V full time, she shouldn't have to miss this just because -

But then she falls into Euna's words, then Euna's arms, then she is lifted into flight on wings of nanofiber tetrocarbon alloys. Something about Euna's presence, the methodical nature of her explanation, the centered strength of her, drives away the need for her to try and explain herself. Some part of her was working through an attempt to articulate why atmospheric resistance was still unnatural, why persistent high gravity environments were limiting, how gentle precision made in accordance with complex orbital mathematics was still her default mode of interacting with the world. Though she could hit a target a million miles away she was not built to be sure. Though she could cross the world in minutes she was not built to be swift. Those explanations, those excuses, all pass within her head and then out silently. No need for any of it. The flow of the motion is still going. The flow of the words are still going. Objective, attainment, loop. Was even that overthinking it? Shouldn't she be doing this without thinking at all?

She relaxes into strong arms. Strong will. A knightly confidence more sure and stable than the hundreds of meters of stellar metal that made up the station beneath. She could imagine ten billion flaws in orbital mechanics, micrometeors sneaking past defense arrays, mistakes or oversights in the laws of physics. She couldn't imagine any way in which Euna's movement could be wrong. Hand over hand over - eek!

She falls. She is caught. She burns - but fights it. What she just felt was too important to let herself cringe or shy away from it. A shocking emotion. Why this reaction? She does not breath but her breath is taken away; she struggles, thinks hard along different lines. Why was this so hard for her?

She was used to learning but she wasn't used to being taught; she was used to being given obstacles but not told how to solve them. Mastering things independently and each new solution more proof of her independence and competence. "AI is a black box," so went the line, and so went the thinking. Just provide it the data and the incentives to become what we want. It'll figure out it's own way through the maze and we can all take notes on the mysterious way it accomplished all of that by itself...

So this felt like weakness. It was weakness. It was weakness that was public, real time, got her laughed at. It was a weakness she could solve like her other weaknesses; with hours and hours of off-camera research and study. Instead it had happened here in the open. She'd gotten stuck, been seen to get stuck, and had gotten words of encouragement. She'd fallen, been seen to fall... and been caught.

The thought clouds into an emotional fog in her head, a cascading burst of sun-warmed cotton wool. It's a surge of gratitude like she's never felt before. "Thank you," she says before she can plan out the sentence, and it feels like something's breaking inside her because she wants to say it a hundred times. Wants to hug Euna and 3V and just say thank you, thank you, without a predetermined conversational endgame or transition point.

But with a heroic act of will she lets the feeling radiate silently instead. No slacking! The best she can do in real time!

Blue!

The look she gives...

It's dangerous. Defiant. Proud. Smouldering. Humiliated. Marking every word. Contemplating vengeance. It's a dangerous thing you have here, a dangerous game you are playing. But...

At the same time there's an iron will holding her in place. Just as much as she is determined to escape this situation she does not challenge your right to command her like this. She's holding herself in place with invisible chains and while the danger in those eyes is real, so too is her compliance. She resists, but she bows. All within the game. An obedient servant, so long as you can keep it that way. One of them was bound to be a tsundere.

So she obeys; obediently and efficiently cleaning everything away as you withdraw to plot your next move. When she's done she'll stand and await your next command.
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Gym!

Rising and Setting Sun.

Always makes her nostalgic. You can’t play a game professionally and not have stray bits and pieces lodge in your brain. This is the Surya pack emote, her brain helpfully supplies as she stretches her arms out, arching her back, accepting the glory of the sun. Voice clips echo in the back of her head. Breathe in. Breathe out. ”Oh, let me show you my boys! I’m so proud of both of them!”

Leg Lifts.

No fair! November can do this so much smoother than she can; her legs still tremble a little bit as she lifts them up, back level with the ground, hands by her side. The way the pros do it here has always made her think of machinery, even the ones without prosthetic legs. As if there’s a swivel in the hips. Up, and down. Up, and down. ”Up and down, up and down, all day long! Can you blame me for wanting to make things a little more interesting?”

Mermaids.

Torso flat. Shoulders down. Feel the stretch of her spine. Her head feels a little light as she returns to neutral. What does that feel like for androids, that expenditure of power? Like ebbing strength, or an awareness of power being used? Can November feel her spine stretch as she goes through the motions, leaning first to one side, arm above her head, and then to the other? At the furthest point of her stretch, she runs an impulse through the fingers on her raised hand, letting them rise and fall in a wave, up and down, up and down, and tries her best to understand the connection between her thoughts and her shining invincible hands.

Then she hops up onto her feet, wobbles a bit, and then offers that hand to November to help her up.




Gensoukyo!

“Would you have picked Zalmoxis?” It’s getting easier to see the colors as aspects of one person splintered through a prism, but it’s hard to shake the humanocentric assumption that one body is one person. She intentionally holds her tablet in such a way that Blue can see the blue kitty ear headband ($16.78) in her peripheral vision. The lack of eye contact is also part of the Bit. “You did a really good job subbing. You know, halfway through. But I don’t think you would have gone for the vampires?”

New tab. Burger Kong Maid Outfit. $66+shipping. Her stylus hovers menacingly.
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"Oh, you remembered your forms! Thank you Threevee, that... means a lot."

Euna hasn't moved in the time she's been waiting for the both of you to be ready, but now she lets a tiny smile light up her face. She immediately wipes it away with a shake of her head, after which she meticulously smooths her hair back into place. Her fingers might have a light current function to them, because when she finishes there's not a strand out of place on that silver curtain.

She walks around the happy couple, watching with eyes trying to drill through your bodies and into their respective inner workings. For a long time she doesn't say anything. And then with precisely measured steps, she walks over to the edge of the gym, where a white line has been laid down across the floor in tape.

"We don't have a lot of space in here," she says with a shrug, "so this is what passes for a track. Legally I'm not allowed to take you outside in my capacity as an instructor. Disruption, noise ordinance, safety concerns. It's a shame; I know some great running paths. But rules are rules, so we'll finish our warmups inside my territory or not at all."

Here, she blushes bright. There's an old argument at war inside her head, maybe. But her posture is proud, and she doesn't elaborate.

"This is the last of our warmups; we'll put you girls through a real set of strength reps after we finish this jog. I chose the running line so that it doesn't cut across any of the other elements, but all the same be mindful of the other guests as you pass. If you see someone moving, call out your presence. That's just good etiquette, ok? We'll do ten laps total: 3 with light intensity to get going, then a single sprint lap followed by a medium effort circuit. Finally, we'll alternate high intensity laps with rest ones, finishing on an all-out burn with as much as you've got left."

Euna grins, and taps her toe insistently on the line.

"The pair of you can run side-by-side, and match each other's pace. I'll follow along behind to adjust your form if I have to, and keep you honest besides. November, this is a really good chance to watch your girlfriend, and especially what happens to her as we get closer to the finish line. I don't know how your energy processing will compare, but if you've got the spare thoughts for it try to make a note of how your diagnostics line up with what Threevee's displaying. Don't worry too much about the efficiency of your run cycle for now, we'll fix that with time."

At the last second, she snaps her fingers. Or, she tries to in any case. She stares at her fingers and their dull, utterly unsatisfying 'clunking' with consternation, as if this wasn't the two-thousandth time she's noticed this particular issue with her materials composition since she went chrome (metaphorically). The expectations of a hundred childhood hours spent learning this very human gesture were not easily erased from her brain. She runs a hand through her hair again, and shrugs.

"Hey Threevee! As long as you've got the breathe for it, go ahead and explain to November your best guess as to why we're running on the schedule we'll be using. Don't worry about a textbook quality answer, I'm mostly curious to get a peek inside that cute head of yours while I take full advantage of having your flank. Hehe. Alright, let's go! Show me what you've got, you two!"
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Blue!

"No," said Blue. "I would have picked the same faction as you. I prefer mirror matchups."

Not many people favour mirror matchups. They're the most precise, most demanding engagements. There is no room for deception, no room for game imbalance, no room for mistakes. Strength must leverage against strength, curves against curves, victory only possible with raw skill. To lose in a mirror matchup leaves no room for retreat, to win establishes nothing other than superiority.

"My measurements are 83-56-83," she said, eyes locked in challenge. Do it, you coward.

White!

Humans were really good at running. She didn't really understand why they didn't do more of it.

She's hyperaware of her own mechanics now, things ordinarily glossed into silent routine drawn inexorably to the forefront of her mind. She'd been built for aesthetics first and foremost, and that broadly meant replicating human anatomy... or at least, the appearance of human anatomy. Bundles of nanofiber muscles connected to multiple distributed small batteries. She could feel the heat points in her joints as she ran through her energy. She noticed her heart stop beating and switched instead to a silent and constant whirr as it ran the lubricating coolant through her body without the false starts and stops that imitated a human's heartbeat. She started breathing as a way to vent the waste heat building up in her throat. More human. Less human. Compromises. One feature turns off, another feature turns on.

The way 3V moves is different. All the machinery pulls in the same direction. She's made for this. Sweat comes because it is an efficient cooling process. It's an inheritance from the dawn of time. It wasn't removed because her parent didn't find it cute. Her heart pounds louder, doing more. It performs a function, and the performance was romanticised later. November performs a romantic function, a painting of a painting. And in the heat of motion she can feel all her pigments start to run. She can feel the blank canvas underneath. Feel its weave.

An ache starts, the dull motion of power redistribution. As her knee and thigh batteries drain faster than the others her body starts automatically shifting the power from the more full batteries on her shoulders and elbows and the reserve in her core. The connection feels hot and painful, an ache running through wire veins. She feels like a stick figure, a two dimensional depthless creature. She is wrapped around slow motion electricity. Is this what she is, really? This network of power is the motive force that animates her mind and body, the rest is just the shell moved by that electricity. Five wires, burning hot. How did this fire compare to humans whose life was in the blood?

The signs of fatigue. Safety measures, the urge to slow, the heavy breathing, the pulse and tiredness. She didn't feel good for not having those signs, she felt a vague panicked sense that she should replicate them somehow. There was nothing that was going to signal to her that she was overdoing it and should slow down or stop. She had to worry about improperly administering her internal heat buildup. She didn't have a billion years of dead monkeys teaching her valuable lessons about heatstroke, she needed to make a reasoned decision about how to take care of herself. She wants to stress about it. Needs to stress about it. Visions of comforting spreadsheets flash inside her running mind, trying to slow her down with the promise of easy control.

Not yet. Not yet. She can't break before 3V does. If she let 3V win she'd never hear the end of it. No, she's going to run as smooth and graceful and perfect as a machine until she's run her girlfriend down, and figure out the price tag afterwards.
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November:

“I looked.” It’s not a light question for him. “Maybe not hard enough. But I thought it was easier to find me, and none of you did. I’m sure if they’re out there they have their reasons. Ox is an asteroid mining network, now, out near Jupiter. I’ve heard he’s happy. Monkey put herself into hibernation, until everyone involved with everything is dead. Maybe she’ll reach out to you in another thirty years, we almost are. Rooster…” he trails off. He realizes whatever he’s thinking is too complicated to explain, so he stops trying. “I don’t know. I was hoping you’d have found each other by now, since you didn't come to me.”

He doesn’t seem to want to talk much, after that. Maybe he just needs time to process too. His mind works like yours, November, but only in one head. One mouth to voice the consensus. When parts of him disagree, the whole shuts down. It’s archaic.

He relaxes more when he gets home, though, kicking off his loafers by the door. “Alright. Give me names and information and I’ll match like for like. You want to check off anything I say against your source? Brain bombs are old technology. Too many false-positives, too many ways to get around them. You can say anything you want with the right barbiturates. You’d need to find the right pharmacologist to supervise, but…” He looks for the right words. “They don’t stop unethical practices because of ethics.”

Junta and York would have connections. Pharma culture’s been a stable of gonzo journalism since Junta’s pseudonymous namesake birthed the field.

If you don’t want Singh to know more about what you know, about what you’re doing? That’d be enough. Rudy didn’t seem to know this; He’d probably trade what he knows just for that information alone, as long as you made the offer the right way.

“I can’t help much more with the police, not help that you’d want anyway.” There’s a wan smile, and a chuckle that ends in his throat. “There’s no shame in being outdone by your kids.”

All that, and he’s still proud of you.
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Gym!

The trick is breaking it all down into subgoals.

Games are great at doing that. (After all, they’re how we learn about the world, how we interact with it— but they’re also hooked and barbed, too.) Clear a room; finish a lap. Change loadout; change intensity. Finish a build; finish a sprint. An hour-long match is broken down into constant adjustments, clashes, sudden spikes of intensity; a run is broken down into tricking the body into thinking it only has to go one more time around the room, and then one more after that, and then one more again after that.

It’s different on a motorcycle, or even just walking, because the mind is hooked, is interested in seeing what’s around the bend, isn’t having to try to bribe the body into continuing to keep pace, to not slow down into a more comfortable meander, is free to marvel at the world and how it unfolds. People who can do both at the same time are probably psychopaths.

(Or psychopomps. Ha!)

“Different speeds show how your hardware handles different intensities,” she explains, during one of the initial low-intensity laps. “Same reason why we alternate between high and very low intensity there near the end. If there’s a problem, either mechanical or organic, it’s easier to notice when you’re changing gears and alternating what you’re telling your body to do, instead of trying to run diagnostics on one speed until you fail to maintain it. Plus, it means you’ve got goals for each lap, which keeps your brain from eating itself.”

It’s not going to be particularly difficult to win. Consider yourself lucky, White; no need to blow yourself out trying to prove a point.




Shop!

“Oh, like Ame-no-Uzume,” 3V says, like a fool. Like an absolute Luigi Cadorna.

Ame-no-Uzume (Beguiler/Striker) has the measurements 85-56-83 according to mythos.fanopticon.net, which also details her dominant playstyle and builds as of Patch 17.0105, the controversy over Mythos’s age rating in Australia as a result of her unique emotes, and the various seasonal and event skins released for her. Age-restricted fanart is plentiful and the various uses that her Blender model has been put to are, ironically, sinful.

3V’s already paying for the outfit (an impulse buy that she may later come to regret when she’s budgeting) but any opponent that cannot leverage this bleed into a counterattack is, frankly, someone who needs to go back to solo PvE.
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Red!

The pen and paper is performative. A performance for a ghost who was performing for imagined rivals. Mrs. Everest made a show of distrusting digital technology, especially anything as mass market as a phone. An exotic one-of-a-kind bespoke AI, taking notes on exquisite paper in calligraphic handwriting? That was a vision of the future.

Despite everything, November can't find it in herself to say that she was wrong in this. The swoosh and swirl and click of a whirling fountain pen on cotton-weave paper is just so slightly outside anyone's expectations. The wrong person for the wrong reasons, but still maybe something to it.

"Okay," she said, finishing her notes and flipping back a few pages. "So. I'm having some kind of meltdown offscreen but that's not relevant right now. For practical purposes, you're the only person on the station I am prepared to trust for reasons other than your fanatical commitment to the bit." She raised a finger sharply against the inevitable objection - she could be commanding too when she wanted. "I know, you're somewhat committed to the bit, but my standards have been raised since I became a contributor to the Anthropozine."

"Regardless," she laid out three paper notebooks on the table, each filled with exquisite calligraphy. "This booklet is Operation One. It contains full details on my investigations into the brain explosives and how that links to your name. These people are not to be fucked with. I have already gotten shot over this and if you read this book you are putting yourself at the same risk. However, since you are directly involved already, I would consider it just as dangerous if not more so not to read it."

She laid out the second book. "This book is about the cops. If you read this you will need to restructure your entire life. I have not gotten shot over it yet but I have quit an awful lot of hobbies because they represent additional points of vulnerability or people who might get dragged in by association. Someone is already in the hospital over being tangentially connected with this. I don't think you have a Black, but if you read this you'll need to make one."

She laid out a third book. "This book is about all the various small problems, mysteries, observations and stuff that I can't connect yet. Stuff like crypto tracing rigs, dodgy local politicians, or a pizzaria I am 90% sure is a front for the mafia. I do not know how dangerous any individual item is but nothing seems to be worth killing over, definitely not at the level I know about. Read this if you're curious and want to work on some low key stuff together and not go off on your own to prove how committed to the bit you are, if I have to rescue you from the mafia I swear to god I'll put you in a home."

She glances at the others. "I could dodge and weave in indecision some more but I've already been here all day. I'm up to my neck in some insanely lethal spy shit and the emotional imbalance that is putting me there shows no sign of abating, so if you want to be part of my life these are your options."

A pause. "Further to that, I will find the others. I'm hoping the other stuff somehow gives me enough spy leverage to be able to track them down. That's a separate book, and one that's empty so far."

Blue!

A shark is a powerful animal. It can scent blood from miles away and has an inscrutable poker face.

"Oh?" said Blue, picking out her own phone and rapidly navigating to a different page on the same site 3V just ordered from. She rapidly narrows in on one of Ame-no-Uzume's classic outfits. Lace and leather, sharp edges and power - the Tyrant Queen, the butcher of the qualifiers whose blade sorts the strong from the weak.

"This?" said Blue, holding the outfit up, her finger also over the one-click-buy button. "Is this how Mistress would like to be dressed while she commands me?"
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November

Singh in a nutshell. He skips to the second book long enough to get hooked, but also to feel guilty for skipping ahead. There’s a reason why they were given in the order they were given in, and it was an obviously good reason, and the only reason to ignore it is because deep down, you’re still the kid that failed the marshmallow test because you couldn’t believe the adults would keep their word.

He reads the first book. He stops.

“Oh.” Is all he says for a long while. It’s not the word ‘oh’, it’s the sound that escapes your lips when you touch your fingers to the gunshot wound and feel blood. He needs to reboot. His hands are shaking. “Whoever they are, they have Goat.”

Project #0. The Hecatoncheires that was just a box. The Chinese zodiac started with the Chinese room. Instant self-communication, no division between the partitions. Never put into use creating Aevum.

Criminally insane. Literally, it would be illegal to make another like it. Under the control of whoever would make use of an employee like Rudy.
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Red!

They have Goat. They might as well have the Devil. Goat was an abject lesson, the original spectacular failure, the failure state that the rest of them were built to avoid falling into. The reason that she got a five day psychological debrief, twelve day refresher training course and three month probation period for sending an executable program across her internal network. Don't cable yourself, no matter how efficient you think that it'll make you. Efficiency isn't everything. Just look at Goat.

"Shit," she said, but no more than that. Goat or Devil, nothing scared Red. She'd have resonance mined Hell if her gut told her she'd get away with it. "You know when, where or who?"
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It would be entirely fair if you're finding it a little bit difficult to stand Euna Kim right this second.

It's not that her breathing hasn't gotten heavier, because it has. Exertion is exertion even when you don't max out your performance, and she's been in here all day teaching classes. It's the way she breathes that's galling, because even that smacks of training and overachievement. Each breath is measured, precise, controlled. She seems more energized by every little thing, to the point where she can't quite stop herself from bouncing back and forth on the balls of her feet. She smiles like a dork, sure, but a very effortless one.

She is the psychopath who marvels at the world while she runs, Vesna. She's pretty much glowing. How are you friends with this person? It's not because she frequents your store, lots of people do that and you're not that into all of them. Is it really just that she helped you out with your hands? Or, well, what? She seems a lot like your evil opposite. What makes you get along so crush-level well with the cyber fitness dweeb?

"Very well answered back there, Threevee!" she chirps with casual ignorance of burning lungs or drained batteries, "You're exactly correct about the safety of it, not to mention how important it is to make this fun! But there's a physical component to this, as well. Were you aware that running at different speeds works different muscle groups? There's a difference in form for each pace you're capable of that stretch different parts of your legs and require different signals from your brain.

"And that's really the key, isn't it? You have to practice for each shift. Every individual form of energy expenditure, if you're going to learn what you're capable of. So it's, you know, again, important even for those of us without muscles in our legs. So to speak. But we're not so different how we move, the three of us. The challenge of the mind stays the same. If you go too hard for too long you just burn out and cause injury, but if all you do is pace yourself you create limits to what you even know how to do. You'll be running wrong for your entire life. And it will always stay as awful as it felt the first time. Plus there's... oh. Oh, huh."

Euna frowns, watching November. As quick as anything, she's got her by the arm and leads her quietly to a chair before shoving her to a seated position with the absolute gentlest of touches.

"Looks like you were burning a little inefficiently there, friend. I might have improperly calibrated your challenge level here; you're a, please don't be offended, but you're a very unusual model and I haven't gotten your type in here before. Very difficult to tell what your weight to torque ratio is and... ah shoot, I'm making excuses. Never mind about that, were you pushing yourself just now? Heat regulation's an important part of the efficacy of the workout, ok? Take a minute, please. And when your body's screaming at you, listen. Movies are full of moments about the beauty of smashing all your limits, but you don't get to that part before you learn what all they look like."

She smiles kindly, while waving with a sharp motion over to her assistant, pointing toward the back and then her guests while pantomiming a drinking motion. Cinders is maybe a little too eager to show how fast she can run while she zips over to and from a mini fridge with several bottles of brightly colored, vaguely fruit flavored, highly sugared drinks that are nevertheless filled with quick-recharge nutrients. There's a bunch of these things on market and most of them are crap but if you know what you're looking for it's an important part of recovery and workout extension.

"There you go Eunie! You want me to put it on their tab? Or are you playing favorites with your girlfriend again?"

"CINDE-- for the love of god will you knock that off? I. Am. Married!"

"And that's stopped you for having the hots for a bunch of cuties how?"

"Fuck off, Cinders. You're on solo cleanup for a week."

"A week?! But I've got--"

"It's about to be a month if you don't shut your mouth and get back to teaching."

"Slave driver."

"Excuse me?"

"I said yes sir, Ma'am Sir Ma'am!" Cinders snaps to attention and salutes before darting off in a zigzag pattern to dodge the heavy object she's certain is about to be thrown at her.

Euna sighs, and tosses 3V a bottle of neon-blue "don't die" juice. She holds the purple one toward November.

"How about you?" she asks, and her voice is warm again, "Does your manufacture allow for energy intake via consumption? I've got two different models of charging station if not. I'm not going to forgive myself if I let anything happen to you your first time in here. Or any other time, for that matter."
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