Chapter 11:

Waking Questions

Red Storm Over Ganymede


**Isul**

When I awoke, we were not in the labs of Biodyne like I had expected, but instead I was laying in Tristan’s bed under the covers, while he slept in the old armchair.

By all that was good in the universe, it had worked. I was still me, and Tristan and I were still together. I gazed in wonder at my hands, my sculpted torso, and thrilled inside when I peeked under the covers to see that Tristan had indeed given my third body the sex package upgrade.

I rose silently and padded into the dark bathroom to see a full view in the mirror, but something akin to fear inside prevented me from turning on the lights. I knew Bio-droids didn’t dream, but I could have sworn nightmares haunted me. Grisly, terrifying images crept at the corners of my positronic brain.

I pushed the thoughts aside, and allowed a smile to creep across my face as I took in my new appearance. Winnie’s guidelines for updating my looks had gone well, and it was with great relief that even wearing this new face I was still recognizably myself.

I was glad Tristan continued to want me looking like me. A squeal almost escaped my lips as I saw a bio-mimetic blush come into my cheeks. My fingers brushed the cheeks and the pink color there, and warm giddiness flowed through me.

I threw on one of Tristan’s dressing robes and knelt by his chair. “I’m glad you were paying attention to what I wanted after all,” I said, as my fingers caressed his sleeping face.

He stirred, and when he did my ocular receptors saw something strange. A small, almost-healed scar across Tristan’s lower lip. Were my new ocular receptors higher quality, or had I simply never noticed it before? I ran through a catalog of images I held of Tristan in my memory core, a sampling from twelve years of memories, and could not find the scar in any of them.

I had studied Tristan in the most intimate of details, and to not hold a single record of that scar meant that he must have acquired it prior to me waking up in this new body.

Panic rose within me. How long had I been away from him? I pinged the Jovian central database for the exact date, and the panic took hold as I realized my last indexed memory was over two weeks ago.

I shook his arm. “Tristan, Tristan, wake up.”

His blue eyes fluttered open, and the ghost of a smile flitted across his face. “You’re finally awake.”

“I need to know exactly how long I’ve been away and what I’ve missed,” I said.

He must have noticed the fright creeping into my voice, because he placed a gentle hand on my shoulder. “What’s the last thing you remember?”

“You fought with the Empress Dowager after we got back from the skirmish with the Martians, we went to the Stardome club,” my cheeks no doubt flushed here, “We fought at Winnie’s over whether or not to do this memory transfer, and you were getting ready for a ball.”

Tristan nodded slowly. “That’s right.”

I sat down in a chair next to him. “I can’t believe I lost two whole weeks,” I said. What had happened? Had Tristan and I moved forward with any kind of relationship? I looked over at him, afraid to give voice to my questions.

“What have I missed?” I asked instead.

Tristan waved a hand, trying to look nonchalant. “Well, Nona Regina’s ball was an absolute disaster. Chet Lavigne was there, and you voiced your displeasure at the thought of he and I getting married.”

I smirked at Tristan. “At least I know I was still myself.”

A shadow of pain passed across Tristan’s face, and I wondered what happened while I was away. Surely if something was really bothering him, he would tell me?

Tristan placed his hand on mine, and I almost bolted upright. “By the Red Storm, what happened to your hand?” It was red and slightly swollen, but had nanite tracks running across it, a sure sign that he’d been treated in a regeneration chamber.

“Oh, yeah,” he said, a sheepish grin in his face. “Broke my hand in the gravity tube. Handle malfunctioned.”

I did a cursory database search as I examined Tristan’s hand. That particular injury wasn’t documented in any of the medical journals I had access to. A sense of dread grew inside me; Tristan was hiding something from me.

I tried to let it go, and got up to busy myself around the room. Things were in disarray, as usual, and I picked up Tristan’s shed clothes from the floor.

“Where did you get this shirt?” I asked as I picked up the gray tank top emblazoned with expletives.

Tristan went to the dispenser in the wall and ordered a cup of caf. “Warrens. My other shirt got stained on the way to Winnie’s”

I looked at Tristan. The shirt, the hand, the scars. What had happened to him down in the Warrens?

“You’d better get into a regeneration tank for the rest of the day,” I said. You have a lot of scheduled items over the next couple of weeks, and you need to look your best.”

Tristan downed the last of his cup then crawled into bed. “The last thing I want to think about right now is my schedule, Isul. I unfortunately have the rest of my life to look forward to being scheduled.”

I crawled into bed beside him and laid a hand on his forehead. “Is everything all right? Your temperature is normal according to my sensors.” I looked away from him. “Are you upset with me?”

Tristan pulled me close, drawing his arm around me. “Why would I be upset with you, Isul? I have you back, and you’re still you. That’s the greatest coronation gift I could ever receive.”

“But I know you’re upset about something,” I pressed.

“It’s just the visit to the Order of Oberon, and this whole damn marriage business.”

I thought about our first kiss, the thumping beat and strobing lights of the Stardome Club. Had we moved further together? I wanted desperately to ask, but I was sure he wouldn’t leave me in the dark like that. But my thoughts drifted to that evening at Winnie’s lab, where I told him to replace me forever. It was a noble thought, but now that I was here again, that I could touch Tristan and feel the warmth of his skin, I felt such a fool for ever requesting such a thing.

“Please, let’s just get some rest. I don’t want you to overtax yourself, Isul, especially after the memory transfer,” Tristan said.

I laid back against the pillow, listening to Tristan’s rhythmic breathing as my brain tried to compile all the information. Finally, without looking at him, I said, “I wonder if Winnie can retrieve those lost weeks.”

Tristan rolled over, his face sad. “If I can deal with fourteen lost years, you can deal with two lost weeks. Just be glad you’re here. I know I am.” With that, he rolled over and fell asleep.

I tried to feel happy as well, but I accessed Tristan’s schedule, and saw the flight plan laid in for Titan, which included Chet Lavigne. We were going to see Chet.

I cursed the upgrades as my tears started falling, and pain prickled at my head.

Steward McOy
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