Chapter 12:

Aberrant Gynoid Behavior

The Hoshinauts

A while before the alarms went off, Sachiko found herself with her first bit of free time since transferring command. Over the past few days, matters at JAXA had demanded more time than expected. The pressure was eating away at everyone’s patience, causing long-running disagreements to boil over into petty power struggles. Sachiko had done her best to arbitrate, but there was a growing faction within JAXA that was dissatisfied that she had more or less assumed the director’s authority. She had saved the organization, and maybe she was fit for the role, but she had to split her time with other duties, she wasn’t physically present, and she was too young.

Sachiko had to agree with them. This was no way to run a space program. The government needed to quickly name a replacement, or it would all fall apart. The current deputy director had too much baggage to be trusted by half of the departments, and none of the other senior managers were able to win enough support to be an uncontested leader.

In the past, she had made time for herself by staying up late or waking up early. She didn’t sleep well in space anyway, but Maeko had made it her mission to guilt Sachiko into getting a full night's sleep. She had to admit that it made her feel better, and she’d probably survive longer because of it, but nonstop work from morning to night work was taking a mental toll, which was why she was ecstatic that she now had nearly an hour to do whatever she wished.

Sliding into her cabin, she pulled her tablet free of the velcro hold the wall had on it and loaded up the University of Neo Tokyo’s site. The university had a nascent gynoid sociology department, and she was wondering if they’d have any literature that might explain Maeko’s actions. If anything, Maeko was bumping into her more often, not less, as she got more used to movement in microgravity.

As she scrolled through the list of published papers, she found one by a postdoc titled Aberrant Gynoid Behavior: How Outlier Gynoid Personalities Affect Their Relationships With Humans. After quelling her moral outrage at the title’s implication that gynoids were not human, Sachiko tapped the link. It was a promising lead.

She was halfway through the abstract when her eyes widened in surprise. The “relationships with humans” in the title referred to sexual relationships. Admittedly, Sachiko had no first-hand experience when it came to romance, let alone sex, but she was fairly certain you couldn’t have sex with a gynoid. To begin with, they didn’t have reproductive organs—or any organs, for that matter. They had no reason to want to be touched, and being touched by them felt unpleasant. Then again, everybody experienced gynoid contact differently. Maybe there was a very small population for whom it felt good? A few paragraphs later, she found that was not quite the case.

The paper described a sexual fetish known as mysophilia, which involved being attracted to filthy things. This usually meant dirt or human excretions, but for some people, it meant gynoids. That was surprising to Sachiko. Despite hearing others express that they found the gynoids disgusting, she had never once found them gross herself, and so never expected that others would rate them in the same category as muck and feces.

Most of the study focused on the “human” side of the story, with a few salacious quotes from study participants. To Sachiko, these raunchy details were little more than curiosities. She understood what sex was on an academic level, but she didn’t really understand the implications of these anecdotes, as she had never had an orgasm herself. She skipped over the stories, too innocent to feel properly embarrassed, skimmed the conclusion, and found the citations at the end. Though she didn’t recognize the titles, she could tell they were all digital magazines.

Logging in to the government’s copyright registration database—a perk of being an important government employee—she quickly located the issues and started browsing them in alphabetical order. The first half dozen were gravure idol magazines, full of pictures of idols in suggestive poses, but no substantive text. They all contained a section in the back with a few “gynoid of the month” photos. There were a few quotes from the gynoid models about things like fashion, but nothing terribly enlightening.

In fact, Sachiko was growing convinced that she had gone down the wrong track if she was looking for clues to Maeko’s behavior. She was just about to return to the university’s site when she opened a magazine to find a pair of bare breasts front and center. This was, she realized, a pornographic magazine aimed at men, not something that she had any business looking at. Except… she was eighteen now. Even if the Federation didn’t consider her a full adult until age twenty, it was socially acceptable—or at the very least, legal—for her to read this. Curiosity got the better of her. Even if she didn’t learn anything about Maeko, this was proving to be an educational experience in itself.

What surprised her the most was the articles. There were, of course, lewd stories, but there were also long-form essays on matters of art and science. The quality of some of them surpassed those she had read in mainstream periodicals, the only difference being that they were flanked by images of nude women.

Is this really what men like? Sachiko thought to herself, book reviews and boobs?

She didn’t see the appeal, personally. The photos didn’t stir any feelings in her. When she finally found the gynoid articles, though, her opinion changed. The first was an interview with a gynoid couple who had married each other. She vaguely remembered hearing about them before, but knew nothing about why they had chosen to marry. According to the article, they had different reasons. One simply preferred the company of her wife over all others, while the other found meaning in acting as if she had emotions. Sachiko’s attention was drawn to a snippet of the interview where she explained.

Rito: We don’t have feelings, but that doesn’t mean there are things we can’t understand, or things we can’t do. Is an altruistic gesture less impactful when done without good intentions? Some may argue that it’s not as meaningful without the proper motivation, but by that same argument, a destructive action would be less harmful without malice. Our marriage is no different from any other. Even if we do not love each other, we treat each other as well as the most loving couples, and we do all the same things that they do.

Interviewer: Even in the bedroom?

Rito: Nearly everyone we talk to is curious about that, but most have the good manners to avoid the topic. I’ll just say that you wouldn’t ask a biological couple that question, and leave the rest to your imagination.

There was no good way to answer that, Sachiko realized. If Rito said that they were not intimate, their marriage would be seen as something lesser than other marriages, but if she said that they were, they would be criticized for wasting energy simulating sex acts for no benefit. Because it was a private act, it couldn’t even serve to make a statement. Perhaps it was just wishful thinking, but Sachiko got the impression that they were doing it.

Scrolling past the interview, Sachiko arrived at a photo of a nude gynoid with her mouth wide open and her long tongue sticking down past her chin. Unlike the other photos, this one actually had an effect on Sachiko. There was something about that tongue, so similar to her own, yet obviously different, that made her want to examine it up close. She convinced herself that it was just curiosity, even as her heart rate increased ever so slightly. Looking wouldn’t be enough. She wanted to touch it, and she could feel that desire in the tips of her fingers.

Wanting to touch. That was how she had conceptualized sex earlier. She had thought a gynoid wouldn’t engage in sexual activity because they had no reason to want to be touched, but that was only half of the equation. Regardless of what her real motivations might be, she had just admitted to herself that she wanted to touch a gynoid tongue, even if it felt unpleasant. Did she want to be touched by a gynoid, though? She didn’t think so, but this magazine had already taught her so much. She’d better read more, just to be sure.

Other issues of the same publication shed more light on the issue. It seemed that no two gynoids had the same reason for pursuing romantic or sexual relationships. Most were for purely practical reasons. One had performed favors to overcome discrimination and climb the corporate ladder, one worked at a soapland for money, and one satisfied the urges of an anonymous high-ranking politician in exchange for support on certain issues. Others had more nebulous reasoning. One anonymous gynoid wrote she took sexual partners to prove to herself that she was capable of making suboptimal choices, and thus had free will. Another was in a relationship because she believed the world was a slightly better place if her partner was happy and fulfilled.

That last one struck Sachiko as made up. In fact, all of the claims within the articles were unverifiable. These articles were entertainment, not news. They were supposed to be exciting and thought-provoking, even if most of those thoughts were prurient in nature. Still, most of the reasons sounded like they were the products of gynoid thought processes, so if they weren’t real, either gynoids were writing the articles, or someone had done their research.

Eventually, she came across an image that literally took her breath away. Two women, one biological and one gynoid, were pressing up against each other from the front. The two of them were holding hands, arms raised next to their heads, with fingers interlocking. Their faces were partially obscured by their arms, but they were both visibly grinning. There were no naughty bits visible in the photo, but to Sachiko, it was more erotic than any of the others.

She knew that there was no way it actually felt good, but the actress did a great job selling the illusion, and that solidified the fantasy in Sachiko’s mind. Yes, a fantasy. That’s all it was. Being touched by a gynoid like that in real life would be uncomfortable, but as a fantasy, it was exciting. She closed her eyes to imagine a gynoid hand caressing her softly, and a sigh escaped from her lips. The imaginary hands were hard and strong, but gentle and… smaller than they should be. This wasn’t any gynoid: It was Maeko.

Her eyes fluttered back open in shock, and Sachiko realized that her own hand was hovering above her breast, mere centimeters away from the fabric of her jumpsuit. Her fingers still tingled with the desire to touch, and a tightness in her chest was screaming to be touched, but she wasn’t sure she wanted to go further. It was unknown, and therefore scary, but fear of the unknown had never stopped her since GE26. Her hesitation came from the idea that there was a proper time and place for this kind of thing, and it didn’t feel right to do it on the ISS. This was sacred ground. The first stepping stone to the stars.

Then again, if she died up here, she’d never have the opportunity to try it anywhere else.

As she was mired in indecision, the alarm went off.

“That’s everyone,” Hina confirmed, once they were all present in Zvezda.

Pressure in the station was dropping, but not fast enough to be an immediate danger. The standard procedure was to close off the hatch separating the segments to determine which was leaking, and then narrow down the search from there. As Hina left to close and lock the hatch, Maeko turned to Sachiko.

“You look flushed. Are you feeling OK?”

“Oh, I, uh, got into a heated argument with OCOMM again,” Sachiko said. It wasn’t a complete lie. She really had argued with them earlier in the day. “Actually, I’m more worried about Erika. She looks kinda sick.”

“Alarm just scared me,” Erika said, holding a hand up to weakly wave away Sachiko’s concern.

“The leak is coming from the Russian segment,” a CAPCOM’s voice informed them over loudspeaker.

“OK,” Hina said. “Yasu, take Erika to the Shuttle and prepare it for evacuation, just in case. The rest of us will hunt the leak down.”

Yasu looked like the last thing she wanted was to be alone with a sickly-looking Erika, but she obeyed without complaint.

“I’ll check the Soyuz,” Hina said. “Sachiko, Zarya. Maeko, Zvezda. Got it?”

Without waiting for confirmation, Hina pushed herself towards the docking module. Maeko immediately began searching for the source of the leak, visually inspecting every nook and cranny of the node. Sachiko however, hesitated, and Maeko noticed.

“What’s wrong?” Maeko asked quietly. “You can tell me.”

“I…” Sachiko trailed off. This wasn’t the time to get distracted. She needed to focus on what was important. Taking a deep breath, she calmed her heart and forced those images out of her mind.

Then again, they weren’t in any immediate danger, and Hina would be back in a matter of minutes. It had to be now.

“Can I touch your tongue?”

Pope Evaristus