Authors: Ed Howdershelt
3rd World Products
Copyright©2013 by Ed Howdershelt
Note: I’m not going to re-introduce everybody.
Read my other 3WP-Books before starting Book 17.
Caution: Erotic Content
Preparing to run my sim and myself through a Tae Kwon Do kata, I called up a music screen and set up a refractive, soundproof dome field around my back yard. Stepping out the back porch door, I decided Motley Crue’s ‘
Girls, Girls, Girls
‘ would set the beat well enough. After a sip of beer and a few deep breaths, I stepped away from the porch table, called up my sim, and started the music.
As my sim and I moved through the kata, I realized yet again that I didn’t have even the slightest fuzzy idea how I was making the damned thing move. That bugged the hell out of me.
Shifting my consciousness to and from my chunk of Athena’s core no longer seemed to challenge me at all, so I’d taken that as a sign to spend more time working with sims. They had no core space of their own, so I couldn’t fully ‘inhabit’ sims as I did the core, but I could operate them remotely through simple links.
The sim perfectly mirrored my every move. It was literally like being in two places at once, with each of my ‘selves’ closely watching the other for mistakes. Once upon a time that would have been totally confusing, but now it seemed more or less natural. I wondered how the hell my brain had adapted to handling so much input from two sources at once.
When the first kata ended, I poked up Crue’s ‘
Kick Start My Heart
‘ and returned to my porch table. Sipping my beer, I studied the Ed2 sim in front of me for the umpteenth time. Field probes were just shaped energy. No computer, no brain. The sim was just a triad of modified probes; one for the body and two for the eyes to provide binocular vision and depth perception.
I’d made some kind of connection or I wouldn’t have been able to make it move at all, but a connection to
exactly? The AIs had tried to explain, but it involved half a ton of supermath. After a while I’d said ‘thanks, anyway,’ and just continued making and using sims without quite knowing how I did it. That seemed to fascinate and amuse the AIs to no end.
Lori leaned out the back door and asked if I wanted another beer. I held up mine with a finger against the bottle to indicate it was still over half full and shook my head. Lori brought her beer out and sat down at the table, sitting upright to avoid having her sunburned back contact the chair.
She wore an oversized white t-shirt over her blue bikini. Her face and shoulders nearly glowed red from too much sun. Damn. I studied the gentle — and very crimson — swells of her thighs, then let my eyes roam up her arms to her face, where I found her eyes waiting to meet mine. After a moment, she slouched in her chair and mimicked my disgruntled thoughtfulness.
Letting my sim and the refractive yard field vanish, I left the soundproof field up as I asked, “You have a comment, ma’am?”
She shook her head, grinned, and said cheerily, “Oh, no, I just wanted you to see what you look like over there.”
Eyeing the neighborhood, I thought, ‘
Maybe a field that lightly obscures the view? Like a bathroom window or a shower door? But not the whole yard, just my immediate area? Worth a try.
Sipping my beer and casting a slightly blurry field around us, I examined the result as I said, “Uh, huh. Well, it’s a good thing you’re so decorative, Miz Mackenzie, ‘cuz you damned sure aren’t being particularly helpful. Y’know, I’m almost
I mentioned something about sunburns before we hit the beach this morning.”
Rolling her eyes, she sighed. “Yes, you did. And believe it or not, I heard you all four or five times.”
“Heh. Yet here you sit, an actual scarlet woman.”
Rolling her eyes, Lori said, “Trust you to come up with that.”
I shrugged. “Wishful thinking, probably.”
“How come you aren’t burned, too?”
“I turned on my p-field after about half an hour. Want me to get you some throat spray?”
Lifting her chin and touching her throat, Lori gave me a puzzled look and asked, “
Pointing at her forearm, I said, “To kill the pain before you rub on skin lotion. Even with the nanobots, you’re gonna peel like a grape.”
“Oh. Well, maybe later, I guess.” She lifted her shirt sleeve and studied her upper left arm for a moment, then sighed, “
do you get a sunburn in
“Same way you get one any other time the sun’s shining.”
“But I’m from
I shouldn’t have burned like this!”
I chuckled, “That’s what Nikki Kettleman said, too. I told Miss ‘
No sweat, I’m from New Mexico
‘ the same thing I told you, but she wouldn’t listen either. You probably aren’t as bad off as some pasty office clerk would be, but you’ll feel that all afternoon.”
Letting her sleeve flop down, she muttered, “Yeah, yeah,” and sipped her beer. After a few moments, she asked, “So how did Miss New Mexico wind up here, Ed? Or shouldn’t I ask?”
Shrugging again, I said, “It’s no secret. We decided to call it rehab of a sort.”
“You know she shot a guy, right?”
“Yeah, but he tried to rob them and shot her husband before she shot him.”
“Yup. Nikki already had her gun out. Her husband tried to stop the whole thing like some kind of a fight referee. He got right between them hollering ‘Stop!’ But the baddie pulled his trigger and ran. That’s what complicated things; Nikki watched her husband drop, then put two rounds in the guy who’d shot him. He was running away when her first round hit his leg, which his mother’s slimy little lawyer quickly pointed out. He said Nikki was no longer in mortal danger, so she had no legal right to shoot him. Her second round got him in the chest when he tried to shoot at her.”
“It happened in Taos. How’d you get involved?”
“Angie called me. Nikki was having a hard time of it and Angie didn’t think she was making enough progress with counselors, legal or otherwise.”
Her eyebrow lifted. “What did she expect
“She didn’t say, but she did say Nikki would be at her lawyer’s office around eleven and suggested I find some excuse to drop in on her later. I said I’d give it some thought.”
As if realizing something was coming, Lori developed a speculative grin and asked, “And you did, of course?”
“Yup. I decided to visit Taos that morning, in fact. I made a translucent, semi-tangible sim that looked like the naked thug in the morgue. Gangbanger tattoos, scars, bullet holes, autopsy stitches, everything. Had it drift out of the morgue like a ghost and float straight to the lawyer’s office. It scared the hell out of him, then it followed that greedy little jackass around like a malevolent dog. He quit the case. His firm handed it to another guy. The sim followed him the same way. When he and his boss went to see a judge about getting off the case, the sim stood right there in the courtroom. Bailiffs tried to grab it and couldn’t. The mother and others wailed and railed at it.”
I grinned. “For some reason, cameras couldn’t seem to take its picture. When Nikki arrived at her lawyer’s office, the sim floated out of the courthouse and a block and a half south with a good sized crowd, including the judge and some cops. When Nikki and her lawyer went to the window to see what all the fuss outside was about, I made the sim go to its knees, put its hands together, and act like it was praying for her forgiveness.”
Looking enlightened, Lori blurted, “So
what all that..! I thought that was all just tabloid bullshit!”
“That was the idea. The newspapers and local TV handled it like any other ghost story. I had a probe follow the judge. When he tried to get another lawyer for the case, I had the sim reappear in his courtroom and stand in front of the bench. He shut down his court room and left. The sim followed him around until about two, then it got in his car with him. The judge yelled something about not taking the goddamned ghost of a Mexican gang thug home to meet his family and went back into the court house.”
Sipping beer, I said, “At first the thug’s mother didn’t want to drop her wrongful death suit. She wanted a big cash settlement. I had the sim try to sit in her lap. She freaked and tried to get away, but the sim followed her. That made her freak even worse. When she dropped her keys by her car, I had the sim pick them up. She wouldn’t go near it, even for the keys. Half an hour of following her around was all it took to change her mind. She ran back to the judge and asked if he thought dropping the lawsuit would make the ghost go away. He said he fervently hoped so. She called the firm and everything was done in half an hour. As soon as all the signatures were in place, I had the sim dissipate like smoke. If another lawsuit happens, he’ll be back.”
Lori grinned and chortled, “
I love it! I just love it!
” but then she looked thoughtful and said, “But that doesn’t explain how Nikki wound up here.”
“Angie set that up. Nikki had been talking about getting the hell out of Taos. Miami had a slot she could fill. When Nikki called in her version of the ghost story and reiterated her desire to leave Taos, Angie called me and asked if I’d mind being a chauffeur. That Thursday I picked up Nikki, took her to Miami, and picked her up again Friday afternoon. I asked if she’d like to avoid Taos for a whole weekend and maybe hit a beach.”
In moderate shock, Lori yelped, “Ed! She’d just lost her husband!”
With a shrug, I said, “So? She could use the guest room or get a motel room. She wouldn’t have to sleep with me to get a ride to the beach.”
Her shock faded only enough to make room for some suspicion as she asked, “Uh… So what did she do?”
“After she discussed things with Angie, she accepted the guest room. We hit Clearwater Beach on Saturday, visited the Keys on Sunday, and I took her home Sunday night.”
Eyeing me narrowly, Lori asked, “And you never tried to, uh…” she made a little ‘
you know what I mean
Puffing up and trying to look insulted and aloof, I even added a layer of phony frost as I said, “Just
to remember what I once told you about personal stuff and friends, ma’am. I wouldn’t tell you anything intimate even if there were anything to tell. Nor would I tell you whether she drank a bit much and talked a bit much Saturday evening and then just sat and cried with what seemed like one helluva lot of relief until she fell asleep on the couch.”
Sipping my beer, I said, “I
say, however, that she was still asleep on the couch at ten the next morning. And that she didn’t look so beaten-down and sad. And that she didn’t pick at her food during lunch; she ate like a starving animal. And she left with a sunburn much like yours.”
“So you think you talked her out of her funk?”
I shook my head. “Nah. Not me. People have to find their own ways out of funks. All I did was listen and ask questions like a slow ten-year-old until she’d explained things often enough and well enough that her viewpoint showed obvious changes.”
Lori chuckled, “Or maybe she was just getting fed up with explaining things to a slow ten-year-old?”
“Nope. That can frustrate you or even piss you off, but it won’t change your feelings about a topic. She had to explain to me until
could see why things couldn’t have gone any other way. Once she did that, she just sort of mumbled and snuggled her pillow and dropped off between words.”
“Uh, huh. And just like that, all was right with the world the next day?”
“No, I’d say it just took some of the worst edges off things. She had a more realistic and less emotional mental picture of herself.”