"Let machinery fake my place, who has time to chase. Digital is where it is. Love can always be replaced. Welcome to my consciousness. Welcome to our race. Everything is never quite enough."
Everything (is never quite enough)... Diop, Wasis
"So you broached the subject with your Fliogan?"
"I did more then broach it Chang, I opened it right up and dove in."
"What's the problem, sounds like everything's going well."
"I think it is, only now, I wonder what I should do next. There seems to be a whole ritual to this that I never knew existed."
"That's mating for you. This is why I don't have the system set up a match for me Maxwell. Why bother with it all? At the same time, I do admit to having jealousy."
"You want it, only you don't want to bother?"
"Exactly, there is a ritual behind any mating, stages you'll go through."
"How do you know so much about this if you've never been through it?"
"Did I say I'd never had a relationship? I just haven't asked for a match, there's a whole world out there beyond the system's matches."
"I believe you, so, what are these stages that I can expect?"
"The first one you're going through right now, you're getting to know this potential mate, learning about one another, possibly experimenting with the sexual aspects."
"Correct so far, but what's the next stage?"
"Don't you know already Maxwell?" He turned his head from where he'd been bent over studying the inner workings of a small Youlin. The tiny mammal kicked a foot as he prodded it with the VR support system.
"Well, I suppose it just goes a step further now?"
"That's right, now you'll come to an understanding, but you will not know where you stand. This is the problematic part of it all Maxwell, I wish you luck." He grinned at me, and then bent to his task once more.
"This is supposed to be helpful?"
"I never said I was here to help you with all your problems, I'm merely handing out advice. It's up to you to figure out how to use it. Now go see if you can meet with your Fliogan again, I've got to finish this up."
"Alright Chang, by the way, that's a nice looking clone."
"Don't hint around Maxwell, you know it just makes me angry."
"But you haven't told me how it's going, the wait is killing me."
He turned and smiled at the camera again, baring his teeth. "Die, then we'll know that it's all done correctly, won't we?"
"Nice, real nice Chang."
"I'll tell you if it works the minute it does. In the meantime, don't mention it again."
"All right then, I won't. Fina, end call."
"Fina, send a realtime call to Mr. Yuy."
I turned toward one of the many cameras lining the walls, and smiled. "I designed something I thought you might enjoy meeting in. Program set Visualization, journey 1. I'll be in for a few hours; I need to verify some things I've set up. Meet with me?"
The Visualization program was indeed something new I'd been designing. I'd been putting it together for the past few hours, my inspiration was Heero himself. I wanted to try to give him something. Perhaps it was one of those stages Wufei had been telling me about. Was this the stage of giving? I didn't know the answer to that anymore than I knew what came next in such a courtship.
I was sitting in one of the bowers along the water when I spotted Heero. The program was designed to be a world of massive trees, water, and open airways. What I was sitting in was a small part of a vast tree, the leaves of the tree were as large as I was, and so I sat within a small crook at the base of a branch.
Watching Heero as he flew towards me on those silvery wings was a breathtaking sight. I wondered for the moment what he thought of this world I'd created, and then my thoughts dispersed as he plummeted towards the limb I sat on. His wings opened wide, braking the forward motion of his body, and with a small flutter of the tips of those flexible wings, he landed gently in front of me.
"I'm pleased you came Heero, I was beginning to wonder if you would."
"A set was born a few hours ago, I was checking the next stage equipment." He said, sitting down beside me on the branch and stretching his legs out.
"Yes, no malfunctions occurred, and the sets were healthy."
We sat in silence for a few moments, watching the shimmering fogs as they drifted throughout the trees, soft sounds of life barely audible around us. After a while, I started speaking, keeping my voice low so I wouldn't disturb the tranquility of our environment.
"I realized recently, that I really don't know much about you or your race. We're told that the Fliogan don't care for intruders, we're told you're cold, ruthless beings." I paused and he seemed about to say something in response, I held up my hand. "These are the things we're told about you, and I wonder how much of it is true. For now though, I would rather know *you*, your race can wait."
He shifted, turning towards me with an expectant expression.
"We could talk forever, compare our lives, and slowly learn of one another. But I've always been impatient with normal methods of doing things. And so, I propose an exchange of memory."
"I know, it's probably too soon, but already I'm frustrated by my lack of knowledge."
"Duo I ... "
"Just hear me out. I've had my trance states recorded my entire life. In the surrounding trees, I've placed memories within hollowed chambers inside of them. I want to share them with you, so that you will know me. If you don't want to share yours I'll accept that, but, I would like to gift you with mine."
"One more thing," I met those Steelshift eyes, leaning close enough to smell the soft odor that hung about him, the scent of his world perhaps. "I don't want to be here when and if you choose to use my gift. I would like if you learn about me when I'm not around."
"What?" I was so surprised I jerked backwards, nearly dropping off the tree. Heero casually reached out to pull me back as I began to fall.
"I said, I accept. If you had bothered to let me speak before, I would have told you. You need not try to persuade me, I would like learning about you. As for an exchange, it would disturb me to share the memories I have with anyone, but I will share them with you." Our faces were close enough so that I could see the shifting of light within his eyes.
"If you're worried about the tech level difference... " I started to say, noticing that his hand still grasped my arm.
"No, it's not that at all. Duo, you *must* understand that I can't see without Fina, I did not gain access to sight until a few years ago. In my society, I'm an outcast; I am a flaw amongst perfection."
"No you're wrong. I think you're perfection amongst flaws." I said impulsively, leaning in and kissing him in a quick movement. His eyes widened in surprise before they shut, arms going around me, wings folding over us protectively. As I shifted to wrap my arms around him in return my foot slipped out from beneath me, and I lost my balance, dragging the both of us from the branch. I sucked in my breath to scream.
When Heero's wings opened like great sails, the span of them twice the length of his body. For a few seconds we kept plummeting down through the branches, and then we began braking slowly. Until at last we hovered in place, the beating of his wings and racing of my heart the only sounds I could hear.
"Maybe a tree wasn't the best place to meet."
"Nice time to think of that Heero."
"I'm not the one who set this up."
"Could you move your hand a little, I think these pants are actually fusing with my skin." I winced as he shifted his hand, absently rubbing my aching rear. "Did you have to grab so hard?"
"It was the nearest thing at hand."
I turned my head, staring at him for a moment. I could've sworn I'd heard him laugh, a small little chuckle, barely audible beneath the sound of his wings. "You think it's funny?"
"Have you looked down lately?" He asked calmly, his hands tightening their grip around my waist.
I glanced down, and then twisted around until I could cling to him with my arms *and* legs. We'd been steadily ascending, the tree we'd been sitting in a small dot below. "Hhh... how... is th... thh... this safer?"
"You won't fall now."
"Don't you feel safe?"
I paused in my tirade, listening to the gentle sounds of the wind, the idle flapping of his wings. It was peaceful, and when I thought about, I did feel safe.
"Do you trust me yet?" He whispered against my ear, turning my body carefully around until I faced outward, the only thing holding me in place his arms. I didn't say anything, only capable of a feeble nod.
Then we were falling, the ground rushing up at us, the trees and water becoming larger and larger with each passing second. My legs were stretched out along his, hands clasped around his forearms. At the last possible moment, we arched upward again, the wind whistling in our passage. It was exhilarating, the feeling of being able to fly. No program could do it so well, make it feel that real.
As we began climbing into the sky again, spinning on a wave of air. I began laughing; squirming around until I could stare up into his face, watch the expression there. "Do you know what could make this better?"
"If you kiss me some more." I said with a smile, meeting his mouth halfway, eager for the feel of it against my own. And I was right; nothing had ever felt more stimulating.
"Fina, do you ever feel anything?"
"Do you ever think beyond the boundaries you're given?"
"I am not capable of such action Mr. Maxwell."
"What if you were? You contain my memories, you share my brain Fina. What is the barrier that keeps you separate from me? Why can't you feel what I do?"
"No, I'm beginning to realize something Fina, emotions like this are necessary, there is something *more* than life. I think what we have forgotten, is that there is a *reason* for life."
"A reason Mr. Maxwell?"
"Yes Fina, there is something beyond what we've been told. There is something beyond what has been taught to us. I think with Heero I see a beginning now, I understand something I hadn't before."
"Yes Mr. Maxwell?"
"Love is a doorway into life Fina. A doorway through which I'm walking. I don't think there's any going back now."
"How do you feel Mr. Maxwell?"
"How do you feel?"
"I... I... don't know."
"Love is confusing?"
"Life is confusing, love is just complicating it. Was I wrong to let you find my mate instead of the system? How will I know if I've made the right decision?"
"May I make a suggestion Mr. Maxwell?"
"Don't think about it, live it."
"When did you become so smart Fina?"
"The moment I began to share your mind Mr. Maxwell."
"Sounds more like you've been taking lessons from Chang."
"You can't fool me, I'm on to you Fina."
"Ah, don't say another word, let's live a while, shall we?"
Transpod: A dimensional traveling device. The transpod will transport human mass within any area that contains another transpod. The time taken for each journey will always be exactly 10 nanoseconds, as time is folded as well as matter to create no ripple within the dimensions.
Slosta: A drink created from organic matter grown on Jilad, the Slosta is filled with nutrients that heighten awareness and energize.
CR chips: Two microchips implanted behind the ears, the connectors that allow a direct linkage to the VR modules.
Shinalp: A form of cursing, Shinalp is somewhat akin to saying "shit" or "ah shit"
Kajacrap: The Kaja is a life form located on the planet Neskin, a large beast known to produce huge amounts of feces. The phrase kajacrap is akin to saying "Bullshit"
Fliogan Warriors: The Fliogan is a race that attaches metallic wings to their young while they are still being formed within the incubators. The wings are partially organic, fusing with the young so as to become part of their bodies. This warrior race is known to be extremely high tech, and very vicious, most normal humans will not go near them, as they are known to kill without reason. Very little is known of the Fliogan or their ways.
Feed Tubes: Connectors that feed information and nutrients to any life form connected to any long-term device.
Lavablue 6: The planet on which the society of Fliogan reside at this time.
Levels: Technological knowledge is rated by level; most societies only have an average of 30 levels. The common level of most humans is 5, techmaster levels tend to be higher and in the upper ranges.
Steelshift: 1 of over a million different charted elements, Steelshift is partially organic, allowing it to be integrated with human DNA, testing is still in experimental stages, most distinguished users of this element are the Fliogan.
Slipshot Diskwings: A style of wing known to be common among the Fliogan, Slipshot defines the integration of movable parts, Diskwing is the style of the small circular patterns of metal that form the wings of Fliogan.
Contract: A contract is a more binding way to say, "Promise or swear?"
Optilenses: Cyber optic lenses, which can be used during a VR program only.
Creos: The original form of the name Christ has changed with the passage of time, modern form of the word when used as a curse is Creos.
Orstras: A plant matter grown in dark caves on the planet of Trinition, considered a delicacy on most planets, the plant is dark purple with small white bells that can be plucked and cooked. The taste is said to be sweet and delicate.
Realtime Call: The difference between a realtime call and a regular call is in the distance, all realtime calls infer off planet residence of the caller, communications run at high speeds, face to face talking is still difficult between planets.
What is your task: This is the way most people will ask what your job is, what career you're in.
Crèche Technician: Most people are born to the incubators and raised in crèches, the technicians help care for the many children being raised in such places.
Grower: The still forming body of a child within the incubator, a delicate time that must be carefully overseen to prevent accidents. A grower is usually designated as a child in a womb-like state. Between –1 to –9 months, or the time a child would be inside of a mother's body.
Youlin: I manmade mammalian life form, these animals are specifically created to improve the technology behind cloning. Most tests are performed with a small VR module; with which the creatures are filled with the only knowledge they know, as the Youlin is created with a blank slate for a mind.
A Set: A group of Growers that have reached maturity.
Trance state: Every few months of a citizen's life is recorded during REM cycles, the consciousness is stored within a neural processor called a memory chip. Occasionally when one wishes to know another, an exchange of such chips may occur.