To use one of my favourite Spoonerisms : ‘the thick plottens’!
* * *
No-one disturbed Miira the next morning so she slept in until midday, and woke to find her cheongsam twisted around her waist. Apparently she had neglected to get undressed the night before.
Crawling out of bed she shrugged out of the constricting garment and trudged to the bathroom, her heart like lead.
As the hot water pummelled her body she tried to work out what she should do. One part of her wanted to tell the psych profilers to go integrate themselves, but another part of her cringed at the thought of the added humiliation that would entail. Even if she made it quite plain that she was not interested in Kenneth Wu as a lover, the simple fact of putting her thoughts into words would forever taint their friendship. What was left of it.
“What a bloody, bloody mess!”
Half an hour later, when Miira finally dragged herself from the shower, she found that Emily, or Jane, had order breakfast for her. Next to the coffee pot was a tiny, white card with her name written in gold. It was an invitation to the Jason Armitage fashion show.
In the turmoil of the night before, Miira had completely forgotten about the fashion show, and now she really could not think of anything worse than having to schmooz with strangers when all she wanted to do was hide under the bedclothes. Could she find some excuse not to go?
“Can’t exactly say I’m sick though, can I?” She thought sourly as she poured herself a cup of strong coffee. The Innerscape wizards had even simulated the slight buzz that caffeine gave, something she badly needed right now.
She was on to her second cup of coffee, still stewing over the debacle with Kenneth, when a discrete knock sounded on her bedroom door.
“Come in,” she yelled, not at all in the mood to be gracious.
Emily came in, dressed in what passed for smart casual in this Paris of dreams.
“Just wanted to know if you wanted any help,” she said as she wandered in, her head carefully turned away from the tangled sheets that hung half way off the bed.
“What kind of help would I need?” Miira asked, her anger and humiliation boiling over. “I’m pretty sure I can’t get any STDs here. Or can I?”
“No! That is, I didn’t mean…”
Seeing the look of extreme unhappiness on Emily’s face, Miira felt a pang of guilt at her harsh words. None of this was Emily’s fault, or Kenneth’s for that matter. They were both just trying to work with the ridiculous ‘protocols’ the psych profilers had set up.
“I’m sorry Emily,” she said. “It’s just… the whole sex thing was a bit of a shock.”
“I thought it would be,” Emily said with a significant glance at the ceiling. “I told the psych profilers you were different. Ken did too, but they just wouldn’t listen…”
…oh my god… is all this is being recorded?…
Had ‘they’ been watching the whole time she was parading around in her nightie… or less…?
Miira was still coming to terms with that shock when an even more horrific one popped into her head : if she had invited Kenneth to her room the previous night, the psych profilers would have seen every sordid moment of that as well!
It had been many years since Miira had had to invoke the Lady of Durai, but the thought of being observed during her most intimate moments was the final straw.
“AI?” she yelled. “Turn off every single surveillance device this instant! Confirm that my order has been obeyed.”
“All devices have been turned off,” the unruffled voice of the AI said a moment later.
“Good. Now send this message to the psych profilers, and every member of the Innerscape board of directors. Are you ready?”
“Ready to record your message.”
“Tell them that if they ever record or observe anything more than my pulse and heartrate again, I shall hold them all personally responsible and I will give Innerscape a choice – either sack those responsible or be sued for ten years worth of profits. Oh and one last thing – neither Emily Watson nor Kenneth Wu are to suffer any disciplinary actions against them. End message.”
“Message recorded and sent.”
“Wow…” Emily whispered into the sudden silence. “Would you really do that?”
“Just watch me,” Miira said, her voice flat and cold. “Now I need to clear the air with Kenneth. Where is he?”
“Um… He’s not here at the moment,” Emily said, her tone apologetic. “He said he had some things to take care of and left first thing this morning. He’ll be back tonight though.”
The news that Kenneth had gone stole some of the wind from Miira’s righteous anger. On one level she was glad she would not have to face him just yet, but at the same time she was impatient to get the whole, nastiness over and done with. The sooner she made it clear she was only interested in his friendship the better.
* * *
All the way to the fashion show, Emily and Jane chattered away as usual, but Miira was aware of the questioning glances they sent her way whenever they thought she was not looking. Neither had ever seen her as the Lady of Durai before, and her anger had clearly changed the dynamic between them, erasing the easy camaraderie they had once enjoyed.
Being seen as powerful was not something Miira had ever wanted, or enjoyed, but what the psych profilers had done was inexcusable and could not be allowed to continue. They would all just have to make adjustments…
“So is Jason Armitage really going to be at this fashion show of his?” she asked in an effort to break the tension.
“Oh yes,’ Jane piped up. “And Keith will be there too.”
“Who’s Keith?” Miira asked.
“You don’t know? Keith Marsden is a holo star from the late 80’s. He and Jason have been lovers for simply years! It’s so romantic…”
As Jane launched into a long story about how Keith had never stopped loving Jason and had finally followed him into Innerscape so they could be together ‘for real’, Miira smiled and nodded, but her thoughts were far away. If Gem had lived just a few years longer he could have been at Durai right now, waiting for her to come home. But he had died before Innerscape even got off the ground. She had had the option of having an avatar made of him, but at the time that had seemed too ghoulish for words. Now she would have given anything to have him waiting for her, even if he was just a glorified AI…