[DVFP] Claire (J 3.3)

edited December 2016 in aw2e-dvfp
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June,
Gigg heads inside to The Pit, leaving you to finish your cig. After a moment alone in the heat, Isle comes outside, then stands near you. She gives you a nod of hello, but she's not your biggest fan. What did she see you do to a sandganger once when they pushed you too far?

Rothschild comes out to you, holds up a bottle of some clear grain alcohol with a look of triumph.

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    Isle gets a quiet nod back from me, the kind that starts from the chin and tilts its way up. I don't wanna talk, just want to finish this cig and stay neutral. I still don't fully have my breath back.

    That sandganger..don't think I ever got their name. I'd just paid my way through a checkpoint like a good little nonviolence-doer and then on a lark, they wanted my hat, and then my jacket, and then hey skinny gimme them sticks and I handed them over and made 'em swing around the whole checkpoint on my crutches while I leaned on a car and watched.

    Roth brings a smile to my face, and I take the bottle from her. "Roth, you are an angel of kindness." I drink some immediately, and it's an exquisitely harsh, hot garbage of a liquor. I actually have to breathe out the fumes and make a whiskey face. "Sheetfire!"
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    Rothschild laughs at the whiskey face, rubs your back, "I know. It burned me up, too. Eyes watering and everything in front of Esco. It's ours. I didn't even steal it." She walks beside you, closer than earlier today just out of reach of your crutches, but only barely.

    Isle watches you leave, and Rothschild waits until you're out of earshot before she asks as you move towards market in the calm before that storm, "You called me Claire? Why? It felt... familiar."
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    "Esco? Hell, he's poisoning us." I crack about it, but I take a smaller drink before putting it away. I glance once, back at Isle, so she knows I see her watchin', but no more.

    "Claire's your given name, that's why." I pause in the quiet street. "Your mother's name is Patrice."
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    She searches your eyes in case it's a trick. Force of habit. She seems to get that you're being true, like you always have been. "You pull that outta my head, June? Anything else in there worth anything?" She takes a swig of the alcohol. "Wanna go see Missed since we're out?"
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    My hand beckons for the alcohol. "I meshed with you in our sleep. It happens when I have extended skin contact with someone, my.. Rothschild, I'll call you whatever you want, and everything in your mind is worth something." If she gives me the liquor, I burn through a little more of it.

    "Let's go see Missed."
  • edited January 1
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    She holds the alcohol slightly away so that you need to lean for it, and meets your eyes, "Rothschild. Out-out here." She hands the liquor, lets you take a drink, then takes the bottle back, "But... Claire when it's just us."

    As you crutch and she walks to skirt around the tent market, she looks up at you, "You said my. "My" what? My minion? My liquor-holder? My... wonderful assistant? My...?" She looks at you as if you're supposed to fill in the blank there.
    What do you do?
  • edited January 1
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    "I like that." Easy to do, but intimate.

    I smile as Rothschild needles me with questions. If she didn't give me scorch like this sometimes, and people weren't altogether like 'Oh June you silly, she's gon' rob you and go', my whole hobby right now would be scarin' her off. Nobody warns her about me, and it doesn't seem fair.

    "My girl. My wonderful assistant. My lover. Goodness, do I look like someone who calls people 'My minion'? I need to tone it the fug down." What I was going to say was 'my reflex is to reach out.' This is more fun. I need a laugh right now.

    I mime out villainous claw hands and mock the words out in a nasal whine, lip curled. "Mmnyess, my minion!" It cracks me up too fast, clearly that paint stripper we're drinkin' is workin'.
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    Rothschild has a fit of giggles and ends up wiping at her mouth with the back of her hand. She hops away and stumbles into a person's card table, upsetting their collection of trinkets. She apologizes profusely and you most definitely see her pocket a plastic doll that was on that guy's table. He doesn't, though.
    What do you do?
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    By way of further apology, and balance..and this stuff has brought just the right amount of trouble and no more is needed..I gift that card seller with the last of the gutburner.

    This seems like a compulsive behavior..relief, just after a stressor. Maybe I can help give her a replacement. The real curse here is she's so damn good at stealin'.

    I wait till we're a ways away. "Do you have a plan for that?"
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    At your question, she holds up this guy:
    Nash
    "You mean Nash?" Rothschild asks as she makes him bob up and down. "Isn't he fabulous?" She hands it to you, "House warming gift. Plus, extra security. It's the best plan." She makes Nash dance a little.
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    I rub Roth's scalp playfully, then tuck Nash away inside my jacket. "I'll put him right over the door, I'm sure."

    Thinkin' about it, though..we'll probably need security once we're up and runnin'. I used to sort of run that all myself with multiple relays and emitters but now I only have one of each.
  • edited January 1
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    Rothschild closes her eyes when you rub her scalp, and grins when you take Nash from her. Before you start to move on, she takes your tie in her hand and pulls you down for a kiss, ignoring the market onlookers. "I wanna mesh with you again. And when are you gonna share some of your memories with me, huh? What's the phrase?" She purses her lips in thought for a moment. "Quid Pro Quo."
    Ahead are the pair of tall bunkers that serve as the guard barracks where you should be able to find Missed this time of day.
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    I shake my head a little over the doll before I'm interrupted by a hand on my tie. Kissing someone in public..I love the thought that I'm rubbing someone's nose in my happiness, but I also love my privacy.

    She says she wants to mesh with me again, and it halts me in my return to standing. Excitement blossoms from the core of me, buffeted by her request. "I could do it tonight, but it's an intense experience."

    "You so eager to know me better? I'm an evil witch, you know." I tease as we approach the bunkers.
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    She nods in response to your teasing, "I like intense, and I really like witches. Plus, if you give me trouble, I'll drop a house on ya." She moves ahead to the barracks and asks about Missed. Turns out she's in the East Barracks.
    You head off to East Barracks, which is a two-story metal Quonset hut covered in thick tarps layered over to keep the heat down. There are a dozen men and women doing calisthenics
    A few minutes later, Missed comes out to see you. She's dressed in the tan pants the guard's wear and a white tank top. You move over by a set of fences that separate the barracks from the rest of Depot and she leans against a fence, putting a foot back flat on the metal. Rothschild meanders over to the fence a bit away from you, giving you privacy with Missed and also letting her keep an eye out on the other guards.


    She lights a cigarette and offers you one from her pack. "Never expected a visit from you. Must be something important, June. Everything alright?" She takes a puff, then assures you, "I'm in good standing. No worries on my side."
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    I laugh at Roth's joke, let her trot ahead and get Missed on the line to us.

    Watchin' these people doin' calisthenics practically makes me tired. I take Missed's cigarette gratefully and light it up. Woman after my own heart. "Glad to hear it. I been tryin' to get a line on one of Saint Anger's people, and somethin' else dropped in my lap entirely."

    I take in and release a puff before goin' on. "If someone big breaches this area in a gas mask and scrounge armor, and you'll know when you see him..you need to disappear from that situation."
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    Missed doesn't know Gigg by that description and there are plenty who would fit (just not that big). "You came all the way out here to deliver that vague warning? C'mon, June. You don't know me that well, yet, but you have to know I'm not stupid. This is only enough to have me jumping at ghosts." She fixes you with a look, "Either tell me what's what, tell me you don't trust me as far as you can throw me."
  • edited January 2
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    I sigh. She's right, I should treat her like a student, and accept the risk of knowledge. "There's a bunch of minor gang reshufflin' goin' on right now, as I'm sure you know. I have dismal feelin's about it. Last of the Amazons wants to get at Foster, one of Saint Anger's new lieutenants, and I think they'll drop in here and try to collect her daughter, Li."

    Glancin' at the cigarette she gave me, I continue. These are pretty good. Rarely a shortage in DVFP, but sometimes I suspect there's a brand sponsorship war or somethin' and the labels all change.

    "I think it will happen very soon, tonight or the next." Not sure if I think it should happen..Li's got no choices, but the people outside of her get to choose whether she's a hostage or motherless. "He's taller than me, even, with an Amazon mark and..he's got a lil' granny purse. I need you to not kill him, or get killed by him. Enough to go on?"
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    Missed blows out a breath. Nods. "Enough to go on." She peers at you for a moment, then lowers her voice, "It sounds like you're describing that half-wit Gigg. Is that. Is that right?" She sees the answer in your eyes. "Shite. That's... not good. Stealing Li? That girl's really sweet. June, she's never been out here. Ever. She won't last a day!"
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    "And will she last a day after her mother's dead or useless? On the level, will she?" I don't fuggin' like it either. "I don't think Gigg has it in him to hurt her, or let her be hurt. Sounds like he has half an idea where to.." I trail off, letting my face loosen out of the frown it was in a second ago.

    I sure as hell can't help the girl. I'm not mom material, and I had the idea pounded out of me on the outside. But Esco's place, what's she gonna learn there? Moppin' up blood and gettin' humped. I could maybe pull strings on Rufe. Who I do not know.

    I can hear Tum Tum tauntin' me about strays all over again. "..to hand her off to, but I don't know."
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    Missed scowls as she works through the scenario, trying to find some way where a girl isn't thrown to the wolves. "Fug me, June. I just wanted to learn to program, to do something other than stand under the baking sun with a fuggin' rifle in my hands and sleep in the middle of a dozen assholes. This... I'm not cut out for a damn rescue. Li's sweet. A real sweet girl. But shite." She blows out a breath. "Almost wish you hadn't told me. But yeah, I'll steer clear. Shite." She takes one last drag, then stamps the cig out and puts it back in her pack.
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    "I've got one last angle I can try to work on my side. I haven't been asking you to be the hero in this." I take another conversational drag myself. "It isn't us that's fugged, Missed. We're just strugglin' in one fugged up situation after another."

    I've got a little bit of cig left to nurse in case it's time to walk away.
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    She pushes herself off the fence and shakes her head sadly, "Don't I know it. Glad you aren't asking for a hero. That's not me. Head down, do my job, try to make it to something better. That's me." She shakes her head again, looking at someone jogging by. "You need anything, June? Couldn't be here just to warn me."
  • edited January 2
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    It's not me, either. "Ah." My face falls a bit, trying to think of somethin'. Nope. "No, that's it. I don't want to lose my favorite student."

    Of course, she's my only student, but I missed teachin'.
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    "Oh." Missed says, looking to Roth, who shrugs. Back to you, then a hand up to cover her eyes from the sun. "Well, hell. Thanks, June. I'll keep things clear. And maybe in a few hours, we work on some more programming? I'm free in three." She sounds a little hopeful about that, not that you're surprised.
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    "Hah, sure, I'll see you in four, gives you time to eat somethin' and set up." Finally I'm done with the cig she gave me, I twist out the ember in a crook of fence wires bent together and flick away the rest.

    Then I make my way back to Roth and out to the paths between the market and High Rent.
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    Missed heads back into the building. As you're headed away from the barracks, you pass a pair of guards who are sparring, bare knuckled, both beefy guys with no shirts on. One of them looks Rothschild over real close when she goes by, like either he thinks she's hot (which is true) or he might recognize her.

    What do you do?
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    Possessively, I rest an arm over the small of Rothschild's back, hookin' the handle of my right crutch in my small fingers and touchin' her with my thumb and pointer finger. Casually, I'm shieldin' her from view with my taller self, letting my left side do all the work for a dozen feet or so.
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    Let's see you Act Under Fire here to keep that curious guard from coming over and stopping you two.
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    Acting Under Fire; (Rolled: 2d6+1. Rolls: 1, 5. Total: 7)

    Marking XP (4)
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    June, you are moving too slow here. Rothschild can take off and get away clean, but there's no way you can keep up, of course. Or, you can just turn around and probably bribe the guy to look the other way.

    What do you do?
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    Next time I'll have to have Rothschild stay behind when I need to make a trip to the barracks. I suck in a frustrated breath and turn to face the guard who's giving her the hairy eyeball, pulling a small folded wad of Depot Dollars into my hand but not letting him quite see it yet.. "Can I help you in some way, sir?"
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    Flat-top guard takes a couple steps over, but now he's only looking at you, "What're you doing around here... ma'am? This is a restricted area." He looks at your crutches, not your face.
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    "Restricted? My, I wouldn't have come 'round if I'd known." Now I reveal the bribe, flippin' out two fingers between which those bills are squeezed. His body should be blockin' the view from everyone doin' PT around us. "Just people watchin', sir. Looks like a lot of hard work and no play."
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    Flat-top nods, a smile growing, his body relaxes, "Yeah? Well, ma'am, let me walk you to the exit. Make sure there's no, you know, further breaches." He'll reach for a jingle's worth if you let him, and walk you away from his buddy and out of the barracks area. No further trouble. Rothschild's not in love with this, and doesn't understand why you're rolling over.

    What do you do?
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    It is what it is - I lose the jingle. I'm not up for trouble among all these well fed fighters.

    "Understandable." I let him walk us out, and at the gate I comment, "I'd tell you my name but I'm sure you'd soon forget it. Same with my companion here."
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    "Yeah... you're probably right. I am forgetful." he agrees, pocketing the dollars, "You two have a good day."
    Rothschild sees him pocket the money and walks close to you, waiting to be out of earshot before asking, "Why didn't you do a whammy on that guy?" She seems to "get it" then, and asks, "Did you do that for me, June?"
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    "MmHmm, and for Missed, who might get a passel of scorch if I cause trouble and someone connects her to me. But mostly you, miss Jeep Adventure." I give her a little smirk.

    "More's to it, a 'whammy' is not a guarantee, and people aren't 100% ignorant of what I do to them. They can resist, and it can kill them. With a dozen or so witnesses. No, I'd rather make the problem go away."
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    She chuckles at the "Jeep Adventure", and you knowing is a surprise to her, a pleasant one. Rothschild listens to your reasoning, nodding along. "Yeah, but that was a bunch of jingle. Now, I gotta earn it back for us. Since it's on my account. I got ripped off on the trade for that truck because it was hot, by the by." She steps closer and pulls on your tie gently, leaning in to kiss you again, but this time's softer than before and a little longer. When she finishes, she hovers near, looking up at you, "Got anything to sell at market? Maybe we recoup losses, then head back to High Rent early?"
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    "Well, don't be in a rush.." I plant a hand on a nearby wall to support myself as I lean over her and focus on our kiss. I give her time.

    "The ginger beer won't be beer for another couple days. Same with the vinegar, though it looks promisin'. I'm givin' the plants a rest, though we have some gameful lil' tomatoes." I put on a thoughtful look, tryin' to find somethin' to sic Roth on. "I could try making some cola whiskey. I swear eighty per cent of the sugar in this whole valley is locked up in little cans." Bless my grandpa for teachin' me moonshinin'.

    "Hmm...I want you thinkin' of game plans for hittin' Parcher's operation with Gigg and his new car on our side. I'll put you on analysis work. Otherwise I want your head down. We can ride out two more months of dry work if we're careful."
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    Rothschild leans against you as you plot and scheme, hanging on every word. A light fires in her eyes when you mention Parcher's operation, "That's some rhymin' and stealin' I can get behind. Gigg's a great hitter, we can really make it work." She thinks it through, leaning up to kiss your chin.
    Her voice drops a little lower, "If you've meshed with me, then you know I'm... having trouble with the wide world. Right? I need to get my head right. So I can help get Parcher's stuff with you. We can make our whole operation go. He'd gives us a jump start. I've seen it, too. Just... I don't wanna go out there."
    She gives you the most serious, imploring look you've seen on her pretty face, "Can you fix my head, June? Make me stop being skittered? Not like Becks where she just pushes on and sings songs in her head. I need to be able to move, and when I see the sand, I get lost."
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    "Good, glad you think so, I'll need the advice. Not really worked with 'a great hitter' before." Her endorsement is reassurin', but I really haven't. Slick drivers, clever thieves, teams of technicians, academics, doctors, nurses, hackers, moonshiners, all yes..not hitters.

    Roth begs me to help her and I look at her with a deep compassion, smooth a hand over her scalp and then pull it back under her ear to cup her jaw. "When I have the right equipment, I can work on it. As I am now, all I can do is put a poison near where the problem is and hope it kicks you into healin' on your own. It might be too soon for you."
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    "Well, if that's all you can do now, and if we get close to rhymin' and stealin'," Rothschild says in a serious voice, her breath tickling your chin, "Then lay a whammy on me. I hate poison, so if that's how you fix my head, get me over this, then that's what happens." She licks her lips, "This is the best I've had it. June, the best."
    She pulls back then, pulling you up off the wall and moving close and slow, watching you move, and watching the crowd.

    Do you end up trying to make some cola, or heading back to the room?
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    "I'll do what I can for you, Roth." Just like Ace needs the arena, I suppose Roth needs to move. I think I know my tack for this treatment, I just need to feel it out a little more to be sure. Rothschild is strung with frayed bravery. "I'm likin' our venture tremendously, myself, and we're hardly started."

    I scope out the supply of cola in the market, but I don't plan to buy right now; we're headin' back to the room. Got about three and a half hours.
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    There are a good amount, half a dozen, of cola vendors, most of the them get supplies from Bordertown East. You head back to High Rent, up to the second floor, past a room where it sounds like two people are going at it like wild monkeys, seriously. Then into your room to check on your plants and flowers. Everything's coming along nicely in this new "garden" of yours.
    As you're checking over the plants, Rothschild peels out of her clothes and heads to the shower to do a very quick wash (there is water rationing, of course). She comes back in wearing a towel, then slides into bed.
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    Wow, usually I don't hear much of the nonsense that goes on in the other rooms. I might have to put on some noise.

    After some future score I'm gonna have to pay the management to let us have a full bathtub and just soak. Maybe a bubble bath or see if I can't find one of those 'bath bombs'.

    Leaves get checked, all the plants that need water get some. Seems like all the transplants are takin' to it. 'Square to the root'...now that I think of it, mint has a square stem down to the root..haven't seen any since I got here, and it's too thirsty a plant to survive the valley.

    Rothschild slides into bed, and I go over to give her a kiss before excusin' myself to clean up a little bit. Teeth, pits, face, any parts that feel crummy. With my clothes hangin' in the bathroom, I join Roth under the covers. "How would you like to start?"
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    When you slip under the covers, Rothschild snuggles up against you, her shorter frame gives her perfect access to the nape of your neck, which she takes advantage of as a reply. Between kisses on your flesh, she asks, "Does the meshing..." She nibbles on your collarbone, "Happen when we're together," she moves to your shoulder, then licks her way up towards your left ear, "Or when we're sleeping?"
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    While she kisses away at me, I slide a hand up and down her exposed side, then sneak it down to clasp her thigh while I sigh in a breath. "It's both. Whenever we're close enough, long enough."

    I meet her mouth for a kiss. "It's a..kind of reflex."
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    Rothschild slides a hand down your exposed side, touching lightly, "Like how your skin bumps up when I touch you?" She trails kisses down your side and continues moving downwards to explore your body.
    I think we fade to black here, right? Now, how do you plan on "meshing" so that you broadcast instead of receive, June?
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    "Mmm, quite so." I let her go and let her take control.

    Let's fade to black here, yes.

    Claire's request is not entirely foreign to me..even with partners who were wired I would take the lead on a mesh. I'm going to let her in and guide her around, in my mind. I have a lot of machine memory she can take advantage of..and the process..it did damage to my natural memories, but it shouldn't be too drastic. Not unnavigable.
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    Rothschild's mind opens to you, and you open to hers. The mesh is incomplete without wiring. Imperfect. But potent.

    What you may have suspected already, June, is that Rothschild's mind and soul are vulnerable to you because you offer her the chance to feel whole. Her fears of Saint Anger and the wide open desert torment her, but so does the lack of knowing who she is, where she belongs. You offer her answers to all those questions, those problems. She is falling for you.
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    Whenever I come across some new entry to this place, at the first scratch beneath the surface, I can feel how keenly they suffer the loss of their memory. Even the most simple or debased inmate displays some symptom of nostalgia for the self. It's endemic, and I feel for them.

    I owe Claire a few words, a window into what I've seen. My help. I don't know how enamored she'll be with me when she sees how much this work is on her. But I'll follow this trail to the end because Claire is darling to me.

    My mind is, despite the damage, a fairly organized place. Like a museum that's taken high caliber machine gun fire, some things covered in a thick dust, others covered with canvas. Displays of the different things I know, skills I have, strong convictions..these are the unharmed exhibits of my mind. But there are other wings. I follow along and wonder what she'll observe more closely.
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    You see Rothschild, the dream version, Claire, with long blonde tresses, walking through the mindspace of your museum, her hand running lightly over a dusty bust of someone from your childhood with features blocky and half-remembered. She comes to a warm, red room, with a large framed painting covered by a canvas. It's your first lost love, and she knows it. She pulls the canvas off to peer beneath. What does she see, June?
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    First and last. It took me a while to get the hang of love, really dig into it. I had to get past the confused heart-ripping of teenage lust and the blunt, casual exploitation of the kind of sex you can pick up at strange parties. Coarse flings with teaching assistants which were more like a philosophical argument bookended with sweat and hunger.

    I'm proud and contrary, quick to judge..not an easy person to get close to. I never made it a habit to let people in. The world let me know I was an inconvenience, a waste. But she got in. We were home to each other, like twins joined by deep experiences together.

    Her portrait in this room is a choppy, pixelated smear of a poised woman with tears rending the center of it.

    In the end, during the raid, I pushed her away as violently as I could. Took her over, commanded her into the car to leave, her hands full of expensive baubles to sell. I could suffer, but I couldn't see her suffer. Now I don't remember her face or name.

    If only I could have betrayed what she loved about me more, been quiet and good and grateful to my masters. Listened when people told me I was going too far.
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    Rothschild, or rather Claire, stares at the picture for a very long time, June.

    Oh, this is Claire in your museum:
    roth
    She moves up to the picture, tracing her fingers over the center, touching it gently, studying it for what feels like a very long time.

    Claire moves on eventually, heading out of the room of your lost love and into the hall. She walks into a wide, purple section filled with passions, all of your personal and professional desires. What surprises her here?
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    I can't look for too long, so I wait for her by the door. My face feels hot on one side, and when I hold a hand to it blood pools there, then evaporates like steam. There's the familiar pressure of the eyepatch I used to wear on me now. I see.

    In this area, everything is tidy, free of dust. The exhibits are fairly loaded with examples. Prosthetics, psyche boosters, feed translators, bead-style implants, internal wirings, nanotech.. (for the record, nanotech is hot garbage but sheetfire do the bosses love when you use it in projects) ..rapid prototyping, interfacing software..

    In one exhibit, a simulacra of my younger self is wired into a multimaterial printer as it pounds down layers of advanced polymer and ready-to-fire circuitry into a sophisticated limb.

    In others, entries to the intangible qualities of software. An exhibit on the sensory homunculus and its role in the man-machine interface. Another on the meta-sensory reception of events in terms of beliefs and values, as managed by the interface.

    There was a great deal of work that I did in university that I showed my sponsor and then...quietly, did not publish.

    Perhaps it's the many red blocks among the exhibits that visually bleat out 'Unpublished' and 'Destroyed' that surprises her the most.

    Perhaps its the central prominence of a display area with a cello and violin, each with a prepared seat and music stand.
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    Claire slowly moves from project to project, hovers over your younger self and looks over her shoulder at the printer. She gasps at the cello, moving up to it to gently take hold of the neck, idly strum a couple strings. It's like an alien device to her. She picks up the violin, stroking the chin rest and feeling the weight.

    She drifts off, slowly disappearing into the dreamspace you share. A few hours later, you wake with her in your arms again. Rothschild opens her eyes to look at you. Her hair's gone again, her body's worn again, her eyes are haunted again. But maybe just a little less haunted.

    End Scene
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