Jane (18.104.22.168) woke and stretched.
She spent some time trying to work a kink out of her arm before remembering that particular arm wasn’t there anymore.
She looked about for her arm. It was on the nightstand, and she had to reach over Bineshii to grab it.
As she did, she took some time to examine Bineshii without her armor.
Long black hair had come loose from her tight braid as they’d slept, falling like ink over dusky skin. She stirred, the feathers of her wings ruffling a bit.
Jane couldn’t get over the wings.
She had assumed the bulky, rucksack like protrusion on her armor had been accommodating a hump or a growth, but Bineshii had said the Julians had taken an interest and committed to “refining” her mutation.
And so Bineshii had two feathered wings, as black as her hair.
Jane thought of the angels that made up the mandatory religion of Homeland. By law they were always portrayed with white feathers and skin, but Bineshii seemed infinitely more beautiful to Jane.
Jane reached out to the local mesh as she reconnect the limb. Not with any real aim, just habit.
She wanted to look for Bineshii’s people on her Earth. Nothing would come up of course. Homeland was in the habit of erasing history, especially of peoples Homeland had eliminated on its route to global domination.
Akiing, from the sounds of it was a place one could be free, or at least more free than Homeland. Radiation and toxins were rampant, but Jane thought it might be better to live free in squalor than a gilded cage. She wondered if Bineshii would feel the same?
Homeland was a green world, teeming with life, which was more than many world in the Coalition could say. Jane had seen so many worlds whose inhabitants had burned themselves with nuclear fire, turned their atmosphere into a pressure cooker, or been driven to the brink by a plague of their own making. By that incredibly low bar, humanity had gotten it right on Homeland by simply surviving.
Jane wasn’t impressed.
Mollusks can survive.
Humanity should do more.
Jane withdrew from the mesh.
“Good morning,” she said.
“What time is it?” Bineshii mumbled.
“Early still. You won’t be missed for another hour,” Jane replied.
Bineshii stretched, her wings stretching out to the sides as well, “I should still get going. I was in that armor for 4 hours before we even started the extraction last night. I need a shower or something.”
Jane nodded, probing the mesh again with her mind, “Your best path to the barracks without being seen is-”
“Don’t worry about it,” Bineshii stood up, “I’m not afraid of being seen. Soldiers are in and out of here all the time right?”
Jane nodded and continued browsing through the mesh. She reached out to her escape route, the one she’d been keeping ready in the event someone discovered her seditious hobbies.
She was reasonably sure it would still work, even without Koya.
Part of her wanted to just just go, right now. Get dressed and walk out of the base, and live the rest of her life away from all of this Julian bullshit.
There was more to learn. There were other Janes and Johns who felt like she did. She might still save them.
Homeland could still be destroyed.
She glanced back at Bineshii. She had been fast putting on that armor. All that was left were the gauntlets and helmet.
“Can I see you again,” She asked Jane, “I really enjoyed talking to you.”
Jane shook her head. “It’s better if we don’t see each other for awhile. It keeps the Julians from paying too much attention.”
“Who cares?” Bineshii asked, smiling, “We’re just talking.”
“I care,” Jane said. She was not smiling.
Bineshii noticed, and she stopped smiling, “Why?”
Jane waved her hands, “It’s just….”
Bineshii waited, not letting Jane get away with a half answer.
“…I don’t need the extra attention is all,” Jane finished.
“Why not? Won’t the Julians just think it’s sex?” Bineshii pulled on her gauntlets.
“Probably. I don’t want to risk it though. I’m sorry,” Jane tried to be firm.
Bineshii shrugged, “What you got a smuggling operation you need protecting?”
Jane shrugged back, “Not exactly. I just don’t want to give Linisa an excuse. Please understand.”
Bineshii paused before putting her helmet back on, “Ok. I won’t be back for awhile,” She put her helmet on, growling in the synthetic demon voice once again, “I’ll see you around though.”
And she left.
Jane felt a bit sick. Jane wished it could be different. She wished she could have the same openness with Bineshii that she’d had with Koya, but she’d known Koya for a long time before truly opening up.
Maybe she could talk to Bineshii the same way.
She reached out into the Mesh, looking for the Manitoba Sanctum in the Julian’s records.
She read about Bineshii’s home, her family, the frozen wastes of a nuclear winter.
She was roused from her research by a message that cut across her vision.
22.214.171.124 (Jane Doe) is to report to the Director General’s office immediately