Fae’s Slate vibrated at a growing intensity until she stirred awake. Groggily, she rolled out of bed and fell face first into the musty carpet on Scottie’s floor. She laid there face down, arms and legs splayed out, for a few moments as her Slate pulsed on. She groaned and rolled over. The piercing overhead lights were still on like they had been when she stumbled into bed. A bedside table was knocked over, a chair was on its side. Fae had one shoe on, her pants off one leg, but wrapped up around the other.
She slumped forward like a rag doll, took a few breaths and silenced her Slate. She had two unread messages from Timur. Her eyes struggled to focus. The first message had arrived last night, the second this morning at 7AM, a half hour ago. Both asked her why she hadn’t shown up to work and if she was okay—the message from just now was a bit more concerned.
She had been better. The shock of her night in The Deco and her guilt about the Tully’s had subsided with her talk with Jo. The rest had slipped away from her mind with the liberal application of whatever was in Jo’s flask. It would come back, but her headache was too big to let the sorrow back in for now.
When he had to, Timur would act like the group’s dad, making sure everyone was taken care of and bucking them up when things got rough. He was probably concerned about how Fae had left two days ago, just disappearing in the middle of the day. She replied back to him, hopefully alleviating his stress and letting him know she was taking the next few days off and that it was nothing to worry about. Then she got up, put her clothes back on and walked into the kitchen.
Jo had left after finishing off the old bottle of gin that he had found stashed behind a false wall Fae hadn’t found. It was all a bit of a haze once they got halfway, but Jo seemed fine, walking her to the bedroom door, and locking the house up without so much as a stumble.
As Fae walked into the kitchen, it was clear that Jo had come back. The kitchen was sparse, but on the concrete countertop was a plate of Mrs. Bader’s homemade rolls and a curt note from Jo:
*Lunch is in the fridge. Cups and plates in the cabinet. Run a tap a bit first before drinking.*
*It’s good to have you back.*
Fae ate off the plate, devouring a few handfuls of the moderately sized rosemary buns. Sweet, buttery, and herby, they were just as delicious as she remembered. She flicked on the tap and let it run. Rust colored sediment spurt from the tap and flowed down the drain. Then the water ran clear and she filled a glass to wash down the doughy rolls. Fae ate another as Timur messaged her back, telling her to take all the time she needed. She scooped up the plate and carried them through the house into the workshop where Kita was still sleeping. Fae plugged AIVA back into Vera’s Slate.
“Good morning, AIVA, how are you today?”
“Morning, Fae. I’d say I’m a bit cramped if that’s possible for something digital.”
“Yes. Vera usually kept me in a much more powerful computer - the Slate was only temporary for when she was out exploring. Normally I have a bit more space. Perhaps, memory is a better descriptor.”
“Oh I see. Well…” Fae looked around the room, sizing up the visible computer components she saw, remembering the pieces hidden behind walls. “All of this stuff combined is probably as powerful as the Slate you’re on. Jo might have some stuff tucked away in his shop, we could go check later. But I’m not carrying the behemoth of a Slate you’re on and after last night, I doubt Jo wants to see me with a gun. Hopefully he’s got some quality parts stashed because the thing you’re on is ancient. My hearing implant is probably more-“ Fae trailed off, lost in a realization.
AIVA’s face smiled. “You’re sharper than I expected. Would you like me to walk you through how to partition me into your head, or would you like to experiment? I can’t imagine how it could possibly go wrong.”
Fae rolled her eyes and started to take out her implant. “I appreciate your candid disregard for my safety, but if you screw this up, I’m actually deaf in this ear. So not only will you not be chatting in my head, I’ll be able hear you half as well and only on my left side.”
“Well, fetch your tools and let’s get started. We’ll have to make a few custom cables and fashion together a wireless transfer point since this place is all hardwired.”
Fae cupped her hand up to her right ear and smiled. “What?”
“TESTING TESTING TESTING.”
Fae winced, shrinking down and trying to cover her ears. “Too loud! Wait a second, let me get the volume down. Okay. Try again.”
“Am I still coming through?”
“Yup, I’ve got you loud and clear. Man, this is weird. It’s like talking on the phone but never hanging up.”
“I’m glad you’re enjoying yourself. This has been a splendid plan, but there has been a slight miscalculation: I can’t see a thing.”
“Can you use the sound input to map the space you’re in? Like Echolocating.”
“Clever. Stomp around a bit and we’ll see what I can do.”
Fae paced around the workshop taking large, heavy steps.
“That sort of works. It’s not perfect though because I can’t pinpoint the exact beginning of the sound. To get really fine measurements, I’ll need something a lot more precise. Something that I can know exactly where it is always.”
“No no no no. Can’t do that. My Slate is off limits. It’s far too dangerous for both of us. We’ll find another way.”
“And if there isn’t another way?”
“We’ll find one. It’s too risky to throw you on here—everything I do on it is tracked. The moment we go anywhere outside of Container Town, my Slate is going to link up with every server around and download all the data it couldn’t get a hold of down here. I’m sure a fully-functional AI would trip some alarms.”
“Very well. At least when you talk I can get slightly better imaging. We’ll make do until another solution presents itself. We could always replace an eye with a nice camera.”
“I sure wish I put in a mute button.” Fae whistled and watched Kita bound from her resting spot near the door. Fae patted her on the head, scooped up her empty satchel, pocketed her multi-tool, and took a last look at the computers stacked in the corner taking mental stock of the pieces she needed. She grabbed the last roll, wolfing it down before grabbing her lunch from the fridge and walking out the door with Kita in tow, AIVA jibing her for her caloric intake.