2543 (27-5th-7) New Calendar - Prima Centurai
“You want me to do what now?”
Baroth sighed and rubbed the heels of his hands over his eyes. Cailin could be distinctly trying sometimes, especially when she’d just finished her shift. He suspected that woman she worked with was probably responsible.
“I want you to actually meet Arla and talk her through the advantages of having an implant,” he repeated, fighting hard to keep any emotion out of his voice. “The sooner she can start to learn things by herself, the sooner she’ll progress.”
“Baroth, I know you find it perfectly easy to talk to people regardless of their race or class, but I find it perfectly impossible myself,” Cailin snapped. Behind her, Inge winced at the volume of her voice and glanced through the vitruvium at Arla, who was very carefully dismantling the wash-unit, oblivious to them. “What if I go and give her a mental breakdown? Or tell her too much? Or something?”
“You won’t,” Baroth said calmly as Inge rubbed one pointed ear. “I’ll be in there with you, don’t worry. Just try and answer her questions as completely as you can, and if she pauses half-way through a sentence don’t interrupt.”
“Is she a genius yet?” Cailin asked plaintively. “Because I hate High Intellects.”
“You know, I’m standing right behind you,” Inge muttered. Cailin snorted.
“You’re a Symbiote, Inge, you don’t count. Her? She’s a freak of nature.”
“Cailin,” Baroth began, but Cailin waved a hand dismissively.
“I know, I know,” she said irritably. “Fine. Take me in. But you owe me at least three drinks. Or a voucher for a professional hitman, either’s good.”
“How about I help you save the universe?”
“Baroth, that is so clichéd.”
They arrived at the door and Baroth keyed it open whilst Cailin fidgeted impatiently. She was partly right, in fact, or at least had the potential to be; Baroth had no idea whether or not Arla would be okay talking to Cailin, given her recent mental state. But they had to try. Hopefully, exposure to small amounts of Cailin wouldn’t prove fatal.
The door slid open, and Arla looked up expectantly. She smiled as she saw Baroth, a genuine expression that lit up her face, and in seconds she was on her feet and darting for the shelf. Baroth grinned and stepped into the room, Cailin trailing behind him. It seemed that today was one of Arla’s ‘good days’.
Arla pulled the pot off the shelf, and suddenly Baroth found himself nose-to-pot as she thrust it excitedly towards him.
“Baroth, look! Nut grew! Nut became Sprout!”
Sure enough, a thin green tendril was just poking out of the earth, barely a centimetre in length still and curled at the tip. He smiled at Arla, lifted by her obvious joy.
“So it did! Well done, Arla. You must have taken good care of it.”
She looked bashfully proud of herself, and hugged the pot to her chest.
“I watered it,” Arla said. “Every day, like you said.”
“Very good,” Baroth said gently, looking at her carefully. “Can I ask you something? Why have you now changed Nut’s name to Sprout?”
And instantly, Arla deflated, self-doubt riddling her expression.
“Shouldn’t I have?” she asked, uncertain. “Is that bad?”
“Not at all,” he told her firmly. “I’m just curious as to the reasoning behind it, that’s all.”
“Oh.” Arla looked down at Sprout, thinking. “Because… just because it’s a Sprout now,” she said. A thought struck her. “Do you mean Nut is still there?”
“Yes, it is,” Baroth nodded. “Eventually it won’t be, but for now, Nut is still under the soil. It’s just got a sprout as well as roots now.”
“Oh.” Arla stared at the pot in her arms, apparently thinking hard. “It looks different,” she said at last, in the voice she used when making conclusions. “And it has a sprout now as well. But… it’s the same. It’s still Nut. Just with… extra things.”
“Yes,” Baroth said simply. Arla smiled her I-got-a-question-right smile, and Baroth grinned.
“Anyway,” he said, stepping carefully to the side so that he was standing near Arla, “this is Cailin, a friend of mine. And hopefully of yours. She’s come to meet you.”
“Hello!” said Arla brightly, and Baroth breathed an internal sigh of relief at her lack of reserve. She brandished the pot eagerly at Cailin and said, “This is Nut! He has a sprout, now.”
“Er… so I see,” Cailin said, with the look of someone who secretly knew that small children were poisonous and had just met one masquerading as an adult. Baroth hid his smile. “Very… green.”
“Isn’t it?” Arla agreed happily. She did seem to like green, Baroth had noticed. “I watered it. Do you know any puzzles?”
“We’d like to talk about something else, actually,” Baroth said gently. “Hopefully it’ll stop you being bored. Cailin?”
“Have you ever come across a computational unit?” Cailin asked. Arla smiled brightly, and nodded.
“Can I fix one?” she asked eagerly. “I only have the wash-unit to fix here, really, because I’m not allowed the vitruvium. And I have to break it first.”
“Actually, I was thinking you could use one,” Cailin said, apparently dryly amused in spite of herself. “A high-info one. So you could learn all about – well – everything, really.”
Arla’s jaw dropped, her eyes round. “Use one?” she asked. She seemed astonished. “I – I can’t, I’m… no, I’m not anymore…”
“No, you’re not,” Baroth said firmly. “So, if you want to, you can use a CU.”
“It’ll just require you to have a cranial implant,” Cailin said. “I have one, they don’t hurt.”
“What’s a cranial implant?” Arla asked, keenly interested. Cailin winced.
“That’s… a bit more complicated to explain…”
“Don’t,” Arla told her. “If I can learn everything after I get one, then I can learn then. When can I have it?”
“You know, that’s really not good logic to take through life,” Cailin said. Baroth ignored her.
“Right now, if you wish,” he said. “Inge has one ready for you. He can explain all the details to you.”
“I don’t want details,” Arla said stubbornly. “I want the implant.”
“You’ll still get the implant,” Baroth assured her. “But you should always find out what it is you’re getting.”
Arla paused to consider that. “In case it’s bad,” she said, more or less to herself. “Okay. Now?”
“Now,” Baroth smiled, and went to fetch Inge.
I got bored of waiting to do this story, so I've started again. I can't remember a lot of what I planned, so it won't be as good, but what the hey. You'll all just have to deal with it.