On the morning of July 1st, her eighteenth birthday, Annalisa King was sitting outside the military recruiting center in the mall in the northern LA suburb of Riverview. She watched two men and one woman unlock the glass double doors and go inside. She waited for them to get settled in. Meanwhile she refreshed her memory of several items she’d bookmarked on her slate.
After 15 minutes she put away her slate and entered the center. All three recruiters looked up from their desks. The two men returned their gaze to their computer screens.
The woman, a wiry Navy petty officer in a white uniform, rose and approached Anna.
“How may I help you, Miss?”
“I’m here to join the Marine Corps.”
“Let’s sit down. Would you like coffee, water, something else?”
“No, thank you.”
“Let’s discuss this, shall we?” The woman motioned toward the chair in front of her desk and went back around her desk to sit in her own chair. She smiled at Anna.
“I need to see some credentials and ask you some questions, then lay out your options.”
Anna placed the manila folder she’d been carrying on the woman’s desk. The woman opened it and began to read. Several times she looked up. The last time she said, “You are certainly qualified for just about any position in the military.”
She half turned to the man whose desk was closest to hers so that the man could better hear her. He swiveled his chair to face Anna and his colleague.
“You’ve completed Junior ROTC with the highest marks in every category. You’re the valedictorian at your high school and have what amounts to two years of college in your advanced courses. With the highest grades in all courses. And you’re a multi-threat athlete: soccer, basketball, football.
“Football? How’d you manage that?”
“Our high school was required to accept females in the football program starting five years ago. There was a big court case.”
The man closest to them, an Army staff sergeant in a dark blue dress uniform, said, “What position did you play?”
The third man got up from his chair and came over to stand on the other side of the Army recruiter’s desk. He was in the lighter-blue Air Force uniform.
“You’re Anna King.”
Anna nodded. The Air Force recruiter spoke to his co-workers. “She’s the reason why Riverview High has won every game this last season.”
He spoke to Anna. “Miss, you must have a dozen college recruiters after you.”
The Navy woman said, “With your marks and your athletic history you could attend college for four years, take ROTC during that time, and go directly into any military service as a lieutenant.”
“I know. But I also know what is best for me. The Marine Corps. And scout/sniper service.”
The woman looked at her colleagues and back at Anna.
“Ms. King, it’s not our job to turn away qualified and motivated recruits. But it’s also our duty to find the best fit for you and for the services we support. You’re way over-qualified for that particular specialty.”
Anna took a deep breath. She needed the self-discipline and outside structure the Marine Corps could give her to tame her forceful and sometimes violent nature. How could she get across her need without seeming deluded or a sociopath? She had worried about how to do that and had rehearsed several different ways to get across her need.
Well, here goes. She hoped she would not to sound deranged. Or as desperate as she felt.
“It is exactly the best fit for me. And it might be the best for society in general.
“I have a strong need to excel. I have quick reflexes. I’m very strong and fast. But I also have a hair-trigger temper. It makes me worry I’ll accidentally kill someone. Or several someones. I need to learn self-discipline, and control.”
She took a deep breath, glanced at the Air Force recruiter. His gaze was open and sympathetic. Was it fake?
“In less than a second I could kill all three of you. Do you want that kind of person walking around outside of the military?”
The army man had been subtly shifting his chair backward and his body forward. Perhaps without realizing it he was readying to stand and fight.
“How would you do that?” he said.
Anna nodded at the desk before her. “There are at least four items on that desk which I could use for projectile weapons. I’d only have to lean over.”
The Air Force man was nodding his head as he spoke to his colleagues. “I know it sounds as if she’s exaggerating but I live here. My daughter goes to school here and is a cheerleader. So my wife and I go to all the games. I’ve never seen anyone run as fast or throw as well. ANYONE. Even pro athletes. Look, here’s a web video some fan made of her in action.”
As he’d spoken he’d taken his slate phone/computer off its clip on his belt and tapped a few virtual buttons on its surface. Now he handed it to the Army recruiter, who held it so the Navy recruiter could also watch the video playing on it.
Anna sat with her head down. She’d seen the video and knew what was in it: several very brief shots of her throwing the football and several more running with it when there was no one in a good position to receive it, all edited together to make it almost look as if she were several people. Then the part which bothered her: her plowing through two defensive linebackers. The shot had been slowed down so that it prolonged the impact, making it look as if she was some unstoppable force meeting very movable objects, sending them flying. One had gone to the hospital.
The Army recruiter had a question.
“Miss King, they had a four-to-one weight advantage over you. Why didn’t you dodge around them? You’re so quick on your feet they’d never have been able to react fast enough to stop you.”
Anna kept looking at her hands. She still felt the guilt of hurting the men. It was one of the reasons she was sure she needed this.
“I got impatient.”
The Army sergeant spoke to the Navy petty officer.
“I don’t see we have any choice.” He moved his chair back into place and began to deal with some matters on his computer.
The Air Force man stood looking at Anna for long moments. “Good luck with your career, Ms. King.”
He grinned briefly. “God help your drill instructors.”
That evening her parents threw Annalisa a birthday party. Her older brother and his wife and seven-year-old daughter had come up from San Diego to attend. After presents had been opened and her brother’s family had left Anna returned from seeing them off to sit with her parents in the living room amid the opened presents.
Her mother, Marta, sighed and spoke to her husband.
Jonathan King nodded.
“Dear, you know you are adopted. But we told you this when you were three, so maybe you’ve forgotten.”
Anna smiled. “I haven’t forgotten. Why bring it up now?”
Her mother said, “Because it’s time to tell you about your real parents.”
Anna sat forward a bit. “YOU are my real parents. You mean my birth parents.”
Her mother’s eyes glistened with tears. “We’ve always thought of ourselves that way. I’m happy you agree.”
Her father said, “Brace yourself, dear. Your biological parents are from a star system very far away.”
Anna believed her parents. They were too down-to-earth and honest to tell her nonsense or lie to her. The implications staggered her. Earth had had space travel for the last several decades, but only robots traveled beyond the moon. Earth certainly had no interstellar travel.
“Do you know why they gave me away? What this means for my future?”
“It means what you make of it. At 18 you are now an adult and can do whatever you want. But that future will include presents from your…birth parents. Wait just a moment, honey.”
He went to the nearby hall closet and returned carrying three gift-wrapped packages. He dropped the smallest box into Anna’s lap and returned to his seat, placing the two other packages on the glass-topped coffee table in front of the couch.
She looked at the box from several angles, but the outside gave no clue what was in it. The shiny blue paper and ribbons were lovely but ordinary for all that. She tore them off the white cardboard box inside. Inside the box was a narrow diamond tiara. In the center was a large blue faceted gem.
She looked up, confused. The jewels looked real. If they were, this must be worth thousands of dollars.
Her father said, “This is a device. It has three functions. It’s a computer, communicator, and something like radar.”
“When you wear it,” her mother said, “all you have to do is think what you want and the computer will do it. Don’t do that yet!” She spoke abruptly when Anna lifted the tiara to put it on.
“Wait till you have some time to explore its uses. When you first put it on it will brief you on how to operate it.”
Her mother handed her the next box. It was wrapped in shiny green and about the size of a box for shirts or pants. Inside it was a garment, a somewhat strange one. It seemed to be a lacy white body suit with footies attached, very pajama-like.
“This is a spacesuit. It will protect you from many threats and support you for an indefinite time. Like the tiara it will brief you when you put it on. Take off everything before you do that.”
Her father passed her the last box, a red one. Anna ripped off the wrapping to find something which looked like a brick-sized bar of creamy soap but made of a harder substance.
He smiled at her puzzlement.
“This is actually a vehicle, strange as that sounds. Come on. Let’s show you.”
The three got up and went through the hall to the door into the adjoining garage. It contained her father’s dark red sports sedan but not her mother’s SUV. In its usual place was emptiness.
“Tell it ‘Imitate vehicle’ and toss it into the empty space.”
Anna did so. The ivory-like block arced into the center of the empty space but expanded into an exact copy of the sports car. It floated to rest onto the garage floor.
She turned to her parents in amazement.
“That is so incredible…”
They grinned at her and came forward for a three-way hug. Anna forgot herself and hugged them more strongly than she’d intended. Her mother squeaked and she broke away and apologized.
They gave her a kiss on both cheeks and left her to get acquainted with her new toy.
It turned out to be her best toy ever.
Anna walked around the duplicate of her father’s car, exact down to the slightest scratches. After a complete circuit it introduced itself as a silent voice inside her head.
It told her it was made mostly of force fields and powered by “unbending space,” a process it said it could not explain but said was “effectively infinite.” It could emulate any kind of mechanical vehicle so well that even an engineer could not tell the difference, even to the point of containing and seeming to burn gasoline.
It could fly anywhere in or beyond the solar system, with a top speed of a quarter of the speed of light. Further questioning revealed that it could create air and copies of food inside itself to support her life and those of any passengers.
And it and its contents could become invisible.
Anna shook her head at the revelations. Then spent a half-hour having her vehicle change such things as its skin color (to a deep blue), less showy wheel caps, and a soft grey interior. Which had the same new-car smell that her father’s car did.
After an hour Anna sat silently in the driver’s seat of her car and turned over in her mind all she’d learned. For the first time that day of sometimes high excitement she felt tired, something she rarely did, having enormous energy reserves.
She got out, slammed the car door behind her, and went upstairs to bed.
Then she found she could not sleep. The events of the day returned to her, buzzing around in her head in no order like a swarm of flies. Finally she sat up in the dark and swung her legs to one side to rest her feet on the floor.
In the subdued green and orange glows of her several electronic devices her eyes could dimly make out the tiara and spacesuit resting on her dressing table. She got up and went to the table, picked up the tiara, and placed it on her head.
A voice spoke inside her head similar to that of her car, though with a slightly feminine tone rather than the slightly masculine tone of her car. It briefed her on its capabilities.
It could communicate with any sort of earthly and many very advanced unearthly comm systems. It had a sensory system somewhat like radar but using “gravity occlusion.” When she tried that out it produced a vivid image of her bedroom as if it were in broad daylight. It could see through walls if she wanted that, out to several hundred miles.
And it was a supercomputer far more capable than anything Earth had so far created. She fed it a few complex multivariate equations taken from her Advanced Placement Calculus class and got instant results. Which just barely scratched the surface of its abilities. It told her it could handle problems billions of time as complex.
Could she use the communicator to browse the Web? Yes. How? She need only think clearly what she wanted; it would take practice to do it exactly right but Tiara insisted that she would find it easy.
Anna returned to her bed, lay back, closed her eyes, and asked Tiara to patch her into the internet. Instantly she seemed to be floating in space. The impression was so strong that only the pressure of her bed on her back and bottom kept her from panicking.
All around her was a swarm of balls of all colors. Each was a web page in cyberspace. Links from them to other pages showed up as nearly invisible lines creating a vast spider web that seemed chaotic at first. They stretched out to a seeming infinity, growing ever smaller until they disappeared in the distance.
It took her some time but eventually she learned to frame her desires so that she could “see” any web page anywhere in cyberspace‑‑including encrypted ones. To the super-advanced computer in Tiara the encryption might as well not exist.
THAT was a little disconcerting. She’d have to be sure she never let on that she could read all those secrets. She could get into big trouble if she failed!
Tiara said it could make encrypted web pages semitransparent to cue her to avoid them unless she wanted the secret information.
Anna gave Tiara a command to do just that. Instantly the vision before her changed to reflect her desire.
Wow! So much was secret!
She could also hear and see audiovisual files. She relaxed while viewing some of her favorites and discovering new favorites, and drifted off to sleep.
Annalisa woke to birdsong and the distant barking of some dog. She focused on the dog for a moment and her view of the ceiling above her tilted and a view of her bedroom wall rushed toward her. She flinched from it but her viewpoint was already rushing through her neighborhood till it revealed the dog, a beautiful border collie sitting in the doorway of its doghouse in some neighbor’s back yard.
She was still wearing Tiara, who (which?) was responding even to her vague and unspoken desires.
She reached up to take off Tiara. And found nothing on her head.
Yet in her mind was this silent waiting. Tiara was still with her.
Anna sat up in bed, stood, and walked quickly to her bathroom. The mirror showed nothing on her head.
“Tiara. Where are you?”
“I’m inside your brain where I can be most useful. It would be inefficient and socially awkward to remain visible.”
“Come out! Now!”
“I cannot do that. I am now part of you.”
Shit. What had she gotten herself into?
Further questioning of Tiara revealed that this was part of Tiara’s design. All super-advanced tiaras were like this.
Tiara also reported that she (she?) would keep Anna’s brain healthy. She almost sounded apologetic.
Anna ordered Tiara not to make any changes in her brain. The device asked if she would mind if Tiara sometimes suggested improvements. After a moment Anna said Yes. She could always say No, and almost certainly would. But she did not think her bioparents would have given her a harmful gift.
Though why she believed that she did not know. Was she being manipulated by Tiara?
She shrugged off the thought for later consideration. For now she wanted to get ready for the day and try out her fantastic new car.
A toilette and breakfast later Anna said Goodbye to her parents as they left for work and returned to her bedroom. Seeing the spacesuit on her dresser reminded her of its almost magical qualities. She picked it up. The lacy white garment was very light.
She sat on her bedside, removed all her clothing, and examined the suit. It was open in the front from waist up. She pulled it onto her feet, first one leg, then the other.
The material was so light and thin she’d expected to have to inch it on like tight stockings. But as she slid her feet into the opening it began to expand and slide up her legs, just fast enough to make clothing herself easy but not to hurry her.
Standing, she pulled the top up, or tried to. The garment slid up her torso and chest on its own, again at an exactly convenient pace.
Long sleeved arms went on just as easily. And at the last minute the slit up the front closed itself over her chest and shoulders to form a collar. The lace was not peek-a-boo. It seemed functional.
The suit introduced itself with a silent voice inside her head. The tone was completely genderless, unlike that of Tiara and her vehicle. It told her that it would protect her from all sorts of threats.
She held up her naked hands. “Except here. And my head.”
Even there. There was an invisible force field which covered every seemingly exposed body part. It stored air in a very compact form which would let her go for months and years, recycling the air as needed.
She could fly short distances. Experimentally she wished to rise upward.
Oops! Her head almost hit the ceiling before she wished to stop.
She hung in the air while her heart rate eased back to normal, then slowly returned to stand on the floor. Best to wait till she was in a bigger space before she experimented further.
Questioning revealed that if she urinated or defecated the suit would transmute the urine and feces into air. She could eat and drink ordinary stuff and the suit would allow it, transmuting poisons to air as well.
Anna looked down at the snowy material covering her arms and the rest of her. “Kind of plain, though.”
Not so, Suit told her. Just wish what she wanted it to look like and it would adjust its force fields to copy the look. It could be solid colors, have stripes and checks, different textures and thicknesses, even pockets and a belt.
Even more, she could have it form gowns and cloaks and coats and foot wear, indeed any design, in an instant. The apparently bare parts would still be protected by an invisible skin.
Anna experimented with various looks, some silly and some practical. All were perfectly comfortable no matter what she did. They would come and go instantly. The only limits were those of her imagination.
Lastly, and more staggering to her, it could transmute the designs from air into real garments which she could hang in her closet. Suit (she named it) could copy anything down to the tiniest detail. She would never have to buy another stitch of clothing!
The only problem was, it would never come off. It’s main function was to protect her and off it could not do that.
Anna sat down heavily on the side of her bed. As with Tiara she’d been too naïve about accepting a gift.
She pondered her problem for several minutes.
Did this mean she could never again feel the touch of wind and water on her skin? It answered No. It could be immeasurably thin but still be armor against anything harmful.
“What if I want to have a baby? Are you going to block sperm?” Yes, but if she decided to have a baby she could command Suit to let sperm into her.
Anna wondered about what would happen when she gave birth but didn’t ask about that. The event would be years in the future, if ever. Best to put off such considerations until later.
She would have to give more thought to how to use Tiara and Suit, especially any downsides. But for now she wanted to explore her near-magical vehicle. INCLUDING looking out for downsides!
She used Suit to create light-sensitive sports sunglasses and a billed cap and put them on, running her long curly black hair into a pony tail out the back of the cap. Then she dressed in her favorite run-around outfit: red tennies, blue jean shorts, and a sleeveless red tee shirt with the gold wings icon on its front of her favorite band, the EagleZ. Then she took up her wallet and house keys and exited the house, setting the alarm and locking the house behind her.
The remote clipped to her force-field car’s sun visor opened the garage door as capably as if it were an ordinary remote. Her car started up smoothly when she pushed the Start button. The motor sounded exactly like that of an ordinary car. She backed out of the garage, triggered the garage door closed, and carefully backed into the street.
She drove through her neighborhood to the main street of Riverview City, turned onto it, and went north toward the city’s center. The first mile and a half were lined on both sides by car dealerships.
She told her vehicle that she wanted it to answer to the name of the flying horse of legend, Pegasus.
“Can you scan the vehicles you pass and learn how to make copies of them? I may choose to change your shape some day.”
“I am now doing that.”
“Brief me on your other capabilities, ones you have not yet made me aware of.”
Pegasus told her it had the same ability to shield itself from detection as Tiara and Suit. It was connected to her by using quantum entanglement, a communication medium not yet used by Earth scientists. Thus she could command it without regard to distance.
It could fly, as she already knew, but repeated that it did so by “bending space,” a process it was unable to explain. And it used energy gotten by “unbending space,” a similarly mysterious process. There were no practical limits on the energy it got that way.
“I’d like to go invisible and fly. We need to go someplace where we can’t be seen before we try it.”
“Several possibilities are nearby.” It projected into her brain a street map of the area ahead of her with a red X on each spot. The nearest was an alley between a tall bank building and the solid rear side of a parking garage. She drove a quarter mile further north and made a right turn into the alley.
Her view of the alley did not show any suggestion that she and Pegasus had been made invisible, but the car lifted in a smooth arc up and out of the alley. The bright California day opened up before her and the city fell away below. To the north rose the San Gabriel Mountains. On top of the bigger eastern sections she saw several snowy peaks.
“Can we go higher without running into any aircraft?”
“That is any height. I detect and avoid everything in the air.”
“Keep going up.”
“I am staying below the speed of sound to avoid making sonic booms so that we remain undetectable.”
That was odd. Last night Pegasus had told her it was not a person or an AI and so did not have feelings. Yet it was acting as if it did.
She mentally shrugged. Apparently it was mimicking polite ways of speech. Not a surprise, she supposed. She had noticed that its silent speech to her was colloquial and had a standard accent.
Ah! That was it. It was imitating her, and she was reflexively polite.
Meanwhile Pegasus continued to rise. The sky was becoming a darker blue and the curve of the earth was becoming ever more obvious. She saw patterns of white cloud dotting the air below her.
It was quite beautiful. She wished the view out of the front of the car was not so restricted.
“Shall I change to a space vehicle configuration?”
“Without endangering us?”
Everything began changing. The seat below her became more padded and form fitting (though its color remained light grey), the steering wheel and dashboard disappeared, the windows lost their posts and expanded to a larger more rounded shape till the entire front of the vehicle became transparent. Her extended feet eclipsed the blue expanse below her. Looking up she could see the crescent moon above her.
“Could we go to the moon?”
“Anywhere in and beyond the solar system, but I would caution about visiting Saturn.”
“It is englobed by a set of star gates maintained by a very advanced computer. I do not have the protocol in me to navigate the space and communicate with the computer. It might view us as a threat.”
THAT was staggering information. She felt dizzy and could not breathe. But only for a few instants. It was no odder than the fact that she had been born hundreds of light years away into a super-advanced human civilization.
“I’ll settle for Paris. Are there any problems going there?”
“It is 7:08 pm there. Sunset is at 9:47 pm and the weather is mildly cloudy. The temperature is 79 degrees and the humidity 51 percent. The flight will take 13 minutes. There will be approximately an hour and a half more of direct sunlight when we arrive.”
“Sounds delightful. Can you find an outdoor cafe near the Eiffel Tower?”
“Let’s go then.”
A quarter of an hour passed easily when there was so much to see as the Earth turned below and behind them. The Midwest had clouds reaching into the stratosphere and spider webs of lightning within. The highest clouds were still many miles below Anna and Pegasus.
The mid-Atlantic had a white crescent of a cloud front sweeping down from Iceland and Greenland, extending hundreds of miles southward. Farther to the east Anna could see the advancing arc of night. Behind it was a web work of golden light as lights came on in eastern Europe.
Soon the coast came up below them and Pegasus arced down into the atmosphere. Their tremendous speed slowed quickly with no perceptible feeling of deceleration. Nor was there any hint of the hurricane force of air pushed asunder by the rounded body of the super-advanced spacecraft in which Anna rode.
Details of the green land came into view and then the spires and sprawl of Paris, cut through by the winding course of the Seine River. Long shadows pointed east away from the sun.
Coming up to them was a tall hotel and a multi-level parking structure beside it. Anna paid more attention to the top of the structure than to their surroundings, so concerned was she to be sure no one was atop it. They alighted and the interior of the vehicle morphed back into that of her car.
“I can wait here in this form or follow you in my compact form.”
“Very well. Tiara can guide you to the café. When you get ready to return Tiara will guide you back if necessary.”
“Thank you. I may wander a few hours after I snack.”
“Remember that your suit can shield you from sight as well as danger. And I can come to you very quickly.”
Anna thought for a moment about what she should wear rather than ball cap, tee, shorts, and tennies. She consulted the internet through Tiara to view everyday fashions now current in Paris. Anna chose a black silk armless blouse and a black leather skirt to mid-thigh. Her legs she covered with sheer black leggings, her feet black sandals with a modest heel.
Over it all she placed a grey cashmere jacket. To her surprise Suit formed a small purse of grey leather and a long strap without asking her and hung it over one shoulder.
Tiara suggested an updo of her hair. She surrendered to the super-scientific machine and felt her hair arranging itself. It first parted and then pulled back to each side to form a low pony tail. This then twisted around itself to form a loose bun at the back of her head.
She examined the back and sides of her head with Tiara’s sensors. It felt funny seeing herself from different angles without turning her head. But what she saw satisfied her.
Lastly Tiara–prompted by her subconscious desires–tinted her lips with the illusion of a faint pink lipstick.
She got out of her car and closed the door. It shut with the quiet CHUNK of perfect fit.
On her way to the stairs down to ground level Anna detoured to the south side of the parking structure and leaned on the waist-high concrete parapet. Before her a block away across a busy street was the Seine River. A long white tour boat was passing along it. Across the river and to her left was the Eiffel Tower, rearing high into the sky. The sun had not yet set but lights were coming on in the grey steelwork of the edifice.
Anna drank in the sight and the greenery of the park which extended to each side and several blocks south beyond the Tower. Hundreds of people strolled in the park.
Satisfied for the moment she plunged down the squared spiral of the stairs, emerging onto a walkway beside the structure’s In and Out streets and a central shack containing a parking attendant. He cast an admiring eye at the beautiful woman leaving his protection.
Here at ground level she was in a gathering twilight though the sun was still up. Tiara guided her to a café with both an interior and a sidewalk dining area.
In her schoolgirl French she asked the black-and-white clad waiter at the entrance for a view of the Tower. He eyed her up and down and seated her at a table for two near a sidewalk protected from sidewalk traffic by a low open-framework fence. She guessed she presented an attractive and chic enough sight to those strolling nearby that she might troll in more customers.
The tall laminated menu gave her a large selection. She chose a Quiche Lorraine and a buttered croissant. Asked what wine she wanted she told him to choose something for her. He chose a Pinot blanc.
She stayed there an hour. Near the end of it she ordered a creamy chocolate pudding with a demitasse of Kahlúa as a coffee companion.
The waiter was taken with her, or at least thought she was a likely candidate for a good tip. In between services they chatted. He was a student at a nearby college of the American University of Paris studying film.
She paid with her credit card, adding a generous tip to the base cost. As she stood to leave the waiter said, “When you first came in I thought you were American. But now I’d swear you are Parisienne.”
She smiled and thanked him.
As she walked back to her car, enjoying the falling twilight and the awakening glitter of the Tower, she wondered idly how she’d come to learn the young man’s accent so quickly. Without prompting Tiara spoke.
“I was feeding hints to your brain’s already high linguistic talent.”
“I am concerned about that. Is it possible you will damage my brain by such efforts?”
“No. That was once a possibility. But this is a practice which has been perfected for thousands of years.”
“This learning of an accent was not something that took place in you?”
“I wonder if I might become so dependent on you that my mental faculties atrophied.”
“Again, what was once a possibility is no longer a danger.”
At the parking garage Anna paid more attention to how her body worked as she strode up the stairs. It seemed that her already excellent muscles were working better. Was that Tiara’s influence? Or maybe Suit’s?
In her car she let her outfit and hairdo revert to its appearance during the day. As the vehicle rose it returned to its spaceship shape. She was distracted by the sight of night falling over Paris. The sun had sunk below the horizon and the approaching night was blanketing the city. More and more lights were coming on, bringing a golden web of light alive within Paris.
Then she saw a sight she’d never expected to see. The sun was rising in the West.
The next day she spent more time exploring her gifts. She learned so quickly that by the end of the day she was expert in their most basic functions.
Noticing that quickness, and remembering how adaptable she always had been, led her to consult Tiara.
“You are fully human. But you’ve had many centuries of genetic cleaning and very careful enhancements. That’s why you never suffered any childhood illnesses. That’s why you are so strong and quick and agile.”
This led to the discovery that Tiara contained an encyclopedia. It had not only text but lots of visual and audio material. She snooped into the parts on alien cultures in the part of the galactic arm in which existed the Human Interstellar Confederation, the home society of her birth parents.
This led to a discussion of political philosophy common in the Human Interstellar Confederation. It was somewhat conservative. Human nature was not considered perfect, but it was a highly successful result of evolution. Rather than change their bodies Confed humans used machines to enhance them and extend them.
“So are there no people with, I don’t know, maybe, combinations of male and female sex organs?” She’d read about rare hermaphrodites being born, whose parents usually had them converted to a standard sex via surgery–an awful thought to her but understandable.
“Sex change is routine in the Confederation. Individuals take a pill containing nano-technological devices just before sleep. The next morning they awake changed. They can tailor the change to hybrid forms. This is not considered tampering with the basic human model.”
She wondered what it would be like to be a man. The idea did not appeal to her. She was perfectly happy with the equipment she had. She’d lost her virginity a couple of years ago and, after the first few awkward and unsatisfying experiences, she’d come to enjoy sex.
Of course, she’d picked boys she’d known a while who were not total jerks. It seemed to her that many boys thought they were SUPPOSED to be jerks to be thought grown up!
Not that she slept around. This last year especially she’d avoided dating. She’d planned to join the Marine Corps soon and didn’t want any unhappy partings.
Which was just as well now that she’d gotten the news about her birth parents and received their birthday gifts. She needed a lot of practice with them before she went to boot camp.