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Fragile Bindings pages 22 – 73

Written by happiest_in_shadows :: [Monday, 13 January 2014 21:17] Last updated by :: [Tuesday, 14 January 2014 18:07]

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March 13th 347RS

 

It was now two weeks since Jason had watched Sarah put on a casual display of power for several of their superiors. Michel had announced that there would be no budget cuts and that they would be bringing in some fresh blood and equipment to speed up the project. This meant that everyone with seniority despite their previous rank would be gaining an increase in status. Jason was no longer a lab assistant but had been charged with more directly helping with Sarah's care and examination. He was actually working on that roll as he ran towards Michel while feeling like his lunges were on fire. “Chief Michel blast it. Do you have any idea of how hard of a person you are to run down?”

 

There was a large grin on Michel's face as he looked over at Jason. Naturally it was easy to find out where someone was on base. They were being tracked at all times. Jason had known exactly where he was and how to get to him but Michel had been moving. Naturally he also knew Jason was looking for him as the chief. The older man had simply felt like being difficult and had some work to get done himself that required movement. “Jason what happened to you? You look like you've just ran a marathon.”

 

“How do you get around like that?” A sigh escaped Jason as he shook his head forgetting the question before Michel could even answer. He had something more important to talk about before Michel could begin walking again or decide he had to be somewhere else. “I've been thinking about Sarah and how she's bee in containment. Look what I have here.” As he spoke Jason prompted his wrist terminal to display a diagram for Michel to see. “Okay we can not use neural interfaces on Sarah as her brain has just been altered too much and with her psionics she would probably destroy the equipment anyway. That wasn't the only type of immersion technology that we developed though. You know about the simulated skin interface right?”

 

“I used the old SSI.” For a moment Michel was silent as he looked at the diagram. Simulated skin interfaces where tiny pressure and temperature inducers networked within a cloth a person would wear over either their entire body or part of it. By carefully controlling the force each one exerted and the temperature they could stimulate the skin to feel as if your hand was on hard stone, cold water, moving through sand or anything else. Coupled with the proper head piece and a safety harness they could create a truly life like experience. “Wow it's been a long time since I saw an SSI now that I think about it. Great I feel old now. That is a good idea though. An SSI would completely negate the need for a neutral interface.”

 

Immediately Jason gave a quick nod. “The technology is so outdated that I'm not surprised no one thought of it. We could network the SSI suit with a synthetic human body based on Sarah's and she could use that to at least feel like she'd left her confinement for a while. I know that she really wants to go visit her sister and parents. There are a few problems of.” Jason went silent as Michel raised his hand up to quiet him.

 

“I've seen the destruction she's caused. You might be able to do it if you can make it similar to her binding suit. Well given that we can't really have her spending too much time out of it especially whenever she might become emotional it's going to have to include the same features. Your schematic is going to have to be reworked a fair bit. It sounds like you're onto something though Jason. Why don't you grab a diagram of her binding suit then take your new diagram and head down to the machine shop? I'm certain that they'll be able to help you out there.”

 

“I still have a few tasks that I need to take care of and my break is about up. That's actually why I was in such a rush to find you.” Jason couldn't help but grin as he looked at his wrist terminal again. He still had a good bit of data that he needed to process before the day was up.

 

“Ah trying to get me to cut you lose from your current responsibilities are we? I see what's going on.” A slight chuckle escaped Michel as he nodded his head. “What data are you currently working on processing?”

 

“The readings that were taken just after Sarah had finished the demonstration. As I'm sure you know she admitted to feeling uncertain as to actually using the gas on herself. She was dreading her return to the containment chamber and even hesitated for a moment in breathing the gas. She then needed a second dose less then thirty minutes after the first which is quite soon even for her. It had a lot of the team worried that if she began to dread returning to the chamber badly enough the gas might become completely ineffective at suppressing her psionics.”

 

“I remember that. That would be a problem but if your plan works we won't even have to worry about such a happening. Well at least it'll help prevent her becoming too resistant to the gas to work once she's up to full steam. I believe that your project should have priority over those numbers. I just worry whether or not the SSI system can be compressed into the same space as the binding suit's components. We shouldn't ignore those numbers though. I'll put one of the other assistance to work on them.”

 

“Thanks Michel. I know that Sarah will love this if we can make it work.”

 

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The machine shop was a massive section of the base with various set ups. Some sections had tables that appeared to be filled with liquid. In truth these were mini machine stations for nano production. A step up from those were tables where a small robot covered with over a dozen limbs each one sporting a tool it could swap out from an even vaster selection near by to massive tables where it looked like entire tanks could be worked on and several places in between. Depending on where they were working the people in the machine shops either wore simple coats and goggles staying near the mini machine stations to full exoskeletons with two main limbs and numerous computer guided mini limbs.

 

Jason had no problems spotting David in the heavy machine shop section. The markings on his exoskeleton made him stand out as did the ferocity with which he attacked some problem. Rather then going down into the work area Jason tapped a small terminal to open up a private line with his suit. “Hey David could you come up here for a moment? I need to speak to you about something.”

 

“Oh sweet mercy what has she broken now?” David was probably the fifth best informed man in the entire facility. It wasn't that he had the security clearance to know a lot of what he knew. He simply worked on fixing a bit of everything and heard the occasional random bit of information. This quickly added up to a lot of knowledge that the higher ups officially didn't want him to have. The simple truth was that there was no avoiding it when his skills were called upon so often. “Hey April get over here and finish taking out this former capacitor!”

 

It was impossible for Jason to tell what the person inside the exoskeleton looked like. He was a bit surprised by the speed with which they moved to take David's spot and began working on the damaged cannon. As he looked at the weapon he thought it looked like something that belonged on a siege tank and guessed that it was another departments project. He remember Sarah standing there letting such shots rain down on her and had to wonder. Would this new siege cannon be enough to send her running for cover? He didn't know anything about the weapon but he had to wonder.

 

David didn't bother getting out of his exoskeleton but went strait over to Jason. Typically exiting the exoskeleton was just a waste of time. He did open up the protective face plate so that they could see one another.“Okay what brings you around this time? I don't see anything so I'm guessing you need something made.”

 

“Yes but I could also use some help with a design let me show you. I'm trying to design a suit that has the features of a simulated skin interface along with the same functions as Sarah's binding suit. Here is what I've got so far. ”

 

Jason had an idea but he wasn't certain it would function from a mechanical standpoint. David didn't really work in design but after so many years of working with machines he had developed some skills and a sort of sixth sense. It wasn't uncommon for someone to come to him asking for a mechanic's opinion. “Let's see here. An old SSI wow. I think I get where you're coming from but that's old technology. Well first thing we're not going to use those old force inducers you have there. We can have something much better for you in a bit. Now is there any restrictions I should be aware of?”

 

David's question actually caught Jason off guard for a moment. “Well what do you mean by restriction?”

 

“Size, energy consumption, safety features, how large of a person this thing needs to be able to accommodate, emission limits. You know the basics.”

 

“Well let me think. Ah one thing. Is that a new siege cannon you were working on?”

 

“Hm? Nooo! No. No.” A slight chuckle escaped David as he looked back at the weapon. “That's a group of smart people screaming very loudly that they forgot proper cooling practices.”

 

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March 16th 347RS

 

When are you going to get this thing out of my shop? Those were the words that had brought Jason to the machine shop. He was actually quite surprised to find out that David had already finished fabricating the custom made SSI. He hadn't considered that Sarah was a very high priority project and after the demonstration she'd became a little higher. This meant that any request related to the project were responded to far more readily then lower priority ones. James wondered if he had delayed the cannon or not. As he entered into the finished area of the machine shop he noted several projects setting around now where was his. “Computer which one of these is for project metamorphosis?”

 

Jason didn't even notice the time delay between him asking the question and a series of lights flashing indicating where he was to go. He nearly fell over as he found himself looking at a nearly three meter tall monstrosity. “What is that for! I asked for an SSI suit that is closer to a light combat suit.”

 

“Message left in regards to project metamorphosis request. Hey Jason or whoever came to pick this thing up. Just letting you know that the tech for the binding suits and the SSI did not want to exist comfortably in the same place at all. The pressure inducers kept disrupting the flow of energy from the binding suit. We had to fix that and in doing so it made cooling a nightmare. A few more problems and this is what we came up with.”

 

For a moment Jason could only look at the machine. What was Sarah going to think of this thing? He was tempted to ask to have its size reduced but opted not to. So long as the suit did its job he believed Sarah would be happy. David had likely been going for functional when working and very durable. Jason knew that if David felt the need to make the suit this large it was because he was confident this design could handle the job. If he started asking to make it smaller David would have to start subtracting from various areas.

 

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Currently Sarah found herself setting in what she considered the conversation room. The room was empty except for a very durable and very easy to repair seat and a very well protected bit of communication equipment built into the wall. The entire room had been designed so that a subject could be safely contained and communicated with. Jason wasn't even truly directly across from her. The screen wasn't some transparent metal rather it was a projection. There was nothing unusual about this except for it being Jason on the screen who would have typically been in the room with her. The fact that he was talking to her through the screen told her that he expected her to become unusually excited. Oddly that notion was making her excited already and she couldn't help but check the temperature increase in the room. “Okay Jason why did you need me in the secure room instead of the regular observation room?”

 

Jason had considered the best way to speak to Sarah. He wanted to give her good news and believed this was very good news but he wanted her to stay relaxed. “Sarah three days ago I began designing a new suit for you. This suit is not an improvement on your current binding suit. What we did was take old SSI technology though apparently upgraded by David and build it into your binding suit. Now the end results is a bit off from what I imagined but it works. Then we linked it to a synthetic body that's currently on.”

 

“I can go see my sister!” Sarah immediately realized her mistake. The chair she was setting on suddenly vanished from beneath her as it was ripped into fragments and the walls gave a slight groan of protest. No alarms sounded so she knew the room had endured the release of energy but she was grateful that Jason wasn't in the room with her. The vanishing of her chair as she'd stood up did a lot to sober her up and Sarah took in a deep breath. “Sorry. That was a huge failure on my part.”

 

“Bah wouldn't have even happened if I had been in the room with you.” As he spoke Jason waved his hand dismissively.

 

“The fact that you chose to stay out when giving me this news says otherwise.” Sarah actually blushed a bit whenever Jason gave a slight snort.

 

“Sure just jump strait to the most negative possible outcome. Sarah if I wasn't busy I would be in the room with you to deliver this news We're kind of hooking your new suit up inside your containment area and getting a good signal in here is a frustration to say the least.”

 

It actually felt like Sarah's mouth had been locked shut for a moment. Then she felt it slowly moving into a large grin. She was rather relieved whenever the typical warning signals didn't go off. “Is that why you had me go in here? You have a crew in one of the containment living areas?”

 

“Yep. Oh now before you end up being surprised and wrecking the suit.” Jason quickly turned the terminals eye so that it could see the SSI and binding suit combination. He could swear that he felt Sarah's surprise despite there being several walls between the two of them.

 

Sarah's heart felt like it had skipped a beat. What Jason showed her looked more like a combat suit then something she'd wear for the sake of immersion. One question came to mind immediately. “What were they thinking whenever they made that thing! It looks like they used the frame from a light combat exo!”

 

Now Jason turned the eye back to him. “ It does not just look like they did. That's what they did actually. You see the pressure inducers really didn't want to coexist with the dampeners inside of your binding suit. Trying to fit enough inducers in the same space as the dampeners apparently proved to be quite a problem. The modified layout resulted in a considerable amount of heat being generated so a better cooling unit had to be installed. This called for a better power relay system and with the fact that the SSI needed to be able to move with you and the extra processors this was David's solution. Before you ask it does have motors built into it to aid in movement as well by the time the other things were put in place the suit ended up being quite heavy.”

 

After a moment of silence Sarah felt her grin return and her body began to shake. Soon she found herself laughing as she smiled at the image of Jason. “Thank you Jason! I never even considered using something as old as an SSI. Now you make sure that big thing's feet are confined so that I don't end up damaging it. I just hope that suit is as sturdy as it looks. I can be a bit rough on well most anything.”

 

“Oh!” Jason actually felt rather foolish as he looked back at the suit. “That's why it has so much armor. You're going to have to take off your binding suit to get into this one. Plus the larger the suit became the more difficult it came to use the same method as the binding suit for protection. The further away from your skin the material is the more difficult it is to expand your sense of touch over it after all. This thing was designed to endure the time period between you taking off your binding suit and stepping into it as well as whenever you exit the suit. There is also the little issue of the psionic energy you're going to be directing through it. That would require a lot of cooling as well.”

 

“Well that makes sense. It's actually a good thing that I'm not in there with you right now actually. Now you said that the suit was linked up to a synthetic body I believe.” Sarah knew that all synthetic bodies weren't created equal. Some of them were designed to look like and simulate the person's natural body. Other synthetic bodies such as those meant for experimentation weren't designed with their appearance in mind. Sarah truly hoped that she wouldn't be visiting her family using a blank. It would be nice to see them and speak with them just the same far more directly then what she had been able to in months but she truly hoped for a simulated body.

 

“Yes. We pulled your genetic information from the records and your statistics and sent it to the base. They went all out at least I believe they did. They even worked to make sure your scent was correct for the sake of interaction with pets or other animals. At least I'm pretty sure they got the body right. Cathy said that everyone looked to be in order though she was a little surprised.”

 

It surprised Sarah how alarmed she felt as Jason's words sunk in. Cathy had tested the suit out already. It made sense after all it would be a lot easier to tweak the suit with her out of the room then in it. Yet if the synthetic body had been designed correctly stepping into that suit was almost the same as stepping into her old skin. Whenever Sarah considered Cathy and what the other woman might have tested she couldn't help but be alarmed. The sound of the walls lightly vibrating due to her psionics pushing against them and the increase in the room's temperature told Sarah she needed to calm down and she took in a deep breath. “Did Cathy say anything?”

 

Now Jason felt a bit nervous. Cathy had said quite a lot actually. She had even mentioned that Sarah wouldn't be able to have sex while wearing the suit. The pressure inducers didn't actually go inside of Sarah's body. The fact that Cathy had argued that some kind of penis should be installed within the suit in the event Sarah wanted to have sex while using the synthetic body had turned more then a few heads. She had also mentioned that while the suit could create smells by mixing a variety of scents together it hadn't been designed for taste. It was the second one Jason chose to mention. “Well you won't be able to enjoy eating while you're wearing the suit. We don't have anything to cover up your tongue and simulate flavor.”

 

“Oh for goodness sakes! Did she lick someone using the synthetic body?” Sarah actually regretted asking the question as she imagined what else Cathy might have done. She had no doubt that the woman would have tested a variety of touches. “I. I probably shouldn't ask this but did she try to find out what my breast felt like?”

 

“Yes.” For the moment Jason kept his response simple. Sarah didn't need to know that Cathy's exact words were. I wonder what it feels like to have breast this small. This was actually something the suit did a poor job of emulating as there was no way it could account for Cathy's larger breast size. It had actually been a bit of a fight to remove Cathy from the suit whenever she expressed a desire to tinker with the sensitivity settings.

 

“Which one? Did she lick someone or did she try fondling the synthetic's breast?” That was another question Sarah didn't know if she really wanted the answer to.

 

“Sorry. She took a moment to test and make sure the breast felt real. At least make sure they felt real according to the sensors and what the force inducers could replicate. She even took a little time to explain to us that the records do a rather poor job of recording the true features of a woman's chest.” Jason was kind of glad whenever he heard Sarah chuckle though it was clear from the display that she was embarrassed as well. “If you're wondering what she said.”

 

“No! No need to go any further then that. Let's talk about something else. What grade of synthetic body are you going to be letting me use?”

 

“Well as this is actual related to your medical treatment the higher ups decided they should use a high grade body. You're going to be using a current generation fully developed synthetic body for this.”

 

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“Lieutenant Commander Karsin how are you feeling?”

 

The voice was a new one. As Sarah felt the suit conforming to her body the visual display finally turned on letting her see through the eyes of her synthetic body. She found two people in lab coats looked at her body. Likely they were the ones who helped to make the needed adjustments to the synthetic body. “I'm not feeling much of anything just yet the skin is still adjusting to me. May I know your name?”

 

“Ah yes. I'm Alex Randon. I take it that you were fully informed of what to expect before you climbed into the suit.”

 

“Yes. I was informed that the suit could simulate what my body was feeling up to thirty kilograms of pressure per square inch and down to one thousandth of a kilogram per square inch. While the body can handle greater pressures I won't be able to feel them as the inducers can't simulate them. I was also told that the suit won't actually cause me pain whenever the body is damaged but I can expect a read out to let me know. I'm also going to have to rely on the read out to receive information about the body's biological needs.”

 

“Good. Good they said to let you know the important stuff. Now I also need to tell you that under certain conditions you may lose contact with the synthetic. In that case the body will go into a sort of passive mode I'm sure you're aware all guided weapon's systems have such modes. I also need to remind you that as this is a synthetic body you are technically in possession of a weapon at all times.”

 

“No where near as dangerous of a weapon as my true body.”

 

“Ah yes. Your report did mention that due to alterations to your body you've been confined to a research facility. Okay I have some things you're going to need to keep with your body at all times.” Rather then producing a variety of cards Alex held up a single slim sheet and lightly touched the corner. “Here is your weapons permit that will allow you to use the synthetic body in public. We have your construction permit here as well and your personal information. Now if you notice you're not allowed to use the synthetic bod y to operate any heavy equipment except in emergencies. This includes vehicles. I'm afraid you're going to have to travel in an automated vehicle.”

 

This wasn't anything that she hadn't expected. “That is fine it will give me time to prepare. There would be no issues with me creating a few programs for the event that my connection is cut correct?”

 

“So long as they don't violate the primary ones it's fine. If you want to personalize the messages begin by saying muted voice begin recording and end it with end recording then restore voice. It's kind of crazy isn't it having to rely on word commands? Now I'm guessing you want to put on some civilian clothing. They prepared some for you in the locker room over there.” As he spoke Alex indicated a far door. Typically it wasn't synthetic bodies that left through that door but this was a special case. From what he had been told this one had even had a special interface system installed. It was something far older then they normally used and meant for systems that didn't link directly to the nerve system.

 

By now Sarah had already brought up the command window. “Thank you. Muted voice begin recording. Sorry the user of this body has lost their connection to it for the time being. You will be informed once the connection has been restored. Until then rest assured that this synthetic poses no threat to you but will react to protect itself and civilians. End recording.” As Sarah spoke she was already having the body walk over towards the locker room. She knew that nothing after the thank you had actually been spoken thought she was preparing the body in the event that something did happen. She wanted it to be her voice that told her brother-in-law, sister, niece and kitty what happened. “Jason I just realized I have no idea how to write a program with this thing.”

 

“Ah crap! As Jason spoke he realized he didn't either. “I'm going to contact engineering. In the mean time try something like. Help user created programming. Then again once you're clothed you might want to ask Randon he seems to know a good bit about it.

 

“You had better not be watching my synthetic body dress. Okay help user created programs.” As she turned the door knob to open the locker room door Sarah could feel it in her hands. It felt cold to the touch and smooth. It felt strange to. She radiated so much energy that every part of her containment room was soaked in it. She could feel this whenever she touched anything.

 

Suit, “Greetings miss Karsin. I am your automated user interface. A fully function virtual intelligence to help you interact with this outdated command system. May I call you Sarah?”

 

For a moment Sarah wasn't certain what to say. The tone of the virtual voice was relaxed and friendly “Sure. Was it the engineering department that created you?”

 

“Yes it was. Due to the interfaces rather dated nature the engineering team decided I should be installed within the suit itself. Now you wanted to create some special programs. How about we get started? First tell me what is the general purpose of these programs?”

 

Even as she was speaking to the suit Sarah was already putting on some clothes. “Jason I don't believe you need to bother the engineering department.”

 

“You're darn right he doesn't! I'm afraid that I did not understand your request. Would you mind clarifying?”

 

It was almost impossible for Sarah to keep from bursting out laughing. No wonder the tone had been so friendly. David had added his own personal touch to the program. “I wish to create a group of programs for the event that I should lose contact with this synthetic body. They need to be housed within the body's own programming.”

 

“Understood. Then shall we begin with the first situation?”

 

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“Hi Jeff. How is your day going?”

 

“Sis! How are you doing? It feels like it's been ages since I heard from you. I'm doing good. How about you? You sure sound like you're doing better.”

 

Sarah didn't respond right away but took a moment to run her right hand over the seat she was setting in. The automated vehicle was currently driving her towards her brother's home. “I'm doing good. I'm as close to being out as I've been in a very long time and I'm coming to visit you.”

 

“Seriously?” As he spoke there was some doubt in Jeff's voice. Sarah had told him about her situation and she hadn't mentioned anything before to indicate she might be getting out. Unless there had been some kind of major breakthrough he wasn't certain how it could happen.

 

“This isn't the type of thing I would joke about. Well it's not really me me but. I'm using a synthetic body. I hope that's fine.”

 

“Fine? It's great sis.”

 

“I'm glad you said that. The body was a surprise to me as well. When I first climbed into the car I was worried that you would be gone or I would be interrupting your plans.” Sarah was actually quite surprised by the relief she felt. She had been so surprised by the news that she hadn't even though if her family would be home whenever she decided to go see them. She would have to ask Jason later if he had checked ahead for her or if this had just been some good fortune. Even if that was the case she was still very grateful for the body.

 

“I imagine but how are you using a synthetic body? The last time I suggested that you said you couldn't use an interface. Ah crap. I had better tell Helen. You know how upset she gets whenever we have guest over and the house isn't prepared.”

 

“Ah yeah. But Jeff I'm only around 27 minutes away from your home.”

 

“Well darn sis. Wait to give a guy some warning. Just give me a second.”

 

Sarah couldn't help but chuckle a bit as the communicator went quiet. Helen came from a family in which manners were very important. Having a mess home whenever guest were coming buy was something to be ashamed of as was not having any drinks to offer them. As she waited for her brother to return she took in a deep breath.

 

“Okay I think she's happy enough to know that you're out she isn't going to kill me.”

 

“Well I'm glad to hear that! I apologize for not giving you more advanced warning.”

 

“You said it yourself you were caught off guard as well.” Before Jeff could continue a very loud meow came over the communicator.

 

It was impossible for Sarah to keep from laughing or the excitement out of her voice. “Is that my kitty!”

 

“Yes. Yes it is.” As he spoke another very loud meow came over the communicator. “He heard your voice and now he's trying to get. Ouch! One second he's trying to climb me. Okay can we turn this to visual?”

 

Jason, “Sarah careful you're over heating your suit!” As Jason called out he could barely believe what he was seeing. Despite the extremely heavy make of the SSI suit and its industrial cooling system the system had began to overheat due to the amount of energy Sarah was putting out. It was nearly impossible for Jason to believe. He had first believed David had gone overboard with his choice of frames and cooling system but now he worried that he hadn't gone far enough. Jason was actually rather surprised whenever the energy flowing into the suit suddenly decreased.

 

“Sorry about that. Just give me a moment.” As she spoke Sarah took in a deep breath. She could hear Moo meowing now and closed her eyes. She didn't want to risk seeing him and her brother-in-law while she was still trying to regain her composure.

 

Jeff, “Sorry about what?”

 

“I nearly burned out the suit I'm using to control this synthetic body I'm using to speak with you.” As she spoke Sarah looked towards the side display. She could see the cooling system coming back down to safe levels. It was very well made indeed. “Okay I'm ready now. Let's see that visual.” A moment later Sarah felt like her face was going to split in half. She could see Jeff now and he was holding Moo in his arms. The large cat immediately looked towards the screen and gave an extremely loud meow. “Hey baby! I'm glad to see you as well and I'll be there to.” Sarah couldn't help but laugh as Moo meowed again and pushed his nose into the communicator. “I'll be there to pet you very soon.”

 

A slight chuckle escaped Jeff as the large cat continued to squirm in his arms. “He's eager to see you.”

 

“I'm eager to see him as well.” With the visual on Sarah could finally see Helen in the background. “Hey Helen. How is my favorite sister-in-law doing?”

 

“How do you think I'm doing? I'm doing great! Though I'd be doing better if someone would set the communicator to follow and come help me.”

 

“You don't need to worry about that Sis. I'm just glad that I'm getting to visit you.”

 

“I'm am not going to great a guest or family member with a dirty home.”

 

Jeff, “Her definition of dirty would shame some hospitals.”

 

Sarah, “I swear Sis. I don't know how you handle having Moo in your home with how he sheds.”

 

Jeff, “She didn't tell you? The automated vacuum is programmed to follow him around. I know Tammy sent you a few pictures of him riding around on it.”

 

Sarah quickly glanced in the direction of the energy readout and saw it going up again. Rather then commenting right away she took another moment to steady herself. She was so happy just to be on her way to see her family that she was having trouble containing her energies. Much like Jason Sarah was glad her SSI suit had been as overbuilt as it was. It might even be a good thing if the suit was even more overbuilt. “I saw those pictures I didn't think he had made a habit of riding it around.”

 

Helen couldn't help but laugh as she looked at the cat. She could easily hear him purring as he looked at the screen. His right paw was currently outstretched as if he was trying to place it on Sarah. “He misses you so much. As for the automated vacuum cleaner. You should see him grump whenever I have to ask Jeff to come in and take him off of it. He'll actually get in Jeff's seat for breakfast and refuse to be moved. Then when Jeff is preparing for work he'll set down on his shoes.”

 

“Ah! Is my little boy being vengeful? Yes he is. I wonder what horrible revenge he has planned for me after leaving him for so long.”

 

Jeff, “You've been away from him for months at a time before though.”

 

“Yes I have but that doesn't mean he's become use to it. Where is Tammy at the moment?”

 

Helen, “She's visiting a friend.”

 

Tot his Sarah gave a nod. “It looks like she's been taking really good care of Moo. I really hope these synthetic hands can let me feel it when I'm petting him. Oh Helen, Jeff while you're both on the line would you mind if I stored this synthetic body in your home? I've downloaded some programs so it should function in house servant mode while I'm not using it. It'll need to eat and maintain itself but otherwise you can treat it like a servant. Just not when I'm using it.”

 

“Why do you think you even need to ask that!” Helen couldn't help but laugh as she noted the look of shock on her face. “Of course I'd be glad to have someone help me maintain the home. What kind of synthetic is it anyway?”

 

“It's military. Typically the type of body they would use for combat testing or experimentation. It's actually pretty darn high end. There is no practical reason for me to return it to base each time I finish using it or have to leave it so I was given the alright to leave it with you. Now the body will defend itself if attacked and it has a few other security functions as well. Do not let it out of the house whenever I'm not in control as it is legally a military grade weapon.”

 

To this Jeff gave a nod. “I got you. So I can't have it do yard work.”

 

“Give me a moment. Muted voice. Jason could they use this synthetic to do yard work?”

 

“No. It needs to remain indoors at all times when you're not using it.”

 

“Restore voice. Yard work is a no.”

 

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Helen, “I really believe that he knows.” As she spoke Helen looked towards Moo who was currently setting in the living room window looking down the driveway. The cat had remained there sense the communicator call had ended apparently waiting for something. Likely he had learned from past experience that when Sarah made that kind of call she was on her way home.

 

Jeff didn't respond right away but watched as Moo put his paws on the window whenever a car drove by their home. Apparently he was hoping that it would be Sarah's. For a moment the cat continued to stand on his back paws with his front on the window before setting back down. It was as if he was hoping the car would turn around and bring Sarah to him. “Relax buddy your mommy is going to be here soon.” When the cat gave a meow Jeff was surprised by how bad he felt for him. Despite Moo's demanding nature he could be quite cute when he wanted to be. “I swear I think he trains us at times. I actually feel bad for him.”

 

Now Helen gave a slight chuckle. She didn't have a chance to respond though as a vehicle pulled in front of their home and came to a stop. She immediately recognized it as an automated vehicle. An excited meow cut through the air and Helen was taken aback whenever Moo seemed to do a back flip onto the floor and rush towards the living room door as if he planned to knock it down. Looking towards the window she wasn't surprised to see Sarah walking up the stone path leading to the porch. The automated car remained a moment before closing the door and driving away. Before it had quite began to move she heard a loud thump and new that Moo had struck the door.

 

As Sarah walked towards the door she could already hear Moo. She had seen him in the window and soon found herself more running to the doorway then anything else. “I'm coming ba.”

 

“Sarah careful you're going to fry the suit!”

 

As Jason's voice came into her ears Sarah took in a deep breath. It was the second time she had to called down. It was embarrassing and frustrating all at once. She had finally managed to gain some freedom to feel as if she'd left her containment room. Except she wasn't truly free. Even now she had to control her emotions. Even now whenever she most wanted to let them run wild. She felt like a child whose parent had given her a new toy. Yet that parent was constantly having to call her down and keep her from breaking it. “Thanks.”

 

***********************************************************************************

 

“You're welcome.” Once the readings began to go down again Jason gave a slight sigh. When Jason had first seen the SSI suit he had thought David had gone overboard. Now he was going to have to congratulate him. If David had chosen to use a weaker frame or an inferior cooling system Sarah would have destroyed it by accident already. He did feel bad that he was constantly having to call her down. “I can't believe I'm going to have to ask David to make it even sturdier. I want her to be able to really feel her emotions though.”

 

Michel, “Perhaps she can learn to exercise control even whenever she's feeling excitable. I believe this is good practice for her and you. It seems like you've develop a very good feel for her emotional condition.”

 

***********************************************************************************

 

Sarah had received considerable help opening the door. The moment the bolt had been removed several kilograms of excited fluff had thrown itself against the door once again. Moo seemed to explored out of the house giving a high pitched meow as he did so. It seemed like he was trying to tackle her legs as he pressed himself firmly against them and began to rub himself around and between her legs meowing excitedly with each stroke. Even his tail seemed to curl around her legs and Sarah bent down reflexively to pick him up. “Meow!”

 

Helen and Jason were a little slower then Moo. Jason for his part grinned whenever he heard his sister meow back at her kitty. The site of her holding Moo so that he could rub his face against her cheek while he alternated between rubbing his face against hers and meowing plus when she meowed back was quite cute. It reminded him of whenever they were kids. Except he had to remind himself that this wasn't truly his sister and at the time she had Brownie. This was a synthetic body that she was currently in control of. One thing was fairly clear. She seemed far more restrained then she normally did. “Hi sis. I'm glad that you could finally come by and visit us.”

 

“Meow! So am I. Believe me this feels wonderful I feel like I'm about to burst.” For a moment Sarah went silent and took in a deep breath driving back her emotions again. She was a bit surprised whenever she received a message.

 

Michel, “Nice job restraining yourself but focus on keeping your energy in control rather then repressing your emotions.”

 

“I swear I can't imagine how silly I must look right now. Meow! Meow meow. Did you know the suit I'm using actually involves the frame of a light combat armor? I'm still having trouble though.”

 

Jeff, “Are you serious?”

 

“Yeah. So may I come in?”

 

“Meow!” Moo glanced over Jeff and Helen for a moment then turned his attention back to Sarah. He pressed his head firmly against hers and shifted it about rubbing his scent over her. His paws pressed firmly against her pushing him more firmly against her body.

 

Helen, “You most certainly can. Just bring that house cleaning assistant right on in here.”

 

A slight giggle escaped Sarah as she walked in. With the help of the synthetic body's virtual intelligence she had written and installed several new programs. Right now she was actually having it record the force she was using to pet Moo with and the patterns. If her kitty came up to the body thinking it was her and wanting petted she fully intended for the body to pet him. She didn't want to network with the body only to find out that it had hurt her kitty's feelings. “Just remember that once I'm no longer controlling this body you can't have it go outside and I mean can't. I've already programmed in a few safe guards with help.”

 

Jason, “Do you mind if we look over some of those programs? We'll run any changes by you.”

 

“That's fine go ahead.”

 

Jeff, “Huh?”

 

“Whoops. Sorry about that. I'm being monitored right now.” A sigh escaped Sarah as she lay Moo across her shoulder and continued to pet him as she stepped inside. She couldn't help gut giggle as she felt his whiskers run inside of her right ear whenever he rubbed his head against it. So far the simulated skin interface was doing a wonderful job of duplicating what the synthetic body was detecting. “I forgot to command the body to keep that response private. Well you might as well hear this part to. This body has privacy settings built in right?”

 

Jason, “It won't spy on your family now as for you. Well we're setting right here.”

 

“He says that it's only meant to spy on me.”

 

Jeff, “Who?”

 

Sarah gave another giggle whenever Moo gave a loud meow and immediately responded by meowing back and rubbing his head more vigorously. The fact that she could feel his purring was a delight and she had to remember to maintain control. Looking out of the corner of her eye she could see the suits readings. Instead of responding right away she took in a deep breath something that her synthetic body copied. “Sorry about that. Jason is one of the researchers that is helping me with my condition.” As Sarah spoke she chose to use the word researcher. She wasn't certain if Jason was considered a technician still or not but she would talk about him as if he was a researcher to her family.

 

Helen, “I remember you mentioned him. You.”

 

“Helen let's talk about something else please!” Immediate Sarah had to think about pushing down her energy once again. She had been so caught up in the excitement of her seeing her family again that she hadn't thought of some of the more embarrassing things she'd said. She didn't need Helen talking about how grateful she was that Jason came to annoy her as much as he did. The fact that her sister-in-law was giving her a very large grin now worried her. “Don't make me sick Moo on you. I'll do it.” As she spoke Sarah moved Moo away from her body and held the cat towards Helen. Moo gave an annoyed meow and tried to twist in her grip clearly not finished covering her in his scent yet.

 

“I believe he's more interested in you sis.”

 

Jason, “Wait what have you been saying about me?”

 

Sarah, “Quiet. It was a private conversation between me and my sister in law that she shouldn't talk about.”

 

A slight giggle escaped Helen after a moment of silence. “It's just like speaking to your daughter!”

 

Jeff, “Oh no! No! She gets that from you woman.” As Jeff spoke he pointed right at Helen. His conversations tended to end in less then five minutes and would end in two minutes if he could do anything about it. Conversations with family he liked and rarely got to see was the only exception to that rule other then business. Helen on the other hand had spent over forty minutes speaking with her coworkers. Jeff wasn't going to be blamed for a trait that clearly came from her side of the family.

 

It was impossible for Sarah to keep from chuckling. “Do you think we could set down? I don't fatigue but I believe Moo wants to roll around on me for a bit.”

 

Helen immediately perked up. “Of course! Blast it I've had you standing in the entryway this entire time. Come on. Now I prepared some drinks.”

 

“Ah actually! I can't eat. Well the synthetic body can eat but I wouldn't taste a thing.”

 

“What! Are you serious?”

 

Sarah gave a slight yelp whenever Helen's tone of voice changed. It was almost enough to put her to laughing as she realized despite all the changes to her body her sister in law could still be frightening. Instead she gave a huge smile as she nodded her head. “I take it there is a problem.”

 

“Yes! I was scrambling to prepare a few cakes for you when you arrives and now I found out you can't eat them.” A sigh escaped Helen as she shook her head. She didn't like having company over without being able to offer them something. The fact that Sarah couldn't enjoy them took away the joy of serving them.

 

“Sorry but if it'll make you feel better I'll ask for a cupcake here once we're done talking.”

 

“Fine. Just make sure you don't pop in while I'm eating dinner. I won't feel right having you setting across from me and not touching anything.”

 

Now Sarah couldn't help but giggle. Helen's parents were the type that when you went to visit them they offered you some lemonade and something to eat. It didn't matter if you were going to be there for five minutes or five hours they took care of their guest. This mentality and rubbed off on their daughter. She didn't say anything about it though but finally settled down in the living room while setting Moo in her lap. The moment she had settled down she could feel Moo pressing his front paws into her thigh in a rhythmic motion. “I wonder how he's going to respond whenever he sees my true body. If he ever sees my true body.”

 

Jeff, “Don't talk like that sis. I'm sure you'll be released soon enough.”

 

“Even if I am I won't be able to visit you and Helen. I'm a living siege weapon at this point. I won't even be allowed on the planet. Not that I disagree with the decision. You can't have people walking around that could level several city blocks by themselves. Still.” Sarah couldn't help but give a slight nod.

 

Jeff, “Well just have to come visit you on Yevhon. I wish that you could find somewhere that was closer though and cheaper to travel to.”

 

Now Sarah gave a slight chuckle. “So do I! I'm not even certain what I'm going to be doing there. I mean sure it's a developing world that's the point. What kind of work opportunities will there be though. Well that is what savings are for. Just make sure that before you actually come and visit the planet is officially a stable world.”

 

Helen, “Speaking of that. Sarah are you certain you want to go that path? What if you spend all your money getting yourself set up on Yevhon and the environment breaks down and the planet has to be abandoned? It has happened before.”

 

Sarah gave Helen a large grin. “I thought of that and I have to admit it would be quite a set back for me. They are some settled worlds I'd be welcome on though even as I am and I could find work on a private station. Perhaps I could even work as the power source.”

 

Jeff, “I wonder what that would pay.”

 

“Hopefully very well. I guess if things became really bad I could sign back on with the military. I think they really want to keep me. So don't worry about it sis. I have a few options.”

 

From the way his sister had been speaking Jeff knew that she was being listened to. What was her superiors thinking at the moment whenever she talked about living the military? Would they try to keep her? Jeff couldn't imagine talking about quitting a job whenever his boss was standing right next to him. The military was a bit of a creature onto itself though. Sarah had agreed to a term of service after all though a rather lengthy one. The level of augmentation she'd been given required a long term of service. “I'm sure Sarah isn't just letting her money set around either.”

 

“Nope. I have a few investments set up but I don't get to touch those until I'm out of the military.” A slight chuckle escaped Sarah as she realized this was the first time she'd spoken of finances in a while. In her current situation it didn't seem like they would matter. She went silent as Moo raised himself up and rubbed his head against the underside of her chin. She knew that she'd just gotten a mouthful of whiskers but she couldn't taste it. The body could analyze what had gone into her mouth but she didn't have anything on her tongue to simulate the feeling or the taste. “Ah do you want all my attention focused on you?” As she spoke Sarah scratched both sides of Moo's head while the cat continued to stand on his back legs with his paws on her chest.

 

A slight snort escaped Helen as she looked at Moo. “He is awful. You can't pet him and watch television. He wants you to be looking at him while you're petting him. I can't lay in bed and watch television if he's in the room or he'll practically lay on my face.”

 

Jeff, “I think he's trying to smother you still.”

 

Sarah, “That's not true is it Moo? You don't want to smother Helen you're a good kitty. Speaking of laying though. Where do you want me to store this body? It's military grade so it can handle some very rough treatment.”

 

Jeff knew better then to answer that question. That type of decision was best left up to Helen. She was the one that did most of the cleaning around the house. Putting something in the way of her cleaning routines was a good way to get on her bad side very quickly. Helen didn't have to think about it a great deal. “Put it in the guest room. You can make use of the bed.”

 

“Are you certain? What if you have company?”

 

“If we have company over I'll have your synthetic body move down to the basement and sleep on the couch. Unless it's Patrick. In that case he can sleep in the basement.”

 

“Hey!” Jeff couldn't help but feel a bit defensive. Patrick was one of his closer friend but he and Helen were often at odds with one another. Patrick was a bit on the messy side and walking into her home with muddy boots then leaving foot prints tracked all over her floors was one way to make Helen dislike you a great deal. Jeff actually came in through the garage and left his work shoes next to the door whenever he came home.

 

“The man is a walking mess and everything he touches ends up smelling of lubricant!”

 

It surprised Sarah but she couldn't help but laugh. Given how clean Helen kept her home she could understand why she wouldn't like such a person in it. That did leave her wondering something. “I'm surprised you welcome me into your home Helen. I remember one time I came to visit after a long deployment. I was so eager to get back that I didn't even stop to clean up.”

 

“Sarah you do not compare to Patrick. I would swear the smell of oil has sunken into the man's skin.” A sigh escaped Helen after a moment. Patrick was a nice person but he always left a mess wherever he went. She wanted to like him but it was so difficult for her to be around him.

 

Sarah, “So are you fine so long as he keeps to the basement?”

 

To this Helen gave a nod. “That or if he would take a thirty minute shower before coming over as well as wear clean shoes and clothes.” Helen gave Sarah a grin. “Anyway, just make use of the guest room to store your body. I'm certain that Moo will keep an eye on it.”

 

“I have a feeling I'm going to find this synthetic body often covered in cat fur.” A loud meow caught Sarah off guard and drew her attention to Moo. “Yes we are talking about you little mister.” As Sarah spoke Moo went back to purring and working his paws into her thigh. “I swear it's.” A long sigh escaped Sarah as she took in a deep breath and drew her energies back into herself. She had been speaking so freely that she had began to let her energies flow freely as well and once again the suit was threatening to overheat.

 

Jeff, “Overheating again?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“I swear. Is there something wrong with the suit?”

 

After a moment Sarah shook her head no. “It's due to the amount of energy I put out. I'm not at liberty to tell you exactly how much energy but well. I'm rather impressed with how well built the suit is.” Sarah took in a deep breath and froze up as she felt Moo licking her fingers. The sound of the suits warning systems was ringing in her ears but his ticklish rough tongue brought up so many happy feelings that she was having serious trouble. She was setting in the living room of her brother and sister-in-law with her little kitty snuggling on her lap after months of near isolation. She could feel barriers she didn't know that were their crumbling away and part of her wanted to cry.

 

It was fairly clear to Jeff after a moment that something was going wrong. After all the warnings he wondered if Sarah might have finally exceeded what her suit could handle. He held his tongue hoping that she would respond soon but thinking he might have to resort to the communicator. After a moment she seemed to relax. “Was that a close one?”

 

“Yes. Oh goodness yes.” Sarah could feel a pain in her chest as she looked at Jeff. “I think I need to get away from the suit for a little while. I know this constantly heating and cooling has to be stressing the mechanics.”

 

Jeff, “Already?” Hearing this from Sarah was quite a surprise. Jeff had expected her visit to last at least an hour if not several hours. As he listened to the tone of her voice he knew that the notion of cutting the visit short was hurting her. This gave him an idea of just how much stress she was putting on the system.

 

Sarah bit down on her lower lip as she rubbed Moo under his chin. The big house cat purred and looked up at her and she couldn't help herself. “Who's a pudgy kitty? Who's a pudgy kitty? You are. Yes you are. I've missed you.” A slight chuckle escaped Sarah as Moo rubbed his head against her hand. Part of her worried about how she'd feel when this was brought up later but she didn't care at the moment. “Well I'm going to push the. One moment.” Sarah took in a deep breath and remembered what Michel had told her. She needed less emotional repression and more control. She needed to direct her energy. She tried to imagine her energy flowing smoothly and gently. The suits warning system made this a little hard to focus as did Moo rubbing himself against her hand but after a few minutes she heard the warning system going quiet again. “Keeping control of my psionics is really hard right now but I believe I'll push the system a little more.”

 

As Jason listened to Sarah he felt incredibly happy. He could see and hear how much she was enjoying herself. Watching the light combat suit go through the motions of petting a cat was a little strange but he wasn't going to complain. Now he looked at Michel. “I believe that we need to have a spare suit made for her. She's set off the warning system several times already and you know that has to be taking a toll on the suits systems.”

 

Michel didn't respond right away. Knowing that there was a spare could be comforting but it could also make people neglectful. If you knew or believed that this was your only resource and if you destroyed it you were lost you tended to take better care of it. Given how Sarah was behaving he could see the suit becoming very important to her very quickly and he didn't know what she would do if she lost that connection. “Speak with David about having a spare suit made and putting back some spare parts but don't tell Sarah about it. She needs to be motivated to take care of the suit. She's already abusing it a bit.”

 

“You mean by wanting to spend more time in it?” Jason could understand what Michel was saying. Sarah knew that she was pushing the suit very hard. Even if she responded quickly to the warning signs few systems were meant to cycle from one extreme to another.

 

“Yes. This visit is clearly stirring up her emotions and her psionics are responding to that. Rather then back off and deal with these emotions though she continues to push the system. She knows that backing off is the proper decision but she can't bring herself to be parted from her family just yet. This isn't the type of self control I'm used to seeing from Miss Karsin.”

 

***********************************************************************************

 

March 21st 347RS

 

Sarah bit down on her lower lip as she walking around what she used as a living room. She had just climbed out of the synthetic skin suit an hour ago and she could already feel the desire to climb back into it. Not that she could really speak with anyone other then Moo. It was nighttime at Jeff's home and the only person that was awake to keep her company was Moo. When she'd climbed into the suit she'd found him sleeping on her synthetic body. She had developed a petting program that according to Helen and Jeff Moo was responding well to. So she didn't have to worry about the synthetic body hurting Moo's feelings whenever she wasn't there to guide it. Even though they were asleep though she just wanted to feel like she was closer to them. The SSI was her favorite toy and she was a young girl that couldn't be parted with it. A loud groan escaped her as she turned and heard the walls vibrate slightly as if they'd just been struck.

 

Sarah could feel the frustration building within her. She wanted to be back in the suit so badly but she knew that wasn't good for it and it wasn't good for her. She had things to do she couldn't just escape from reality. Except what did she have to do? The thought froze Sarah in her steps. She'd been cooperating with the testing and otherwise just trying to pass the time. What had she been doing? As the thoughts ran through Sarah's mind she felt her skin grow cold for a moment and then a heat began to swell up within her. Fortunately the containment room had been designed to be very durable and thus could withstand her wrath. Sarah found herself more stomping towards the communicator then walking. She didn't try to touch the buttons as she could tell they had already been destroyed by her psionic output. “Cathy I need to speak with you.”

 

“What did I do to piss you off?” Cathy had noticed the sudden spike in Sarah's energy output. That was the type of spike that came with strong emotions and as she looked at the display she knew Sarah was angry.

 

“I'm not angry with you I'm angry with myself.” As the words left her mouth Sarah gave a sharp exhale. Just saying the words helped her to calm down a bit. “I've been sulking in her for months now saying that I'm trying to contain my energy when I've mostly been just setting around feeling sorry for myself. I didn't even realize I was doing it either.” It was strange but setting with her brother and her family as well as her kitty had helped Sarah to come to a realization. It was a rather noteworthy one. Setting around and trying to keep relaxed wasn't the way she approached a problem. That was her giving into a powerless state.

 

Sarah had actually surprised Cathy. She didn't know what was going through her head at the moment but she was eager to find out. “What are you talking about Sarah? You've improved a good deal since you were placed in there. You haven't broken as much furniture as of late and your energy output has become more stable.”

 

“Cathy that's the gas, the suit and the furniture being improved that isn't me.” As she spoke Sarah could feel her frustration building again. “Cathy I need to do something while I'm in here. I need to do something to help me better myself. I need to practice. My psionics they're a tool that's what we were taught in training. You've all been trying to help me get a better grip on it but that's just improving the handle. I need to do something more.”

 

Where had this come from? Sarah had been spending her days helping with logistics and anything else she could do while at the same time trying to remain relaxed and control the flow of her energy. There wasn't much else Cathy could think of her doing though. Everything in her room had to be specially made for her and even that ended up broken at times. “Sarah you've been practicing just living without destroying everything around you that's pretty important. What more do you believe you can do?”

 

“That's not practice.” For a moment Sarah went silent as she tried to consider what she could do. What could she do to really help her develop her abilities? She needed something to practice with something that could endure a lot of abuse but would force her to work on her fine control. “Cathy I have an idea. Would you mind going to the machine shop and having me some blocks made. They should be around eight centimeters long and two centimeters wide made from krysteel. I believe I'll need around forty of them but I may need more.”

 

Now Cathy found herself more then a little curious about what her friend had in mind. She often requested common items but this was clearly a specialty item. “Just solid blocks?”

 

“That's right.”

 

“I'll be back in a few minutes. I doubt it'll take them long at all to machine them out.” It was tempting to see what Sarah had in mind but Cathy held in the desire to ask her what it was. She wanted to see it rather then be told. As Cathy was making her way towards the door she couldn't help but wonder what was going through Sarah's mind and if perhaps the time spent with her family had caused this change in behavior. Had she needed a few hours of release in order to truly let her mind work freely?

 

Once Cathy was out of the room Sarah gave a sigh and let herself set down on the floor. A moment later she found herself crossing her legs and leaning forward while placing her right hand on her knee. It felt strange. She hadn't thought of anything but trying to live day by day and break as few things as possible before. How could she have thought of that as practice for her situation? That was her being lazy and waiting for others to fix the problem for her. She felt upset with herself. Even now she was hoping that they would improve the SSI suit. That was relying on them though and she didn't achieve her rank by relying on others. You achieved rank by being the one that others could depend on. Sarah had to remind herself that Cathy would need her to come to the reception area to pick up her request.

 

It had taken Cathy less then half an hour in order to obtain the blocks Sarah had requested. Rather then carry them herself she had borrowed a self propelling cart. She wasn't surprised whenever she entered into the work area and found that Sarah had already moved to the reception area. “Someone is very eager.” As she spoke Cathy willed the cart over to the reception box and began to load the blocks into it. “These things are a bit on the heavy side.”

 

“Sorry about that. If they were made from anything weaker I don't believe I could use them.” Sarah couldn't receive the blocks just yet. The reception box only allowed one door to be open at a time. As she watched Cathy working though she felt her excitement growing with each one. “I hope I didn't just waste some materials.”

 

“If you can't use them they'll just melt them down again. You should have seen how quickly it was. I told one of the shop workers what I needed and they asked if that was all. He was surprised whenever I said yes or he looked surprised. I guess just cutting a sheet of metal isn't something to really think of to them. He didn't even cut it. He just programmed it into the fabricator and out they came.” Cathy actually found herself working a little faster then normal. Sarah's excitement was infectious and it only took her a few moment to load all the blocks into the reception box and close the door. “Okay now what are you going to do with those.”

 

Once the door opened Sarah started to reach for the blocks with her hands but stopped herself. Instead she reached out with her psionics and felt them wrap around the blocks of super strong metal. This wasn't the true practice she was going for. She then quickly ran a few meters away from the chamber before setting down and placing the blocks on the ground. Taking a moment to steady herself she lifted one of the blocks and placed it just in front of her before picking up another and placing it next to the first with an index finger's worth the length between them.

 

At first Cathy wasn't certain what was going on. It would have been faster for Sarah to work with her hands she had no doubt about that. The fifth block proved to be a real issue as once Sarah began to slide it into place it suddenly shot off across the room. Cathy gave a slight jump whenever it stopped in mid air and she looked back to see Sarah beginning to sweat. It wasn't the sweat that came with exertion but with having to exercise very fine control. “Are you building a jinga tower?”

 

A delighted chuckle escaped Sarah as she nodded her head. “That's right! Ouch!” Pain shot throughout Sarah's head as she moved one of the blocks towards herself. She had pulled too hard it seemed and the bit of metal had slammed into her forehead. Reflexively she placed a hand on her head to cover the injury and relaxed her psionics allowing the bit of metal to fall to the ground. It seemed that moving things towards herself with her psionics was still a little on the dangerous side. It wasn't the type of thing she was ready to give up on yet though.

 

“Sarah are you alright?” Cathy had seen how powerful Sarah's mind was. It was more then powerful enough to destroy her body and the fact that Sarah didn't have a opening in her head after striking it was a good thing.

 

Rather then respond right away Sarah took a moment to feel of the injury. She didn't feel herself going dizzy and there wasn't an opening in her head. Fortunately one of the things she had learned was to use her pisonics to defend her body even from her own mistakes. She imagined many psionics were grateful at one point or the other they learned to enhance their physical abilities before anything else. “Yeah I didn't fracture my own skull. Still. Ouch.” After a moment of rubbing her head Sarah gave Cathy a grin before she once again picked up the block and began to move it into place.

 

“Are you sure that's a good game for you to be playing with your psionics? If you're having this much trouble putting the tower together then you're going to have a real problem when you remove a block.” As Cathy spoke she could already see that Sarah was struggling and her tower was only four blocks deep at the moment. She doubted that she would actually be able to build the tower. As troubling as those thoughts were Cathy found one thing more troubling. “I believe you're missing a few blocks to make a proper tower.”

 

“I couldn't remember exactly how many blocks were used in the building. I believe I have enough for now.”

 

“Oh no. If you're going to play jinga then you're going to play it properly. I'm going to go have some additional blocks made for you.”

 

***********************************************************************************

 

A grunt of pain escaped Sarah as the block slammed into her shoulder. The pain wasn't as bad as the blow to her head had been but it still hurt. She actually had several bruises from where she'd hit herself with the krysteel blocks. To make the situation worse most of the hits she'd taken had been received while building the tower. She had only managed to finish it twice and destroyed each tower with her first move. Despite the pain though she found herself focused on the game. “Okay Jason if I manage to get two blocks out of one of the towers then I'm going to go visit my brother and his family for an hour.”

 

“Sarah I believe you should go visit them before you beat yourself to death. That or how about lowering the difficulty a little bit? Just finishing the tower is pretty impressive.” Jason felt a little awkward whenever Sarah gave him a rather annoyed look. Instinctively he backed away from the screen. “I just don't want you to hurt yourself.” Those were apparently the correct words as Jason saw Sarah's expression soften rapidly

 

“Thank you. Okay I'll tell you what I'll stop if I actually draw blood.”

 

Jason gave a low groan even as Sarah chuckled. He remembered her file and how well trained her body had been before she was augmented. He had a good idea of how she'd gotten to that point. He was surprised by the change in behavior though as had Cathy been. “So I was told that your visit with your family inspired this little change.”

 

“Yes. I became upset with how I had been slacking. Going through the motions of daily life and trying not to break things isn't training. If I want to get better I need diligence and to really focus. Unfortunately I can't train in the regular methods as well I don't have a teacher that could survive training me. So I come up with my own idea. I remember whenever I was a little kid playing this game. My hands would shake so much but the more I practiced the better I got. I'm hoping for the same result here.” As she spoke Sarah took a moment to wipe some sweat from her forehead. Trying to maintain such fine control over her psionics was proving very difficult.

 

“Won't you be upset whenever we develop some kind of implant or stimulant that lets you control your abilities?”

 

“No. If you actually manage to give me a good enough handle to use my tools properly it just means I'll have even finer control. Besides just relying on you to fix my problem whenever there is something else I could be doing isn't in my nature.” As the words left her mouth Sarah realized she'd misspoke and felt a little strange about it. She had spoken to Jason as if he was the only one trying to solve her problem. Yet she knew that there was an entire team dedicated to helping her find a way to control her power. After he had came up with the SSI suit though she couldn't help but think of him a little more highly.

 

It was fairly clear to Jason that Sarah was no longer content to set around and wait for a solution to be given to her. He winced a bit whenever he saw one of the blocks stop right in front of her stomach. She had managed to catch it before it hit her this time but just barely. “Just try not to hurt yourself. It would be rough if we actually had to treat you for a serious injury.”

 

“Don't worry so far I've only given myself some light to medium bruises.”

 

Rather then responding right away Jason took a moment to look at Sarah. He could see the sweat rolling down her forehead. Her sensors said her heart rate up. How she had maintained such an intense focus for so long was beyond him. “Sarah how about you take a break to eat something and drink some water? You're actually burning a lot of calories working like that and you know a well fueled brain works better then a starved one.” Jason expected Sarah to tell him to wait but much to his surprise she stood up and stretched her arms above her head.

 

What Jason said was true. Sarah had struggled with problems in the past for hours and made no progress. When she'd finally given in and taken a little time to eat and relax her mind the answer had came to her so easily. She had put in several hours of work. “That makes sense. Perhaps I should work on something else after eating. Give me a few and I'll prepare something for the two of us.”

 

“You don't need to I.”

 

“You prepared the last meal we shared so I'm going to prepare this one. I'll show you a recipe that I learned from my sister-in-law. Just give me a little time to cool off I still feel a little twitchy.”

 

This was not what Jason had expected. Sarah had been eating what the base provided for her or what he cooked for a long while. Apparently even more had changed then he realized. It was enough to cause him to turn to Cathy for an answer but the look on her face turned him away. He had no interest in what the woman was thinking at the moment. Unfortunately he had gotten her attention and she wasted no time walking over to him. “I guess she's really feeling happy about being able to see her family. Well sort of see them.”

 

“Wait to go!” As she spoke Cathy gave Jason a sharp smack on the shoulder. The look of surprise on his face was almost enough to make her burst into laughter whenever he turned and looked at her. “I bet if she didn't have to worry about killing you she'd be taking you to her bed tonight. At the very least she'd be giving you some cuddle time.” The look on Jason's face was full of shock, interest and even some desire. This made Cathy's grin grow all the larger as he turned his head away. “Come on Jason you're her hero now. You're the one that created a door for her to go visit her family. Sure it isn't perfect but it's a lot more then she had.”

 

“I was just doing my job.”

 

“Ha! No your job is to clean up our work stations and prepare the experiments we request. You've gone above and beyond. Well that was your job at this point that isn't going to happen. I've tried to be her friend but the way you two connect is something else. I mean. She's training again and I don't mean just trying to live without destroying things. Even if this doesn't let her reduce her psionic output it should improve her control. That will make the military happy.”

 

“How so?”

 

“It'll be easier for her to swat a star ship out of the sky. That said you should go eat yourself some crackers and peanut butter or something.”

 

Now Jason was surprised again. He wasn't certain if he should ask her fearing that Cathy would just tease him but he had to know. “Why?”

 

“With how unstable her power is? Listen it's going to take her a while to prepare anything if she even manages to do it. Just give her an hour or two and if she's still struggling tell her that she's just too hungry to focus on cooking and you'll bring her something from the mess hall. Then instead of bringing her something from the mess hall bring her something special.”

 

“Now how am I suppose to do that?”

 

“Just tell Martin that Cathy is calling in one of her favors. He'll prepare you anything you want. Those cooks can actually make some nice dishes if they're motivated to do so.” A slight snort escaped Cathy after a moment. “It's not like they cook the majority of the food anyway that's left up to the machines.”

 

Before he could ask anything else Jason glanced over towards Sarah. She had made her way into the kitchen and seemed to be preparing her dishes. He then glanced back at Cathy. “One of your favors?”

 

“What! I am a very talented woman with a sharp mind and eyes. I'm also willing to negotiate on many things. This tends to result in people owing me favors or other things.”

 

“Does that mean if I use one of yours I owe you a favor?”

 

“Na! Not this time at least. You deserve it after how you helped Sarah.”

 

Jason didn't run off right away but took a moment to look at Cathy. That grin on her face didn't leave him feeling comfortable. Unfortunately that was the grin she had when she was being sneaky or friendly. At times it left him wondering if she was ever friendly or if sneaky was her friendly. “Are you serious about the bed thing?”

 

A sharp chuckle escaped Cathy as she looked back towards Sarah. Part of her wanted to turn on the communicator and ask directly but she knew that would upset both of her friends. She would tease them and would do so without mercy later. “I can't say for certain but Sarah already likes you and you've earned a lot of points with her recently. She wants to cook you dinner after all. Well more like she wants to cook you lunch or.” A sigh escaped Cathy as she rubbed her forehead. “What time is it?”

 

To this Jason gave a shrug. “I have no idea if it's day light out yet or not.” Jason empathized with Cathy whenever she gave a long sigh. Military testing was dangerous at times and to really test a weapon they needed a lot of space. So most weapon testing and development facilities were kept on low population worlds. Their current one was better known for its mineral wealth and most of its plant life was actually a fungus that grew and fed on minerals. The only other major industry on the planet was mining and refining those mined goods.

 

“My sense of the passage of time is all screwed up. Anyway. She's trying to fix you a nice meal she learned from a family member. I know when I do that for a man he's either done darn well last night or it's hard to get him into bed.”

 

“Wait does that mean whenever you fixed William dinner the two of you'd been together?”

 

“Yes.”

 

Jason's mouth opened up to question Cathy further but he quickly closed it. William was the type that liked to talk but he hadn't mentioned anything of sleeping with Cathy. What had Cathy done to make him keep his mouth shut on the subject while she spoke so freely? He could think of a few possible answers and each and everyone of them frightened him to some extent. As he turned to walk away and abandon the question he felt Cathy's hand take hold of his arm. It was surprisingly strong.

 

“I made him beg.”

 

“Huh?”

 

“Don't tell me you weren't wondering why William never mentions our time together. Honestly it pissed me off whenever he started avoiding me the day after. I knew something was wrong whenever he rushed through his meal.” Now Cathy gave Jason a toothy grin. She could see the shock on his face but there was a slight layer of disbelief there as well. “You know I am ex-special forces and that includes augmentations.”

 

“Wait. You're a psionic?”

 

“No. I was a candidate to become one but I wasn't ready to sign away that many years of my life. I just have the modifications to handle high gravity forces and temperatures.” Cathy knew Jason would understand the full implications of such things. She had to be strong enough to move while having several times her weight pressing down on her body. Technically she was considered armed at all times but it was on par with most self defense systems. She could shrug off a stun blast or two from a civilian market stunner but police grade would put her on the ground like anyone else. That was more then enough for her to handle someone that hadn't been augmented though.

 

For a moment Jason said nothing but rubbed his chin. “I don't believe I care to know more then that.”

 

“Ah! But that's the smart thing to do and I wanted to horrify you!” As she spoke Cathy released her hold on Jason's arm. “You know you could get some augments of your own. You're already working with some biological developments. The military would give your immune and artery system some big improvements if you asked. They might even modify your lunges to handle toxins.”

 

“If I asked them to do that though I would have to agree to work on level five or six biological developments though.”

 

“You're already working with a ten in some ways.” As she spoke Cathy gestured towards Sarah. She was a living being that could be considered a weapon of mass destruction even without other forms of equipment. She wasn't as unstable as a virus and could be reasoned with but she could still be dangerous just by living.

 

“She couldn't put an entire planet in danger she's not a ten. She'd be a seven or eight at worse.”

 

“Mm I don't agree. Ratings are given out based on the worse possible scenario. In the right situation and if she was inclined to do so I believe she could threaten an entire world. Anyway it looks like you're not going to let me tell my story so go on. I'll find a way to worry you later. Perhaps I'll have a little girl talk with Sarah while you're gone. See if I can give her some ideas about how fun augmentations can be in bed.”

 

“Please don't.”

 

Immediately Cathy's face lit up. “Oh your voice was so cute just then! I didn't know you could do worried puppy.”

 

Jason couldn't help but give an annoyed snort. He was going to have to get even with Cathy whenever the chance presented itself. That or he was going to have to make a chance. At least she was letting him make use of one of her favors. “Okay you said I needed to get to the mess hall. I'll talk to you later Cathy.”

 

Cathy waited until Jason was out of the room and walked over to the communicator. She waited until Sarah wasn't holding anything in her hands to speak to her. “I swear I really want to take Jason back to my room. That's no longer on the table though.”

 

“I never said that you couldn't. He's a good friend but it's not like.”

 

“Sarah I know you. If I did anything with him the moment you stepped out of that room you'd be all kinds of upset. Besides I don't believe he likes me that way.”

 

“I believe you frighten him a little.” As she spoke Sarah chose not to confirm or deny whether or not she'd be angry with Cathy if she took Jason to her bed. She did have feelings for Jason and they were growing stronger. In her current situation though there wasn't much she could do about them though and she didn't want to hold him back.

 

“I know.” A delight giggle escaped Cathy before she gave her lips a quick lick. “I believe that makes me like him even more. He's like a cute little puppy that you've just brought back home. Oh come on Sarah! You know he doesn't like to eat that kind of stuff.”

 

“I know what he likes to eat and there is no way I'm feeding him that kind of junk. I'm also certain that he'll love this dish. He just doesn't know how good such foods can be. We're having some nice baked vegetables and fish with spices. Perhaps I can get some of that gunk into his system cleaned out.” As Sarah spoke she went back to gathering her cooking ingredients. Unfortunately it hurt to bend her right leg due to a nasty bruise she'd given herself with one of the krysteel blocks. At least she was able to keep the pain from causing her psionics to lash out. She was going to have to be very careful if she was going to successfully prepare an entire meal without destroying it.

 

“Well I tried to convince him to have his immune system and arteries augmented so that wouldn't be a concern but he seems to shy away from such things. It's a shame. If he doesn't have the augmentations now he'll have to pay for them himself later.”

 

“I don't believe Jason is comfortable with taking augmentations that he doesn't believe he needs. Sure he could have them done now but what happens if an opportunity shows up that requires him to have something else done? I was pretty worried whenever I had my body adapted to let me use psionics and it wasn't just due to fear of them altering my mind. I asked myself. What happens if something better comes out in five years?”

 

“If we're just talking about power here I don't believe you have to worry about that at this point.”

 

“Yeah. Crap.” Sarah gave a sigh as the pepper she'd picked up burst in her hands whenever she looked at it. Fortunately she had plenty of vegetables to spare. “Hey Cathy after you received your augmentation did you break anything.”

 

“Coffee cup handles and doors.”

 

“Doors?”

 

“For a few months I would just open them naturally like before the change. Well this resulted in me slamming the door into walls and other things. Eventually I wore a few of them down but blast it. Why use manual doors anyway? They just get in the way whenever both your hands are full.”

 

“They can't be hacked, don't depend on any power source, give a more natural feel then the automated ones. I believe the big thing is they give people a feeling of control that the automated ones just lack.” As she spoke Sarah had already washed off her hand and retrieved another pepper. Much to her relief this pepper wasn't destroyed the moment she touched it.

 

***********************************************************************************

 

This was taking longer then it should have. Sarah had to start over twice and had three set backs whenever she was cooking. She was glad that she kept her salt shake only half full these days. She had accidentally crushed it while salting the fish but had only squeezed out a relatively small amount. Due to various mishaps with pressure and spices the dish was a bit off in terms of texture and flavoring and part of Sarah wanted to start over again but the more rational part of her mind said that was a bad idea. Eating would help her as well and she could only expect Jason to wait so long.

 

He didn't want to admit it and he wouldn't speak about it but Jason was glad that he had taken Cathy's advice. He was hungry as is and would have been even more so if he had just waited. He didn't know if having a special dinner made was necessary as he noted Sarah's progress. Currently he was refraining from speaking to her as he didn't want to make her feel rushed. Cathy had been speaking with her most of the time and hadn't mentioned him. When she turned off the communicator he spoke up. “She's doing really well. It's hard to believe.”

 

“I know. I've watched her cook for herself for weeks now and she's kept it simple. Most of the time she's only eaten sandwiches or other things that can be prepared in less then five minutes if she cooked at all. Just look at the attention she's paying to the food as well. Those are some very thinly sliced peppers and did you see how she rubbed the seasoning into that fish? She's really putting a lot of love into your dinner. Don't leave a bite or it'll hurt her feelings.” Cathy's face lit up the moment Jason looked towards her with a face full of concern. “Do you know how much it hurts a woman whenever she puts her heart and soul into a dish and then she learns the person she cooked for didn't like it?”

 

Why did she have to say that? Because she's evil. The question and answer came to Jason at the same time as he looked at the smiling Cathy. “I can't just choke it down if I don't like it though.”

 

“Of course not! You have to eat it slowly and chew carefully no matter how much you dislike it. I mean just look at the love that's going into that food.” As she spoke Cathy waved towards the screen that was currently showing Sarah cooking. “That is a woman determined to do just right for you and you'd better appreciate it. I know how upset I get whenever someone insults my cooking and I can only imagine how horrible the results would be considering Sarah's psionics.” As Cathy finished speaking she felt herself shake lightly. She was actually having trouble keeping herself from bursting into open laughter.

 

Jason turned away from Cathy and bit down on his lower lip as he looked at the screen. “I'm not going to lie to her. It's great to think that she's fixing that for me though.”

 

“Good and if you don't like it that means you can enjoy the nice meal from the mess hall. That said. If you do like it I'm going to raid your desk and eat it myself.”

 

“What! You said you gave me that favor.”

 

“I did but fine food like that doesn't taste nearly as good cold or reheated. I gave you the favor but I'm not going to let it go to waste if you're not going to use it properly.”

 

A sigh escaped Jason as yet more evidence indicated that Cathy was evil. He forgot about this whenever he saw Sarah plating their meal. He was tempted to open up the communication line but resisted. He was even more surprised whenever Sarah didn't open up a line of communication but left the kitchen and went into the wash area. “What she doing?”

 

“Dressing up of course.”

 

There wasn't much Sarah could do as far as clothing. Simple clothes ended up being destroyed and painting decorations on her binding suit didn't seem appropriate for this situation. She could still wash her face and fix her hair up a bit. As Sarah ran a wash cloth over her face and felt the hot water running over her skin she couldn't remember the last time she'd done anything like this. Sure she cleaned herself daily but when was the last time she'd really tried to prepare herself?

 

Jason couldn't actually see what Sarah was doing. It was her decision what rooms they could look into and what rooms they couldn't. Unless Michel or someone even higher ranking then him chose to override that decision. Naturally she kept her restroom private and it surprised him at times how many rooms she chose to keep viewable. He imagined it was because she liked it whenever people spoke with her and being able to see her made it easier. Plus it wasn't as if they were constantly watching her even in the rooms they were allowed to. Their work simply didn't allow for that. “Hey Cathy what were you working on a while ago? I just realized I haven't had much to do lately.”

 

“Don't let anyone else hear you say that. You're suppose to be coming up with new ways to better Sarah's living conditions and help her to improve. You've always had it a bit easier then the others considering how well you connected with her and that suit of yours really helped out. As for me.” Rather then explain Cathy brought up a display showing scans of Sarah's nerve activity. “I was just looking over the scans from when she visited her family the first time and all the spikes she had to deal with. Then comparing to them to when she said she tried to change how she was distributing the energy or repressed her emotions. I was also looking at her mizerus readings and well it's an old problem. See here.” As she spoke Cath indicated an energy reading.

 

“As Sarah's brain activity goes up so does the energy output of the mizerus organs. Now the C organ quickly kicks in and everything is fairly normal until Sarah's own nervous system becomes involved again. Here is Sarah's control and here is Sarha's energy spike.”

 

“I didn't think that the human nervous system did anything to increase the psionic output.” Jason was use to seeing the end result of Sarah's increases. What happened to the world around her. He never really got to see what was happening inside of her. Not that he had a great many ideas of how to change what was happening inside of her directly.

 

“They do in some very rare cases but that's true. In general the human nervous system is only part of controlling it and well. It's actually not a very big part of that control system either. What makes Sarah even more unusual is that even amongst those that can boost the energies beyond what the mizerus organs provide it's done in the brain. Sarah's entire nervous system works as something of a booster. Sarah is actually better then most psionics at controlling their power but she also has so much more. It's amazing what an additional five percent can do.”

 

“Five percent?”

 

“You know. Typically once the new organs are implanted and the changes are done you could say they're seven or eight percent Mizerus by weight. Well Sarah is twelve percent. That's the problem though. The mizerus organs work together to produce and control the psionic energies so most of the work is done before the human parts of the psionics body has to take over. Due to the changes though Sarah's body does even more to increase those energies and very little to actually control them. Now typically what we do when we gas Sarah is block her nervous system from boosting those energies to an extent but that's not what we really want to do. We want to let her control all those energies.”

 

Jason had believed the suppressant gas they were providing Sarah was helping her. Part of him had even hoped that it would be part of the solution. As he considered what Cathy told him he couldn't believe that anymore. “So is practicing actually going to change anything?”

 

Cathy couldn't respond right away as she tapped on her desk. Sarah's training was similar to developing a new program to control a mechanical system system. If you improved the program controlling the system then you improved overall control until the program finally reached a point where it was doing the best that could be done with what it had. Would that be enough to let Sarah truly control her psionics? It wasn't just that though. How would the Mizerus organs and Sarah's own body respond to this new training system? “Yes.”

 

Jason couldn't help but give Cathy an annoyed look whenever she didn't say anything beyond yes. He had never heard her use that tone of voice either and whenever she looked back at him he noted the small grin she had on her face. “You have no idea.”

 

“Hey I'm certain that it'll change something! Looks like she's ready for you.” Cathy brought down her screen and looked at Sarah. Her hair was done up in a small bun apparently using some thread that she had on hand. Cathy also noted a bit of eye liner and was actually surprised that Sarah would have such things on hand. It wasn't a drastic change in her appearance but given what she had to work with and how she tended to keep herself looking functional it was a nice change. It seemed to have the desired affect on Jason. That or the thought that she'd taken the time to dress herself up even a little bit for him had left him stunned. “Yeah you're not going to have any trouble eating that fish.”

 

***********************************************************************************

 

It had taken a little while but Sarah had managed to find the thinnest fork and spoon she had that hadn't been damaged for Jason to use. The fact that she actually had a few that some might mistake for traditional dishware that hadn't been damaged actually surprised her. Sarah for her part was making use of a set that had been designed to handle her abuse. Unfortunately the only plates she had could have served as armor plating if used to overlap one another. It didn't make for quite the image she'd been hoping for but it was nice to have Jason setting across from her. She was currently chewing on her first bite of fish and pepper and was quite pleased with the results. Now she had to wait for him to take his first bite.

 

Jason couldn't help but look out the corner of his eyes. Sarah had provided him with two drinks. One was water and the other was milk. As his knife easily sliced through the baked peppers and vegetables as well as a bit of the fish he glanced over towards them. “Do you believe that's natural milk or synthetic?”

 

Sarah gave her lips a slight pucker as she looked at the cup. “I'm thinking synthetic but I can't taste the difference if it is. It's not like this world would be suitable for cows to live upon and it's a lot cheaper to make the synthetic stuff here then it is to have it shipped in.”

 

Jason gave his head a slight nod before finally placing the pepper and fish into his mouth. The flavor was nice and savory initially and he began to chew. As he ground up the peppers though he could feel his tongue slowly heating up. It wasn't painful but there was no doubt that it was there and it was growing more intense. There was a little sweet hidden in the background adding nicely to the dish though he would have preferred a little more salty and looked around the table for a salt shaker before swallowing. “That's pretty good. Would you mind if I added some salt though?”

 

A slight chuckle escaped Sarah as she looked at Jason. “Are you serious! I thought I had added too much salt. Well okay give me a moment. You're going to have to add it pinch method.” As she spoke Sarah stood up and walked over towards the counter. While she'd been cooking she'd finally pushed her salt shake too far and the top had been loss. As she was walking over towards the counter she didn't realize she was putting some extra sway in her hips. All she knew was that whenever she turned around Jason was quite focused on her. It made her feel a little awkward and a little happy that her suit showed off her body so well. “I loss the top.”

 

“Well at least the bottom is fine.” That didn't sound right flashed through Jason's mind. The thought that Cathy might be listening in on them or even watching them only made him feel even more awkward. He tried to push such thoughts from his mind as Sarah placed the salt in front of him and he grabbed a few pinches worth. “I might need more milk then a cups worth though.” Before taking another bite Jason picked up the cup of milk and took a rather large swallow to wash the spice already resting on his tongue off.

 

“I have plenty.” As she settled back into her seat Sarah took another bite of the vegetables and fish. She liked it but it didn't taste quite right. Jason was enjoying it though and that's what was really important to her. “I swear I think my sense of taste has changed with the rest of me. If my nervous system has been altered it stands to reason that my sense of taste would be altered as well after all. It seems like there is plenty of salt to me. I believe I should have added more heat.”

 

“I can assure you there is no need for more heat. I enjoy spicy chicken wings as much as the next guy but they're limits.” The salt had helped a fair bit but there was still the heat. Instead of taking a drink after every bite Jason was trying to eat a few bites in between drinks. He would just have to hold out until the pain began to take away from the enjoyment of the meal. “Thanks by the way this is good.”

 

“It's good for you as well. So how many times did you laugh whenever I hit myself with those krysteel blocks.”

 

“I didn't laugh. I was pretty worried actually especially whenever you got yourself in the right shoulder. Whenever you leaned over I was about to turn on the communicator and ask if you were alright. Then I remembered how much you hated that question.” Sarah was smiling back at him now. He was a bit surprised. She had eaten a good portion of her plate and yet she hadn't even touched her drinks. Either she could tolerate spice a lot better then he could or she was better at managing the pain.

 

“That's sweet of you. Yeah that time I was actually worried I'd done some damage. What about Cathy was she laughing out there?”

 

“I believe I heard her snicker once or twice.”

 

To this Sarah gave a playful snort. “Well at least it was only once or twice. So what did you think whenever you sat down and saw me playing a child's game?”

 

“Hey that isn't just a game for children. Once you get more practiced at it and stop giving yourself bruises perhaps I'll come in and play it with you.”

 

“Ha! No. I don't think so. If you're going to play a competitive game with me it's going to be one that I'm not dealing with a massive handicap. Now what.” Sarah took in a deep breath as her plate was suddenly made to move several centimeters away from her. Instinct took over and she took in a deep breath and set up strait closing her eyes as she did so. She wasn't in the SSI suit at the moment. Jason was in the room with her and if she started putting out energy like she had been while visiting her family she could end up seriously injuring him. “I swear I'm going to put in a request for a light combat suit.”

 

Sarah had seemed so relaxed and comfortable. Jason had been feeling it himself and let how dangerous she could be even without intending to slip his mind. Then he'd heard her plate slide across the table and realized what was happening. “What would you need a combat suit for?”

 

“To put you in it.” Sarah gave Jason a grin as she looked at him then at her plate. Carefully she took hold of it using her psionics and began to pull the plate towards herself. The sound of chair legs moving across the floor caused her to stop and when she looked up she saw a huge grin on Jason's face. Surprise, amusement and even a little frustration surged within her and Sarah quickly placed her head down on the table and tried to focus her thoughts inward even as her face threatened to split in half. She felt the table vibrating rapidly despite its sturdy and heavy build and knew that was her. “You sneak!”

 

Jason couldn't help but chuckle. When Sarah had moved her plate with her psionics he had scooted his chair forward hoping to trick her into thinking she had done it. She had for a moment and he couldn't help but chuckle. Despite that he was a bit worried whenever he heard some of the warning systems going off and felt the temperature beginning to increase even as the room was flooded with cooling air. It wasn't the evacuation signal but it did let those in the room with Sarah know things were becoming a bit dangerous. It wasn't enough to make him leave. He still had food on his plate after all and he got another mouthful. “I know that was reckless of me. I'll behave.”

 

A sigh escaped Sarah before she risked raising her head and looking at Jason. Part of her wanted to give him a psionic smack and knock his chair over but she wouldn't risk harming him. Her control was still far too flawed for that type of behavior. She wasn't even quite ready to risk pointing a finger at him so she would settled for a pointed word. “You like to live dangerously.”

 

It was impossible for Jason to keep from laughing. That was one thing no one had ever accused him of. He knew the dangers of being in the same room as Sarah but he had never been a big risk taker. “Actually you're the only person I take these kind of risks for. If it makes you feel any better I'm certain that I'll have nightmares tonight.”

 

For a moment Sarah said nothing but set up having calmed herself down and got another mouthful of food. As she was chewing though she couldn't help but wonder. “Jason why don't you tell me a bit about yourself? You see plenty of me but I don't know a great deal about what you do outside of this room and lab.”

 

It took Jason a moment to consider what Sarah was asking him. Suddenly he felt rather awkward. “Well I'll go ahead and tell you I spend more time in virtual games then I probably should. Well I used to. Work doesn't leave a lot of time for that anymore.”

 

“I used to play those. I even bought a harness so that Moo could join me in them.”

 

Now it was Jason's turn to be surprised and he did his best to keep it from showing on his face. “Are you serious?”

 

“Yes I am. I created a base virtual person and well I'm sure you know how pets can be integrated into those games. Moo became my trusty war tiger.”

 

Jason didn't know what to say as he looked at Sarah. He was actually wondering if she was serious. He knew pets could be brought into virtual worlds. They could even be used as the base for a character in the world. “Okay I have to ask how does that work? Did Moo decided how the character would behave?”

 

“Sort of but sort of not. The animal sets the personality but the intelligence and well pretty much everything else is handled by the simulation. For the pet it's sort of like going for a ride but they get to do some of the driving or the driver turns away from things they don't like. He was always pretty happy whenever I put his harness on him.” A slight chuckle escaped Sarah as she noted the look of surprise on Jason's face. “Giving up such virtual games is something I had to accept with the changes to my body.”

 

“Well what about indirect control games?”

 

“I haven't gotten a chance to play any unless you count the synthetic body. We're talking about me again though. So you like playing around in virtual games?”

 

Jason gave a quick nod. “Naturally. Being able to go into a fantasy reality and be in a different time or reality for a while never lost its appeal to me. I typically like to use a tech rogue or a rogue in more fantasy based settings.”

 

“I didn't expect that. I figured Cathy would be the type that likes to stab others in the back and listen in on private conversations from the shadows.”

 

It was impossible for Jason not to grin. He didn't know where that stab at Cathy had came from but he had to join in. “Well she probably is. I enjoy that part to but I also like being able to provide support or hinder the enemy. Sneaking into the enemy base and planting the markers so your allies know where the important targets are that sort of thing. Did you ever play anything built on the denizens of shadows system?”

 

“I played a dragon-kin.”

 

“Overpowered.” A slight chuckle escaped Jason after a moment. “If you want I could give you some worlds I built.”

 

“Wait. You actually designed some worlds for it? I played in some of the ones other people built and worked on my own characters but I never made one.”

 

“It's really pretty easy. So would you like to try one?”

 

“Sure. What do you have in mind?”

 

“Well before that could I have some more milk? My tongue feels like it's about to burn off.” As he spoke Jason held up his cup and tilted it to show that it was empty. He had continued to eat while they'd been talking and not realized his cup had ran dry a few bites ago. As Sarah nodded her head and began to stand up Jason couldn't help but speak up. “I can get it myself if you want.”

 

“Well maybe next time. You do know where the fridge is after all.” As she walked over to the fridge and took out the metallic milk container she couldn't help but feel awkward. The milk inside wasn't anything special but the fact that it had to be stored in such a container to keep her from spilling it all over the floor or counter daily was a reminder of how delicate the world was around her. She tried to remember to be careful around Jason but not to think about the reason why too much. It could take the fun out of the conversation. “Now what kind of games have you built?”

 

“I've made quite a few of them really.” Before continuing Jason took a big drink of the milk to cleanse his tongue. “One of them features a world that is filled with monsters. They're a few safe areas made safe by using different methods and pretty much everywhere else is extremely dangerous. This makes trade difficult in most cases as well as travel. The two methods of safety are to create a pocket dimension. Sort of like entering into a sustained warp gate with solid walls. The only place you have to worry about guarding is the one entry point into the pocket. The other method is to develop a strong enough defensive line. This results in near constant conflict but you don't have to worry about a collapsing pocket dimension destroying your home.”

 

“So it's a fantasy setting?”

 

To this Jason gave a nod. “Yeah. I know making a stable pocket dimension you could build a city within is a bit out there. Instead of trying to explain it away I just decided that it would be easier if it was a fantasy setting. Instead of having androids to serve them they have golems. I was feeling a bit inspired by the psionic development program at the time so I created a group of warriors for those who choose to stand and fight. People are branded with magic that further augments their body.”

 

For a moment Sarah said nothing but tried to picture what Jason was telling her. It didn't take her long to come up with a good comparison. “It sort of reminds me of Rizon 4. Well what you told me at least.”

 

“I can see that though the people of my game world don't even have the choice to just cleanse the entire planet.”

 

“Well as long as we're following the treaty of Manxe neither do we. I'm guessing that leaving the world isn't an option either.”

 

“Not in this case. As part of the game's back story they did once try to create a pocket dimension large enough for everyone to live in. A new world if you will. Unfortunately creating a pocket dimension the size of a city is difficult enough and one the size of a world proved to be beyond their means. Now I have a few starting scenarios that I believe you would enjoy. One of them features a soldier of the guardian light returning from some time in the field. She's in rough shape but she sees some civilians in need of immediate help. They were trying to travel through the badlands. Unfortunately the creature threatening one is an abnormally powerful one and indeed shouldn't have even been in that area.”

 

“Don't you believe that's a bit much for so early on? What if I want to create a body from scratch?”

 

“There is that too. You can pick what nation your avatar is born in as well as several other things. If you want you can even build your character's base and just watch how that character lives out their life in the virtual world.”

 

“If I wanted to do that I'd just watch a movie. Jason do you ever go virtually into a movie and experience the characters emotions throughout it?”

 

“I don't tend to like riding in the main character's body. I've done it before but just being along for the ride never had much appeal to me. I believe that's why I focused more on the games. Even if I don't have a game with full sensory immersion I would rather have some influence over the story rather then just be along for the ride. Plus being made to feel a certain way whenever I don't actually feel such emotions takes away from the movie more then anything else for me. Have you ever seen crimson dust?”

 

“I don't believe that I have.” As Jason spoke Saran set up strait in her seat. Her fish was mostly gone but he had a bit to work with still. It actually surprised Sarah how much more quickly she was eating then him. Likely it was due to the fact that he needed to cleanse his tongue more often then she did.”What is it about?”

 

“It's a war movie and the dust is this really effective performance enhancer. The problem is that the dust also damages the body on the genetic level and prolonged use will put you in an early grave. Well the main character finds out some of his fellow soldiers are using it and is utterly outraged by it. He goes on this big speech about how that's the tool of the enemy and it shouldn't be used. Then he talked about how they didn't need to use such things to win. I never agreed with him though and actually I strongly disagreed.”

 

“How come?”

 

“They were in a desperate situation and there was a few dozen soldiers that decided to use the dust. They knew it was going to kill them but if they didn't use it the enemy would kill them a lot sooner was their theory. It wasn't just that though. One of them commented that he would rather put himself in an early grave then see his buddies put in their graves or be put there by an enemy. Anyway, here is the system pumping me full of outrage over them using this evil substance that's going to kill them while personally I understood and respected those using the dust.”

 

“How long did they have to live once they started using the dust?”

 

“Three to five years depending on how heavily. Treatment was possible but difficult.”

 

For a moment Sarah said nothing but took in a deep breath. She tried to imagine those people she had fought alongside and served alongside. There was a feeling of sadness within her as she imagined them dieing and tried to picture cutting her life span to three years to protect them. Her eyes snapped open whenever she felt the table shaking slightly. She was actually rather relieved to see that Jason wasn't shaking it. His mouth was open and his hand raised as if he was about to call out to her. “Sorry.”

 

“Um no problem.” Jason gave a slight chuckle. While Sarah probably didn't notice it she had been shaking him slightly as well. It had been less shaking though and more rocking. As tempting as it was to bring this up he chose not to. “I guess you were really getting in the mood.”

 

“Yeah. I can see myself cutting my life short in order to protect my comrades and civilians. Surely there were some other issues with the dust though.”

 

“It pumped up aggression the more it was used and left the hero wondering if those using the dust might have ignored a few attempts by the enemy to surrender.”

 

“Oh!” A slight hum escaped Sarah as she considered what Jason had told her. She didn't like the idea of killing people that had already surrendered. It was a notion that had bothered her during her war ethics classes. What did you do when an enemy surrendered but you had no means of detaining them all? She had settled on detaining their leaders and taking away their weapons and armor. This had been an acceptable answer by her teacher at least. Yet would it be better to protect her allies and show the enemy no mercy? “I don't know if I could use the dust in that case Jason. If you lose the ability to tell when the fighting is over with you're not a soldier anymore.”

 

By now Jason had taken a few more bites of his fish and finished most of the fish off. He hoped that Sarah wouldn't mind if he left a rather large portion of the peppers still on the plate. To make it easier to eat the fish he had began pushing some of the peppers aside. “I believe I'd rather see more of my friends going home and fewer of the enemy even if the scales weren't exactly balanced.”

 

“I can understand that thinking. After all you swore to fight alongside those people and have a duty to see them home safely but. The enemy is people to. I don't know. I would probably have to see my friends laying dead next to me for me to make a decision. I get why you had trouble though. I'm not a fan of false emotions either. Not that I have to worry about that anymore now. No more sensory immersion entertainment for me.”

 

“What about the SSI suit? Sure it can't make you feel what the character you're watching is feeling but it can simulate things for your body.”

 

“That is true.” A slight chuckle escaped Sarah as an old memory came back. “Has anyone ever cast horror on you while you were emotionally tied to a game?”

 

“Yes! I became so scared that I couldn't think strait and was barely able to resist going for the emergency escape.” A slight chuckle escaped Jason as he shook his head. “I much prefer whenever you simply lose control of your character rather then when you actually feel the terror. I'm just glad that developers have enough sense to dampen the pain.”

 

“Naturally. The first time you were shot while part of a movie or during a game would be the last time you watched or played it. Now according to my brother Jeff they're some people that actually modify movies so that they can even feel all the pain. I don't doubt there is but I can't help but think such people are a bit crazy.”

 

“That or masochist. Sarah I'm feeling rather full. I hope you don't mind.”

 

Before responding Sarah glanced towards the plate. She was glad to see that the main part of the dish had been eaten. “I'll try to cut back on the spice next time. I'm glad that you liked it though.” As she spoke Sarah couldn't help herself. There was a solid feeling of happiness building up within her and guiding her to walk over towards Jason. He seemed a little unsure of what she was doing and she used this time to wrap her arms around him and carefully pull him against herself.

 

It wasn't a kiss but a hug was quite nice. Sarah's suppression suit was more solid then he would have liked but Jason still hugged her back as best he could. In his seated position it felt a little awkward but nice just the same. “Now what's this for?”

 

“I'm just saying thanks.” A slight burning in the front of Sarah's head drew her attention for a moment and she placed her fingers against her forehead as if trying to force the pain back in.

 

Jason was about to comment when he noticed the look of pain on Sarah's face. “Sarah are you alright?”

 

There wasn't time for for Sarah to answer. Instead she heard the communicator come on and Cathy's voice came over. “Okay Jason it's time for you to come out of there and I'll make it into an order if I have to. Sarah I want you to lay down for a little while. That isn't an order but you're probably going to want to.”

 

Sarah didn't respond right away but she instead looked to Jason. “Don't worry I'll clean up the dishes or destroy them. Cathy what's going on?” Sarah closed her eyes whenever she heard Jason standing up. A ripple seemed to run through her body as the pain in her head seemed to grow more intense then relax.

 

“I'm just detecting some intense activity in your brain. I can't be certain but I think you might have worked yourself a little too hard. Now that you're relaxed it's catching up to you. Anyway, if I can't be certain of what's happening to you it means anyone that's easily flattened is coming out now.” As she spoke Cathy put a little more power into the now. She was actually relieved whenever Jason picked up the pace and began to walk towards the exit.

 

It surprised Jason that his legs began to move before he could really consider what was going on. Cathy still outranked him and in this situation he knew she had the ability to order him out of Sarah's room. It was still surprising how quickly his body responded to the order. It actually felt like it wasn't his body for a moment. Rather then telling Sarah good bye though he resolved to speak to her once he was safe. “I'll be sure to help clean up next time.”

 

“Thanks.” A groan escaped Sarah as she let herself sink back into her seat. She could feel it whenever Jason walked around the corner leaving the dining area. He was safer now at least and that actually made her feel a bit better as she risked opening her eyes and looking towards the entrance to the living area. “So you believe I over did it with my training?”It actually surprised Sarah how quickly the pain was forming in her forehead. She was even more surprised whenever she heard the table beginning to shake as well as the seats.

 

It wasn't Cathy's voice that came over the communicator or her image. Rather it was Jason's. “Okay I'm safe now. I guess all that training and then restraint caught up to you.”

 

“It set in so fast.” Sarah was actually rather surprised. She could understand how playing psionic jinga for several hours and the frustration she'd endured while cooking could take a toll on her. She didn't expect it to hit her this hard though.

 

Cathy, “Mental stress will do that. I remember I crammed for three days strait in preparation for an exam once. I took the exam and the moment I closed down the connection I felt like my head was going to split in half.” By now Jason had made his way away from the entrance and up to her level. Cathy waved him over though it was clear he was already walking over to her.

 

“Is she alright?”

 

“She's fine. I just thought it was best that you get out of there.”

 

As she stood up Sarah couldn't help but sigh and stretch her arms above her head. She was rather surprised by how stiff her muscles felt. Mental fatigue could influence the body of course and she knew her body was even more closely tied to her mind then normal. A slight giggle escaped her despite the pain she was feeling. “I had a good meal after some exercise. Yeah I probably shouldn't be surprised that my body and mind are ready for a nap.”

 

As Jason looked at Sarah on the communicator he wasn't certain he needed to leave just yet. Part of him wanted to be in their to help her see to her headache. “Sarah instead of cleaning up why don't you go lay down and then once you're out of the dining area Ill come back in and clean up?”

 

For a moment Sarah wasn't certain what to say. Jason's offer had caught her off guard and her mind seemed to freeze up for a moment despite the pain. Her cheeks grew a bit warmer as she blushed a little. As nice as Jason was this seemed well beyond the normal. “Are you offering to do the dishes while I go take a nap?”

 

Cathy, “I wouldn't tease him if I were you Sarah. That's the kind of offer that most women will never hear unless they're about to fall over dead. Some times that isn't even enough.”

 

“Well you have a point there Cathy. Sure Jason if you're alright with cleaning up. I think. I really need to lay down after I drink some water.” As she spoke Sarah managed to stand up and walk over to the fridge. As she took out the water jug she thought of retrieving a cup but quickly changed her mind. Her head hurt too much for her to bother with a cup and her throat was very dry all of a sudden. Instead she removed the cap and lifted the entire jug to her mouth and began to drain it in large swallows. The water brought with it more relief then she expected.

 

Cleaning up and letting Sarah lay down seemed like the right thing to do in the situation. As Jason watched her draining the water he turned to Cathy and had to ask. “Is she really alright?”

 

Now Cathy bit down on her lower lip. She wasn't quite certain how to answer that. “Something is going on inside her head but there is nothing indicating that her life is in danger. From what I can see she's just overstressed her brain while working on her psionics and she needs to lay down.” Cathy chose to leave out that struggling to fix a meal for Jason probably didn't help her situation. It wouldn't do anyone any good if she said such things. Instead she took another bite of stake.

 

“Hey! You really did it.”

 

“I said that I would.” A slight chuckle escaped Cathy as she looked at the dishes she'd retrieved from Jason's desk. “I have to say I'm a bit disappointed in the portion sizes they gave you.”

 

After a moment of silence and consideration Jason rolled his eyes. “Well you can handle cleaning up those dishes sense you're the one that ate them.”

 

“Sure. Wow that was quite a drink Sarah.”

 

Jason forgot about Cathy and turned back to the communicator. He was a bit more worried whenever he saw that she wasn't moving to put the water jug in the fridge. Instead she had continued on towards her room despite having drained half of its contents already. When he turned to Cathy he saw that she'd already brought up the controls on Sarah's suppressant suit. “Is something wrong?”

 

“Not that I can tell but I just want to be ready. I'll need to keep a close eye on her vital signs until I'm certain she's just releasing some stress. She's out of the dining area and there is two doors between you and her now. You should be safe. If I tell you to leave though don't ask me why.”

 

Given his head a nod Jason opened up the containment area and stepped back in. There was a strange feeling in the air that wasn't there whenever Sarah was around. Was it a side affect of the energies she was radiating or had left behind? He didn't know but oddly he felt more nervous with her out of the room then he did with her in the room. With the doors shut he knew that Sarah couldn't hear anything that was going on in the other sections of the containment area and made his way to the kitchen. Fortunately his experience cooking for Sarah meant that he knew where everything was and needed to go.

 

***********************************************************************************

 

It was so tempting to break into her stash of stimulants. The fact that she had things that were so much better then coffee but was forced to rely upon it frustrated Cathy. Those were meant for combat situation or in her case truly desperate moments. Cathy was a bit uncomfortable but she wasn't desperate and at least the coffee tasted good. As Cathy settled back into her seat she heard the door open. Several members of the team had come to see how Sarah was doing and even talk about it as well as to work. She knew it was Jason though by the urgency in his foot steps. “It's only been five hours.”

 

“I know. I tried to sleep but.”

 

“Let Charles know that you're having trouble sleeping due to anxiety. He'll give you something that will put you to sleep but let you wake up clean.”

 

“Cathy I don't want to go to the medic and be drugged so I can sleep.”

 

“There is nothing unusual about it so long as it doesn't become a regular happening. From what I know your medical record is as clean as they get.” Even as she spoke Cathy was bringing up Sarah's readings so they would be easier for Jason to see. She had explained a few things to him so he could better understand what the display meant. She had left out some of the details that would worry him more then they should. Fortunately at the moment there was nothing to truly be worried about. It seemed her belief that Sarah simply needed to rest had been accurate. “She shredded her bed.”

 

For a moment Jason was even more awake then he already was. A fact that surprised him. “What do you mean?”

 

“Do you want to see the video?” It didn't matter if Jason did. Cathy had brought it up. Not that there was much to see. Sarah's bed was effectively a mattress that was easy to replace at this point. The room's temperature was carefully controlled, she had been physically augmented and her suit provided protection as well. She has no need of covers. Cathy couldn't help but feel sorry for her. “I wish we could just redo her entire bedroom so she didn't have to sleep in one of those suits. The only thing she gets out of the thing is to bath and to change into a different one. Have you seen how much trouble she has bathing?”

 

For a moment Jason wasn't certain what he should say. Was Cathy teasing him or was she being serious? The notion that he had watched her clean herself off seemed laughable. “That's not exactly the type of thing I would have any reason to watch.”

 

“I hope you mean no official reason.” Now Cathy gave Jason a large grin.

 

How was he suppose to answer that? Naturally he would have liked to see Sarah without her suit but that wasn't the type of thing he felt comfortable talking about especially given Sarah's situation. She needed to be comfortable in the containment area and not have to worry about anyone spying on her. “I have never watched Sarah bath.” Rather then turn this into a discussion that Cathy could tease him over Jason chose to keep his response simple. It seemed to have the desired affect as Cathy backed off.

 

“Well she has trouble getting the water to her skin at times. There have been some offers just to use nanocleaning on her but that's just not as relaxing as a good water bath.” A slight chuckle escaped Cathy despite an unpleasant memory returning. “Once I was in the field and we had to remain stealthy. We didn't want anyone know we where there. I had to rely on my suits nanocleaning for a week. I swear I thought I could feel the nanobots moving over my skin removing all the gunk. For a while it nearly drove me crazy even though I knew I couldn't really feel them.”

 

“Did you get used to it?”

 

For a moment Cathy went silent and shifted her head from side to side. “In a manner of speaking. I found it was a lot easier to tolerate if I imagined the nanobots as little men exploring my body and keeping it clean for me. Something about the idea of being cleaned off by an army of little people made it a lot easier to tolerate. Especially whenever I thought how the nanobots could suffer an error and decide that removing my skin was a good idea.”

 

Jason wasn't certain what part of Cathy's statement to comment on. One of them was very strange and the other was very unpleasant. At least the second one he didn't have to worry about any sexual aspects. “Has anyone ever had their skin stripped like that?”

 

“In the last three generations of nanocleaners only whenever someone intentionally broke into their programming and told them to do so. Before that it did happen every once in a while. That's why the military includes a system with each suit to knock them out in the event that does happen. Outside of the suit they're really quite delicate and a small electrical pulse is enough to take them out. Of course. Then you have a soldier who panics and thinks the nanobots are killing him when they're really the only thing keeping him alive so he hits the panic button and dies.”

 

“Where did you learn about this?”

 

“I know some people who needed to go to a planet that was rather toxic to humans. They couldn't get their hands on top level exploration equipment, the middle grounds wouldn't work and they couldn't get the licensing for military grade exploration equipment or the money but they really needed to go. I knew about some older military suits that were built with the older cleaning units and someone that needed to get rid of them so I did a lot of research.”

 

“Know? So they're still alive? Did any of them lose their skin?”

 

“Yes, yes and no. The older systems were really good even then it was mostly user error or problems brought on by combat situations that resulted in that unpleasant happening.”

 

After a moment Jason nodded his head and looked towards Sarah's screen. “I don't believe she'd like a nanocleaning feature. She's already lost so much of her everyday life. Are you sure one hasn't been implemented that they just didn't tell her about though?”

 

***********************************************************************************

 

March 26th 347RS

 

“What are these?” Currently Sarah was looking at a small stack of jinga blocks. They weren't like the ones she requested though. They couldn't be placed while leaving much space between them being the first thing she noticed.

 

Cathy, “They're jinga blocks built to the correct dimensions. Those you asked me for where a bit off.”

 

“Cathy I don't have the control I need to work in spaces this fine.” As she spoke Sarah looked at the blocks. After a moment of hesitation she used her hand to grab one of from the side and set it on top of the tower.

 

“Trust me these work better. The tower you were working with already had spaces between the blocks and that made it far more unstable once you began to remove them. I don't believe the reason you've been having trouble stacking the blocks is entirely due to your psionics.”

 

“Well you may be right. I can at least give them a try.” As she finished speaking Sarah placed her fingers against one another and pressed them against each other. She heard a slight pop and there was a moment of relief before she closed and relaxed her hands a few times. “So what should I do with the old ones?”

 

“That's up to you. If you want I'll take them to the machine shop and have them melted down otherwise you can hold onto them. Is something wrong with your hands?”

 

“They're a little sore. I'm not sure why I haven't been using them much.”

 

“The chin ups I saw you doing yesterday say otherwise.”

 

A slight chuckle escaped Sarah before she placed the jinga block back within the tower. “Well I have been a bit more active lately. I hope they don't take too long to make my gym set. So are you sure you want to exercise with me?”

 

“So long as we're not in the same room sure! It's always easier to exercise with a partner. I'm pretty sure Jason is going to be joining us as well.”

 

“I don't know about that. He didn't seem to like the idea of exercising with two augments.” Sarah had asked Jason if he'd like to join in once they finished her training set. Naturally she had asked Michel before hand to see if she could free up some of Jason's time. It was after all his job to see to her needs and make sure she was comfortable. Michel didn't have any problem with it and Cathy had offered to train with her as well.

 

“True but he does like the idea of exercising with you. He wants to see that nice toned body of yours at work. You should do some squats.” It was impossible for Cathy to keep from chuckling whenever Sarah gave a slight snort. “I'm a little surprised they're taking so long to get your equipment ready. You just asked for the most basic of the basic.”

 

As Cathy was speaking Sarah found herself tensing and relaxing her fingers again. It was nice to think that Jason found her attractive but how much could they do with her living in a box like this? Would they even get along once they were living their day to day lives? He seemed to respond well to eating dinner with her at least. “I suppose making sure it can survive one of my mistakes is important. I'm going to play jinga for a while I believe. I shouldn't distract you from your work at the moment. What are you doing at the moment anyway?”

 

“I'm just working on some chip designs based on the tissue and blood samples we took from you. I'm hoping to develop a system of cybernetic chips we can install inside your body that would give you control of your abilities. Well I say me but me and several others. I want to use purely inorganic chips but there are a few others wanting to use organic. Michel has us reviewing each others work to find out why they won't work.”

 

“Did they find a reason why your most recent design wouldn't work?”

 

For a moment Cathy said nothing but took a moment to look at her screen. After a little while a sigh escaped her. “Yes. I wanted to help you control your psionics before they were increased. You know point the ship in the right direction before you really begin to put on the momentum. My design would have introduced some delay in your directing your psionics and them responding but it would have given you control. So you'd have a slow moving but very well coordinated hammer. Anyway, my design wouldn't survive the psionic backlash when you oh say tried to redirect your energies quickly.”

 

“So if I ever tried to stop mid swing.”

 

“You would lose control of your hammer.” Cathy lowered her head for a moment and took in a deep breath. “Unfortunately now I'm going to have to change the metals I had planned on using and these new ones introduce all sorts of problems.”

 

“So are the other groups working on organic chips?”

 

“Yeah. The darn thing is a parasite. I shot several of them down on the grounds that your body would sense them feeding on you and immediately destroy them. It would really help if we had more to work with then blood and tissue samples and I hate asking you for the tissue samples.”

 

“Good! I hate giving them.” A slight chuckle escaped Sarah after a few moments. The look on Cathy's face brought a smile to her own. “Well how about the soldiers that are benefiting from my situation? How are they doing?”

 

“Well you know that the samples we took from your mizerus organs has helped us develop a new more powerful type of mizerus for our soldiers to use. At least those soldiers who are a close genetic match to you. Well I believe that if we take some of your nerve cells and implant them within the person's body, with some alterations, as an interface between the mizerus organs and their own nervous system we can amplifying their abilities further.”

 

“Cathy I thought you were my friend!” Sarah put more distress in her voice then she actually felt. She did hate giving such tissue samples as they typically had to go rather deep while being taken. In her current state it was also extremely difficult for them to acquire such samples. A lot of medical equipment and been destroyed whenever she instinctively lashed out. Her subconscious could be very dangerous.

 

“Don't worry. We're using the old samples that we've been growing for a while now.”

 

“That's a relief.” Typically a few nanobots could be used to harvest some cells from anywhere within the body and not harm the subject. Whenever that subjects body was surging with psionic energy though that wasn't an option. Sarah had to endure the more painful and old fashioned methods of tissue removal if she was going to give a sample of any deep tissue. At least her altered body did a very good job of healing itself. Turning her attention to the jinga set Sarah placed it in the middle of the floor and set down. “Okay let's see how I do with a proper jinga set.”

 

***********************************************************************************

 

“I believe that helping Sarah to obtain a more relaxed mind set has done a lot to help the gas influence her. Since she's been interacting with her family through the SSI suit it's effectiveness has increased thirty percent. Unfortunately this isn't as effective as it was whenever it was first used. Helping her to relax has improved the condition but her resistant to the gas isn't only due to her mental state.” As he spoke Jason backed up his words with a chart of how long the suppressant gas had been able to affect Sarah over the last few weeks.

 

Michel, “There are other reports that confirm your results. What I'm more interest in is her improvements in control sense she began her own training program.”

 

“There has been an increase. Before hand it would have taken her on average fifteen tries to finishing stacking a tower without knocking it over and more often then not she'd receive a few bruises during that time. Now she's down to three tries on average and she's managed to remove a few of the blocks.”

 

“Cathy had something to say about that earlier. She believes that the reason for Sarah's failure was due to the flawed design of the blocks. She's sense had a game made for her using the correct dimensions.”

 

“I see. Unfortunately she didn't inform me of this change. I'm afraid I'll have to start recording data over again in order to account for what improvement might be due to the changes to the training equipment and what are actually due to her own improvements. I can report that damage to her furniture has been reduced by sixty percent.”

 

Michel liked to have his team members give him a verbal report before he actually read over their written report. If they couldn't even make it sounds important when talking about it then they either didn't know what they were talking about or their findings weren't important to begin with and he would move it to a lower priority. He was happy to hear about Sarah's progress but there was something else noteworthy. “You're very good at making playing jinga sound official and refined.”

 

“Sir given the improvements in Sarah's performance I believe that game should be shown some respect. It's done more for her then many weeks and hundreds of thousands of credits being spent on her has done. Especially whenever one considers the cost of the suppressant gas that game has saved.”

 

“Oh! I like that.” Michel gave a slight chuckle and Jason began to grin. “Yeah hit anyone that questions the importance of your roll with that one. Now Jason I need you to tell me if you noticed Sarah's control leveling off. Your chart did a fine job of showing how her control is developing but if we just went off the chart then we could say that within three years she's going to have complete control of her psionics and that may be the case but I wouldn't be willing to gamble on it.”

 

For a moment Jason wasn't certain what to say. It seemed Michel wanted to make sure he was prepared to defend his position At times Jason had trouble deciding if Michel was acting as his boss or his friend. It seemed like he was able to fill both rolls at the same time. He was just a friend that kept you from doing something stupid and losing your job. “Thanks for the advice. May I speak freely though?”

 

“I imagine you're starting to doubt if you can do more for Sarah. Jason I don't want to hear how you've ran out of ideas or you're not certain what you should do. You shouldn't talk about that with anyone. You had a really good idea and some more moderate ideas all of which have helped Sarah and in turn helped us. What I would suggest is until you get hit by a new idea act as the go between with Sarah and the wrest of the team. You already seem to have a good relationship with Cathy. You know she's slipped a few positive comments about you into her report.”

 

“Really?”

 

“Subject Karsin has shown to have notably improved control of her psionics while being visited by Jason. It is my belief that she is instinctively more controlled whenever given the proper stimulus. This behavior in her subconscious may be a key to her gaining further control of her abilities. It is however too dangerous at current times to have Jason in the same room as the subject while the subject is heavily stressed. Well that's roughly what she said about you. We're all filling our way in the dark right now and we're all stumbling upon little pots of gold to justify this project. Do you think I really know what I'm doing?”

 

“You seemed to.” Jason almost fell over whenever Michel gave a relieved sigh.

 

“Well I'm glad to hear that. We have two big goals in this project. The first goal is to find out as much about Sarah as we can and how we can use this to improve other psionics. The second goal is to get Sarah's power under control so she can actually be used. You're mostly working on the second goal and you've had some success. You're just going the experimental path.”

 

“Part of me wishes I could do more along the developmental path.”

 

“Yes well I wouldn't wish too hard if I were you. The developmental path has come up with a bunch of temporary solutions that are either failing or have already failed. I finished looking over the designs for the new implants they want to put into Sarah in order to help her control her psionics and well let's just say I'm not hopeful. The most likely designs are those meant to diminish her power to the point she can control it and let me tell you the higher ups are not happy with that. Someone apparently suggested to Anstrom that it may be settle for a weapon that they can control or a super weapon they can't use. He apparently didn't like their negative attitude and told them as much.”

 

“He seemed quite happy with Sarah's performance.”

 

“A human sized weapon that's capable of capturing a large military base by herself or perhaps an entire planet. Yes he was very happy. Apparently he said that he would rather gamble on a super soldier that's already paying dividends then a soldier that's simply exceptional. Just keep working from the outside in and help the team out whenever you can. It's a shame that you didn't beet Sarah to the idea of playing jinga considering how well it's working out.”

 

“Believe me I wished I'd come up with that idea as well. That stress headache she had a few days back had me worried though.”

 

“Ah yes. The stress head ache.”

 

It was impossible for Jason not to become alarmed. The way Michel said stress simply seemed too strange to him. “You don't believe it was a stress headache?”

 

“I believe it was more like using a muscle in a way that it hadn't been used before. That or in a way it isn't used often. Don't tell Cathy I said that she'll want to argue about it and I don't have enough facts to make her quiet down.”

 

“I'm guessing Cathy wasn't one of the people saying that the military might have to settle for an exceptional soldier rather then a super soldier.”

 

“Actually Cathy has ideas on how to increase Sarah's power further but we're not letting her research those ideas until she can control her psionics. She sees Sarah's basic psionics as only the beginning of her potential and is already talking about things like augmentation suits other psionics use. She sent me a few reworks of the basic augmentations suit so that it could handle Sarah's already massive psionic output and some of them are hopeful but I had to call her down.”

 

“I can see why. Sarah needs to be able to control the power she already has before it's increased further.”

 

“I agree. Anyway. Nice work Jason. I hope to see further progress in the future. You're dismissed unless you have something you'd like to bring up.”

 

“Actually Sir there is one thing. Cathy mentioned that Sarah's entire body is involved in the augmentation of her psionic powers. I've began to wonder that if we help Sarah develop better control of her body it might help develop better control of her psionics. For that reason I'd like to resume her martial arts training.”

 

“An interesting theory but one that seems very hard to implement.”

 

“I was thinking we could train her indirectly using a synthetic body or simply a program that's been loaded into her SSI suit. It is after all designed to simulate physical contact while moving with her.”

 

***********************************************************************************

 

March 27th 347RS

 

To say Cathy felt out of shape would be an understatement. Sure she worked out to keep herself in good condition but it had been so long since she'd really pushed herself she was actually worried. She was extremely worried ss she strapped weights onto her legs, wrist belt and even on her shoulders. “Okay I know we need to weigh ourselves down so we don't have too much of an advantage over those without augmentations but these feel like a bit much.”

 

“I was told they were regular weight for someone with your level of augmentation.”

 

“Perhaps on a low gravity planet.”

 

It was impossible for Sarah to keep from laughing as she noticed the look Cathy was giving Jason. Currently she was looking at a projection of the two of them inside one of the containment rooms. Her training equipment had arrived and she was eager to begin using it. Everything had been carefully shaped to be functional but also to withstand a good deal of abuse. “Jason are you trying to pull a fast one on Cathy and me?”

“I did nothing to Cathy's weights or yours. I still think it's not fair that I have to compete with two augmented people. Can't we just have a friendly exercise session?”

 

Cathy, “Competition improves performance. Okay everyone we're going to start with some nice stretches to get warmed up and to let me see how limber both of you are. Once we're done with that we're going to move strait into resistance training and finish up with some aerobics.” As she spoke Cathy walked over to the mat that she claimed while Sarah took up her position. Much like theirs Sarah's hologram had been situated so that it would be facing Cathy and Joseph as they were going through their exercises. Cathy naturally intended to lead to insure everyone showed off their body. “Now do like I do.”

 

Jason felt more then a little silly as he bent at the knees and stretched his arms out in front of him. “Shouldn't I be positioned so that I can see you? I'm having to copy Sarah instead.”

 

“Sarah is doing a fine job. So Sarah copies me and you copy her.” As she spoke Cathy simply maintained her position throwing her center of balance out of position with her legs and forcing her thigh muscles to compensate. The weights on her arms did even more to upset her balance and force her legs to work harder. Sarah was naturally doing a fine job and she glanced over to see how Jason was doing. “Okay we're going to hold this pose for another minute and then we're going to move onto the next stretch.”

 

Jason felt silly. He didn't know the purpose of the pose though he could feel it working in his legs and stomach. When he looked at Sarah he felt a bit awkward though. “How are you feeling Sarah?”

 

“I'm a bit wobbly.” As she spoke Sarah willed her body to remain steady despite her words. She could feel Jason's eyes on her and there was no way she was going to appear out of shape whenever he was watching her. The fact that Cathy didn't seem to be showing any sign of strain actually frustrated her. It felt like Cathy was trying to show her up and Sarah had no intention of letting that happen.

 

“You look like you're doing great to me.”

 

“Okay arms in and legs strait. Now hands on the ground and raise yourself up on the tip of your toes. We're going to form a bridge with our bodies.”

 

***********************************************************************************

 

No psionics. Just rely upon your muscles. Sarah took in a deep breath as she lifted the barbell. The weights on her arms and the weight of the barbell had a mass of six hundred kilograms for a weight that was comparable to five hundred fifty kilograms on earth. Sarah couldn't help the large grin on her face as she looked at Cathy who was using a weight that was twenty five kilograms lighter. “What was that about your body being just as powerful as mine?”

 

“I'm going for a quality exercise here not trying to show off.”

 

Jason, “Yeah right!”

 

Sarah felt her eyes widen as she looked at Jason's hologram. As he had no augmentations he was lifting the lightest of them all. Yet seemed to be having the most trouble. It made Sarah glad he was using smart equipment to avoid injuring himself. That wasn't what held her focus though. The force in Jason's words and the timing left no doubt as to what he meant and Sarah felt her face nearly splitting in half as she fought to keep from smiling. “Great job Jason. I can really see your muscles working.”

 

It had even surprised Jason whenever the words had left his mouth. It was as if his mouth had a mind of its own. As he looked at what Cathy and Sarah were lifting though he couldn't help but feel a bit out of place. “Thanks. I just have to keep reminding myself that the equipment is designed to give me the best possible work out. If it says I can lift another I can. Though it's kind of hard to believe to be honest.” Jason had to take some time to get some breathes of air inside of him as he pushed up on the barbell again.

 

Sarah, “You can do it. Come on show me those biceps.”

 

Cathy, “The nice thing about this is that in an hour or two I'm going to feel fine. Then tomorrow morning you're going to feel awful.” Cathy couldn't resist sticking her tongue out at Jason. She had been just as surprised as Sarah whenever he'd spoke up. She hadn't even been able to think of an appropriate response.

 

Sarah, “That just means I'll have to feed him a nice meal to help him recover.”

 

Jason, “Yay!” A groan escaped Jason as he finally set the weight down. “Special meal for me.”

 

Cathy, “Yeah more health food.”

 

Sarah, “Yes but sense we're working out I don't see why I shouldn't include something special.” As she spoke Sarah was having to be careful not to use her psionics to help with the weight. She wanted to train her body at the moment not her psionics. Plus she knew if Cathy detected any signs she was using her psionics she'd use that to tease her. “Come on Cathy I'm lifting more then you! Don't give out before I do!”

 

“Blast it! I didn't realize I'd lost this much of my strength.”

 

Jason, “How strong were you before you quit the military and went into research?”

 

“I didn't need my light armor's internal motors to move effectively so I could direct all the power into the engines and weapons. A few of us pushed ourselves to that point in case the extra firepower was ever needed but blast it was hard. Even with the augmentations.” Cathy gave a loud groan as she fought to lift her weight again.

 

Sarah, “That is impressive! Well I don't believe you need to get back to that point.”

 

Cathy, “I do! I swear I didn't know I'd loss this much strength blast it.” As she spoke Cathy actually felt like the weight was growing lighter. Thoughts of her friends and the days spent working together seemed to awaken her muscles though she didn't feel anywhere near the strength she once had.

 

It surprised Jason how passionate Cathy sounded. He knew that she was proud of her body and exercised but he didn't know she'd gone so far. “Hey I'm sure you can get back there if you put your mind to it.”

 

“I hope so but blast it. I had an entire team with me then. We helped one another you know. Just hearing the sound of someone exercising next to you helped push each of us harder.” As she spoke Cathy took in a deep breath and focused on lifting the barbell properly. “I'm going to have to look into some stimulants as well if I want to get back to where I was.”

 

Sarah, “What! You used stimulants to help develop your strength? I thought it was exercise and your augmentations.”

 

Cathy bit down on her lower lip for a moment as she gave a gasp and set the barbell down. The indicator said she'd reached her limit and she agreed with it. As she set up she glanced over at Jason and noted that he had a few more to go before his limit had been reached. “Yeah. They made our bodies more responsive to developing. You have to be careful when using those things though or you're going to end up developing the wrong way. They can negatively influence muscle density while making them bulkier and well none of us wanted that.”

 

It was clear to Sarah that she was using her psionics on her weight. It had suddenly became lighter and she had to take a moment to relax her mind. It was hard to do so though due to her surprise. “What kind of stimulants are we talking about?”

 

“Nothing illegal!” A delighted chuckle escaped Cathy as she opened up a screen on her communicator and checked a medical scan of herself. She wanted to insure she'd stimulated all of her muscles enough to bring about optimum development. “They made us a little happier so that exercising wasn't so draining and made our muscles a bit more responsive. Let's see if I can remember what they were called. Noxes!”

 

It felt like a pressure valve had been released in Sarah's head and she quickly relaxed. It was still a bit shocking. “How did you afford noxes?”

 

“Well we didn't pay cash for them that was certain. We had to do a few favors and take on some extra jobs to get them. Okay that's enough recovery time I'm going to go onto the leg lifts sense I can't seem to match you on the bench press at the moment. I really hope I haven't let my thighs go.” A slight chuckle escaped Cathy as she stood up. “I used to like taking stones canisters and crushing them between my legs. Then I'd ask the men to imagine that was their pelvis. I haven't pulled that trick off in three years though.” Reaching down Cathy pinched her thighs to see how much softer they were then they had been. “I don't believe I could now.”

 

Jason, “Did that get you many dates?”

 

“By the stars yes! Don't think it was just guys looking to be dominated though. I'm surprised you'd even ask that though considering how much you like the flavor of danger.”

 

“Huh?”

 

“Well why else would you always be going into the containment room with Sarah without any protection other then your natural delicate skin?”

 

The feeling of the barbell leaving her hands and slamming into the ceiling didn't shock Sarah nearly as much as Cathy's comment. She felt like her heart had jumped into her throat as she looked at the screen and noted the grinning woman. It appeared that Cathy's grin had nearly doubled in size from what it had been moments earlier. A second feeling soon joined the first and this one force Sarah to open her mouth. “Ow!” As she spoke Sarah pressed her fingers against her body as a sharp burning pain ran throughout them.

 

As amused as Cathy had been one moment Sarah's response was not what she expected. She heard the sound of the barbell slamming into the ground before she could comment and it was Jason that spoke first. “Sarah are you alright!”

 

Rather then respond right away Sarah gritted her teeth as the burning sensation in her fingers seemed to be growing. Fortunately she found that by stretching her fingers she could relieve some of the pain and it was dieing down. “Yeah but blast it. Ouch. My fingers felt like they were on fire for a moment there.” A sigh escaped Sarah. Part of her was grateful for the distraction as she wiggled her fingers making sure they were alright. “Cathy did the sensors detect anything?”

 

“One second I just got them up and. A sharp spike in psionic energy at the same time as the barbell hit the ceiling. Which is okay. That and a strong pain response from your fingers and.” As Cathy looked through the readings she didn't truly read them. Rather she scanned them for anything odd. After having seen Sarah's readings so many times she knew what they should be like and knew how to look for anything unusual. “Your fingers are showing some unusual strain.”

 

“Is it the exercise? It can't be. I mean sure I've had my body hurt after exercising before but I hadn't even finished.”

 

“It could be a side affect of your increase healing rate. Of course with you it could be something else as well.”

 

Jason, “Could it be a release caused by the exercise?”

 

“Like a toxin build up from inactivity? That is possible. The toxins could come from the constant gassing. Perhaps some of it was stored in the tissue of her fingers and working the tendons released it. That makes a lot more sense then it being the exercise itself actually. We haven't been able to flush your body as well nanobots don't tend to survive long inside of you Sarah.”

 

As she listened to Cathy and Jason Sarah gave a slight nod. “So I needed this more then I thought.”

 

For a moment Cathy said nothing but rubbed her head. “Blast it. Either you need to exercise and stopping would be a bad idea or the exercise had some adverse affect and you need to stop now. Blast. Jason I'm going to go speak with Michel. The two of you just keep on going but Jason keep a readout of Sarah's vitals up. If anything looks strange you know what to do. Hopefully we can do this again tomorrow. I really do better when I have an exercise partner.”

 

***********************************************************************************

 

March 28th 347RS

 

“Are they still bothering you?” Jason had been watching Sarah since she'd woken up and her hands seemed to be constantly in motion. He had noticed it the previous day. His theory that there had been some toxin build up in her finger joints was looking less likely with each hour. Perhaps whenever she'd thrown her barbell against the ceiling she'd forced too much energy through her hands. Yet he had seen Sarah use so much more energy it didn't seem possible. Had it simply happened at the wrong time?

 

“It feels like they're under pressure. I wish I could take off my gloves.” As she spoke Sarah looked down at her hands. She was tempted to take off her gloves for a little while and see if it felt any better. Unfortunately that would reduce her suits effectiveness. She was already pushing things by not wearing a helmet.

 

Cathy, “Sorry for the wait.” As she spoke Cathy quickly walked towards the delivery box. “I have something for you Sarah.”

 

Standing up Sarah began to eagerly walking towards the delivery room. She didn't know what it was but she hoped that it was something for her hands. “What is it?”

 

“Larger gloves your fingers are longer.”

 

“Huh?” It was impossible for Sarah to keep the surprise out of her voice. She had been prepared to hear there was toxin build up within the joints of her fingers or she'd pushed too much psionic energy through them. She would have even been prepared to hear that she'd pulled something while exercising. She wasn't prepared to learn that her fingers had actually grown in length.

 

Cathy, “Yeah. Michel was the one that noticed. Apparently it's been going on for a few days now your fingers have lengthened and reshaped themselves a bit. I would have told you sooner but we had to get better gloves made.” As she spoke Cathy placed several sets of new gloves within the delivery box and shut her side of the container.

 

Jason, “Are you serious?”

 

Cathy, “Oh yeah. It seems they're some changes going on within your hands Sarah.”

 

For a moment Sarah said nothing but took in a deep breath. This wasn't the first time she'd learned something about her body had changed in ways they didn't expect. She had grown additional organs after the mizerus organs had been implanted after all. Her insides had been adjusted. Her hair had also been altered. Given the changes to her organs she knew she should have expected this and been prepared to deal with it but the fact that it was yet another change to her external appearance seemed to carry extra weight with it. She felt shaken. “I see. Well at least we know one of the problems. I. I need larger gloves.” By now Sarah had reached the delivery room and taken out the gloves. She proceeded to lay one of them across her right hand as if comparing to size. “Well they don't appear that much bigger.”

 

As Jason listened to Sarah he felt shaken himself. He could hear the worry in her voice. What was he suppose to say? They didn't know what other changes might happen in her body. Yet he felt like he needed to say something. What would be appropriate though? Sorry your body is transforming in ways you didn't expect didn't seem like the appropriate thing to say. “That is fine. I personally like nice long refined fingers on a lady.”

 

For a moment Sarah felt like her mind had frozen. She didn't know what to say and wasn't sure what to think. She knew that Jason was just trying to help her and it did feel as if some of the horror from the situation had been removed. She didn't feel shock but rather a flood of amusement. “I guess they would help when dealing with delicate repairs. Okay let's see.” For a moment Sarah held her breath as she removed her right glove. The fact that she felt relief whenever it was taken off only seemed to confirm what Cathy had said. As she looked at her finger though she was rather surprised. “I guess it looks a little longer but. Okay my nails now that isn't normal it's like someone sculpted them to be more claw like.” As she spoke Sarah held her hand out in front of her.

 

Jason, “I can see the fingernails but Cathy are you sure her fingers actually became longer.”

 

Cathy, “It's not like they became several centimeters longer. They grew enough to make her gloves uncomfortable and wearing the gloves constantly began to hurt.” As she looked at Sarah's image Cathy was reminded of a Dreads Day outfit she had worn a few years back. It was fairly clear that they were meant to be claws but they didn't look very inhuman without the wrest of the outfit. “So how sharp are those things? Why don't you try to cut something before you put the other glove on?”

 

“I was thinking I would try to clip them actually. It's been a while since I last took care of my nails.”

 

Sarah's tone was far more relaxed then it had been a few moments ago and that made Jason feel a lot better. He suspected that those claws would be harder to clip then they had been before but it was possible. “Shouldn't you at least try the glove on first to make sure they fit well?”

 

Sarah found herself biting down on her lower lip. She really wanted to cut her nails so that they'd look more human again. She was doing what she could to hold onto her human appearance after all. Jason did have a fair point though. If the gloves didn't fit Cathy would need to have another bundle made. As she slipped the new glove onto her hand she tried to feel if there was any difference between her old one and the new one or if she was just feeling relieved after having one of her gloves off for a while. “I think that it's better.”

 

Cathy, “You probably won't know for certain until you've had it on for a little while. In case you're wondering we examined the wrest of your body to see if anything else had changed. Your biceps and legs muscles have expanded a little bit but believe me we're talking very little that can easily be contributed to you becoming more active. Unfortunately your breasts haven't grown in the least.”

 

“I do not need my breasts to grow anymore I'm quite comfortable with them.”

 

“Now Sarah there is no need to lie we're both women after all. You probably couldn't even smother Jason out with those.” It was impossible for Cathy to resist teasing Sarah. When she had first learned that Sarah's body had been growing in certain areas she had been worried about her friend's safety. Whenever she'd learned that Sarah would most likely be alright though the thought of growth had immediately made her think of Sarah's breasts and how many women had them expanded. With current medical technology there was little difficulty increasing or reducing a woman's breasts size. For Sarah that wasn't the case anymore though due to her altered biology.

 

Jason didn't believe that Sarah needed larger breasts. They were well suited to a woman of her build and her career. That was how Jason felt at least. He didn't particularly like the idea of being smothered either even if it was with a woman's breasts. That wasn't the type of thing he wanted to say in front of Cathy or Sarah though especially at the moment. Instead he continued to draw a blank and rub the top of his head as he looked towards Cathy and then the image of Sarah on the communicator. “Did Michel have any ideas as to what triggered the development of her fingers?”

 

“He's not sure. I suggested that perhaps it was due to her exercise. Perhaps her hands had began adapting as it seemed like they were going to be used more. Then Michel gave me a disappointed look and I realized that the changes in Sarah's hands had began before she began exercising. So there is no reason you shouldn't continue your physical training. Another possibility is that your hands have adapted to better direct your psionic energies through them. They haven't just expanded in size you see we've detected increased flow of psionic energies through your fingers.”

 

Cathy's teasing was pushed from Sarah's mind as she looked down at her hands. By now she had put on the second glove and was relieved to find that her hands felt better if not entirely back to normal. That could easily be her mind playing tricks on her due to what Cathy had told her. “You mean my psionics have increased?”

 

“Actually no. The psionic energies you're radiating has increased a little but it's become less violent. Now the amount of energy you're actually producing hasn't changed. The power plant is still operating like it was before but the transfer system has been improved. When we first noticed this change we thought it was only due to your training but now we're beginning to wonder if the changes to your hands might be related to it. That said well.” Cathy took in a deep breath. “The changes to your hands might also be related to your additional practice with your psionics.”

 

Jason, “That was when you first began working your hands constantly.”

 

“Well that is a bit upsetting.” Once again Sarah found herself looking at her hands. She was glad whenever Cathy said her control had improved. Yet she didn't expect this to lead to changes in her body. “How much evidence is there that me playing psionic jinga caused this?”

 

Cathy, “The changes began nearly the day after you spent the entire evening knocking block towers down and putting them back together. There was no indicators of such developments before. Sarah there is pretty compelling evidence that it was your increased use of psionics that led to these changes. We also have reason to believe that there will be further developments as you continue to use them.” Cathy didn't want to mention it but she was worried about the intense headache that Sarah had experience after she had eaten with Jason. She wasn't entirely certain that was due to stress anymore and worried that something might be changing in her head as well. At least she wasn't experiencing constant discomfort like she had with her hands.

 

“As I continue? Cathy you talked like that had already been decided.”

 

“Sarah with the improvements to your control and well now the developments in your body the higher ups want you to continue your training.” Cathy took in a deep breath as she considered what to say. She had planned it out before coming down but after seeing Sarah her original lines didn't seem appropriate. “It's believed that these developments if they continue are your best chance of safely leaving that room unless you want to live on a world completely isolated from everyone else. We also need to know if these changes are due to your training and the best way to do that is to have you continue. I understand that you're concerned about the changes to your body but those may be a necessity.”

 

“I really don't want to change anymore though. What if it end up looking like some kind of monster? What if I begin looking more like a mizerus then a human? You're not even sure how these changes are going to come about.”

 

Jason, “Then we need to watch carefully. Sarah you're beautiful. So far the only changes have been a slight lengthening of your fingers and a few alterations to your hair. If these subtle changes are all it takes to show the kind of improvements you have been showing then you should be plenty human by the time you gain full control of your psionics. That's what my data is telling me. You may never be able to be close to anyone outside of that room if you let fear keep you from this path. So we're going to have to monitor you closely and stop if it seems things are going too far.”

 

Yay popped into Cathy's mind. She had hoped that Jason would step in. She had wanted to pull him to the side earlier and have a word with him to insure he would encourage Sarah to continue training. That risked tainting his response though and they needed him to sound natural. Fortunately Jason was in agreement with her and Michel on this matter. She would have to be certain to include that in her report. Now she had to hope that was enough to convince Sarah.

 

“Well that does make sense. I just worry. Jason. You'd. You would tell me if I began to look monstrous wouldn't you? I'm going to be very mad with the both of you if I've turned into some kind of repulsive beast before you even mention the changes to me.”

 

Jason, “I promise. Just remember beauty is in the eye of the beholder and like I said I happen to like long slender fingers.”

 

A slight chuckle came from Sarah despite the situation. “I just hope that they're not too sharp. Moo has this spot on his neck he just loves to have scratched. I can only imagine how much it'd disappoint him if I couldn't scratch him there anymore.” Even as she spoke Sarah found herself focusing on Jason. He had claimed that he liked long refined fingers on a woman but what about her claws? Did he really mean it whenever he said she was beautiful? She felt a pain swelling up in her throat as the thought Jason might come to find her appearance repulsive flashed into the back of her mind. As she looked at him though she remembered his blunt honesty and hope began to speak up.

 

End Part 1

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