Part 6 is the first time I’ve switched from one set of characters to another within the narrative, I’m hoping it’s seemless enough.
Feet thumping up the stairs heavily, Ego Man exhaled aggressively turning to look down each of the six corridors branching off from the central chamber. Frustrated, he shouted again at no one in particular “Well at least tell me which way to go?” When no answer was forthcoming, he stomped down the closest corridor, stopping at the first door. With no visible door handle, he shouted “Open” on a whim, which worked. The plain white door within the recess retracted sideways seamlessly into its hexagonal arch.
Inside was a large studio room, walls and separating floors of the same passive white as below. More of the same random furniture as below was scattered about, along with exercise equipment, various netting and hammocks, and a king sized human bed. “Aha, this one’s mine!” he exclaimed, pinging the local ‘net. It confirmed his suspicion that most of the rooms followed a basic standard, with minimal initial customisation. He digitally stamped his claim on the room when it offered, listing him access rights, mass and power allowances, and even the ability to relocate it within the dormitory level.
Several aliens peered into the room behind him as he entered, one bundle of tentacles with eye stalks beginning to roll inside before a particularly insulting word sent the curious alien reeling, and then moved on to find other rooms to claim. Leaving the door open to show off his handy work, the human began dramatically waving his arms around and shouting profane orders at the room as, via his own interface, he rearranged parts of the room. By the time twenty minutes had passed he had retracted the netting and some of the lounge furniture back into the ceramosculpt of the room and ordered priority delivery of several high quality decorations and fixtures. Lewd images and embedded videos painted the walls, a fully stocked substances bar decorated one corner of the first upper level next to an enormous lavish water jet pool, and around a dozen fitness machines that easily doubled as physical pleasure apparatus covered the main floor.
He also moved the upper separating level slightly higher, changed the style of the stairs leading up from the main floor to both separating levels to have a slide down one side, added several vertical chrome poles for quicker descents, and move the bed be on the upper floor, making it larger. Mirrors and cabinets surrounded the bed, the mirrors aimed at the bed itself, while the cabinets were packed with innumerable objects of physical manipulation and pleasure.
“Hah, this’ll all make for a riot of fun, but when do we get to the action, when do I get back into the mecha?”
In response a display appeared within one of the walls, next to a recording of writhing bodies, laying an itinerary of a show match in a little over an hour, followed by a refectory meet and greet. There was a mandatory lecture in the morning on the nature of the arena , the academy, and their sponsorships, followed by more time at the refectory. “What is all this crap, I just want to shoot some morons in their stupid faces!”. He scoffed as the word mandatory flashed several times at him, a paragraph detailing immediate ejection on failure to attend appearing below.
He growled and turned intending to kick over a nearby chair in frustration, and succeeded in breaking several toes having forgotten said chair was extruded physically from the floor. More profanity followed.
The swearing was translated by Daisys’ ARO just as she and Liliana reached the top of the stairs, and she recognised the voice with a wince. Liliana barely noticed, somewhat distracted by the larger womans strange gait on the stairs.
“Are you ok Daisy? You were a bit unsure of your footing there, I thought you were going to trip.” she asked.
“I think I’m just still adjusting to things moving so fast, I feel a bit weird.”
“OK, well, if you feel yourself falling, head in my direction, I’m tiny but I can catch you!”
The women shared a laugh, Daisy miming two hands coming together as a splat with “Are you sure? I don’t want to turn you into a pancake!”
“Hey, I’m tougher than I look!”
They walked down a corridor on the opposite side of the rantings of Ego Man, passing several closed and a few open doorways. One doorway was barely a metre high but three metres wide, with strange rumbling sounds within. Taking the open door for an invitation, Liliana leaned down to look in.
“It’s all tracks like you’d roll a ball down,” she poked her head in and peered upward, “they’re in pairs, all ceramosculpt, and with a few different end points on the floor. They lead up to a higher floor, but there’s a lot of extra loops and twists, it’s like someone’s made a knot of tracks to roll balls through.” She called out a hello, but received no response. Given the constant rumbling above she didn’t think she was heard, and didn’t want to intrude further so she backed away.
As they walked onward Liliana offered “It’s not every day I see something new, but that certainly was.” Daisy smiled down at her.
Several doors down they passed Snool. He appeared to be in the process of arranging a room for himself, sinking several pits into the floor by a foul smelling green liquid flowing out of a wall. He fell into one of them clumsily, splashing the area near the door and making the smell even worse. The women exchanged a glance and moved on.
They passed three more open doors. The first contained another recessed pool in which swam a dolphin. By the pool were a pair of mechanical legs joined together with a leather harness obviously designed for the dolphin, and out of the pool rose a free standing column of water, shifting back and forth of its own accord like a rope hanging from above. The column curved around the lip of a higher platform, presumably for the dolphin to swim upwards. The room smelled of salt water and ozone.
The second held more sizes and shapes of alien than Daisy recalled seeing below, sitting, spread, or oozing onto the ground in a rough circle. Each waved limbs, tentacles, or disturbingly wiggling hair along rhythmically to a bizarre chant that Daisy’s ARO labelled private religious chanting. The ARO went on to explain that it could not translate the chanting without the chanters’ express permissions, and that galactic custom held it improper to interrupt. Daisy was awkwardly pleased not to know what the subject of the chanting was, as one of the choir rose and began shouting at the others, pulling pieces off either a plant or small animal in its hand and hurling them at the other chanters. She was grateful when Liliana pulled her arm to move on, the room was rank with a smell her ARO identified as rotten sea creatures.
The third room contained a deep blackness beyond the large open door, save for two blaring red lights an unknown distance within. They blinked in unison like headlights of a rover with a low battery, but the women decided they were likely eyes and moved on. An animalistic hissing curled its way up their backs once they were several metres beyond the door, translated as “displeasure” and “hunger” by Daisy’s ARO. She felt relieved they had not stepped within.
After several more closed doors they reached a stretch of open and empty rooms on the left side of the corridor, and each chose one for themselves, Liliana the first and Daisy the second. Daisy used one of the basic thought patterns the ARO had given her to open up a menu of commands for the room, first labelling it for herself. As soon as she accepted the confirmation, the rooms sides and roof grew outward and upward in every direction but down or back towards Liliana’s room. A moment after the walls and roof stopped moving, the furniture and other ceramosculpt parts of the room began growing too, scaling to her size.
“This is really useful” she called out, assuming Liliana would hear her from her own room. Her friends’ voice came back to her as clear as if she was standing next to her.
“I know! My ship is several tons of Ceramosculpt, I have a lot of fun on long trips just rearranging it randomly. For a few months I had it change to a different cultural setting every time I slept, it was pretty fun trying to figure out what was what come breakfast time!”
“You have a ship?” Daisy whipped her head back and forth “Wait, are you in here?”
“No, our AROs are just linking our conversation, they follow our interactions well enough to do that even when we move apart.”
“Oh” Daisy sat down in a chair, nodding to herself. “Anyway, a ship? I’ve never seen a real ship, where is it? Can I see it”
“I’m not sure, I was kind of hijacked for that first battle, I was mid way back to Eislar from…” she trailed off “from visiting a friend, so it’s probably just found the nearest port and waiting for me.” She felt awkward not telling Daisy where she’d been, but Pinnacle had been incredibly clear about the secretive nature of their relationship.
Daisy scratched her head “It can do that stuff by itself? If we had machines that did things by themselves back home things for us would be a lot easier.”
“Where is home Daisy? You’ve mentioned it but never by name?” internally she cursed the cutoff from the galactic web, she probably could have traced Daisy’s home down without even asking.
“Um, it’s home? We don’t have a name for it really, I mean there’s a few different towns, but we’ve never really known of it by any name. I think it must have a code, or a symbol, or something somewhere, it seems strange not to have a name. Everywhere always has a name in books.” Daisy mused.
This time it was Liliana scratching her head, walking from one side of the room to another as she manipulated ceramosculpt mentally. She had found and drawn upon several design archives on the local net, and was trying to choose between a soft, pink fluff and cloth styled room, or a more formal and modern hard edged room, filled with sea blues and greens. “Yeah, I can’t say I’ve been many places with sapients’ that didn’t have names. It was a mining colony, right?” She settled for a compromise, blending the two styles together. The ceramosculpt took on the blue and green colours of the modern room, and the ‘net confirmed her order of light blue throw rugs and pillows for delivery.
“Yes,” Daisy was struggling to pick from the wide array of styles her ARO presented her. Ghostly over her vision she saw the room cycle through all the colours of the rainbow, in more shades and combinations than she’d ever imagined possible. She couldn’t decide, and chose something bland from a section labelled as simple functionality. Her thoughts came back to the conversation, “I do, well I guess I did, a lot of deep mining within the core. It’s pretty dark and cramped down there, but you get used to it, and sometimes I can guide the tunneling machines near the caves underground. It’s hard work, but then when you stop for a break everything is so peaceful, as though you’re the only person in the world. I like it.”
“It sounds like it suits you.” Liliana responded, beginning to throw pillows and ribbons of coloured cloth around the room haphazardly. She stepped out into the corridor and up to Daisy’s room, slowing as she entered. “This is a bit, um, grey isn’t it?”
Daisy turned around, her ARO alerting her to her friends physical presence. The room was grey, but it reminded her of home, her small house was made mostly of steel, sheet metal, and repurposed vehicle plating. This style had a similar feel to it, if on a bit larger a scale. Liliana offered her a light blue pillow in the shape of a flattened bird of some kind, and she took it smiling.
“A bit of colour will do some good,” the smaller woman proclaimed resting her hands on her hips, “now, my ARO tells me there’s a show match, how about we pop back downstairs and watch it with everyone else?”
Daisy grinned back at her, eager to see more of the enormous machines.