He nods at Tiger, and Tiger grabs the glass, narrows his green eyes and smiles. He’s riding that brunette today. Ruka likes her, likes her tailored look, how well she fits Tiger. Tiger bounces off, happy in his skirt, happy to wear this one.
     Then blisterblast and the air almost as fast as the light, the door open and they’re all standing there, pupils shut and the bar a black cave to them so they stand, pissing off everyone until someone stands and kicks the door closed. That girl from last week is one of them, rich-girl oblivion perpetuating her tourism; she’s never home, always above it all, her lie masked by will and simple refusal, she slides up and half-kneels on the stool, playing the tilt and curve of shy, talking before she even looks at him, rolling into twisted monologue, and smart’s not so interesting anymore now everyone does it—sure, smart’s fine but Ruka thinks and Chevette says it’ll be another twenty years before everyone’s used enough to it and finally shuts the hell up. She dopples some trite theorem and chokes off what was sure to be some witty proof, pupils open and she obviously thinks the spectacular twist-flip with the hair and the blossoming smile all choreographed and executed with respectable precision was wasted here. Ruka looks older, shrunken.
Illustrations by Sharon McGill    Broken. He writes it on her arm.
    “Broken, how? You look awful.”
    Ruka points to her arm. Broken.
    Tiger’s back with the whiskey, “Happened yesterday, his tech’ll be here in a couple days. Will be anyway, if he actually contacts her.” Tiger’s looking the girl over, front-threads the widget and smokes, considering. Ruka likes how this one smokes, too. Left arm under her breasts, hand on her ribs, right elbow propped on the wrist, fingers just touching her mouth. Of the three he’s seen, this one’s his favorite. The pictures of Tiger himself, behind the bar, from 1960 or so through that Tuesday in ‘14 when they mapped him, the one, maybe not insurmountable obstacle. And he walks it cabaret, walking in her body like he’s in his body mimicking her body instead of being in her body, which he is—no, that’s not really true. Tiger always walked like that, just his skinny hips didn’t show it, small man that he was, these petite bartenders bigger than him and younger than he ever was, and you can see him flexing still, twelve years after the initial port, muscles he never had, or never knew he had, depending on your physiological perspective.
     Ruka enacts rather than exhibits his breakage, the system of tents and stents and scaffolds routed through its own proprietary network maintaining his structure static and set. It’s that he knows he’s broken and it’s just easier to act it than have to bother with any complications of trying to explain; he’s tired of talking anyway, since it’s not really smart what they are now, just the same when there was the intermediary of interface it was still just information and it’s not just information that makes them smart, it’s as always how the information is integrated into the whole, how that information’s used which makes it workable. There’s no feedback to them, no awareness, they’re reverse-turing, the fusion of the machine and the human making something less than both. The actual intelligent folk argued for discrete, but discrete’s not sexy, you can’t market that, so this is how it is, this meat/machine blend and all these middleclass robots. Ruka himself’s so discrete he’s still got the retinal display, odd in its own way, considering how machine everything else is—function of old prejudices and the chance he’s not wrong. Chevette too, everyone on the team in fact, all modular, Chevette even so far as to have an external display, further intermediary, screen and air and lenses and wires, and yeah, the robots scoff, but Chevette’s smarter than any of them and Ruka wouldn’t have the retinal either if not for the job. At least he broke here, and not on site. Here’s a short hop and there’s access to parts. On site he’d just be dead, dead-like anyway, good as, as far as the job’s concerned—worse, if you asked the client. Up the ribbon it’s just him, and until Chevette makes a few more of him, it is just him and so no breaking. Bespoke like he is, he’d love to affect steampunk, but the mirror says he doesn’t have the bone structure to support any kind of retro-retro, and besides, the job says minimalist—what the job really says is disco world of tomorrow, exponential retro, sure, but condition and not option. And no, no he does not feel like a princess or star or anything, no matter how he shines, he feels like throwing up, is what he feels, every time. And maybe he should tell Chevette, but it’s not a hardware or software issue, it’s just him.
     He’s staring at the glass, timing the ice.
     “Why do you do that?” The girl wants to know.
     “Leave me the fuck alone, sweetie, I’m smoking. How will you know if I don’t show you that I’m smoking?” And Ruka smiles at that, at Tiger taking care of him.
     “You’re not…”
     “I’m smoking.”
     “But…” she scrolls, eyes blank, “the harmony? You can’t—”
     Tiger stubs out his cigarette on the bar. “Dampener. Landmark much? You robot kids are such idiots. ‘10 or earlier, that’s it.” They’d put a sign up inside if they could so Tiger didn’t have to explain it twenty times a day, but again, landmark. No buzz, no net, just this quiet. Quiet except for the girl, but she’ll be kicked out soon.
     Probably if he folded the main differential from something heavier it’d hold, but he’s going too thick as it is, anything stronger’s going to be not paper anymore, and the whole point is that it’s paper. Thinner with more folds makes sense, but how to get the necessary tensility on the edges and vertices—and still be paper, since, as stated, point is that it’s paper. The urge to just figure it out without his hands not so pressing today and even though he knows that knowing wouldn’t make the doing any easier, it’s still important that it’s meat all the way. He’s not even thinking wings yet, he just wants the damn thing to take a step, two steps really, but right now he’d be happy with just the one. The rods, that’s just rolling tight, they’re strong enough—he thinks anyway, no way to test the actual force exerted when everything just crumples each time. He’s going to do it, he will, he’d just like to have it to show Chevette when she gets here. She’d get it. She’d get the whole of it, and he wants her to get it. And it worked scaled up, but there too it was almost not paper, though yes paper, still not what the word itself means when you say it, not addressing the whole class of paperlike but just what it means to people who aren’t semantic assholes; the fact that he can make this work, that he has made this work, it means he can and should and the point is not that it’s impossible, but that it’s paper and that it works and that he makes it with his hands and he doesn’t talk to anyone about it.  His hands, stained-glass symbols: the left hand with top two out, bottom two in, thumb up and the wrist curved—it meant something in the windows, and might mean even here, if someone was looking, but it doesn’t mean that. It means paper. Holding paper. Palm up and there’s god in there somewhere. Palm down is paper. The right hand emphasizing point after point, the closed political nongesture but it’s just the tool that’s not there right now, he’s wrapped around it—and so he makes his fingers go through it, the right hand enacting bloom; it’s the kind of thing you can do when you’re not talking, the kind of thing you can do only when you’re not talking, and maybe only when nobody’s watching either, trace the steps from bud through claw to hand holding the whiskey, tips like petals and there’s dew there, slicking the side of the hiball, the time of year here when two cubes can sweat you a puddle, and it is more flower than he intended, there on the bar in his hand it’s early morning and it’s a nice picture and if he folds with wet fingers… if he folds with wet fingers his vertices and edges, the fibers constricted from drying, will have at least greater tensility that if not enough, but still it’s more.
     And now someone is observing him, so the morning and the dew and the flower that’s all gone and now Ruka just looks broken, more broken than he is. Which, maybe, might not be the worst thing now, since he doesn’t know yet if the client is really picking up the tab on this, on this waiting, on this room and on this bar and it’s just possible that none of this is reimbursable even and he’s not really on the clock; yeah, he’s enroute to the job, he’s on his way to the site, he’s halfway there. Maybe halfway, maybe almost, maybe he’s not but the fact remains that he’s here and can go no further and he can’t say how culpable he is in the matter of his breakage. He’s not even beta, he’s all, as said, bespoke, and alpha; he’s noodling, he’s riffs and sketches, and none of it his; so the argument could be made for accessory, for contribution, but Ruka does not believe that it can be made successfully. Three more days, he figures, until they lose patience, till they say pay up, and he’s already two days past what he could afford, so, he argues, the corner of his mouth and an eyebrow hooked on the same line, pulled gently, his head small tilt and eyes roll down to knock and ring his hollow skull, so what’s left to lose? It’s time to trust that the company, or at least Chevette, is interested in protecting their investment.
     “Honey,” and Tiger’s mouth close to his ear, the left one, the same side with the lip and the eyebrow—his billboard, apparently, Tiger knowing the moment Ruka decided to not pay and chance it—”however this plays, you get me my tip. We’re clear on that, right? Sugar, show me some understanding—I’ve been standing here enough years to recognize the face you just made; doesn’t matter whose eyes I’ve got, it looks the same each time.”
     Tiger’s little fists in the back pockets of the short denim skirt, ripped three inches shorter to make it workwear, his back now stacking vertebrae, one by one, easing up toward 90 again, and his face, today framed in dark ringlets and lips bloody rust and eight freckles visible, the placement wondrous cliché, blank and set and waiting. This moment, here, Ruka wants to see it cinema, but it’s a still, it’s posed, and though he wants his hands in his pockets, he can’t move until it ends. Ruka hopes the girl, still there, has a good angle on the tableaux, as she’s the one likely to go showing it, and he wants to look good in the captioning no matter how wrong she gets it.
     No click no flash but they’ve held it long enough. Tiger keeps holding, but Ruka is left hand in his back pocket, right hand in left inside pocket and they’re maintaining eye contact and now it’s cinema, he knows it; they’re watching and it’s real, and now he’s got to do this not just right but with just the right amount of style, a calculated nonchalance that lets everyone believe that it isn’t cinema—and he’s never done it, never let himself flow into it before, every time he knew but refused to act, but this one’s for Tiger, and Tiger’s not moving, and so Ruka prays, still with his small smile, a smile which he will allow to broaden in five… four…, that someone has the sense to pan left to right, bringing the angle up and zooming slow to close on his hands, since that’s how he’s playing this scene, the motion all coming to rest in his hands, since that’s the shot playing out in his head, only he’s not recording this—and maybe, he plays this well and right, the management here will consider his narrative value to outweigh his monetary obligations.
     The right hand lays down the bearer-keyed prepaid, his stained-glass hand blooming again and in the splay of fingers the card glows nearly full, the full gesture echoing the shape of a wave, crest to trough, completing the motion in time to meet his left hand and thumb the wallet. The photograph, charm and totem, partially and briefly visible, long enough to interest a camera, and it’s down, hand playing cloudy glass benediction, eyes making a purchase, atop the card. Tiger doesn’t want the money, but Tiger will take the money. The card goes in the jar, with the others. Ruka’s charm goes in his bra, and Tiger makes a full revolution, collecting the whiskey bottle, no motion wasted. Pours a full eight-count, and then he puts a cube of ice in his mouth, and then puts that cube of ice in Ruka’s whiskey, and then he says, “I’ll consider your understanding to have been shown in full, sailor.” And… cut. The door swings and slams, and easy money is it’s someone getting out of the dampening field to upload. Ruka touches the whiskey, Tiger sepia-toned, rippling, reflected on the liquid, one hand on the bottle, one hand on the bar and he seems to be all breasts there in the glass, Tiger’s reflection not Tiger, and there it’s the girl and not him, him a floating sack of pronouns confusing everything, an associative flux that no number of drinks will clarify.
     “On the house. Call it a prop.”
     Ruka nods and hopes what he’s doing with his face looks like a smile. He’s never sure, and he’s trying to project complicity and understanding and gratitude of the sort that says he not only expects but receives things free all the time but still he’s a gracious kind of guy who never takes anything for granted and sincerely does appreciate it—indicating somehow that because it was Tiger giving him the drink and not just anyone it’s valuable to a degree that Ruka would actually pay for it—trying to convey all of it with a small movement of his head, and a smaller twist of his mouth, turning one corner up maybe just a quarter of an inch. And then he’s embarrassed by the effort and that makes him smile for another reason, the impression given now conveying all the ideas he’d initially failed to get across by trying, though to him, of course, it worked like he meant it to and the bit at the end was just some mysterious something else. It’s best, he knows, and about at least this he is, in fact, correct, best that he can’t talk. You don’t always do what you do because you’re good at it, which isn’t to say he isn’t good at his job, since he is, it’s just he’s so bad at all the rest, which is also not to say that he thinks that he’s any worse in a general sense than anyone else, cracks and limps everywhere, just that his feature set skews toward, generally, serial processing and serial processes whose necessary outcomes are unambiguous and, yes, expensive.
     “Um. Excuse me for interrupting your little Masterpiece Theater, but a drink? Here? Me?” It’s that girl, still there. Ruka had forgotten her; and Tiger just ignoring her. And she stands like she’s owed something, she deserves what she wants, and there’s semaphore in that pose, her shoulders flags and spelling and she says this is the second time she’s been here, that she doesn’t know the cover here, doesn’t know the structure here, does not know what it costs just to walk through the door, can not comprehend—not her or her friends, none of them qualified or structured to get it—that some prize this, where neither she nor her friends can link or buzz or sing, none of the essential facets of their glittery façade function in this space, and it’s incomprehensible, the idea that it’s possible to exist like that. Coming in sheathed in the trust fund and never yet owed anything to anyone, not understanding that her absence of obligation does not generate anything other than its absence, and we reserve the right to refuse, all that. Familiarity and contempt and all that, Tiger and his ride not sympathetic, not inclined toward anything but wating, moving slow, letting her credit erode. The door knows she came in, the repurposed haptics know placement; the girl does not understand what it means, what it costs, to be here. She thinks she’ll be uploaded, convinced of her value, her and all her feedback friends, willfully inured to drift by the temporary bolstering effects of the diminished entropy of their closed social systems, she’s posed and poised, checking the mirror, checking her lighting every few seconds.
     Tiger stares, waiting for the girl’s what, his presence the only solicitude on offer. He’s not going anywhere, he’s got time.
     “Fuck this. You’re all nuts. Hey. Hey, broken—” She’s meaning Ruka, but Ruka’s pretending to not notice. “You wanna get out of here? Meet some of my friends? We’re all synced and patched today, the best and shiniest, Jenna’s buzzing for MAC. You should totally come.”
     The girl touches Ruka’s arm, feels what he meant, and she hisses and scowls, her pose gone and she exhibits rather than enacts and her cinema is all wrong, so wrong, understanding something that isn’t there. “Right. Broken. Mom’s got one of you at home. Hers is prettier, though—what are you, someone’s weird art project?” She does a thing with her nose and upper lip, showing gums and the tops of teeth, turns and enacts an exit. She doesn’t know what Ruka is. Tiger doesn’t know what Ruka is, but Tiger doesn’t care and when Tiger starts the next shift and the brunette’s the brunette again and not Tiger, but the girl with her own name she’ll probably be here, this side of the bar, also not caring what he is, and not minding so much the ways in which he’s broken. One hundred percent fine with it, doesn’t need him to talk, Ruka functioning in all the ways she wants him to.
     He writes it on his own arm now. Not certain what he means.   

“Shit yeah you are! Hey Tiger. Ruka’s buying.” Everyone owes Chino anyway, Chino the purest example of how it all works when you take the money away and demand that everybody just be worth something and you don’t define value the old way, letting value define itself across a neurologic relativistic spectrum. Chino arguably one of the richest men in Tucson. He walks in and people pay attention to him, and they keep paying attention to him and the systems get it and then everyone owes him a drink, then some owe him a ride, then some, sometimes, they maybe owe him strings or dinner or a shirt or another tattoo, whatever he wants, whenever he wants. Maybe there’s some here and there that don’t owe him, but he doesn’t owe them either, and anyway there’s not too many of them and so here, now, Chino gets what he wants; others benefited similarly, sure, had their lives transformed, but Chino never even noticed. Even when there was money it was the same and people gave and Chino took and sometimes Chino gave when he had it to give, and he’d still give but people don’t let him now, people just want to tread it close to zero with him, happy to give small but not wanting to get into substantial obligation, not since that CEO made him sing all night and ended up spending a weekend dressed like a baby, Chino’s object lesson on the new meaning of value. Ruka wants to stand him up on something, point at him, say, See?
     Ruka nods. Tiger pours and Chino leans in for a kiss. “So fucking weird, Tiger. I am never. I am never going to get tired of that.” A tourist in the corner staring from the second Chino came in, the whole time, big stupid smile stretched and he can’t stop and knocks his glass on his teeth, dull atonal think, in the breath between measures the only sound in the bar, spreading and diffusing through the room, echoing as quiet chuckles, everyone knowing the sound: the guy can’t stop watching. Chino says he figures that guy’s got the next round. The smile dims, but only a little, enough that he can get his lips on the glass.
     The word on Chino’s always been that he’s anti-tech, but that’s not the case. He’s tech-ambivalent. He’s happy. He’s been happy and he’s stayed happy. No agonizing, no stance one way or another, if he wanted something he’d get it, just he hasn’t wanted anything, his sole piece of tech a standard neo-giri tracking implant, for the facilitation of mundane things like drinks, dinner, rent… Ruka’s own slightly more sophisticated, but cases like this, this hotel and this wait, the bearer-keyed prepaid chits keep him out of it, the employer taking it all and him not mediating, and the employers like to track it, encourage him to let them pay. Anything weird, any unpleasant patterns emerge, they can step in and ensure continued value stability of their asset.
     “Tomorrow, you know.” Chino sets his glass down next to Ruka’s, knocking them together, his smaller and faster—no ice—and half-full still, and he watches the liquid in each glass while he talks. “Yeah, I know you know, everyone knows, but I’m not reminding you anyway, I’m just saying because I’m holding up both ends of the conversation. So it’s tomorrow and you’re gonna remember, right? Yeah, shit yeah you’re gonna remember, guy like you I figure you remember hard and you’re probably remembering now except I can’t place it, maybe something I haven’t seen, something on an outtake where he’s all casual in the mid-80s? No, you’re not obscure, you’re not clever like that, I can see that about you. Tiger, Ruka baby here’s a purist, I know that about him. He ain’t even got to say it, you just know that our man here’s gonna do it right, whatever he does, he does it the way it should be done. Bet that’s not even a choice for you, huh?” He stares hard at Ruka, making it a real question, but not one he expects an answer to. He’s confirming something for himself about Ruka, but he doesn’t share, he waits and stares, two fingers on his glass, tapping out his constant beat, counting it out to come back in on the one. A full four-measure rest while he figures it out. What he’s figuring is probably not wrong, but still probably doesn’t have much to do with Ruka, as Ruka; he’s figuring something old, something persistent and locked, not hidden, just cut off from context and so it sticks out when you look, if you look, if Ruka’s quiet and still, which he is.
     He clinks the glasses again, Chino toasting everything, “Me, never been purist, never been pure. I’m good with that, pretty damn okay I’m saying, and I wanna remember something else, I wanna remember something new, I want.” Here a pause for the other half, knocking his empty now against Ruka’s still full, Tiger’s arm and the bottle already tracing along the periphery, his eyes glowing and smiling, shoulders turning in then squaring and his spine lengthening, a small wave from the base pusling to tilt his head, brown hair falling away on one side, across on the other, a frame for some beaming platonic ideal, his body enacting an adoring younger aunt. “I want to make him proud.”
     Ruka lifts his glass to this. Yes. We all do.
     Every day is a day without Bowie, Ruka knows that. But tomorrow’s the day. He could Ziggy no problem, just put on the work suit, but he wouldn’t be able to leave the room unless he wanted to blind everybody who looked at him. And whether or not he wants to blind everyone is beside the point anyway, since his employer would take a very, very dim view of any off-site use of the suit. It might be his suit, but he’s under contract, and anything that might add further delay to the already delayed job is something his employer would have a lot to say about. Any mar or crease or chink in the suit and that’s another tech that’s got to be called and traveled, preferably to wherever Ruka is, rather than the site, since the moment they get Ruka on-site they’re going to want the work done, and Ruka sitting on the site not working would cause some reevaluation of actual value, maybe a call to R&D, maybe. So no Ziggy. And Jareth’s out too. Ruka could maybe pull off the pants—wear them, but couldn’t do what he did, strut the hip-jut and spike heel for the puppets, the infant, and the teenaged girl. Not that it was even a real consideration anyway. He’s always Tom. Every year that he’s remembered he’s always been Tom. One year he considered the spider, which should have been easy, conceptual and all, but the deal here is that it’s not about him, not about having his own idea, even if it’s an idea about Bowie’s idea and him simply trying to honor and represent, it’s not his place to go thinking about it. It’s his place to be; it is everyone’s, everyone’s place is to be, at least for one day. Any other day he could project any way and any how. One day is unquestioning, one day of reverence, one day where everyone shuts the hell up and acknowledges.
     Girls have it easy. Every girl a China Girl, some with red shoes, sure, but that doesn’t change it, doesn’t mean they thought outside and tried for bigger meaning; just means they’ll dance with you if you want to, that’s all. And Ruka can’t dance, but every year, one day a year, he does. Silent slow steps with some girl he’s never seen before, the remote pressed between their palms, and sometimes she’d have contacts, sometimes they just have the eyes on their own. And you don’t talk to them, you do not talk to a China Girl. It’s already been said, and everyone knows to just keep it down. Ruka liked it best when Major Tom danced with the China Girls. The Oddity Tom, not the other. Tom as Tom, a metaphor only for himself, before anything had gone wrong, lyrical conditions notwithstanding. And maybe everyone thinks they’ve got a special connection and identify most with Oddity Tom, but that doesn’t mean that Ruka still does not have a special connection with it. He’s got his own reasons, and he doesn’t talk about them, and neither does he go calling out the Dukes and Ziggys, deriding their choice. Tom might seem easy, but he doesn’t go Tom, every year, because it’s easy. He does it because it’s right.
     Ruka and his friend Jason used to twin, walking a quiet doubled vocal and harmony, hoping to find red-shoed twins, sometimes finding them, turning hours of slow circles in the closed street, but Jason doesn’t remember anymore. Jason goes to work, then goes home, has dinner, goes to bed. Every day a day without Bowie, but especially so for Jason. Ruka was sad for him. Sad for everyone, but a special and different kind of sad for Jason.
     “It’s just…” he’d said, when Ruka called and he said he was just going to go in that day, “I don’t want to hurt anymore.”
     “What’s wrong with hurting?”
     “I’m just tired of it, that’s all. I want to think about other things.”
     “It’s just one day. And there’s hurt everywhere all the time anyway. I’d rather hurt for this.”
     “It’s not just one day. It’s all the time, it’s every day, and I can’t do it anymore. Maybe I just want some variety in my pain, maybe it’s just a bit too masochistic for me now, too Jewish.”
     Ruka sort of understood what he meant, but only sort of. It didn’t seem the same, but Jason was done and there wasn’t anything he could do. He went solo and danced all morning with a young China Girl, her first really conscious remembrance, floating around her, the two of them connected by her remote, their only connection until the end when she kissed his cheek and laid an unnecessary finger across his lips, then spun away into an embrace with some newly arrived Duke. He continued his orbit, drifting in and out with others, the only sounds in the street their feet on the pavement, the slight shushing of fabric on fabric and the occasional sob from one of the older ones, the ones old enough for this to really mean something.
     And tomorrow, Ruka’s going to go Tom again. His a pale khaki cosmonaut, and no statement there, only that it seemed appropriate the first time, when it was all he could afford, even though his girlfriend at the time had offered to loan him the extra hundred to get silverwhite American. No, the cosmonaut’s correct, he’d said, no, I don’t want the helmet, just the suit and boots, thanks. The girl behind the counter tried to sell him propaganda posters, a red flag, a little hammer-sickle pin, somehow the only person anywhere not understanding why people were buying the suits. The girlfriend, annoyed that he wouldn’t let her help him, annoyed that he never let her help him, danced away  later with a friend in silver, saying she’d call him, and then not calling for three days, and then not calling at all. The suit authentic, the suit never broke atmo, no orbit, and thus affordable. It’s in the suitcase, in the room. The plan had been to remember in Seattle, to find Kathy and spell things out on her remote while they danced; the plan had not been to be broken in Tucson, waiting for Chevette, drinking with Chino and Tiger and Tiger and Tiger. Sitting here not talking and he didn’t talk much anyway but yes, not being able to say anything bugged him. Put his stomach back and it’d quiver and twist and he could be physically upset, active in it and not just simply quietly unsettled and annoyed—if he was more than annoyed he’d have written more than just the one word, but here with the current configuration there’s less input, less stimuli and so what he processes is stylized and stark, hard lines and absolute colors and things just are, just are to him, and he doesn’t go in and shade or refine so everything’s a panel; everyone else in their cinema and Ruka in his comic and it is interesting and he’s still interested, more interested than annoyed, the gift of the idea that this is temporary, that Chevette will be here soon and he can get back to his small interaction and his quiet be his intentional function, no longer his condition.
     Ruka’s eyes focus. Chino whoops, yelps and flies, landing a rockstar battle-pose, one hand for a mic, the other pointed at Tiger. “Told you! Fuck damn, I win!” and him dancing and Tiger pours him another drink. “Five minutes! He didn’t hear shit. Ruka was gone, baby, gone.”
     Brow down and a half-smile question at Chino.
     “You got all reminiscey, friend. Tiger thought you’d be right back and I said oh no, baby’s gone somewhere else, he’s off off and away. I said wait, and Tiger said it’d be a few seconds, and I said it’d be three minutes minimum. Man over there said you’d shorted out and were gonna just sit there till your tech got here but I said no, no, he’s just off somewhere. Five minutes, baby. I win.”
     Thing is he is shorted out and he is just sitting here until his tech gets here and so Ruka catches Tiger’s eye and jerks his head toward the guy over there, nods at his glass, sending him something, another whatever. Chino tells him, “Ruka says you win too.”
     Chino says he’s going to get his bass. Becky, his big stand-up. “Busk with me Ruka. I’ll play, you do the robot, okay?”
     Ruka’s mouth open, like he’s going to say something. He closes it. He looks at Tiger, and Tiger is so pretty today. He smiles and Tiger smiles back. Then a nod to Chino and up off the stool to bang out the door, buzz off the patio, Chino handing him a cigarette he can’t smoke but puffs in his cheeks anyway, and in this instance Ruka thinks his comic looks better than their cinema, each panel intentional, the ideal of transit, of pose, of flat planar contemplation, this tree, that chair, the girl from the bar an exaggeration of mouth and eye, middle finger big in the foreground; Ruka buzzed disruptive enharmonic and wrecked their perfect MAC moment as he and Chino strode past in their whiskeyed majesty and purpose.
     Chino didn’t mean it. He meant it but not in a way that presupposed convergence of his meaning and Ruka’s understanding, only stating the shape of his perfect world; for Ruka’s part, anything he did was the robot, in a way, whatever his understanding of Chino’s meaning.
     Skip the tracks, the hole in the fence man-sized again, for now, and nothing catches on the clothes, easy transit, kicking rocks and Chino’s chatter unbroken and fluid, his motions unbroken and fluid and it’s not quite midafternoon. Then his house and Chino’s saying that it’s where they got Dillinger, but Ruka knows—the map telling him in the display—that it’s the next street over, and that it’s for rent, again. Ruka maxes the heads-up and ghosts it over Chino’s house. They’re not even the same shape.
     And Chino three steps up to the door, then in and kick-turn with the right arm shot out, the bass retrieved, the screen a slam-bounce on the jamb and him back out the door and it’s a good move and Chino knows it, the whole thing practiced enough to look natural and Ruka nods, one fist in quiet Dio at his waist, the only audience and he thinks that Chino’d do it alone, that he probably even shits with a flourish and that maybe there’s something to be said for that, for being your own audience, for doing it for the cats…
     Becky, the big bass, cradled, the neck playing bowsprit and a Barbie tied to the head, its arms outstretched, ankles locked behind the pegs and only slightly obscene, but obscene enough, her plastic smile: just a bit of fun—and even in this condition the doll’s worth so much and Ruka thinks maybe this is a better use for it, for her, and is the doll also named Becky or does she represent something else, or is it all, together, Becky, and one couldn’t be without the other, and Ruka wants his voice back. Chino key-twists his own lips, walking past, and jerks his head: this way. Ruka follows, Chino plucking strings, dull-thumping under his muffling sleeve, and Ruka dinghy in his wake, mouthing nonsense words to a silent shanty, the man ahead shuffle-stomping, heel-clicking unintentional counterpoint toward the sun. West. They’re going west.
     Stopped at the crossing for the train, watching it hiss by and Chino’s thinking something. He looks at the train, then at Ruka and his eyes smiling and he unlocks his lips, “I’m going to show you something. Not now, but there’s something so cool and you’ll love it.” Free arm and fingers splayed he arcs a gameshow display, “This. You’ll see…” but not saying anything else and Ruka begins to think he’s second-banana to a bad idea but nothing’s taking shape yet, Chino’s smile mischief not mean so everything gets filed in a wait and see pile, consciously half-forgotten. Each link of the train gets a note, each link the same note, Chino playing it as the boring song that it is, early German electro played acoustic, interesting and neat at first but empty and ultimately mere motion, linear and that’s all. Ruka lays his hand over the strings, further deadening the notes and Chino gets it and stops. “Yeah, sorry.” Then it’s over and they cross, parallel now, and neither leading until Chino decides this is the place and starts to play even before they’ve stopped walking.
     He plays long and slow, open notes in jerky and angular progressions, almost random except that they phase and repeat then resolve and renew, the angles on purpose, and Ruka stands. People watch for a few seconds then continue, not understanding what the silent man’s all about. Chino shouts yeah! and do that again and again and Ruka holds back a smile, keeps his arms to his sides while his feet threaten to play along and eventually he gives over and he does do it. Ruka does the robot and Chino starts to sing.
     The best part is now people think they get it, but they don’t.
     Chino’s earning more than Ruka, but neither of them needs it so it doesn’t really matter. He’s singing about cows, about catching and about catching cows and everyone comes home tonight, then a weaving segue to Elvis and a train; circling back to trains Ruka feels an echo of a bad idea, the bad idea remembering itself for him and standing mysterious and unlabeled on the periphery, waiting to be properly introduced. He’s still dancing, moving anyway, but slowing and linking the song and Chino’s smiling eyes and he doesn’t notice when the music stops, and not meaning to he winds down like a toy and everyone watching seems to feel pretty good about it, again thinking they get it when they don’t.
     “C’mon, Ruka,” a hand on his arm, dragging him east now, “you’ll see.”
     Probably still five minutes till the next train, Chino rests Becky on a dead switchbox on the platform so he can use both his hands. He presses them together almost flat, fingertips together, an arrow or caret he pushes out in front of him, then spreading, horizontal fountain-thing, or like swimming, or parting, or inserting, or something.
     “Get it?” He asks like Ruka gets it, but Ruka doesn’t. “The cowcatcher?”
     Ruka shakes his head, but now he’s saying No. He gets it and he’s saying don’t, not that he doesn’t get it.
     “You gotta get it. Sonic pulse right out ahead, clears the path, like a bubble, like pillows, you know? Heard if you catch it right you can kinda ride it, like skate the side of the train…”
     Ruka’s still saying No, trying toward emphatic, grabbing at Chino’s arm to drag him to the bar to get someone to explain it, to get some paper and explain it himself, and the bar’s right there, and Ruka waves at Tiger on the patio smoking for real. Tiger blows a kiss to each of them and the train’s visible now, barely, so they’re out of time and Ruka wants to close his eyes but instead grabs at Chino and Chino shakes him off, “You’ll see. It’s gonna be great.”
     Then the train, then this small surprised sound, like huh…, followed by a heavy thump and clicks of heel then heel, and then the other side, another thump and Chino says Shit. Ruka’s standing. Tiger’s running now. Everyone’s running.


Still a few days out of town, this job taking longer than it should, and I think sometimes that maybe I should just let this one have an accident. I’m lining them up against each other: my professional reputation and the inverse of my desire to deal with this shit, and the trend I’m seeing lately is that I care a bit less if a client has a bad experience, if a client drops a couple stars, if a client is given reason to talk shit, care less about the whole of the reputation and can live with a few blemishes here or there, and what’s to say they’d even be blemishes? What’s the purpose of a reputation if you can’t fall back on it once in a while, let it speak for itself, shrugging and rolling your eyes and maybe drawing little circles by your ear, pointing at the client, the mouth shaped crazy. A reputation like mine, I could pull it off. Yeah, Galava, I’m talking about you, you and your owner.
     Why you hooked up with a private investor, I can’t figure that, what a stupid move. This contract you got with him, he can do whatever he wants, just so long as you get paid should you survive is just so fucking, I don’t even know what it is. It’s stupid, yeah, but that’s not all it is. I checked you out, I read your history and know that you’re not running from anything, not running to anything, and so all I can see is this ennui—no, it’s not that, it’s not that. It’s fuck it, which you and I will both agree is not ennui. But what I can’t get my head around—I’m not paid to get my head around it, so I don’t actually, in an on the clock kind of way, care, but still I’m curious—is why you contracted out private like this. You could go corporate fifteen fucking ways and you go private, and I don’t get that. You, you’re a philosophical absolute, is what you are, but retro, you’re no New Understanding, you’re old school. This then this then this and that’s you, but who but me’s going to recognize this? You think your owner gets it and maybe that’s why he bought you, but buddy, mister Head, I’m here to tell you that’s not the case at all. He doesn’t get shit. I know. I’ve met him. You’re just lucky you’re not his sex toy—but then I guess you wouldn’t care about that, would you? This happens, then this, then he sticks all kinds of things in your ass and mouth, and then this happens and then that, and they’re all unrelated, and what the hell do you care about it?
     Hand, he’s all company, and Foot, he’s military to his DNA, no head at all, just orders and purpose—and yeah, maybe I envy that brand of certainty, that ability to give it over willingly—not even willingly, Foot’s an absence of will, and that I can’t get my head around either—and no, we’re not even going to talk about Ass. He’s his own category altogether.
     “Is he working now?”
     “Yeah, he’s fine. I’ll bring him back up in a few minutes.” Your owner in the doorway, he’s looking worried, but in an investment kind of way, not a gives a fuck about you kind of way. If this weren’t my tech I wouldn’t even be here, you get that Galava? The shit you do, the shit he has you do, I’d write you off if I wasn’t the one who made you. You keep doing it and maybe I’m not going to come back and fix you next time.
     I like to say that, all silently to myself, like I wouldn’t come back. But you never know. I bet I’ve got a line, somewhere. Some point where I’m gonna let you just be broken and take what comes from it. You’re not conscious yet so I’ll tell you this: I have this dream, and in this dream I let it all slide. I fix what I can and I tell them what fucked my tech that I ain’t gonna do shit about it, they’re on their own, and I do take what comes. I rest, I use up my savings, and maybe I go blade runner and I go offworld, I go colonize something, and I do it with my little robots and not with fucks like you. I go where the tech can roam free with the special cows and the special sheep and I don’t have to work my magic in any stupid boy’s body anymore. I go where the need is greater than the law. Shit, I wouldn’t even have to go to X8-Presslin or Mars, I could just hit the moon and ply my trade all frontierlike for those talented convicts that need it. Go back to money, to something that makes sense. And in this dream I’m in a calico dress, and so are my robots. This is a very good dream, Galava. Don’t make me go actual. Finish your contract with no further mishaps and let me do my job, all right?
     “So he’ll be…”
     “He’ll be exactly what you paid for. But, mister, I’m telling you this now, in hopes that we don’t have to have this conversation again, this is not strictly warranty work. I’m doing it now, but this happens again, there’s gonna be a renegotiation of terms.”
     “I understand. I can pay you now, if you’d like… for the inconvenience.”
     I’m tempted to take it, but that’d mean something, and I’m gonna let this be warranty, though not strictly, but still warranty, work this time. I let him pay me that’s not only illegal but me also consenting to coming back. “I gave you the fucking manual, you just fucking read it, all right?”
     “There’s no need for that kind of language, miss.”
     “There’s no need for me to be here at all. This is a favor, and best you remember that. And best you remember that maybe I’m not always gonna think in a manner tilted toward your needs. I’m here because I made him and I’m kinda sentimental at times about stuff like that, but I’m not sentimental by nature,” and while I say this I’ve got my fingers on the disconnect, the thousand-filament array making Galava Galava, and I could pull it and trust my reputation to keep me in work, “and I’m not too certain where the line is where I decide when something’s broke that I can’t fix again.”
     Yes, he says. “I understand.”
     And me, one eyebrow up and my eyelids down, my head tilted so all he sees is lines, “I don’t buy that, the whole you understanding thing, but we’re just gonna assume that there is some kind of understanding. And we’re gonna understand that you’re gonna take care of what I made. I don’t care that you own it. I don’t give a fuck about that at all—the understanding we’re looking for today is that you get the idea that I’m not so interested in coming back here for anything other than manufacturing defects and whatnot. Shit like that. Shit I did, not shit you did.”
     “Yes. I understand.”
     “Whatever. Just read the damn manual again. Read it now, before I turn him back on.” If you saw the flourish when I picked up my kit, you’d have fallen in love. No joke. You would have been powerless. Just saying.
     The owner, whatshisname, all gray bespoke and perfect in the sunlight slanting through his priceless windowwalls, lighting him perfectly and safely, he enacts the getting it ritual, and I let it be enough. Thing about this guy, if I didn’t come to him the way I came to him, I’d work for him no problem. External he’s just fine. Just I came in on the inside and I know too much to work for him, and the fact that I have to makes me kinda sick at times. New Understanding posterboy, perfect calm and unlined face, no concern at all, you see it from the outside, but me, I’m back door and I have to see things as they are. This and this and this, all totally fucking related. I’m not coming back. Galava, you’re on your own now.


She’s supposed to be just a day out now, finishing something up, then here. Here to tweak or replace or something the broken whatever keeping Ruka quiet. The moderate and sipped shots slipped past now and he’s taking them as fast as his broken system can process them. Chino did it. That’s what Ruka’s saying. Chino in here with his swagger and certainty and then Chino on either side of the platform and Ruka and Tiger and everyone on the side with the legs, on the side that didn’t do anyone any good, and Chino, the part of Chino that could have been helped, there, visible on the platform, the miles of maglev, silent, like Ruka, the both of them in unison saying it over, Told you so… stupid fucker. And Ruka knows the stats, he knows what happens after a day with no sleep, after two days, and most definitely remembers what happens after three, and knows what the addition of whiskey, especially in his case, does. First night he was mostly fascinated and dumbfounded, and maybe a little angry. But still mostly fascinated. How Chino propped himself on an elbow and watched them watch him, shock not taking him under but giving him instead bemused calm for the seconds it took him to bleed out.
     First night he let the Brunette drag him upstairs to revel in his silence. She stayed till her shift started and Ruka made Tiger serve him his first whiskey fifteen minutes after.
     “So, bamboo shoot, I smell like you?”
     Ruka points at the bottle, meets Tiger’s eyes only in the mirror. Shrugs.
     “You’re wondering if I have access? To them? Whether we share?”
     Ruka doesn’t respond, waiting for his drink. Tiger holds the bottle, waiting for a response. When none comes, he serves another customer, turning and bending so his skirt rides up, lining up both direct and in the mirror.
     “I’m not telling. Maybe I have access, maybe they do, maybe I know all about it, and I’m going to let you wonder.” He pauses and smiles. “You smell like dirt and whiskey and sweat and mad. It’s nice.”
     Ruka meets his eyes. “That’s all I wanted, sugar. Here.” Fills the glass.
     The customer Tiger served first bangs the door. Going out to upload. Tiger holds up a hand, palm out. Ruka stares, not getting it. Tiger raises his eyebrows, waves the hand a little bit, and Ruka lifts his own and gives a weak and quiet high-five.
     “You, you and your silent cinema, you are making me so much. I figure our little scene there bought all yesterday’s drinks and probably today and tomorrow too. Heck, I might even pay, just to watch it again.”
     The door bangs again and the man, finished uploading, gives Ruka a manly kind of nod and half-smile, that Ruka infers as some kind of camaraderie; he half-scowls, pulls his eyes down to the whiskey, and thinks about the reflection of the rim on the liquid.
     The bar starts to fill up a couple hours and three shots later, Ruka kicks himself out and back upstairs to shower. He can’t smell the dirt or the sweat or the mad, but he can smell the brunette, who is now Tiger, and so he smells Tiger and he wants it to stop. Tiger’s been making a point, every now and then, of lifting his arms to his face and inhaling deeply, putting his nose down toward his cleavage and staring at Ruka while he inhales. Tiger might not even really like how Ruka smells, but he’s enjoying making Ruka twitch.
     Ruka can see the platform from his window. Chino’s gone, scrubbed off, but there’s two kids down there, drawing him back, pausing to access footage. They’re drawing his shadows instead of him, his distorted midafternoon silhouette blacked in active chalk, his lower half still, the upper part enacting his incremental incredulity, slow and repeated, extending in slow motion in a fifteen-minute cycle. By the third repetition Ruka’s not fascinated anymore, just angry.
     The shift’s changed when he goes back down so Tiger’s riding the blonde, and, Ruka notes, not smelling himself anymore. Tiger reaches for the bottle, but Ruka waves it off, goes straight through the bar and out the door.
     The kids are still sitting there on the platform, both of them on the upper side, touching up points on the silhouette as it goes through its cycle, wiping off with their thumbs and smearing the chalk back with their index fingers, their glasses low on their noses, split-viewing the platform and the record, getting it right. One of them, smaller than the other, and, Ruka notices, a girl, looks at him for a second, then pushes her glasses up to her face and jerks her head to the left, holding it until she’s found the place she’s looking for. “You weren’t standing there,” she says, still in her glasses. Her arm lifts then unfolds and rotates, indicating a pair of footprints on the other platform. “You were there.”
     Five sets of prints chalked in, four of them in motion. One set pacing a line maybe ten feet, three other sets in individual random shuffles, until the scene resets, making the pattern. And one set locked in place, his.
     “Something wrong with you?” the girl asks.
     Ruka points at his arm. Where it said broken, yesterday, but now is just his arm. He holds his hand out, the girl gives him a small piece of her chalk and Ruka climbs off the platform, crosses the tracks without looking, climbs up the other side and finds the set of prints that aren’t doing anything and writes it. Broken. The girl lets her glasses slide, looks over, reading upside-down and at a distance. She nods, looks back up at him. “Yeah, you got that right.” Ruka tosses the chalk back over to her and she turns away, him more interesting as footprints than person. He retreats to the fence by the patio, still watching the kids who aren’t watching him, logs in to see if there’s any word from Chevette or his employer, or really, from anyone. He’s got nothing, apart from an automated birthday message from his dentist, whom he hasn’t seen in seven years, but who insists on reminding him semiannually about the fact that he’s got teeth and keeping them requires professionals. He marks it spam, again, and logs in to his employer’s site. The job’s been pushed back two weeks, so his breakage isn’t an issue; his employer didn’t know anyway, so it’s a safe bet that they’re still picking up the tab on the hotel. A quick flip to his account confirms it, and confirms as well Tiger’s assertion. He is getting paid. His silent cinema obligating some hundred aficionados to his unintentional dirty desert noir.
     A buzz node is accreting near the fence, jarring him. Kids buzzing Nike by the door, but he’s got the nullwave for that, so he only knows because they’re all logoed; this group feels custom, he needs to tweak his field or just get away. He logs off and pushes through them toward the dampener, and the bar.
     When you off? he asks Tiger. He asks the blonde. Asks it on paper.
     “I’ll get you some coffee, sweetie.”
     Chevette’s supposed to be here today, tonight, sometime soon, sometime now. No word from her and Ruka feeds his angry with it, his eyes drawing a parabola from the bourbon to his coffee, resetting and redrawing it until Tiger finally traces the arc and pours. “Your tech’s going to be unhappy with you.” Ruka lets his left eyebrow and his right hand indicate his feelings on the matter. She should have been here already, she should have been here within hours of his breaking, but instead it’s been three days and this Realdoll life isn’t for him; he wishes he could feel the bugs doing their work, to feel anything imitating life, tries to imagine it, fails due to his knowledge being greater than his capacity for imagination, but tries again, picturing the machines taking the carbon dioxide and breaking it, giving the oxygen, making the glucose, walking and working, from the ports in the tanks then out through his tissues and back, unless they fail and then all the way out through the skin to the air for UV dissolution. He could go like this for months on a full charge, everything cycled out through his pores, his mouth, and that’s normally a comfort to him, knowing that should something go horribly wrong, should society fail completely with him on a job, maybe, or Chevette drive off a cliff or his employer go bust, any of a variety of scenarios, he’s got an adequate buffer, can work something out. He wants the alcohol to have a greater impact on his neurotransmitter function, giving him a sense of control, letting him feel like he is doing this and not the not sleeping, which isn’t something he’s doing, but just something that’s happening, the not sleeping breaking him more than he’s already broken.
     Tiger’s looking at him, just watching. Ruka realizes that Tiger didn’t answer his question. Coffee isn’t an answer. Or it is, but he doesn’t know which of many answers it is. He bums a cigarette from the guy in the corner, bangs out onto the patio, tweaks his field to blend with the custom node by the tree, begs a light and sits near them, watching the cigarette burn while he slowly adds black harmonics, imperceptible microtonal fluxes in staggered puffs, ratcheting it every minute or so until they decohere and disperse, leaving Ruka alone by the tree. The node reconvenes on the other side of the patio, out of Ruka’s range.
     He logs on again, looking for word from Chevette, looking for communications between the employer and his tech, looking for any sign. He can’t ask the employer, since they’d then want to know what was up and then they’d stop paying his way here. He’d still do the job, but they’d be less inclined to fund him until he was on-site rather than enroute. Asking would belie the nature and specifics of his enroute, so he doesn’t ask.
     He goes back to the platform. The kids are gone. He stands in his footprints, watching the others move around him. Evidence there of imagination greater than knowledge.

He doesn’t follow the blonde back downstairs in the morning. He sits and waits, thinking how people don’t mind it so much if you’re angry so long as you’re not talking. He showers, brushes his teeth and doesn’t drink anything. He sits by the window, watching the chalk shadow, blurred a little, move through its cycle.
     Chevette knocks on his door a little after three. Ruka hasn’t moved in two hours, just staring across the tracks, watching the trains speed by every half hour. The segmented carapace, steel and smart solar array, flexing through the elongated curve and heat shimmer, a dull and blind mouthless chew through the landscape, through the cities, through all social strata; it made no distinctions at all, drew its line and had its way and Ruka approves of that today. The smart solar reflects nothing, the concave steel scales between the plates angling another seventy percent of the light, the train diffusing into a smoky gray lens onto some distant hinted lurking void, quiet hissing metaphor for something but too fast to represent anything. They’re efficient to the degree that they can be run profitably even with only two pallets loaded, and they’ll run them even with one, empty sometimes, since it costs more to shunt an empty train than it does to just run it. Five minutes to unload, five minutes to load, five-minute acceleration, five minute deceleration, a ten minute buffer between trains; in a throughput area like Tucson a train passes for ten, then twenty minutes between it and the next, in stop cities or ports the flow less regular and more organic, almost musical, commercial crescendo and coda, conductor here meaning something. The tech could run it on its own, but socially and legislatorily people need something to do. Ruka won’t go too deep into the argument, suspects his own potential obsolescence, feels his future uselessness in anything other than the gallery setting and then it won’t be him but what she’d made, him so beside the point in anything but a discussion on substrates and even then the discussion won’t be with him but about him. And this, him, broken, folding everything wrong, three hundred predatory cranes, angled down, faceless spikes. Multicolored and patterned squadrons scattered on the dresser, the bed, the table by the window, around his feet. Swept-wing attack birds, miracles of oblivion and rice, a gray edge here and there from a paper cut, his bugs walking the wings until the sun tells them to go to dust, to a chalky mélange of useful components. The cranes all structure and no soul, undifferentiated and waiting. Chevette opens the door and smiles into the room. “Sorry to be late. But the job’s pushed back anyway, so we’re still ahead of schedule. I tried to run remote diagnostics but you’ve been in the dampener pretty much the whole time you’ve been here so I don’t know what’s working and what’s not.”
     Ruka writes, stands and walks to her, birds rustling flat under his feet, the paper in his hand crumpling as he opens his jeans, pulls himself out, hard. Written on the paper: This works.
     Chevette stands a moment, searching Ruka’s face. She comes to some decision, turns, and walks down the hall, down the stairs and out of the hotel, back to her car.


Said I’m not coming back and now I’m here and Galava, maybe you can just tough it out and be girlfriend here for a bit, and neither one of us talk about shoes in real life but let’s maybe play the role and do talk about them and we’ll act like we care. We’ve got the window and the sunset and the champagne splits and I’ve seen this on television and in magazines and we’re a consumerist utopian ideal right now, so let’s just sink into it for a while. Remember how I said I wasn’t coming back? Yeah, okay, you don’t. Well, it’s what I said, and though I’m back now, I’m here, still technically I’m not back in the way I said I wouldn’t be, since this is me and not you and not your owner—I should stop using that word, I know it’s a contract thing, it’s an employee thing and him your employer, but see, the manner in which he employs you, that makes me say owner. I’ll try to be more aware, more precise, but maybe you be more an employee, hm?
     One of these days I’ll talk to you when you’re conscious. Maybe I’m gonna just walk out of here with you in my bag. Maybe not my bag, maybe I’ll get Serge the poolboy to put you in my trunk. He doesn’t like your owner any more than I do and maybe Serge is going to come along too, since there’d be no hiding what we did and might as well take everyone on the jump to Presslin. I can’t turn Serge off like I can with you but maybe he won’t mind so much, not mind at all and I don’t know that he doesn’t shut you down himself and do the same things I do. I don’t know shit about the guy but I’ve seen him watch you walk and I’ve seen him watch me walk and him watch me work on you and there’s the time he walked in when you were just a tool and I was checking your viability and usefulness as a tool and he didn’t say a word.
     It’s funny, really, how we broke up but we’re still fucking, funny how you don’t know that part. You think we’re coolly professional and that we don’t really get along anymore, and yeah, I guess that’s a bit true still, but you’re still a part of me, still with me, still in me, in me now while the diagnostics run and run and run—I’m doing a triple-redundant systems check while I think about what Serge would do to you if he had the chance. I should call him in.
     No, Galava, if your owner was physically functional I wouldn’t be doing this. Thank the New Morality for some small favors.
     Maybe this time I won’t clean you up when I’m done and let you wonder what your owner’s been doing with his property. With my luck you’d scent me out and figure what’s going on, you and your stupid head so smart not, so clicking it all together, and if I could find the me-tagged neurons I’d burn them out and leave you dripping and confused, only maybe I wouldn’t want this if you were really just the anonymous tool I’m pretending you are… and I’m never going to come if I don’t focus here. You’ll excuse me a minute while I do a little work here, won’t you?
     That fucking Ruka. Like I’d fuck him. Okay, I would. Would have anyway. That Remembrance Day with him in the cosmonaut suit, before I’d met him, before the next day when we were introduced and I had to strip him out and put my hands in and put my work in, yeah. Definitely then—you’re okay if I go off on a tangent here, aren’t you, doll? Thanks.