The sound of Coyote’s breathing seemed unnaturally loud in the room. At this moment, he could care less about following the Iceman to see a whole room filled up with weird dead things.
He would rather see what ‘Nna was up to. What did femmebots do when left to their own devices? Ha ha.
It felt good as he ran from the room, slammed the heavy door behind him. But vertigo hit him. He hadn’t remembered the hallway being so narrow, or the emptiness outside the Glaspex seeming so very... near.What sort of madman wanted to live in a space-ship that looked like a disembodied eye, filled with waiting corpses, where there was practically nothing dividing the inside from the outside-- ?
Poor ‘Nna. She had to live here. And she had to love him. He was her creator after all. Unless things were different with femmebots.
Maybe he had a chance after all.
Where was she? He ran his hand along the wall. Perfectly smooth and as polished as her gorgeous chassis. With a girl like that, you could love her insides and out.
He turned in the other direction and began to walk. The ship was bigger than he realized. It began to seem to Coyote that he’d been walking too long, much too long. Everything about the place was unnatural. He’d already seen practically three sides of it as they came in for their landing; he knew it shouldn’t seem half so large. Yet as long as he walked he could find nothing but endless hallway, curving on ahead as far as the eye could see. And on the other side lay the fathomless darkness, scattered with stars.
“’Nna?” he said, after a long time. His voice was shaky and thin. “It’s Coyote. I think I’m lost.” He half expected his voice to echo. Instead it was absorbed by the ship. “’Nna?” he said again.
Suddenly she was there, her hand hard on his arm.
“Well my, my,” she said. “You’re drenched.” She touched the bandanna wrapped around his forehead. The fabric was dark with sweat. “Come with me,” she said. “You need to be warmed.” She gently pushed the white wall beside them. It opened soundlessly into a honey-colored interior. Coyote didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
They were in a small kitchen. She sat him down and placed her hands on his shoulders. He felt the cold sweat wick away from his skin. Her soft, covering touch radiated a pleasant heat that spread throughout his body.
“You’re—beautifully made,” he gasped.
She smiled, her teeth like tiny shells. He wanted to touch them.
“I am perfectly calibrated--”
“-for many scenarios. Remember, you already told me.” He wanted to touch everything about her.
“You were looking for me,” she said, busying herself with something involving a stray set of paints on the counter. She turned back to him abruptly, as if having arrived at a new conclusion.
“You know, I’m just as curious about you as you are about me. I’m so rarely alone with any of his clients. Not because he minds, of course,” she said, hurriedly, “but because… well, why would any of them be curious about me? I'm only a showpiece. I know.” She smoothed a strand of hair back behind Coyote’s ear, and retied his bandanna, which she’d fluffed and dried. “But you,” she said, squatting to look in his eyes. “You were curious. You’re just a cog in someone else’s wheel, like me.”
He jerked. “That’s not true. I’m my own guy.”
A veil dropped over her eyes. She stood coldly. “Of course. I will return you to the others. They’ll be wondering what has become of you.” She led him back to the hall, and from there through a series of more invisible doors. It was impossible to tell whether any of them had existed before she touched their panels, or if she was simply re-arranging the molecules of the ship as she moved through it.
He tried to re-ignite their connection, but she ignored him.
“’Nna? How were you able to hear me?”
“’Nna? What if we slowed down a minute. There’s something I’d like to ask you. And I’d love another cup of tea.”
The femmebot quickened her steps, her hard legs moving remorselessly towards their destination, towards the future. As if this moment did not count. After all, what was time to a machine?
And what could a man ever mean to a machine?
She scolded herself for trying, pressing them through one final wall. "You'll find them through there," she said. "Good bye."
But she was gone. He pressed the wall where she stood. There were no hinges, no hint of give. He pressed his forehead against it. Cool as a tomb.
"Good bye," he said. He sighed and turned around. Finally, an ordinary door, the kind he knew how to step through.