"Hey. . . are you a Bloodhound or something?" Skip ventured in wonder.
"Well, I guess that would explain this pendant around my neck, wouldn't it, Einstein? And by the way, that term you used is considered vulgar -- the proper title is Scenter."
"Oops, my bad - it's just that I've never met a Scenter before."
Skip had heard of such people, genetically tuned for extremely keen olfactory sense. His thoughts drifted:
Scenter. Good thing I took that shower. Why are Scenters always female? Is the talent sex-linked? Could Estrogen oversupply a side-effect? Everyone knows the expression, "Stacked like a 'hound –“ could it be true? Hmm, not pathologically huge. Big. Bigger than my hands? On the borderline, could be. I have pretty big hands, though. He jerked to reverie, suddenly acutely conscious of his hands being slightly cupped. He relaxed them nonchalantly.
An exasperated Jeena replied, "You know, in the City, anyone with tact considers the BADGE to be sufficient credentials."
"Apologies, Scenter -- um, Jeena," Skip said as he read her pendant. "Dorcus Abernathy, Math Engine."
"A Meng, huh? As in, one of those mathematicians who can do, like, the square root of 311 in their head?"
"Seventeen point six-three-five... um, two -- almost," he responded reflexively, as the digits dropped into place in his mind like the wheels of a slot machine. "But I'm not a mathematician; I don't do theory. That's why we're called Math Engines."
"Whatever, Dorko," said a thoroughly unimpressed Jeena.
"Call me 'Skip'," he repeated, "You know -- as in, what you would do with a jump rope." He instantly regretted the image that popped into his head.
"You mean Skip, as in, what most girls would do if they had a date with you," Jeena muttered, not quite inaudibly. "And by the way, WHY is it so damn FREEZING in here??!!"
"Technically not freezing, which would be 0 degrees. It's probably around 5 to 10 right now, depending on where we go. Failsafes on the environmental systems keep things from actually freezing. Actually, the fact that we've reverted to failsafes confirms that every last proc module has already been removed from the station."
"Well, FINE," Jeena stated, "I'll just borrow a proc from my pod and crank up the thermostat."
"Won't work," Skip quickly countered. "As soon as you plug that thing in, it'll be swamped with all the queued-up processing requests."
"But of COURSE it will work," she firmly asserted, "why would any foreign work run on my personal processor?"
Oh, of course, Skip thought to himself, City Dweller. Though he had never been planetside personally, Skip had heard that people in the City were both paranoid and selfish. They had all kinds of absurd security measures installed on their personal processors. In the Outback, it was cooperate or die; all processors were kept wide open, to be used for the common good.
"Look," he said. "In the City, comfort may be a priority, but here, it's an inconvenience. Have some space smarts. Wasting hours to get this place up to City-standard temperature? Not important. Everybody peeled it out of here and we don't know why? VERY important. If we can't quickly figure out why everyone left, we need to get the Hell out of here, too, pardon my Swedish.
“And besides,” he added, “if you're cold, why don't you dress decently?"
"Obviously, you've never seen Variable-Insulating-Value UniSuits out here in the country,” she replied patronizingly, “This outfit happens to be rated down to zero."
"I mean, wear a hat. The rating assumes you have a good hat on. You know-- when your feet are cold, put your hat on. Haven't you ever been in cold conditions before?" Probably not, he thought to himself.
Actually, Skip had bluffed about the UniSuit rating. He didn't keep up with fashion trends, and had never even heard of a UniSuit before. The VIV fabric, in spite of its superb on-demand insulating index, was impossibly thin. Any kind of underwear would have marred the lines of the catsuit, and in fact, there was none in evidence.
Even in our 0.6 gravity, someone like her would need support, he mused. Amazing, not even a hint of lace. The suit itself must be strategically reinforced in all the right places. Custom-tailored for the individual?
Jeena's UniSuit was nearly-- but not quite-- white. It was also nearly-- but not quite-- opaque. Skip thought he could just make out the slightly darkened outlines, like the 25-point rings on dartboards, heading up her magnificent mounds. He couldn't be completely sure whether it was perception or imagination. On the other hand, he required no imagination whatsoever to make out what was standing on the bullseyes.
At-ten-hut! Rockwell C-70. Those suckers could dent a meteor shield!
SKIP, YOU SCUM, his conscience boomed in. She's not excited; she's cold!
"Hey, what's your size, about 15, 17?" Skip asked.
"Excuse me?" Jeena snapped crossly, folding her arms about her chest.
"What's the diameter of your head, we could make a hat for you out of that," he explained, gesturing toward some lengths of yolk-yellow, large-diameter foam pipe insulation piled on a nearby pallet.
Skip cut off a half-meter piece of the tubing, added holes for eyes, and a larger hole for breathing and talking.
"You've got to be kidding!" she said.
"Suit yourself. I don't care; I'm enjoying the show."
Jeena normally wouldn't have been caught dead in such an ugly thing. But the torrent of pheromones streaming off Skip's body confirmed to her that, unfortunately, he actually was getting aroused. She was perfectly willing to suffer for the sake of fashion, but not if it gave this dork a thrill. Jeena piled her hair up as best she could and donned the improvised balaclava. She was not pleased. She looked ridiculous - like Abraham Lincoln with Gumby's face, and the color scheme of a fried egg.
Even with the tubing, she still looks hot, Skip observed.
YOU ARE READING
Last Pod out of SolonScience Fiction
Mengs are selected for their innate math aptitude. They may be male or female, and span the spectrum of physical attractiveness. Scenters, on the other hand, are invariably female. Moreover, they are VERY female... --- The photo on the cover is c...