Part 3: Talon - Chapter 10

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After five kilometres, Agnes was already beginning to feel the burn. Was she that unfit?

The AI keeping pace with her fed suggestions into her fone, which in turn relayed them to her.

'It is recommended that you slightly decrease pace to lower your heart rate.'

She accelerated slightly and leaped over a rock that appeared in the pathway. The AI did an electronic sigh and repeated its suggestion.

When Agnes failed to comply, the AI added a low branch to the trail. At the last second Agnes ducked under it. Since the branch didn't really exist, hitting it would have caused no injury, but would have deducted points from her final score.

'This increase of speed is not recommended. Heart rate is now...'

Agnes tuned out. The last thing she needed was some bullshit AI telling her she hadn't done a decent run in ages. Damn it, she'd been fit in the Navy, but months behind a desk hadn't helped. That and too many romantic dinners with her husband.

As she expected, the AI decided to play dirty. Inserting holovision rocks and branches hadn't slowed Agnes down, so now it added a wide stream to the mix of obstacles. At the same moment it increased the slope of the path. The combination meant that in a few metres Agnes staggered to the top of a ridge to contemplate the unrealistic prospect of water flowing uphill.

She managed to stop in time and turned to where the AI bobbed along on its monorail. If it were possible, the device seemed to have a self-satisfied smirk on its otherwise blank plastic face.

'That...was cheating,' she manage to gasp, leaning forward with her hands on her knees. She didn't dare sit down, in case it became difficult to stand up again.

The AI switched off the flowing water but kept the path in place, presumably in case Agnes decided to take off again.

'A five minute rest is recommended to bring metabolic processes...'

She tapped her fone to shut the damn thing off. That meant a twenty point penalty but she didn't care. The score was just a private one anyway. Back in her Navy days it would have formed part of her medical fitness report, but here it was just for personal interest.

It still wasn't going to be good, just as it wasn't good to be so out of shape.

The AI extended a mechanical arm with her water bottle and towel. She took a sip of water and watched the countdown timer on the AI's face as the five minutes ticked away.

Sweat dripped down her face and had formed nasty patches under her arms and across her substantial bosom. Her calves gleamed with moisture too. Was it her imagination, or were her thighs even thicker than they had been a year ago? Perhaps a full medical check-up was in order before too long.

Her fone beeped. Still bent over, she tapped to receive and her boss's voice came across.

'Busy, Agnes?'

She blew out a long breath and sucked in some more oxygen before replying. 'Hello, John.'

'You sound...am I interrupting anything?'

She straightened up and held up the fone so John Grange could see the running track. At the same time the AI intoned: 'Your five minute rest period is over. You may recommence your run.' Agnes started jogging again, not so fast this time, and the AI was kind enough to keep the track horizontal. The twists and turns remained, however, since this was intended as a cross-country run.

'Nothing much,' she said.

'I just wanted to check with you about your message. Are you happy working with a Sirian?'

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