Part 5 Chapter 04-Relay Station

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[The photo has 4 candidates for what Wulfie might look like. The robot is intentionally and deceptively cute.]

I gave Wulfie a push toward the aisle, and we scrambled, trying to walk in the air. Now, I was scared. I couldn't control Wulfie's direction and I'd pushed too hard. She didn't have hands to grab rungs and bars.

In response to my fear, she whined. Legs splayed, my telechiric caromed into the aisle.

Hawthorn glanced up from his text volume. "What's that?"

"Ms. Politkofsky's teddy bear," Sanchez said.

Frantically I tried to get a purchase on something with her paws. We were moving too fast, headed right toward Hawthorn.

"A robotic pet," I gasped. "Name's Wulfie."

Danna! Please have them believe her a toy.

Hawthorn laughed and his big hand closed around her chest, bringing her into his compartment. "Cute little guy. Here you go." He gave her a push, sending us back into the aisle. Wulfie bounced off a bulkhead. This time, I aimed for the next one, a matter of planning and timing. I started to enjoy the game of bounding from one bulkhead to the next. Wulfie woofed with my excitement. We misjudged a leap and landed in Ms. Gagnon's lap.

She petted Wulfie and kissed her right on the head. "Aren't you sweet?"

Ugh!

Wulfie snarled.

"Oh, you are the fierce one." Gagnon's plucked eyebrows arched with motherly sweetness. Wulfie responded with a play-bow and a wagging tail, ridiculous in zero-gravity. Gagnon sent Wulfie back towards me.

We bounded from bulkhead to floor to overhead. Wulfie neared my compartment, and I reached for her. She landed neatly between my outstretched hands.

"You play enthusiastically. Even your mouth moves," Sanchez whispered.

My heart pounded, and Wulfie growled. I hadn't even reached Fenria and already I'd blown my cover. I put my hand to my lips. When I'd been a kid, my human body had moved at the same time Wulfie did. I'd thought I'd outgrown that sort of problem.

Playing for time, I put my hand on Wulfie's muzzle. "Sshh. Enough."

Mama and Grandpa had both told me that the most believable lie is the truth, or very close to it. I'd been shocked when Mama had given this advice. She had always taught me to behave honorably.

I scratched Wulfie's ear and told the truth. "Wulfie reads my emotions, and I send her instructions." Hanging my head I embedded my lie. "Kind of silly to get an implant just to use a toy."

"I won't tell." Sanchez's eyes crinkled with laughter. "I won't tell if Wulfie piddles on the Colonel's shoe."

"Wulfie doesn't piddle."

"Too bad," Sanchez said, her eyes sparkling. "I'd like to see what the Colonel would do."

#

Leaving the harbor behind, Tyee walked into the city. Traffic was light, pedestrians pushing handcarts or carrying bundles.

He turned into the steep lane where he'd spent his childhood, a lane so steep it had needed stairs. His mother's house perched, near the top, grandly overlooking roofs of other houses.

Mother waved to him from her front room, and he went inside, his neuro transmitting the front-door code.

"I didn't expect you so soon." She embraced Tyee. "And what's with the beard?"

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