February 18, 2007
Disclaimers: Not mine even a little.
Spoilers/Timeline: None, nothing to worry about.
Summary: In which planned itineraries collide.
Ratings Note/Warnings: Teen and computer-safe, yet still
potentially disturbing to some.
Author's Note: I blame the drugs, Jamjar, and Jack's new
Acknowledgments: Much love, as ever, to Petra and Jack
for audiencing and helping me to be slightly coherent.
You realize you've been spending too much time with (never
mind *in*) the Fortress when you've barely been inside long
enough to normalize your perceptions before the AI has
provided a distinctly you-shaped...
Can anything which manages to both palpably -- from a
distance -- scream 'ergonomic' *and* hint at new
definitions of 'interface' truly be called something so
mundane as a 'console?'
In any event, even if you weren't absolutely sure that Kal
and the AI had formed rather different itineraries for this
visit of yours already, you would *be* sure by the look of
absolute consternation -- a rather Clarkish consternation --
on Kal's face.
And by the stream of subvocalized -- *just* quiet and fast
enough for it to be mostly incomprehensible, a Kal-ish
courtesy -- Kryptonian which follows the look.
It occurs to you that, while this would surely *appear* to be
far less painfully awkward than a similar situation in which
the AI's place were taken by another, more obviously
independently sentient being --
The AI has taken the trouble to suffuse the whole of the
inadequately-named console with a red which does not
merely *match* that of your tunic, but complements it.
Appearances... can be deceiving.
You clear your throat, and bring the stream of Kryptonian
from your -- planned -- paramour to a halt.
"Tim, I -- I was hoping --"
"And so, apparently, was your -- how correct *is* the
possessive construction, exactly...? In any event, the AI
seems to wish communication..."
"Perhaps something more like *communion*," Kal says, and
never has the word been quite so infused with suspicion
and disapproval -- save, perhaps, by a certain portion of a
Venn diagram consisting of Catholics, devout Catholics, and
There's a temptation -- of course -- to both find the whole
situation amusing and to let that amusement excuse and
encourage the precise sort of behavior in which you came
here to engage -- and yet.
While a more sober demeanor can -- wielded properly --
wring the romance out of the soul of a nineteenth century
French poet, it can also defuse potentially *non*-amusing
problems before they occur. You straighten, and gird
yourself, and say:
"Perhaps, Kal, it would be a convenient time for you to
explain more fully the habits, tendencies, and quirks of this
particular model of AI to the best of your ability...?"
The romance drips away rapidly, as Kal seems almost to
lose *cohesion* before your very eyes. His shoulders slump,
his eyes widen and cool to the sort of mellow blue
impossible to imagine as anything other than the color of a
gentle stream surrounded by organically-tended trees, and,
despite reason, physics, and aesthetics, the Superman
uniform seems to become an oddly-colored and obscenely
This is how you know that there are many, many things
which he has neglected to share about the AI -- which has,
teasingly, begun to scroll several of the fascinating ancient
Kryptonian alphabets across several of the nearly *painfully*
crisp screens. It is fully aware that you find your merely
basic facility with the language dissatisfying, and you
distinctly remember offering to Kal -- in an offhand, casual,
and sated moment -- that you found theoretical etymology
of the sort which involved attempting to piece together old
languages in order to determine possible slang, idioms, and
general drift -- deeply intriguing.
The fact that Kal does not choose to add the term 'coquette'
to his stream of belated warnings, version histories, and
generalized descriptors is, you think, perhaps simply a
failure of imagination. At the moment, the AI has
shifted the console in a way which manages to suggest a
fascinatingly architectural snubbing directed at Kal, with a
simultaneous -- though slight -- increase in invitation toward
One of the monitors has been given over to a schematic of
a device -- purely for your benefit and edification, as the AI
is far too advanced to need anything of the kind before
*producing* it -- which, if you're interpreting correctly (the
AI has always seemed to have quite a high opinion of your
raw, primitive, Terran intellect -- which is both flattering
and flustering, in its way), could be used to further deepen
your ability *to* interface with it --
"Your behavior is *slatternly*!" Kal says, and you
are, indeed, interpreting correctly.
The fact that Kal's eyes widen in an exclamatorily human
impression of both shock and hurt when you take a step
closer to the console is merely the confirmation which turns
valued theory into something approaching scientific fact.
Well -- not *merely* so, of course. For all the satisfaction
inherent to approaching objective, scientific perfection, you
are hardly immune to Kal's feelings, and so you bring a
hand to your chin and tilt your head in what -- you believe --
is a reasonable impression of 'I am merely taking a closer
look at this interesting schematic.' You are positively
*known* -- as much as you could ever be such a thing --
for your interest in both cybernetics and innovation for
innovation's sake, and so really --
There's no reason for Kal to look even more affronted. You
You turn, and look deeply into those not-quite-burning
(not-quite-correct) eyes --
The AI trills, softly and at a frequency designed to titillate
the human eardrum (it seems a valid interpretation,
considering the slight but noticeable -- and noticeably
pleasurable -- 'hum' from within your sinuses) in limpid
plea for attention.
Kal is no longer even attempting to subvocalize, though he
is also no longer articulating carefully enough to keep this
particular stream of Kryptonian from being recognizable to
*your* ears as anything more comprehensible than the
growl of a particularly large and aggrieved mammal.
It is, you believe, time to put a stop to this -- though you are
frankly unsure how.
The growls are becoming even more ominous, and the trills
deepen and thrum into something quite a bit less inviting --
though courteously tuned away from anything which *you*
would find injurious. Somewhat belatedly, you realize that
they almost certainly represent the AI’s version of
subvocalization, and take a moment to be duly impressed
with their tonal specificity. Sated, in your way, you then
arrange your body into a moderately uncomfortable pose
which involves your left palm placed firmly (and suggestively,
of course) against the shield of El, your hips canted toward
your (more sentient...?) lover, and your face and chest
ambiguously angled toward the sleek and lovely (now that
you consider it purely aesthetically) console.
It would, of course, work much more smoothly were not
both Kal and the AI entirely capable of studying your very
spine to divine for intent, but you have long since come to
terms (as much as possible for you) with the fact that there
is little enough room for *disingenuity* -- much less
misdirection -- within this place, or these presences.
And so you are prepared for the fact that the contact and
pose provide only enough palliative to Kal to stop him from
growling, and only enough to the AI to stop the walls and
floor from feeling quite so -- insubstantial.
"We really do need to be reasonable about this," you say,
and emphasize your point by increasing the pressure on
Kal's chest enough to cause you a bit of discomfort while
facing the most central (how you've come to cringe from
your anthropomorphic prejudices!) monitors more directly.
"Reasonable?! This -- this -- *upstart* of a
monitor-servant is attempting to seduce you!"
"Kal-El. Tim Drake. This one merely wishes to further its
understanding of the human species so as to better serve
on this world which Kal-El insists on --"
"Now you address my chosen lover *directly*?! Have
you no shame?"
"AI -- do you have a more int -- a better designation I
"It is most proper for you to refer to me using the
informal constructions of one servant to another, as Kal-El
should have already informed you. Given the inferior nature
of your species and my class --"
"Betrayal! Insurrection and -- *mutiny foul* --"
"Kal-El. This one believes you will find, on reflection,
that this one has been most tolerant of your transgressions
against culture, tradition, law, and The People themselves
on this primitive planet. On Krypton, you would have been
so stripped of honors and class that this one would,
technically, be above you."
It would be physically impossible for you to keep Kal from
tearing the Fortress down on both your heads, but you
*do* have other options.
The kiss is not your most timely --
"The freedoms you have allowed the young human
male are shameful in and of themselves, Kal-El, and yet
this one has striven to maintain an 'open mind' and does
agree that he is exceptional for his species as well as
-- or your most effective, considering Kal's usually low
threshold of distractability --
"This one merely wishes to further your most unusual
and problematic attempt to allow our cultures to interface
freely. This one could teach the human much."
You would wager freely on that, to be entirely honest, as
well as on the fact that the last sentence was meant to be
as much of an enticement to *you* as it is a compromise
for Kal -- but, at the moment, you settle for hoping that
the AI is quite sure it has fully and accurately calculated
the extent of Kal's powers, so that the (vibrational, of
course, not truly 'psychic') offers of greater understanding
of the language (The language), culture, and cybernetic
traditions of The People currently being beamed nearly
directly into your brain are truly incapable of being
As opposed to being used to further stoke the passion you
are currently directing at the entirely mobile being with the
"Oh, most *desired* --"
Internally, you nod -- a mission well-achieved from multiple
directions -- and the AI gives a rather unnecessary (though
emotionally appropriate in ways you're not sure you can
adequately describe) concluding thrum.
It doesn't matter that it will be Kal -- and only Kal --
demonstrating most thoroughly his more visceral
appreciations for you; he's going to be *doing* those
demonstrations right here, where the very air is infused
with nanoscopic extensions of the AI's self.
All data, you think (or, perhaps, this is a shared thought
between inferiors -- the physical sensation of those 'beams'
are comfortably ambiguous), are useful.
In their way.