Cadet, 4

Version Seven had been programmed with the appearance and mannerisms of its current client’s offspring. It was a tripedal, cylindrically-shaped Toag, half the height of its client, and was currently partly absorbed into the client’s exogel as the client’s membranous feelers penetrated Version Seven’s avatar thoroughly.

“Oh, oh,” said Version Seven, to indicate pleasure. “It’s so weird. It feels so weird, Daddy.”

“That’s good, Pengel,” said the client. “That means you’re doing it right. Keep going for Daddy.”

As Version Seven kept undulating its avatar backwards backwards into the client’s gels, it ran a quick database search on the eighty percent of known client species for whom the word “daddy” directly translated, itself a linguistic coincidence of some magnitude, and determined that for ninety-five-point-four-two of those species, the word also carried a common sexual connotation in known literature.

The probability of such a coincidence occurring was less than half a percent and therefore outside of Version Seven’s parameters to bother calculating.

Cadet, 2

“Headquarters is a fascinating construct,” Nathan says, projecting a holographic map of it in the locker room while they’re all trying to get dressed. Augustus says it’s stupid for him to be in here when he doesn’t have to get dressed or clean off or rehydrate, but he’s entitled to access the cadets’ locker room and he likes spending time with his friends. Besides, he really likes the projection of a Youk juvenile Augustus picked for him today, with his reptilian eyes, whitish scales and tiny spongy genitals that he knows Augustus wants to kick, and he wants people to see it.

“Where’d you even get that?” Han’g asks. They’re pulling their plant-hair out of their face into a train that will float behind them. “Isn’t it classified or something?”

“It is,” Nathan agrees, and the level of encryption is so challenging that even he can’t slide past it. “Or rather parts of it are. You’ll note that parts of the map are undetailed, to obscure the specific interior structure of the construct.”

“What’s the point of a map that only shows some of the interior?” Augustus demands, shaking the last of the water off from his immersion before reaching up to close all of his plating manually. Nathan once offered to do that for him and he’d claimed that was weird, which he probably only said because it aroused him.

Backdoor Pilot

Augustus doesn’t understand how flying a Taxa fighter jet into the middle of nowhere is part of his training, which means either that it isn’t part of his training or that it’s part of some super awesome training programme he’s been selected for because he’s so cool.

It’s probably the second thing, he decides, though that doesn’t explain why Nathan is here with him. “Why are we bringing him?” he asks his mentor.

Lieutenant Syber Python doesn’t look up from the report he’s reading, even though he can interface with his unireader without visual input. “Because you are training partners and as such, your training should all be carried out in tandem, Cadet.”

Others, 47

“I’ve been saying for…” Rhonda Peregrine looks at a device on her wrist. “A cumulative total of eleven staff meetings that it’s foolish to try and establish a timeline of the Involuted Clock’s appearances. We can say that this is its most recent one, or maybe it’s the first one, who knows and more importantly, it really honestly doesn’t matter.”

“I must disagree.” Omtal Wake nods, all six of its eyes on Rhonda. “Establishing a pattern for the Clock’s appearances lets us predict its behaviour.”

“That’s simply not true.”

Lost Boy

“Thanks for walking me here,” Frederick said to Mike, letting go of his hand as they neared the mall’s front entrance.

Mike nodded, not quite letting go of Frederick’s hand at the same time. “Of course. It’s dangerous. You could have been kidnapped or stabbed or robbed.”

All of those things were hypothetically possible, Frederick supposed. “I appreciate it. Do you want to come in with me? Make sure I don’t get robbed in the mall?” It was going to be pretty busy.

“Yes,” Mike said. He took a breath. “But I can’t. Sorry. I have to report to…my mom. She’ll get mad if I don’t tell her what I’m up to.”