You’re nobody’s rainbow.
You’re nobody’s princess.
You’re nobody’s doorway but your own, and the only one who gets to tell you how your story ends is you.
So it was a good thing I still had the evac suit.
I'd used it to escape Abene's shuttle after the combat bot attack - another thing that had happened that I wished I could delete from my memory. (Deleting memories like that doesn't work. I can delete things from my data storage, but not from the organic parts of my head. The company had purged my memory a few times, including my whole mass murder incident, and the images hung around like ghosts in an endless historical family drama serial.)
(I like endless historical family drama serials, but in real life, ghosts are way more annoying.)
Possibly I was overthinking this. I do that; it's the anxiety that comes with being a part-organic murderbot. The upside was paranoid attention to detail. The downside was also paranoid attention to detail.
I needed intel, and there was one way to get it.
The station approach traffic was heavy, and we were showing a twenty-seven-minute docking delay. Twenty-seven minutes was more than enough time for me to do something stupid.
Mensah swayed as it started to move and grabbed my arm above the gun port, squeezing hard enough that the organic part of my arm felt it. The racing heartbeat seemed normal under the circumstances, but she still hadn't let go of me. I asked, "Are you all right?" What if they'd tortured her? Everything in my emergency med/psych assistance module involved accessing a MedSystem so it could tell me what to do. (My company-supplied education modules were crap, I may have mentioned.)
She shook her head. "I'm fine. I'm just... very glad to see you."
She still sounded unsteady. She looked the same, dark brown skin, short light brown hair. There were definitely more creases at the corner of her eyes, something I confirmed with a comparison of my earlier recordings of her. And I was looking at her now.
In the shows, I saw humans comfort each other all the time at moments like this. I had never wanted that and I still didn't. (Touching while rendering assistance, shielding humans from explosions, etc., is different.) But I was the only one here so I braced myself and made the ultimate sacrifice. "Uh, you can hug me if you need to."
She started to laugh, then her face did something complicated and she hugged me. I upped the temperature in my chest and told myself it was like first aid.
Except it wasn't entirely awful. It was like when Tapan had slept next to me in the room at the hostel, or when Abene had leaned on me after I saved her; strange, but not as horrific as I would have thought.
"It's a good story, I see why it's popular. I just don't understand why you like it best, when there are such a variety of serials out there."
Huh, why did I like Sanctuary Moon so much? I had to pull the memory from my archive, and what I saw there startled me. "It's the first one I saw. When I hacked my governor module and picked up the entertainment feed. It made me feel like a person." Yeah, that last part shouldn't have come out, but with all the security-feed monitoring I was doing, I was losing control of my output. I closed my archive. I really needed to get around to setting that one-second delay on my mouth.
A roving drone cam showed me she was frowning. "You are a person."
Oh, that we can't talk about. "Not legally."
She took a breath to speak, then reconsidered and released it. I knew she wanted to argue the point, but I was right, so. There wasn't much else to say about it. She said instead, "Why did it make you feel that way?"
"I don't know." That was true. But pulling the archived memory had brought it back, vividly, as if it had all just happened. (Stupid human neural tissue does that.) The words kept wanting to come out. It gave me context for the emotions I was feeling. I managed not to say. "It kept me company without..."
"Without making you interact?" she suggested.
That she understood even that much made me melt. I hate that this happens, it makes me feel vulnerable. Maybe that was why I had been nervous about meeting Mensah again, and not all the other dumb reasons I had come up with. I hadn't been afraid that she wasn't my friend, I had been afraid that she was, and what it did to me.
For fuck's sake, these humans are always in the way, trying to save me from stuff.