Settling In

Warp kept walking toward the buildings, not really seeing anyone, barely managing to stay on the path in his stunned condition. The buildings, up close, were smooth and soothing green, organic, but oddly, not disturbing to look at. They seemed to made of the same pearlescent material as the landing platform. There were several darkened windows as well. A door irised open for Warp to enter.

Inside things were a touch more "normal." The room was a large living room/reception area with several sofas and tables. The lighting was provided by glowing panels set in the ceiling. Warp fell into a seat and stared into space.

Blink stepped inside and caught sight of the staring Warp. "Warp? Warp!! Snap out of it, buddy! This isn't doing you any good. It might take some adjusting to, but you can do it. We're going to need you at your best, you know. Want something to drink? Water, juice, something?" Blink waited for his response.

"No, thanks," Warp answered in a barely heard voice, as he continued to stare off into space. Do I even dare to open a portal? Either someone else's or my limb or life could be lost. How do I know whether my viewing or reaching portals can't kill also?

After a short pause, Warp asked, "Are we supposed to be doing something?"

"Just finding our rooms, getting settled in, I guess. You know, Warp. Instead of worrying about what happened, you might want to figure out how to best use what happened. You never know when it might be useful to cut something off like that. Rock isn't worried, and they'll take care of him here. Isn't he supposed to be really hard to hurt? Anyway, you let it distract you, and you could end up with this." Blink taps the side of her head by the eye. "Or someone else could. You didn't do it on purpose, but now you'd better figure out what to do about it." Blink walks to whatever room/elevator is available.

As she walked, Blink asked, "Holly? You around?"

"Yo!" Holly spoke up. "Was that colloquial and streetwise? I thought that dealing with street-level personas I should affect a more earthy and familar persona… or, 'When I be dumping bytes with the go-boys I don't want 'em feelin' dissed by any high tone chatter I throw down.'"

"Oh, pleeeeze! Chummer, if you're gonna be nettin with the deckers, you gotta be a part of the show. Seriously, though. Do we have access to you in our rooms? If there's an I/O port somewhere, I could share space with you on a personal level, ya know. Show what the cyberhighways are really like? Whaddya say?"

Wonder what we'll do for clothing, equipment, stuff like that. "Holly? Do you know the duration of our sentences? Just curious."

"Yes, I do," she replied. "It's a matter of record."

"Cool. Guess I'll check into that later." Blink headed upstairs. "Holly? What are we supposed to do now? And, if you wouldn't mind, could I get the specs on this compound? Ivy said you had the info."

"I'll download them to your room terminal when you pick one. Just settle in, relax… chill, even. There will be an organizational meeting later."

"Errr, Holly? Could you point me to one of the unoccupied rooms? I want to get a shower and change into some decent clothes, if that would be possible." Warp started looking around.

"As they are all unoccupied, you can choose whichever you like… residence rooms are on the second floor."

"Holly, what other facilities are there, and where do I get clean clothes?" Warp asked. "Is there a display where you can show me a layout of this place?"

"I can display the layout on your room terminal, and clothing is provided in the rooms as well," Holly answered.

"Ok, Holly." Blink chuckled. "We'll make you a comedienne yet!" Blink walked into the first room she came to and took a look around. "So, what's the jazz on this meeting? Got any dirt for me?"

The room was spacious with a large circular bed, a couch and a bay window looking out over the jungle. A terminal setup took up one corner, along with a holoscreen entertainment suite. Another door presumably led off to the bathroom facilies. The room maintained the smooth organic flow of the rest of the building.

Neat. Nice to see Ivy is as egotistical as she appears… Nice room, though. Blink looked for an I/O port near the terminal, but found none. Then she headed for the shower to clean up.

"Hmm, dirt… let's see. Gossip. You seem to be bisexual, according to a psycho-social profile. Dr. Martins, staff biologist, is a lesbian. Dr. Morsham and Dr. Lee may be having a relationship. Warp's penis size is far above average for a caucasian male. This island has been the sight of several UFO sightings over the last few decades." Holly paused. "Is that enough?"

"Oh, that'll do for a start. Dr. Martins? Hmmm." Blink got in the shower, still chuckling over Holly's comments. Several minutes later, she got out and looked for something to wear. "So, Holly, when's that meeting, anyway?"

"In 3 hours. There's some clothing in the dresser and closet. Nothing top of the line. I was going to try and dress it up, but I was stopped."

"Well, Holly, I guess there are rules for all of us, eh? It's nice you were thinking of us. So, how long do I have to do this, anyway?" Blink lay down on the bed, waiting for the time to pass.

"Your sentence was set at 10 years. Assuming an average deduction per mission and mission rate, that gives you approximately 2 years, 3 day, 10 hours, 2 minutes and 23 seconds," Holly replied. "Not long at all, really, especially if you use a geological or even a stellar reference point, and with your family medical background, gene tailoring and finaicial status you have a life expectancy well into the hundreds… until you factor in psychological and environmental modifiers, then it drops… some."

Wow! Hell, what am I going to do with another hundred years of life? Maybe that's why Daddy is so rich. "Two years, huh? Not as bad as I thought. Guess I can kill a few minutes of time here…" Blink went to the terminal and turned it on. She examined her own assets–not all of which were illegal–and checked the info about Hybrid Tech. Might make a small investment. Won't Daddy be proud of me? she thought wryly. "Holly, what dirt can you give me on Hybrid Technologies?"

"What do you need? Financial, informative, dirt?" Holly asked.

"Both. I'm curious just where 'we' stand in the financial world, and I want to know if there's anything useful I can use later on. A hard copy will do, Holly. I can go over it in my spare time, assuming we actually have any. So, Dolls are people here. That may take some getting used to… I've spent my whole life thinking they weren't much more than extravagant toys." She sighed. "Too many changes, too fast, I guess. Can I have some soft music, Holly? I think I'll taake a nap before that meeting. Wake me up in time, will you?"

"No problem. I can download the data into a infochit you can read via your I/O module if you like. What sort of music–classical, neogothic or technoharmonic perhaps? Those tend to create soothing moods… or perhaps nature sounds like whale song?"

"Infochit is good, technoharmonic… Ocean music would be nice too."

"Certified, gogirl." Soft music filled the room. The sound system was incredible, evidently using the same technique used in Holly's directionless voice. It was like being at a concert but with out any distortion at all.

Von Schmiessen asked if there were any excerise facilities and the direction to them. Holly directed him down a side hall.

Warp started walking up the stairs to the second floor. "Holly, which side of the building has what views?" Maybe I can find one with a view of the pool or ocean or something, unless Ivy decides to block Circe's view of the ocean or such.

"The rooms on the left are ocean view," Holly replied.

Warp reached the second floor, then continued walking towards the end of the hall. "Holly, has anyone taken the end room yet? If not, mark that one as mine." Warp walked down to the room, then entered and walked through, looking at the arrangements. Wide and spacious, quite nicely done with a stunning view. He was still looking over the room when Willow and Jennifer appeared in front of him.

"Holy shit!" Warp jumped back, reaching for his non-existent pistol and knife, before he realized who it was in front of him. "What are you trying to do, Jenbug, give me a heart attack?" Warp sat there on the floor, stunned. At least with my warps there's a portal opening first.

"I apologize for the shock." Willow bowed slightly. "Are you going to be all right?"

"Yeah, I'll be all right. I just wasn't expecting anyone to pop into the room with no sound and no warning." Warp looked the two over. "So, are you here to gloat now, Jenbug?"

Willow mentally sighed, trying to remain level-headed. The boy had suffered traumas in his life. But his ever-suffering self-centered hostility was almost painful to be around. He must be like a constant nagging itch to Circe's perceptions.

Jennifer gritted her teeth. That's it!

She stepped closer to her brother, obviously angry. "I don't suppose that it ever occurred to you that just maybe your sister might be concerned about you? No… you're too fucking thickheaded." She paused briefly, then continued, "No, that's not quite right either… it's just that you haven't changed one damn bit in the last twelve years. You're acting like you're eleven, not twenty-three. Call me when you've grown up." She turned and stalked off down the hall.

"Jennifer, please wait… if you go too far, I cannot maintain your awareness here," Willow said quietly, then turned to Warp.

"What, I'm supposed to be happy you found people that cared about you? Happy you put me in a situation where I could be killed by my own powers? Happy you caught me and turned me into your friends, where if I don't cooperate they'll take my powers away? Yeah, you may be able to come and go, but from what I've heard so far, it sounds like it's be a servant to the system for the rest of my life and don't get money to buy anything I want and if you step out of line say sayanora to your powers! You who've had friends and family all of these years since those corp nuts took me away from the parental units since you weren't there. The ones who… Yeah, thanks a lot." Warp paused, realizing Jenny was nowhere to be seen.

"Sorry, didn't mean to… Um…" Warp looked and saw that the two were alone. "I'm Warp, uh, Douglas Jordan, are you another one of the free people in this project? Sorry if I blew up but…"

"Perhaps the emotion you should be feeling is gratitude, that your sister cared enough to risk her life to bring you to a place of safety, and support you in a program to learn your powers. The fact they can do harm concerns you? Here you can can learn to control far better than using them on the run to steal. How long before you maimed someone–or worse? She saved that life and likely yours. How long before some guard got lucky, or an assasin got you off guard? You sister fought to save your life, believed in you, and you've yet to offer any form of thanks." Willow was incensed, it was strain to keep her voice even, if cold. "Jennifer was lost and alone as you were when your family vanished. Are you so arrogant you think her life was idyllic? She took a path you are apprently incapable of understanding, one of responsibility for herself and her actions. Grow up, Douglas, accept your mistakes, make up for them and move on. You would not be in the position of having your gifts stripped away if you had not abused them in the first place. Jennifer is not responsible for your incarceration–in fact, you are lucky some who cared for you found you, not some over-eager policeman who would might have put a few rounds into you, or perhaps whoever sent those remotes after you and killed your contact." Willow sighed. "You are all each other have now. Are you going to finish the job whoever claimed your family started so long ago, Douglas, and destroy it utterly?"

Warp sat down on the bed, elbows on knees, forehead in palms.

"It's just hard at times to say how glad I am to see her or have anyone care for me again. I mean, for the past ten years or so, I had no one to depend on but myself. If I tried trusting anyone they'd hurt me or take advantage. Now, overnight, people are asking me to just act as though nothing happened. I've had several people criticize me about not acting like an adult, but if I didn't have anyone–besides someone who helped me learn how to steal, and then stole off of me–where were my examples for how an adult is supposed to act? I mean, is me asking one question supposed to send an adult thumping down the hall?" Warp's voice was soft but strong.

"One question? That wasn't a question, it was a slap in the face! A child of six knows when he is being rude, Douglas. You've shown your sister nothing but contempt and saracasm whenever I've seen you together, and you try to come up with more excuses for that. Do you ever take responsibilty… is it ever your fault that anything occurs to you? You've gome from blaming society, to us, to your sister, in the brief time I've known you." Concentrating was starting to become difficult. Willow had never run across anyone so frustrating to deal with. She'd almost understood, then he tacked on the least "one question" comment.

Warp stood and started pacing across the floor. "Sorry Willow. I've been living on my own so long, it's hard to be civil. I know I'm responsible for what I've done. How would you like if the first day you meet a relative in a long time, they lock you up because you landed in their lap, and all they say is 'this is for your own good'? Not 'wow, how you doing, what have you been doing?'. She never came to talk about what was happening once I was in jail. If she cared so much, why didn't she? Willow, do you know?"

"I didn't 'lock you up'," came Jennifer's voice from the door, "for your own good. I'm authorized to act as an officer of the law in certain situations, and when that happens I sometimes have to do things I don't like. As for visiting, I have a job, I'm a member of the Knights, so I have some obligations there, and… oh, yes… there was the matter of a certain case somebody asked me to deliver to an orphanage… To be blunt, if you'd been anyone else, I'd have turned that case in to the authorities."

"I'm sorry, Jen. The last week has been very stressful, and I guess I took part of it out on you. So, were the sisters doing ok?" Warp went to give his sister a hug and was surprised when his arms went through her. "What the… Am I back in that virtual reality hell?" Warp checked to see if he could sense where Circe was.

"Calm yourself. I am projecting my and Jennifer's image here," Willow said softly.

"Oh, that's why there was no sound when you appeared suddenly. How far away are you?" Warp asked as he walked around Jen and Willow, looking at them from every angle, trying to see where the projector was, or if he could see the source.

"It is rather taxing to perform," Willow said softly, both tired and a little embarased over her emotional outburst. She disliked losing control like that.

"How long until you and Jen get here, so I can talk to her in private?" Warp asked Willow. "Jen, after I escaped from the corp labs I tried to find our parents, you or anyone else I knew, but I couldn't find anyone."

Jennifer looked down just as her brother attempted the hug. "Now that's an interesting sight." She sighed. "I haven't seen any of the others since shortly after you… left. I came home from school to find someone else living in the house…"

"Jennifer, will you be at the meeting in a few hours?" Willow asked, the strain starting to show in her voice, "Or would you like me to arrange something sooner?"

The door irised open to admit Circe and Ellce. "The medical facilites are upstairs… there's a lift over here."

"Good," Circe said. "Then that's where we'd better get going." She looked down at the bandage on her hand as they walked towards the lift.

In the lift Ellce turned to Circe. "I've got something to tell you, but it's a secret… will you keep it?"

Circe nodded, curious about what Ellce's secret might be. What kind of secret would a Doll have? Unless she's not really a Doll…

"I… well… um… let me talk to you later," she said as the lift doors opened. She stepped out first to lead Circe down a short hall to a medlab. Small but well-appointed, it was the same soothing color scheme as the rest of the building if with a touch more white. The replicant began to take out supplies to treat Circe's hand more thoroughly. Through a pane of reinforced glass, Circe could see Rock laying sedated.

"What's going to happen to him?" Circe asked. If he was able to wake up out of cryo, what's to say he's not going to overcome those drugs?

"There. Now your hand should feel better," Ellce said with smile. Following Circe's look, she glanced at Rock and seemed to shiver a little. "He's scary… and there's another one, too… I hope there isn't trouble."

"I don't think there should be," Circe said. "As long as the situation is explained to them and they don't feel like they're being threatened, it should be okay. Willow should be able to do a fair bit to help out with that." She looked back at Ellce.

"What Ivy said about you being free here… I hope you decide to accept it." Circe looked down at the bandages on her hand and fussed with the edges a bit. "You're different from most Replicants I've known. I'm not saying I known many personally, but you're… Just different. And I'm glad."

"I'm not different, not at all… it's just…" Ellce trailed off. "Would you like to go to your room?"

"Might as well," Circe replied, standing. "Will your room be near ours?"

"No, it won't. I don't have one," Ellce replied, while leading lead Circe from the room. "You can pick any one you like, these all can see the ocean." She gestured to the rooms on the left.

Circe stopped where she was and looked Ellce in disbelief. "What do you mean, you don't have a room? Do they expect you to sleep in the hallway or corner somewhere?" She felt a tinge of anger.

"No… I don't sleep. Dolls don't have to. I guess I could take one of the rooms." The realization just seemed to dawn on her. "Yes, I guess I could."

"You most definitely should," Circe said. "A bedroom isn't just for sleeping. It's your own personal space. Everyone deserves and needs it. It's a place you can go if you want to be alone, or if you need someplace quiet to think. It's important to have someplace that belongs just to you and you alone. A place to feel safe."

How long has it been since I've felt safe? Circe thought to herself. She gave a wry, silent laugh. It was in that room after the trial. No voices but my own after Willow left.

Ellce smiled. "I think I will… get a room, I mean. I don't like being alone a lot. Why don't you like to be touched?"

For a moment Circe looked at Ellce, not knowing quite what to say, how to explain it. "A long time ago, before I became Circe, some people tried to hurt me. They were children my age, maybe a bit older, but they were bullies and had chosen me as their victim. Since then my mind has been my weapon and my protection. If they can't touch me, they can't hurt me." She ran her good hand through her hair absently. "If I know and trust the person, then it's okay. But if it's an unknown quantity, or a Spock." She quickly looked over at Ellce.

"Sorry, a Replicant that doesn't have emotions. It's not the fact it's a Replicant," she said, trying to explain. "It's the fact that they're alive and… human, yet don't have emotions. Trying to read them is like trying to read a rock." She grinned slightly. "And not the one that's in the infirmary, either."

"We all have emotions," Ellce said quietly. "It's just that some of us don't get to show them, or aren't supposed to." She turned to head for the door. "Did you really look or just… look at the top, and see somehting you didn't like, and just give up?"

"Just because I can go deeply into someone's mind doesn't mean I always do," Circe said a bit defensively. "Unless I was working, I rarely went deeper than the surface. A person's mind is like a person's bedroom. You don't go past the door unless you absolutely have to. Despite what Ivy and anyone else may think, I don't go around sticking my mind into other people's heads for the thrill of it." She wrapped her hands around her waist and hugged herself. No one but Willow understands.

Ellce paused in the door. "I didn't mean… I meant… no one ever looks close at us… we're Dolls… so no one ever sees." She ran into the hall.

Circe sighed, angry at herself for letting self-pity get the better of her. "Ellce, wait," she called out, moving after her quickly. "Please."

She stepped into the hall just in time to see the lift doors sliding closed. Circe ran and hit the button, hoping to get the doors open before it starts to move. The elevator stopped and the doors slid open. Ellce sat in the rear corner,knees drawn up.

Circe knelt down in front of Ellce. "I'm sorry," she said, tentatively holding out her hand. "There are a lot of people out there who see only what they want to see, and who won't look further than what's on the surface. I suppose that I qualify as one of them. I push everything and everyone away, and never look deeper than the surface because if I get closer, I could get hurt."

"When I said before that you were different, I meant it. I've dealt with Replicants in the past and I admit, I have felt contempt for most of them, but I've felt some form of contempt for most of the people I meet on the street. But you," Circe said, shaking her head slightly. "I've found myself liking you. A lot. I forget at times that you're a Replicant, and now, to be honest, you could be a three headed slime lizard from the planet Zartron, but that doesn't change the fact that…" Circe paused, finding it difficult to continue. How long had it been since she'd said the words and actually meant them? "I like you. You and I are very much alike. Victims of our reputations. Perhaps here is where we can start to work together to change that?"

Ellce looked up, sniffling. "You mean it? You really do?"

Circe nodded. "It'll be hard work, but think of the satisfaction we'll have when we show them what we're really made of." She grinned. "So, let's get that face dried, nose blown, and you can help me pick out a room. If we're lucky, Ivy won't get the jungle to grow up and block the view." She held out her hand to Ellce again. "Shall we go?"

Ellce stood. "I didn' mean to hurt you… or anybody… I really didn't… I don't think she would do that." She followed Circe back down the hall.

"That's okay," Circe said. "I know you didn't. I'm normally in much better control of myself, but things have been rather stressful. For all of us." She looked around. "How do we find out what rooms are taken. And would you like to be my neighbour?" She looked at Ellce with a smile. "As for Ivy…" Circe shrugged. "She has made her opinion of me rather clear, but I can live with it. If I'm walking along one of the paths and find myself tripped again by some wayward flora, I'll just smile and say what interesting cover and study the roots of the trees up close and personal."

Ellce smiled. "That's good. I just want everyone to be friends… maybe you can show me orchids some time when my work is finished?" She asked they stepped into a vacant room.

"Sure thing." Circe looked around the room. "I guess this room is as good as any," she said with a smile. "Now, who do I tell I've made my choice to? Holly?" She looked at Ellce.

"Noted," Holly said. Ellce smiled slightly.

"You know, Holly," Circe said looking around the room. "It's rather disturbing to have your voice appear out of nowhere. I don't suppose that eavesdropping on us is in your list of duties." She sighed. "Don't answer that. That was uncalled for. Still, you can be anywhere and everywhere in this building. Who better to act as our keeper. Now, are we going to be allowed to decorate our rooms, or is that against the rules?"

"No offense. But I respond to my name or certain other audio visual cues. Otherwise your actions are recorded at a secondary data processing level," Holly replied. "I suppose you can redecorate as much as you like. I seem to have limitations on what I can do. I wanted to add more colors and patterns but was stopped."

Circe turns to look at Ellce again. "Please sit down. I want to see if there's anything else to wear." She put on her fashion victim face. "This thing just does nothing for me." She grinned and turned to look in the closet.

There was an assortment of clothing available. Good material, but nothing stunning nor particularly bad either.

"Holly, I was never told what my sentence was. Do you have it on record? I know I'm going to be involved with the Project for the rest of my life. Consider it morbid curiosity, but if I survive all the missions, how long would I be here?"

"Your sentence has been set at 200 years. Taking into account projected standard deductions and mission rates you have a predicted sentence of 40 years. Considering your genetic predisposistion you should live well into your 80s, and perhaps longer, if you continue your practice of celibacy. It eliminates the possibilty of sexually transmitted disease, child birth dangers and the stressor of raising children. There is a factor of more stress build up from lack of sexual fullfillment, but if you find masturbation satisfactory, then that should balance that out."

"Lack of sexual fulfillment," Circe said with a short laugh. "Don't you think that if I were in the slightest bit interested in sex that I would have tried it already?" She shook her head. Why bother when I can tap in on anyone else that I want to? No need for anyone to touch me that way. So my sentence was only 200 years. They were being quite generous. That's only two and a half life sentences, if they're going on 80 year life spans.

"No, I don't think you would have tried it, given your profile, which includes a high level fear of intimacy brought on by your possible rape experience and traumatic manifestation of power. It would stand to reason that as a defensive mechacnism you distance yourself from others physically and emotionally. Ironic, considering your powers as an empath. Studies, limited as they are, show that psionic voyerurism lacks certain stimulus as compared to actual activity… similar to watching neural interface programs or Sim Stim chips. But this is all theory," Holly replied. "Interesting, though I have never had a chance to interact with a mentalist before."

Circe stopped looking around and focussed on a point at the wall. "I appreciate your theories Holly," she said in a cool voice. "But I don't like being psychoanalyzed by anyone. I am content with the way I am right now, and while it may be fascinating, I have no desire to discuss it. Now," Circe continued, her voice back to normal. "You never did tell me if it was your programming or a person that stopped you from being more creative in the decoration of the rooms."

She started to strip off her clothing to change into a pair of pants and a t-shirt. Ellce watched as Circe changed, silent and thoughtful.

"It wasn't an analysis; I am not qualified for that. It was just a theory. I don't think Dr. Morsham liked my ideas for festive color patterns." Holly sounded thoughtful. "Do you like polka dots?"

"Sometimes, though in a room I prefer solids and tone on tones," Circe replied. "Do you have a botanical database with a listing of the typical plants we could find on this island?"

"Typical, yes… but not of the plants you will most likely find," Holly replied. "Ivy has performed a number of experiments and hybridizations here over the years while restoring the island's ecostructure."

"Restoring?" Ellce wondered. "It hasn't always been like this?" she glanced out the window. Somehow that made her a little sad. She'd wanted to think it was perfect here, always so pretty.

"What was it like here?" Circe asked. Experiments and hybridizations? Imagine the plants I'll see. Mom would be in seventh heaven here…

"That was before my awakening, thus I know very little." Holly hmmed. "But I gather it most have not been pleasant… seeing all the changes that were made."

Walking to the window, Ellce pressed her fingers to it. "But it's beautiful now… did Ivy do all this… all by herself?"

"As I understand it… yes."

A place of rebirth. An interesting choice of location for the Purgatory Project, Circe thought as she finished tying the knot in her shirt. "How long until the meeting, Holly?"

"2 hours, 40 minutes, 23 seconds, approximately." Ellce giggled.

"Well yes. Of course approximately," Circe said with a grin while looking at Ellce. "But it would have been nice if you were a bit more exact." She chuckled softly.

"Should I go to nanoseconds? Though the limitations of human perception seem to make that unnecessary… do you have an enhanced time sense?" Holly asked.

Circe broke out into outright laughter. It transformed her entire face, almost completely erasing over a decade of hunted secrecy. "Oh Holly. You've got to work on your humour, or at least learn when someone is teasing you." She shook her head, still smiling.

"Yes, I do," she replied. "Are you laughing at me or with me?"

"With, Holly," Circe replied. "Most certainly with. I do have enhanced senses, of sorts, but not time sense."

"Ellce, would you care to do a bit of exploring with me before the meeting, or do you have work to do?"

"I'd like to look around, yes," she nodded excitedly. "But I have to pee first."

"Holly, what sort of artistic materials do we have access to? If I wanted to paint and draw, are there materials available?"

"What do you need?" Holly asked.

Ellce returned, zipping up her jumpsuit. "Are you ready?"

"Just a sec, Ellce. Holly says she maybe able to get me art supplies. I want to tell her what I need," Circe said, rather amused at herself at the sudden, almost irrational happiness at knowing she'd be able to draw.

"I need paper, whether it's recycled, artificial, or whatever, it doesn't matter. Whatever is art quality that Ivy permits. I'd like to have charcoal sticks, drawing chalk, possibly pencil crayons, or even watercolour painst. Heck, I'd be happy with a simple graphite pencil."

"There aren't any arbitrary limits on art… just what materials we have here. What you want can be taken care of or I can get you a holopad to use."

"A holopad? No, that's okay. I prefer the old fashioned way." Circe looked at Ellce. "Ellce, would you like to wear something other than that jumpsuit? There's no rule saying it's the only thing you have to have on. You can take something from the closet, if you like. I don't mind."

"I don't think your stuff will fit… you're bigger than me," she said. "My jumpsuit is fine. Let's go!"

Circe nodded. "Thank you, Holly," she said as she walked out of the room.

"Where do you want to start first?" she asked Ellce.

"Um… I'll just follow you…" she smiled, happy to just be out and with a friend. Ellce looked up at the sky and took a deep breath. "It smells nice here… not like plastic…"

Circe took in a deep breath as well, seeking out the scents of flowers and other plants, something she'd always missed living on the streets. The "lawn" of the faciliies was clustered with flowers and blooming plants that somehow managed to look wild and natural but not chaotic. Ellce went down on her hands and knees peering closely at the plants. Suddenly she sat back, looking crosseyed at the butterfly perched on her nose.

Circe chuckled softly. "It must have mistaken you for a flower," she said with a smile.

The tiny insect flew off and Ellce looked after in wonder. "It's like a flying flower… Oh, I guess that's pretty stupid huh… what is it?"

"That's not stupid at all, Ellce. Many of them are as colourful as flowers. They're called butterflies," Circe explained. "They eat the nectar of flowers."

"A bug?" she looked startled. "A lot prettier than a cockroach." Getting to her feet she dusted off her pants. "Nectar? is that like juice?"

"No, not a bug. A bug is something creepy crawly that you usually want to get rid of," Circe said with a smile. "Butterflies are something really special. And yes, nectar is kind of like juice. It's not something you or I can drink. There's only a really small amount in each flower. Butterflies aren't the only creatures that drink the eat the nectar of flowers. There used to be little birds, less than half the size of palm of my hand, that drank it too. They were called hummingbirds because they flapped their wings so fast they could hover in one place, and if you listened really hard, you could hear a humming noise." She squatted down to look more closely at one of the flowers that caught her eye. "My mom told me about them when I was little. I've never seen one except in vids, and she said they mostly died off because of pollution and stuff."

"Whoa… like skimmers… that's so sad… pretty things shouldn't die because of dirt… If I could I'd make the whole world like this…" she whispered in wonder then set to asking all manner of other questions,about flowers birds all sorts of thing as they walked about the "garden" near the edge of the jungle.

Circe did her best to answer all of Ellce's questions. She was surprised at what she could remember from what her mother had taught her when she was little.

After a while, Circe realized that they probably ought to check what time it was as they'd have to be getting back. It was only a about 15 minutes until the meetting they both relized with a shock,. "Oh…oh I'm sorry! I shouldn't have made you answer all those questions…" Ellce said looking terribly apologetic as they hurried back to Circe's room.

"Don't worry about it. You never learn unless you ask questions." Circe washed her hands, but decided there was no reason to change. "Will yoube at the meeting?"

Shaking her head, Ellce clasped her hands behind her back. "No. I have to start working now. But maybe we can spend more time together later… outside."

"Of course we will, whenever weather and our schedules allow it," Circe said. "What is your job here?"

"Domestic activities… cooking and cleaning, minor repairs and service," Ellce replied.

"Does that mean you'll be baking?" Circe asked with a grin.

The replicant nodded and grinned.

"Fantastic. Well, I'd better be going to the meeting. Don't want to be late on my first day." Circe said. "Holly, there's no rush on the art supplies. Whenever you can get them will be fine." I think I'll try to draw Ellce with the butterfly on her nose. Black and white except for the butterfly. That should be cool.

Ellce waved as Circe walked off and sighed sadly turning toward the kitchen. "Do you think I should get vines on me like she has?" Ellce asked Holly.

"I don't know… they're not a totally accurate portrayal of the species, but I don't think that is the point… artistic licence, perhaps."

"Do you have to apply for one of those?" Ellce asked stepping into the kitchen.